My new stays are now finished, I put in the last eyelets in the shoulder straps this morning. So, I figured that I would take a moment to tell you how to finish your own.
Now that all your bone channels are stitched in, and maybe your boning material inserted tightly into those channels, you can begin to build your stays. At this point, before sewing the pieces together, I like to work the eyelets along the centre front, centre back or both, depending on your chosen style. My latest set has lacing up both the front and back so that I have greater control on how tight I can lace them as my weight fluctuates. I work the eyelets at this point, because working them when the pieces have been stitched together causes you to have to contend with the big floppy mess instead of just one piece.
Eyelets should be worked evenly up either side of the opening, about an inch apart. To keep the lacing straight when you spiral lace the stays, additional eyelets are worked between the top two eyelets on one edge, and the bottom two eyelets on the other edge. And yes, in the 18thC you should be spiral lacing, not cross lacing like an old boot. Trust me, it is easier and far sexier. I work my eyelets by first making a hole with an awl, not a punch, as you'll want to move the fibres, not cut them. Then with good strong buttonhole twist, I whip over the edge of the opening tightly. No fancy stitches are needed, and they tend to close up the hole anyway. So no decorative "Blanket" stitch, just a simple whip.
Yes, you'll need to work eyelets before you have a fitting, so just do them now.
Once the eyelets are worked, you can sew the stays pieces together. Be mindful of matching up the waistline points exactly or your stays will go crooked really quickly and then you'll be uncomfortable. The tops and bottoms of the pieces will work themselves out during the binding process if you haven't trued up your pattern. The waist points are crucial though. I use that same running stitch then back on itself as I did when sewing the channels. And I make sure I'm stabbing through all the layers. You can do this part by machine and nobody will easily tell the difference...and if they can, they're too close and should be buying you dinner first.
Now, try the beastie on. This is when you'll want to take it in if needed, mark the neckline, the length of the shoulder straps, all that good stuff.
If you're happy, press the seams open. I usually line my stays, but if you're not interested in this, overcast the edges of your seams. When lining, I cut one big piece the shape of my finished stays and just lay it in place. I then baste it to my structural layers so that it stays put while I bind the edges. My lining is whipped to the front edge, just inside the eyelets. Same with the back edge on this set.
Binding can be different materials. I have seen bias binding, twill, and with this set I used leather. I like to use a contrasting colour than the body of the stays, sometimes matching the stitching thread colour. Hey your underwear should be pretty, even if it's only you that sees it. I also don't like to spend a lot on anything for the hobby, especially if I'm making it. So I will hunt for scraps of silk, twill tape, what have you. For this set, I went to the second hand shops and looked for a leather garment I could cut up. In this case, it was an ugly shrug style leather jacket from the 80s. It did not need to remain in its ugly state of being, and is much prettier as binding.
Binding should be narrow when you sew it on. No more then 1/4" should show on the outside. Not only is narrow binding easier to get around the curves of the tabs, it also more closely resembles period garments and is just plain prettier. So for this binding, I cut 1/2" wide strips, since I didn't have to fold under the raw edge. Half inch wide twill is the same. Bias tape, you'll need to fold under the raw edge, as it is a bit more flimsy and needs the extra stability of a folded edge.
I finished the binding yesterday, it should take you about three days of serious work to do this job. Again, a simple whip stitch is what is needed, again, no blanket stitches...please.
Once that was done, I tried them on one last time to be sure my strap length was good, then I made the eyelets in the straps. I use fancy ribbon in my straps, usually once they've been tied properly once, they don't need retying, so here's where you can dig out the pretty silk ribbons.
Now that I have stays again, I can continue on with my summer projects. New gowns for Mum and I and a new suit for Pierre. Nothing fancy, work clothes really, all in linen. My old stays have now gone on to a new home, where they'll be altered to fit another person, or used as a template for a pattern.
I'll post pictures when I'm feeling up for dressing properly.