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18th Century Half-Boned Stays (Part 5): How to Do Eyelets

My old wrist injury is acting up, so I have to take a little break from hand-sewing, but since I have a few of the eyelets done, I thought this would be a good time to show how I do them.

This is not necessarily the historically correct way, but the method I find to be sturdy and aesthetically pleasing.

Punching a hole through the fabric weakens it, so I use an awl to poke a small hole, which I widen with a pointed chopstick. I then insert an eyelet through the widened hole, and then use a table-top eyelet/grommet press to set it in place. Finally, I sew over the eyelet with a button hole stitch to make it pretty.

The picture below, from right to left shows:

  1. Mark the hole with a pencil.
  2. Poke the hole with an awl.
  3. Widen the hole with a chopstick.
  4. Insert the eyelet from the wrong side (explained below).
  5. The eyelet set in by the eyelet press.IMG_4422

The eyelet is inserted from the lining side, with the flange remaining inside the stays. This results in the outside having a smaller surface area for you to wrap with thread. (If you are making a corset where the metal eyelets will show, you will insert the eyelet in the opposite direction, from the fashion fabric side).

Here is a view from the other side. From left to right you have the widened hole, the eyelet inserted, and the eyelet after being pressed. (There is some puckering in my fabric because I sewed the channels a little too tight for the double reed boning).

IMG_4424I use a Homepro eyelet setter with a size 6 die. It is quite heavy, and very easy to use. I have trouble applying enough pressure with hand-held eyelet pliers, and find using a hammer awkward, so this is a handy thing to have.

IMG_4426Use a tight blanket stitch over the eyelet to give it a finished appearance. You can use embroidery thread, or sewing thread. I used the latter, folding over a length of thread before threading the needle, resulting in a cluster of 4 threads each time. You can also just cast over with your thread, which is faster than using a blanket stitch, but I prefer the look of the latter.

IMG_4450See parts 1 and 2 and 3 and 4.

18th Century Half-Boned Stays (Part 4)

This is a quick post to show I haven’t forgotten about the stays!

I finished altering the channel placement in the tabs and put in the boning. I had to redo the linen lining because the stays “shrank” once the boning was completed.

It is hard to get a good picture right now because the stays won’t lie flat anymore due to the curved fabric pieces and boning.

IMG_4414The lining is sewn in with some large stitches to hold it in place while I do the binding. IMG_4418I have some vintage rayon petersham to use as binding. It coordinates with the blue thread I used to stitch the channels. I plan to find some blue cord for lacing to make everything match!

IMG_4419See parts 1 and 2 and 3.

GBACG A League of Their Own Picnic

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Last Saturday the AAGPBL Kenosha Comets (and players from a few other teams) had a “reunion” picnic in Cordonices Park in Berkeley, CA.

IMG_4213Most of us had the costumes we made for Costume College 2014, but we had a few new recruits. We also played a few innings of T-ball with everyone at the picnic, including the kids and people dressed in 50s dresses and heels!

IMG_4238 IMG_4240 IMG_4241 IMG_4249

Emily can do the splits!IMG_4266Kim is like an advertisement for Coke!

IMG_4272Since the last wearing I hemmed my dress and shorts a few inches shorter to match the other girls, and got a new belt. I also picked up a lot of dust on my shoes from playing ball!IMG_4260IMG_4274 IMG_4276 IMG_4278We also had a bake-off contest, with lots of delicious treats. IMG_4222

Here are the winners celebrating.IMG_4235

We also had lots of other non-dessert food, including this delicious sandwich loaf!

IMG_4209I hope this picnic becomes a yearly event!

pic by Lynne Taylor(Partial team photo by Lynne Taylor)

You can see the rest of my album here:

Costume College Plans and Sewing To-Do List

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Here we are in May, and I still have a long list of costumes to make. So far this year I’ve completed a Game of Thrones King’s Landing dress, an Oberyn Martell costume, my Chemise a la Reine and some accessories.  I have outfits planned for Costume College, and just for fun.


1. I need to finish my silk stays which have been put aside a few times in favor of other projects.

2. My chemise dress needs a new white petticoat. The ones I wore with it recently were ivory, which work well with the whole ensemble, but if I want to wear the cotton chemise dress by itself I need a white petticoat.

3. For one of the days at Costume College I plan to wear a Downton Abbey Edwardian maid outfit. (It will be nice and comfortable to attend class in it!) I have the vintage laces needed for the apron and cap, but need to purchase the black dress fabric.perso_ph_gwen

4.  Another outfit planned for CoCo is a Victorian bathing suit, which I will wear for the Thursday night pool party. I have the pattern and fabric (a striped wool blend), but I need lining and trim.


5. Just for fun, and to learn some new skills and work with new materials, I am planning to make Lady Tremaine’s outfit from the new Cinderella movie. Isn’t it so fun? I have been doing some research (for a future post!) and am in the process of accumulating fabrics for the dress. I don’t have a deadline for this outfit because I anticipate it will take a lot of work.


6. I recently acquired some lovely historical reproduction printed cotton fabric and plan to use it for an 1840s fan-front dress.


7. The 1850s silk plaid dress from last year still needs a belt and silk undersleeves.

It’s an ambitious list; let’s see how much of it gets done for 2015!

Chemise a la Reine (And Girls in White Dresses with Blue Satin Sashes!)

Last Saturday I wore my chemise a la reine, inspired by “Portrait of a Lady with a Book, Next to a River Source” by Antoine Vestier.  The pictures were taken at the Rite of Spring Ball, so I wore a simple floral headband.

IMG_4129These photos were taken with my phone in a side room where snacks were being served. I’m sorry if they are a little dark and grainy. When I make a hedgehog wig and complete the whole ensemble I plan to take some nicer photos!

IMG_4061 IMG_4069 I made a few little changes. The sheer layer in the portrait is more fitted, while I made my dress gathered with drawstrings for several reasons: 1) I could reuse the same pattern I used for the underdress. 2) I wanted the dress to be adjustable so I could wear it with and without stays. 3) Let’s be honest. I’m flat-chested and usually a little more fluff in the front looks better on me. =)

The other major change I made is in the neckline. In the original, the neckline of the sheer dress is very low, and shows what appears to be the subject’s chemise underneath. When I tried that combination with my outfit I thought it looked rather odd, perhaps because my cotton chemise material isn’t as delicate and transparent as the one in the portrait. In real life, it would have looked like I was falling out of my dress!

The dress opens in the front, with organza ribbon drawstrings to close the neckline, waist, and underbust. I also used organza ribbon for the gathering channels.

I used a sheer striped silk organza for my dress. I spent a long time looking for the right fabric, but alas, could not find the exact type from the portrait with the correct alternating wide and thin stripes. Renaissance Fabrics now has a reproduction of the portrait fabric in a sheer taffeta. I wish it was around when I purchased my fabric months ago!

The dress was constructed in much the same way as the cotton voile chemise dress I wore underneath. There was an extra gathering channel under the bust, instead of just one at the waist. The organza was rather stiff and puffy, and did not lie as flat as I would have liked, but the extra channel helped.

IMG_4119The sash is a 4 inch wide German rayon moire ribbon, about 5 yards long. I loved the color and texture.IMG_4002The sleeves are a silk taffeta leftover from my 1830s Hopeless Romantics dress. The sheer puffed part consists of a tube (I love sewing tubes!) tacked in strategic places to create its shape. The top part of the sheer tube is curved to fit in the armscye. The bottom part of the sheer tube was sewn into the taffeta fitted sleeve, which was sliced apart horizontally, then sewn back together with the sheer part sandwiched in. The cuffs are organza lace.

IMG_4123I carried around a Kindle cover “book” to hide my phone. I plan to sew in some straps or pockets to hold dance cards, cash, or secret notes! (I also got some suggestions at the ball to turn it into a flask haha).

To save time the dress was machine-sewn. However, I would like to go back and redo the hems by hand. I also need to hem the underdress a wee bit shorter.

I am wearing a half-moon bumpad and 2 petticoats underneath the dress. I am still working on my stays!

Here are the other lovely girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes (and some boys, too!) The group consisted of many of our Hopeless Romantics, plus a few new faces.

IMG_4078Project costs:

  • 4 meters silk organza: $80.23 ($54.80 + $25.43 shipping from Halo Silk Shop).
  • 5 yards cotton voile: $20.90 ($14.95 + $5.95 shipping from eBay). Yes at $3 a yard this was cheaper than the sash!
  • 6 yards moire ribbon: $25.50 ($24 + $1.50 shipping from
  • Organza lace: $5.10 from eBay.
  • Organza and satin ribbons: $5.67 from Michael’s.

Total cost: $137.40 (It’s more than I normally spend on a project, but I have two dresses for the price of one! I can wear the cotton chemise with the sash for a daytime look).

Previous posts:

Easy Chemise Dress (with Instructions)

I have nearly completed the cotton voile underdress for my sheer striped gown inspired by the “Portrait of a Lady with a Book, Next to a River Source” by Antoine Vestier. I still have to hem the bottom and sleeves, but I will wait to do that until I’ve finished the overdress. I have a bum pad (not shown), but I still need to work on some petticoats to give the skirt some floof.

IMG_3975I spent some time studying the Nora Waugh pattern, and many costuming blogs (with their very helpful construction techniques!) but in the end, decided to drape my own using my own adapted method. I think that if I used a proper pattern the dress could have been a little more polished, but for an underdress I am perfectly happy with the result. Plus it was very easy!

I used 3 panels of 55 inch wide cotton voile, purchased from Fabric Wholesale Direct, via their eBay store. I sewed them together at the selvedges, forming a giant rectangle. I rolled the top edge down to form a channel for gathering. I left 12 inch gaps at the seams, where the arm holes would eventually be. (My panels were also 55 inch tall. I am 5’6″, and wanted the hem short enough for dancing. If you are taller or want a floor-length dress your panels should be longer).

IMG_3991The Nora Waugh pattern has dips cut out for the neckline, but I decided to have gravity take care of the scoop in the neckline for me, which you will see when it is gathered). I inserted ribbon into the channels and gathered them.

At this point it is useful to pin this a dress form (or have a friend help you) so you can know how tightly to gather the middle panel. It will be about the width of your shoulder blades once it is fully gathered. (You can also sew the gathered edge down to another strip of fabric for extra security). At that point you will cut of the excess ribbon and sew the ends down to secure them at the anchor points indicated on the picture below. Each of the side panels will have one free ribbon end, which you will use to close the neckline each time you wear the dress.

IMG_3992I cut two bands for the shoulder straps. They are about 10 inches long and 3 inches wide, with a curve on one side, but the dimensions will depend on your height. (You also lose a little length in the straps if you sew them with the ends tucked in and hidden like I did). Once I gathered the top of the dress I pinned the straps on and tested the fit before sewing them down. The straps are lined in linen for extra strength.

IMG_3923When the straps are sewn on you will have something that looks like a sleeveless tube dress that is open in the front. Pull the ribbons in the side panels to close the top, and you will have a curved neckline.

IMG_3940There is excess fabric in the sides because the underarm holes have not been cut yet. (I did that after pinning sleeves on to fit). However, if you tie a sash on the middle you will see a chemise dress starting to take shape! The picture below is the dress shown inside out because . . .

IMG_3941. . . if you take a string and wrap it around the middle you can use a pen to mark where you should put in another channel for the waist.

IMG_3942Use the marked lines as a guide to sew down a wider ribbon, and then use that as channel for another ribbon that will be used to gather the waist when you put the dress on. I sewed the front of the side panels together starting several inches down from the waist. (The many gathers of the fabric will keep the top of the dress closed).

For the sleeves I borrowed a sleeve pattern I drafted from another dress I made. If you can’t draft your own, any tight-fitting sleeve will do. If you don’t want a fitted sleeve that’s even easier! Sew a big tube and gather it into the sleeve head and at various points to make a puffy elbow-length sleeve common in the earlier style of gowns.

IMG_3949Pin the sleeve into the dress, pulling out the excess fabric that will be trimmed.

IMG_3954Trim the excess, sew the sleeves in (I did French seams), hem, and voila! Add some petticoats and a pretty sash and you are set.

IMG_3975UPDATE: Now that I have a sash, here are some pictures of the finished cotton dress with a small bum pad and petticoat. (I plan to make another petticoat and possibly a slightly more padded bum). The sash is about 5 yards of moire ribbon, wrapped around the waist 3 times and tied into a bow.

IMG_4178 IMG_4180 IMG_4174Here is a sneak preview of the silk overlayer I am in the process of draping, along with a temporary belt.

IMG_3980I hope this tutorial made sense. I welcome any comments and questions.

You can see the finished dresses worn here:


I decided to add a FAQ tab at the top of my blog. Maybe it will satisfy some curious minds, and save me a little time on email. Or it could spark discussion, who knows?

Q: Are you a reenactor?

A: No. I’m a costumer that makes historical outfits and attends themed parties and other fun things, but I do not participate in Civil War reenactments, work at Renaissance Fairs, or volunteer at any Living History events.

Q: Are your costumes for sale?

A: Occasionally I will sell something I no longer wear or fit, but in general I am posting pictures to share, not to sell.

Q: If they’re not for sale, what’s with the “prices” at the bottom of your project posts?

A: That is a tally of the materials costs for a finished outfit (not including labor, of course). Unless I’m creating something extravagant, such as a silk dress, I prefer to stay under $100 for each project. Adding things up at the end keeps me accountable. The tally usually includes the fabric, lining, buttons, lace, pattern, etc.

Q: But why do we need to know how much money you spent?

A: When I started sewing in college I did not attempt to make anything “fancy.” I assumed that upper class garments made out of quality materials must be out of my price range. I hope to encourage other fledgling costumers by showing that it can be possible to make something nice without always spending hundreds of dollars (especially if you’re good at finding bargains, sales, and coupons). The hours spent are another thing entirely . . .

Q: Can I hire you to make something for me?

A: Sorry, no. I have a full-time job and a small child. If I have free time I am playing with my son, or sewing for myself when he’s asleep. Additionally, I do not have experience drafting for other people’s bodies, and you really would be better off hiring a local professional.

Q: Can you give me an idea of how much it would cost to hire a seamstress?

A: Please remember that commissioning a custom item will cost you far more than the usual ready-made clothes you may be used to buying in a store.  You cannot get couture for prêt-à-porter prices. For a commission you will be paying an hourly wage x the number of hours required to make an outfit + the cost of materials. For example, a Victorian ballgown bodice and skirt with hand-sewn embellishments may take 30 hours, including the time spent washing, ironing, patterning, and cutting out the fabric and lining. If someone charges $20 an hour and you choose $200 worth of fabric and trim, you might pay $800, although the cost will vary depending on the person and project.

Q: So I can hire you for $20 an hour?

A: Nice try, but no. And I’m not implying that $20/hour is what you should pay for a commission. Each seamstress or tailor sets their own rate.

Q: Do you make any money off this blog?

A: Nope. Sometimes you might see ads at the bottom of a page, but that’s because I’m too cheap to pay for the upgraded version of WordPress.


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