Larkin & Smith's Front Lacing Stays

Monday, August 14, 2017

Pre-blog project, so very little "in-progress" photos. I'm always on the lookout for corset and stay patterns that aren't ripped off the page of Corsets and Crinolines, and Hallie Larkin's pattern filled a need in my sparse reenacting wardrobe. Honestly, I'm in love with Larkin & Smith patterns because they're based off of original garments in her collection and the included instruction booklet. As someone who's getting into reenacting, my knowledge of 18th century construction techniques are lacking, and her pattern instructions have been an invaluable foundation to my education.

After my mockup, I felt the stays were too short and added an inch to the top. It was just what I needed for a perfect fit for my long torso. 

I was a good girl and avoided my favorite notions for stays: zipties and duck canvas. I used a roll of PBL Flat Flat 3/16 caning (with plenty left over), linen buckram, and a flax linen that I had on hand. One roll of caning is more than enough. Linen buckram smells like a horse, or a farm, or wet grass....I can't remember, but it's striking. 

Update: At the time of this project, I really was a novice when it came to period stays and didn't understand what Flat Flat and Flat Oval meant. So I bought whatever was cheaper. In hindsight, I should've bought the Flat Oval caning, which has one side curved and the one side flat, so you can lay the flat sides together and create a round bone. I'll continue to use the Flat Flat caning, only because I have so much of it and bought it cheaply. I suppose it's a good example that it's not the end of the world if you're stuck with Flat Flat.

Because it's underwear, I decided to sew the boning channels by machine. I did whipstitch the panels together by hand, and with very strong thread because I'm paranoid. I strengthened my hand muscles with my handy awl, and I'm sure I got a callous while hand-bounding the eyelets. 

Ugh, binding tabs. This is the part of sewing stays I despise the most. Chamois leather is recommended, and plentiful at autoshops, but I just created my own bias tape with the same fabric. It's not my best, but it's not awful either, and done is done. 

To avoid holding the stays like a cactus, I used pin-curl clips to secure the bias tape as I sewed. I aim to make this pattern again, and maybe then I'll spring for chamois leather and spend more time on crafting pretty binding. 

I didn't add the lining until after I worn it a few times, and I recommend doing the same if this is your first stays, or your first with caning. After I wore it a few times, I took note of where it bowed after sitting and added horizontal boning to the stomacher and lower sides. 

Final Verdict: Highly Recommend. It's a great pattern. I hardly needed to make any adjustments, and the ones I did required almost zero effort. The instruction booklet and effort for authenticity makes this one of my favorites, and the one I recommend the most to beginners. I'd probably make it again, this time with a nicer fabric and add some woven tape to the seams, as seen in other period examples.


  1. Please explain "binding the eyelets". Im about to do just that for a lace-front overblouse bralette vest I just invented using tapestry. I want to make a hole using an awl, then hand stitch around it I guess, but Im just guessing and have to get it right on the first try. Thank you.

    1. Sorry for the late reply! That was a typo. It's bounding the eyelets. I've gone back and fixed it. I'm sure you've already done it by now, but you were correct in your comment. Push a hole with your awl and stitch around it. Don't use a buttonhole stitch, though, as some modern sewing manuals might suggest.


By clicking on links for products I've mentioned in my blog, you help support The Merry Thimble's educational programs and historical research. Thank you!

Latest Instagrams

© The Merry Thimble. Design by FCD.