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How to Sew Eyelets by Hand | Quick and Simple Technique | Historical Sewing




Have you ever wanted to make hand-stitched eyelets, but didnt know where to begin?


how to sew eyelets by hand quick and simple regency stays corset historical sewing
Sewing eyelets by hand doesn't have to be difficult!

In my latest pair of Regency stays, I wanted them to be an exact replica of my historical inspiration, and this meant making dozens of hand stitched eyelets.


This video and article will show you that with a little practice, making hand stitched eyelets can be much easier and faster than you imagine.


Make sure you subscribe to my Youtube channel and email list to be notified when my next video about the making of my Regency stays is released.

Why Make Hand-Stitched Eyelets?


how to sew eyelets by hand quick and simple 18th century maternity stays corset historical sewing
My maternity 18th century stays involved dozens of hand-worked eyelets

Hand-worked eyelets are an essential skill for all serious historical costumers. There is no faster way to modernize what could have been a historically accurate set of stays or corset than to use metal eyelets.


I love metal eyelets, and they certainly save a lot of time, but they were not invented until about 1828, and therefore, historical accuracy in corsets and garments before this era means sewing eyelets by hand.


In the past, this task seemed nigh impossible, and indeed, took me a very long time to complete. However, with a little practice and some tweaks in my stitching approach, hand-worked eyelets are much more approachable.



What Types of Corsets and Garments Use Hand-Stitched Eyelets?


If you are making any type of stays (18th century onward), “pairs of bodies” (from the 1600’s), Regency, and even 1820’s-1830’s corsets or garments, hand-worked eyelets will be a good choice.


how to sew eyelets by hand quick and simple regency stays corset historical sewing
Hand-worked eyelets give a soft, historical feel to any hand-made garment

In addition to their historical accuracy, hand-worked eyelets give a very soft, comfortable feel to a historical corset or pair of stays.


One of my favourite historical corsets were my 18th century maternity stays, which have hand-worked eyelets not only at the centre-back, but also at extra side-lacing gaps!

Tools You Will Need


You will need:


The fabric or garment that is to have eyelets (make sure the area involved has enough layers of fabric to be strong)


how to sew eyelets by hand quick and simple regency stays corset historical sewing awl
I recommend using a stilletto awl, because it gets wider toward the base and can make a larger hole

A stiletto awl (an awl that gets gradually thicker towards the base


Your preferred needle


Embroidery scissors or snips


Thick thread (I used perle cotton embroidery thread - you could try upholstery thread, three strands of regular embroidery floss, or silk buttonhole twist)


Pencil and ruler or measuring tape

Planning Eyelets for Spiral Laced Corsets


Spiral laced corsets have eyelets that are offset from each other

Most corsets and stays that have hand-worked eyelets are spiral laced. As opposed to criss-cross lacing, which forms “X’s”, spiral lacing involves eyelets that are slightly offset from one side to the next, allowing the passes of lacing to go diagonally down from one side to the next. I prefer spiral lacing for closed front corsets, because it is easier to tighten up (and retain its tightness) than criss-cross laced corsets.


When planning the placement of your eyelets, first decide where the top and bottom eyelets will be, and mark that. Then, decide roughly how far apart you want your eyelets to be. For stays, I recommend roughly 2-3 cm apart ( but it depends on your design).


how to sew eyelets by hand quick and simple regency stays corset historical sewing
The top and bottom eyelets are in the same position, and all the others are offset from each other

The top and bottom eyelets should be lined up with each other from one side to the other, but all the eyelets in between the top and bottom should be offset by about 1.5-2 cm from each other. This means that the second eyelets from the top and bottom will probably be closer spaced than the rest of the eyelets, and that is okay.

Making the Hole for the Eyelet


Once you have marked the placement of your eyelets, it is time to make the hole for your first eyelet.


how to sew eyelets by hand quick and simple regency stays corset historical sewing
It's time to poke our eyelet hole! I recommend only poking one hole at a time, then stitching it

I recommend only making one hole at a time, stitching that eyelet, then moving on to the next. This is for two reasons: 1) you may decide to slightly change the placement of the eyelets as you go and 2) a hole made in fabric tends to close up quite quickly if it is not held open by stitches. Therefore, save yourself a lot of time and only make one hole at a time!


Use your stilletto awl, poke a small hole, and then wiggle the awl further into the hole, widening the hole as it goes in.


One quick note: never punch holes for hand-worked eyelets. An awl makes the hole by spreading the threads in the weave apart from eachother, not breaking them. This allows for a stronger eyelet. Punching holes actually cuts the threads - this is acceptable for setting metal eyelets, which are stronger, but never for hand-worked eyelets.

Creating the Guideline Stitches


It is time to start stitching! We will first create four guideline stitches, which will also hold that hole open, which wants to close up.


how to sew eyelets by hand quick and simple regency stays corset historical sewing
Create a "cross" shape of guideline stitches which also hold the hole open!

Using a double threaded needle (unless you are using three strands of embroidery floss), knot the end of your thread and make a little stitch at the bottom of your work, close to the eyelet hole. Make the stitch so that the knot will be at the bottom of the work. Then, bring the needle through the eyelet hole, coming out at the right side of the work.


how to sew eyelets by hand quick and simple regency stays corset historical sewing
Stay tuned for next week's article about the making of these Regency stays!

Now is the time to decide on how wide you want your eyelet stitches to be, and therefore, how large the circumference of your finished eyelet will be. For my eyelets, the stitches are never more than 1 cm long, usually a bit shorter. However, you need to take into account that you will be pulling your stitches quite tight, which will shrink the eyelet down a bit.


You may choose to lightly draw the outline around the hole of how large you want your stitches to be. I don’t choose to do this now, but if you are beginner it will be helpful.


Now, make your first stitch by poking the needle in straight up from the hole, going into the top border of your eyelet template that you may have traced. Make three more stitches like this, all at 90 degree intervals from eachother, forming a cross. Pull these stitches tight, so they can hold the hole open for you.

Whip-Stitches or Buttonhole Stitch?


how to sew eyelets by hand quick and simple regency stays corset historical sewing
I recommend using a whip-stitch, not a buttonhole stitch

When I first make hand-worked eyelets, about four years ago, I thought my only option for these eyelets to be “strong enough” was to use a buttonhole stitch. Buttonhole stitch forms a knot in each stitch. These eyelets took me much longer than they needed to.


I have since learned that almost all extant stays and corsets use whip-stitch for their eyelets. This is much faster than buttonhole stitch, and for an eyelet which has been formed with an awl (not with punching) it is quite strong enough.

Filling in the Eyelet with Stitches


After these four stitches are finished, it is time to fill in those four gaps with whip stitches. How closely you space these stitches is a matter of personal preference. Extant corsets can be seen which have both densely stitched eyelets, and less densely stitched eyelets. I would suggest if you are spacing out your stitches more, to pull the stitches extra tight.

Moving from One Eyelet to the Next


how to sew eyelets by hand quick and simple regency stays corset historical sewing
Another time saving tip: move from one eyelet to the next with a running stitch (on the underside of the work)

Another time saving tip I have for you is when it comes to moving from one eyelet to the next. I recently learned that in extant corsets, rather than knotting and cutting the thread after every eyelet, stay-makers would use a running stitch (on the underside of the work) to move to the next eyelet. This can save you a lot of time!

Now Go Out and Sew Some Eyelets!


Feeling inspired to try some hand-worked eyelets! Go for it! Let me know what you end up making in the comments section.


What sewing projects are you working on? Let’s chat about it!


how to sew eyelets by hand quick and simple regency stays corset historical sewing
Next week's video and article will be about the making of these Regency stays!

Make sure you subscribe to my Youtube channel and email list to be notified when my next video about the making of my Regency stays is released.


See you all soon!



Contact me at katherine@katherinesewing.com

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