2023-05-19 - Sewing Historical Stays



Friday, May 19-Sunday, May 21 (9:00 am-Noon and 1:00 pm-5:00 pm)


Martha Coates-Donahoo


This is an in-person class hosted at the Vesterheim Folk Art School in Decorah, Iowa. 

A folk vest, bodice, or liv is the pinnacle piece of a beautiful folk costume! They define the iconic silhouette of an era as well as the regional culture. Join us in a three-day workshop to create historical stays in the style of the bunad (Norwegian national costume) for Odal and Solør in eastern Norway. In this area of Norway, the garment is called snøreliv, but historical costumers just refer to them as tabbed stays!

Multi-sized patterns will be available from the instructor as well as corset coutil for lining, grommets, and synthetic whalebone. You will be guided through every step of the process – from customizing your pattern size to construction to how these garments have historically been styled. Bring your own fashion fabric and sewing machine, leave with a beautiful heritage folk garment! 

Level of Instruction: 

This class is designed for intermediate to advanced sewists however very patient beginners are also welcome!


The stays are made up of three layers of different fabrics. Please bring 1/2-1 yard of cloth for each layer. For the exterior of your bodice, interior decorator weight woven cloth (no stretch fabrics), high quality brocade, duchess satin, cotton sateen, cotton velvet, linen, and heavy woven cottons all work beautifully. For the inner lining, you will need a tightly woven cotton cloth, I use a crisp cotton bedsheet! Quilters cotton is too thin. For the lining we will be using twill, denim, canvas or coutil. I will have coutil available at the class. 
To stiffen your stays you will need about 15 yards of synthetic whalebone which can be ordered online or one large bag of 100 count 14” zip ties which are very economical and readily available at any hardware store.
Hand sewn eyelets are traditional but metal grommets are a wonderful alternative. I will bring grommets and a grommet press for class use.
Please bring a sewing machine that you are familiar with as well as extra size 12 machine needles, a large spool of thread (visible off white stitches are traditional), fabric scissors, hand sewing needles, and a thimble. 
Patterns will be provided by the instructor in bust sizes 30”-52” for $10. We will learn how to alter the pattern for a custom fit. Grommets and grommet press available for student use for $6. Coutil available in black and peach for $10/ half yard. 
Bernina sewing machines are available to rent for the duration of class through Decorah's local quilt shop Red-Roxy Quilt Co. The fee is $50. Please let us know if you would like to arrange for a rental machine. Notions for class are also available through Red-Roxy at a class discount of 10% off.

Enrollment Deadline: 

April 28, 2023

Learn more about Martha Coates-Donahoo here.


The historical examples of snøreliv pictured here are shared with permission:

Livstykke from the collection of Stiftelsen Domkirkeodden is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
Livstykke from the collection of Stiftelsen Glomdalsmuseet is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0


Please read our COVID-19 Policies here.

The Folk Art School greatly values the health and safety of its learners, teachers, and staff and is continuously monitoring local and national COVID-19 statistics, government recommendations, and peer institution guidelines. As with any activity in a public place, there is an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms related to COVID-19 infection, please stay home. By registering for a class, attending a program, or visiting the Folk Art School, you voluntarily assume all risks related to COVID-19 exposure and assume them willingly and you agree to follow Vesterheim's COVID-19 policies. Thank you for your continued patience, understanding, and respect for the safety of our community as we navigate these difficult times. If you have additional questions, please contact the Folk Art School, at folkartschool@vesterheim.org or call 563-382-9681.

Tuition :
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