Most of you have experienced a pair of trousers developing holes and tears in the crotch, probably at the least convenient time. Tailors have developed a way to help prevent these issues, called staying the fork. Since this area of the trousers takes the most stress, it’s important to reinforce it. The stay also prevents the bias from stretching in this area, and offers a little more protection from moisture.
This technique of staying the fork is more appropriate for later period trousers, say mid-1870s and later. I choose to do so on all of my trousers unless asked not to by a client, as the added durability and strength to the fork area are worth the compromise to me. I’d like my trousers to last for years rather than wearing out in the next season! So again you’ll have to decide for yourself.
To begin, cut two 7 by 7 inch squares of either linen or cotton. Linen is recommended in the Tailor’s Guide, The Making and Repairing of Trousers, Vests, and Coats, from 1901.
Press each piece in half diagonally across the bias.
Now, holding one corner of the folded edge, use your iron to stretch the fold by pressing firmly and pulling with your hand at the same time. It’s best to stretch a little bit at a time over many passes, than to try to stretch the entire seam at once.
You’ll notice the folded edge starts to take on a bit of a curve. Press everything flat after you’re done stretching.
Lay your front trouser piece on the workbench, wrong side up, and place the linen stay in the fork area.
The positioning is shown in the diagram below. The central point of the linen stay roughly corresponds to the point of the fork. The other two points lay against the edge of the trouser front.
Here is mine in position.
Next, baste along the edge of the stay, keeping your stitches out of the seam allowance of the trouser front below if possible. Use one hand underneath to help you find the edge of the trouser and guide your stitches.
After basting, flip over to the trouser side and trim off the excess linen from the stay.
Here you can see how I was successful in keeping the basting stitches out of the seam allowance. That will make it easier to pull these stitches out later.
Finally, using a simple whip stitch, serge the three layers of the trouser and stay together along the two edges to prevent fraying and keep everything in place.
I should have been neater with the stitches but was concentrating a little too hard on the filming!