The HSF ’14 – Favourites for Challenges 9-12

Halfway through!

(OK, more than halfway through, as I’m well late on this post: we’re already almost done with Challenge #14, and I’m only just posting about Challenge #12!)

Here are some of the many fantastic items created over the last four (and a bit!) challenge of the Historical Sew Fortnightly.

It was, as always, a huge struggle to narrow all the things I love down to just a few.  There has been a slight dip in the number of submissions just as people loose a little steam at the halfway point, but there are still SO MANY amazing creations.  The ones I’ve chosen are interesting, thoughtful, beautiful, and best demonstrate the goals of the Historical Sew Fortnightly; the quest to explore history, raise our skill levels and standard, stretch ourselves (and actually finish items); and the spirit of the individual challenge.

Entries without photos link to blog posts, and entries with photos come from Facebook.  I really encourage you to follow the links to the blog posts, as the stories behind each item are as interesting as the items are beautiful!   To see the full facebook albums, you’ll need to belong to the Historical Sew Fortnightly FB group.  When you request to join the group you’ll be sent a message (check your Other folder) asking why you would like to be part of it.  Be sure to answer in full!

There are dozens of dozens further fascinating and wonderful submissions in the FB albums, and linked through the challenge pages.

Challenge #9 – Black & White (and the Facebook album) (yes, I have picked a white item, and a black item, and a black and white item, because I can’t help being that kind of person!)

  1. Sew June’s Medieval men’s tunic-  A beautiful, simple, nicely made bit of menswear – something I am always thrilled to see!
  2. Maren’s Regency gown & chemisette – I originally noticed this for the exquisite and strikingly simple dress, and then I realised that Maren had made a black item, and a white item (and another black item), and the whole thing just makes my heart happy.
  3. Isabella’s Elizabethan bodice – While not strictly historically accurate, the jacket is wonderful, and I think the idea of using a modern fabric that is as close aesthetically to the period original as possible is a fascinating way of playing with accuracy and historicism (not to mention a boon to the time short historical seamstress!)

    And also have a look at Katy’s housedress (black and white needn’t be only black & white & sombre!) Jeannette’s black & white tea gown (because who doesn’t love a tea gown!) and Mariell’s amazing 1860s mourning dress.

Challenge #10 – Art (and the facebook album)

  1. Penelope’s 1760-1800 shortgown inspired by John Collett’s ‘The Elopement’  – First, shortgowns are a really interesting, far too infrequently reproduced 18th century garment, and this one is particularly nice, and second, how AWESOME is Penelope for being willing to reproduce that face!

    Penelope, John Collett, The Elopement
    Penelope, short gown, 1760-1800

  2. Genoveva’s pleated Renaissance smock – Part of a long running project to recreate Holbein’s 1515 portrait of Dorothea Meyer, the smock is just exquisite – in looks and construction.  And Gevoveva’s even generously done a tutorial and pattern so we can make our own recreation!
  3.  Hvitr’s woven band taken from a fresco from Tyrins, 13th century BCE – OK, I’ll admit it.  I’m a fangirl.  I love everything Hvitr makes – it’s all so meticulous, so beautifully thought out, so fascinating, and I’m never ever going to attempt it myself!

    Hvitr,  woven band taken from afresco from Tyrins, 13th century BCE

And I’m also madly enamoured of Annette’s Picasso swimsuit, Gil’s 12th c bliaut (menswear!),  Klára’s 18th century fisherwoman’s cap (her reproduction is eerily accurate!), and really, EVERYTHING!  This challenge was so inspiring!

Challenge #11 – The Politics of Fashion (and the Facebook album)

  1. Eva’s 1920s Soviet dress  1920s & ’30s Soviet textiles and fashions are such an interesting subject, and Eva has done a great job of exploring how clothes were used to express the new political climate in the Soviet Union, and her Lamanova based dress is fantastic.
  2. Lace’s Edwardian shirtwaist – The shirtwaist was the symbol of the liberated woman in the early 20th century, and (as Lace demonstrates), was linked to everything from the Gibson girl, to striking garment workers.
    Lace, Edwardian Shirtwaist
  3. Sewing from Another Time’s Bloomer outfit – Great research, with helpful links, and a lovely reproduction one of the most iconically political outfits of all time.

    Bonus: for another fabulous Bloomer outfit, check out Jessica’s beautiful example – she’s even considered why her persona would wear it.  And Hvitr made a varafeldr (a Viking faux fur cloak), which were used as currency.

Challenge #12 – Shape & Support (and the Facebook Album)

  1. Karinne’s men’s fitted stocks – I was really excited to see some menswear for Shape & Support, because while it’s been a predominantly female area in the last century or so, there were periods when men’s garments also sucked in, lifted out, engineered and enhanced areas.  And the shorts, like everything Karinne makes, are beautifully made and wonderfully researched.
  2. Lucie’s 1880s bustle – I really like this because it’s a reminder that not all bustles were enormous and aggressive – there were periods when just a little bit of support was the desired look.

    Lucie's 1880s dimity bustle

  3. Diana’s 1830s-40s Corded Petticoat – A particularly nice example of the immediate precursor to the wire hoopskirt.  Diana’s petticoat really shows how effective corded petticoats could be at holding out the weight of skirts.
    Diana's 1830s-40s corded petticoat for the HSF '14

This was one of those challenges where there were so many beautiful corsets and stays that I simply couldn’t choose one over in favourites!  Pop over to the FB album for a deluge of stunning corsetry and stay-ness.


Thank you to everyone who sewed along for those last four challenges!  I’m so inspired by everything that was made!

Sewing with Feline Assistance

Felicity is a very important part of my sewing process. I’m not sure I’d be able to do it without her help.

If she wasn’t around, who would I have to oversee every step, carefully scrutinizing the process?

Felicity the cat

Who else would step in to keep an eagle eye on the chalk and make sure it didn’t walk away with itself as I drafted patterns?

Felicity the cat

(Felicity walking away with the chalk herself, generally by batting it under the nearest piece of furniture, is an entirely different matter.)

Who else could I get to elegantly ruck up my carefully smoothed and drafted toiles?

Felicity the cat

Who else would helpfully sit on my pattern books, directly on top of the pattern I’m working on, to make sure I didn’t forget which one I wanted?

Felicity the cat

It’s the one under me.  That’s the one you’re using.

Who else would then graciously agree to move off the pattern, only to sit on my laptop, pressing all sorts of keys and hiding my pinterest inspiration board in an unfindable location?

Felicity the cat

This butt only pushes important buttons.  

Who else would make sure that my fabric had the right aesthetic sprinkle of cat hairs by taking her bath on it as I tried to cut it out?

Felicity the cat

No one but Felicity of course!

No wonder the poor wee darling is so worn out:

Felicity the cat

And if you’re wondering, she’s currently helping me with my HSF Paisley & Plaid project – it’s the 1913 skirt just under her paw in the photo above.  But you haven’t seen any paisley or plaid you say?  Oh, just you wait!

Rate the Dress: 18th century brocaded silks

Last week’s 1910s suit had a few serious admirers, but also cropped its fair share of criticism: the colours were quite dull, the collar too frivolous, the cuffs awkwardly sized, the proportions off, the pressing issues too distracting, and the presentation poor. I think you’re going to have to learn to forgive the last two from time to time, as if I only chose perfectly pressed and styled and presented garments, my pool to choose from would be so limited, and my choices so well known, it would quite take the fun out of Rate the Dress!  Whether it was the styling or just the cumulative effect of all the little flaws, the suit only managed a 6.8 out of 10 – not terrible, but certainly not stellar.

This week’s dress also comes from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.  Made of rich, brocaded silk (of plain weave, with supplementary wefts forming the pattern, alas the MFA does not tell us if they are left loose as continuous wefts, or cut short on the back of the fabric) my choice continues yesterday’s theme of brocade, damask and jacquard. The dress has a lovely provenance.  In 1740 it was worn as a wedding gown by Mary Waters, of Salem, Massachusetts.  Twenty-three years later her daughter (also Mary Waters) had it restyled in the fashions of the 1760s, and also wore it as her wedding dress. There are three available images of the gown, and they give three very different options for styling.  First, a youthful, romantic look, with an 1760s inspired hairstyle, as it might have been worn by the younger Miss Waters as a bride.

Then, the gown as worn by an older woman – as if the elder Mary Waters had simply allowed her daughter to borrow the gown, and then wore it again herself for years to come.

Finally, a back view (sadly, not in colour) with an interesting cap, so that we can admire the beautifully done pleating:

What do you think of the dress, the vivid green, the striking 1730s brocade?  Is it really a dress for all seasons and all decades? Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

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Leimomi Oakes is the Dreamstress, a textile historian, seamstress, designer, speaker and museum professional. Leimomi is available for educational and entertaining presentations, textile and fashion advice, special commissions and events. Click to learn more

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