The Historical Sew-Fortnightly has been fantastic for all the things that have been produced: for motivating us to sew, and create, and finish things.
What has really made it great for me though, is all the connections: the sharing of our successes, our failures, our knowledge, our findings, our inspiration.
The international historical sewing community is amazing because everyone is so generous in their knowledge and experiences. Huge amounts of information, research, knowledge, tutorials, and free patterns are put out by passionate amateurs and professionals who extend their work into their personal time.
Challenge #23: Generosity & Gratitude, due November 18, is not about a particular item or aesthetic, it’s about celebrating the generosity of spirit and willingness to help others that makes the historical sewing community great, and giving credit and thanks to those who have contributed to our collective knowledge without expecting payment in return.
Make anything that fits the general HSF guidelines, and utilizes research, patterns, and tutorials that have been made available for free, and acknowledge all the sources that have helped you to create your item.
This is also an opportunity to credit the more local, personal generosity that is so wonderfully prevalent among sewers: historical and otherwise. So many people have given me fabric, materials, knowledge, and time, over the years, and I see this theme repeated amongst other seamstresses all the time: a more experienced seamstress helps others with fit, we give fabric to those who it would better suit, or receive materials when we need them for a project, and another seamstress had just stashed them. We loan dressforms, and grommet presses, and patterns we have drafted, and have sewing parties to help one seamstress finish a project in time. And it’s fantastic, and long may it continue!
There are literally thousands of articles, tutorials and patterns that I could link to, and showcase, to get you started, and to get you inspired. I can’t even keep up with the new ones that get posted every week, much less list them all, but there are some on my (badly in need of updating) resource page, and some on this pinterest board of Historical sewing patterns, tutorials, and useful articles.
And, for a little more inspiration, here are a few of my projects where I am thoroughly indebted to those who have gone before for their research and assistance:
My first attempt at a historical garment that was anything but pure costume pastiche was a 1550s-1570s Flemish working woman’s dress, based hugely off of Drea Leed’s excellent research into the period, and her instructions on how to construct the outfit. I learned so much from this garment, both in terms of late Renaissance dress construction, and in terms of research. Thank you Drea!
Much more recently, making the 1660s Ninon dress, while my pure research came from Arnold & Waugh, among other sources, being able to read Kendra’s dress diary for her Nell Gwynn dress, and see how she put it together (and avoid the bits that gave her trouble) was invaluable. Thank you Kendra! (and to Anne Danvers for her 17th century petticoat article, and Sapphorama for her images of a 1660s dress, among the others listed in my resources section for this dress)
When I first tried to make a chemise a la reine, it did not go well (I believe mu’u-mu’u from hell was the phrase I used), but by studying the lovely detailed progress diary that Teresa posted of her chemise a la reine, I figured out how to do it and got there in the end! Thank you Teresa!
More locally, I can hardly say I made the 1880s ‘Century of the Fruitbat’ bustle, because so many people helped me with it. Over the course of a couple of years one friend cut the pleating, another hemmed it, another pleated and sewed it on, someone else sewed on the hoop channels, and another friend did the buttonholes. I’m pretty sure that Madame O, Joie de Vivre, Mrs C, and Emily among others, at one time or another, contributed to this! Thank you, thank you, thank you all you dear seamstresses!
Speaking of that group of amazing friends, Madame O sewed more than half the hem on the pet-en-l’aire, and of course the 1909 Laurel dress owes most of its glory to Mrs C’s amazing work (and she bought half the fabric). Thank you again you darlings!
And finally, from a HSF perspective, the fur for my Fur & Scales muff was a gift from the lovely Lynne, and Carolyn’s expert input was very helpful in thinking about the historical accuracies of an 18th century fur muff. Thank you Lynne & Carolyn!