The Historical Sew Fortnightly So Far

When I mused about the midpoint of the Historical Sew Fortnightly earlier this week, I realised that I couldn’t truly take stock of what I had done, and where I was so far, unless I actually took stock of what I had done, and where I was so far.  So, here is what I have made so far, and some thoughts on it:

#0 (the bonus challenge): Starting Simple : The ca. 1930 ‘Gran’s Garden’ Garden Party Frock.

I love this!  I wore it constantly all summer, and got lots of compliments on it (my MIL, Gran’s daughter, said it was her favourite of everything I’ve ever sewn).  It’s a perfect ‘period piece in a modern wardrobe’ look.

Gran's Garden ca. 1930 Garden Party frock

#1: Bi/Tri/Quadri/Quin/Sex/Septi/Octo/Nona/Centennial: The 1813 ‘Kashmiri’ Gown

This was the least successful of everything I’ve sewn so far.  I had to work, and work, and work on the fit, and the sleeves are still too tight, so it needs a tiny adjustment, and yet, it’s still one of my favourite pieces, and it can be made perfect.  So still a win.

1813 Kashmiri Dress, thedreamstress.com

#2: UFO: The 1910 ‘Luna Moth’ Frock

I am so glad this is done.  It was such a long process!  I still don’t love it though.  C’est la vie.

1910 Luna Moth Gown

#3: Under it all: The 1770s hand-sewn linen paniers 

Not glamorous, but I had fun with the sew-along, and I’m pleased with the paniers.

1770's paniers

#4: Embellish: The ‘Little bit of Red’ clocheand the trim on my 1780s pet-en-l’aire

The cloche was a super simple, easy, soft entry, but really made my outfit, which just goes to show how important accessories are!

Little bit of red dress & cloche

The trim on the pet was a long time coming, and I’m so in love with it, and so in love with the finished pet.  Yay for the HSF for motivating me to get this done!

1780s pet-en-l'aire and pleated petticoat

#5: Peasants & Pioneers: The late 18th century ‘Brown’ linen shift

Another deceptively simple (or is that deceptively hard?  Because it looks simple, but took a lot of time) project, which will be very useful, and had the bonus benefit of encouraging me to do a lot of research into brown linen and onsaburg.

Late 18th century 'brown' linen shift

Late 18th century ‘brown’ linen shift

#6: Stripes: The 1780′s subtly-striped petticoat, and the 1933 Sherbet Seersucker frock

The petticoat was a fairly simple project, but really made the pet-en-l’aire outfit, and will be a very useful and versatile piece for other late 18th century separates, so I’m thrilled with it.

1780s pet-en-l'aire and pleated petticoat

And I’m madly, madly in love with the Sherbet Seersucker frock.  I feel so ridiculously chic every time I wear it, with my self-made cloche and turquoise shoes.

Anne Adams 2653 now with belt

Anne Adams 2653 now with belt

#7: Accessorize: The 1780s bum rump, the Sea at Sunset belt, and the Fedora to Cloche cloche, oh, and the bérgere I guess!  

It took me a long time to really get going with this challenge, and none of my accessories was really spectacular, but they are all super useful.  And hey, not all period accessories were hand-embroidered diamond encrusted shoes ;-)

ca. 1780 bum rump

'Sea at Sunset' 1930s lace dress thedreamstress.com

Modern straw fedora reshaped as '20s style cloche

#8: By the Sea: The ca. 1930 Spotty-Not-Quite-Nautical frock and the 1930s Sea at Sunset frock

Two ‘softer’ entries, in which it became clear that I could whip up a 1930s outfit every week all year long, but earlier periods are a bit more challenging!

Early 1930s Spotty Not-Quite Nautical frock

And I still need to tweak the Sea at Sunset frock:

'Sea at Sunset' 1930s lace dress thedreamstress.com

#9: Flora and Fauna: The 2nd half of the 18th century ‘Fur & Scales’ muff and the 1790s Flora’s Secret shoes

The two items I did for this challenge delight me because they are both perfectly done – there isn’t a thing about them I wish I’d done better, or more meticulously.  And also, they are shoes and a muff.  Be still my frilly girlish little heart!

ca. 1790 shoe remake thedreamstress.com

#10: Literature: My 1885 fancy dress/historicism ‘Polly/Oliver’ jacket 

Oh goodness!  I almost gave up on this one!  I can honestly say if it weren’t for the HSF, I would have finished it!  I’m reasonably pleased with it, but the final verdict will be delivered when I finish the skirt and have the full ensemble.  Bring on the White challenge!

The 1880s does 18th century Polly / Oliver jacket thedreamstress.com

#11: Squares, Rectangles & Triangles - the ca. 1800 muff.  

It’s just a muff, but it makes me so happy.  What is it about muffs to warm the cockles of a girls heart?  And her cold little chillblained hands!

Late 18th century inspired muff thedreamstress.com

#12: Pretty Pretty Princesses: The 18th century ‘Pretty, pretty princess’ pearl bracelets and ca. 1760 ‘Queen Charlotte’ petticoat

The bracelets were quick & simple but still took me longer than I expected.  I love them though.  They were my birthday present for me.

18th century pearl bracelets with diamante clasps

And my petticoat!  Oh swoon!  Oh happiness!  It’s handsewn, it’s meticulously researched, and I made punched trim!  It was such an indulgence, and I adore it, and I can’t wait to make the robe to go over it.  And then wear it with my bracelets, and my Fur & Scales muff!

1760s petticoat thedreamstress.com

#13: Lace and Lacing: The 1890′s ‘Midnight Garden’ corset

I really needed an 1890s corset, and I really wanted to try this style, and I enjoyed the experimentation.  A good excuse to try new things and perfect old skills!

1890s 'Midnight in the Garden' corset thedreamstress.com

Wow.  That’s actually a lot!  Three full full-on historical outfits, four historical-wearable dresses, four undergarments, three hats, two muffs, a pair of shoes, some jewellery, and half of two other full outfits.  For half a years work, that’s pretty amazing.  And I can guarantee that more than half of these (1813 Kashmiri, Luna Moth, paniers, shift, bergére, pet, striped petticoat, both muffs, Flora’s Secret shoes, Polly/Oliver jacket, bracelets & Queen Charlotte petticoat) wouldn’t be done if not for the HSF.  Suddenly I’m really pleased with myself!

For everyone else who is doing the Historical-Sew-Fortnightly, I hope you are also pleased when you tally up what you have done!

The Historical Sew Fortnightly: Halfway done!

Well historical sewers, we’re halfway there!

My Challenge # 13 (Lace & Lacing) is done, and I’m hard at work on Challenge #14 (Eastern Influence).

It’s been an amazing six months for me. Last December, as the Sew Weekly wrapped up, I looked at what I’d accomplished in 2012, and what I wanted to do in 2013, and I had this mad idea that I should devote myself to my historical wardrobe: making an item for it every fortnight.  And then, of course, I thought, “Hey, would anyone else want to do this?”.  And some of you did!  And the rest of you have been great as cheerleaders & coaches, which is just as important!

So, with the challenge half done, it’s time to take a breather, look back at what I have done so far, and review how things are going.

1813 Kashmiri Dress, thedreamstress.com

What’s gone well:

- Finishing up the UFO pile (without creating new UFOs)!  I’ve finished the three big UFO’s on my pile (Luna Moth, the pet-en-l’aire, and the Polly/Oliver jacket), and am about to finish the skirt to go with it.  Plus, I’ve got two big fabric UFO’s started or out of the way (1813 Kashmiri dress & Frou Frou Francaise)

- Stashbusting: So far, with the main fabric/notion for every garment except the Seersucker Sherbet frock, and the Pretty, Pretty, Princess Pearl Bracelets, has come from my stash.  And, in using my stash so assiduously, I’ve identified pieces I am unlikely to every use, and have culled them.

- Making pretty things.  It’s happening!  Every two weeks!

What hasn’t gone as well as I’d hoped:

- My modern wardrobe.  I know I said I didn’t need any more of it, but it turns out there are quite a few basics that need to be refreshed/replaced, and I haven’t had time for them, and I feel guilty when I see the fabrics for them in my stash.

- Coordination & facilitation.  Wow.  That takes a LOT of my time!  I spend almost as much time updating things and managing the facebook group as I do sewing.

- Everything takes longer than I had anticipated!  I just can’t get a full phenomenal outfit done for every challenge.  On the bright side, that means that I’m getting a lot of small basics and accessories done, and those are just as important for an outfit.

What have I learned so far?

- The online historical sewing community is amazing!  You guys have been so enthusiastic, and supportive, and it’s great to have you participating, and learning, and teaching.  You inspire me!

- Just getting something, anything, done is important for keeping the momentum going, and for the sense of accomplishment.  Once you miss one thing, it gets harder to get back in the fortnightly groove, but even a little item (like my pearl bracelets) keeps the momentum going, and will be important in the end for the overall look of an outfit.

- The amount of little things that I need is endless (and I imagine it would be the same for most historical costumers) so it would be quite easy to do the HSF entirely out of chemises and accessories, without making anything you didn’t need.

- I want to make all the things!  The problem with the HSF is that I see the amazing things everyone else is making, and want to make them myself, and don’t have time!

Are we meeting the goals?

  • To encourage collaborations and interactions in the historical costuming community; (Yes!)
  • To encourage all of us to do more historical research, to improve our standards of historical accuracy, and to expand our historical sewing skills; (Yes!  There are discussions all the time in the Facebook group about research and techniques, and people are trying new things and making new things)
  • To provide excuses to sew amazing garments from throughout history; (Yep!  I’ve heard “I would never have made this if not for this challenge” more than once!)
  • To provide incentive to photograph these garments so they can be shared and appreciated; (Personally, this is the one I need to work on most)
  • And most of all…
  • To have fun! (Yes, yes and yes!)

In short, I think so!  I hope those of you who are participating are finding the challenge as inspiring as I am!

1780s pet-en-l'aire and pleated petticoat

If you haven’t done a challenge yet, please jump in!

The HSF Challenge #20: Outerwear

As I write this, New Zealand is deep in the grip of winter, and my life is about layers of merino knits, warm scarves, fur-lined gloves, and heavy coats.  It’s good weather to be inside with the heater running, curled under a blanket, handsewing.  By the time challenge #20 comes along in October, the weather in New Zealand will be warming up, and those of you above the equator will be cooling down, looking towards your own winter.

The midpoint of the seasons seems a good point for a challenge focused on outerwear: the layers that get added on to your basic outfit to protect you, and it, from inclement weather.  The Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #20: Outerwear (due October 7th) is all about capes, camails and crespins, scarves, sweaters and spencers, burnouses, balmacaans and bosom friends, muffs, mantles and mittens, pardessuses, pelisses and pelerines.  In other words, anything you put over everything else.

To get you thinking about it, here are a few of my favourite outerwear inspiration images:

Hood from Greenland, 14th century, Danish National Museum, Copenhagen

Hood from Greenland, 14th century, Danish National Museum, Copenhagen

Isn’t this hood fantastic?  Isn’t it darling?  Can’t you imagine how warm and snuggly it would be over a cloak.  I wonder what colour it was originally.

It’s mostly the fabric that makes me drool, but even in plain velvet the shape of Eleanor’s cloak would fabulous.  It’s stunning with her frock, but I can also imagine it over a modern evening dress.  And I want it!

You know what makes 17th century men’s fashion fabulous?  Capes.  17th century capes are amazing (because without them, 17th century men’s fashion is just one big giggle-fest).  The heavy metallic trim on this cape is just delicious.  Can you imagine how it would move when worn by some swashbuckling hero?

Fashion plate with ermine and ermine-patterned fabric, 1770s

Fashion plate with ermine and ermine-patterned fabric, 1770s

This fashion plate is my favourite thing ever (at least for this week).  It’s so ridiculous it has come out the other side to wonderful.  The black and white colour scheme!  The ermine trim, with little ermine tails dangling off the bow, the muff, the fur-patterned fabric.  Oooooh…I love it!

Speaking of fabulously ridiculous…

The sawtooth edges!  The pompoms!

Child's cape.  Twilled peacock blue woollen cloth, embroidered in cream silk thread, with a cream tassel on the hood; Anglo-Indian, 1860-70, V&A

Child’s cape. Twilled peacock blue woollen cloth, embroidered in cream silk thread, with a cream tassel on the hood; Anglo-Indian, 1860-70, V&A

And finally, the child’s burnous which everyone loved so much when I posted it.  It’s not hard to see why!

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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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