I loved doing the Sew Weekly last year because it really made me look at my sewing: my stash, how I sew, what I sew, what I spend the most time on, and what I waste the most time on. At the end of the year, I’m sewing much more efficiently, both in how long I take, and in creating things that I’ll really use and that work with what I have. That was part of the reason for suggesting the Historical Sew Fortnightly this year: I want to turn all that I learned towards my true sewing love.
Here are five tips based on what I learned last year that may help you tackle the Historical Sew Fortnightly.
- Plan ahead
I’m announcing the Challenges 8 challenges ahead so that you have plenty of time to figure out what you are making for each challenge, where you are going to spend your time, and what you need for each challenge. Make a list of the challenges and note what you are going to make. If you really want a super elaborate striped bustle gown for Challenge #6, plan on very small projects for #4 (Embellish) and #5 (Peasants & Pioneers) so that you have almost 6 weeks to work on your big one.
Just don’t do what I did and get your fabric out all ready for a Challenge 3 ahead and then misplace it 😉
- Just do it
Procrastinating and spending too much time looking at all the options, looking at my stash, and dithering about what to make is where I waste the most time sewing – and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this. Sometimes I waste so much time I could make two outfits in the time I spend wondering about one garment and trying all the different options in pattern and fabric and buttons and trim.
I get so focused on the ‘best use’ of all my pretty sewing bits that I forget that any use is a better use than just sitting there in the stash. I hoarded my 1940s Western novelty print fabric for so many years – I’m thrilled that I finally made myself make something with it that I’ve stopped wondering if there was a better use. Just pick a pattern, pick your fabric, and stop worrying about what you could have made – because what you did make is what is important.
And if things don’t go according to plan, just makes something simple – you can never have to many chemises, and the sense of accomplishment at having finished something is way better than the feeling that you get when you look at an elaborate UFO.
This leads me to #3, which is…
- You can never have too many chemises
The Sew Weekly version of this tip was “You can never have too many simple tops” and it’s true. Without challenges and deadlines I made far too many time consuming elaborate dresses – and I don’t have that many opportunities to wear elaborate dresses – modern or historical. With deadlines I made a lot of simple tops, and they get worn almost weekly. Not as exciting, but ultimately more fulfilling.
I know many, many incredibly accomplished historical seamstresses who have a dozen beautiful Victorian dresses – and they wear the same raggedy chemise for all of them, and one corset. This is exactly the opposite of what our ancestors would have done: guides for what immigrants should bring to NZ in the mid-19th century suggest 2 dozen chemises, and only 2 dresses. So use the challenges as an excuse to spiff up your undies, build your historical hope chest, and make simple things (whether they are chemises or fichus or bloomers or caps) that will really grow your wardrobe. They won’t take as much time, they won’t use as much fabric, they may not seem as exciting, but they will be used and appreciated.
On the same lines…
- You can never have too many accessories
Accessories are another quick, easy and satisfying way to fill a challenge. They are also something I suck at. I make a fabulous historical gown, loose interest, and never make the bag/hat/scarf/shoes that should go with it. It’s really silly of me, because most of these finishing touches would only take an hour or two, compared to the dozens of hours I put into the gown. So one of the things I really want to do is assess my outfits, and make all the bits that go with them – it will be quick and simple, and I’ll be so glad I did!
Accessories are also one of the bits of historical sewing that most easily fit into modern wardrobes. Both my Capelet of Yay and my Little Bit of Magic cape are based on a 1930s original, and I wear them all the time with jeans, but I’ll also wear them with ’30s frocks.
So whether you have the full dress that needs the little bits that go with it, or want to add a vintage touch to your modern wear: accessorize.
- Look at what you have, and work from there
Rather thank making a lot of orphan outfits that don’t go with anything, concentrate on building on what you do have.
For example, this year I’d love to: make a pelisse or spencer to go over the Recamier gown; make a 1630s bodice that can be worn with the skirt from Ninon; make a 1860s bell crinoline and an evening bodice that can be worn with the Greek Key gown; make a walking-length late 18th century petticoat that can be worn with my pet-en-l’aire, and then make a pierrot jacket to go with it.
I’ve also got a ton of UFOs to finish.
Does this help? Anyone else have any other tips or suggestions?