The HSF Challenge #23: Gratitude

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!

Mid-16th century Flemish workingwomans dress

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)

1660s Ninon's 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!

1780s chemise a la reine

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!

1880s bustle

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!

Reproduction 18th century fur muff thedreamstress.com


  1. A lovely challenge. It’s so wide that it seems almost impossible to think of picking a garment… but on the other hand, as you point out, many garments we make require thanks to others who have attempted similar things before or shared information in some way. So really, it shouldn’t be that hard, right? 🙂


  2. What a cool challenge theme. I can’t begin to express my gratitude to you and all the other people who make their experience and knowledge available for people like me to learn from.

  3. Aww, thanks for the lovely mention. Every time I see Juno too I think of all the hours of work Madame O did on the train. And I think of that very first craft day at mine where we all got frustrated and swapped: I overcast the seam allowances on your chemise; MrsC fixed whatever of mine I’d got annoyed with, and you appliqued roosters onto MrsC’s block-of-the-month.

  4. I really love this idea!

    What better a tribute to all those who have so generously contributed time/information/material to their friends than to make something wonderful. And given a friend just gifted me a wonderful length of Chinese silk brocade I think I have the perfect opportunity to use it!

  5. MJ Ruisi says

    Leimomi,(and Dreamstress audience)
    I am solely grateful for the experience of being witness to an AMAZING community.( I am not a sewer ,but have a degree in Fine Arts/Art History and have always been fascinated by historical life,clothing objects textiles..ect…) So when a seamstress friend recommended this as part of a Face Book request for interesting Art Fashion Social Media Blogs 4+ years ago…WOW …I have Faithfully Read (and occasionally commented) on Your Blog…it has been a joy to read,to watch as garments take shape ,and to see how amazing all your creativity is! Thank You ,for this is something I am sincerely Grateful!xoxoxoMR

  6. Thanks for the shout-out, Leimomi. Always happy to help whenever I can, however, minimally. :o)

  7. Daw! So glad the dress diary helped you out! I’ve been feeling over dress diary-ing lately, since I don’t get a lot of feedback on them anymore (I think we’re all in blog overload)… but a couple of people have mentioned this particular diary lately, so it makes me think it’s the kind of thing that isn’t FASCINATING until you’re making one yourself! (/navel gazing)

  8. […] It’s because the shoes happen to work as a late entry for the Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #23: Generosity & Gratitude.  The aim of this challenge was to make something using or inspired by tutorials, research, […]

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