Historical Sew Fortnightly

How do you measure a year?

Last January, when HSF ’13 started, I began saving spools.  Every time I finished a spool of thread I tucked it in a bag in one of my drawers.  At the end of the year, my bag, and my drawer, were full.

Thread, thedreamstress.com

I find looking at it a good way of assessing my year.  Sure, I made all this stuff, but it’s a bit abstract even in my own mind.  But those threads, I used em up!

Thread, thedreamstress.com

I’m measuring my year in thread

So how much did I sew?  Did I sew an inch of thread for every minute?

There are 525949  minutes (not, as Rent would have us believe, 525,600) in a year.

525949 inches =  14609.7 yards

14609.7 yards =  13359.1 metres.

The average spool of thread has 150 metres of thread on it.

13359.1 divided by 150 = 89.

There are 76 spools of thread in my bag ‘o finishes spools.  Now, some of them would have been part finished before the year started, but at least 10 of them are 500 metre spools, so count extra.  And I know of at least 4 spools of thread that got lost and didn’t make it into the drawer.  And there are lots  of spools of thread that I started this year, but didn’t finish.  So I’m sure I did sew at least an inch of thread for every minute of 2013!

So what else did I do?

I used a total of  73.7 metres of fabric in finished HSF projects.

The most fabric-indulgent project was the Polly Oliver skirt, at 8.5m.  

All together my projects cost  in the vicinity of $900  (though, once again,  most of the materials came from stash, so the cost was spread out over previous years), with an  average cost of $23.00 per project.

Of course, most projects were significantly cheaper, or significantly more expensive.  The closest was the  Subtly Striped 1780s petticoat, at $20.  The cheapest finished project I paid for, at $1.50,  was my Little Bit of Red hat.  The most expensive project, at $111, was my Midnight Garden corset (though most of the materials came from stash, so were paid for in previous years).

The projects I finished in 2013 took a total of 428 hours and 35 minutes, though (like the money) some of those projects were started years earlier, so the hours were spread across a number of years.  And then there are projects I started in 2013, and have put 30+ hours into, but won’t finish until 2014, like the Frou Frou Francaise and Masquerade Stays.

In the course of the year I made 40 HSF items, comprising  10 dresses, 7 undergarments, 6 accessories, 5 petticoats or skirts,  4 jacket/bodice/sweater/cape type thingees, 4 hats, 2 blouses, and 2 pairs of shoes.  Not bad!

I also finished 8 UFO/PHDs, 5 of which were at least a year old.

Of the 40 projects I made for the HSF, 26 of them were made with materials primarily from my stash (i.e. bought before 2013, and at least 6 months before the project was started), four of them were not applicable to stash considerations (i.e UFO’s where I just had to sew – didn’t have to find any new fabric to finish them), and 10 of them were made from materials purchased in the last 6 months of 2012, or in 2013.  I’m really trying to stashbust in 2014, so I’m aiming for under 5 projects with new fabric.

My two most common periods were latter half of the 18th century (12 projects) and ca. 1930 (12 projects).  Expect more of the same in 2014, with a smattering of early 18th century, early 19th century, early 20th century, and (oooooh!) Medieval or Renaissance (have to do a stash assess and decide on one or the other).

For historical accuracy, the average of my ratings was 65% accurate.  I’d like to raise that to at least 75% in my 2014 sewing.

Looking back at the year, I think that my favourite fully-historical (totally not wearable in a modern sense) item is the Indienne Chintz pet-en-l’aire (there is nothing I would change about it or do better) and my favourite wearable historical item is a tie between the Sherbet Seersucker dress & the Gran’s Garden dress.  My favourite accessory is the Fur & Scales Muff.

Really though, picking favourites was incredibly hard, because I love so many pieces.  My goal for 2014 is for it to be even harder to pick my favourites next year!

In addition to the HSF, I made at least 9 T-shirts of varying descriptions (here are 3), 4 pairs of knickers,  2 not-historical-enough-to-count pairs of tap pants, 2 undershirts,  2 blouses for my Mum,  1 1840s dress, 1 skirt, 1 collared shirt,  a cape and probably sundry other things that I can’t remember off the top of my head.

And finally, in 2013 I took 1,228 photos of Felicity.  This was photo number one:

Felicity the cat thedreamstress.com

Yep.  That’s my cat for sure!

So that was my year, measured in dresses, and dollars, and yards of fabric.  In periods, and projects, and spools of thread!

Thread, thedreamstress.com


  1. Lynne says

    What an intriguing way to measure your year! All those yards of thread. Not to mention that formidable list of projects completed. So hard to pick a favourite – I love Polly, but I think the pet is the winner.

    What are you going to do with your empty reels? I’m sure they would be of use to someone. Think of all those small children who could be taught French knitting with the wooden ones! And some kindy would love a collection of plastic ones, surely? Must be useful for axels, strung doll arms and legs, big beads with papier mache…

    Or you could all have a whip-round, and someone could make something for Wearable Arts!

    • I do love Polly too, but there is so much angst associated with it that I think I have to wait a little longer before it will be a favourite 😉

      I never learned to French knit. We did finger-knitting in Hawaii to produce yarn lei, which I understand is similar.

      I still have to figure out an end use for my spools. I’m sure I’ll find them a good home somewhere!

  2. That’s a fun way to total up the year! I’ve noticed a bunch of empty thread spools popping up around here too!

    • It’s, of course, completely inaccurate because there are so many spools of thread that I used a bit of but didn’t finish, but it does give a nice solid sense of accomplishment 😉

  3. There’s just one problem with your calculation – inches of thread != inches of stitching. I know you do a fair amount by hand, but in anything done by machine you’ll have two inches of thread to each inch of seam.

    Still, an interesting way of looking at things.

    • Oh yes, I’m not claiming to have stitched that many inches, just stitches that many inches in thread, which is exactly what I said!

      I probably did stitch that many inches though…I made so many things with spools of thread that simply didn’t get used up.

  4. MJ Ruisi says

    Wow! Just Wow!!!!! Congratulations on such an amazing year of work…… and Sharing it and SO Much More with everyone!!!!

  5. I love this visual reminder of your productive year! You are an inspiration with how much you have accomplished.

  6. That is impressive. I knew I had sewn a lot last year because of my scraps bag. Once upon a time I thought I’d make a crumb quilt. Look it up if you don’t know what I’m talking about – they’re kind of nuts, but awesome at the same time. In any case, this year I had three bags of scraps. No crumb quilt yet. 😉

    • Thank you! I don’t keep all my scraps because they are like tribbles – they seem to multiply on their own and I’d soon have no space in the house! I keep that which is big enough to be useful and the fancy bits that might get used to patch/embellish the project they came from.

      So a crumb quilt is just a very plain, simple modern version of a crazy quilt, without all the different kinds of fabric and embroidery?

      I’m also keeping scraps for a quilt – really nice cream/ivory/white cottons to make an all-white yoyo quilt…someday. And scraps of reproduction depression-era cottons, to make a proper quilt with.

    • Elise says

      With relatives who were western pioneers, our family has many of such quilts. No fabric wasted!

  7. Daniel says

    The ultimate spool pic has to be the one where Felicity snagged that reel of blue thread on her claw and you managed to get a picture of her seemingly holding it up for closer examination! I love that pic.

    • That was a very cunning picture! I’ve just taken another series that is almost (but not quite, I’m afraid) as good, with her examining the thread from my Smooth Sewing trousers.

  8. What a great way to measure a year! It is great to be able to quantify how much you made! I might have to do something like that if I actually made a decent amount of things! Maybe this year!

    That cat picture is so funny and adorable!

    • I’ll be doing it again this year – see if I can beat the 2013 amount. Good luck with your sewing this year!

      It is a pretty adorable pic of Miss Fiss isn’t it? I was tickled pink to realise it was the first one I took of the year!

  9. Elise says

    Thanks for sharing your art with us so that we can do so vicariously!

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