Historical Sew Fortnightly

What should the Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #22 be?

It’s that time of year!  Time to decide what the Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #22: Fortnightlier’s Choice should be.

What do you want the 22nd theme of the year to be?  A fabric?  A colour?  A motif?  A construction method?  A particular source of inspiration?  A kind of embellishment?  The possibilities are endless!

Leave a comment with your theme suggestions, comment on those suggestions that you think are really good ideas, and in a week’s time I’ll collate the most popular suggestions (based on comments on them)*, and we’ll vote on which one we most want to do.

Felicity the cat thedreamstress.com

There are a few things that I keep in mind when I set themes (I don’t always get it right, but I try!)

  • It should be a theme that works for any period, so everyone can participate (e.g ‘Handsewing’ would work, because there are handsewn garments and elements of handsewing in garments right up to the end of WWII, but ‘Sewing machines’ isn’t fair to those who costume pre-1860, and try to do it accurately)
  • It shouldn’t be a repeat, or too close to a theme that we’ve already had this year (that’s what #19 HSF Inspiration, and #21 Re-do are for!)
  • It should work for both  hemispheres, and a wide range of  cultures (so ‘Season switch’ works, but not ‘Winter’, and ‘Holiday’, but not ‘Christmas’ etc.)
  • How simple/elaborate is the theme, and how busy is that time of year likely to be?  With most themes, you can make very fancy or very simple garments  within the  theme, but some themes do lend themselves to full-on costuming (Art, for example), and it’s disappointing to only have the time to make a simple thing, when you have an idea for something spectacular.
  • How does it fit with the themes around it?  #19 is HSF Inspiration,  #20 is Alternative Universe,  #21 is Re-Do,  #23 is Modern History, and  #24 is All That Glitters.  So you have a couple of themes that could be anything (#19 & #21), a couple that aren’t necessarily particularly historically accurate (#20 & #23), and one that is far more likely to be a fancy garment than an informal one (#24).  Maybe time for a theme that is particularly suited for simple, quite historical items?  Though, of course…
  • The very best themes are open to lots of interpretation!


* A Note: if needed I may combine some similar suggestions or edit the wording of others for clarity for the final vote.


    • But it’s very similar to “Outdoors”, because Leimomi already included sports in it.
      (Does commenting with this sort of topic add to the count?)

      • Nope, you can comment both ways! Both to say you love an idea, or to express reservations (if there is no way you could make something within the topic, or think it’s too similar to a theme we already have etc.) 🙂

      • Mona says

        Wouldn’t something related to hunting, archery, hawking or even tennis count? It would be really interesting to see what people would make.

        • True – but most of those activities would not be done by ordinary women, so you’d have to be a man or lady of rank. And they’d mostly be using their ordinary clothes anyway…

    • I’ve added this to the list of suggestions for the HSF ’15 (if there is one) but am not including it for Challenge #22, because I couldn’t figure out a way to make it different from the Outdoors challenge that would be do-able before the beginnings of modern sportswear in the mid-19th century.

  1. Suzanne says

    “Study Abroad”
    Make something influenced by a culture other than your own. (You can define your own culture as either your Real Life self, or the one you identify with in your costuming.)

    • Would this include things like “French fashions outside of France”? I’m wondering how exactly this would work for people who actually do interpret a historical persona, so they have to focus on a certain time and place, so they have to work with what that time and place allows them to do…

    • oh I ADORE this idea! India, the Middle East, the Far East, Eastern Europe… so much “exotic” and fascinating that I would love to see get more attention from a historical clothing perspective.

    • Suzanne says

      I think either a new-to-you culture [I focus on 16th century Dalmatia most of the time, so I could try 16th century Ottoman instead] OR something that shows how your usual costuming period adapted themes from other cultures. The “Phrygian cap” is one example that turns up in later centuries, or think of the mania for “Egyptian” motifs following the opening of King Tut’s tomb in the 1920s, or the Victorians delight in antiquarian fancy dress. . . 🙂

  2. I’m pretty new here so I don’t know if this is a repeat but how about “Accessories” and this would include sewing cases, hat boxes, those little wall hanging that held your eyeglasses etc. Anything having to do with clothing but not necessarily something you would wear (but it could be something you wear)

  3. Pleated not gathered – any item that incorporates pleats of any type (knife, box, cartridge, ect) into it.

    Straight from the fashion plate – any sketch or other drawing contemporary to the dress/outfit you are trying to make can be used as inspiration. However, the sketch/drawing must be a fashion sketch. I know of several going back to the 14th century so I’m not sure how hard it would be before that time period.

    Hold it! – anything that helps to hold various parts of the outfit such as suspenders, garters, belts, ect

  4. Dawn Michaelson says

    “No Waste” – All projects must somehow use every piece of fabric so that there is no fabric waste. Historically, many cultures made garments that left very little to no waste since fabric was so expensive and hard to come by. Today, we waste quite a bit of fabric when construction garments and many of us don’t think twice about it. This would be a challenge to find new ways to sew, drape, pattern design, and embellish so you can every piece of fabric.

  5. Lynne says

    Use of fur or feathers, real (vintage?) or fake.

    Felicity might donate some combings you could spin…

  6. How about “Out of your comfort zone” – make some thing from a time period you haven’t done before, and maybe you htink won’t fit you. Or a type of garment that you’ve stayed away from because it seems too challenging.

    • Suzanne says

      I think this is better than my “Study Abroad” suggestion!

  7. What about:

    “With All My Love” – Make a sentimental piece (like a love token or 18th century garters with a motto) and/or a gift for someone else.

    “Text-iles” – Make a garment as described in a period/primary/research text source like a newspaper, pamphlet, letter, fashion journal, or textbook.

    “Genealogy” – Re-create a garment one of your ancestors wore or would have worn.

    I like the “No Waste” idea if it can extend to using scraps creatively and not just making everything into one garment.

  8. Heirlooms, Gifts and Finds: Make an item of historical wardrobe using something passed down to you from family members, something you were given or something you found elsewhere than a shop! (i.e. free items)

    • Evey says

      Love this one! Could also be expanded to making an historical item expressly as a gift for someone. Great suggestion.

      • Kristina says

        I really like the idea and also Evey’s suggestion of expanding it to either use an heirloom or create one.

    • Miriam Marschall says

      I like this one on the one hand, but as my family lost everything in WWII, I dont have a single family heirloom antecedent to that. It might be the case for other persons.

      • I was thinking the same thing. I don’t have a single textile from my ancestors other than some lace curtains from the 1930’s. We have a lot of furniture but that’s it. All the clothing was given to charity long before I was born.

      • That’s why I included the other things… gifted fabrics / notions etc. I’ve only started discovering and receiving some “heirlooms” recently myself, and most of them are definitely not pre-WW2. But the point I meant was not so much to use an object of “historical importance”, more like simply giving new life to old things…
        And if it’s a problem, it could be widened to gifted tools, maybe. I got my awls from my grandma and aunt, for example, so lacing eyelets…

        … or also creating a gift / heirloom, as Evey suggested – great idea. It is before Christmas for those of us who celebrate it, right?

        • LadyD says

          I think making an heirloom of the future would be interesting. I’m linking lace insertion and embroidery.

      • Elise says

        I, too, lost all of my family heirlooms in a housefire (2004), then when my jewelry was stolen this February (1950s turquoise…ouch!)

        It’s hard to be zen about it, but I like the suggestions they give about making a new one for the future.

    • I think this could be a nice one – sure, not everyone have vintage or antique textiles passed down to them (I don’t), but many might have been given fabrics, notions and what-not by parents, friends, husbands, neighbours wanting to get rid of stuff….

  9. A new skill – try something new or expand on something you know a little about. I’m already doing this, learning to weave but it could be things like embroidery, hand sewing, using a machine if you’ve not done that before etc.

    • Erin says

      I really like this idea, I’m always trying to expand my skill set!

    • Darline DeMott says

      I like the idea of creating something that includes or is completely created via a craft new to you. I have been wanting to try macrame trim and fringe that I found in one of the ladies magazines, and I am learning to make death head buttons… I also want to learn how to do tatting… There are many possibilities that could span all time periods, and challenge us to learn something new!

    • Great idea! I’m combining it with the Out of Your Comfort Zone suggestion, because that also includes new skills.

  10. Mourning- Make something that would be appropriate to wear for any of the various stages of mourning.

    I like the pleating idea too.

    • Grace Darling says

      Always the bridesmaid, never the bride! That’s a kind of mourning.

    • Loren says

      I’d love to do a mourning challenge, there are so many beautiful mourning garments and accessories out there.

      And I’ve been thinking a lot about morning since I’ve lost some people close to me this year, and how nice it must have been to have clothes tell the story without having to be asked.

    • I think the Mourning suggestion is great, and it’s definitely on the list for HSF ’15 if that happens, but I’m not including it in the Challenge 22 voting list, because we did have the Black & White challenge, and so many people did mourning for that.

  11. Randi says

    Children would be good. Making things for smaller people would be awesome, and the word “children” could include nieces, nephews, sons, daughters, cats, dogs, And ect. Would also bea good chance to make something gender neutral that couldb be given as a gift at a baby shower or for the holidays. The possibilities are endless, just scaled to fit smaller people!

    • I, naturally, don’t. As I commented on Facebook, there are many people who do not have children in their immediate vicinity and the children in their life have no reason to wear historical clothing. So in order to fulfill this challenge, they would have to resort to modern-appropriate vintage-y styles, and where’s the fun in that?

      • I agree. None of the children I know have a need for historical clothing, and even if they did I wouldn’t want to make any for them. Why put all that time and effort into something they’re just going to outgrow?

    • Elise says

      Or even dolls, both the poupees for fashion purposes or doll clothes. Even the early-period folks can join in by making a cloth doll.

  12. So many great ideas.
    I have one myself: Nature.

    This could either be interpreted as natural motifs, floral embroidery, landscapes on a garment and the like, or applied onto the material itself, to make the nature of the material the main criteria for your project and not chose a fabric or material after your pattern. The cooling effect of linen, the stiffness of horse-hair, the distinct look of fur and feathers, the shine of silk, aspects that define a certain material and can, be recreated only with much difficulty in other materials, if at all. To say it short: To pay respect to the nature of the materials we are working with and to pay respect to nature for giving us all these great stuff.

    And now I am off to vote for some other suggestions 🙂
    love, ette

    • Gouvernante Astrid says

      Didn’t we just had that – flora and fauna? I liked that challenge so why not again….

      • Yes, you are right, sorry. I didn’t participate in 2013, so I didn’t think about this one and forgot to check.

  13. What about homewear, nightwear, morning wear, something you would only wear at home? E.g. nightdresses, dressing gowns, tea gowns, wrappers, nightcaps…
    These items tend to get neglected, so it might be quite interesting to further explore this area.

  14. “Ornamentation” Make an item ornamented with a technique that is period for the item (applique, tablet weaving, blackwork, ribbon embroidery, white work, etc.)

    Also, I like the “Genealogy”, “New Skill” and “No Waste” suggestions. “Text-ile” is interesting, but won’t be very useful for costumers interested in the medieval period or earlier.

  15. Update, alter, add too. You have a dress that you are tired of or was not quite accurate and you want to fix or update it. You have a dress that no longer fits or will need to be altered to give to someone else. You have a dress that is wearable but isn’t finished up to the level of your dreams. For example I have an 1870’s gown that is done and wearable but it isn’t smothered in ruffles and poufs like it would have been in the 1870’s.

    • Ophelia says

      Good idea, but it seems similar to the make do and mend challenge from the beginning of the year. I’m in the same boat as not having any old costumes to really fix or alter either

    • I too think it’s too close to the Make Do & Mend challenge, and too hard for people without big wardrobes to re-make.

  16. Miriam Marschall says

    Easter Egg – a little bit like the hidden features in a DVD or Video game: make a dress which its historical but has something that is clearly anachronistic. I remember a Polonaise made in a “Hello Kitty” fabric…

    • Gouvernante Astrid says

      I wonder how others would like me walking around in a military camp dressed in bunnies 😉 So this one in a big no no to me, sorry…

    • I really love this idea, and I was thinking that perhaps the Easter Egg needn’t necessarily be anachronistic. Maybe it could be something clever and unexpected, but still period-accurate.

    • I love the idea of an Easter egg, especially if broadened outside just an anachronistic element. There could be a nod to modern or historical pop culture, literature, art, historical happenings, or really anything–but still kept historically accurate. I admit, I really can’t include anachronisms in my costumes, but I like the creativity of trying to think of an Easter egg that would pass muster authenticity-wise!

  17. bandykullan says

    Trade – making items that are either inspired either by elements from other cultures, that arrived through trade, or made from raw materials that could only be acquired through trade, for exemple silk in Europer.

  18. Other suggestions made so far that I think would work: Children (though I don’t have any to sew for, alas!); Fur/feathers (also other animal trim such as bone beads, perhaps?); Update. “Heirloom” is a great idea though it would be really challenging to adapt it for pre-medieval.

  19. How about, taming the stash, use only what you have already purchased except thread. Use current patterns, fabric and trims you have tucked away.

    • Really like this ‘Stash’ idea. Especially as the challenge falls towards the end of the year when we are all a bit short on the pennies in the run up to xmas . It would be fun to note how long the fabric, trims etc have been in the stash.

    • I quite like it, too, because my stash is getting overboard, space-wise, and I always try to work as much from stash as possible!
      But then because I do that already, it does not give me much inspiration…

    • Ophelia says

      I also have a huge stash that need taming, I’m all for this idea!

    • Loren says

      I’d love a stash busting challenge. And I suspect I’m not the only one who’s got a pile of fabric in search of a garment.

  20. PETS!

    you can interpreter it however you want, inspire by one of your own pets (use that fabric your cat loves to lie on while to work on it) or on it’s looks (I have a fluffy bunny with a giant buttfluff, a busstle would be really her thing if she were human) of inspired by an outfit from arthistory of people who had themself portraitted with pets (lapdogs, horses etc.)

  21. “I’ve always wanted to make. ..” Make something you’ve been meaning to do for ages, but never quite got round to for whatever reason.

  22. While the idea of “Text-ile” was to encourage primary-source research and a bit of critical thinking about construction, secondary sources like textbooks and research papers could easily be included.

    So, National Geographic articles about the garments found on Otzi (the “Iceman”), a museum description of a 9th century shoe, a thesis on the use of herbal dyes in Native American cultures, 18th century newpaper ads describing stolen goods, Jane Austen’s January 9th letter describing “buying white gloves and pink persian,” or a period text describing dagging on clothing (http://larsdatter.com/dagging.htm) could all serve as inspirational sources.

  23. Maybe a “Night and Day” challenge, in extension to what Maria suggested? For it we could make nightcaps and night-dresses, but also morning wear, undress and/or informal home wear. Even in the most dressed-up periods one needed an equivalent to comfy tack-suit bottoms. 😉 And I think this aspect is neglected in historical sewing /costume-making sometimes.

  24. Elise says

    I have three suggestions:
    1) Animals: use of animal products, animal prints, or things you would wear while tending to animals
    2) Food: food prints, or kitchen-ware, or even fabrics made from foodstuffs, like linen or horsetails
    3) Role models: something worn by a person or set of people you really respect like Amelia Earhart or the Diggers of the post-English Civil War

    • Miriam Marschall says

      Role models sounds fantastic to me!

    • I like role models, too! Even though it is just a little bit similar to the Princesses challenge, the way Leimomi put it – but much less limited to one specific social class.

  25. Grace Darling says

    What would Felicity wear if she was a people?

    I was remembering this funny little movie from 1951 called “You Never Can Tell”, that I saw as a child in the 60s.

    A racing horse “Golden Harvest” comes back as a human female called “Goldie Harvey”. The costume makers created a hat with trimmings that gave the impression of horses’ ears, and the soles of her pumps had horseshoe-shaped non-skid thingos. Her purse is a feedbag with her blouse and skirt suit echoing the silks and cut of jockey’s gear.

    Passed for slightly-quirky-normal-woman on the outside with cunning details that reflected her species being of another origin.

  26. Jeanette says

    Movie/TV Inspiration – Something inspired by a movie or television series. Lots of room for creativity and a place for all the wonderful ideas already suggested. I once made a costume based on the movie “Avatar”. The idea was to create the type of gown Nyteri would wear if she lived in the 1870s.

    • I really love this one as well, everyone loves the Scarlet O’Hara dresses, or more contemporary, Mina’s dresses from Bram Stokers Dracula

    • LadyD says

      There’s quite a few tv shows I like the costumes from and others where they have been innacurate and I’d like to make an accurate version.

      I like the night and day idea as well. Always in need of some loungewear.

      What about gifts, tokens and heirlooms as a theme then you could incorperate making them for others as well as receiving them.

      What about ‘Plain Jane’ Make an item made of one solid colour, no embelishment or print pattern. (Its something I really strugle with….everything clashes! lol! I need more solid colours.)

      ‘Improvise’ make an item you drafted/draped (not used a commercial pattern) for…

    • Ophelia says

      That’s a good one! There’s enough historical tv and movies out there that just about every time period people might work in is covered, everyone should be able to work this one easily.

  27. LadyD says

    Just thought of one more ‘To Dye for’ make an item from fabric you’ve dyed yourself or refresh an old garment by dying it.
    I was surprised how easy tea dying was….and I’ve been experimenting with different dyes and mordants.

  28. Kind of a different take and perhaps too broad/not within the spirit, but what about “Made for someone else”? The Gift Challenge?

    • Lovely idea! I’ve combined this with the ‘With All My Love’ suggestion to be ‘Token of My Affection” 🙂

  29. Grace Darling says

    Me again …. came across Wellington-raised pioneer
    Ettie Annie Rout (1877-1936) in my research.


    Make an item that nurses would have worn/used in
    the historical period of choice.

  30. Ã…sa Petersson says

    What about “Gentlemen” – make something for/ or inspired by mens fashion.
    Thera are so many goergeous riding habits, wasitcoats, shirtwasists, trousers and headwear out there who all draw inspiration from mens fashion.
    Or if you are lucky enough to have a man/boy (or anyone who identifies as a man/boy) in your present, who you can make something for, this would be the chance.

    • I like this one! I want to make a riding habit like the red one Marie Antoinette wears in a portrait when she was young. I love mixing masculine and feminine!

  31. Erin says

    I wonder about making a activities of daily living/work- related accessory or item of dress. It could be an apron, a workbag, a thimble or something more exotic– a case for an instrument, a medical kit, bicycle panniers, a driving coat, aviator’s helmet, child’s toy, traveling bag?

  32. Pat says

    Secret/hidden. This could be the pockets in a farthingale or a beautiful repair to clothing. It could be beautiful underthings or the structured bodice under a draped evening dress. It could even be a secret compartment in your shoe to smuggle resistance codes.

  33. Your loved ones: Make something for your spouse, child or pet, or any other relative…

    • There have been a number of suggestions about gifts and sewing for others, so I’ve combined them all into one ‘Token of My Affection’ challenge 🙂

  34. What about something that doesn’t have a visual representation, just a description in words? That way it is a challenge to see how we interpret the words. For example, I’ve seen Anne Boleyn’s execution garb described differently in several accounts and thus interpreted in different ways by different costumers.

    • Grace Darling says

      “She bore on her breast, in the curiously embroidered letter, a specimen of her delicate and imaginative skill, of which the dames of a court might gladly have availed themselves, to add the richer and more spiritual adornment of human ingenuity to their fabrics of silk and gold.”

      ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne
      Chapter 5: Hester at Her Needle
      The Scarlet Letter

      How about … What’s your letter?

  35. How about Add-On, making a new piece for an existing costume, such as a new belt pouch for a medieval cote, a new skirt for an 18th century jacket, a necklace for an Edwardian dinner gown. Something you already have, but add a new piece, and bonus points if it’s a craft you don’t usually do, such as jewelry or leatherworking.

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