Historical Sew Fortnightly


It’s coming up to the end of the year, and I’m reviewing everything I’ve accomplished this year, and feeling rather pleased with myself…


…there is still, as always, SO  much more I wanted to get done this year, and didn’t, because I am perpetually over-ambitious!

I can let go of most of it, but I’m definitely disappointed that I  haven’t finished some of the costuming UFOs I started, and I’ve managed to create two new costuming UFOs (wailey wailey!).

So for the HSM 2016 Challenge #1: Procrastination  (due by the end of January), I’m going to be trying to finish one of the UFOs I shoved into the pile of shame and have been putting off finishing because the next step is hard work.

My options are:

  • 1930s crepe satin evening trousers I started four years ago and never finished because they are made from the most annoying fabric ever…
  • A 1930s swimsuit, also started 4 years ago.
  • And, what do you know, a 1920s lace evening dress started 4 years ago!  Four years ago was not a good time for me UFO-wise.

    1920s dress, Callot Soers, The Goldstein Museum of Art

    1920s dress, Callot Soers, The Goldstein Museum of Art

  • The Wearing History 1910s jacket to go with my skirt.  Next up is pockets and buttonholes, and that requires thinking and I don’t want to think!
    Wearing History's 1916 skirt thedreamstress.com - 8
  • The 1760s Frou Frou francaise.  That needs side pleating, sleeves, trim…quite a bit actually.
    1760s petticoat thedreamstress.com
  • The Red Elizabethan gown.  It just needs sleeves.  And new shoulder rolls.  The ones I made were…ummm…unsatisfactory.
    Red Velvet Elizabethan thedreamstress.com
  • A proper medieval shift, partly started, being worked through whenever I have hand-sewing time.
  • An un-proper Regency shift (I started it and became increasingly convinced the fabric was part rayon).
  • The 1760s chine a la branch petticoat.  This is going to be part of an 18th c robe a la francaise ensemble.  One day.  Right now, it’s being ignored because looking at it makes me want to vomit.  Literally.  (yes, actually literally, not figuratively!).
  • Emily’s 1903 evening dress.  Yeah.  That’s probably not going to happen.  Though all those pintucks might be relaxing.

    Detail of the train of Emily's dress

    Detail of the train of Emily’s dress

  • The 1720s robe de cour.  This is on hold because I think I don’t actually have enough fabric to do it properly.  I’ve got an idea of how to rescue it (pictured below), but it won’t be an 18th century robe de cour.

    Caspar Netscher (circa 1639—1684), Lady at the Window, 1666, Von der Heydt-Museum

    Caspar Netscher (circa 1639—1684), Lady at the Window, 1666, Von der Heydt-Museum

The Elizabethan is both incredibly tempting because I was working on it not that long ago, and incredibly UN-tempting, because I remember exactly why I set it aside!  Realistically, my January is chocca, so I need to pick a fairly simple project, which means one of the 1920s/30s things, or the  chine a la branch  petticoat, or a shift.

Then there are all the things I’ve been procrastinating on even starting (which is a perfectly valid interpretation of the challenge), but with so many UFOs, I think I’d  best not  get into them.

So that’s my list of shame!  It will feel good to dig one of those out of the pile, and get it finished off!

What about you?  What’s your UFO pile looking like?  What have you been putting off getting in to?  What are your goals for the procrastination challenge?


  1. This is not very tricky for me since I don’t really have that much in my historical UFO pile. I started stays couple years ago ( lets face it I started procrastinating about stays about 6 years ago but started making them couple years ago), but they are not realistic because I want reed for boning and thats tricky to get in Finland.
    Other option would be 1930’s skirt which is already cut. Third option is chemise gown which I have been procrastinating about couple years and haven’t even started but I would need it for Spring ball in the beginning of April. I have not-so-good fabric for it, which will have to do.

    • Can you get that sort of ratan basket-making reed in Finland? My friend was making those baskets some years ago and I thought it seemed pretty close to stays reed,. Mind you, I’ve never actually seen the proper reed.
      I’ve also, once, seen online an 18th-century-style folk costume bodice that was boned with halved willow twigs. Maybe you could do that, somehow? (Lots of work, I know – and probably too late for that for January.)

      • Yes, I was actually thinking about that but most basket-making reeds seem to be quite thin and round. I managed to find one shop online which is selling some sort of flat looking basket reed, but I would have go to their shop to have a look at it and unfortunately it’s not local to me. So it might take some time before I have the chance, perhaps not in January even. But I will definitely hold that option open.

      • Fabulous! I am familiar with VenaCava and have been ordering other corset materials and millinery stuff from them before, but it never occurred to me that they would have also reed. Thank you for this tip! Delivery from UK is thankfully quite fast, but I still might opt for the chemise gown, since it’s faster to make (I hope). Thanks ladies for the tips and support!

  2. I’m definitely doing the medieval workdress (by now obviously horribly inaccurate, but what can you do), set aside because the sleeves were unexpectedly too tight for me. It should actually be a fairly simple fix and, fingers crossed, fairly simple to finish, which would be a good thing, because what I have planned for pleats the month after that requires embroidery. And cartridge pleating. But especially embroidery.

  3. Procrastination and I are old friends, I am planning on finishing my 1920s one hour dress, that has morphed into a 16 hour dress. My biggest problem is that I’m in the midst of breast reconstruction which won’t be done for months (it’s a long process which I hope none of you will ever have to experience) so I can’t really fit anything to my torso.

    Then there is the hardware that I bought to make an Edwardian corset but that is also subject to the above problem.

    Since new Victorian outfits are in the works so that should take care of most of the other challenges. Which gives me another option for January, in my stash is some incredible gold embroidered Chinese silk that I keep putting off using. The other day it occurred to me that it would make a great Victorian cape.


  4. stacey devereaux says

    Last year I decided to go through my very small UFO pile and quickly realized the reason for not finishing them – I really didn’t like any of them, either because of the fabric, color, or style. Rather than trying to finish something I didn’t particularly like anyhow, I decided to move on from them and save the projects for scraps. Then I vowed to myself to never start another project that I wouldn’t love working on, paying particular attention to style, fabric, and color. Guess what, I finished 2 formal satin dresses, a chiffon halter maxi dress, a fun and colorful photo quilt, a satin quilted applique and trapunto decorator pillow, and an ice skating dress.

    For each project I had several new things to learn and practiced until it was perfect, or nearly so I think! I refused to start a new project until the last project was entirely finished even though I had deadlines for all but the chiffon dress. In the end what it came down to for me was that I wasn’t going to let a project defeat me, that I was going to persevere and learn the technique/skill that usually causes one to give up on a project.

    Another motivator for me was to never put the project away until it was completed so that it would always be there, reminding me (nagging?) that it wasn’t done. I learned a great deal of patience and determination, but most of all, a ton of confidence knowing that I could successfully finish a project that I was proud of and loved.

  5. Elise says

    In a similar vein–hope you don’t mind me sharing–I’m finishing up typing my late grandmother’s recipes to share with family. She passed away last week, but spent most of her later years (1980-1995) winning prizes through Better Homes and Gardens and publishing recipes in newspapers. It’s a pleasure, if bittersweet, to read her voice as I remember her.

    Embarrassingly, I’ve had her binders and notecards for about 4 years. Still, better late than never. And this way, she is still alive.

    • bovine queen says

      Would you consider sharing this when you finish? Do you have a website? I love old family recipes and culinary stories…

    • Elise says

      And I did it! Many many hours and sleepless nights, but I was able to assemble it ahead of a deadline by Shutterfly so that the family could order with the sales. (Shutterfly is so expensive, but the only way to do color!)

      Back to historicism (1980s and 1990s not being historic), it was neat to see my grandmother revisit old Mexican recipes using pepitas (pumpkin seeds) as a thickener, along with recipes passed down from her family’s pioneer days using pinto beans as a sweet starch, similar to how adzuki beans are used in Japanese fare. Interesting stuff.

      • It is! It’s also interesting for me because I know “pepita” was used in Czech for a pattern of little black-and-white checks at the turn of the 19th and 20th century, at the least – it’s in a fiction book we have – I think it’s basically houndstooth. Nowadays, it goes as “pepito”, but the book has it as “pepita”… allegedly, it comes from a famous Spansih dancer’s nickname (Pepita de Oliva), although no one knows really why. Now I’m wondering if it actually has something to do with the seeds instead. 😀

  6. Karin says

    One redo of an 1880’s bustle era bodice (needs buttonholes and buttons). There are 3 bustle era hats and bonnets at different stages that got started 4-6 months ago.
    One new wire bustle and new overskirt and skirt are still in the works as well.
    Think the redo will get finished first. 🙂
    Have fun everyone.


  7. I have lost a fair amount of weight since starting some unfinished projects, which means some of my UFOs are even less desirable right now… not only will they require finishing, but also resizing. I have a 1918 dress, an Edwardian walking suit, a Victorian jacket and skirt, a gold silk houppelande, and probably a few other things I’m forgetting.
    I also have two items I’m procrastinating about… I WANT to have things done by a January and February event receptively, but keep kind of putting them off for more immediately gratifying projects – these include a Byzantine costume for an event in late January, and some accessories for mid-February.

  8. Hooray! I have successfully managed to complete a second entry for this challenge. I started out with good intentions but what with one thing and another and settling into a new job I wasn’t sure I was going to live up to my enthusiastic beginning-of-the-year ambitions. However, I have successfully completed a second project that I have been procrastinating over for some time – a set of girl’s 1860s underwear. Not having a little girl to try it on was a big factor in putting off this project but I’m so glad I finally went for it. Now all I need is a little princess who is willing to model these for me!!


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