Historical Sew Fortnightly

My Historical Sew Monthly: looking back at 2015, and forward to 2016

Whew!  Another Historical Sew Monthly down, another pile of garments made.  Overall, I’m pleased with my year, but not thrilled.  I am thrilled with the Medieval dress, and I made a lot of other nice small things, but the Medieval dress is the only truly spectacular outfit I made, and I need a little bit more spectacular in my life.

Still, looking at the list of accomplishments, I’m pretty happy:

January —  Foundations:  make something that is the foundation of a period outfit.

For this challenge I fixed my first Regency dress, which had been sewn incorrectly for almost five years, as getting a thing right, even if you have to re-do it, is the foundation to good sewing.

ca. 1800 Recamier gown thedreamstress.comAnd I made Wearing History’s 1917 step-in camisole pattern, which I LOVE and need to make more of!

Wearing History's 1917 combinations thedreamstress.com

February —  Colour Challenge Blue:  Make an item that features blue, in any shade from azure to zaffre.

I made seamed stockings, but more importantly, I put out  a full pattern and tutorial for them, so you can make your own!  As mother says, good  socks are the most important garment in any outfit. 😉

The Dreamstress 'Rosalie' stocking pattern thedreamstress.comAnd, since it was Feb, and Feb is all about Art Deco Weekend, I made 1930s culotte trousers  of blue linen, and they are the best thing ever!

Beach pyjama trousers thedreamstress.comBut wait, there’s more!  I didn’t officially count it, but my 1930s handkerchief halter (complete with tutorial, because I was  all about tutorials in Feb!) was also blue, and also totally period accurate.

Make a 30s Handkerchief Halter7

March —  Stashbusting:  Make something using only fabric, patterns, trims & notions that you already have in stash.

Ergh.  This was too easy.  I have way too much stash :-/  I tried to use  something that used some of the oldest pieces in my stash, so I made a 1930s sporty suit out of a white pique that was one of the first pieces of fabric I purchased in New Zealand.1930sArtDecoSportySuitTheDreamstress3And, since I was doing Art Deco Weekend sewing, a 1930s wrap halter out of fabric I’d bought for Art Deco Weekend three years earlier.

The 'Dazzle' 1930s halter thedreamstress.com4

April  —  War & Peace:  the extremes of conflict and long periods of peacetime both influence what people wear.  Make something that shows the effects of war, or of extended peace.

I was so excited about this challenge!  And so excited about the first item I made, which was WWI era ‘Dazzle’ swim stockings:

Dazzle Swimsuit thedreamstress.com05And the second item, which was a 1940s rayon frock, in the spirit of WWII making do:

Fine Feathered Friends Decades of Style Dorothy Lara dress thedreamstress.com - 4And the third item, which was a WWI era skirt from Wearing History’s pattern, showing the way WWI fashions reacted to fabric and dye shortages:

Wearing History's 1916 skirt thedreamstress.com - 2

May —  Practicality:  Fancy party frocks are all very well, but everyone,  even  princesses, sometimes needs a practical garment that you can DO things in.  Create the jeans-and-T-Shirt-get-the-house-clean-and-garden-sorted outfit of your chosen period.

May was easy: I made a ‘wash’ blouse to go with my WWI skirt, showing how fashions became more practical in response to the changes in women’s roles in the war.  And I did housecleaning whilst wearing it!  Can’t get more practical than that!

Doing housework in 1910s clothes thedreamstress.com - 2

June —  Out of Your Comfort Zone:  Create  a garment  from a time period you haven’t done before, or  that uses a new skill or technique that you’ve never tried before.

I wanted to do something really impressive for this challenge, but life caught up with me, and I just ended up making Medieval cloth buttons, which was totally new to me, and scared me, so OoYCZ mission accomplished.

Making medieval buttons15

July —  Accessorize:  The final touch of the right accessory creates the perfect period  look.  Bring an outfit together by creating an accessory to go with your historical wardrobe.

My first entry for this  challenge really did turn out to be about adding the final touch to an outfit: in this case, my Ninon gown.  I made a necklace and earrings to go with it, and a plausible-ish 17th c masquerade mask.

17th century pearl accessories thedreamstress.com2My second (more than a little  late) entry was about accessorising a new outfit: my medieval gown.  I made a veil, circlet and belt to go with it.

A medieval circlet thedreamstress.comA medieval linen veil thedreamstress.com

August —  Heirlooms & Heritage:  Re-create a garment one of your ancestors wore or would have worn, or use an heirloom sewing supply  to create a new heirloom to pass down to the next generations.

I finally finished my 14th century gown for this challenge!  And I am SO pleased with myself!  Definitely the highlight of my sewing year!

1350s-80s medieval gown from Elizabeth1

September —  Colour Challenge Brown:  it’s not the most exciting colour by modern standards, but brown has been one of the most common, and popular, colours throughout history. Make something brown.

This challenge was a little bit of a struggle, since my planned item turned out to be much more of a trial  than anticipated.  To get something done in the month, I made do with a few simple items: a lucet cord, and a medieval belt:

Felicity the cat thedreamstress.com3A medieval belt thedreamstress.comAlthough it was slightly late (and the blog post was really, really late), I also managed to make a 1900s walking skirt in brown & grey checked wool:

A 1900s Anne of Green Gables skirt thedreamstress.com

October —  Sewing Secrets:  Hide something in your sewing, whether it is an almost invisible mend, a secret pocket, a false fastening or front, or a concealed message (such as a political or moral allegiance).

While this isn’t as impressive as my medieval dress, and while I’m not as pleased with myself for it, I love the Edwardian  lace blouse (from a tablecloth!) I made for sewing secrets.  It may be my 2nd favourite item of the year.  And it only took one evening!

A lace 1900s blouse thedreamstress.comPlus, I made a rather nice Edwardian walking skirt with a hidden placket for the challenge:

Sun 18th October, for a photoshoot at the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace

November —  Silver Screen: Be inspired by period  fashions as shown onscreen (film or TV), and recreate your favourite historical costume as a historically accurate period piece.

I made an Edwardian blouse inspired by a blouse that Marilla wears in the Anne of Green Gables TV show and I love it and can’t decide if I like it or the Edwardian lace blouse better!

An Anne of Green Gables inspired Marilla Blouse thedreamstress.com

December —  Re-Do:  It’s the last challenge of the year, so let’s keep things simple by re-doing any of the previous 11 challenges.

Me?  Keep things simple?  Psht!

My goal with the Re-do Challenge (as it has been  every year) is to re-do EVERY challenge (though I let each item I make count for as many challenges as possible).

I made an Elizabethan ruff that re-did Challenge  #3 Stashbusting, #4 War & Peace,  #6 Out of Your Comfort Zone, #7 Accessorise, #8 Heirlooms & Heritage, & #11 Silver Screen:

Elizabethan ruff thedreamstress.com

I haven’t blogged about them yet, but I’ve also made a petticoat that covers #1 Foundations, #2 Blue, #3 Stashbusting, #5 Practicality, #8 Heirlooms & Heritage, #10 Sewing Secrets; and a dress that covers #2 blue, #4 War & Peace, & #9 Brown.  Watch out!

Whew!  So, if you have survived all that, you may be wondering what my plans for 2016 are.

I’m wondering that myself, but I have some ideas.  Mostly it’s based on the fact that I’m going to Costume College (eeeeeeeeeeee!) this year and obviously I want to look amazing.  I can’t decide if I want to do all 1910s stuff (I love the 1910s, I haven’t done as much as I want, it suits me, and it’s not super heavy, which is a major incentive flying from NZ) or if I want to do a random assortment of pieces based on the more impressive UFOs I have sitting around (the Frou Frou Francaise and the re-jig of the 1720s robe de cour) and the most spectacular fabrics I have sitting in stash.  I may also have the excuse to make a ridiculously fabulous 1900s garden party frock.

So the first part of my year is going to be focused on CoCo sewing and sewing for some 1910s talks.  The second part of my year is going to be focused on clearing PHds  off my plate.  This may mean that some PHds  (like the Elizabethan dress) sit for another 8 months, but practically, it has to happen.


  1. Oh my goodness! You have been unbelievably productive last year. It’s a bit embarasing to even think how little I sewed last year.
    I love that 1917 step-in camisole, I think I have to make one for myself too. And the stockings too. I have been dreaming of making stockings, so here is my chance. Thank you for this post, it gave me so many ideas for the HWM challenges.

  2. HannahS says

    Wow, what a year! I;m always excited when you do Edwardian stuff. What a gorgeous period!

  3. I am so impressed with all your makes and ideas! I am hoping to successfully participate this year, but I have SO much to learn 🙂 Here’s to 2016, may it be a joyous and productive year! (Also, I have massive CoCo-envy 😀 lol)

  4. Danielle says

    That is so impressive! I love the Edwardian blouses and am intrigued by swim stockings.

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