The Historical Sew Fortnightly

One year, a challenge every fortnight, and at the end of it, 26 fabulous historical garments.

The Historical Sew Fortnightly hosted by  

How it works:

Every fortnight in 2013 I’ll post a themed challenge and we’ll each sew (or knit, or crochet, or tatt, or embroider, or whatever it is you call making a hat, or otherwise create) a historical garment or accessory that fits the theme.

I’ll post the challenges 7 ahead, so that you have plenty of time to plan and work on more elaborate challenges. You can do as many or as few of the challenges you want — I’ll be trying my best to do all 26, but if you can only do 6, that’s fine.

For the purpose of the Historical Sew Fortnightly, ‘historical’ means 75 years or older, so  pre 1938.

Your item can be as basic or elaborate as you want, from a simple fichu to fill in the neckline of a gown, to a full ensemble from the undergarments outward: whatever you need and can can handle time and skill-wise.

I’m hoping that the HSF encourages research and historical accuracy, but (unless that is the nature of the challenge), but the level of accuracy is really up to you, your desires, skills, and your resources.

The dates for the challenges are the  dates that the challenge  is due (post it anytime in the fortnight after).  You can start your project as early as you need to get it done in time — it doesn’t have to be done in the two weeks.  However, as the HSF is meant to encourage new creations, your challenge item should be finished no more than one month before the challenge starts (so 6 weeks before the challenge due date).

Feel free to blog about the process of making your project, or use an UFO that you have already blogged about.

Some background posts about the HSF:

How it started (or, the original post)

Tips and Tricks for doing it (without going crazy)

How to participate:

  • Join the  Historical Sew Fortnightly group  on Facebook. The challenges are listed as events, and you can choose to ‘attend’ them, chat with other attendees, get ideas, encouragement, and work through difficulties. Then, when your item is done, you can post photos in the album for each challenge, give a description, and link to an online photo album or a blog post if you have one.


  • Participate through the  Historical Sew Fortnightly page  on my blog. There will be a page for each challenge as they come up. I’ll post inspiration for the challenge, perhaps a tutorial or links to helpful sites, and, when the challenge comes due, my creation.Leave a comment on the page for the challenge with links to your blog post or online photo album to show off your creation. I’ll pick my favourite interpretation of each challenge to feature on my blog each fortnight.Grab the button below or the slightly larger version in my sidebar, and post it in your sidebar.  Be sure to link it to the Historical Sew Fortnightly page.  With WordPress your html will look like this:<a href=””><img src=”” ></a>  (unless, of course, you save the image to your computer and re-upload it, in which case your image address will look different)

The Historical Sew Fortnightly at

With each post or photo be sure to tell us:

The Challenge:





How historically accurate is it?

Hours to complete:

First worn:

Total cost:

The Goals:

  • To encourage collaborations and interactions in the historical costuming community;
  • To encourage all of us to do more historical research, to improve our standards of historical accuracy, and to expand our historical sewing skills;
  • To provide excuses to sew amazing garments from throughout history;
  • To provide incentive to photograph these garments so they can be shared and appreciated;
  • And most of all…
  • To have fun!

The Challenges:

  • #0 (the bonus challenge): Starting Simple – due 31 December NZT.  Finish a project, make a very simple garment, or something you have made before.
  • #1: Bi/Tri/Quadri/Quin/Sex/Septi/Octo/Nona/Centennial – due 14 Jan.  Sew something from __13, whether it be 1913, 1613, or 13BC
  • #2: UFO – due Jan 28.  Let’s get something off our UFO pile! Use this opportunity to finish off something that’s never quite gotten done, or stalled halfway through.
  • #3: Under it all – due Feb 11.  Every great historical outfit starts with the right undergarments, and, just in time for Valentines day, here’s you’re excuse to make them. Chemises, corsets, corded petticoats, drawers, garters, stockings…if it goes under your garments, it qualifies.
  • #4: Embellish –  due Feb 25.  Decorations make the historical garment glorious. Whether you use embroidery, trim, pleating, lace, buttons, bows, applique, quilting, jewels, fringe, or any other form of embellishment, this challenge is all about decorative detail.
  • #5: Peasants & Pioneers – due March 11. As wonderful as making pretty, pretty princess dresses is, the vast majority of people have always been poor commoners, whether they were peasants working the land, servants in big houses, or (later), pioneers carving their own space in new lands. This fortnight let’s make something that celebrates the common man.
  • #6: Stripes due March 25. The stripe is one of the oldest patterns, appearing in the earliest textile fragments and visual records of garments, and its never gone out of style since. Celebrate stripes with a striped garment. Will you go for grand baroque stripes, pastel rococo stripes, severe neoclassical stripes, elaborately pleated and bustled Victorian stripes, or something else entirely?
  • #7: Accessorize – due April 8.  Accessories add polish to your outfits, helping to create the perfect historical look. This week is all about bringing an outfit together. Trim a bonnet, paint a fan, crochet an evening bag, sew a shawl, or dye and decorate a pair of shoes to create the perfect period accessory for yourself.
  • #8: By the Sea – due April 22.  The sea has inspired and influenced fashion for millennia. This challenge is all about nautical fashions, whether you make something to wear on the sea, by the sea, or in the sea (or lake or river).
  • #9: Flora and Fauna – due May 6.  Textiles and the natural world are inextricably linked.  Until very recently, all textiles were made from flora (linen, raime, hemp) or fauna (wool, silk, fur), and dyed with flora and fauna.  Flora and fauna also influenced the decoration of textiles, from Elizabethan floral embroidery, to Regency beetle-wing dresses, to Edwardian bird-trimmed hats.  Celebrate the natural world (hopefully without killing any birds) with a flora and/or fauna inspired garment.
  • #10: Literature – due May 20. The written word has commemorated and immortalised fashions for centuries, from the ‘gleaming’ clothes that Trojans wore before the war, to Desdemona’s handkerchief, ‘spotted with strawberries’, to Meg in Belle Moffat’s borrowed ballgown, and Anne’s longed for puffed sleeves.In this challenge make something inspired by literature: whether you recreate a garment or accessory mentioned in a book, poem or play, or dress your favourite historical literary character as you imagine them.
  • #11: Squares, Rectangles & Triangles – due June 3.  Many historical garments, and the costumes of many people around the world, use basic geometric shapes as their basis. In this challenge make a garment made entirely of squares, rectangles and triangles (with one curve allowed), whether it is an 18th century kimono, a flounced 1850s skirt, or a medieval shift.
  • #12: Pretty Pretty Princesses – due June 17.  Channel your inner princess and her royal wardrobe. Pick a princess, queen, empress, arch-duchess, or a de-facto queen as inspiration for a fabulously royal frock (or other garment). The occasional prince is also most welcome.
  • #13: Lace and Lacing – due July 1.  Lacing is one of the simplest and oldest forms of fastening a garment, eminently practical, and occasionally decorative.  Lace has been one of the most valuable and desirable textiles for centuries, legislated, coveted, at times worth more than its weight in gold, passed down from one garment to the next over centuries. Elaborate and delicate it is eminently decorative, and rarely practical.  Celebrate the practicality of lacing, and the decorative frivolity of lace, with a garment that laces or has lace trim, or both.
  • #14: Eastern Influence – due July 15.  The East has had a profound influence on Western fashions for millenia, from the Chinese silks that were worn in Ancient Rome, through the trade in Indian chintzes from the 17th century onward, 18th century chinoiserie, Kashmiri shawls and paisley, 19th century Japonisme, and early 20th century Orientalism and Egyptian revival.  In this challenge make an item that shows the Eastern influence on Western fashion.
  • #15: Colour Challenge White – due July 29.  White has carried many connotations as a colour, from defining culture and social boundaries, to denoting status, to implying purity, or simply cleanliness.  For this challenge ‘white’ is defined as anything in the white family — from brightest white, through to ivory and cream and all the shades between.  Whether you make a simple chemise or an elaborate ballgown, your item should be predominantly white, though it may have touches of other colours.
  • #16: Separates – due August 12.  Make a non-matching garment which can be paired with other items in your historical wardrobe to extend your outfit choices.
  • #17: Robes & Robings – due August 26.   Make a robe-shaped garment, from a biblical robe, through a medieval robe, an 18th century banyan, a Regency evening robe, a 19th century wrapper, or an early 20th century kimono.  Or, make one of the frocks called robes by modern English speaking fashion historians, such as a  robe volante,  robe battante,  robe à  la coer,  robe à la française,  robe  Ã  l’anglaise  (+  turques,  polonaises, &  circassienne), and the 1920s  robe de style.  Or, make something with robings (read the event page for a description).
  • #18: Re-make, Re-use & Re-fashion – due September 9.  Sew something that pays homage to the historical idea of re-using, re-making and re-fashioning.  Turn one thing into another.  Re-fit or re-fashion an old gown into something you would wear again.  Re-trim a hat for a new outfit, or re-shape a modern hat to be a historical hat.  Re-purpose the fabric from an old garment (your own or a commercial one) into a new garment.
  • #19: Wood, Metal, Bone – due September 23.  Cloth may be the most obvious material in historic costuming, but wood, metal, and bone are just as important to creating the right look and silhouette.  For this challenge, make anything that incorporates wood, metal, or bone.
  • #20: Outerwear – due October 7th.  Make one of the layers that get added on to your basic outfit to protect you, and it, from inclement weather.
  • #21: Colour Challenge Green – due October 21.  Make a historical garment or accessory in any shade of green  from palest spring green  through to darkest pine green, and from barely-there eu de nil, to vibrant chartreuse.
  • #22: Masquerade – due November 4th.  Create something  inspired by historical fancy dress and masquerade that takes you out of reality, in to another world (purely historical, fantasy, steampunk etc are all allowed).
  • #23: Generosity & Gratitude – due November 18.  Celebrate the generosity of spirit and willingness to help others that makes the historical sewing community great, and give 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.  Be sure to acknowledge all the sources that have helped you to create your item.
  • #24: Re-Do – due December 2.  This one is super easy.  Pick any previous challenge and re-do it (or do it for the first time).  It could be one that you didn’t finish, one that you wish you’d had more time for, or  any  time for, or one where you loved the theme so much you want to do it  again.
  • #25: One Metre – due Dec 16.  Make an item that takes one metre or less fabric.  To keep within the spirit of the challenge, try to avoid making something that also involves metres and metres of trim
  • #26: Celebrate – due Dec 30.  Make something that is celebration worthy, make something that celebrates the new skills you have learned this year, or just make something simple that celebrates the fact that you survived HSF ’13!

The Challengers:

Warming Crafts

Wanda B Victorian

Vintage or Bust

Victoria Sews


V is for Vintage

Use the Whole Thing

Trish Stuff

Thread-Headed Snippet

The Tailor’s Apprentice

The Quintessential Clothes Pen

The Quasi-Historical Costumer

The Pragmatic Costumer

The Ginger Minion

The Fibre Queen

The Earth is Flat

The Distracted Dressmaker

The Costumer’s Closet

The Bohemian Belle

Tea in a Teacup

Teacups Among the Fabric

Suburban Pagan

Stuff I Make and Do

Stitches of the Past

Sewing and Sightseeing

Scene in the Past

Roundgowns and Reticules

Romantic History

On Living History

Needle, Thread and Whims

My Strings

My Garden Room

Mouse Borg Designs

Mode d’Hier et d’Aujourd’hui

Merlin, Stitched in Time

Matti’s Millinery & Costumes

Loran’s World

Living with Jane

Little Me in the Big D

Le dressing de Melle de l’Isle

Kleidung um 1800

Kitty Calash

Keowyndrial’s Closet


Jessie’s Sewing Adventures into the Past

I Want To Go To Then

Isabel Westrose

Isis’ Wardrobe

Hot Mess Housewife

Hopeful Morning

Historically Dressed

Historical Clothing and Uniforms

Hannah America

Girl with the Star-Spangled Heart

Genteel Musings

Frolicking Frocks

Frau Elsebeth Schimpf

Festive Attyre

Fashion Through History

Far Above Rubies

Elegant Time Traveler

Elamaa 1700 – Luvulla (Living in the 18th Century)

Dramatic Threads


Diary of a Costumer

Danielle’s Costuming Diary

Curse Words and Crinolines

Cuaderno de Costura

Clover Heart Mama

Clare McCutcheon


Cation Designs

Caddams Betraktelser

Beauty from Ashes

At the Sign of the Hourglass

After Martha

A Stitch in Time and Space

A Small Girl in the Great Outdoors

A Sartorial Statement

A Most Peculiar Mademoiselle

A Girl Anachronism

A Fabric Fixation

A Dedicated Follower of Fashion


Challengers are listed in reverse alphabet order.  I’ll add your blog once you leave a comment with a link to a completed post either on a Challenge post or on Facebook


  1. […] Back to my planned post for today….I need an 1840s dress by next May and I need it in striped material for Dreamstresses challenge at the end of March. […]

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  2. […] of sorts going on this year for the historical costuming community, online. It’s called the Historical Sew Fortnightly put on by the Dreamstress. Every 2 weeks those who have signed up to participate try to have a […]

  3. […] joined the Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge because I needed goals to push me out of a state of inertia I was in.  Right now though, […]

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  4. […] in love. So since Milady DeWinter is a literary character, I think she fits perfectly for the next Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge. And in case you’re wondering, yes, I have read the 3 musketeers by Dumas, back […]

  5. […] decided to try my hand at The Dreamstress’ Historical Sew Fortnightly – because obviously I don’t have enough sewing to do.  In a nut shell, every two weeks […]

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  6. […] Mr Pinnock was very smooth and quiet in comparison to Ms Janome, but that may have something to do with the heavy base and the serious steel body allowing for less vibration. I have decided to give myself a little sewing challenge. The incredibly talented bunch over at SewWeekly set themselves a weekly challenge (I’d never make that deadline – it can take me a week just to decide what thread I want to use) and I follow with awe the fortnightly historical challenges over at The Dreamstress. […]

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  7. Hi,
    Thanks very much for adding my blog! However, you linked it is “Penryn Wn” – my name is Peryn W. N. and my blog is called Isabel Westrose. Are you able to fix that, please? Thanks!

  8. […] was reading a local friend of mine’s blog, Dressed in Time, when I noticed this Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge she was doing. She always inspires me with the outfits she comes up with. Her sewing truly is […]

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  9. I’m leaping onto the bandwagon, too. Also a bit late in the year, but there you have it. Am starting with 18: Re-Make, Re-Use, Re-Fashion. Thank you for these wonderful inspirations!

  10. […] up will be my own medieval banquet gown. I think I will do it for the HSF as it is plausible that it could be based on a […]

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  11. facebook.comJumping in late here, but your robe challenge fit my need for something new for an Rev War Encampment I’m attending tomorrow. Started this on Wednesday. It’s a modified Robe l’Anglaise. Will add more photos when it’s finished.

    Thanks for the motivation. I’m looking forward to the rest of the challenges.

    Best Regards,
    Pins & Needles Garment Co.

  12. It occurs to me that if I can manage to finish the Byzantine tunic I have (just barely) started, it would qualify for quite a few of the HSF challenges:

    #5 Peasants & Pioneers. Because this costume is what a wealthy Middle Byzantine peasant might wear.

    #8 By The Sea. Because Constantinople (now Istanbul) is, by the sea.

    #11 Squares, Rectangles and Triangles. All early medieval clothing, including my Byzantine tunic, is made thus.

    #14 Eastern Influence. Again, Byzantine. Byzantine fashion influenced fashions in Western Europe, and itself was influenced by fashions in the East.

    #17 Robes and Robings. I’m using linen robings for trim.

    #21 Colour Challenge: Green. My linen is green. Very.

    #22 Generosity and Gratitude. The core of my research has been Timothy Dawson’s Levantia website–an awesome free resource!

    #24 Re-do (a prior challenge).

    I’m a bit chicken about signing up until I get into actual sewing, but I really should jump in with so many timely HSF still available!

  13. Marina says

    I recently discovered your amazing blog, and the Historical Sewing Fortnightly. The concept intrigued me so much that, while I’m unable to do it this year, especially now that it’s nearly at the end, I was wondering if, by any chance, you would be continuing it next year? It’s such a fantastic idea, and I love looking through the beautiful creations people have made. I’m just getting into historical sewing myself, and would love to give something like this a shot someday, but I don’t think I could do it on my own. If you could please let me know, I would much appreciate it. Anyway, either way, good luck with the remaining challenges, and thank you very much for your informative and enjoyable blog.

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