The Historical Sew Monthly 2016

One year, a challenge every month  (due by the last day of the Month), and at the end of it, 12 fabulous historical garments.

How it works:

Every month  in 2016 will feature a themed challenge and we’ll each sew (or knit, or crochet, or tatt, or embroider, or cobble, or whatever it is you call making a hat, or otherwise create) a historical garment or accessory that fits the theme.

For the purpose of the Historical Sew Fortnightly, ‘historical’ is Pre-WWII and earlier, so no later than 1938.

Because there are only 12 Challenges, Challengers are really encouraged to attempt to participate in every single challenge (though, obviously things do come up, and it’s better to participate in some than none!)

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.

The HSF is meant to  encourage  research and historical accuracy,  not  fantasy or ‘costume.’

Of course, for many  periods making a garment that is  identical in every respect to a period garment  is basically impossible.  Even getting close can be quite expensive and physically demanding, which isn’t possible for everyone.  Ultimately,  the level of accuracy is really up to your needs, skills, and resources, as long as the item is in pursuit of greater historical understanding.  There are also many ways to consider accuracy (you may find my post on how I approach it interesting), and we hope that the HSF will get people to think about  accuracy, and  how our relationship to what we wear and how we make it  has changed over history.

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 challenge month.  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 the Feb Challenge can be an item finished Jan 1, but no earlier, etc.).  Note that this is finished, not started, so you can start a project as far before a challenge as you wish.

Feel free to blog about the process of making your project, or use the HSF as an excuse to finish a UFO/PHd that you have already blogged about.

I’ll post pages with inspiration for each  challenge, perhaps with a tutorial or links to helpful sites.

Some background posts about the HSF:

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. When you ask to join the HSF Facebook group one of the moderators or I will send you a message with a three questions for you to answer before we accept your request to join.  Please make sure your account allows you to accept messages, and  be sure to respond to our message.


  • Participate through this page for the Historical Sew Fortnightly 2016  on my blog. Leave a comment with a link to your blog to let us know you are participating (please note, I’ll be going through every couple of months and checking links from comments  and will delete comments from those who haven’t participated, so there aren’t a bunch of links to people who aren’t actually doing challenges).  Grab the button below and post it in your sidebar.  Be sure to link it to this 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).
    HSM_2016_250_thedreamstress.comThere is also page for each challenge linked through the challenge list below (links may not appear  until close to the due date).  Leave a comment on the page for the challenge with links to your blog post or online photo album to show off your creation, and so there is a record of what was created for each challenge.

With each post or photo be sure to give your item a name/title and 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 and document these garments so they can be shared, appreciated and used for reference;
  • And most of all…
  • To have fun!

The Challenges:

  • January —    Procrastination  finish a garment you have been putting off finishing (a UFO or PHD) or make something you have been avoiding starting.
  • February — Tucks & Pleating  – make a garment that features tucks and pleating for the shape or decoration
  • March — Protection  – make something to protect yourself (from weather or injury) or your clothes (from soiling etc.)
  • April  —  Gender-Bender  – make an item for the opposite gender, or make an item with elements inspired by the fashions of the opposite gender
  • May — Holes  – sometimes the spaces between stuff are what makes a garment special.  Make a garment that is about holes, whether it is lace, slashing, eyelets, etc. (note that the link takes you off this website, to fellow HSF admin’s blog Isis’ Wardrobe)
  • June — Travel  – make a garment for travelling, or inspired by travel.  (note that the link takes you off this website, to fellow HSF admin’s blog Matsukaze Workshops)
  • July — Monochrome  – make a garment in black, white, or any shade of grey in between.
  • August — Pattern  – make something in pattern, the bolder and wilder the better.
  • September — Historicism  – Make a historical garment that was itself inspired by the fashions of another historical period.
  • October — Heroes  – Make a garment inspired by your historical hero, or your historical costuming hero.
  • November — Red  – Make something in any shade of red.
  • December — Special Occasion:  make something for a special event or a specific occasion, or that would have been worn to special event or specific occasion historically.


  1. I’m in again! I didn’t get all the challenges done this year, but I did get some!
    I’m part of the facebook group and will probably be participating there too.

  2. I have big plans for this year! My semi-participation last year was a bit of a disaster but then I ought to have known that since I was studying for a Masters at the same time. However, I am very excited about joining in this year and actually hoping to complete all of the challenges.
    I will be posting them on my blog.

  3. Helen says

    I am a newcomer here looking for some motivation to sew. I haven’t done much historical sewing, but I do have an unfinished Victorian corset, so will start there.

    Probably will participate through this page.

  4. Becky Millinger says

    I would like to participate again this year. Although I didn’t complete two challenges from 2105, I was very happy with the ten I was able to complete. This is so much fun!!

  5. I’m looking forward to finally participate this year! It’s my first time doing this challenge, and I’m having fun doing research for possible projects. I’m hoping to be able to do all the challenges. Fingers crossed!

  6. Planning to emerge from the woodwork and actually take part in a few of the challenges this year, instead of just admiring from the sidelines! I’m now blogging at a different address than when you first started the Historical Sew Fortnightly, and will upload this year’s sidebar badge as soon as I’m at a real computer.

    • Sorry, I’m afraid we don’t allow dolls clothes because the goal is to improve understanding of how period items were made and worn by people. We also don’t allow items made for sale, or the use of the HSM for advertising.

      You’re welcome to use the challenges to guide your own creations on a monthly basis, of course!

  7. I would like to participate, my grandaughter (age 9+)is longing to have a complete outfit from about 1860’s and I enjoy a challenge. I have made a chemise, pantaloons and 2 petticoats (1 corded) I am procrastinating with the stays, a pattern is made and cut out in cotton sateen, I have finally found some Coutil (didnt know what it looked like before) and have decided how to continue.
    I dont have a website or blog so I am not sure how to progress with this

    • Welcome! If you don’t have a blog, you can participate through Facebook, or just leave comments on each challenge post with a link to an image on an image hosting site (photobucket, flick etc). 🙂

  8. I would like to participate in the 2016 challenge. It sounds fascinating and will get me back to my “historical sewing roots”.

  9. I’m in again too for as many challenges as I can complete (not sure if I can get them all or not, I have some specific sewing goals in 2016), but I really like how your challenges encourage historical research and accuracy and also collaboration, so I’ll join in wherever I can, and definitely on January’s Procrastination challenge up first! Thanks!

  10. karenhustus.comMy procrastination project is finished! I’d been putting off making a bed jacket for myself for years! Here is the link to the finished project.
    Thanks for the challenge. If January hadn’t been procrastination, the bed jacket would still be a “someday” garment. 🙂

  11. I am late, but I’d like to join, I’ll update january project soon. (Only some posts have english translations, most only in polish, sorry!)

  12. I’m new to this and just found you. I have done a lot of historical costumes for varies things, and this will be nice to get back to it, although I may not get everything done month to month. But I’ll try.
    I have five blogs, and post to each under different pieces of work. Like others I also sew for dolls. A lot! lol. But, I also have some lovely costumes still to make and finish, as time allows. I love doing the details like beading, embroidery – of all kinds- and have even tried my hand at lace making. I don’t know which blog to post for here under, but they are all listed on the left hand side. If need be, I can start a new blog just for the projects here. I have so much fabric left to create costumes for me with, that I hope I can use some of it now.
    I am a disabled veteran, and this limits me sometimes depending on how I feel, but I look forward to life in the costumed realm of the collective imagination of this group.

  13. Hi! I absolutely adore the garments you all made and still make for these challenges. Altough I cannot join the HSM (I´m not sewing historical garments, not there yet …) I would love to use the monthly challenges as a guide and take it as an inspiration for my blog posts and everyday clothing I make where I could incorporate historical aspects in my finished items. Of course only with your permission, I´ll wait for your reply 🙂

  14. Kayla Barton says

    Unfashionably late to the party, but I’m hoping to jump into this on the April challenge (and go back and finish January-February-March after the fact just because). I signed up on Facebook a while ago but didn’t have the time to start at the beginning of the year. But I just got my blog up and running again and I’m trying to get back into sewing regularly, so this should be exactly the inspiration and motivation I’ve been needing.

  15. I know I’m super, super late to the party, but it’s the first chance I’ve had to actually get my blog up!

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