The Historical Sew Monthly 2020

How it works:

The HSM 2020 is a monthly historical garment challenge.  Every month  in 2020 will feature a themed challenge.  Sew (or knit, or crochet, or tatt, or embroider, or milin, (or whatever it is you call making a hat), or otherwise create) a historical garment or accessory that fits the monthly theme.

We’d love it if you did all 12 challenges, but how many you complete, and what order you do them in, is up to you.  Push yourself and participate in all 12 challenges, do a half-marathon with 6, or just pick and choose the ones that fit your sewing schedule. Do them in order, or skip around doing the challenges as it fits your schedule.

Finish all 12 challenges by the end of 2020, and there will be an exciting finishers badge for you to put on your blog/IG/FB page/Twitter/ etc.

Your HSM 2020 items 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 are able to do time and skill-wise.

However, each item should be a complete, wearable item on its own: so an Elizabethan sleeve, which could be moved from one outfit to another, counts.  A Victorian sleeve, which was permanently sewn into a bodice, does not.

The Overall HSM 2020 theme: Sustainability

In addition to having 12 monthly themes, the 2020 HSM has an overall theme: Sustainability.

With every challenge we’re celebrating the way fabric & thread were used, honoured, cherished, and re-used in the past.

We’re also trying to lessen the carbon footprint of historical costuming, but creating with intent, and re-using whenever possible. The more you can work these ideas into the monthly themes, the better!

What does ‘Historical’ mean?

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

The Historical Sew Monthly 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.

More info:

Some background posts about the Historical Sew Monthly:

How to participate:

  • Join the Historical Sew Fortnightly group on Facebook. You can chat with other participants, get ideas, encouragement, and work through difficulties. 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. You MUST answer the questions in order to join the Facebook group.


  • Participate through this page for the Historical Sew Monthly  2020 on my blog. Leave a comment with a link to your blog to let us know you are participating. 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). Or…
  • Participate on Instagram!  Follow  @thedreamstress, and tag me in your finished item posts using  #HistoricalSewMonthly2020  and the monthly challenge hashtags suggested with each challenge.  I’ll share your finished images on my account.

 No matter where you are participating, with each post or photo be sure to give your item a name/title (be creative!) 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: Timetravelling Garments: Create an item that works for more than one historical era, or that can be used for both historical costuming, and modern wear. It could be an apron that could do 1770s or 1860s in a pinch, a shift that can work under many decades of fashion, or a historical cape you also wear everyday, etc.

February: Re-Use: Use thrifted materials or old garments or bedlinen to make a new garment. Mend, re-shape or re-trim an existing garment to prolong its life.

March: Green: Make something in a shade or shades of green. If you can also make it ‘green’ in the figurative sense, even better!

April: Local: Support your local industry and your local history by making something that (as much as possible) uses materials made locally, or purchased from local suppliers, or that features a garment specific to your part of the world.

May: Basic: Make a garment that can be used for many occasions (like a shift, or the classic ‘Regency white dress’), or a simple accessory that will help you stretch the use of an already existing garment.

June: It’s Only Natural: Make something inspired by nature, or use natural fibres and materials in a way that stretches your usual practice (e.g. natural dyeing, using cane instead of plastic whalebone for corsets/stays etc.). Or challenge yourself and do both!

July: No-Buy: Make something without buying anything. Whether it’s finishing off a UFO, using up scraps of fabric from earlier challenges in the year, sewing entirely from stash, or finding the perfect project for those small balls of yarn, this is your opportunity to get creative without acquiring more stuff.

August: Celebration: Make something for a specific historical celebration, make something generally celebration worthy, make something that celebrates a historical hero, or just make something that celebrates some new skills you’ve learned.

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

October: Get Crafty: Make use of your own skills or learn a new one to make something from scratch rather than buy material. The possibilities for learning and applying new skills and techniques are endless. Lace, pleated self-fabric trim, knotted fly trim, embroidery, dyeing, knitting your own corset laces, hand painting your own fabric…

November: Go Green Glow-Up: Be environmentally friendly and celebrate how your making skills have ‘glowed-up’ as you’ve used and practiced them by taking apart an early make of yours that no-longer represents your making skills, and re-making it so you’d be proud to use it. It can be as elaborate as a total re-make, or as simple as getting the ribbons or buttons you didn’t have time to source at first. You could even take something from a challenge made earlier in the year, and fix the tiny things you weren’t totally happy with.

December: Community: It is the season of giving. Create an item that honours or supports the communities around you, whether Real Life or online