Monday, January 7, 2013

Throwing My Bonnet into the Ring: The Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge

I’ve never participated in a challenge or sew-along before.  Some are too time-intensive (Sew Weekly), some are very timing-specific (most sew-alongs), and just about all of them mean spending time creating something I don’t really need, in place of other things I really do need.  In other words, it’s adding an obligation.

When I saw mention of the Dreamstress’s 2013 challenge over the Christmas holidays, I was intrigued; and then the description lit my fire.  This challenge will not only be fun, it will be helpful, encouraging, and motivating.

I have a very large sewing list I want/need to get through before the middle of June: everything I need for both the 150th Gettysburg and for Costume College.  Even with nearly six months to work, I was nearly flailing, trying to decide where to start sewing, buying, and researching. (Not in that order.) The HSF is genius!  The challenges are specific, but open to wide interpretation.  I think I can wangle nearly something from my list to fit every challenge!  So I have:

·         Schedule.  I’ve got to have a plan for getting all my projects done. The HSF gives me a rough outline I can work with, and through, without being entirely self-determined.
·         Motivation. I’m one of those people who work well from lists (I do write things down solely so I can cross them out!) for the motivation I get from accomplishment.
·         Deadlines.  I don’t like stress, but reasonable deadlines help me keep focused and working.
·         Encouragement and interest from sewing along with others, and seeing how everyone else interprets the challenges

The challenge projects are also not the only things I will be sewing. They just add a more fun wrinkle to it!  My plans for the later challenges are also rather fluid.  They’ll change up as I accomplish more and get a clearer vision for the next items.

My one resolve is not to make something solely to fit a challenge. I simply have too many necessary things to make to afford extra projects.

Right now, here are my plans:
Refashion 1860s corset. I will do my project post for this shortly. All I did was insert bust gores and raise the front upper edge. It was tedious, and definitely a franken-corset, but it fits much better now. I’ve already made new base patterns for all my immediate 1860s needs, too.
Late 1790s-1810s short stays.  My costuming plans for this year included both mid/late 1790s transitional stays and new 1800s short stays. I woke up Friday morning realizing there was no reason one set of stays couldn’t be perfectly accurate for both!  Based on the Dreamstress’s extended description (“…what you really want to do is make something that would be worn in 1813 (or 913, or 1613) without looking too outdated”), I think these stays fit the bill.

Mine will be covered with mauve tropical weight wool, stitched with white. Pretty!
  • #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.
I’m going to finally finish hemming the cross-barred organdy 1780s handkerchief I first wore at Costume College last year. I hemmed the outer edges and added a ruffle for the Georgian picnic in November, but the neck edge is still raw. I’ve decided this doesn’t violate my one resolution
  • #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.
Pockets!  It’s a long sad story, but sum up: I have only had one 18th century pocket, it’s rather small, and the bottom seam has ripped almost completely out. I’m going to make two big pockets that I can use for everything pre-1800.
  • #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.
Trim 1810s dress.  This dress isn’t strictly part of the challenge, but it’s something that needs finished before the end of March. My design isn’t final yet, but There Will Be Trim.
  • #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.
???  This is the tricky one, since nothing of what I’m planning is for a truly poor or frontier impression.  I’m leaning toward some workaday underpinnings, which, if done without expensive lace, could be worn by almost anyone: 1700s or 1800s shift (I hate my current one, the neckline is HUGE), Regency petticoat with straps, 1860s drawers, 1860s chemises…
  • #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?
1800s/1810s detachable white sleeves. ???  I’m not sure about this yet, but that’s what I’m leaning toward. I’ve got some semisheer white cotton with narrow woven stripes that will work for various white accessories.
  • #7: Accessorize – due April 9.  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.
1810s hat. ???  I haven’t settled on this yet, but the hat will be needed for sure. I also need a reticule, but my old one isn’t as terrible a clash with this gown as it has been with others. We’ll see.

Plenty of my needs are left off this. A sheer dress for Gettysburg, the Curtain-Along dress, anything to do with the Majestic Mantua…  But note that with the exception of #2 and #4, all of my entries are fairly small items.  I will be able to work on other projects, including research, finalizing design, and drafting and muslin testing (YICK), concurrently with finishing the challenges.

I’m super excited! And it feels good to be moving forward.


  1. I want to do these challenges too! I'm planning to start with the UFO challenge, the first two came up too suddenly for me. I don't usually sit and plan my sewing this far in advance, but now I need to!

    1. Yay, that's exciting! I know, the first ones went really fast. It's nice how they're open for both small and large projects.

  2. Glad to hear that you're joining in too! I'm super excited to see everyone's fabulous projects this year!

    1. I'm very excited to! A lot of people are doing it, it seems! I'm really looking forward to everyone's projects.

  3. I have no idea why I haven't been getting your blog updates! I'm excited you're taking part in this. Hopefully knowing you're doing it will keep me motivated to do some of the projects :)