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Category Archives: Historical Sew Fortnightly

Belated HSF Challenge #9 – Flora and Fauna

In my quiet time, I did finish off a UFO project, my 1860s day dress that I started over a year ago.

1860s close up 1860s

The crinoline era was my first costuming love but recently I’ve found it hard to get excited about it so while I’m not overly proud of the dress I’m actually quite proud to have this off the unfinished pile!

I started on a making the dress using Simplicity 2887. Unfortunately I had to piece the sleeves which made them hang quite oddly. I ended up altering them to be more of a three-quarter sleeve which is still period correct, as long as there are some white cotton sleeves (I will leave this for another time). I lost the pattern after cutting out the fabric for the dress so I had to draft the collar on my own.

I also did something odd when cutting out the skirt (what that was I am unsure) and that doesn’t make it hang as smoothly as I like. Does anyone have any tips? Maybe weighting them hem a bit?

I’ll post some more pictures as I’m going to get some shots in the park near my house if its sunny this weekend. Hopefully this will make it look better given my mannequin is about half my size.

The Challenge: Flora and Fauna

Fabric: A love lightweight cotton print

Pattern:  Simplicity 2887 with alterations + self drafted collar

Year:  Early 1860s

Notions: Hand covered buttons (this was my first time doing it and I wasn’t impressed with my efforts), interlining

How historically accurate is it? About an 8/10 for pattern, and significantly less for construction techniques. The blog of the designer says that while it based on an extactent pattern, there have been some changes to accomodate the modern sewer. Also without the sleeves, it makes it much less accurate. As is my style, I machine sewed the vast majority of this.

Hours to complete: This has been lying in a heap for so long, and I had so many false starts on finish it that I can’t even guess.

First worn:  Still not been worn yet 😦 hopefully this weekend though

Total cost: NZ$5 for the buttons, the cotton was from my stash but from memory is was about $7, so about $40 all up.


Belated HSF Literature Entry

They say things are better late than never! I have skipped a few and for that I am ashamed (more below about that) but I have been wanting to make something simple like this for the longest time. Here is my take on a skirt that Anne of Green Gables may have worn.

Edwardian School Marm

Its a very simple skirt with 7 gores. The material is an annoymous piece from my stash, I think a cotten with a bit of poly in it. It was quite light so I had to stiffen/weigh down the hem with 3 layers of fabric so the dress moves correctly. I used this tutorial to draft the skirt.

I do apologise for the lack of an authentic blouse (I’m not even wearing a chemise and its quite a low cut!) and I think this hole in my costume wardrobe needs to be filled! (Maybe a belated White’s challenge??)

Racy neck line...

Racy neck line…

The Challenge:  Literature

Fabric: Let’s just go with an anon cotten

Pattern:  Self drafted using a free tutorial.

Year: 1912-14 (which is not when Anne was in her prime I’ll admit but she was still around)

Notions: 2 buttons, may need to add some hooks and eyes at some point though as the placket still gaps at times 

How historically accurate is it?  Aside from the machine sewing the long seams it was hand sewn. As for the pattern, see this from the website “These patterns are reproduced from original period patterns and from cutting diagrams found in English, French and American publications of the 19th and early 20th centuries”

Hours to complete: Approx 4/5 though over a few months

First worn: In my living room! But it was so comfortable that I didn’t take it off all evening! It made me feel lovely and feminine 🙂

Total cost:  Free! It was all from the stash, and all of these had been donated to me.


Now am I’m well aware of my lack of sewing/blogging prowess of late.

I seriously lost my juju and am slowly getting back into the grove of things. I think sometimes after working in a corporate environment all day, it can be hard to come home and be creative. And ironically, its when you need a creative outlet most!

So I’ll be trying to get back on this bandwagon!

HSF Challenge #6 Stripes!

Sorry about the prolonged absence. The wedding planning has been a bit overwhelming over late. The first tears (not my own thankfully) have been shed over the engagement party but I’m hoping we’ve now have a compromise that will suit everyone.

In the mean time, I have an event coming up which has prompted me to get another project ticked off my to do list. I will be creating an 18th century outfit, specifically a Robe a la Francais. The deadline for the HSF is tonight (unlikely to make) and the event is on Friday (more doable). I have just however realised that this is Good Friday and I was meant to be going away but that is a different issue…

With my time constraints I am unlikely to make period correct stays so I’ll just have to use some inaccurate underpinnings. However in order to get the correct shape, one thing I could definitely not skip were paniers!

Child bearing hips....

Child bearing hips….

These are incredibly fun to wear, even if you do have to go through doors sideways! I used the Dreamstress’ paniers-along tutorial to create them, it was simple and straight forward and I’m happy with the results. They are nearly done but I’m out of twill tape so the finishing touches will need to wait till I can get some more. At least I can pin it to my mannequin and start draping my dress.

Child bearing hips...

With petticoat

I’m totally in love with my paniers! Next up is the dress. This is the first time that I will be draping a dress and I’m a bit nervous… I’m using some gorgeous curtains that I bought second-hand. They have been sitting in my closet for about 2 years now and I have always envisioned them being used in this type of dress. They’re actually quite pink but my iPhone camera does weird things these days… It took hours to rip off the pieces on the top where it hooks on but now I’m just astonished at how much fabric there is!

I definitely need a better camera...

I definitely need a better camera…

I will be using Koshka’s sacque draping tutorial. She recommends starting with a base bodice lining so I used McCall’s 6139 Colonial pattern. It fit a bit oddly in the breast area but with a few darts now seems a bit more snug. I am very excited and just hope I can make it work!

This outfit will go well with the next challenge – Accessorizing – as I will be trying to make a wig to go with the outfit.

HSF Challenge 4 – Harem Pant

Inspiration Image

Inspiration Image

Arg with these harem pants! The lovely, soft, drapey look may look effortless but I’m certainly not finding the construction to be so. First off, I’m not very familiar with pant construction, having only made pants twice – neither of which were particularly flattering.

Second of all, in drafting a pattern there is maths! I wish I was better at maths but it does take me a long time to problem solve. As a younger child I was quite good at math but then when I was 16 I had a teacher who would hand back our math test in class, but he would hand it back in the rank you claim in the class! So if you scored lowest EVERYONE knew and in that class it was frequently me!. (Sorry for that brief therapy session but it was very cathartic!)

I made a first draft from a pattern at “Costume Goddess” which was absolutely terrible. The fit was awful and way to tight even though I used my own measurements as per the directions. Then I found another pattern at Amina Creations which worked a treat. They use a lot of Indian terms but the instructions are otherwise clear. I was very happy with the fit, there was just a little too much fabric in the crotch area but is easily adjustable.

harem pants

The colour that I have made them in makes them distinctly Princess Jasmin-esque. If only my midriff could be a small as hers…

They still aren’t quite a drapey as Lady Sybills though. Does anyone have any tips on how to make pants like hers? Or are mine good enough? I would very much appreciate a second opinion!

Challenge #4 – Embellish!

The brief for this challenge – “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.”

While this may be true, it’s not something that comes easily to me. I have fairly bad eyes and they get pretty sore when doing close work for too long. Even just sewing hooks and eyes on can give me a headache if I don’t have good enough light! So I have decided to be a bit cheeky about this one and use fabric that already has embellishments built in. And what better fabric to use than sari fabric? I got a great deal, two sari’s for $50 while on a recent trip to Hamilton. (The sari shop also had some gorgeous jewellery but I managed to drag myself out before I got the chance to max out my credit card!).

So I am using this challenge to knock off two birds with one stone – complete the challenge AND get another piece ticked off my to do list – by creating an Edwardian evening gown. Given my fabric it will definitely be Poiret/Orientalist inspired wear. I will try do a post in more depth about Poiret and his revolutionary gowns. One of the things he was famous for was declaring war on the corset but I fear that I will need to be historically inacurate and wear mine if I’m to look at all presentable in one of his creations!

One of my biggest inspirations is Lady Sybil’s gorgeous harem pant outfit! I love the colours and the flow of the pant.

It is interesting as I think it you can see its heritage in this House of Worth creation from 1870.

To me, though the two are a good 40 years apart the seem very similar pieces that each reflect the time period they were worn in. The Victorian gown may have been daring in its use of pants but it definitely conforms to the lines of the period – the large bust, small waist and voluminous hips that you find in many day to day items. The Downton Abbey piece similarly demonstrates the fashion trends, moving away from the rigidity of the S-shaped corset and into the straighter/flatter lines of the 1920s.

I think my design will incorporate the harem pant with an overrobe similar to the below dress (again another Worth!) circa 1910.


What do you think? And does anyone have good tips for sewing chiffon? I’ve heard it can be a bit of a nightmare and I’d like to avoid any amateur mistakes!

HSF #3 – Under it All – Late Victorian Bustle

This one is a first, a challenge completed before the deadline!

booty view


For this challenge I completed a lobster tail. This has mainly been inspired by watching a new TV show – Ripper Street. I highly recommend it, particularly for Matthew McFayden and the costumes! It is also good because part of my New Years Resolution was to create a bustle dress and this is the first step!

For a pattern I used American Duchess’ lobster tail tutorial. It was super simple as long as I paid attention. I briefly lost the ability to sew straight for unknown reasons so there was some unpicking done but it all turned out alright!


The Challenge: “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.”

Fabric: More bedsheets…

Pattern: American Duchess’ lobster tail tutorial

Year: Circa 1880

Notions: Ribbon, boning, and for closure it will be a hook and eye but right now its just a safety pin.

How historically accurate is it? Obviously the boning is different material to the original. I also machine sewed this rather than hand. However the extant bustles that I have viewed online all seem to be a similar shape and construction!

Hours to complete:  I was amazed how quick this was, maybe 2 hours?

First worn: To be worn…

Total cost: The boning cost about NZ$3 as I bought in bulk and the the bedsheet about $6. The ribbon from my stash.


More photos to come soon 🙂

HSF Challenge # 2 – UFO is Finished. Sorta.

A friend rightly commented last week that there is an ebb and flow to sewing/costuming. This challenge came at an ebb (?) time. For this last week I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather and the week before that was just very busy. All of this is just a long winded excuse to say is that I didn’t complete the crinoline. But because I wanted to have something to present for the HSF, I turned it into a petticoat. (Note – this was done yesterday by the deadline but I didn’t get around to posting)

A little bit narrower than a crinoline...

A little bit narrower than a crinoline…

I’m not exactly pleased with it but given that my historical wardrobe doesn’t have a single petticoat and this will be a good all rounder that can work for a few eras.

Wonky hem....

Wonky hem….

Just the facts ma’am..

The Challenge: To get something off our unfinished objects pile

Fabric: Again, thrifted bedsheets. Not classy but it works

Pattern: Simplicity 9764. I used the pattern meant for a crinoline, just changed the waist to a draw string so a few friend would be able to wear it.

Year: The crinonline would have been 1860s but now it could range. This could go over a crinonline or under a range of different eras to bulk it up a bit.  

Notions: I added hem from my stash which is a bit wonky in places. I think it was originally removed from something else (its like 10m though so I’m not sure what from) and the person who removed it didn’t cut very straight….

How historically accurate is it? I haven’t actually done much research on undergarmets but I’d say very. Petticoats have been worn for hundreds of years to get different shapes!

Hours to complete:  Probably about 4/5? But they were very interspressed with procrastinating and being sick.

First worn:  I’m getting around to it… 

Total cost: NZD$8 for the sheets

As I said, this isn’t a garment which I’m proud of but now that its done, I’m happy its in my wardrobe. One of the points the Dreamstress makes is that just like our Tshirts today, people of the past wore simple items like this with far more regularity than elaborate ball gowns.

Another challenge done! I hope the rest of the challengers were a bit happier with the results!