Category Archives: historical sew fortnightly

HSF #10 – The Rose Red Upholstery Skirt

I managed to almost make this challenge on time. Much closer at least.

I’ll confess that the art part of this challenge was difficult for me. I very much twisted this challenge to suit my needs. So I found a few paintings that more or less correspond to my project. To be quite honest, I’m ready to move on. To start on some fun summery dresses and things I can wear in my real life.

There’s the painting that I referenced in my last post. This and the following one are more or less is about the bodice and shirt.



rose red inspiration2


I used this picture to help me decide where to put the hem of the skirt.


rose red inspiration

Look at that red! It’s so close to my chosen fabric.

rose red inspiration4

Besides the super heavy (a.k.a. difficult) upholstery fabric I used, this was a pretty basic skirt. I followed the pattern pieces exactly, didn’t use interfacing, and used hooks instead of a zipper. The waistband proved unwieldy going through my sewing machine (the three layers of upholstery fabric almost didn’t fit under the presser foot) so I’ve definitely sewn straighter lines before. Otherwise it went together quickly and easily.

With only a week left of the school year, things have been busy. A school dance, field trips, project grading, a talent show, end of the year grades, and Florida Folk Festival all conspired to delay any sewing projects.

The finished project with everything put together.



From the front I look a bit thick waisted, mostly because I once again made something that laces so that it meets in the middle. And then lost weight.

The Challenge: Art

Fabric: dark red upholstery fabric, there’s most certainly unnatural fiber content

Pattern: Simplicity 3809

Year: 1500ish

Notions: size three hooks and eyes, red heavy duty thread

How historically accurate is it? The skirt follows the rest of this outfit, which means not very.

Hours to complete: About 5?

First worn: For pictures today, but I plan on wearing for real at the next Renaissance Faire.

Total cost: The fabric cost me about $40, the thread about $3, and the hooks came from the stash.

HSF #9 – The Rose Red Wench Shirt

This is the second delayed posting thanks to FCAT. Also I had to further delay posting due to an injury due to my clumsiness. I fell, twisting my ankle this weekend, which meant that any pictures I wanted had to wait until I could put weight on my foot again.

I used the same Simplicity pattern for the shirt as I did for the bodice. Although I modified the pattern. I used view A but I didn’t put in any of the elastic. Without the elastic, the sleeves were gigantic so I trimmed about an inch and a half off from the seams and then increased the seam allowance to one and a fourth inch. And still you can see how billowy the sleeves are. I completely ignored the wrist hem instructions, sewed eyelet onto it, put a gathered seam, and handstitched a thin black braid over the eyelet/sleeve seam.


I again ignored the instructions for the elastic, this time in the neckline, because despite the fact this is only kind of historical I wasn’t quite willing to put elastic into a garment that was supposed to be historical. I did follow the directions and used bias tape as the casing for the cording.


It turned out kind of wench-y/pirate-y. However it’s pretty awesome. A more grown up version of the original inspiration illustration.


The sleeves are gigantic, so I’ll probably be using them as a pattern for Civil War undersleeves. They’re a much more satisfying volume than my previous efforts.

The Challenge: Black & White

Fabric: white cotton

Pattern: Simplicity 3809

Year: 1500ish

Notions: white thread, white cording, white bias tape

How historically accurate is it? Eh, maybe a bit more than the bodice, but not by much. So…let’s say 40%.

Hours to complete: 3 hours?

First worn: For pictures, but for real at the next Renaissance Faire

Total cost: a total of maybe $25, they eyelet was the most expensive because I used stash for everything else

HSF #8 – The Rose Red Bodice

I’ve been consumed by the craziness of FCAT, but we’ve finally come out the other side. I’ve been working on things, but not had the energy or dedication to make myself sit down and blog about it. We’ve got three weeks left of school, which means that I’ll get to finally get some nonhistoric sewing in. Possibly even some summer dresses.

But moving on, I’ve got plans to come back and complete HSF #7. I had a lack of inspriation/I was determined to get The Rose Red Bodice finished. This was what I originally intended to do for the Fairy Tale Challenge, but due to construction difficulty and my stubborn desire to hand stitch the lining I wasn’t able to finish it in time. But I finally finished it!


In case you’ve forgotten, here’s the inspiration, this one is a different page from the same picture book I used in the last post.


The bodice turned out to be an amalgamation of the original pattern, standard Renaissance faire dress from my memory, and a painting.



It’s not the most historically accurate thing I’ve ever made. But since I only plan to wear it to the local Renaissance faire in a purely spectator manner, I’m not too worried about it.

I’ve been planning this outfit since the challenges for this year were released. I looked high and low for the perfect shade of green. In the end I found the perfect shade in a random sale bin. It is definitely not a period accurate fiber. It’s some kind of horrible, snag prone, polyester blend. The original pattern only called for layers of fabric, the fashion fabric and the lining. I decided that while I didn’t want to be wearing a pair of stays or anything too corset like to be running around a Renaissance Faire, I did need a little more stiffening. So I used scraps from the 1860’s Wine Dress to give a little more stiffness to the bodice. The lining is also leftovers from the same project (which I also used to line The Maroon Makeover Bodice). I started out by trying to flat line the lining to the middle layer, but that didn’t work out too well. So to make sure the slipper lining layer and the middle layer didn’t wiggle around I did a kind of modified quilting thing, which you can kind of see in the picture below.


I put more boning in than the pattern called for, basing the placement on what made sense to me. There are bones on either side of the grommets, along the the bust darts, and the side seams.

I freely admit this plays a bit fast and loose with the historical aspect of this challenge. But my goal is to get the outfit to look as close as possible to the inspiration.


The Challenge: UFOs and PHDs

Fabric: A random polyester green that I found on sale. The maroon lining is a poly blend. The inner stiffening lining is a cotton bottom weight material.

Pattern: Simplicity 3809

Year: 1500ish

Notions: Red and green thread, black cording for the lacing (which is already starting to fray so it’s going to have to be replaced with a sturdier braid), silver grommets, and steel boning.

How historically accurate is it? Eh, I freely confess not a lot. I’d say 30%, it’s more accurate than the original pattern, but I didn’t do a whole lot of research about how it should look historically.

Hours to complete: Lord, I couldn’t even tell you. It took 3 months of working on it off and on. The grommets alone took three hours, my punch didn’t want to go through three layers of fabric.

First worn: For pictures, I plan on wearing it to the next Renaissance Faire.

Total cost: The only thing I really had to pay for was the fabric, which was about $15. It’s got about $10 worth of boning. $3 worth of thread and $2 worth of black cording for lacing.

HSF #6 – Early 1930’s Cinderella Nightgown

So, I once again bit off more than I could chew, at least in regards to what I’m able to accomplish during a two week time period. My original plan was to do a Rose Red outfit, for the story “Snow White and Rose Red”. I’ve been thinking about this outfit for a while, but I’ve had a lot of difficulty finding the perfect (or even an acceptable) fabric. I found the perfect shade of green, so I sacrificed historical accuracy in the interest of color. Life once again got in my way, which put sewing on the back burner both time-wise and financially. By no means do I intend to abandon this project, it will just join The Great Crochet Project in my stack of work-on-while-watching-TV. So…to give you a sneak peak, here’s the illustration that I’m taking my inspiration from.

Snow White and Rose Red Cover

You can see how I’m having some trouble finding just the right fabrics, partly because I really don’t want to embroider all those roses. But I’ll stop boring you with things that aren’t finished yet.


When it became clear that I wasn’t finishing the originally intended project, I starting looking through my stash for a fabric that I didn’t have plans for/spoke fairy tale to me. Then I realized I had about 3.5 yards of blue cotton leftover from another project. And it just so happened that the blue is very evocative of Disney’s 1952 Cinderella.

cinderella nightgown 2



Now before you get upset that Disney’s version came out after our time stopping point for HSF, you should know that Disney was by far not the first to put Cinderella in blue.

Cinderella and the Fairy Godmother by William Henry Margetson

This is “Cinderella and the Fairy Godmother” by William Henry Margetson, who lived from 1861 to 1940. If you’re looking for some inspiration for an upcoming project I highly recommend you check out some of his other work. Artists and Art have collected a lovely selection of goodies to peruse that were painted by William Henry.

Cinderella by Jennie Harbour


Also for further Cinderella blue, “Cinderella” by Jennie Harbour. I had a hard time finding a lot of information of Jennie, as did Tales of Faerie, which made me feel better. She was born in 1893 and died in 1959, but the tone of most of her work is Art Deco. For additional amazingness go check out a book of fairy tales that she illustrated for on Project Gutenberg.

Next came the problem of what to make with the fabric. I have absolutely no events planned for the near future, so I wanted to make something that would be reasonably easy to integrate into my life.

Then I remembered how much I love my bathrobe, which I made using First Steps in Dressmaking published by the Woman’s Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences. The Woman’s Institute was based out of Scranton, Pennsylvania and was founded by Mary Brooks Picken, who was a leader in the fashion industry from the Teens well into the 1980’s. You may know her as the creator of the famous 1920’s one hour dress, she also helped found the Met’s Costume Institute, was the first woman to publish a dictionary (The Fashion Dictionary), and helped start New York’s Fashion Week. You can read more about this amazing lady on Madalynne’s blog.

About a year ago I was lucky enough to score a set of the Woman’s Institute’s sewing instruction books. They were from the correspondence school, which could teach you anything from sewing to cooking, really anything that the accomplished girl of the new century would need to know.


First Steps in Dressmaking is actually a combination of three earlier pamphlets, “Essential Stitches and Seams”, “Easy Garment Making”, and “Individualizing Tissue-Paper Patterns”. I couldn’t tell you exactly when my editions were printed because it seems the actual combination these pamphlets into a book was never copyrighted, just the pamphlets. The last date listed was 1934, which fits the style of hair and clothing that are illustrated in the book.

I decided a cotton nightgown would fit my needs nicely, especially with the Florida summer looming. And really, who doesn’t wish to look this charming when going to bed. DSCN0195


Now, I’ve already mentioned my inability to use my rudimentary math skills to create a garment from printed instructions. My lack of success with the Drawers That Weren’t certainly didn’t boost my confidence in this area, but I was determined. So, I followed the instructions to the letter, measured and remeasured. Carefully made sure that my fabric looked as close to the illustration as possible before I started cutting.


I cut out my fabric after checking one more time that it looked right. Everything was working out perfectly (notice I said was). Then I slipped it on over my head to check and make sure things still looked fine. Nope. They didn’t.

See, earlier this year I made the Kimono Bathrobe, that is actually the next garment in the book. The bathrobe front turned out to be about eight inches short in its ability to cover my boobs. Which is kind of the point of a bathrobe. In my brain I figured, “Sure, that makes sense, my boobs are bigger than what the average lady had to deal with in the 1930s.” So I added half an inch to the neck and the waist, which upon reflection doesn’t make much sense.

I really shouldn’t have been too surprised when the neckline was waaay too wide. As in, it was so wide it was practically a tube top dress. To fix this problem, I created a seam up the shoulder, cut about 1 5/8′, and sewed it back up. The book calls for French seams, my absolute favorite kind. The instructions also tell you to use bias trim for decoration, around the neckline, and around the sleeves. Which I did. However I was not really a fan of the flower applique, so I improvised, and created a bow out of my bias trim.




You can see that the neckline still looks unusually wide, but at least it stays on my body. I didn’t turn out as svelte looking as the lady in the illustration, but really what garment does? There were no instructions for the belt our charming lady is wearing in the picture, I assume because it looks like a simple fold and stitch sash.



As you can see the belt doesn’t do much for me. Really though, who wears a belt to bed?

Part of the problem is because I didn’t use a fabric that was recommended. “Nainsook, long-cloth, and batiste are very desirable cotton materials” as are “crepe de Chine, pongee, radium, or other light-weight lingerie silk”. I was hoping that my blue cotton would be close enough, but I think a fabric with more drape would turn out better.

The Challenge: Fairytale

Fabric: blue 100% cotton

Pattern: Based on instructions from the Woman Institute’s First Steps in Dressmaking.

Year: early 1930s

Notions: blue and white thread, white bias tape

How historically accurate is it? I’d say spot on, construction and materials are all appropriate (for once). The only thing that detracts is my fabric choice, it wasn’t supposed to be made out of a plain cotton, but I must imagine that our ancestors also broke fabric rules on occasion, especially for garments that no one but family was going to see.

Hours to complete: I’m terrible about keeping track, but I’m going to say between six and eight hours.

First worn: Right now! It’s amazingly comfy.

Total cost: Everything I used was left over from another project, so free!

HSF #5 – The Maroon Makeover, The Bodice Edition

For the Made Do and Mend Post I originally intended to post my progress on a dress that I’m redoing for my sister. As I mentioned, things are going a bit slower than expected. I haven’t had much practice sewing for other people and especially not for people I don’t have access to for fittings.

Here’s what the original dress looked like. DSCN0044

The bodice was far too big. As you can see, it sags off her shoulders. Her ladies also didn’t quite fill out the bust.


The back had some interesting fastenings going on. In case you can’t tell…the dress originally buttoned up. Then at some point the previous owner (or the second owner) lost weight and added a second row of buttonholes and laced it.


I am happy to report that I’ve finally got the bodice finished. Well…mostly. I still need to figure out the trimmings that I want to do for it. I’m thinking a bertha of some sort (can I just say that’s the most unattractive name for any piece of clothing ever). Maybe something along the lines of this, only in black.

Anyhooo, here’s the finished bodice. The skirt still has some work that needs to be done, but more on that later.


Sadly, my car has needed some major repairs, which has eaten my dress form fund and my new computer fund. Since my sister won’t be home again until Tuesday and my measurements are a few inches larger all the way around, you’ll have to make do with flat pictures. I’ll update some modeled shots later.

This was my first time sewing with any kind of slinky fabric. I’m not completely happy with how it turned out. The front darts are wrinkly, which will eventually be not quite so noticeable (I hope) after the bertha is added.

While the outside doesn’t quite meet with my approval, the inside is a work of art if I do say so myself. If the outside had turned out as well, I would have named this the Hard Work, But Worth It Bodice.


The bodice was flat lined and then French seamed, mostly because that’s my favorite way to sew, but there are enough extant examples with French seaming that I don’t feel bad about it. I made self fabric bias tape and boning channels, then hand stitched everything down.



The Challenge: Bodice

Fabric: black poly satin and red cotton/poly lining

Pattern: Truly Victorian’s 1860’s Ballgown Bodice

Year: 1860’s

Notions: black and red thread, boning

How historically accurate is it? I used poly blend fabrics, which takes quite a bit of points off. But the pattern and construction methods are authentic(ish). I’d say maybe 60%? 70%?

Hours to complete: Heavens, I couldn’t even guess. This was such a piecemeal project. I’ve been working on it off and on for about five months. And it’s still got some work until it’s ballroom ready.

First worn: Only for fittings.

Total cost: I’d say about $40.

HSF #4 – The Bedskirt Petticoat

I finally managed to finish the overdue HSF Project, Under It All. I’ve been slowly building not just my own 1860’s wardrobe, but also those of my sister and mother.

After reading about dresses made out of curtains and petticoats made out of curtains I’ve been keeping my eye out when I go thrifting. Because while curtains are a cheap source of embroidered fabric, thrift stores are an even cheaper source. So far I’ve found several awesome fabrics (which you’ll probably see in upcoming projects), but no curtains or even white sheets that were suitable have turned up. However, about two or three weeks ago I found a bedskirt with a lovely eyelet ruffle. My mom fell in love with the eyelet, so I decided to use it on her petticoat.

I took my inspiration from a combination of the following petticoats.




I didn’t use a pattern. I just measured my mom’s waist, the circumference of her hoop, and her waist to hem.

I unpicked the eyelet from the bedskirt because I wanted to keep all of the embroidery possible. Then I used my shirring foot to gather the bedskirt, sewed it the hem, and added two tucks so the petticoat would be the right length. Then I gathered the waist to fit her measurements and added the waistband.

The finished product:


Here’s a closeup of the eyelet so you can get the full impact.


I admit, it doesn’t look its best not on a person. But my mom wasn’t available for pictures tonight. At some point I’ll have saved up enough to buy a dress form. But for now the petticoat on a hanger will have to do.

The Challenge: Under It All

Fabric: white 100% cotton muslin and a bedskirt of unknown fiber content (but I assume mostly cotton)

Pattern: none

Year: 1860’s

Notions: white thread, eyelet ruffle, and two hooks and eyes

How historically accurate is it? I’d say pretty close. I sewed it on a modern machine and the eyelet is machine made, probably from somewhere in China.

Hours to complete: I’d say about 6 hours?

First worn: Saturday to the Nature Coast Civil War Reenactment

Total cost: $4 for the bedskirt and $18 for the muslin

The Great Crochet Project or my excuse for being behind

My project for the Under It All Challenge has been put a bit on the back burner, even though it’s late before I even started. I’ve got plans to make a pair of open crotch drawers and another petticoat. First everything was put off until last minute sewing for Olustee could be finished up (which was only slightly successful). Then last week I was under a school-based time crunch in the form of making sure grades were updated for Progress Reports. And frankly I’m feeling a bit burned out and harried with the ever looming, all powerful FCAT (Florida’s all encompassing standardized test) rapidly approaching. It’s only five weeks away. So instead of sewing, my spare time has been spent working on The Great Crochet Project. Something that I can do on the couch while watching Doctor Who episodes and eating Girl Scout cookies with my mom.

I’m also trying to put the finishing touches on a dress I’m remaking for my sister in time for another reenactment next weekend. We’ll see how that goes.

But I am resolved to get either the drawers or a petticoat done by Wednesday.

In the meantime, here are some shots of my completed Wine Dress and Muff, along with the Striped Berry Hat.


And the pictures below show me modelling a giant circle crocheted shawl that took me the better part of a year to finish. It was totally worth the effort, it’s very warm and uses a pineapple motif that I fell in love with.