Ending the Year by Starting Anew: HSM #2 – Colour Challenge Blue

I’ve spent the last 3 days in a state of cardio-cleanout, getting rid of superfluous fabric and knitting yarn and, frankly, I’m beat. So, rather than end 2014 by re-arranging the shelves, I decided dive into next year’s projects and start with HSM Challenge #2 – Colour Challenge Blue: make something featuring the colour blue.

My project is a hard-base reticule inspired by these extant examples:

There aren’t many extant reticules like these to study and compare, so I’ve designed one that will reproduce the look, although it’s not 100% historically accurate because…

(Sorry about the wonky angle, can't get it straight.)

(Sorry about the wonky angle.)

…the base is a styrofoam soup-to-go cup. But the size and shape is accurate and it’s lightweight, so I’m going with it.

One of the things I’ve been concerned about is the noise generated by my “Regency” keys and “Regency” cell phone sliding around and rattling up against each other as the interior lining shifts about. The solution for that is the second historically inaccurate bit…

…using non-skid shelf liner to help the lining stay stable against the base. I put down a double layer, so I hope it keeps the noise to a minimum.

Now, the fabric.

There was a fabric store in Paris (France, not Texas) called Le Rouvray (website is in English), on a little pedestrian street between the Seine and Boulevard Saint-Germain. It was a little corner of fabric heaven. They had over 2000 fabrics featuring Provençals and Toiles de Jouy.

There were two sections of Toiles. One had designs that are new, yet historically accurate ($$$). The other section ($$$$$) had reproductions of antique French toiles, copied either from extant fabric or from period colored drawings in fabric designer’s work books. In other words, was about as genuine as you could get without buying the real deal.

Sadly, the store has closed, but the website is still active.

Long story short – when I was there I bought three pieces of “genuine” reproductions and have been sitting on them, waiting for the right time and place to use them. This is one of those times. Here they are:

Reproduction French Toiles from Le Rouvray.

Reproduction French Toiles from Le Rouvray.

I’m planning on using this one for the reticule:

2014-12-31 17.11.06

I also already have half a yard of this reproduction fabric. The blues match perfectly, so I’ll use it, too:

2014-12-31 15.41.28

Now I’m off to play with fabric until the fireworks start. Happy New Year’s Eve to all!


In The Meantime…Some Updates



It’s been a few days since my last post. I’m deep in my end-of-year culling from both my fabric and my yarn stashes. It’s my annual New Year gift to myself – get rid of the things I’m not using, clothes that don’t fit, anything that’s outlived its purpose. The last place to tackle is the sewing/office room, then it’s off to unload all the donations at their respective destinations.

As for the multitude of projects I’ve piled on my plate, I’ve been gathering project elements together so all of the 18th century stuff is together, same for the 17th century, Georgian/Regency, and right up the timeline. I bought two sets of large storage drawers and each era has its own drawer. Each drawer is labeled so I don’t waste time looking or forget which is which. (Yeah, it’s a tad OCD – but so am I.) In addition, each individual project has its elements (pattern, fabric, trim, thread, etc.) all grouped together before it’s put it the drawers.

As for the world of challenges…an update on my first two HSM 2015 projects.

IL020-Bleached-LI ordered 4 yards of handkerchief linen from Fabrics-store.com. I’ve been using lightweight cotton for my under things, but every time I read about using linen there are nothing but raves about how much better it is all around. So HSM #1 – Foundations – will be a 18th century linen chemise.

MaraRiley.net–Making an 18th Century ShiftLuckily, I found a great pattern with instructions from Mara Riley, including how to measure to fit my body. WooHoo! So all I need is the linen, which should be here is a few days since it’s already shipped.

I’ve never used linen before, and I have a vague memory about having to do something to it before cutting out the pattern, but can’t remember what it is. So next task is to look that up.

While the linen is making its cross-country trip, I’m starting on HSM #2 – Colour Challenge Blue – by making a Georgian/Regency reticule. It’s based on extant examples with a firm, formed base and I really like the look.

Mine won’t be nearly as fancy, but more on that in a separate post.

For now it’s finish off the sorting, tossing and donating.

The 17th Century Challenge – Sanity Returns

Frans Hals (Antwerp 1582 – Haarlem 1666) Portrait of a Woman Holding a Fan 1640I’m looking at the project I chose for the 17th Century Challenge. There is no way I can do that and the HSM challenges. I don’t know what I was thinking. Either I got caught up in the holiday buzz or suffered a temporary break with reality.

More likely it was just plain intimidation after seeing what other people in the challenge have chosen to make – difficult and intricate beyond my current ability. My original choice looked comparatively bland. I wanted to play on the same level and that’s not possible. It would be like sending a bunny rabbit up against a grizzly bear: the outcome is pretty predictable.

If I do the project I chose it will lessen the quality of everything else, and I don’t want that. I want to push my skills and learn more, but not at the expense of enjoying the process. Why do that to myself?

So my Christmas present to me is something that won’t interfere with or diminish accomplishing the HSM challenges. It’s from this 17th century painting, artist and exact date unknown:

17th century, artist and date unknown (2)

I will be making the clothing worn by the woman in the lower right corner:

17th century, artist and date unknown - detail close-up

I like the components, the style, the colors and I get to make a coif, which is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while now.

All I can say is – thank you, Santa, for returning peace to this little village.

I’m My Own Worst Enemy – the 17th Century Challenge

After all that babble about my process of elimination and how I wanted to do something safe…I changed my mind. I truly want this to be a challenge that will stretch my knowledge and skills.

So I’m going to go with the one that caught my eye and see how far I get before either 1) I remember hand sewing black on black is neither fun nor easy, 2) I need new eyeglasses, 3) I need a really good pharmaceutical, or 4) I actually get it done.

After all, 365 days is a lot of time. Right? I must be certifiable.

Frans Hals (Antwerp 1582 – Haarlem 1666) "Portrait of a Woman Holding a Fan" 1640

Frans Hals (Antwerp 1582 – Haarlem 1666) “Portrait of a Woman Holding a Fan” 1640

The 17th Century Challenge, aka The “Sink or Swim”

I’ve officially tossed my needle threader into the ring and joined the 17th century challenge. Please feel free to remind me 12 months from just how darned excited I am about it at the moment.

Deciding what to reproduce has been tough. After all, fashion changes a lot in 100 years and the 1600’s are no exception. On top of that, I have some criteria.

Nothing that displays a lot of boobage.


Nothing in the other extreme, either.

17th century French Nuns - ‘Le Costume Historique’

17th century French Nuns – “Le Costume Historique”


Nothing too odd (if these are part of your country’s historical dress, no offense intended).


And no mongo ruffs or mysterious construction challenges.


Then there are gowns I love but don’t yet have the technical knowledge required to finish them in less than a decade.


And there are gowns I could probably manage, more or less, but don’t currently have the financial resources for the massive amount of silk required.


And, of course, this fabulous Dutch riot of color and prints which I would so love to make but which will take years of collecting fabrics to pull it off. (My apologies in advance for any eye strain.)

Dutch dress made from 'sitsen' (fabric whose designs were influenced by oriental patterns brought back by Dutch seafarers from the East (=Java, China, India, Japan) in the 16th-17th century.

Dutch dress made from ‘sitsen’ (fabric whose designs were influenced by oriental patterns brought back by Dutch seafarers from the East (Java, China, India, Japan) in the 16th-17th century.


So, after looking at thousands (literally) of 17th century images I’ve narrowed it down to three that are in my financial reality and current level of skill.

Candidate #1 – Robe à corsage baleiné

Here’s the original description in French and the desperately bad Goolge translation:

Robe à corsage baleiné et cintré à découpe simple, sans pointe, avec décolleté carré garni sur les cotés de rabats blancs de coton juxtaposé à de l’organza à plis religieuses avec guipure étroite à effilés ornant les bordures, manches bouffantes par fonçage surtout à la partie dos arrivant au niveau du coude avec petite pièce imitant un aileron à l’épaule rabaissant l’emmanchure et avec empiècements supplémentaires sous-jacents aux rebras, de même confection que le rabat ; jupe froncée, plat devant, cousue au corsage à taille surélevée et à peine plus longue en arrière ; cette robe est confectionnée de drap de laine à rayures de différentes grosseurs et à différents tons de bruns et de beige de gros fil à tissage diagonal avec passepoil de même tissu.

Dress bodice boned and curved to simple cutting, without tip, with square neckline trimmed on the sides of white cotton side flaps to the organza to religious folds with narrow lace to tapered adorning the edges, puff sleeves by driving especially at the back section arriving at the elbow with small room imitating a spoiler to the shoulder lowering the armhole and underlying additional inserts to the same clothing as the flap; skirt, ruched, flat front, sewn onto the bodice at raised and barely longer size back; This dress is made of wool cloth stripes of different sizes and different shades of Brown and beige large wire diagonal weave with self-fabric piping.

Candidate #2 – Robe à corsage cintré

Again, the original French and accompanying wacko Google translation. (By the way – the other translators did even worse. Yes, really.)

Robe à corsage cintré et baleiné avec pointe devant seulement, décolleté rond garni d’une ruche de lin et d’une modestie provenant d’un empiècement drapé à trois attaches décoratives faisant figure de chemise bouffant entre deux parties d’un corsage devant, manches courtes à peine froncés à l’emmanchure dos, avec sous manches ruché par une cordelette aux poignets s’apparentant à ladite chemise; jupe froncée séparée ; le tout de lainage chamarré à gros tissage vertical de fils multicolores avec prédominance de bleu et d’orange avec rajout accents de taffetas bleu.

Bent and boned bodice with tip front only, dress round neck topped with a hive of flax and a modesty from a yoke draped with three decorative fasteners making figure of shirt baggy between two parts of a bodice front, short sleeves barely ruffles at the back armhole, with under sleeves ruched by a cord at the wrists akin to said shirt; ruched skirt separated; All wool bedecked big vertical woven of multicolored with predominance of blue and orange with added accents of blue taffeta.

Candidate #3 – Classic Vermeer

Woman with a Water Jug, by Vermeer

Woman with a Water Jug


So – I’m curious to know which one gets your vote, and why – even if it’s one from the no-no groups.

I’m leaning heavily toward the Robe à corsage cintré (#2) because I like the neckline, the sleeve treatment, the overall style and it’s well within my sewing ability. The skirt is separate, the bodice is only pointed in the front and the front-lacing makes it easy to put on without needing help to lace up the back.

I’ll probably have to substitute linen for the flax chemise, depending on cost and/or availability. And finding similar fabric for the bodice and skirt will be a bit of a challenge – but at least I’ll have time to search while making the chemise and corset.

And now I need to go wash a small mountain of muslin.

HSM 2015 – Quick Update


I’m the type of person who’s more efficient (however much the evidence contradicts) when I have a plan. So I’ve updated the HSF 2014 page on this blog for the new HSM 2015, listed all of the challenges and the projects I think I’ll be doing for each month. Subject to change, of course. In addition, I’m dedicating the next few days to digging out my sewing space and preparing for the siege by gathering critical supplies: aspirin and chocolate.

The HSM 2015 Challenges Have Arrived!

Of course, as soon as I write that I don’t know what all of the HSM 2015 challenges are, I check the site and – boom! – they went up last night. The Dreamstress has given us a great assortment of challenges although, in truth, just about anything I choose to do can qualify as a “June” project. Here they are, just as she’s written them:

January – Foundations: make something that is the foundation of a period outfit.

February – Colour Challenge Blue: Make an item that features blue, in any shade from azure to zaffre.

MarchStashbusting: Make something using only fabric, patterns, trims & notions that you already have in stash.

April – War & Peace: the extremes of conflict and long periods of peacetime both influence what people wear.  Make something that shows the effects of war, or of extended peace.

MayPracticality:  Fancy party frocks are all very well, but everyone, even princesses, sometimes needs a practical garment that you can DO things in.  Create the jeans-and-T-Shirt-get-the-house-clean-and-garden-sorted outfit of your chosen period.

June – Out of Your Comfort Zone: Create a garment from a time period you haven’t done before, or that uses a new skill or technique that you’ve never tried before. 

July – Accessorize: The final touch of the right accessory creates the perfect period look.  Bring an outfit together by creating an accessory to go with your historical wardrobe.

August – Heirlooms & Heritage: Re-create a garment one of your ancestors wore or would have worn, or use an heirloom sewing supply to create a new heirloom to pass down to the next generations.

SeptemberColour Challenge Brown: it’s not the most exciting colour by modern standards, but brown has been one of the most common, and popular, colours throughout history. Make something brown.

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

NovemberSilver Screen: Be inspired by period fashions as shown onscreen (film or TV), and recreate your favourite historical costume as a historically accurate period piece.

DecemberRe-Do:  It’s the last challenge of the year, so let’s keep things simple by re-doing any of the previous 11 challenges.

A Need to Re-Think My 2015 Plans. Or Not.

(original source unknown)

(original source unknown)

DELUSION n. A belief that is unsupported by the facts. SYN. illusion, mirage, self-deception, misconception, fantasy, “pipe dream”, figment of the imagination.

Now that I know there are twice as many HSM challenges as I thought there would be, I need to take a step back and look at that project list again. Or find a better pharmacy. Or both.

Although it would be tons of fun and I’d learn a lot, the single most expensive item, by far, is Costume College 2015. Airfare. Dog sitter/ boarding kennel. Hotel room, even if I share with someone else. Food and beverages. Four complete costumes. And I won’t kid myself, I know I’ll come home with additional goodies from those fabulous vendors…they’re right there – at my fingertips.

I started the 18th century outfit and I want to finish it…there’s not much left to do and it’s all easy.

I’m going to finish a Regency/Georgian outfit, as I’ve already said, if it kills me.

I’m also doing the HSM, at least as many challenges as I can.

I also want to finish the Victorian dress. It needs a finished overskirt, which is half done, and it needs a bodice, which is a lot like the first Victorian bodice I made.

And for reasons I can’t explain, other than a mild moderate complete break from reality, I am drawn to the 17th century challenge. Totally new territory for me, which is part of the appeal (and, I can bet on it, the source of many a difficulty). But we are given an entire year to complete one costume and I’m going with a servant’s outfit, so no over-the-top mountains of silk, Cavalier sleeves, neck ruffs, heavy jewelry, exposed cleavage, metallic embroidery and eternal miles of lace.

(original source unknown)

(original source unknown)

I’m pretty sure I’m not ready for this. But I’m pretty sure I’m going to do it anyway.

Leaving out Coco and the Victorian bustle dress, here’s how the math looks:

18th century:

  • need overskirt, bedgown, apron, fichu and cap
  • only need fabric for overskirt or apron, depending on which ends up where
  • total number of items to make = 5


  • need gown, cap, fichu and spencer (or cloak)
  • already have the fabric and patterns
  • total number of items to make = 4

HSM 2015:

  • I only know what the first challenge is
  • already have the pattern and fabric for it
  • total number of items to make = 12

17th century:

  • still deciding on which painting to use for the reproduction, but going servant
  • need the lot – cap, fichu/kerchief, chemise, jacket/top, apron and 2-3 petticoats
  • have pattern and fabric for the cap, fichu/kerchief and under-petticoat
  • total number of items to make = 6 (can re-use the fichu and 2 petticoats

That’s 27 pieces of clothing, not counting Victorian (2) and CoCo (a lot). Impossible, at least for me. Fortunately, the 17th and 18th century items are neither fussy nor difficult. (Rationalization? You bet!)

Prioritizing the projects:

  • Let go of CoCo for next year. As much as I want to go, it’s just not practical financially, even if I got a college scholarship.
  • The Regency/Georgian (whatever I end up with) can wait until later in the year, but want to be done in time for Jane Austen’s birthday celebration on December 16th. (The year was 1775.)
  • Do the hand sewing (the caps, fichus and all the hemming) at night, while watching the tube.
  • Get going on HSM #1 (due January 31st).
  • Make 18th century top petticoat, bedgown and apron. Not at all difficult, so get them done NOW.
  • Work on the 17th century things throughout the year (and yes, that does mean I can expect a mad scramble at the end).
  • Keep an eye on HSM – pick my battles.
  • March is Victorian Heritage Festival time. Can I finish the dress in time? We’ll see how it shakes out.
  • Stay open-minded and flexible – change whatever as needed.

As you can see, the only thing I’ve actually removed from the list is CoCo 2015 and all of those costumes. (If I’m going, I’m going with costumes.) That still leaves way too many.

My decision: I’m going to head into this adventure expecting the obvious inability to get everything done. Then whatever I do manage to complete will be its own little celebration. So I’m just going to start and work my way through as much as I can. Piece by piece, costume by costume, era by era.



Your Weekend Wow!

Who can say no to Chantilly Lace, or even “Chantilly-like” lace?

I love how the simple lines and contrast with the ivory under-layment are used to showcase the richness of the lace. In addition, the straight lines of the pleats along the hemline of the ivory underskirt are a fun juxtaposition against the curviness of the lace. Simple yet eye-catching.

One-piece dress, ca. 1870-1876, of ivory moiré with bodice and overskirt of Chantilly-like black lace. Minnesota Historical Society

One-piece dress, ca. 1870-1876, of ivory moiré with bodice and overskirt of Chantilly-like black lace. Minnesota Historical Society