HSM #3 is done!


The HSM Challenge for March is Protection – make something to protect yourself (from weather or injury) or your clothes (from soiling etc.).  I had intended to make a Talma Wrap, but at nearly the last moment decided to tackle another UFO. So I pulled out the makings for a Late Georgian fichu and dove in.

I love the fichus. They are such versatile accessories: you can wear them over draped the bodice of your gown, tucked into the bodice, or wrapped around the bodice. They are usually white, but may also be in colors. They can be plain or embroidered or plastered with lace.

Women wore fichus for centuries for warmth, modesty and just plain fashion.

The Oregon Regency Society’s blog is a great place to learn about all thing Regency, including clothing. Here is their take on the many ways to shape and wear a fichu:

My décolletage is six decades in the making, so I want a fichu that will both protect my skin from the sun and wind, and conceal that tiny bit of crepe-y texture that is starting to show. One of my favorite looks from the Late Georgian period is this day dress, so I also want a fichu that can be worn tucked in (as in ORS #1) or left out (as in ORS #4).

1802, day dress of white cotton.

1802, day dress of white cotton.

Here’s how it came together. I used some fine white netting from my stash and cut it into a square with 36 inches on each side. It’s squirrely stuff and tends to shift and move every time you touch it, so I measured and cut one side at a time. I found some white lace trim which had potential, although it also had some very modern-looking flowers woven into the pattern, but I figured I could get around that.

I started by sewing the trim along the edge of the netting on two sides of the square. It was extremely difficult to sew by hand, so I resorted to using the machine in order to preserve my sanity.

Once the lace was in place on the first two sides, I folded the square into a triangle and used the machine again to sew the second two edges of netting to the first two edges. That gave me a nice, surprisingly flat triangle. Then I trimmed the edges of the netting back so the lace made a clean-edged trim.



Then it was time to deal with those modern flower motifs. The just don’t belong to the era so they had to go. I cut them out with cuticle scissors, one flower at a time. Each flower was attached at four points along the trim. There were 68 flowers that had to go, which meant a total of 272 careful little snips. To make sure the clipped areas don’t unravel, I used the point of a pin and dotted each with a tiny dab of FrayCheck.


Lastly, I went around the lace edges with a hand-sewn buttonhole stitch in order to hide the machine stitching. Goodbye 2016, hello 1795!

And that was that! Now I have a nice, sheer fichu to wear with a number of Late Georgian or Early Regency gowns and I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out. Here are the particulars:

The Challenge: Protection – make something to protect yourself (from weather or injury) or your clothes (from soiling etc.).

Fabric: fine white polyester netting with a soft hand and a nice drape

Pattern: none – just a square folded into a triangle and edged in lace

Year: appropriate for Late Georgian or Early Regency

Notions: cotton/poly lace trim, thread, FrayCheck

How historically accurate is it? The pattern is accurate but the components and construction are not. I’m allergic to silk so had to use polyester netting. I attempted to sew the lace edging on by hand the could not get it applied so that it lay flat and straight, so I ended up using a sewing machine. The lace had modern design components, which I removed. The end result is a piece which looks historically accurate, but is not accurate in its making.

Hours to complete: approximately 6-7 (clipping out those flowers and sealing the cut edges took a while)

First worn: not yet worn

Total cost: $3 for the lace trim, everything else already in my stash


Getting Back on Track with the HSM and HSM #1 Makes Its Very Belated Appearance

Competitors in a sack race, 1933. (dailymail.co.uk)

I don’t remember much of January or February. For that matter, I don’t remember very much of December, either. It’s been a whirlwind of To Do lists and deadlines, packing and unpacking, sickness and health, deadlines and little down time. In the midst of it all I got kinda disorganized and the HSM kinda got lost, or at least misplaced. In fact, I never formally signed up for it. But now it’s time to get it together and either do this thing or not. So I think I will.

Here’s what has, and hasn’t, been happening.


January: Procrastination – finish a garment you have been putting off finishing (a UFO or PHD) or make something you have been avoiding starting. Due Jan 31st.

January’s project was supposed to have been the white organdy Georgian cap, but problems plagued me and I’ve still not got what I think I should have. Late in January it became clear that moving and doing fine hand sewing weren’t going to be compatible so I started wondering what I could substitute for the cap. After all, it’s not like there weren’t other items I’d started but hadn’t managed to finish. I do love a good experiment, but they can be frustrating when you’re treading new territory.

With just a few days remaining in the month, I remembered the red sontag wrap I’d started to knit some months ago. Under the circumstances, hand knitting was a lot easier to do than hand sewing. I found the abandoned sontag and recalled why I’d stopped – the yarn was not knitting into even pattern blocks.

Around the same time, I started knitting a red shawl for the HSM “Red” Challenge later in the year. It starts with casting on 1069 stitches and goes from there. I’d figured it would take me forever to get through it, hence the way-early start. But, to my great surprise, I had it done by early February; on the 10th, to be precise.

I still needed a project for the January HSM, and here I sat with a completed wrapping shawl – a perfect substitute for the sontag that never was. So it all just came together.

And, therefore, I give you HSM #1 – The Procrastination Wrap. It’s made of a heathered red wool that can almost look like a dark raspberry pink in different types of light. It wraps like a sontag and ties in back at the waist. The back is long enough that it covers the tie ends when worn. It’s cozy, easy to wear and easy to work in. I’m very happy with the way it turned out.



February: Tucks and Pleating – make a garment that features tucks and pleating for the shape or decoration. Due Feb 29th.

The project for February’s Challenge is the blue Victorian overskirt, which is still languishing on the dress form. I’ve got the other half of the pleated side panel and the lining cut, as well as the self ruffle I’m adding. While cleaning out the car, I discovered my Rowenta iron had gotten wedged under the passenger side front seat. That’s a good thing, because the iron I bought at Goodwill has been an OK substitute, but if I iron a bit too vigorously, water leakes out the fill cap and dribbles everywhere.

As of this point in time, the ruffle is sewn and is ready for gathering into place. I’m definitely in the home stretch with this one.


March: Protection – make something to protect yourself (from weather or injury) or your clothes (from soiling etc.). Due Mar 31st.

I don’t have any period-correct outerwear to speak of, so this is a welcome Challenge. The local Victorian Heritage Festival is held late in March each year and the weather is extremely variable. It could be 65 degrees (F) or 45 degrees. It could be sunny or rainy, windy or calm. Most years I’ve been freezing outdoors and uncomfortably warm indoors. That ends now.

March’s project is a Victorian Talma Wrap appropriate for the Early Bustle Era. I’m using the Talma Wrap pattern from Truly Victorian – TV500 – which I purchased some years ago.

I started to make a Talma Wrap last year. Unfortunately, the fabric I chose was a one-way design and cutting a mirror-image left front turned out to be impossible. Normally, I’d just lay the fabric flat, selvage to selvage, cut the right front, flip the pattern and cut a matched, mirror-image left front. But the pattern rebelled and I still haven’t been able to work it out. So it’s all been sitting in a jumbo project bag awaiting my attention: main fabric, interlining, lining, trim, buttons, embellishments, thread…everything.

This time around I opted for a fabric with no pattern and excellent drape. It’s a lightweight, 100% wool tweed in black and white that “reads” grey from a distance. I’m using a heavy cotton flannel interlining for warmth. My allergy to silk means I need a substitute and I found a cloud-grey, static-resistant polyester fabric that will do the job nicely. The trim is a wonderful run of cotton tassels in a deep red-maroon. I bought it ages ago at a Big Box Fabric Store final clearance sale so I ended up with two kinds to choose from, each at $1.86 a yard (!!!).

TV500 - Talma Wrap (from Truly Victorian)

TV500 – Talma Wrap (from Truly Victorian)


April: Gender-Bender – make an item for the opposite gender, or make an item with elements inspired by the fashions of the opposite gender. Due Apr 30th.

One word: spatterdashes, aka spats, in wool. (OK, five words.)


May: Holes – sometimes the spaces between stuff are what makes a garment special.  Make a garment that is about holes, whether it is lace, slashing, eyelets, etc. Due May 31st.

I’ve already started on this one. I want a black wool shawl to wear for an event coming up this Fall and I want one that will work across a number of historical fashion eras. After looking at more dreary, acrylic shawls than I care to remember, I decided to knit one.

I tried a number of “historic” patterns, all with varying issues related either to old knitting terminology or to bad transcriptions of old instructions. I also didn’t want something heavy and smothering. Finally I found an acceptable pattern that works, started it last week and it’s zipping along. It’s made of wool sock-weight yarn from Norway. There’s a little bit of nylon in it, as there is with most sock yarn, for durability and it’s hand-washable.

This takes a tremendous amount of yarn, but it’s fun to knit and easy to problem-solve if I make an error. I like it so much I just might make another one. It’s still on the circular needle, but here’s a peek. Think I have enough holes?


And, looking far ahead, I’ve also started working on the August Challenge. August: Pattern – make something in pattern, the bolder and wilder the better. Due Aug 31st. Bold and wild? Check!

HSM #2 – and the hits keep coming

(found on Pinterest)

(found on Pinterest)

It’s now into March, so I’ve obviously missed the deadline for the overskirt. But I could see it coming and decided that I’d rather have it done the way I wanted it than have it done “on time.” Which is a good thing, because there have  been nothing but headaches with this project.

I’ve unpacked all of the sewing room boxes and I can’t find my iron. My Rowenta iron. Aargh! It is nowhere to be found. So I ended up buying a very nice, lightly used iron at Goodwill for $8 and so far it’s been a peach.

I finished with the new trim on the right side overskirt and back tail, then went to pull the left side pieces and…NO!!…I can’t find the pieces for the left back tail. I know I cut them out. They had been laying on the cutting table in the old house, along with the side pieces. And now they’ve disappeared. I have the sinking feeling I might have accidentally thrown then out while I was packing up the fabric, mistaking them for scraps.

So now the challenge is to see whether or not I have enough fabric for the bodice and an extra tail piece. And that means that I have to cut out the bodice and conserve as much fabric as possible. The tail pieces are 32 inches long, so it’s going to be interesting.

On the other hand, I’m very happy with the revised trim scheme.

As you may recall, the first idea was to layer black and white woven check ribbon over ruffled black organdy.


The concept was to echo the ruffles on the fichu that will be worn with the bodice.


But it started looking disproportionate and the folds of the overskirt did not hang smoothly with all the bulky layers of trim. (My apologies for the blurry photo – bad camera day.)

2015-10-14 11.56.26


Getting rid of the bulk improved the drape and the layers hung correctly. So I went with a simple, single layer of ribbon trim and I think it looks tons better. How about you?

the new trim

HSM #2 and The Blue Dress – a breakthrough

(original source unknown)

(source unknown)

This overskirt has been driving me batty.

The more hours I spent carefully hand sewing on the layers of trim, the less I liked it. It got to the point where I really didn’t like it at all. The layers of seams and trim made the outer edge so stiff it wouldn’t fall into folds and stay there. The center back kept popping up as if ejecting itself from a toaster. When viewed from a distance the black ruffles stood out so far from the dress they looked more like growths than a purposeful addition to style.

It finally got to the point where I had to force myself to work on it. And where’s the fun in that? Why spend buckets of hours on something I was clearly bound to dislike in the end? I was torn over what to do: chuck the investment in time, or finish something that was not going to make me happy.

So, after much grumbling and procrastination, yesterday I sat myself down and picked off all the trim. (I was so anxious to get it off that I forgot to take a photo of how wrong it looked with all the pieces in place.) It took a little over four hours to remove it all, but as soon as it was gone I liked the dress all over again.

Instead of all the fluffy black organdy ruffles, I went with a single band of black ribbon with a like of white stitching woven down the center. It’s a cleaner look. The edge of the overskirt now falls into folds properly and the back doesn’t stick up at an annoying angle.

the new trim

The other thing I did was to remove the buttons and loops from the edge of the overskirt front panel. I put them there as a way to pleat the side edges into folds when the overskirt is worn, yet leave them flat for storage and ease of ironing. But they made the edge bulky and the side panels would not hang straight over them when buttoned into folds. So I decided to go with a modern solution and used large snaps instead.

snaps, side view

Side view of front panel edge: hooks and eyes on the front and snaps on the back make for a better and flatter series of folds.

snaps, back view

Placement of the snaps, back edge view.

It’s probably not a period-correct solution, but the results are fantastic: the edge folds up perfectly, stays flat and the overskirt side back panels hang as they should. So I’ll live with it.

HSM #2: Tucks and Pleating – a decision made

Sometimes all it takes is for a single piece of information to make itself known and everything else falls into place. When Val’s comment on my previous post reminded me that the Port Townsend Victorian Heritage Festival was next month (um…I “knew” that) everything about HSM #2 clicked.

The challenge for HSM #2 is Tucks and Pleating: make a garment that features tucks and pleating for the shape or decoration. I’d been half-halfheartedly trying to convince myself that I could hand sew a well-done bonnet in two weeks and kept failing because I know otherwise. Val’s comment reminded me that I don’t have a thing to wear to this year’s festival and that I still have the blue Victorian ensemble that I’ve been working on for two years now (aka, The Perpetual Blue Dress) and that the overskirt to said dress is shaped with tucks.

A light-bulb moment was born.

In the previous post I’d lamented about how marvelous it would have been if I’d identified HSM projects and packed them in a marked box where everything was in a place I could find. Well, I actually did that with the materials for The Perpetual Blue Dress, primarily out of fear I’d never see all the pieces in one place again if I didn’t.

box blue 2

When the dress was last seen, sometime before Halloween, I’d added a hidden traveler’s pocket, had finished the front part of the overskirt and was working on adding the trim to the right rear half of the overskirt:

So it’s back to the challenge of finishing the project that seems to resist coming to an end. Today I’ll re-dress the mannequin in Victorian undergarments, clear off the sewing table and create some layout space. I know I can’t finish the entire dress by the end of the month, but I can finish the overskirt and that will fulfill the requirements of the challenge.

Ahhh – how wonderful to be sewing again! (Remind me I wrote this when everything goes wonky again.)

An Abrupt End-of-Year Transition Has Taken Me by Surprise, and a Tweak to HSM #12


It’s time I shared a bit of my personal life, because things around the old homestead are undergoing a radical change at a time of year when there is already plenty of hustle and bustle (no costuming pun intended) to keep anyone busy.

Eight years ago I moved to this city on the advice of my allergist and I love it here. It is the best place I’ve ever lived and I have tried ever so hard to stay here. But it is a tourist town at heart and the prices of everyday goods and services are priced accordingly. It has become too expensive for me to stay and so, sadly, I must move elsewhere. I did everything I could to avoid this, but sometimes what must happen must happen. My lease is up at the end of January, so the hunt was on.

One week ago, last Sunday, while hunting online I found a nice place in a safe neighborhood in a town about 40 miles away. It has everything I need, a few thing I want (like heat that works and windows that don’t leak) and nothing extraneous. It works for the budget and is close enough that I can still come back into town to see friends and get together with my knitting buddies. And, thank the heavens, it is closer to fabric stores and major services so no 80+-mile commutes for a spool of ribbon or thread.

On Sunday I downloaded and filled out the application. On Monday I drove to the property manager’s office. As it happened, the old tenant had just turned in the keys so I was able to see the property. It is in excellent condition and perfect for my needs. There is even a separate area off the living room that will make a light-filled sewing room. So on Monday I submitted my application and the fee. On Thursday I got the call that the application had been accepted, the background check had to process first, and Sophie was approved. Tomorrow, Monday, I drive back out to sign the papers and put down the holding deposit.

I’ll be in a nicer home and my cost of living will go down by quite a bit, both of which are great. But I move in 19 days. EEK!! As a result, I’m in a bit of a scramble.

So, I haven’t gotten a lot of sewing done. OK, I haven’t gotten any sewing done.

I’m scaling back HSM #12 to one project only – the cap. At this point, I’m not sure it’s going to end up looking like I thought it was but, since it’s going to be under a bonnet for the most part, I can live with it for the time being. And if I don’t like it, I’ll just make another one (if there’s a challenge to re-do a re-do).

The Historical Sew Monthly 2016 Challenges are In!


Another year, another 12 garments! Thank you, Dreamstress, for continuing the challenges!! Here is her explanation of how it works:

Every month in 2016 will feature a themed challenge and we’ll each sew (or knit, or crochet, or tatt, or embroider, or cobble, or whatever it is you call making a hat, or otherwise create) a historical garment or accessory that fits the theme.

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

The HSF 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.

The 2016 Challenges:

  • January –  Procrastination – finish a garment you have been putting off finishing (a UFO or PHD) or make something you have been avoiding starting.
  • February – Tucks & Pleating – make a garment that features tucks and pleating for the shape or decoration
  • March – Protection – make something to protect yourself (from weather or injury) or your clothes (from soiling etc.)
  • April – Gender-Bender – make an item for the opposite gender, or make an item with elements inspired by the fashions of the opposite gender
  • May – Holes – sometimes the spaces between stuff are what makes a garment special.  Make a garment that is about holes, whether it is lace, slashing, eyelets, etc.
  • June – Travel – make a garment for travelling, or inspired by travel.
  • July – Monochrome – make a garment in black, white, or any shade of grey in between.
  • August – Pattern – make something in pattern, the bolder and wilder the better.
  • September – Historicism – Make a historical garment that was itself inspired by the fashions of another historical period.
  • October – Heroes – Make a garment inspired by your historical hero, or your historical costuming hero.
  • November – Red – Make something in any shade of red.
  • December – Special Occasion: make something for a special event or a specific occasion, or that would have been worn to special event of specific occasion historically.

As usual, I’ll post each challenge in my blog and on the Historical Sew Monthly Facebook Group page. Looking at the list, ideas are already fermenting!

HSM #12: Two Parts – an Update

HSM #12, Part A: The Late Georgian/Early Regency cap is coming along nicely. I ended up doing some machine sewing after all because my hand stitching isn’t even enough to look good on the cotton organdy. Organdy, as I’ve discovered, loves to disclose faults and forgives little. Sewing it is proving a challenge in and of itself. I need more practice before I can hand sew without it looking like I dashed it off in 20 minutes.


Practice, practice, practice!

With the front brim and back horseshoe sections together it now looks like a proper cap.

The back of the cap is self-lined. I cut the pieces at a 90-degree angle, which gives it an optical illusion for a little variety.

Cutting the lining piece at a 90-degree angle creates the optical illusion of a checked weave.

Cutting the lining piece at a 90-degree angle creates the optical illusion of a checked weave.

The next step is to secure the edges all around with straight-cut binding. However, I’ve decided I want to add just a bit of narrow bobbin lace and that must be done before the binding is applied. So the search is on.

IMG_0140HSM #12, Part B: As I mentioned before, I want to use this opportunity to “re-do” to actually do the two challenges I couldn’t complete earlier in the year. Another accessory I need for my period dress is a nice fichu, so that will be my make-up for Challenge #4. I have some ultra fine and soft netting in my stash: not silk due to 1) allergy and 2) expense. But it behaves, looks and feels like silk (without the infernal itch). I’ve never sewn on anything this fine before, so another steep learning curve lies ahead. I’m searching for some fine, elegant lace with which to edge each side of a large square. The color is somewhere between antique white and off white and winter white and finding something that’s not a harsh, pure white might prove difficult. Oh, well. It’s a challenge, after all.

HSM #12 – A Chance to Make Up for HSMs #1 and #4.


I can’t believe it – it’s time for HSM #12, the last of the year. Being her Wise Self, The Dreamstress recognizes that we all hit tough spots and struggle here and there along the way. And so she kindly has offered HSM #12 as a chance to catch up for lost time or amend errors made along the way.

HSM #12 is Re-DoIt’s the last challenge of the year, so let’s keep things simple by re-doing any of the previous 11 challenges.

I did not complete HSM #1 (Foundations: make something that is the foundation of a period outfit.) or HSM #4 (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.), so I’m hoping to rectify both of those in a single month. Wouldn’t that be great? Twelve months and twelve challenges met – what a nice way to close out this sewing year.

My Re-Do for HSM #1 is a Regency cap of white cotton organdy. The pattern is from Miller’s Millinery, #2012-2.

It features a lining, and is intended for use in cold weather and drafty old houses. Rather than line mine in flannel, like the original, mine will be self-lined. And it will be sewn entirely by hand, in keeping with the time period. The organdy is stiff enough to hold some shape without being too rigid. I chose the shape because it mirrors the shape of the bonnet I’ll be making:

My Re-Do for HSM #4 is still in the planning stages, but the cap will keep my fingers and my brain well engaged for the time being.

HSM #10 – Sewing Secrets: The Forgotten Challenge (Oops!)

For reasons not well understood, I completed the October’s HSM Challenge #10 but never posted it. I think I got lost in all the changes that took place and was so relieved when I’d finished it that I considered it “done” and that was that.

Originally, I was going to make a hidden pocket in a Regency cloak, but that project flagged when I discovered that the yards of what I thought was wool turned out to be polyester. (I’m still doing a slow simmer over than one.) Then I planned to sew a hidden message in support of women’s suffrage into the bodice of my blue bustle dress, but never got to the bodice before my interest faded.

And then I thought about the traveler’s pocket I’d just made for HSM #9. The historical instructions suggested options, including permanently sewing it into a skirt, as opposed to suspending it from a removable belt. I had the blue bustle skirt on the mannequin and I needed a pocket, so I thought “why not?” and added a modified traveler’s pocket to the left back side opening.

I used the same traveler’s pocket pattern, but this time sewed the correct seam allowances. That made the pocket slightly smaller and it fit the curve of the waistband perfectly. I pieced the front of the pocket so the main dress fabric would show when the pocket is accessed, and lined the entire pocket in muslin.

2015-09-15 11.35.14

I sewed the waist tab to the bustle skirt’s waistband at the back edge and utilized a giant snap to secure the other tab at the front. This would allow me to adjust the pocket’s position if/when I change sizes (at my age, I chronically fluctuate by about 15 pounds, which is enough to change the waist measurement quite a lot).

Here is how it looks as the skirt is normally worn. It really is well concealed.


Here is the pocket in place, with the waistband of the skirt opened.


And here is how it looks when I access the pocket while the skirt is being worn (in this case, by the mannequin).

Hidden bustle skirt pocket

Hidden bustle skirt pocket

The Challenge: 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).

Fabric: 100% cotton print, 100% cotton muslin.

Pattern: 1868 Safety Pocket for Traveling (from Ageless Patterns)

Year: 1868

Notions: 100% cotton thread, large metal snap, cotton cord elastic

How historically accurate is it? Very. Pattern is a reproduction of a pattern published in 1868. Only the metal snap is not historically accurate – I added it convenience for a fluctuating waistline.

Hours to complete: About four hours.

First worn: Not yet worn.

Total cost: $0! Everything was already in my stash.