Thursday, December 31, 2015

Behind the Scenes with my Historical Sewing Basket

Many seamstresses this time of year share all the wonderfulness that they sewed in the past year. Since I've already shared all those individually (albeit I do need to catch up my tabbed photo diary pages at the top) I thought I would do a twist and share all the things I did not sew to completion. I have many projects in sewing baskets, literally, at different stages of research, collection, and progression. Life has kept me busy, pulling me away from thread and needle, yet I did make some progress here and there.

One of the busy parts of my life is moderating at the Historical Sew Monthly.  I'm a bit busy at times behind the scenes, so I don't get to always finish with my sewing. Sadly this is the year I submitted the least, due to busy-ness and being under the weather quite a bit.  I actually did well at first, having submitted 5 out of the first 6 months. Then my goals became too ambitious for the enormously busy season that came upon me. However some of that has meant more research, and that will be handy in due time. Alas, I only had a few actual submissions this year to the HSM. I like that some of the HSM challenges compelled me to think outside the box, beyond what I would have done on my own.

Last June I started an 18th century black silk tafetta apron, which was used by milliners. My friend Rebecca learned of this so when I visited her at Colonial Williamsburg last year, she pulled out their own apron for me to inspect up close! She has talked me into ruffles, so they will be added. At first this was to be for a Practicality challenge, then I thought I'd enter it in the Secrets challenge, inserting some secret pockets like they did, but I haven't yet completed it.


In July of 2014 I started sewing a mid 19th century petticoat for the paisley challenge. I bought fabric with paisleys, then studied up on broderie anglaise so that I could add scallops. Then my laptop died and I've been working on that for the last year. Thus in May of 2015 I pulled this out and started tediously handstitching broderie anglaise while at numerous doctor visits with my kids. I finished this by the end of the summer. The scallops have all been stitched and are now cut out, except I can't find that photo. So here is the beginning shot so you can see how much work I had to do. The petticoat will hopefully be finished for a 2016 project.
There was another challenge on heirlooms where I was going to recreate a garment one of my ancestors wore. I went through my photos and my mom sent me others. I considered a 1940's dress like my grandmother, and a 1930's dress like my great grandmother, but I've been stashbusting and didn't want to buy new fabric and patterns. I found photos of my great grandmother when she was first married, with I think a news article from a much later annniversary, that I could link to lace. I come from poor country farm  folk, who made all their own clothing, yet her gown was edged in lace at the turn of the century, because that was her one special gown. Therefore I considered making lace. And of course I considered sewing the gown with the thimble that used to be hers, but the time completely got away from me.
However in my stash I did have a tatting book and a  kit. I've been researching tatting and refining my technique with the shuttle.
Apart from historical sewing I also made an autumnal quilt top. I joined a quilt guild, and a bee, in September, however turns out the bee members are quite cliquish. Although the one lady quite kindly kept inviting me back, the others finally told her it was a closed group and I had to be uninvited. That was in October. Since these ladies sort of run the guild, that sort of makes attending the guild rather awkward. So I don't do the guild/bee anymore. That chapter of my life closed about as soon as it opened. I sewed this during that time, completely on my own time instead of bee time. I still need to make a quilt sandwich. In the process, I have learned some historical quilting techniques that I'd like to incorporate into this quilt as well as the rest of my contemporary quilts. More on that later.


Oh and on Thanksgiving I started stitching an 18th century pinball to quietly work on. It's a reproduction from the Colonial Williamsburg collection.

Then not as historical but using some of my historical past, I'm making my own blue jeans! I'm already drawing from making flys when I made my son's mid-19th century pants a few years ago! I'm also studying up on some late 19th century history as it pertains to jeans!

Oh, and when I made our 1950's blouses and circle skirts for the sock hop, I used an original pattern which led to my research on the appliqued felt wool skirts of the era. One of those are coming in my future too!

The next challenge for Jan 2016 is procrastination. I intend to finish what I've been procrastinating on for years however none of them qualify for the HSM. Refit my dress form to me (which of course does not qualify for the HSM). Finish my 18th century stays so that they no longer hurt me (which I have already submitted to the HSM as a completed project but now I need to work on it as a tweaked project). Tweak my 18th century gowns for those stays and a few other fitting adjustments I've learned since then. (these I might be able to submit)

 I've learned a lot since I started sewing historically in Jan 2010. Time for me to refine some bits and pieces before I move on because the proper outer look is achieved by all the proper silhouette that is built from underneath. That has always been my greatest hurdle. Time for me to conquer it.   

Someday I hope to wow the historical sewing community with the results.  Press on and journey forth in the new year!


  1. Oh Laurie, I am so sorry to hear about your experience of the quilting bee, that's so unkind. I had a similar experience years ago, but there were several of us who were all equally unwelcome, so at least we were able to laugh about it together. Some people are just plain mean.

    I think that fixing your stays would count as a procrastination project, if you've been putting it off for a while!

  2. What a hopeful post! Facing UFOs helps to know what needs to be done to finish them. I hope you complete some of these goals in 2016! And I'm very sorry to hear about your negative experience with the quilting group. That sounds quite awful, really, but I hope it doesn't dampen your quilting spirit.