Historical Sew Monthly 2021 challenges

Historical Sew Monthly 2021

Historical Sew Monthly 2021

Well I didn’t really do much for the Historical Sew Monthly 2020, but with the beginning of a new year, and my sewing area sorted out over the summer/fall 2020, I am hoping that I’ll be able to tackle more of the challenges this year.

It might not bode well that I’m not even thinking about this until mid-February though…

This year’s challenges from The Dreamstress:

January: Joy: Create an item that brings you joy, or that epitomizes the joy you find in historical costuming.

February: The Roaring 20s: Make something from the 20s (any century) or that somehow incorporates a number in the 20s.

March: Small is beautifulLittle things can make a big difference to the finished look. Make something small but perfect (bonus points if it exclusively uses materials purchased from a small business)

April: The Costumer’s New LookGive an old costume a new look, either by creating a new accessory or piece which expands or changes the aesthetic and use of an outfit, re-fashioning something into a costume item, or re-making an old costume.

May: Purple: Make an item in any shade of purple.

June: On Your Head: Create an item you wear on your head.

From Naxo’s Music Library

July: Like a Melody: Make something inspired by music.

August: Cite Your Sources: We’re always a fan of research in the HSM, but this time it’s the centre of the challenge. Create something that requires research to get it right. Be thoughtful in your choice and use of research sources, and (of course) be sure to share your research sources along with your make!

September: Closures: This one is all about how you fasten a garment. Try a new type of closure you’ve never done (time to tackle dog-legged plackets, hand-sewn eyelets or pinning yourself in?) or make something where the focus is on the fastenings.

October: OrangeIt’s the final colour to be covered by a colour challenge! Make something orange.

November: Zero Waste: Make something that creates zero waste. You could either sew a garment like a shift that uses clever geometry to use all the fabric, re-make an old costuming item to extend its life, or create something entirely from re-used materials.

December: All the World’s a Stage: Make something inspired by theatre, opera, or the modern stage: films & tv. You can recreate a historical stage costume, a historically accurate film costume, or use this as an excuse to make a historically accurate version of something that isn’t.

My plan?

Plan sounds a little too concrete at this point in my life, but… my hope? Thoughts? Wishes?

January – Joy Photo by Mysticus Photography - me in my new green Byzantine gown with older accessories

Since I almost always start off a new costume with the headwear, I really thing I’ll end up making a hat for this (already late) challenge.

I don’t need any more Viking-Age hats, so I suspect it will either be a Byzantine hat (I have some fabric selected specifically for that) or German late period, since I have a lot of different fabrics assigned for that era, and want a more period-correct colour.

Teal Byzantine hat
February – The Roaring 20s There are three items on my 1920s-inspired wish list/UFO list;
* Purple dress (UFO from the 2014 yellow challenge)
* Cocoon coat (that purple devore velvet? red roses?)
* 1920s style kimono robe like the one at Rite of Ritual
However none of them are really jumping out at me at the moment while I’m writing this. I could maybe see doing something with 20 of something (hooks, eyelets, etc) but that feels a little forced.
March – Small is beautiful “Small but perfect” makes me really uncomfortable and I think I’m hung up on that when trying to think of what to make. An accessory is the most immediate thought, but I might wait until seeing what others make before jumping on this – or I might skip it entirely.

The Finnish Iron Age basket headdress comes to mind… but I doubt I can do all of the research AND construction in time for that.

Learning possaments for a Viking costume, learning tablet weaving for trim on Viking or Finnish garb would also work, but I’m not sure if within the next 45 days or so I’ll have the spoons for that. I also got a ridgid heddle loom for Christmas, which may also play a part there – with the same spoons caveat.

April – The Costumer’s New Look I made a gold and red damask surcote a while ago, and it just doesn’t hang the way I want it to, so for this challenge I’ll likely remake that into something that fits and hangs better. Its a much heavier weight than the other fabrics I’ve used for this style before. Red and gold sideless surcote
May – Purple 11th Century Byzantine costume (without the cloak)

As mentioned from the February thoughts – I have some purple devore, that I’d like to  use for a cocoon coat. There’s also a purple dress I never finished from a previous challenge.

In doing the Byzantine Capsule Wardrobe analysis, I also considered a purple gown for that costume too. I just don’t know if I have enough purple silk for it.  (and am not about to go buy any!)

June – On Your Head Yay!! A challenge right up my alley. I’ll likely make either a German or Byzantine hat, as mentioned for the January challenge. Dockenbaret
July – Like a Melody I have no idea…. I don’t normally turn to music for inspiration. There aren’t any historical-costume music videos I can think of. I feel that if I do anything for this, it will be looking at something I already want to make – and then finding music that works with it.. like some epic Viking metal to accompany some more Viking Age garb.
August – Cite Your Sources The first thing that comes to mind for this is either the Wulsthaube I want to make, or the (not really sewing) Finnish Iron Age wire headdress – since those are two things I’ve been working on researching lately.
September – Closures The complete "Celebration" Italian outfit from the front including the hat

I bought some silver-tone lacing rings a while ago, which I am dying to use for an early Italian Renaissance under gown.

I don’t know that there are many closure methods I haven’t tried before, so that’s the most obvious to be a highlighted closure.  The only other alternative I can think of – I want to make an under-kirtle which would need hand-sewn eyelets to close.

October – Orange Oh boy.  I almost never wear orange… I decided not to make any more orange items for my Egyptian capsule wardrobe, and while orange is a colour in my  Ottoman wardrobe, it’s not part of my plan to make anything more for that in that colour.

Copper would be an amazing colour for my Italian wardrobe, but I have never found more of the rust/copper silk that I used before. Nor can I justify spending money on more fabric right now. Since I really want it to be luxurious, I want a shot fabric too – and so overdying something I already have isn’t really ideal.

I might need to look through my existing fabric stash and see what orange-ish fabrics I have… and what they inspire me to make.

November – Zero Waste Photo credit ©Mysticus Photography - Me in my steel grey wool hood, along with other elements of my Viking Age Norse costume. These include my red and black coat, my plaid apron dress (hangerock), my green wool dress (serk) and my hand-spun naalbound wool mittens.

Most of my Viking-Age costumes would fit the bill for clever geometry that uses all the fabric… however since there are a LOT of gifted and second-hand fabrics in my stash, pretty much anything using those would work.  Most of the fabrics in my German capsule bin are in that category, along with most of my Finnish bin too.

December – All the World’s a Stage The first thing that jumps to mind is a Tudor costume, inspired by The Other Boleyn, but with the mood I’m currently in, that feels just way too ambitious.

My newest Egyptian costume - an orange loose sheath dress with 'sleeves' and a v-neck with a teal 'coat'.

When doing more Egyptian research I came across some fabulous costumes, which might be a good choice.. though I cant imagine wanting to photograph a finished Egyptian costume in December LOL

I still haven’t watched Medici, but the timing would be right to fit in with the Italian Renaissance costumes I want to make….  Stills from the 2021 anticipated Leonardo are slim on women’s photos, and the one I found does not look particularly hopeful. Still.. perhaps the colour scheme would work?

Set in the 14th century, the 2018 Ophelia show was… utterly forgettable, and nothing in it really jumped out at me to be inspired by. By December, The Green Knight should be out as well, and it might offer inspiration?

I LOVED the first season of Regency-era Bridgerton, and have wanted to dabble in Regency costuming, but like Tudor… I feel like this is outside of where I have the ambition for at the moment. Who knows if in nearly a year I’ll feel the same though.

Victorian costume comes to mind (especially from the ship scenes) from 2020’s Dracula, and I do have some items I want to make from that time period as well.

Still on my UFO and wish-list

Front view of the parti-coloured surcote


  • Red silk Bliaut (UFO)
  • Green diamond Bliaut (UFO) (retired – not working on anymore)
  • Parti-coloured sideless surcoat
  • Red & Gold surcote (remake)
  • Brown/ grey wool surcote with brown faux fur trim
  • Just more surcoats – finding them really easy to wear when I want to go simple with a great hat
  • Cross-tree headdress
  • Fancy Burgundian gown
  • Gold silk Houppelande (needs new collar)
  • Starched linen ruffled veil

Finnish / Viking

  • Basket-bag
  • Heavily coiled Finnish apron (stretch goal)
  • Finnish herringbone linen under dress
  • Diamond twill (wool blend) coat
  • Diamond twill (faux, knit) shawl
  • Hedeby bags – possibly out of diamond twill cotton
  • Viking Age Norse leather shoes
  • Finnish basket headdress


First French Hood, side view

  • Simple ‘everyday’ kirtle
  • Petticoat (red?)
  • Gown (stretch goal) to coordinate with French Hood(s)


  • Pleated linen Egyptian Middle Kingdom gown

1500s German camp-follower

  • Smock & dress
  • Coordinating amazing starfish hat & wulsthaube
  • Coordinating gollar (need to figure out acceptable colour schemes)

1480s Italian Renaissance

  • Blue and silver under-dress with silver lacing rings
  • Overdress to coordinate with blue-and-silver under dress
  • Grey or blue chenille over dress

Spanish Renaissance

  • Late-period sack-back Spanish gown (Alcega) this is my unicorn project atm, since I don’t really feel I’m ready for it yet.


  • Purple dress (UFO from the 2014 yellow challenge)
  • Cocoon coat (that purple devore velvet? red roses?)
  • 1920s style kimono robe like the one at Rite of Ritual
Selfie wearing my completed striped Entari and other elements of my Ottoman costume.

Selfie wearing my completed striped Entari and other elements of my Ottoman costume.


  • Blue silk Entari (WIP)
  • additional vest at some point?


  • red jacket (WIP UFO)

1950s (does this qualify? I forget)

  • Bold floral circle skirt

So… here’s to 2021!

Well… I guess… stay tuned! I’m not sure how well I’ll do this year, given the whole Covid thing and the related mental health/trauma responses we’re all dealing with…. but we’ll see!

What about you – will you be participating this year? What are you hoping to make?

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