Project: Middle Ages History & Fashion

Blog, She Wrote: Project- Middle Ages History & Fashion

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This year our 8th grader, Rebecca, has been working through history with an emphasis on fashion. She researches the history of fashion during that time period and then designs her own garments. During her study of the Middle Ages, Rebecca worked on two separate fashions- one from the early Middle Ages and another from later in the same period.

Blog, She Wrote: Project- Middle Ages History & Fashion

Research on Middle Ages History & Fashion

I’ve had fun looking for resources on the fashion of different time periods of history. Rebecca loves to explore and construct the most authentic garments.

Blog, She Wrote: Project- Middle Ages History & Fashion

The Pattern Drafting Process

How does she go about making a dress from an idea?

  • Using her research, Rebecca comes up with an overall vision for a garment.
  • She sketches the dress starting with the basic shape and adding details.
  • As she chooses her design, she considers construction techniques and does more research and/or watches tutorials
  • Then it’s time to measure the doll and begin drawing the patterns.

Need help on learning to draft patterns? I shared our resources in Rebecca’s Steampunk Project post.

Blog, She Wrote: Project- Middle Ages History & Fashion

Constructing the Garment

I admire her bravery! Her skills are confident and she’ll try something new with no hesitation.

  • Use authentic fabric if possible- though I have to say she did not enjoy working with the wool.
  • Use a serger- If you have a serger, you can use it to finish the seams before putting the pieces together. If not, then be sure to finish the seams carefully.
  • Frequently read tutorials- Rebecca spends a lot of time learning by reading sewing blogger tutorials. It’s free and it’s a great way to learn on your own! Her Kindle Fire is usually by her side when she is working on something so she can refer back to the tutorial easily.

Blog, She Wrote: Project- Middle Ages History & Fashion

Facts on Middle Ages Fashion

Rebecca uncovered some interesting details in her research of Middle Ages Fashion. Here are a few:

  • During the 13th century tunics were the base of all outfits.
  • Cloaks were a staple of the Middle Ages and worn over the tunic.
  • Children wore the same basic style in smaller sizes.
  • The longer your garments and cloaks, the more money you had. Peasants wore short length garments.
  • During the 14th century waist lines rose and women’s clothing became more fitted – some sleeves were so tight they had to be stitched together once on!
  • The 15th century showed the empire waist being popular.
  • Men’s garment length was shortening while lady’s lengths were increasing.

Rebecca chose to make a gown in keeping with 15th century fashion. The collar is made of “fur” and forms a V that goes to the waist and it has a thick belt which was popular at the time.

Blog, She Wrote: Project- Middle Ages History & Fashion

Reading List for the Middle Ages

Along with her research in fashion, she spent time immersed in both fiction and non-fiction titles about the same time period. A brief list of the titles she’s read include:

Some of these titles chronicle the end of the Roman Empire and the Dark Ages that followed.

Studying fashion and learning how these garments were made and put together is a great way to focus on one aspect of history. Rebecca has had a very focused year and it’s been great for building her sewing project portfolio. She’s learned a lot of techniques which are useful for full sized fashions.

I’m looking forward to sharing two of her latest projects with you soon. She has a fashion due this week for a local contest. Rebecca is hoping to do well enough to make it into the fashion show. Stay tuned!

Project: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting

Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting

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It’s time to report on the wrap up of our Literature, History, & Fashion unit on Jules Verne and Steampunk. Rebecca had been working on reading Jules Verne and learning more about Steampunk origins and fashion. In the first post I shared the content of our unit and the beginning of the dress making process. Today, I’m following up on that post with the conclusion to the project- at least this time period for the ongoing history & fashion project.

Jules Verne Project Review

The main elements of the project included:

  • Reading Jules Verne books
  • Learning about the life of Jules Verne
  • Writing an author profile & some analysis essays on Jules Verne and his work (these came from Excellence in Literature)
  • Steampunk Fashion- learning about what it is and where it came from
  • Fashion Design- Steampunk style

You can see the original post by clicking on the link above or the picture below. There are more details on the books and assignments there.

Blog, She Wrote: Jules Verne Literature, History, & Fashion

I interviewed Rebecca to find out what she thought of this project and if she had any tips or advise for you all. In the first post, you can see how the pieces of the pattern came together in the bodice and below you can see the first fitting.

Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting

What Is Your Favorite Part about Drafting Patterns?

  • Drawing the designs
  • Choosing fabrics best suited for the fashion
  • Drafting the patterns from my sketches

By far her favorite is the drafting which is curious considering it requires effort and math! Rebecca is always up for a crafty math challenge. What better way to apply skills?

Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting

Why Do You Prefer to Draft Your Own Patterns?

Rebecca has always preferred to make her own patterns rather than follow store bought ones. What makes pattern drafting so appealing? She has some very specific opinions on this:

  • Makes you more familiar with the pattern
  • I will know how all the pieces fit together
  • I know how the garment deconstructs in my mind.
  • Gives me independence- I don’t have to stick with the pattern I’m given. It can be my pattern, my way.
  • Shows me why something needs to be done in a certain order

Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting

What Would You do Differently?

She learned a few important things from this project. Even mistakes lead to better understanding and she did have to take the garment apart at least once during the process.

  • Make sure the sleeves have the proper seam allowance and make sure they do not taper but stay straight. Dolls cannot cup a hand to squeeze an arm into a sleeve! You can see how she chose to modify the design so she would not have to recut and sew the fabric.
  • Whatever you do to the front of the dress, you must do to the back. In this case she had four or more pattern pieces that made up the bodice and she had to make sure they lined up well once they were put together.
  • Make the lining from the same fabric or a similar color so that if the fabric peeks out from the seam it is less noticeable! Rebecca made a fabulous lining to the bodice, but it easy to see when it’s out of place.

Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting

Tools for Drafting Patterns

Here are some basic items to have on hand for pattern making:

  • ruler
  • pencil
  • bendable ruler- helpful for tracing curves for the armscye (armhole in the sleeve) and necklines
  • large pieces of paper (larger than printer paper)
  • doll (or a person if you are sewing for people)
  • tape measure
  • pins- for fittings
  • fabric marking pencil or pen
  • dress form

Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting

Some Helpful Drafting Tutorial Sites

Rebecca has learned a lot from books and websites on how to draft her own patterns. Here are a few of her favorite sites.

Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting

How Do You Go from Sewing Tidbits to Drafting Patterns and Putting Together Garments?

Rebecca has been sewing since she was 8 years old. At three months shy of 14, she’s been sewing for 6 years and I’ve watched a lot of growth in that time. My sewing skills are fairly basic, so how did she go from sewing simple projects to drafting her own designs from sketches and successfully sewing a garment that is tailored? I know what I’ve done to mentor her and she had some ideas to share as well.

  • Build up endurance for longer projects! How? Sew a lot and get better at it. It doesn’t matter if they are small projects at first just as long as you keep at it.
  • Try new techniques- once you have the hang of the basics, challenge yourself to keep trying new skills. Build your skills slowly and steadily.
  • Use a visually pleasing tutorial- so it’s easy to understand and use the books and tutorials to tackle the drafting. Rebecca’s Kindle Fire has proven to be very helpful in following the tutorials right where she is working. I can’t recommend this homeschool tool enough! See all the ways we use this economical tablet in our homeschool, 10 Reasons to Use a Kindle Part 2- Kindle Fire
  • Provide materials for the work- make sure your sewing student has the tools of the trade that allow her to learn the new skills.
  • Provide space for the work- I can’t emphasize enough how much this helps the learning process. Rebecca would not get nearly the work in that she does if she had to make a big deal about getting started every time she wanted to work.
  • Give them the time- Time to work is a huge part of the success of Rebecca’s skill acquisition. She is given long blocks of uninterrupted time to work out the drafting process and fix mistakes without distractions.

Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting

Costume Design

This project area has spurred a lot of interest in costume design. The dress that Rebecca put together is all her own idea based on some steampunk influences including a dress that was made for me and the Steampunk Pinterest Board I created for her.

She adored the process of envisioning a dress and making it come alive. The last piece to the puzzle was in all the details of this dress. We scoured the craft stores for the hardware to add to the steampunk design. We found the perfect accessories and doodads! Steampunk is all about late 1800s style with futuristic capabilities all made from steam power and gears that do work.

She is already thinking about how this work could be a part of her future.

Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting


Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting


Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting


Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting

This history and fashion project for the year has been very successful. Rebecca is building quite a portfolio with the next step being the county fair. She has read books on period clothing and learned a great deal about culture at the same time – whether it’s the steampunk genre or life in the middle ages.

She is about to take her skills to the next level by constructing her own gown for this year’s Civil War Ball. I can hardly wait to see the finished product.

Blog, She Wrote Top Ten Posts for 2013

Blog, She Wrote: Top Ten for 2013It’s been a great blogging year for Blog, She Wrote. In January we moved from Blogger to WordPress and streamlined our look and organization. I’m still working on some of that, but I’ve tried more than ever to create relevant content for you all.

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Life of Fred {Homeschool Math}- This post is very popular! Enjoy a look at how we use Life of Fred math from elementary through high school and why.

Blog, She Wrote: Organizing Your Homeschool Library

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Blog, She Wrote: Teaching Sewing in Your Homeschool {Whether or Not You Sew}

Teaching Sewing in Your Homeschool {Whether or Not You Sew!}- This was part of my five day series on Teaching Sewing in Your Homeschool. Full of ideas, projects, how to mentor are all there. Have a look.

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Thank you for being a reader at Blog, She Wrote. If you’ve never taken the time to subscribe, please do so now and enjoy Blog, She Wrote in your inbox.

Happy 2014! I can’t wait to share more practical homeschooling advice and encouragement in the coming year.

Jules Verne: Literature, History, & Fashion

Blog, She Wrote: Jules Verne- Literature, History, & Fashion

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for the support!

This year my 10th and 8th graders are using Excellence in Literature. E15 uses it for his main writing and literature course and R13 is using it as a unit study program- not only is she reading and doing the writing, but she is also studying the history and fashion of the same time period. We had a plan to study the middle ages for the year, but in the end she thought it would be more interesting to skip around and immerse herself in the context of each piece of literature. Fabulous idea! We started with Introduction to Literature, although I purchased the entire set so I could skip around.

Whatever one man is capable of conceiving, other men will be able to achieve. -Jules Verne

The Literature of Jules Verne

  • Around the World in 80 Days- was the focus text of this unit
  • Around the World in Eighty Days: The Whole Story- an annotated version of the full unabridged text which shows illustrations for various ports, objects in the story.
  • 20,000 Leagues under the Sea- honors text
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth- She worked with this book over the summer and taught a Zine class having to do with caves to kids at the summer library program.
  • Other Worlds- by One Year Adventure Novel. E15 is working on a fantasy novel and he’d been watching lessons on the history of the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres.

Biographies of Jules Verne

The unit required R13 to write an author profile. After reading about the author, the kids wrote a summary about the author’s life including birth and death dates along with some high points about his life. I’d like to see more go into this so I may change this up for future units.

For the most part, sticking with biographies written for the middle grades can give a good picture of the author’s life without stumbling upon the very adult oriented issues that an author may have. Jules Verne certainly did have some issues best left uncovered by young readers.


Steampunk Fashion: A Study & Idea Gathering

Jules Verne and his many literary inventions has launched a whole new genre of science fiction (and a subculture) – Steampunk. Steampunk imagines that there are fanciful inventions with great capabilities which are all steam powered.

Steampunk fashion is derived from Victorian era dress with the addition of technologies and gadgets consistent with more modern times- except they all “look” old.

  • Steampunk Fashions Pinterest Board- this is a gathering of steampunk images of clothing others have made and of vintage gowns. I wanted a relatively “safe” place for R13 to get ideas for her own fashions. Steampunk fashion isn’t always the most modest so I pick the best ones for her to view.
  • Cover Story- the middle school writing program from the creator of One Year Adventure Novel has a steampunk theme. R13 is working on her own magazine issue this year and the theme has been helpful in discovering more about the steampunk culture- in props and in the journal writing exercises.
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea- Disney movie version. Seems to be an inspiration to many in the steampunk culture. If you haven’t seen it recently, have a look.

If you choose to try out this unit, just a word of caution on the world of steampunk…as the parent check it out first! Make sure the content is what you are looking for and leaves out what you are not interested in for your student.



Steampunk Pattern Design & Making

I’ve mentioned before in The Making of a Wizard & The Crafty Side of Math how we incorporate applied math into R13′s school work. Steampunk fashion is another great opportunity for us to tackle a great project.

  • Many sketches- R13 began with sketches of her designs. She did research on different steampunk designs and ideas and came up with some things she wanted to make. She worked on some princess seam sketches for some time trying to come up with a way to create the line of a corset shape on her doll.
  • Choosing Fabrics- dark and flashy is what she’s going for and is using some rescued for reuse fabric in her designs. She has some in her collection, but here’s a shout out to our favorite source Mrs.R for her help in securing just the right pieces!
  • Measurements- She takes the necessary dimensions of her 18 inch doll in order to draft the patterns.
  • Drafting the Patterns- she uses the book How to Make Sewing Patterns to make drafts of her sketches using the dimensions of her doll. This is a book she has grown into as her skills have improved and she’s wanted to learn more. She’s very careful to label each pattern so she knows which piece it is and whether or not the seam allowance is included.
  • Cutting the Fabric- she has completed the sleeves and the front of the bodice. She has to correct a mistake in her back piece of the bodice.
  • Sewing- finally the pieces of fabric can be sewn together!


Designing Steampunk Accessories

  • Gear Buttons- gears are very popular in the steampunk world. R13 made these from Shrinky Dinks. She plans to adorn the dress with them.
  • Hoop- for the hoop skirt. She had to be very clever to work out what she wanted for this. She is hopeful it will help the dress to keep the shape she intends.
  • Embellishments- So far she has added ribbon to her sleeves. I can’t wait to see what else she creates.

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So far, R13 is off to a great start. With it being the holiday season and having a major role in a play, some of this work is on hold. The next post on the topic will include some more of her assignments on history and writing along with more results on her sewing project.

The key to success with this sort of Project Based Homeschooling is to allow the time and to provide the resources she needs to get the job done. I also keep a project journal so I can be a good project mentor. More details on that to come as well.

I apologize for the recent blog silence. Since before Thanksgiving we have been passing around a healthy little cold which is still alive and well in our home. I am happy to finally put the finishing touches on this post for you all!

Gifts for Kids Who Love to Sew

Blog, She Wrote: Gifts for Kids Who Love to Sew

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for the support.

Whether you have a budding seamstress or an experienced one, chances are you may be looking for some sewing gift ideas. Today I’m sharing some ideas for beginner & pro sewing kits for the holidays.

For the Beginner’s Sewing Basket

  • needle & thread- for hand sewing and for machine sewing
  • sewing scissors- we like the Featherweights by Gingher because they are easy to use for smaller hands
  • fat quarters- these are roughly 18 inch square pieces of fabric you can purchase cheaply and it grows the fabric stash pretty quickly for small projects.
  • pin cushion & pins- I like quilting pins because they are easier to get through fabric for beginners. Making friends with pins early on is important.
  • measuring tape- some like the kind with the dispenser, but any of them are good. Getting used to handling one is nice even if a beginner doesn’t measure fabric all the time.
  • sewing machine- see a post about Choosing & Learning a Sewing Machine. Having a good machine that is easy to use is important. Purchasing a machine for a student makes it easier for them to get familiar with a machine. One of the keys to R13 turning a corner on her own sewing was to have her own machine which runs so trim and it’s so easy to use. It makes a big difference!
  • Doodads- things like buttons, rick rack, fabric markers give projects dimension and add to the fun. We never have a shortage of doodads.

Ideas for the Advanced Sewing Student

  • bendable sewing ruler- allows you to trace on a curve when drafting patternsĀ (also used in quilting)
  • thread- lots of it and in many colors. Always a need for thread at our house.
  • serger- R13 loves her serger which was a gift from a sweet online friend. Sergers cut and finish a seam at once making it easy to finish seams professionally.
  • dress form- so your student can work on dressmaking while the outfit is on the form. It’s lovely to see how things are coming together and to work on a hem, etc.
  • doll dress form- R13 uses hers all the time to design and make clothing for her American Girl dolls. Doll clothes are a great way to learn skills in dressmaking for bigger sizes.
  • How to Make Sewing Patterns- a no frills book on how to draft sewing patterns. R13 much prefers to make her patterns than make something off of a commercial pattern. This book was difficult for her when she first received it, but she has now declared she is “up to the level” of this book.

One thing I’ve tried to do with R13 is to keep her on the front edge of learning the skill of sewing. I always aim to provide her with materials and resources she’ll have to “grow into”. I know that sewing is something she enjoys and she will be tenacious enough to learn something new. All I have to do is provide her something that I know matches her goals with sewing.

She uses the internet a lot, sewing blogs in particular, because you can visit several to learn a technique. R13 says she’ll visit more than one to see a skill explained more than one way. Pretty clever!

Blog, She Wrote: Gifts for Kids Who Love to Sew

Blog, She Wrote Links for Sewing Instruction

  • Sewing Machine Unit Study- a unit I wrote on how the sewing machine works and the difference between the various types of machines.
  • Sewing Library- need more ideas for sewing books? Check out this link at R13′s blog, Miss Bliss. More Sewing Library is a list of additions.
  • Teaching Sewing in Your Homeschool -a series of posts on teaching sewing at home (whether or not you sew). Great ideas here for the beginner and advanced alike.
  • Sewing Adventure Box- Ideas for what to include for a sewing adventure
  • Studio Space- don’t forget about workspace for your sewing student! Carving out workspace is one of the most important ingredients to seeing good work progress. Nothing fancy just a table and permission to leave projects in progress will do.

If you have any questions about things I didn’t mention, leave a comment. What favorite things do your kids have in their sewing baskets?