The Blue Gardenia

A sewing goal almost achieved. March 17, 2015 00:19

Guess what I did today? I nearly achieved my goal of making a dress in one day. Or, to be specific, in four hours. Because, that, dear readers, is my sewing budget. My project — 1970s Vogue 8371. It is dreamy. Absolutely. Easy to make. Flattering. Smart. Can you ask for more, other than being a best-selling novelist and holding a winning lottery jackpot ticket? I think not.

Love, love, love this.
Love, love, love this.



Luscious! A wonderful wool challis from Fabric Mart.
Luscious! A wonderful wool challis from Fabric Mart.

The fabric — a  gorgeous wool challis from Fabric Mart. I added a lining of black Ambience. I installed an invisible zipper, my second. I nearly burst with fear as I stitch one in, and then I am shocked when I look at it and see that I have sewn it in correctly. I find them so much more frightening than a lapped zipper, yet the process is so much faster. Mmmmm. What is that all about, I wonder? Perhaps there is a sewing psych I can call?

If you like this pattern, The Blue Gardenia has it in bust 36. And, yes, we happily ship abroad. We do.

And don't forget to enter our give-away. It is splendiferous. Click here for the details. Hurry. It closes March 17 at midnight PDT.

My 1950s-style circular skirt: dots! March 16, 2015 00:00

In front of one of Albuquerque's many public art works.
In front of one of Albuquerque's many public art works.


One of the many garments I've made while I've been away from blogging is this ikat skirt. The fabric was designed locally, and it is yummy. The pattern, Simplicity 2758, is a Threads pattern. So easy! Even though it makes me look like I've had one Twinkie too many, I made another. Of course, I made it before I saw myself in this picture!  I'll share the other later.

If you haven't already, do enter The Blue Gardenia give-away. If I do say so myself, it's really wonderful. Click here to see.

And feel free to shop. It makes my little canine friends so happy. More treats. Better treats. Yes indeed.


I think I'll try the shirt next.
I think I'll try the shirt next.

What is on your sewing table? March 10, 2015 14:27

Last fall, I cut out By Hand London's Flora dress. Out of a luscious coral linen. I loved the bodice with the straps, but the mullet hem is not my style. Absolutely not. I will occasionally wear an uneven hem, but this one — no. 

I evened the hemline.
I evened the hemline.


I adore this color. Yes indeed.
I adore this color. Yes indeed.

Since winter weather arrived soon after it was cut out, I set the project aside. Now that sunny, if cool, days are here again, I plan to complete it. Soon. Very soon. As soon as I finish what I am working on, which I hope to share next week.

So. Do share. What is on your sewing table?

In the mood for mod? Drop by and see our additions! December 8, 2014 00:32 1 Comment


Ahh, how hard we have worked this weekend to bring new lovelies to you, dear readers and clients. One of my favorite patterns, especially for those just learning to sew, is Burda 3881. Such a stylish way to brave the winter chill.

A super easy pattern for those in a hurry or new sewistas!
A super easy pattern for those in a hurry or new sewistas!




Another favorite – one in my own collection as well – is Vogue Attitudes 1258 by Todd Oldham. A delicious jacket. Totally. The collar, the big buttonholes. And a choice of palazzo pants or cigarette slacks. Can't beat that with a baton.

Smashing ensemble, no?
Smashing ensemble, no?


The sections you'll find additions in today are 1960s-on Vogue and Other. Take a gander.

And in case you were wondering  – and of course you were – we happily ship abroad. Enjoy, patternistas. Do.

A sexy 1930s peekaboo day dress. Just one among the many new items. September 8, 2014 00:46 2 Comments

Sleek and sexy.
    Sleek and sexy.


We've been working so hard. Counting. Checking. Selecting only the best patterns for you, dear ones. I love them all, of course. But Pictorial 8114 is a favorite. Racy, peekaboo front, tied with little bows. So special, doncha think?



Unique and captivating collar and princess seams.
Unique and captivating collar and princess seams.


I actually have Butterick 8573, circa 1950s, in my size. I love this style. It's on my make list. Fetching, yes?




That peplum. Those cutouts. Dreamy sigh.
That peplum. Those cutouts. Dreamy sigh.

Another one in my collection. I love it when I come across multiples. McCall 6948 is luscious, from the broad shoulders to the draped peplum to the cutouts. Can you resist?



Love the sleeves. Love the neckline. Love the unpressed inverted pleats. I love Vogue 7139. Period.

Comfy. Pretty. Simple.
Comfy. Pretty. Simple.


I am also mighty sweet on Pictorial 6884. Two views. I love the View 1 the most, though. That neckline! And we have this one in two sizes.


Huge update, this. So drop by The Blue Gardenia and fill up your cart! And yes, we merrily ship abroad.



A cool vintage dress for the dry or humid heat. July 17, 2014 15:28

Fresh in any heat.
Fresh in any heat.    

Here in the high desert, where I currently reside, the locals say on searing days, of which there are many: At least, it's a dry heat. It is, I suppose, their way of showing gratitude. But let me inform you: heat is heat. And at least it often rains in the South.


But this is a dress perfect for the humid or the arid heat. It is as fresh as Washington cherries, as cool as an ice cream sundae. You can't go wrong with Butterick 3134.


And, yes, this can be purchased at The Blue Gardenia. And I speak for all the gardenias when I say we'd love to see your finished garment.

Vintage pattern shopping therapy, anyone? Avoid pills and docs. July 15, 2014 16:00 7 Comments

Is there anything about this dress that I do not adore? In a word, no.
Is there anything about this dress that I do not adore? In a word, no.

I am a twisted rag today, a Twizzler stick tied in knots. Something very good happened to me, something that may well lead to something better. I have learned something new about myself in this process: I have superstitious tendencies. In another life, I might be a baseball pitcher, always wearing the same socks that I wore when pitching a no-hitter. And those tendencies are why I am not sharing any details.


So. How to calm myself, how to untie the Twizzlers and put them in the pantry? A fantasy Blue Gardenia shopping trip, natch, where my favorite patterns are available in my size. (And, no, don't tell me I can resize patterns, because that ain't me, babe. My size, or you have the blessed opportunity to buy the pattern. A woman must have boundaries, and as a purveyor of patterns, that is one of mine.)


Vogue Couturier Design 536, from the 1950s, has long been a favorite. In fact, this was my own pattern, and I paid a mint to get it years ago, thinking it was my size. Than I started sewing, and learned that it was too big for me. My loss, your etc.

The sleeves. The collar. Need I say more?
The sleeves. The collar. Need I say more?

Butterick 3751 from the 1960s is luscious. I love the blouse, and, yes, I would wear it alone, as well as with the jumper. And the jumper I would also wear alone. What a sexy and cool summer dress it would make. I'm a sucker for the multipurpose pattern.



Total sucker I am for sleeve detail.
Total sucker I am for sleeve detail.

My momma made this for me when I was 12. (Yeah, I was definitely considered  a fashion iconoclast back in small town Louisiana. And that's putting it nicely. In a world of jeans and tees, there I tripped in my red YSL wedgies.) And this is the actual pattern she used. Now, I need a Bust 34 in Vogue 8690. 1970s era, this style. Long for it. I do.



I love the dipping back neckline, the cowl front, the hint of fullness in the skirt.
I love the dipping back neckline, the cowl front, the hint of fullness in the skirt.

And McCall's 4265dream dress. And I do mean a dream, not the thriller nightmare I had last night. (Yes, in case you care, I escaped unscathed and victorious, but not until after much subterfuge and many car chases and betrayal by a trusted friend.)

There you go. Shopping therapy. I am feeling so much less anxious now. In fact, I feel downright peaceful.

In case you lust for these styles, too, you can buy them at The Blue Gardenia, and we do indeed happily ship abroad. And purchases keep the dogs in treats. Can I overestimate how much they love their treats? Impossible!


Shameless plug: Free your inner beach bunny or American hustler. June 26, 2014 00:01

[caption id="attachment_4710" align="aligncenter" width="497"]Who could resist your in this? Who could resist your in this?[/caption]   Another week, another new fashion  show of fabulous patterns! His Bertness has worked his fingers right down to the bone adding magnificent patterns for your pleasure. You'll find everything from sexy swimsuits to slinky 1930s pajamas. A few of my favorites: Vogue 8804 from 1953. Doesn't this bring to mind the young Ms. Loren?Absolutely. [caption id="attachment_4762" align="aligncenter" width="548"]I can see Beyonce in this. Or Amy Adams in American Hustle. I can see Beyonce in this. Or Amy Adams in American Hustle.[/caption]   Vogue 8724 is not only very easy, it's very sexy. And it looks straight out of American Hustle. [caption id="attachment_4808" align="aligncenter" width="563"]So pretty. And so easy! And so inexpensive! So pretty. And so easy! And so inexpensive![/caption] Butterick 5648 whispers Myrna Loy. And do note: It's a Beginner's Pattern! Ever so helpful if you are learning to sew.  

And there are so many more. To find the new, just hit the default sorting button, scroll down to newest and there ya go. Very simple, very easy, as that TV chef used to say. We do happily ship abroad. Just in case you were wondering ...


When the weather outside is frightfully hot, don this short set. June 9, 2014 22:48 2 Comments

Show off those hours at the gym in this 1940s playsuit.
Show off those hours at the gym in this 1940s playsuit.

You paw through your dresser drawers, looking for something cool. Surely you didn't donate all your denim cutoffs to the Salvation Army last fall when you were attacked by that rare closet cleaning bug. But, apparently you did. Darn. And it's been so hot. Last week, 103 degrees two days. And when it's that hot, it doesn't really matter if it's a dry heat. Six percent humidity or 40, 103 is unbearable.

So. Cute shorts are a closet must. Hollywood 1354 is scrumptious. Truly. It's from the Forties, too. Your favorite decade. And you could make the skirt a couple of inches longer for those modest moments that strike on occassion.


This captivating cotton is available at fabricsandtrimmings, an Etsy shop.
        This captivating cotton is available at fabricsandtrimmings, an Etsy shop.

That pretty, yet wild, rose print you saw on Etsy would be spectacular.

And yes, you can indeed find this sassy pattern at The Blue Gardenia. But you know that? Didn't you?

The fabric organization continues . . . June 8, 2014 17:36

My love for red and pinks is obvious.
      My love for red and pinks is obvious.


It's not the most beautiful book. I won't win a scrapbook contest. But it's functional.
      It's not the most beautiful book. I won't win a scrapbook contest. But it's functional.

I continue to organize my fabric. His Bertness and I moved box after box in the storage unit until we found – I think! – all of it. I'm not only listing swatches and yardage in an old sketch pad I found in my office, I am zigzagging the edges and washing each piece that will not be dry-cleaned before I put it away. Yes, dear readers, it is a bit of a hassle and somewhat time-consuming (all right, extremely time-consuming) but it's also very inspiring. I want to make garments out of these lovely pieces. I must formulate a plan . . .

Learning to sew: A '50s Simplicity skirt with sexy slits June 4, 2014 23:39 4 Comments

My fabulous linen. Guess what? It's an upholstery fabric!
      My fabulous linen. Guess what? It's an upholstery fabric!



I'm stitching the green version. Love the slits!
      I'm stitching the green version. Love the slits!

I've decided I must break my slothful habit of wearing yoga pants around the house (and to the grocery store, the library, El Patio.) Enough! Really.

So I am making skirts, knit tops and cool cotton dresses for the summer.

First up, this mauve linen print. The version with the sexy yet ladylike side slits. I worked on it one day last week, and it fits perfectly. Don't you beam when that happens? I do. I'm lining it in a pinky nude Ambiance, because who needs saggy linen butt drop? I plan to finish it this weekend. And I like it so much, I think I'll make another. Pictures to come once I've made the top. Doncha love the fabric and the pattern?

An update, and, oh, the lovely looks it offers! June 3, 2014 22:56

Think of His Bertness, scanning patterns, adding them to the site, working so hard this weekend for two reasons: to make you happy, and therefore, make our pups happy, because the more patterns you simply can't resist at The Blue Gardenia, the more treats the little hair ranchers get! Do let me tempt you, my pretties, with one pattern from each decade: Simplicity-1721    

I adore Simplicity 1721. A pattern from the NRA period (and that would be the National Recovery Act, not the, ahem, group that claims those initials today). The patio pajamas are luscious, just the garb for lounging in the chaise while your significant other totes and fetches and does everything possible to make you happy. Second, the pattern includes a smart pair of gaucho pants and a cunningly designed blouse. I love the two, two, two looks in one pattern envelope. I do.




And from the 1940s, both collar variations on Advance 5136 have panache galore. So comfy, so cool whipped up in a pretty cotton sateen.

Simplicity-8380 Simplicity 8380 is the picture of summer chic. Sophisticated enough for the office, fetching enough for sipping sidecars at your favorite bar. And that stole is so 1950s. Vogue-8371    

My personal fave: Vogue 8371. I have quite a thing for dolman sleeves, and I long for this pattern in my own size. (That would be Bust 34, in case you have one lazing about your pattern cabinet.)


You'll also find lots of other beauties this update, from 1930s evening gowns that would turn Myrna Loy green and 1960s swimsuits that will cause temps to rise at any beach party.


So. Pop on over to The Blue Gardenia. You won't be disappointed. Promise.


Be the star of the picnic in this 1940s playsuit. June 2, 2014 23:31


The family reunion picnic is a mere two weeks away. Sigh. She’s not exactly the picnic type. All those ants and flies. The heat. The humidity. However, Grampie is getting older, and he’s not in the best of health. His badminton days are long past, so she really doesn’t want to miss this one. What to wear? How about whipping up that sassy Du Barry romper she saw at The Blue Gardenia? It’s so fetching, and her legs could use some sun. Perhaps she’ll use that lovely cotton sateen she bought at Gorgeous Fabrics a few weeks ago. It will be so cool.

Of course, you can buy this cute pattern at The Blue Gardenia. And, yes, we happily ship abroad.



Learning to sew: A just-out-of-print Badgley Mischka. February 19, 2014 23:12

bellville Can you say wadder? This dress would have been one for me, if it had not been for my fabulous sewing teacher. The pattern is Vogue 1256, designed by Badgley Mischka. So many problems! Absolutely. Before cutting the fabric, a bamboo jersey, we added about an inch to the bodice. The pattern is quite short-waisted. Leslie made one with me for herself, and she is petite with a short waist, and she had to lengthen the bodice as well. (How's that for a whiny run-on sentence? Don't tell Mrs. Geneva, wherever she is!) Further, the skirt is very short. I did not add the zipper the pattern uses, because there was no need: even with lining, it easily slips over the head. I have not worn the dress yet. I will. Eventually. His Bertness really likes it. Go figure.

Learning to sew: Butterick 5559 by Maggy London is done! February 11, 2014 17:03


The blue knit Butterick is complete. The picture is fuzzy: His Bertness snapped it with my iPhone and he tends to get far away to take pictures, which means I must crop for any details at all to show. It's his signature as a photog, I suppose. Emma looks lovely, though. She just does not take a bad picture. She's always stunning.

ButterickMaggyLondonI am pleased with the dress. It was fairly easy to make, but I do feel a Spanx --- or something like it ––– is in order. I am feeling more comfortable sewing and more at ease with knits. I must say, though, that I do like vintage patterns better. This is, in case you care, Butterick 5559, a current pattern, designed by Maggy London. I like the details, and it was easy to whip up. I do highly recommend it.

I used a lightweight cotton knit, generously supplied by my talented sewing teacher. She's made this dress three times! Yeah, she really loves this pattern!

Do drop by The Blue Gardenia. We added lots of patterns this weekend. Let us know what you think of the new site.

I'll be moving the blog to the site in the next couple of weeks, so get ready!

Learning to sew: A pin at a time & my hair matches my dress. January 15, 2014 21:40

I had little time for sewing today. I spent the afternoon at the dentist's office. Can you say fun? At least, he's a sweetie and good at his job. And he's on my dental insurance plan. Yippee skippee.

I did, however, at least get darts pinned. I'm trying to do a little sewing every day, even if I only have time to mark and pin. It's progress. One step at a time. And all that.

BluehairI dyed my hair blue! At least parts of it. Teal and cobalt with an orchid streak here and there. I love it. A sportscar was not in my budget for a midlife crisis. Yeah, the photo's lousy. One of these days I'll get a camera with a remote clicker, so I can take good pics like the big girl bloggers.

Don't forget to stop by and shop or just browse the new Blue Gardenia. It's so easy to navigate. We have a search engine. How cool is that?

Learning to sew? Love the '40s? Vogue 9372 is calling your name. January 3, 2014 19:08


She's learning to sew. At last. At long last. She's made a pencil skirt. A short-sleeve shirt. Now, she's ready to tackle a jacket. The 1940s Wool_1940s are her favorite period. The strong shoulders. To her, they signify strength. Independence. She loves Vogue 9372. And it is easy to make. Vogue promises. In writing.

She's chosen a Zegna wool from Michael's Fabrics. It has that 1940s vibe. Yes indeedy. And, yes, this is one of the many patterns available at The Blue Gardenia at an ever-so-special discount. Do drop by. We'd love to see you.

End of the Year / End of an Era  Sale!

Now through Midnight (PST) January 7, 2014

Spend $100 (before the discount) — get 20% off.

Spend $200 (before the discount) — get 30% off.

Spend $300 (before the discount) — get 40% off. 

Spend $400 or more (before the discount) — get a whopping 50% off.

Payment is by PayPal only, 

except for established customers, who may arrange for payment  by check.

Yes, you may buy gift certificates for that special someome —

offering sales rates honored through January 2014.

Learning to sew: I made this knit top, and I even wear it! December 19, 2013 19:12 2 Comments


I've been promising you pictures, dear readers. I have. I wish I had a camera that allowed use of a remote shutter so that I could take my own pictures. But, alas . . . Hubby lacks the patience or interest or both to Simplicity_1849 take more than a few shots, and since I'm not J-Law, well, I need more than three or four to choose from.

Oh, well. Enough whining about His Bertness. He has many virtues. On to the matter at hand . . .

This is the first knit I have sewn. It's a rayon jersey. Although I've gotten many compliments on the top, I don't think I would make it again. Of course, you never know.

Once Leslie, sewing goddess supreme, showed me how to put it together, it was a breeze to make.

I have quite a few more garments to show you, and I'm beginning to have a bit of confidence at the needle. But I am loathe to share such  fuzzy, dark pictures.

I know. Take advantage of our sale so that I can buy a new camera! Isn't that a great idea? Am I shameless? Anyway, here's the scoop:

End of the Year / End of an Era  Sale!

Now through Midnight (PST) December 31, 2013

Spend $100 (before the discount) — get 20% off.

Spend $200 (before the discount) — get 30% off.

Spend $300 (before the discount) — get 40% off. 

Spend $400 or more (before the discount) — get a whopping 50% off.

Payment is by PayPal only, 

except for established customers, who may arrange for payment  by check.

Yes, you may buy gift certificates for that special someome —

offering sales rates honored through January 2014.

The book closet: Widow's garb in Hank Phillippi Ryan's first book December 18, 2013 20:15

I've just discovered a new writer. New, that is, to me: Hank Phillippi Ryan. She's an Emmy and Murrow award-winning TV reporter in Boston, Hank-2013 and she has been writing mysteries with a bit of the steamy stuff included since 2009. 

I read her penultimate book, The Other Woman, which won the MWA/Mary Higgins Clark award, and I was so taken with her writing that I bought Prime Time, her first book, which features Charlotte McNally, a 46-year-old TV reporter who worries she will be axed at any moment because of her age.

McNally is determined to come up with a story that will reap huge numbers during the November sweeps, thus prolonging her career, and her journalistic antennae lead her to Prime_time interview grieving widow Melanie Foreman:

Audrey Hepburn answers the door. Obviously, not really Audrey Hepburn, but she's a remarkable clone–––elegant bones, flawless complexion, luminous eyes, pixie hair, even a little black sweater and narrow black pants. Mrs. Foreman looks pampered and classily understated. Tiny diamond studs. Delicate gold necklace. I glance at her left hand. Someone's college education sparkles on her ring finger.

Lovely description, yes? I'm quite taken with Ms. Ryan's writing, and I can't wait to read all of her work. Prime Time, by the way, won McCall's-8725 the Agatha Award for Best First Novel and the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award.

If you like Audrey Hepburn's style and want to emulate Mrs. Foreman's look, I suggest McCall's 3727, copyright 1956,  for the slacks, and McCall's 8725, copyright 1951, for the top. Perhaps a wool doubleknit for the slacks and a wool jersey for the top.

Both of these yummy patterns are available at The Blue Gardenia. At a discount. Because we are having a fabulous End-of-an-Era Sale to celebrate our new website design coming in January. Yippee skippee.



That touch of fashion: Doris Day's top is all about the neckline. December 18, 2013 01:00


Doris Day and I have a few things in common, besides the obvious two: we are female and have freckles. We both like Michael Buble. We love animals. We're less than fond of parties. And we both like this simple yet McCall's-3321 elegant neckline.

If you like this neckline, too, may I suggest you replicate it with McCall's

3321, copyright 1955? I love the slim silhouette, the wide collar, the pleats in the back of the skirt. Fetching. Absolutely.

And, yes, you knew this was coming, didn't you? You may buy this pattern at The Blue Gardenia sale, going on all of December. Come January, we debut our new look with all those bells and whistles you've requested. And, then, prices go back to normal. So, sewistas, now is the time to stock up on stylish patterns and jewelry. Hurry.

(Photo of Doris Day courtesy of Fanpop.)

Channeling Catherine: Be imprisoned by her sequin stripes. December 16, 2013 00:15 1 Comment


Nancy_gonzales_croc_bag Hoop_earring

Exquisite face:

Sleek clutch by Nancy Gonzales at Neiman Marcus: Pricey.

Big C C Skye hoop earrings at Bluefly: Bargain.

Vogue Basic Design 1961 at The Blue Gardenia, on sale: Copy. Vogue_basic_design_1961

Inspiration Drive Chili recipe & an apron to wear while making it. December 15, 2013 13:42


Ever have one of those busy Sundays? You know the kind: ten tasks and online Christmas shopping and a million other things as well? That was my Sunday. So. No time for my usual chili recipe, adapted by the former Houston Chronicle food editor from a James Beard recipe. It takes about four hours. No. I am not kidding.

I wanted something fast, something I could use with ground beef. So I adapted a recipe my mom had adapted from the Food Network. It turned out well. And it met my requirements of quick and easy. It takes about twenty minutes of prep and an hour or so to cook.

Inspiration Drive Chili

1/4 c. canola oil

2 pounds ground beef ( I used 95% lean New Mexico grass fed)

I medium onion, diced

1 bell pepper, diced

4 large cloves garlic

1 15-ounce can black or red beans, drained and rinsed

1 15-ounce can tomato sauce

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

2 cups beef or vegetable broth

Seasoning mix:

1/4 c. chili powder

3 T. flour

2 T. chipotle powder

2 T. ancho chile powder

2 heaping t. cumin

1 t. sweet paprika

2 t. oregano, smushed in your hands, then added to mix

For serving:

Sour cream

Fresh tomatoes, diced

Cilantro, snipped

Jalapenos, diced

Cheddar cheese, grated

1. Heat oil.

2. Brown meat over medium high heat, then add onions, bell pepper and garlic.

3. Cook till veggies are limp.

4. Add seasoning mix. Stir in well.

5. Stir in broth.

6. Add beans, tomatoes and tomato sauce.

7. Cook 45 minutes to an hour.

Garnish with sour cream, cheese, etc. Great served with cornbread. (Yes, those cute little kitty ears are our cornbread!)

So. There ya go. This makes 6-8 servings.

And now, you'll want to protect your clothes, of course, and I know, you McCalls-1781 style goddesses, you'll want to do so with a marvelous apron. Absolutely. I suggest McCall's 1781, copyright 1953. The flower pockets and front pleat definitely takes kitchen fashion to a higher level. If you are just learning to sew, an apron is a terrific project.

Of course, this pattern is available at The Blue Gardenia, where we are celebrating the upcoming launch of our new site with an End-of-an-Era Sale. And the discounts will have you smiling. And that is something we love to see!


Sew how: Oonaballoona leaves Kalkatroona to share her story. December 11, 2013 19:30 1 Comment

She's cute. She's sassy. She blogs. She sews. And she does it all with panache. Grab a cup of joe and learn all about how Oonaballoona from Kalkatroona learned to sew such beautiful garments. 

How long have you been sewing?

Five years, maybe six?

What inspired you to learn?

We (that is, my hubs Ruggy & I) were living in Los Angeles, and a wise friend said, “get a hobby”.  Add to that the need for fun clothing with no dough to spend on it, and hey presto!  New hobby that became an obsession.

Did your mother or grandmother sew?

My mom did have a sewing basket around  . . . As a kid, I remember my father yelling every so often about a needle in his foot. My mom's reply was always WELL WHY WERE YOU WALKING THERE. And my nan (grandmother) worked at a dry cleaner's at one point, but neither sewed garments, or on a machine.

How did you learn? A class? Home ec?

I have a dim memory of one month of home ec, and my mom still has the evidence: one two foot wide pink taffeta pig.  I remember doing lots of DIY hacks to my clothing as a kid.  I’d slice up my jeans and paint cartoon characters on t-shirts, but I didn't really learn to sew until grown-up-hood.  Burdastyle, and the community there, were my first teachers. This was back when the site first started. The internet continues to be my schoolroom. 

What was the first garment that you made?

I always say it was the Danielle dress from Burdastyle, but now that I think about it, it was a robe I sewed up for a play I was in. I was quite, erm, disrobed in the play, and I wanted something pretty to step into when my scenes were done.  I didn't use a pattern or anything, just attached a sleevish shape to a long rectangle. I had no machine, and no idea how to use one, so I handstitched it together in what I now know was just a loose basting stitch. It's a wonder the robe kept me covered!  It was discarded shortly after the play was over, but I do still have the Danielle dress.

Did you wear it?

Danielle dress, yes, and robe, oh yes. It was either that or catch cold on my way to the dressing room.

How long did it take for you to get the basics down?

Maybe a year to feel like I had them down?  But really, I'm still getting the basics down! 

How long did it take you to feel confident of your dressmaking skills?

Again, about a year.  But that was mostly false confidence. When I look back on those early makes, I cringe!  But I think you need to feel that confidence no matter what stage you’re at, so that you keep sewing and truly get better. Delusion is sometimes a very good thing.  If I didn't think the first sad dress I made was the height of fashion, I might not have continued trying!

Do you still make things that you simply won't wear?

Definitely. Sometimes I just want to make something crazy, and sometimes I'm dared to, like this muppet-inspired pinup playsuit . . . never wore it out. Not once. Don't know where you would wear it. Sometimes I'll make things I adore, but have no reason for in everyday life.  Also, I have an aversion to muslins, so I'll often make something and realize the fit is not for me.  But it all makes me happy  . . . and now I'm pleased enough with my finishing skills to gift them to friends when they don't work out for me!

How many hours a week do you sew?

Depends  . . . any minute I can get to sew, I'm probably doing it. About ten hours seems the norm.

What are your five favorite sewing books?

I actually have just one favorite at the moment, that I refer to constantly: an older copy of Claire Schaeffer's Guide to Fabric.  It's the definition of invaluable, and I bought it for like two dollars at an estate sale.  I had no idea what was in my hands, I just saw "fabric” and was sold.

Are there any sewing DVDs that you like? If so, which ones?

I've never tried a DVD, but I love Craftsy's online courses!  They're extremely well done.  I was thrilled with Gertie's Bombshell Dress course, and at the moment, I have Kenneth King's Jeanius and Susan Khalje's couture dress in my queue.

If you're a fan of free online tutorials, name five for
the beginning sewer, please.

I'm not super loyal to any specific tutorials, I jump around quite a bit. Gertie's are quite clear!

I've loved this free cowl dress pattern by Ichigogirl for years.

I'm constantly pinning things to try.

My best advice is: decide what you want to do, and google it. But be wary of free tutorials, especially if you don't know what level the instructor is at. If you're willing to try something new, and you're OK with chalking it up to a learning experience if it goes awry, dive in! 

What garment would you suggest that a newbie make first?

A simple A-line skirt is a great start.  I think it's important to have a win on your first make, so that you don't lose the desire to keep sewing! However, it's also important to choose something that excites you. If that's a cocktail dress, go for it.

MeWhat is the favorite of all the garments you have made?

Hard to say . . . I go back and forth!  Currently, my vintage McCall's lace dress ( competes with my Anna Sui draped maxi . . .

What was the first item you sewed that made you beam with pride?

This is going to sound completely obnoxious, but most of the things I sew induce that reaction!  Then, as I (hopefully) get better with each new garment, I look at those older "perfect" things and scoff derisively!!!

Name your five top tips for beginners, please.

1. Sew. 2. Sew. 3. Sew. 4. Sew. 5. You can always rip out a seam. 

Have you sewn with unprinted vintage patterns? If so, please share pointers for newbies who might want to try them.

Wooo, yes, just once, and it was a brain teaser.  My pointers would be more harm than help here. I  believe several vintage sewist bloggers have done tutorials, though. Check out Debi's site. (! 

How long does it take to get to the Vogue "Plus Difficile" rated pattern? (I can dream, can't I?)

You can and should dream!  personally, I've never tried that ranking. There are sewists who fly through those, yet shudder at the thought of draping.  I think of sewing like yoga: Some people excel at bridge position but can't touch their toes.  You'll never know till you try.

Share with me your funniest sewing adventure, please.

Sewing up the armholes when trying to write out a tutorial for my double agent dress.(!

And your most exasperating or difficult.

Probably my last lace skirt, for the Mood Sewing Network ( That lace drove me crazy.  Several times, I told Ruggy I abhorred it. I tried to force it into a gazillion different overworked iterations, and in the end, I realized it just wanted to be a gathered skirt. Now I love it!

What's your favorite pattern ever to sew, if you remember?

I won't say ever, because I fall in love with new patterns all the time! Right now, it's the Elisalex dress from the gorgeous ladies at By Hand London ( Deeeeelicious.

Do you sew vintage patterns?

Yes! Beautiful vintage envelopes are what got me to see past the questionable envelopes of today.  

Do you find instructions easier to follow on vintage patterns?

It depends on the company. I find that simplicity is my favorite. Lots of tips, and very clear steps.

How many hours of sewing do you think it takes for the average person to become proficient?

In my opinion, you're always becoming proficient. For example, I learned a BUNCH of new techniques for this lace and silk chiffon dress, and did a large amount of seam ripping along the way! There is always more to learn, new ways to improve, new techniques to try . . . perhaps that's why this “hobby” has stuck with me and become a true passion.  It absolutely never gets old.

Are you completely inspired now? I am. Absolutely. And doesn't Oonaballoona take the most darling pictures? A big bow to Oona for taking part in Sew How. The Blue Gardenia thanks you.


Celluloid style: The perfect 1940s Lauren Bacall slacks pattern. December 10, 2013 16:49


This Celluloid Style is inspired by an InStyle magazine layout. I prefer Vogue_slacks_40s a vintage look. Naturally. So I have put together my very own version of lovely Lauren Bacall's ensemble. 

I'd start with Vogue 9358, from the 1940s. This is one of those marvelous twofer patterns: You could also do the overalls. Isn't that neat? Absolutely.

I think these slacks would be luscious in this Italian wool from Michael's Fabrics. Totally luxurious. Wool_slacks

And I would choose true vintage style shoes from Remix. They have many great styles that would work. My favorite: The Gran Via. They are on sale right now  on for $49. Gotta love that!

Bacall is also wearing a sweater, and I'll leave that choice to you. Perhaps there is even one in that rich teal in your closet right now. GRAN-VIA,jpg

You may get this slacks pattern ––– and oh-so-many more ––– at The Blue Gardenia's End-of-an-Era sale. Patterns are going fast, and it's first come, first served. So. Let those fingers rush right over. Don't delay. And, clap your hands, come January, our new site with all the bells and whistles you've asked for. And that you deserve. Yippee skippee.