The Blue Gardenia

A spicy Creole recipe and a McCall 1930s apron to cool it down. December 10, 2013 08:26


This is a first for this blogger: Sharing a recipe. But it turned out so well, so delicious, that I musn't hoard it. So it is yours, dear readers, yours for the taking.

I adapted it from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook's Halibut Creole recipe. I didn't have all the ingredients on hand, and I wanted to make it a bit healthier as well. So here goes. Let me know if you try it.

Creole Halibut Gonzales

2 six-ounce halibut filets, washed and dried

Creole seasoning (I make my own using Emeril's recipe)

1 1/2 c. sliced pear or cherry tomatoes

2 sliced inner stalks of celery with leaves (about 15" total length)

1 large jalapeno, diced and seeded

1 small yellow onion, chopped

2 T. butter

4 T. high-quality EVOO

3 T. lime juice

1/2 to 1 T. Tabasco, depending on how spicy you like your food

Freshly ground sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Rub filets liberally with Creole seasoning and place in Pyrex or other baking dish, about 11 inches long.

3. Prepare veggies and pour over and around filets.

4. Sprinkle with more Creole seasoning and salt.

5. Melt butter in olive oil. Add Tabasco and lime juice and pour over fish and veggies.

6. Cook uncovered 25-35 minutes, depending on how done you like your fish.

6. Serve over basmati rice or with French bread for sopping (You don't want to miss any of the delicious sauce.)

7. Enjoy!

And you will want to look fetching as you cook, and how better to do McCall_506_apron that than with McCall 506, from the 1930s. This may be my favorite apron pattern ever. Absolutely.

And you may purchase this rare and so very hard to find apron at The Blue Gardenia. At a discount, mind you. How fabulous is that? Drop by our End-of-an-Era Sale and score some terrific patterns at huge discounts. The more you buy, the more you save. Yes indeedy. And prices go up in January when our new site debuts. You know, the one with all the bells and whistles.

And Thursday, you are in for a real treat: an interview with Oonaballoona! I am smitten with her. Totally. It just doesn't get any better than  that, does it? Well, maybe your own Gulfstream with Stephen Colbert as your pilot, asuming that is, he's a licensed pilot!



Make your biscuits light and fluffy in this 1950s holiday apron! December 2, 2013 01:10 2 Comments


Ahhhh . . . biscuits. Don't you love them? I do. His Bertness made these for dinner last night. I was an excellent instructor, and he was an ace student. These were perfect: light, flaky, lots of layers, crunchy outside, tender inside. Yum bunnies.

1950s_xmas_apron_patternIf you're planning to do some holiday baking, may I suggest Simplicity 4511? It has Christmas trees! Or if you prefer, you can have tulips, leaves, strawberries.

This would be an excellent pattern to purchase at our end-of-an-era sale! We'll be debuting the new and improved The Blue Gardenia website come January. Till then, the more you shop, the more you save.


A lazy Sunday afternoon at a favorite coffee spot in my new skirt. June 30, 2013 15:47 1 Comment

We are having a heat wave here in ABQ. The weathercasters promised a cooling spell today. But the proof of their failure is all too evident in the numbers: It was 103 degrees downtown. Yeeeeoooowwwl. Dry heat or not, that is hot.

I did not, however, let the heat keep me indoors. I traipsed downtown, dear readers, just for you. Because I wanted you to see my new skirt. New to you, at any rate. I finished it several months ago. And I wanted to show off a bit of Albuquerque. 

Threads_2758I used Simplicity 2758, a discontinued Threads design. I chose the partial circle skirt pattern, but left off the embellishments. No pockets. No tabs. Not my style. I picked a locally designed Silverado ikat that is luscious. It has a linen texture on the outside and a soft flannel texture on the other.

The mural behind me is at the Albuquerque Convention Center, and it is a stunning tile mosaic. The other Albuquerque picture was taken from the second floor of the Flying Star downtown. Great desserts. In fact, everything is good there.

I was quite pleased with the pattern. So much so, indeed, that I made another. And you'll be seeing that one after I make a blouse to wear with it.

The perfect dress for feeling irresistible, strong and independent. June 27, 2013 00:57

You've been dumped. Unceremoniously, as the ubiquitous they say. He didn't deserve you. That's what you say. Call it justification, if you must. You're not going to stay home and empty a box of Puffs. Not you. Not this time.

You're not even going to call a girlfriend and go out for sidecars and a minute rehashing of the relationship. No teary "what did I do wrong" questions from you. You are going to do something different. You're going to put on your favorite dress, Vogue 8930, copyright 1957. You've made it three times. It really is a tried and true. You're going to slip on the cherry red shantung and go to The Artichoke Cafe and have steak frites and deconstructed lemon meringue pie and then you're going to come home, curl up in your favorite chair and read The Art Forger. To paraphrase Ms. Gaynor, you will survive. Happily and in style.

The details, because of course you want to know: Vogue 8930 Dresses Bust 32 Complete Copyright 1957 $33.

And yes, my lovelies, this chic pattern can be yours. Just drop by The Blue Gardenia, where the patterns are counted, the jewelry is sparkling, and domestic shipping is free. (And, yes, we happily ship abroad for a fee — just what the post office charges, in fact.) So rush on over. Do. Snap this one up. Don't delay.

150 followers! Let's take some time to celebrate with a giveaway. June 25, 2013 12:41 13 Comments

I am all atwitter. I am. Somehow, during my sporadic and dismal blogging habits of late, I hit the lovely number of 150 followers. Isn't that grand? Of course, 200 followers will be even better. (Yes, that is a not-so-subtle hint, dear readers.)

Riri_wooSo. We're having a giveaway. First, a $35 Blue Gardenia gift certificate. Second, one MAC lipstick in RiRi Woo, a luscious red matte shown at left. Third, a copy of Couture Sewing by Claire Shaeffer. And last, the absolutely gorgeous floral rayon print fabric shown above from Nob Hill Fabrics, right here in our own fair city of ABQ. Owner Liz has generously donated 2.5 yards. We are so fortunate to have Nob Hill Fabrics, so if you live in ABQ, do stop by. It's conveniently located at 3810 Central, Suite B. You may also like Nob Hill Fabrics on Facebook, because Liz posts a lot of new fabric finds there, and she is most willing to ship.

To enter, just become a follower of this blog on Typepad or Bloglovin' and leave a comment below. If you are already a follower, simply post a comment. Deadline: Saturday, June 29, 11:59 pm PDT. Simple. Easy. Good luck! And thank you for following me. I am filled with gratitude. I am.

And the winner was . . . someone else. Oh, well. June 24, 2013 15:33 4 Comments

The truth has been revealed. I will hide it no longer. I'm a procrastinator. But you'd figured that out already. Right, dear readers? No flies, and all that.

So. The bad news is that my Gertie coat didn't win. I did get 22 points out of 25, and this was a first-place only contest. Still. I feel rather good about it. If I had made bound buttonholes and used narrower horsehair braid and woven bias interfacing on the collar, I could have taken home the prize. That's what the judges wrote. Oh, well. Live and learn, as some sage once said.

Here's the jacket that won. Chanel-style. Complete with chain sewn on the lining inside.

So. There ya go. Hope you're glad I'm back, readers. I do have projects to share, including draperies. Isn't that thrilling? And a different hair style. Aren't you all a quiver?

I completed a sewing challenge! Let me share my Mad Men dress. April 21, 2013 16:44 7 Comments


So. Here it is: My interpretation — or rather Vogue's – of a Joan Holloway dress, made for Julia Bobbin's Mad Men Dress Challenge. I chose not to make mine quite as figure-revealing. And I can hardly take credit for sewing it. My brilliant and patient sewing teacher Leslie did more on this dress than I did. In fact, if it had been left to me, it would have ended up in the trash long before it was finished. Thank you, Leslie. You are a big ole luscious Georgia peach.

The problem: the darts. The darts on the pattern are different than the darts on the envelope. The side dart on the pattern actually comes above the outside dart and stops just above the interior dart. Perhaps a bullet bra would make this design work?

Joan_holloway_red_dressWe redid dart placement four times. Sheesh! What a headache.

This is the Joan dress that inspired me. Once upon a time. Even though I look better in red, I wanted to use fabric in my stash. I chose a stretch cotton sateen from Gorgeous Fabrics.

And, yes, Joan looks much better in this style than I do. In fact, she'd look better wearing a brown paper sack.

Sew how? Marie's odyssey has been successful. Absolutely. April 1, 2013 17:16 4 Comments

Marie of A Stitching Odyssey is as delightful as the blog she writes, as cute as the clothes she makes.
 And she was kind enough to share her experience. Take the trip with me.

How long have you been sewing? 

I've been sewing for just over three years now, so not that long and in many ways I still consider myself a beginner . . . there's just so much to learn!

What inspired you to learn? 

A friend of mine was giving me a tour of her new house when I spotted a dressform draped with a lovely handmade dress. Up until then I had no idea this was her hobby, or that a hobby like sewing even existed. My interest was definitely piqued then!

Did your mother or grandmother sew?

My mother was very good at sewing when she was at school, but she didn't really carry on with it afterwards. The most interesting thing I found out just a few months ago was that my great-grandmother not only sewed, she also spun and wove her own silk fabric. She even nurtured the silkworms herself. I never knew this before, and I was very moved when I found out.

How did you learn? A class? Your mom? Home ec? 

I went along to a Sewing for Pleasure course with the friend I mentioned above. It was made up of 10 evening classes, and you literally took in anything you wanted to make and the teacher would help you. It was a really nice and informal environment to learn in actually.

What was the first garment that you made?  Sewhow-marie-1

It was a dress – Simplicity 2591 – which you can see here).

Did you wear it? 

I wore it a couple times, but as my skills improved I realised how many things were wrong with it — gaping neckline, uneven hem, generally a little bit wonky. It's now sitting in my scraps box, because I really like the fabric still.

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

Maybe about 6 months or so, but I still find myself having lightbulb moments now. I'm still discovering better ways of doing things that I thought I was doing correctly. For example, up until this very recent post by Tilly (, I was folding my fabric wrong sides together when cutting out patterns. Haha! It worked fine, but it's not the correct way, and it certainly makes transferring markings harder!

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

I think I must be a slow learner, because I'm only just starting to feel confident in my dressmaking skills now. The last couple of things I've made have been of a much higher standard, so I finally feel I'm getting there . . . only three years later!

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

Sadly, yes, but I've made a good start this year that I hope to keep up. I want to focus on quality rather than quantity in 2013, and I want to stay away from making things I know don't suit me . . . which is a trap I often fall into due to admiring makes on other bloggers with completely different bodies to me.

How many hours a week do you sew?

It varies a lot for me. I don't tend to sew much during the week due to work and other commitments, but I do make an effort to cut stuff out and generally prepare for projects. If I have a free weekend, I will spend most of it sewing, and if I don't, then I will try and sandwich a couple of hours in. So it will vary from 2-3 hours to over 10 hours on a good week.

What are your five favorite sewing books?

Hmmm, I’m definitely more of an online tutorial kind of gal  . . . but there are a few tried and tested titles on my bookshelf.

The Colette Sewing Handbook by Sarai Mitnick

Sew U: Home Stretch by Wendy Mullin

Metric Pattern Cutting for Women’s Wear by Winifred Aldrich

Readers Digest Complete Guide to Sewing (mine’s the 1978 edition)

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

I can't say I've ever stumbled across or used any sewing DVDs I'm afraid. I do keep meaning to watch the DVD that came with my overlocker though.

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

Am I!?! I absolutely love online tutorials, and I have the utmost respect for the talented people who go to the effort of producing such helpful materials. Anyway, I'm going to cheat as there are so many brilliant ones out there:

Zips can be really tricky, but these tutorials can invaluable to helping you master them – Invisible zips by Colette Patterns (

Handpicked zips by Sewaholic (

Exposed zips by BurdaStyle (

Skirts are a fun addition to any wardrobe, and I personally love – Vivat Veritas Scalloped Waist Skirt tutorial (

Elegant Musing's Circle Skirt sewalong ( / Tilly's Picnic Blanket Skirt sewalong (

General tutorials of infinite interest – anything by Elegant Musings (, anything by Colette Patterns (, anything by Sewaholic (

What garment would you suggest that a newbie make first?

When I first started I had naivity, and therefore lack of fear, on my side, and I got stuck in with a dress. It was brilliant making something so pretty, but I was being helped in a class. So if you're going at it solo, I would probably recommend a simple skirt or top, or even a cute little apron or some fun pyjama bottoms.


I guess this would depend on how you feel after your first make. You might want to move onto something more challenging, like a dress, or you might want to revisit something similar to your first make so you can perfect it.

Sewhow-hazedaleWhat is the favorite of all the garments you have made?

I think it might be my Hazedale) — a marriage of the Hazel and Lonsdale patterns — because it's so pretty! The muslin for my Hazel was just terrible, so I was relieved that I was able to turn it into a success by combining two patterns.

Sewhow-marie-armisticeWhat was the first item you sewed that made you beam with pride? 

It absolutely has to be my Armistice Blouse! Aside from it being a gorgeous pattern, this make has great sentimental value, too, as I made it from the silk grown, spun and woven by my great-grandmother. It’s a really special make for me.

Name your five top tips for beginners, please. 

1. Relax, enjoy the learning process and don't be too hard on yourself. You'll make plenty of mistakes, but learn from them and move on.

2. Don't rush your sewing, you'll only end up dissatisfied and probably never wearing your poor make. There's something to be said about breaking projects into nice bitesized parts.

3. Always prewash your fabric to prevent your make from shrinking after its first wash. It's a good idea to wash your fabric as soon as you buy it, so it's all ready to go when you need it.

4. Pick projects that excite you and don't waste time on something you're not happy with. And if you discover you really dislike a make halfway through sewing it, don't feel like you have to finish it . . . life's too short!

5. Take advantage of online tutorials and sewalongs, I really can't recommend this enough. Despite finding evening classes helpful to begin with, I can honestly say that I learned the best methods and techniques from other bloggers.

What's the last garment that you made and are you pleased with it?

I was actually a pattern tester for Tilly and the Buttons' first ever pattern — the Mathilde Blouse — which is pictured at the very start of this interview. I'm genuinely really happy with the result, even though I didn’t think white would be my colour.

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

Although I have many in my collection, I haven't sewn with the unprinted ones yet. I imagine they seem more daunting than they are though  they have plenty of perforations, so you just need to make sure you transfer them all to your fabric.

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

We can both dream I think!

Share with me your funniest sewing adventure, please.

Oh dear, I knew this was coming! I wanted to make some sassy pyjama bottoms as part of Karen's Pyjama Party Sewalong ( and I totally misjudged my fabric print. They turned out truly hideous . . . you literally can't tell me apart from The Big Lebowski's The Dude! If you fancy a good laugh at my expense, see them in the pic above. (Editor's note: I love 'em! She could go out and buy milk in them and give The Dude a run for his money, fashionwise.)

Sewhow-marie-lonsdaleAnd your most exasperating or difficult.

Definitely the sad story of my very beautiful Lonsdale. I totally managed to perfect the fit at the muslin stage, but I must have accidently cut the bodice a size smaller in my fashion fabric, because when I finished it, it was too small. I had followed Sewaholic's sewalong closely, and a lot of work went into making this dress as lovely on the inside as it was on the outside  . . . so needless to say, I cried when I made the shocking discovery. I've now learned to try on makes as I go along! And there was a silver lining to this story – the dress fit my mum perfectly, and she proudly wears it all the time!

Sewhow-marie-renfrewWhat's your favorite pattern ever to sew, if you remember? 

I don't have one really, ideally it would be a cute go-to dress pattern. However, I have made six Renfrews to date, which is my own personal record. It's such an easy and satisfying project to whip up when you want a quick sewing fix!

Do you sew vintage patterns? 

I do, but not nearly as many as I'd like to. This year, I would love to make a dent in my vintage sewing pattern collection.

Do you find instructions easier to follow on vintage patterns?

In my experience, this totally depends on the pattern company, the type of garment and the year the pattern was printed in. I find that many vintage pattern instructions tend to assume you have a quite a good understanding of sewing techniques and knowledge, so I often find myself Googling and YouTubing a lot of it. It’s easy to be hard on vintage pattern instructions, especially when you compare them to the often more comprehensive modern ones, but at the end of the day you buy and use them for the unique and very beautiful details that are rarely found in modern patterns.

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

Goodness . . . how long is a piece of string? Everyone’s definition of proficient is different – for some it may mean grasping the basics and for others it could well be conquering tailoring. I think a year is a good aim for mastering the basics, but the sewing learning journey never truly ends.

 Now. Rush over to her blog and read every word. That is, if you haven't already! 

Shame? What's that? It's my birthday. I have the cake to prove it. March 26, 2013 17:52 2 Comments

It is my birthday. It is. And I know I should be a quiet little mouse, and keep it a secret, but I love birthdays! And I love birthday blessings. So. I say, bring them on. Don't be shy. 

Vogue_1256I started the day making Vogue 1256, designed by Badgley Mischka. Perhaps I should clarify: I started it. Fabric: Scarlet bamboo knit. One day, I shall share pictures of my garments with you. Really. Truly. That day is coming! Soon.

Then, exercise. Marvelous dinner with both deconstructed lemon meringue pie and red velvet cake. Can it get any better? Yes. His Bertness gifted me with a lovely onyx necklace. That would be the one in the picture. 

Yes. I know the picture is less than flattering. Perhaps I should reconsider growing my hair into Jane Fonda's Klute shag? And hide my bra straps like a proper southern woman?

What a long (and short) strange trip December has been. December 29, 2012 06:17 5 Comments

First the good news: This December, I started out sewing. Made two skirts, a fabulous 1950s dress, McCall 9572,  and finished my red jacket. 

Now, the bad: His Bertness had minor inpatient surgery (planned), my dad was diagnosed with bladder cancer, and a week later, hubby had a heart attack. Totally unexpected, as he had many heart exams before the first unrelated surgery. Pass the Puffs, please.

But. The prognosis is good for both. Yippee skippee! Bert has quit smoking (all you who smoke out there, take this as a personal caveat) and he starts cardiac rehab Monday. My dad will have surgery in January, and his doctors expect to be able to remove all the cancer.

And in January, expect pictures of all my garments. And I expect comments. Lots of praise. Many pats on the head. You get the picture. I'm cutting out a 1950s McCall top today. 

So. December has seemed like a long month. And it's seemed like a short month, too. It's been terrifying (the health issues). And satisfying (the sewing projects). Wow. What a month. I'm still catching my breath.

We've added a plethora of vintage patterns. Wanna see? November 30, 2012 06:33

We know you're exhausted, buying all those snazzy presents for friends. So. We have added glamorous new patterns at The Blue Gardenia. Because. You deserve a treat just for you. A few favorites:

1935 McCall 8130 — She loves the neckline. So unusual. She loves the shirring. So flattering. In fact, she loves this frock. Period. End of story. She must have it. After all, it is truly multipurpose: She can wear the short sleeve version for church on Sunday. How fetching it will be with the big-brimmed, rose-trimmed Lilly Dache she bought last year and still hasn't worn, except to prance in front of the mirror. And the long-sleeve version will make a lovely New year's frock. Perhaps with a silk organdy collar in peach and the body in navy silk charmeuse. Goosebumps. She feels them at just the thought.

1945 Simplicity 1306 — Angeline has been looking for the perfect ensemble for Christmas shopping. She always shops late. She always shops small businesses, either in Tacoma or online. Online, of course, a snuggly chenille robe will do. But among the excited shoppers at the shops, she likes to look smart. But she must also be comfortable. And Simplicity 1306 is exactly what she's searching for — wide-shouldered weskit, pleated pants. It will look great over that 1980s Anne Klein cashmere sweater she snatched elatedly at the vintage store last week. She knows what she'll be doing this weekend, and it has to do with fabric, scissors and a sewing machine. Yes indeed.

1950s_vogue_84861955 Vogue 8486 — She needs a new suit for that all-important, long-awaited job interview in January. And she has found a pattern that says it all: Serious. Fashionable. Smart. Independent. And it is so memorable, with the boxy jacket and radiating tucks. Perhaps she'll make it in alpaca. Yes, alpaca. She'll find some. Somewhere.

1960s Vogue Couturier Design 1687 — Elouise has been fretting. Nervous. This is her first New Year's Eve with Joshua, the man of her dreams. And she does mean dreams. Not nightmares. He's kind. Well-mannered. Dignified. Respectful. And he is the sharpest Crayon in the box. And she's talking about the box of 400! She's found the perfect dress to wear to the bash at his parents' swankienda: VCD 1687, designed by John Cavanagh.

And, yep, these fabulous patterns — as well as many other new vintage additions —  are available at The Blue Gardenia, where the patterns are counted, the jewelry is sparkling and domestic shipping is free. (We happily ship abroad, for less than the cost USPS charges us.) And do recall: We put new patterns at the start of each category. Enjoy!

So many swell dresses. So many places to wear them. Yes indeed. November 4, 2012 23:34

Dearest Gardenias, it's that time again. Time to enjoy The Blue Gardenia's latest additions. This update, you'll find everything from a hip-stiffened skirt perfect for Dior's New Look to a gorgeous housecoat that will look perfect beside the tree on Christmas morn. Do let me share a few of my favorites among the many additions:

Have a holiday gala coming up? Then why not whip up Vogue 5704? It's strapless, it's chic, and there's a fabulous back-buttoned jacket you can don if the wind blows chill. You can even do a sexy lace version.

If you're looking for a drapey day dress that can go straight from the office to an elegant dinner, I suggest 1940s Vogue 8969. It has draping. It has shirring. Can you ask for anything more? Well, that winning lottery ticket. Of course.

If you are a fan of the New Look — and who isn't? —  look no further than Vogue 7509, copyright 1951. While this skirt doesn't have padding, it does use hair canvas to make the most of the silhouette. Love it. Hope you do, too.

And Butterick 5375, while labeled a housecoat — and what a beautiful housecoat it will make — can go well beyond such intimate duties. It will also make a smashing dress. It will indeed. And did I mention it is Quick and Easy? So says Butterick, and you know they would never pull your leg.

And, you guessed it, dahlings, each and every one of these delightful styles can be yours. Just drop by The Blue Gardenia, where the patterns are counted, the jewelry is sparkling, and domestic shipping is free. (And, yes, we happily ship abroad for a fee — just what the post office charges, in fact.) Come see all the additions. You'll find them at the beginning of each category. Don't tarry, though. You don't want them to get away.

Just sewing along: Ogle the details on a '50s Gertie-style coat! October 24, 2012 08:40

I know. The details don't show up well in this picture. Black! The bane of neophyte snappers. This is my ace sewing teach Leslie, wearing a coat that was a gift from her mom-in-law. (Now, that's a mother-in-law who deserves a very nice and pricey lunch, doncha think?) Very similar to Gertie's sew-along coat. (Although I do prefer Gertie's cuffless sleeves.)

This close-up shot may show some of the neat detailing along the hem. Piping! So classy, so elegant, so unusual. Really sets this design apart.

Leslie, by the way, will be teaching a holiday cocktail party dress class Gertie_dress_pat at Nob Hill Fabrics, so if you live in the ABQ-Santa Fe area, do sign up. Details here. You may choose Gertie's sexy design, Butterick 5814. Love this dress. I, of course, am using a real vintage pattern. Surprised? I know you are! I'll share that pattern with you later, natch. One day, though, I'll tackle this Gertie design. It is the cat's. Totally.


Just sewing along: My Gertie coat muslin bodice has a muffin top. October 21, 2012 12:23 9 Comments

I am — as often — lagging in my sew-along garment. This time, the Gertie Coat Sew-Along. I am not pleased with the fit. Not one bit.

I think the front darts need to be brought toward the center a bit. Agree?

The back  seems a bit puffy. What do you think? How do I fix this?

This is a lovely design, and I want it to fit well. Please share your experience and ideas! Please, please, please.

Learning to sew: Shocking. I'm actually pleased with my jacket . . . October 5, 2012 09:44 11 Comments

So far, at any rate. At the moment, I'm wrestling with bound buttonholes. I'm using the same technique my teacher taught for the welt pockets, but it seems much more difficult to do in such a small space. Practice, I hear, makes perfect. We'll see. Right now, I'd be reasonably happy with three bound buttonholes that looked close to perfect.

I'm reasonably happy with the fit. Am I being too easy on myself? What do you think?

That's silk organza you see on the collar. I underlined the jacket with it. I'll be using silk batiste for the lining. It's done — except for bagging it.

Leslie, my teacher, uses the flat insertion method for one-piece sleeves. It was easy. Quite. Any opinions on that technique? Pros? Cons?

As I look at the picture above, I'm not happy with the shoulder-pad placement. Leslie felt it was best to extend the edge beyond the sleeve to make a sleeve head. I thought it looked fine in class. Now, not so much . . . .

Anyway, I await your ideas, your critiques, your praise. Bring them on. 

Gertie coat sew-along: Here are my fabrics. What are yours? September 30, 2012 07:30 1 Comment

I've chosen my fabric for Gertie's Coat Sew-Along. Have you picked out yours? 

Coat-sew-alongI'm using an Ermenegildo Zegna wool flannel in brown, picked up at Michael's for a lowly $6 a yard, and a 3-mummy silk charmeuse purchased at a fabric store going out of business years ago. It's an icy blue, and I'll be using it to line this lovely design.

I'll be working on my muslin today. Very excited am I. Such a pretty coat. And it's labeled easy. Love that. I do.

Learning to sew: Moving right along with the red jacket. September 26, 2012 14:15 1 Comment

I am making progress on my red crepe jacket. Perhaps more slowly than my sewing teacher would like. But. Nonetheless, progress. Yesterday, I sewed the lining — a silk-cotton batiste — to the interfacing.

RedjacketbuttonsAt class tomorrow, I hope to finish the lining. Complete with sleeves. Can you say scary? I can and I have. We will be attaching the sleeves using the flat sleeve insertion method. Any thoughts to share? Please do. Generously. All tips much appreciated.

And I love my buttons. Covered, of course. (I have a weakness for them.) I used Pat's Custom Buttons and Belts, as I have so many times in the past. She never disappoints.


Learning to sew: I built this. With help, of course. September 21, 2012 00:35 3 Comments


I've been taking a sewing class for four weeks at a fabric store (independently owned, natch) a few blocks from our ever so humble abode. It's a small class (two students, so there's plenty of time for personal attention) at Nob Hill Fabrics, taught by Leslie, sewing teacher extraordinaire. I love the class. 

We are using Butterick 5687, but adding welt pockets and bound buttonholes. That's my very own welt pocket shown above! I am so excited. Leslie showed us how to do it, and then painstakingly held my hand while I did my own. (There was some ripping involved. Yes indeed.) I am so eager to finish the jacket. Perhaps in two weeks? Maybe even next week? Mmmmm...

I'm so pleased. What do you think? All lavish compliments accepted. And, sigh, criticism as well.

Sew how? Rachel reveals her secrets on recreating runway looks. September 18, 2012 07:11 3 Comments

Pic 7Rachel combines two of my favorite topics in her blog, Shoes and Sewing. For are there any other lighthearted topics closer to our girly-girl hearts than the clothes we make and the shoes we wear with them? I say no. Emphatically.

Rachel kicks her sewing up a notch. Or two. Or three. She is inspired by a look, then she recreates it. I am impressed. Much. Read on to see how she learned to accomplish this enviable feat.

How long have you been sewing?

I have been sewing since October 1999.  I actually learned in high school in Home Ec during the late '80s.  I remember sewing a couple of dresses and a pillow, but I did not do any more sewing after that.  I started back in October 1999 when I began taking a sewing class.

What inspired you to learn?

In 1999, my neighbor was taking a smocking class.  She showed me some of the beautiful children’s clothing that she had made, and I was fascinated.  I began taking the class and learned to smock and sew children’s clothing.  This class was much more than that, though, because my teacher was willing to teach me to sew whatever I wanted.  We met on Thursday nights for about one-and-a-half years, and I learned a lot of basic techniques, but also a lot of heirloom sewing techniques. 

Another inspiration was a dress that an aunt of mine hired someone to make for her.  I remember as a child being so fascinated by that dress and thinking that one day I would love to learn to sew something that pretty.

Did your mother or grandmother sew?

My mother sewed on an old-timey pedal sewing machine.  I am not sure about my grandmother.  I remember one time there was a dress in JCPenney that I wanted, but it was too expensive.  My mother sewed a knockoff of it for me, and it looked just like the catalog picture.  She was very talented.  My mother told me about an aunt of hers who sewed suits for her husband.  He was a preacher, and they were very poor.  They could not afford to buy the suits he needed to preach in, so she would go in a department store and look at the suits.  Then from memory, she would go home, draw out a pattern and make it.  My mother said it looked like it came from the department store.

Tell us a bit more about your learning experience.

I took a class for one-and-a-half years from 1999-2001.  Even though I had taken Home Ec, I could not even remember how to thread the sewing machine the first night I sat down in class.  Once the class ended, I kept up my sewing.  I have taught myself a lot by just reading patterns and following sewing blogs.  I started out with easy patterns and have just gradually over the years tried harder and harder patterns. 

What was the first garment that you made?

The first garment I made was a dress in high school Home Ec. I don’t have a picture of it

Did you wear it?

I did proudly wear it.

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

Well, it depends on what you mean by basics. I could not even sew a straight line when I started taking the sewing class in 1999.  I also did not have any respect for seam allowances.  I just took them as suggestions. When the sewing class ended, and I didn’t have a teacher to look over my shoulder, it forced me to develop confidence.  I just forged ahead and became more and more confident.  I am still learning. 

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

I would say I really began to feel confident when I successfully knocked off a garment I had seen in a store.  I don’t have a picture of it, but I will share a few pics of my knockoffs.  Sewing knockoffs is really what motivates and inspires me. I particularly love sewing knockoffs of Anthropologie clothing and other designer clothing.  The hunt for the fabric and pattern is so much fun.

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

Yes.  I recently made a pair of pants, and I won’t wear them.  I am horrible at making pants.  Part of the reason, I think, is that I really don’t like making them.  I just love making pretty dresses and skirts much more.

How many hours a week do you sew?

I probably sew about 4-6 hours on the weekends and maybe one hour during the week.  I work full time so I don’t have as much time as I would like.  But, then again, if I didn’t work full time, I couldn’t afford to sew. 

What are your five favorite sewing books?

Reader’s Digest New Complete Guide to Sewing

Pattern Magic Books

Decorative Dressmaking by Sue Thompson

The Zapp Method of Couture Sewing by Anna Zapp

The Art of Manipulating Fabric by Colette Wolff

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

I really don’t have any sewing DVDs.  However, I would love to get one of those DVDs that have the Threads magazines on them.

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

Invisible Zipper Tutorial at Adventures in Dressmaking

How to Make Perfect Scallops

Faux Welt Pockets

Anything by Gertie

Sewaholic (Her sew-alongs are great — I participated in the Lonsdale Dress Sew-Along (First pic, above.)

I love that fabric!! What garment would you suggest that a newbie make first?

I would make a simple wrap skirt.  They don’t have zippers.


I would tackle another skirt, but this time with a zipper.  You may as well go ahead and get over the zipper fear.

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

A Tiffany blue coat I made that is knockoff of a coat Anthropologie sold.  Mine was much cheaper that the Anthropologie version.  It required me to draft a flounce and rework a couple of the pattern pieces to insert the flounce.  Drafting is something I prefer not to do.  I would rather put different patterns together to get what I want.  The fact that I was successful at the drafting is part of the reason for it being my favorite.  Also, I think the inspiration for my knockoff is one of the most beautiful pieces of clothing I have ever seen.

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

The first item I ever drafted and sewed is what I am proudest of.  Drafting is not my favorite thing, but I decided I just had to have a replica of Anthropologie’s Fluttering Pencil Skirt.  I could not find a pattern like it, so a  wonderful blogger who is excellent at drafting wrote me up a tutorial when I requested help on a sewing message board.  Here are pics below and a link to the tutorial:

Name your five top tips for beginners, please. 

1.   Start with a simple pattern without a zipper.

2.   Don’t be upset with yourself about mistakes.  Right before I sat down to type this, I sewed something together backwards and had to rip out.  You will never quit making mistakes.

3.   Ask for help – the online sewing community is great.

4.   Always, always make a muslin.

5.   Purchase a good basic sewing book. 

Do you have any fitting advice to offer?

Always make a muslin.  I have been sewing long enough and am familiar enough with the Big 4 pattern companies that I have figured out that I really only need to muslin the bodice for myself.  However, when I working with an unfamiliar company, I muslin the whole thing.  It is worth the few extra dollars for some cheap fabric to check for fit, than to cut into your good fabric and your garment not fit.  Been there and done that.

Do you use a dressform?

I have one, but I only use it to model my sewn items for pictures.  I do better by just trying my garments on as I sew them.

What's the last garment that you made? Are you pleased with it?

The last garment I made is a skirt that I have yet to blog about so I don’t have a picture of it.  However, I am very pleased with it.  It is a knockoff of a skirt from Anthropologie. 

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

I am not sure what an unprinted vintage pattern is.  Is it any different than just a vintage pattern?

It has no printing, simply perforations instead of printed markings.

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

It is hard to say, because it all depends on how much you practice your sewing and how consistently you sew.  I would say after you know the basics very well and have a few successes under your belt, just go for it.  I have never been scared enough, so if there is a pattern I want to make, I just plunge right in. 

Share your funniest sewing adventure, please.

The first pair of pants I ever sewed, I sewed the legs together in the middle.  That was quite funny.

And your most exasperating or difficult.

Several years ago, before I started sewing muslins, I was sewing one of my first Anthropologie knockoffs.  I made the dress, tried it on, and it was too large in the chest.  I was so furious that I packed up my sewing machine and promised never to sew again.  In a couple of hours, I decided to make a muslin, tweaked the fit, and then I made the dress.  That was a hard lesson.

Pic 12What's your favorite pattern ever to sew, if you remember?

Vogue 1174. I found the perfect fabric for it and everything came together well.

When I look at the dress, I smile.

I noticed you added straps. Was that a difficult task?

I changed it to have straps because I feel like strapless dresses are about to fall down on me.  I just cut out two strips of fabric, sewed them together, turned them inside out and sewed them on.  It wasn't hard.

V1174-my favorite garment

Do you sew vintage patterns?

I have only made one vintage pattern, V2517, a vintage Diane von Furstenberg pattern.  It Pic 13 is a colorblock dress that I made two years ago before colorblocking was even popular like it is today.  I am currently working on my second vintage pattern.

Do you find instructions easier to follow on vintage patterns?

Not really.  I think they are harder to read. 

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

It depends on the person.  I read a lot of sewing blogs, and there are bloggers I follow who are newer seamstresses and are more proficient than I was at their same number of years sewing.  I think if you really want to do something, you can do it.  It just takes practice.

Completely awed? I am. And here's my favorite ensemble Rachel copied:


She looks even more amazing in her Chanel jacket than the bold-faced type. I know you agree. So scurry over and read her blog. That is, if you haven't already. And what are the chances of  that?

Sew how? She's a sewing fanatic, and I am one dedicated fan. August 13, 2012 00:45 4 Comments

Fanatic_jacketI am so excited about this Sew how? Why, you ask? Because Carolyn's Diary of a Sewing Fanatic is one of the first sewing blogs I discovered, and I am still a loyal reader. Very. I bet you are, too.

So. Pour yourself some lemonade and enjoy the story of how she learned to sew. You are in for a treat.

How long have you been sewing?

Since I was 11. 

What inspired you to learn?

I think my grandmother pushed me more than I was inspired.

Did your mother or grandmother sew?

My grandmother taught me by taking me to Woolworth's (does anyone remember Woolworth’s) to buy a pattern to make clothes for my Barbie dolls. She gave me one of her cast-off dresses for fabric, taught me a few hand stitches, and I was off.

How did you continue learning?

Started with my grandmother and then I took every class I could. When I was younger, there were so many more of them around, besides the ones in school, there was an afterschool club as well as the classes at the Singer stores.

What was the first garment that you made?

A maxi-jumper with suspenders . . . I can still see the green plaid that I used to make it.

Did you wear it?

Of course I did, proudly!

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

You know, I’ve been sewing almost nonstop for 42 years. I just don’t remember that anymore . . . but I do remember being fearless and sewing anything.

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

Right away. I knew I was supposed to sew, that it was my talent almost from the beginning. It’s probably why I never stopped sewing completely.  I had a sewing machine in college in my dorm room and in every home I’ve lived in since.

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

I don’t think there is a sewist around who hasn’t made a wadder or two. So of course, I’ve made pieces that I won’t wear.

How many hours a week do you sew?

12-16 hours . . . basically most of my weekend 

What are your five favorite sewing books?

1.  The Vogue/Butterick Step by Step Guide to Sewing Techniques

2.  Any book by Adele Margolis

3.  The Singer Sewing Library (every single book!)

4.  The Taunton Sewing Library (some issues can now be bought on ebook)

5.  Any book by Sandra Betzina

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

I have a few by Nancy Zieman and Sandra Betzina that I would grab in case of fire.

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

Can I suggest blogs instead? Gigi Sews; The Sewing Divas; Ann of Gorgeous Things, who now has the video Sewing University and finally YouTube. If you don’t know how to do something, search YouTube. It’s amazing how many videos are there!

What garment would you suggest that a newbie make first?

I highly recommend and use to teach a skirt first. My thought was how could you possibly convince someone that they could make garments by teaching them to make a pillow or a tote bag. And a skirt gives you lessons in applying a zipper, some fitting, interfacing for a waistband, etc. The goal should be to teach techniques that can be carried into the next garment. I truly believe that’s how you hook a newbie.


Nowadays,  a quick knit t-shirt. There are so many great patterns out there now!

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

My pink Chanel knock-off dress — because I realized that I could cut up a pattern and get a wonderful wearable designer-inspired garment.

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

I made a two-tone (black with black/white houndstooth) shirtdress that fit so well, and everyone asked if I’d bought it. I wore the heck out of that dress and sadly have no pictures of it. 

Name your five top tips for beginners, please.

1. Watch the grain when cutting out.

2.  Just do it.

3.  Be fearless.

4.  Learn what silhouettes work for your body type.

5.  Press your seams flat and then open. Pressing is the difference between a good-looking garment or a happy hands made at home one.

What's the last garment that you made and are you pleased with it?

My trendy lace dress, because not only did I make another version of my TNT dress, but I also dyed my own fabric.

Have you sewn with unprinted vintage patterns?

No, I haven’t.

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

Honestly, even with the years of sewing experience that I have behind me, I still take a deep breath before using a difficult pattern. And there are some techniques that I avoid like the plague because I haven’t been successful with them. 

Share with me your funniest sewing adventure, please.

I can’t even remember one now . . . see what happens when you’ve been sewing so long? 

And your most exasperating or difficult.

I don’t sew chiffon anymore, because the slippery slitheriness of it drives me to distraction.

What's your favorite pattern ever to sew?

My TNT dress pattern. It can be whatever I want and it always fits! 

Do you sew vintage patterns?

I’ve sewn a couple. 

Do you find instructions easier to follow on vintage patterns?

I find the instructions to be more complete and hold so much more information in 2 pages than the 4 to 6 pages included in current patterns.

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

I think it totally depends on the person and that there is no set formula to it. I do believe that if you keep sewing, there will come a moment when you’re sewing along and you just know what to do. You’ll realize that you’ve arrived at a point you were attempting to reach, and the feeling of euphoria that accompanies that moment propels you forward, giving you courage to attempt things you hadn’t thought of trying before.

If you're a newbie, are you totally inspired to stick with sewing now? I am. And a round of grateful applause for Carolyn. Thank you for sharing!



You won't say ho-hum about these patterns. You won't. July 30, 2012 00:18 2 Comments

It's hot outside. Sweltering. This is no time to be outdoors! So. Stay inside and enjoy your comfy refrigerated air while shopping The Blue Gardenia's latest update. A few of my favorites just added:

Want a multi-style pattern that packs a wallop? You do, don't you? Advance 6380 fits that bill. Absolutely. The short-sleeved view is cool for now. I see it in broadcloth. And View 1, with the sensational, wide pointed collar and pleated, ruffled sleeves, will stop all the cars on the avenue. So beautiful and so different. I love it.

I'm also smitten with Vogue 6970. (You've noticed I have a fondness for blouses, I'm sure.) Gently draped kimono sleeves, luscious collar — and it's "Easy-to-Make." How peachy is that?

August is just around the corner, so it's time to think of that fall and winter suit and coat. Two suggestions: Vogue Paris Original 1617 by Balmain. Beautiful seam details.

Vogue Paris Original 1740
is classic, gorgeous, so Audrey Hepburn. The blouse is really special. You'll want to check out the detail images of these two. The drawings show so much more. Yes indeed.

And, yep, these smashing vintage patterns can be yours. Just drop by The Blue Gardenia, where the patterns are counted, the jewelry is sparkling, and domestic shipping is free. (And, yes, we ship abroad with pleasure for a shipping fee — less than what the post office charges us, in fact.) So drop by. Do. You'll be delighted you did. Truly.


She adores these jammies. They are so very Laura Petrie. July 26, 2012 04:19 2 Comments

And there she was, in a total fashion pickle. Not that she follows the trends, but she does like to be true to herself. To her own sense of style. 

Last night, she got a sleep test. She didn't read the instructions until a few hours before she was due at the clinic. (She excels at procrastination.) And there was that awful demand: Wear two-piece pajamas. Oh, joy. Joy. Her entire sleep wardrobe consisted of Hanro camisoles and bikinis. Now, she loves her Hanro. Expensive indeed. But it lasts for years. Decades, in fact. But it wouldn't do for a sleep study. She wouldn't want to make the sleep techs blush. 

So. She stopped by the local department store. Can you say disappointment? She can. She did. She bought a pair of jammies. But to say they were not special is an understatement of extreme magnitude: Drawstring waist. Puffy behind. Plain old button-front top. Dismal. Dull. However, she had no choice. She had the sleep test.

Smy_butler_sateenBut. Next time, she'll be prepared. She's making Advance 3033 this weekend. Cute. So Laura Petrie. And suitable for public consumption. She'll use that Amy Butler sateen that she purchased at Hancock's of Paducah. These PJs are going to be fetching. So very.

The details (because you're panting to know, right?): 

Advance 3033 Pajamas Bust 36 Still in factory folds Circa 1960s $33

Want to add these jammies to your lingerie drawer?  Rush to The Blue Gardenia then. You'll find the pattern  in our lingerie section. The Blue Gardenia, where the patterns are counted, the jewelry is sparkling, and domestic shipping is free. And we merrily ship abroad for less than the USPS postal fees. 


Too late for spring cleaning? No way. And this is what to wear. July 16, 2012 08:44 2 Comments

Simplicity_apron_1950sYou're a little late for spring cleaning. You are. Is that a big deal? To your momma, maybe. To Mrs. Kravitz? Certainly. To you? No. You've been busy. Sewing. Working. Having fun. Twiddling your thumbs. But, now, you cannot put it off any longer.

However, you need an apron. Something to protect you from the scum and dust build-up. You'll make an apron. Something pretty. Something protective. Something practical. How about Simplicity 3383? It's cute. Adorable in fact. And. It has a tulip. Your favorite flower. Then, you'll be armed and ready. To clean. And you'll feel fresh and pretty doing it. You will.

The details: Simplicity 3383 Aprons Bust 42 Complete w/transfer Copyright 1950 $33

And, yep, this oh-so-feminine vintage pattern can be yours. Yes indeedy. Just drop by The Blue Gardenia, where the patterns are counted, the jewelry is sparkling, and domestic shipping is free. (And, yes, we ship abroad with pleasure for a shipping fee — less than what the post office charges us, in fact.) So drop by. Do. You'll be delighted you did. I know it.

Learning to sew: Seeking advice on working with knits July 15, 2012 10:06 6 Comments

Simplicity1849I recently signed  up for a class on sewing with knits. (More on that class in a later post.) Alas, despite the small class size (two) and the easy patterns, neither of us finished our garment. In fact, neither of us even came close to completion. So. I have an unfinished knit top made from Simplicity 1849 (the teacher put her foot down and said the "Easy-to-Make" 1950s Vogue top pattern I wanted to use was too difficult. (Probably sound advice.)

Here's what I've done. (Well, I did sew in the back facing, but it seems all right.)

I don't like the way the faux wrap looks. It seems too long.

And what about the fact that the wrap-and-twist piece appears to be on the inside? Will that correct itself when the back and front are sewn together? How can this work when the front facing is on the other side of this piece and the bodice neckline finished? Is this a counter-intuitive thing — to me, anyway? Ignore that. Now that I've typed it, it makes sense. I think.Simp1849top
This is exactly the way the top left the class. I haven't sewn a stitch on it since bringing it home.

The teacher told me to ignore the instructions because they were written for a serger, and I am using my Bernina Record. I want to finish this. I love the color, and I don't want this to be a wadder. I am so confused! I am.

By the way, I did learn more from Ann's knit video than I did from the entire pricey, three-hour class. Arrrggggghh.

Any advice or opinions would be most appreciated. And how.