The Blue Gardenia

I completed a sewing challenge! Let me share my Mad Men dress. April 21, 2013 17:44 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? Rachel reveals her secrets on recreating runway looks. September 18, 2012 08:11 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?

Runway redo: Personalize peasant style at a fraction of the cost. May 26, 2011 02:15 4 Comments

I'm inspired. I am. To sew? Mmmm . . . perhaps not. But to think about sewing, to dream about sewing, yes. Definitely.

Peasant_simplicity Did you read Gertie's post about the peasant look? I did. It's a look I'm conflicted about. Truly. I love the look on those 30 and under. But if one is older, I think caution is in order. I do. Not that it cannot be worn. It can. Indeed. It is, after all, a timeless look. Comfortable to wear. And as easy to throw on as an old worn-out Tee. 

So, dearest readers, I went to The Blue Gardenia pattern inventory. Rooted around a bit. (I love looking at patterns! I do. I do. I do.) And I pulled out a few peasant looks. (OK. A lot. And there are even more on The Blue Gardenia website.) Even a couple of styles that look like garb for Park Avenue peasants.

Simplicity 1621 duplicates the shorts on the D&G runway. (Or should I Fave_peasant_look say D&G duplicated the Simplicity, since it is from 1945? D&G also showed a peasant bare-midriff blouse as well, and it' s the spitting image of Simplicity 1621. I love the fabrics D&G chose. The giant checks. The bright floral prints. The skirt fabric, which looks as if it's burlap. Yummy. So very. This line offers the best peasant retread so far this year. In, of course, my ever-so-humble opinion. (Are those espadrille boots, by the way? Keen. Absolutely.)

This version, Vogue 8356, copyright 1954, is ready for the runway. So very. So beautiful. So unique.

Another high-style interpretation: Vogue 8470. Also from 1954. Apparently a very rich year to steal style from peasants.

This is my favorite peasant blouse. View B. And worn off the shoulder. Of course. Vogue 5760, copyright 1949. 

Another beautiful 1940s design is McCall 1137, Mexican style. You can embroider. You can. That's one of those so-called feminine arts I can do. So. If I can, you can. Trust me.

And I like McCall 1386 even more. Isn't the smocking special? I think so.

How about a peasant playsuit, Butterick 2926? Circa 1940s. This screams summer picnic. Imagine the fried chicken. The potato salad. The strawberries. The brownies. And you'll look as tasty as the food in this little morsel.

Proving the popularity of the peasant style in the 1940s: Simplicity 2034. It's vintage 1947. My favorite today is View 3. But I once had View 2 in an island-style print. Oh, the ruffles.

Just learning to sew? Then Simplicity 8015, copyright 1968, is for you. I had this pattern  made in the 1980s. Complete with rickrack. I'm sure I was an absolute overload of cutitude.

This YSL peasant blouse is gorgeous. And, I think, age-appropriate for the mature woman. You can find it here for $350. I love this one. So much. Great color. Fabulous shape.Simplicity-5749

If you like the YSL Rive Gauche version but balk at the irony of spending $350 for a peasant blouse, then may I suggest Simplicity 5749, copyright 1973? It's a near mirror image, right down to the puff and length of the sleeves and the rich boho look. And you get a nifty skirt pattern as well. How's that for recessionista chic?

Fendi's version, 2011. It's so summery. I love it. I do. You can easily VogueAD-2983 channel this look with Vogue American Designer 2983. It's from Jerry Silverman. And it's very easy. And very Vogue. Of course.

So. There ya go. Peasant style through the ages. Exciting, no?

And you'll find all these patterns — and even more peasant styles — at The Blue Gardenia, where the patterns are counted, the jewelry is sparkling, and domestic shipping is free. (And we happily ship abroad as well, for less than the USPS charges us. Is that neat or what?)

If you want to know more about this year's peasant trend, may I suggest checking out The Sche Report? You'll find an informative post. Very. Pics included.