The Blue Gardenia

I am thankful for y'all & I'm showing it with a sparkling giveaway! November 26, 2010 07:44 181 Comments

Butterick-5679So. You doubtless recall that I promised a fantabulous giveaway when I reached 30 followers. Well. Guess what, cupcakes? That moment has arrived. Yes indeed. It has. Yippee skippee. (Well. Actually, it arrived a few days ago. But. I am a procrastinator. You know that. You do.)

So. Rolling of drums. Blowing of horns. Crashing of cymbals. Here's what one lucky winner will get:

1950s pattern Butterick 5679 from The Blue Gardenia (of course!) in either Bust 32 or 34. Winner's choice. Yes. I agree. I am so nice.

Four yards of choose-your-favorite-over-the-top superlative 55" wide Italian wool from Michael's Fabrics
 in Blue Teal.

Jessica-biel-revlon-fire-ice-collectionRevlon's Fire and Ice lipstick and nail polish. Introduced in 1952, this is truly vintage. And truly film-noir-vixen sexy. (That's Jessica Biel rocking the look today. The inset pic shows Dorian Leigh making it her own — and how — in 1952.)

Am I one fabulous babe or what? I am. I know you agree.

So. The rules: Leave a comment about why you like vintage patterns and whether you have ever sewn one before by Friday, December 3, 11:59 p.m. PST. And. If you are already a follower on Typepad and enter, or if you become a follower and enter, you get one extra entry. (Yes. I know it's a headache to become a follower on Typepad. I do. But perhaps an extra chance at winning this incredible prize will ease the pain.) See, girls and boys, I show my appreciation for those who show me the looooove. I do.

So. There ya go. And I thank all of you who follow. And I thank Sherri and Michael at Michael's for providing the luscious fabric. Absolutely. And if you haven't checked out Michael's, do. You won't regret it. You won't. I've shopped there several times over the years, and I've not been disappointed. Fast shipping, luxe fabric.

(A little hint: When I reach 75 followers, I'm going to do another sensational giveaway.)


How to deal productively with your anger? Why, sew. Of course. November 17, 2010 09:15 13 Comments

OK. You'll admit it. You are annoyed about the decision on DWTS last night. Heck. You are pissed! Totally. First, Rick Fox, so sexy you could eat him with a spoon, was bounced, even though he was a far superior VCD_1125
dancer than Kurt Warner. Then elegant, graceful, no-dance-experience-to-her-resume Audrina Patridge was shown the door. And now, sexy, lithe Brandy booted, gracelessly, while reality TV starlet and presidential campaign veteran Bristol Palin, whom you'll admit has learned to be drug across the floor in the most simple choreography ever to be shown at this late date on the show, stays. Stays! In the finals. The finals! Isn't this show about dance? Maksim Chmerkovskiy's choreography for Brandy was difficult — and how — while Mark Ballas's choreography for Bristol was beginning-dance-class simple. And you're a trained dancer, so you know. You do. Grrrrrr. You wonder: Are so many white folks in America threatened by gorgeous black people like Fox and Brandy? Sure, Kyle Massey is still on the show. Sure. He is. And he deserves to be in the finals. He does. You won't argue that. But. He's childlike, delightful, totally non-threatening. He's the sweet and innocent saucer-eyed porter who ducks behind the bar in the 1930s screwball comedies when the silly white folk start throwing dangerous objects here and there.

Yes. You are angry. You are. 

So. What to do with your anger? What? How to deal with it productively? How? Sew. That is the answer. Sew. A lot. Cape. Slacks. Skirt. Top. Hood. All designed by Sybil Connolly. All gorgeous. All sophisticated. All extremely wearable. All from the late '60s. All included in Vogue Couturier Design 1125. And. Yes. It is available at The Blue Gardenia. Yes indeedy. So. Buy the pattern. And tell me what you think. Heck. Tell me what you think. Even if you don't buy the pattern.

Sewing spaces: The Selfish Seamstress unselfishly shares with us. September 2, 2010 19:08

Once again, I am shamelessly releasing my inner voyeur to peek inside someone else's sewing area. Come with me. Do. Because today, I offer yet another real treat: Elaine, the Selfish Seamstress. (And, darn it, once again, I see no dust bunnies! Can it be no other sewing blogger allows them residence?)

Do you have a dedicated sewing space?

Sewing_rooms_elaine I don't, and I've never had one, unless the fact that the living room floor is constantly covered with sewing stuff means it qualifies as "dedicated!" But my partner and I are in the process of moving right now and are definitely looking into getting a place big enough to accommodate a proper sewing space. For now, I make use of the aforementioned living room floor and one end of the dining table.

What do you like best about your sewing area?

All I can say is that I like the sewing that goes on in it, and I like the garments that come out of it. Other than that, there's really nothing all that exciting about that particular end of the dining table.

What would you change about your space?

I actually don't mind sewing in our living space, but the biggest problem with not having a dedicated sewing nook is not being able to keep everything in one space. Ideally, I would love to have all the shelves and bins and racks in one place, and keep the sewing clutter out of the rest of the apartment.

How is your space organized?

Poorly even on the best of days :) The machine sits on the edge of the dining room table and gets tucked away when we need to use the table for nonsewing purposes. I haul the mini-ironing board and iron out of the laundry closet as necessary and set them up on the living room floor. Fabric has a shelf (err, more recently it's taking up the better part of a second shelf as well) on the same set of shelves as I keep my clothes in the bedroom. Sewing books and magazines share the bookshelves with our other books, and envelope patterns are in a big covered bin under the bed. I have a lovely sewing box for my notions, tools and thread, but lately, my collection has begun to outgrow the little box.

If you have a fabric stash, how do you impose order?

Order is imposed in a cyclic fashion. Every once in a while I take everything down, refold it nicely (fortunately my stash is not that big), and group the fabrics on my shelf by function - coatings together, suitings together, shirtings, linings, dressy stuff, etc. Over time, it becomes disorganized because when I put things back, I just tuck them where there seems to be space. But it never gets too bad, because there isn't that much, and I reorganize fairly frequently.

How are your patterns organized?

The envelope patterns are in a covered tub under the bed. I have a ton of vintage patterns from the 1950s (mostly evening gowns) and they're mostly together. Then my contemporary patterns (believe it or not, I don't have that many) are mostly together. Fortunately, most of my pattern collection is in the form of magazines like Burda or Patrones, and it's easy enough to keep them organized on the bookshelf.

Are your patterns archived? How are they stored?

When I trace out patterns from magazines or download a printable pattern, I write the pattern number on each piece and then store the entire pattern in an envelope. I'll label the outside of the envelope with the pattern number, source and size, and often draw a little picture of the finished garment on the outside, since "Burda 2-2007-105 Dress" isn't all that descriptive. These traced patterns also go in the tub under my bed. I also have a big flat portfolio for my sloper and some other things that I have drafted onto craft paper (they're too big to squish into envelopes).

Do you have a mannequin made to measure?

No, alas. Maybe someday I'll spring for a custom form. I used to borrow a styrofoam one from my sewing teacher but had to return it when I moved, and I haven't yet found another one small enough to be useful. (I don't like the way duct-tape ones smell and get your pins gummy, and I don't like that I can't pin into paper-tape ones.)

What do you cut out your patterns on?

I use paper scissors to cut envelope patterns. Working with the big sheets of tissue, I feel most comfortable just sitting on the floor so the paper isn't hanging down. For fabric cutting, I have a big Olfa cutting surface and rotary cutter which I use on top of the dining table, or else I use scissors on the floor.

What is your most helpful tool? Why?

I rely heavily on the usual- seam ripper, good quality Gingher shears, my seam guide. But that's probably old news to most sewers. The thing that I can't sew without that most people probably don't know about is Butterbrotpapier (literally translated from German as butter bread paper.) This is a kind of paper meant for wrapping food that can be purchased at German grocery stores in rolls like aluminum foil. It's heavier and stiffer than tracing paper, and much more transparent than parchment paper for baking or copy paper. It doesn't have a wax coating, so it's easy to write on. I use it to trace patterns, and it holds up really well. It costs about 99 cents a roll, and anytime I go to Germany, I stock up. I also have friends bring it back for me when they travel.

What tools do you recommend for the beginning sewer?

Ha ha — if you can't already tell, I'm really a minimalist when it comes to tools and equipment. I get by on a lot of makeshift tools. I'd say the most important investment is a good pair of fabric shears. I do just fine with a cheap iron, and up until recently, I made most of my projects (even wool coats!) on a sewing machine purchased for 50 Euros in a grocery store with fine results. A beginner can go far with a simple, reliable machine. But great shears are a must!

Do you keep a sewing library? If so, what book would you recommend to beginners?

Most of my library is vintage sewing books that I keep because they're charming rather than informative. I mean to pick up a few good resources for tailoring and fitting but haven't yet. I rely on the internet a lot for techniques. The book I rely on most for technique is one put out by Burda called Nähen leicht gemacht (Sewing Made Easy). I find that it has a lot of information that other sewing books don't have for conveying important practical knowledge, like how to edit a pattern if you're one size on top and another size on the bottom. I don't know if there's an English version of it though. Sorry, German is my "first language" for sewing!

What kind of machine do you use?

I have a Husqvarna Platinum 770 that I got used off of eBay. It is my first "nice" machine, and I adore it!

What do you like about it?

I'm actually not a connoisseur when it comes to sewing machines, and it's the only machine I currently use. I love that the sewing action is quiet and smooth. The stitching is lovely and even, and the machine also has a great coverstitch that I use frequently. All of the feet for it are also really nicely designed and engineered, particularly the invisible zipper foot. It also has neat convenience features that feel lazy and luxurious ­— like bobbin winding from the needle and automatic threading.

Do you use a serger? If so, why do you like it?

I don't, but it's on my list! Someday. . . .

How long did it take you to develop your sewing space?

I think it's a bit of a stretch to say that I "developed" my sewing space. It just sort of crept into whatever nooks and crannies it could find in our little apartment over time, until it took over the whole place like kudzu! But I'll happily report back in a few months in our next home, where I hope to have something more inspiring to show you :)

Next week, Sunni, the Cupcake Goddess and Elle of It's a Sewing Life open their doors to us. So. Come along, dear readers. Do. They will not disappoint. And as an additional lure, next week, there's a giveaway. Is that exciting? I think so. I do.


Damp tissue dramas: I'll stop sobbing to share a kittycat moment. August 1, 2010 07:25 2 Comments


Thursday, I had a total meltdown. I was a puddle of goo on the kitchen floor. Yes. I was. What caused this damp tissue drama? Well, as I was biting into a ripe and oh-so-juicy peach, I bit my lip — hard — and an incisor shifted. I ran to the mirror, carefully felt my tooth, and it moved. And it was totally out of alignment. A trip to the dentist revealed an unpleasant truth: the tooth, which has been brittle for years, had fractured. Horizontally, right under the gum. Oh, joy. The dentist also revealed another unpleasant truth: The two fixes — one temporary and one permanent — are expensive.  Pass those Puffs, please. Thank goodness I have a few boxes left from a recent trip to Costco!

But. Enough whining. Let me share a photo of Sulis, the Tim Gunn of felines. Yes, Gunn, as in male, which Sulis happens to be. Yes, I know that the original Sulis was a goddess worshipped at the thermal spring of Bath (info courtesy of Wikipedia). She was nourishing. She was life-giving. Now. I can't say whether Sulis, one of sewing goddess Marticia's kitties, has ever given life, but he does freely give fashion advice. Thank you, Sulis. And I hope he likes my new Mad Men pencil skirt, which I plan to finish this week. Really. I do. (All those darts. Well, I am armed with my tracing paper and tracing wheel, and I will show them who's the boss. I will. Yes indeedy.)

Learning to sew: Dry your eyes and get your fabric on grain July 9, 2010 09:12

So. I have been procrastinating about cutting out my Mad Men skirt. I admit, dear readers, that I feel a little silly calling it a Man Men skirt. Why, you ask, awaiting my answer with boundless anticipation? Well. Because. Because I have  been wearing pencil skirts for years, long before there was a Joan Holloway Harris. They are flattering. They are comfortable. They so often fit the occasion. (Though they do not work on the dance floor. Too limiting. Too tight.) However. I am addicted to Mad Men, and I am ever so glad that they have brought the pencil skirt to a new audience of devotees. Truly.

But enough babbling.

Lovely Marticia, that fountain of sewing knowledge she, sent me a scan from the Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing to help me overcome my fear of cutting my gorgeous black linen-cotton off grain.

I also found some helpful tips in The Art of Dressmaking, published in 1927 by Butterick. Yes, of pattern fame. You know them. You do.

So. I am armed, if not dangerous. And I have cleared the day to tackle the evil forces of fraying selvages. Wish me luck. Do. And I hope that these pages will benefit any other scaredy-cat fledglings out there. Absolutely.

Channeling Catherine: Will the phone never stop ringing? July 1, 2010 18:33



Enemy telephone: Relentless.

Advance 6551, circa 1950s, View 1: Handy.

Simply beautiful eyelet, white, of course, Gorgeous Fabrics : Necessary.

Paranoia: Undesirable.


How casual is too casual? June 29, 2010 11:07 6 Comments

SundressImagine this dress with spaghetti straps. Push your imagination a little farther. Imagine the spaghetti straps tied in little bows right at the top of the shoulders. Imagine the length a little longer, the hem falling right underneath the knees. Relax. Go deeper into the fantasy. Imagine this dress on a woman in her late 50s. Imagine her wearing this get-up at church. She is attractive. Yes. She is. She sashays when she walks. Her hips swing back and forth. Absolutely.

But. You knew one was coming. Didn't you?

Am I being harsh when I say that this dress is totally inappropriate for church? Am I? Now, it would look adorable on a child. And I could even see it on a 5-year-old at Sunday school. I wouldn't think twice. I would not frown. But on a woman? No. Absolutely not. It's too casual for a grown-up girl to wear to a house of worship. Way, too. Way.

Now. At this same church service - last Sunday, to be precise - someone else was wearing jeans. Ratty jeans. Not pressed and spiffy trouser jeans. No. These were ranch jeans. Suitable for riding horses or roping cows or whatever it is they do on ranches. And these were not just any folks, these two. No. These were ushers. Ushers! Walking down the aisles and collecting money for the deity.

I'm not taking on the ranch hand garb. I'm not. Maybe the cowhand found out at the last minute he didn't have to muck out the stalls and was therefore free to saddle up the pick-up truck and head into town for church. But I will take on the woman. She's at church every Sunday. I know her. She always has her makeup on just so. She always wears heels that reach to heaven. And she often wears clothes more suitable for a picnic or a hootenanny than church. And they are often more suitable for  a teenager.

Mccall's_7675_church_frockI would dress her in McCall's 7675, copyright 1965. She has a lovely figure, this woman, and this would show it off.  Yet, it is respectful of a place of spiritual worship. Churchwoman likes red, so I see this in red linen. View A. That gives her a bow, but a sophisticated, age-appropriate one. Truly. This dress is chic. This dress is feminine. This dress is sexy. And this dress is elegant enough for church.

And, yes, dear readers, I know the Bible says "judge not, lest ye be judged." I know it. And I admit to feeling a tad guilty for criticizing my fellow churchgoers. But. On the other hand,  to quote a pal of mine who has a different perspective: "You'd better, by God, judge other people. They're examples for you. Watching them shows you how to act. Or how not to act."

So. I am curious what you think about casual wear. Do you think our definition of casual has gotten too lax, too broad? Are we simply too lazy these days? Are we unwilling to take the extra time to look presentable? Are we all just one two-sizes-too-small tee-shirt away from becoming people of Walmart?

(Yes. I am wearing yoga pants, a 3 Dots tee, and Merrell shoes as I write this. But, if I do insist myself, they are all attractive, and proper for my home office. And even Costco! Really.)

Channeling Catherine: Liberate your sanguine inner vixen. June 28, 2010 11:28 2 Comments


Plunging neckline: De rigueur.

Lippmann Collection My Old Flame nail polish: Perfect.

Cigarette: Optional.

Vogue Special Design S-4846, copyright 1957: Beneficial.

Aging gracefully: Desirable.



Learning to sew: I've switched patterns. I'm fickle. What about it? June 26, 2010 20:19 5 Comments

Excuse my tone. Please. I'm a little upset. No. No. Scratch that. I'm a lot upset. I am. You can probably hear me screaming.  Listen closely, listen, you'll hear my anguished cries amid the coyote yips. You will. Why, you ask? Why would a fabulous, together, with-it woman like myself have a minute's frustration? A moment's even?

Well. Because. Because Safari let me down. Hard. Right after I'd written the most wonderful post. Clever. Funny. Add your own favorite superlative here. Safari crashed. Cratered. Croaked. (Am I annoying you with alliteration? Forgive me. Please. I beg you. I deserve a little leeway after such a trauma. I do.)

So. Anyway. (Thank God for Madeleine Peyroux. Thank you, Marticia, for introducing us.) Today, I:

Switched patterns. It's a woman's prerogative. Isn't it? Isn't it? It's also a man's, but that is neither here. Nor there.

Mccall_5082_mad_men_skirtTurns out McCall's 5082 was factory fold. Factory fold! Normally, normally, this would make me all aglow. Positively radiant. But. I could not bear to unfold it. I couldn't. So. Back to the pattern cabinet went I. And I pulled out Simplicity 1345. (Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long. Oh, Leonard, the lyrics you write.) Same look. But a difference in construction. Not, I think, a big one. But. I could be wrong. It would be the first time, of course. Absolutely. But these things happen. They do. Or so I have been told. The Simplicity does not have side seams. None. Nary a one. Not on the left. Not on the right. There are darts in place of side seams. So. Dear, dear readers, I ask you: Will this be harder? Simplicity claims, right there on the front of the envelope "SIMPLE TO MAKE". And would such a venerable company fib? Tell me they wouldn't. Tell me. Please. Because I really like this pattern. I do.

Prepared the pattern and the fabric. Yep. I did. I ironed the pattern. I pressed the fabric. Then I hung both up. I did. Absolutely. I think my anal tendency toward perfectionism will be a benefit in the sewing room. Don't you? Speaking of perfectionism, I was quite unhappy to discover that the original dressmaker had pinked this pattern. Pinked it! Bad dressmaker. Bad. Bad! I tell you, I think I should hunt her down and rap her knuckles with a metal-edged ruler. I do. Yes indeedy. I have a mean streak when it comes to the care of patterns, dogs and cats. You should treat them with kindness and respect. They should be coddled. They should. Absolutely.

(Oh, my God. I love Shostakovich's Jazz Suite No. 1: Waltz. So much. Yes. I am moving around here, musicwise.)

Pondered sewing questions. When I washed the fabric, the selvage frayed. Frayed. Obviously, it is no respecter of this fledgling seamstress. It isn't. So. How will I ensure that the skirt pieces are cut on the straight of grain? How, lovely and wise sewistas, how?

Also, is it OK, I wonder, to cut a virgin pattern and the fabric in one fell swoop? Or is this time-saving technique frowned upon?

And now, dear fans, you are out there, aren't you? Prove it to me. After all, it's enough that Safari has let me down. It is. Truly. I'm feeling needy. Ever so. Answer my questions. Please. Reassure me. I beg you. After all, only you have that magic technique. (Yup, I'm listening to a CD I made, and now, Rosemary Clooney and Perez Prado are performing Sway. Love it.)