The Blue Gardenia

Sewing Spaces: Ah, what a dream, to work in Colette's studio! September 27, 2010 12:01 3 Comments

Sarai-studioShe has amazing windows in her studio. She has beautiful touches, like hatboxes and jars filled with lace. She has a purple velvet couch. Purple velvet. Yeeooow. Who is she, this blessed woman? She is Sarai, owner and designer of Colette patterns. So pour yourselves a cup of tea and take a seat on the luxurious purple velvet sofa. Relax. All is well. For this moment. Really.

Do you have a dedicated sewing space?

I have a dedicated studio for my work, which is about a mile from my home.  I bike there daily!  I only moved in a couple months ago, so it's a work in progress . . . still a little bare.

Factory-windowsWhat do you like best about your sewing area?

My studio is in an old industrial building, and there are floor to ceiling factory windows along one of the long walls, so the room practically glows with natural light, even on the gloomiest Oregon days.  I also love that it's spacious, at least compared to the tiny room in my house I was operating out of before.  I also love that it's outside of my home, which helps me separate it from the rest of my life a bit.  It's like a peaceful haven for me when I come to work.

Lace-jar What would you change about your space?

The floors are concrete, which is not good for the back. I'm still acquiring sturdy rugs.

How is your space organized?

We have a cutting table pretty much in the middle of the room.  The ironing board is usually set up next to it, so that we can place fabric on the table while ironing or pressing it, so it doesn't drag or trail on the floor. A separate sawhorse table holds the sewing maching and serger, and next to that is my desk. I have cubed shelving for fabric, which I organize by color, and a tall bookshelf for books and sundries. Lace and trims are kept in drawers or collected in large jars. I also have a small couch, which I use for breaks, meetings, working on my laptop sometimes, or just staring out the window!

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

It's pretty disordered at the moment, but it's separated by color, which makes it pretty easy to find things. My stash is nice but not enormous.

How are your patterns organized?

I have them organized by decade in file boxes. I have mostly vintage patterns, since I used to collect them a little. I spend most of my time coming up with new patterns, so not a lot of time sewing with them!

Pattern-boxes Are your patterns archived? How are they stored?

I have most of them in clear envelopes or bags.

What do you cut out your patterns on?

I purchased an architectural drafting table from a firm that was getting rid of them.  It's fabulous, just the right size for my cutting mat, and fully adjustable so my assistant and I can raise or lower it to be at about waist level.  The top also folds down when it's not in use.


What is your most helpful tool? Why?

Other than my sewing machine, I'd say my Rowenta iron. Pressing is such an important part of the sewing process, so it's something we use constantly. It's fabulous. I love how much steam it produces and the sharp tip.

Ironing-board What tools do you recommend for the beginning sewer?

An assortment of needles for various fabrics, good quality thread, a steam iron, pinking shears, a good tape measure and a good, sharp pair of sewing shears.

What kind of machine do you use?

I use a Bernina Aurora 430.

What do you like about it?

I adore my Bernina. The design of the machine is impeccable, they really pay close attention to usability and making sewing more efficient. I love the variety of stitches, the sturdiness of the machine, the multiple ways to raise and lower the presser foot. It's just a joy to use.

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

I use a serger for knits, of course, though I don't sew with knits all that often. I use it for finishing seams on most garments, though not all. It's great for neat, long-lasting seam finishes, though I sometimes prefer something a little fancier for finishing.

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

I've only been here a couple months, but some of it was transferred from my former, much smaller sewing space.  That did help me keep things organized.  It's not exactly how I want it yet, for sure. Most of my stuff is organized, but the walls are still a little bare. But it's well on its way to becoming the studio of my dreams!

Friday, meander through the Sewaholic's studio. Tasia, lucky woman, lives in Vancouver. Are you green? I am. Oh! There's more: Don't forget to enter to win the Lady Grey coat pattern, kindly donated by Sarai. It's bee-yoo-tee-ful. Yes, indeedy.


Oh, the style these patterns will add to your sewing room. September 21, 2010 19:30 4 Comments

It's that moment. You know. The one you have all, dear, oh-so-beloved readers, been waiting for. Drumroll, please. Another one. Perhaps the horns should blow as well. Yes. They should. Because this is a truly fabulous update. In fact, it's worthy of all the best superlatives. It is. A few favorites, to entice you to The Blue Gardenia:

It happens. An Ethel moment. We all have them. (Don't we?) You want to be comfortable. You want to be feminine. But you can do without Fred. Not that there's anything wrong with balding fat guys. Not a thing. They have their charms. Or so you've been told. Frankly, you're more than a bit skeptical. But. Back to your wardrobe. When you want to channel Ethel with a 1910s slant, you want Pictorial Review 6530. It's indispensable. It is. Absolutely. 

Of course, sometimes, you want to be sexy. Elevator-to-the-moon fashionable. Very Italian movie star at a 1960s cocktail party. And for those times, McCall's 5866, designed by Hannah Troy, is perfect. Perfect. So Gina Lollabrigida. So very.

And when you want to pretend you're the fashion spawn of Elvis and Joan, is there a blouse more fitting than McCall 7872, copyright 1949? Such attitude. Such a collar. Such. When you want to exude snootiness, View A is the choice. Undeniably.

Step-in combination. Step-in combination. Step-in combination undergarment. Yes, it's quaint. Yes, it's a mouthful. And so Pretty Baby whorehouse. You have those moods. Don't you? If you do, may I suggest Pictorial Review 2195? And if you don't, well, just keep your shirt buttoned and your skirt down. Such a fetching step-in combination undergarment will be your little secret. No one will ever know. Because I promise not to tell. Zipped lips. And all that.

There are so many more marvelous patterns! No hyperbole. Really. And you'll find new in  Lingerie, Accessories and all the decade categories.  Every one of them. As always, new additions go at the beginning of each category to make it easier for our loyal customers (I thank you, I do). And remember, we take Mastercard, Visa, Discover and Amex, as well as Paypal to make it easier for you.

Now. Click. Shop. Enjoy. You work hard. You deserve it. 

Sewing spaces: Kristy of Lower Your Presser Foot passes the test. August 26, 2010 19:04 7 Comments

Shelves of fabric
In today's installment of Sewing Spaces, we'll put Kristy Idle's sewing room to the white glove test. Kristy, of
Lower Your Presser Foot, makes me green with envy on a regular basis. Why, you ask, dear readers? Because. Because she simply will not stop making fabulous garments. And guess what? I'll let you in on a little secret — her sewing room passes the test, and then some. Absolutely. So. Color me green. Again.

Sewing_spaces_kiDo you have a dedicated sewing space?

I sure do. ­When my husband and I recently undertook major renovations to our house, I insisted on building a special room for my sewing space since the recent birth of my daughter took away the bedroom I previously occupied.

Theoretically, the room is also supposed to be a home office and possibly a future playroom, but I can't see either of those things happening!

What do you like best about your sewing area?

My room is really bright and sunny, having windows on three walls, which makes it lovely to be in there. It's also mine, and only mine, which is great, too.

What would you change about your space?

A bit bigger room would have been nice, but council building restrictions made us scale it down. The only real downside to my sewing room is that it is separate to our house as it is built above our garage. Which means that when my daughter is having her lunchtime nap, I can't go up to my sewing room to squeeze in 30 mins of sewing time, and sometimes it's hard on these cold winter nights to leave our warm living room to go up there, too!

Sewing deskHow is your space organized?

In the centre of the room is my cutting/work table with storage underneath, along one wall is open shelving with my fabrics, along another wall is a built in desk for my sewing machine and overlocker, and along another wall is a bookcase that is crammed full of books, magazines and sewing supplies ­but not in a pretty way. I have my button collection stored in vintage kitchen canisters which are pretty to look at though.

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

I have a ginormous fabric stash, way more fabric than I could ever use in my lifetime, but I just can't pass by a beautiful piece of fabric especially if I unearth them at op shops or garage sales. I've been building my stash for about the last 10 years, and the majority of it comes from op shops and garage sales, but I have purchased a little bit of it retail, some inherited from my gran's stash, some stolen from my mum's stash and some gifted from others.

Shorter lengths are stored folded on open shelving lined up along one wall of my sewing room, and longer lengths are stored on cardboard rolls sitting upright in a drum. I have been thinking of covering the shelves with fabric to protect from dust, but I like to look at it too much to hide it away! It's ordered by color sorting, although I have started photographing new pieces and keeping a list of length, fabric composition and date of purchase.

How are your patterns organized?

My patterns are separated into each pattern company, and then in numerical order. For patterns traced from Burda magazines, I put them in envelopes the same size as sewing pattern envelopes, print out the technical drawing from the (now defunct) Burda website and glue it on the front so that I can store them the same as any other patterns.

Are your patterns archived? How are they stored?

Pattern storageMy patterns are sort of archived. I have scanned the cover of each and saved them in files such as "dresses", "skirts", "childrens". etc. This way, when I want to make something, I can just flick through images on my computer instead of physically flipping through the patterns. The patterns are stored in two Aneboda chest of drawers from Ikea. These fit patterns in perfectly, even the big designer Vogue envelopes.

Do you have a mannequin made-to-measure?

I have a mannequin I bought in an op shop years ago. It's not made to measure, but it is adjustable to my measurements. I also have a plastic display mannequin that has a removable pregnancy belly that I bought off Ebay because I have been toying with the idea of starting a maternity fashion label.

If so, do you find it helpful?

MannequinsI can't say I do find the mannequin overly helpful, because its posture is so much better than mine, and it also doesn't have the sagging lumpy bits I have either! I do use it for pinning up hems after first deciding the length while I'm wearing the garment, and then measuring off the floor to get the hem straight.  What I use it mostly for is storage of works in progress. . . .

What do you cut out your patterns on?

I use my old dining table as a cutting table. I replaced the legs with taller ones so that the table is at the correct ergonomic height for me which happily also meant that my pattern cupboards fit underneath the table. Under the table is also a big trunk that my grandparents used when they emigrated from England to Australia 60 years ago that I use to store clothes for refashioning and UFOs (of which I have many). On top of the table, I just use one of those fold-up cardboard cutting mats with a grid on it, which is also a good surface for tracing out Burda magazine patterns using one of those spiky tracing wheels.

What is your most helpful tool? Why?

Hmmmm, my unpicker is my most utilized tool, but I would say that a thread snipper is my most useful tool, because before I bought one I would often nick my fabric when trimming threads using scissors and end up with small holes in my nearly finished garments, which was soooo annoying, as you can imagine.

What tools do you recommend for the beginning sewer?

A good quality pair of really sharp scissors for use only on fabric makes a big difference, I think. They may cost a fair bit, but if you look after them they will last for a long time and make it so much easier and more comfortable for cutting out your pattern pieces (which is the most tedious part of sewing, I find). I also recommend that beginners buy a mid-range sewing machine but the best they can afford, because the budget sewing machines are often lacking features that make sewing easier such as a one-step buttonhole. My previous machine was a basic Brother that had a four-step buttonhole process. It was difficult to sew a good buttonhole, and as a consequence, I hated doing them. Starting out sewing can be hard enough as it is, so why not use as much technology as possible to help you out?

What kind of machine do you use?

My current sewing machine is a Brother NS-30, which I only bought earlier this year.

What do you like about it?

I like so many things about this machine compared with my previous basic sewing machine. It has 70 stitches (most of which I don't use, but I like having the options), it does an easy peasy but beautifully perfect buttonhole in one step, it has a little thingy that threads the needle saving me from having to squint and poke the thread through the needle, and it also sews automatically via stop/start touch button instead of the foot pedal, which was useful recently when I was sewing long straight seams while sewing 20m+ of curtains.

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

I have a Toyota serger which I've had for ages, and until I recently had it serviced, I didn't like it all, but now we seem to be working through our issues.

I like it because it's the quickest way to neaten up the raw edges of seams and looks professionally finished like ready-to-wear clothing, although I do admit that Hong Kong finishes and French seams are prettier (but I'm too lazy for those).

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

I've been in my sewing space for about a year now, but it's still very much under development.

I'd like to personalize it a bit more with some more artwork, put in some better, stronger lighting because currently I only have those energy-saving lightbulbs which have a yellowish cast, and I'd also like to neaten up my storage bookshelf, too.

Next week, we'll peek inside the sewing spaces of Carolyn (Diary of a Sewing Fanatic) and Elaine (The Selfish Seamstress). Can you wait, dear readers?  I can. But barely. I am goose-pimply with excitement. Absolutely.

Learning to sew: The darts are marked. Now, advice. Please. August 26, 2010 15:31 5 Comments

Yippee skippee! I marked the darts today. Using, natch, vintage tracing paper and wheel. I am using the actual vintage pattern, and, yes, I realize there are those who will frown at that. But. This pattern had been used before. So. Accept my justification. Please. And do note my dining room table under the protective board. It performed its duty as a work station well. Quite well, in fact.

I also marked the fold line on each dart. Is this a good thing? Or a bad one? Please advise. Because. You know I want to do it right next time. Absolutely.

(And, yes, I am still listening to Raul Malo. I found the dream that I could speak to . . . )

Channeling Catherine: Be a strong yet gentle dance partner. August 22, 2010 19:18


Care and concern for your dance partner: Desirable.

Pesky paparazzi: Nuisance.

Black silk charmeuse at Gorgeous Fabrics: Beautiful.

Simplicity 5611, copyright 1973: Beneficial.


Channeling Catherine: A bad hair day? I don't think so. August 9, 2010 11:50


Looking this good after a wild party:   Fantasy.

Exceptional cleaning crew: Necessity.

Dior Fuseau Suede Pump: Desirable.

Butterick 5988, with lengthened sleeves:



Last night, I dreamed of Don Draper . . . August 7, 2010 15:37 5 Comments

I was on a train, dark with mahogany. The windows shaded with green. We were in a southern city, hot, humid, the skies white with haze and smog. No birds flew. The landscape pocked with silver skyscrapers and gray freeways. 

We pulled into the station. People stood up, waited to disembark. I remained seated. I waited and read and occasionally noted the people around me. Milling. I saw Betty Draper. Her hair daffodil yellow. Flipped. She wore a coral suit and a white blouse with coral polka dots and low-heeled leather pumps the color of spring. Like Jackie. Classic. Dull. Two men were with her.  I read and waited, surrounded by the mahogany dark of the train, the windows shaded green.

I was the last to leave. I stepped down from the train. People scurried on the platform. I had no luggage. I carried a handbag of petal leather. Ruched. A tote. A trenchcoat over my arm. I walked. I walked. I entered a mall, fraught with people. Scurrying. I walked and walked. No birds flew. How long. How long, I wondered.

I entered a tower of corrugated steel and glass.  It felt temporary, a scaffold. People scurried. I was calm. Calm. Even though no birds flew. I climbed the stairs. One after the other. Flight after flight after flight after flight. I did not tire. I was not faint. I looked out the windows as I climbed. The city white with haze. No birds flew. How long. How long? I wondered.

1950s_don_draper_suitI stopped on a landing, leaned against the window, cool as an Alberta wind against my face. I placed my hand against the glass, felt the chill, refrigerated air. Men rushed up and down the stairs behind me. Impatient. Fraught. I climbed higher. Higher. The city white with haze. I wondered how long. How long?

I stopped again, high above the city, white with haze, gray with freeways, silver with skyscrapers. I watched. I was not faint. I was not weary. A male voice on a loudspeaker urged people: Go underground to be safe, hurry. I did not care. I felt free. An uncaged bird in a city white with haze where no birds flew. I felt a breath on my neck, warm. Fingers on my waist, gentle. I turned. Don. His arms enclosed me, crushing, wrinkling my suit, Vogue Couturier Design 753, copyright 1953, so carefully made. I did not care. I did not. Our lips met, tender. A 1960s-era Harlequin Romance. Yet. Yet. The voice on the loudspeaker urged everyone to go underground to be safe. Safe. Don raised his head. He looked at me. I shook my head no. No. In the city white with haze, pocked with skyscrapers, where no birds flew, we had wings as eagles.

That Touch of Fashion: A lace top to spur howls at midnight August 1, 2010 12:30 2 Comments

Who can forget the sexy lace pant suit that  Doris_day_midnight_laceDoris Day wore in Midnight Lace?  (Who, for that matter, can forget the annoying character she plays, Kit Preston? Did you want to seal her up in a vault? I did. Stop whimpering, woman. Take charge. You're rich. You're good-looking. Stop being so helpless and naive. Now. And give me that lace ensemble designed by Irene before I shut the door. Just hand it over. Pronto. Thank you.)

But. Down to brass needles. Absolutely.  Simpicity-3703  This enticing set can be yours. It can. First, get Simplicity 3703, circa 1950s.  (Mad Men alert! It's that day, after all, and this pattern is very cuspy; it'd look right at home in the '60s. Absolutely.) Get it at The Blue Gardenia, of course. But you knew we'd have it. Didn't you? Thought so.  Use View 2, but trim the bottom of the blouse straight across. Forget the point. Save that style for later. It's casual. It's cute. But it's for a barbecue, not an after-hour seduction. (Yup. This is a multipurpose pattern. Make it once. Make it twice. Make it once again.)

And might I suggest Gorgeous Fabrics rayon Chantilly Lace  for the top? Luscious. Line it in nude georgette for modesty. Or just wear a black camisole underneath. Your choice. Either way, the wolves will be sniffing around your door.


Inspirations: Step outside in 1930s boxer shorts. Do. July 31, 2010 08:20 1 Comment

It's raining. A light drizzle. Gently falling all day long. All morning. All afternoon. You hope all night, too. The mist is on the butte outside your sewing room window. It's a perfect day to stay inside. You didn't even venture out to the farmers market. To get the mail. You're staying inside. Like the sugar cube you are, you melt in the rain.

You were tempted to stay cuddly-snug under the covers and finish Therese Raquin. Yes. You were. Oh so. But you didn't. You got up. Got dressed. Did footwork on the reformer. Stomach massage. Eve's Lunge. Leg circles.

Now. You're sewing. Absolutely. Why waste a day stuck inside? Simplicity 1335, the boxer shorts, circa early '30s. Terrific details. Love the back gusset. So much. You've chosen linen the color of a blueberry smoothie. It is lush. Ever so. Just the attire for the farmers market next week. Can't miss those freshly dug taters two weeks in a row. No way. No how.

The only question now is: What top to stitch up? Mmmmmm. You can think about that. Tomorrow.