Ok, breathing again….

We are alive. We are doing pretty well all things considered. And I never, ever, once imagined that life would take the route it did.

Three months and three mortgage brokers later, I bought a house. Yay! I had about two and a half weeks to find something and then I had to figure out how to move 21 years of accumulation.

I rented a pod. I rented a storage unit. Friends came and helped pack. The chickens went to my daughters house, the cats were split up to several fosters, the bun is up in Napa having the time of his life with a new doggy sister…

And we are ‘homeless’. Technically, even though I own a house, we are homeless. The sellers are still in the house, they won’t be leaving until the first part of April so we have no address we can get mail delivered to (other than my parents), have no utility bills, nothing to “prove” where we live because we’re couch surfing.

Now, don’t cry for us Argentina, it’s not that bad :P But it’s definitely not the best way to live. We are renting a room from a lovely woman in Berkeley who accepted us with two dogs, originally four cats (more on that in a minute) and the proverbial partridge in a pear tree (the rabbit). Thankfully Karen (blinkysews.com) was able to foster the bunny for us so we literally arrived in the middle of the night with a small Noah’s ark of creatures and 2 very tired humans. We’re here for another 2-3 weeks and THEN we finally get to move into the 1937 house that you see above.

This has been the roughest 5 months since Jim was diagnosed with cancer. The whole house buying process was RIDICULOUS in the amount and types of paperwork needed. By FAR more intrusive than giving birth! At one point I told the mortgage broker (after yet another absurd request for documentation that demanded a level of transparency that the industry demanding it NEVER itself uses) seemed puzzled and mildly offended when I said “I’d rather give birth to twins naturally and raise them myself than go through this lunacy ever, ever, ever again.” Yep, seriously. Ugh.

I’m hoping that once we’re down to unpacking boxes, finding homes for all the ‘stuff’ I’ve dragged along with me and are doing mundane things like picking paint colors that this will all be worth it. The feral cat colony that I’ve taken care of for 15 years is still an issue. I can’t move them until I move and the purchaser of our former home is…of a different culture that sees animals as disposable and repugnant (just going by the comments that he’s made). The last evening we were in the house we had everything out and I was getting the cats into carriers. BIG MISTAKE. I ‘should’ have gotten the cats before the bed left and just taken them to our temporary home. But I didn’t and I regret it. Ashton fought me but I hung on and shoved him into a crate. Max fought me harder and still I hung on and shoved him into a crate. I moved Ashton to the car and went back for Max and the blanket we left on the floor. Holding Max’s crate by the handle with the blanket under my arm, I made my way to the car at 3am. Max struggled so hard he managed to break the damn crate and ran away, as I held the blanket under my arm. I haven’t seen him since.

I’ve been back to our old house many times. A neighbor stepped up to help me feed the cats and has gone toe to toe with the new owners, explaining that this is a protected colony that will be moved once we get into our new home.

And why are we waiting? Here’s the fun part of the whole story – originally I was told we had until the end of March to move. When I entered into the contract on my new house the sellers asked to have until the beginning of April to find a new place and move. I figured, at that time, that we might have to stay somewhere for a few days, at most a week or so, so I agreed. THEN the landlord served me papers that said we had to be out on 2/26, not even 2/28 because of reasons that it turns out they lied about. The last week in the old house we had no gas service because PG&E showed up on the wrong date to shut service off, smelled gas and shut things down. They sent someone out later that day who determined we had a ‘substantial’ leak (yeah, and we’d know about it for more than 2 years but the landlord chose to do NOTHING) and they ended up completely removing the meter. REMOVING. We had no heat, no hot water and no way to cook. No recourse either since it was 4 days before we were to be out and standard procedure is to tell your landlord they f*&%$d up and make them fix it. Sigh….It was 38 degrees every night until we left. It was uncomfortable.

And now we’re missing Max. I’ve got signs up, I’ve got all the neighbors keeping an eye out, and there is food and water at the station for the ferals. I’m hoping he’s somewhere close and we can trap him when we get the ferals and get everyone moved. Once we’re in the new house and all our family members are there then I’ll be able to take a deep breath and move on. Until then I remind myself to breathe, put one foot in front of the other and keep saying “it will all get better soon, it will all get better soon…”

I’m hoping the next update will be SOON and I’ll be able to include LOTS of pictures of my pretty new house! And that I can SEW again soon!!

Thank you to EVERYONE that has shared their nightmare stories of buying a house with me. To everyone that offered to help us out, that has fostered an animal for us, that has been there when I’ve been in tears, THANK YOU. Especial thanks to Angie, who was responsible for several crucial puzzle pieces. THANK YOU!




Blog Hop and Changes


This is a LONG overdue post. I’m going to start with a challenge that Chuleenan of CSews tossed my way. It will make a good bridge :) It’s a Blog Hop, in which each participant answers four questions. Check out Chuleenan’s answers, and she has a link in her blog to Olgalyn Jolly of O! Jolly! Crafting Fashion, who nominated her, etc.

1. Why do I write?

It’s therapy. Seriously, it helps me work through some of life’s “stuff”. And I really like to write. I wish I had more time/discipline to do it. Clearly I NEED to do it more, since I’m running months and many posts behind, the why will become clearer in a moment.

2. What am I working on?

Wow. Just you wait… OK, I’ve actually just cut out the new Dahlia dress pattern from Colette patterns out of an adorable retro-inspired cat print for Miss Crayola Creepy’s Cat Lady Sewing Challenge. I’m also trying my best to make a very simple Swirl dress for the Sew Retro Rose Swirl Sewalong. It should take me an hour to make the dress but there it sits, in the bag, all cut out and ready to sew. Sigh.

And I’m trying to find a new place to live in the next couple of months. Oh, and a new job. More in a minute.

3. How does my blog differ from others in its genre?

I purposely set up my blog to be able to cover anything going on in my life, not just sewing. The original design was to not only talk about my sewing projects but also include upholstery, gardening, crafting and just about anything else that flit across my path. Didn’t even consider knitting and yet, now I’m a knitter! More than anything I want to show my fellow sewists that they can do ANYTHING. I’m constantly learning from everyone around me so if I can give back, cool.

4. How does my writing process work?

Lately? Clearly not well :) Usually I just sit and write and write and write. Then I edit, edit, edit. I have no less than a dozen half-written posts in my queue, covering everything from how to use twitter more effectively to several 20’s projects that are still in process. I try to be honest and transparent so goofs are included as well as the random outtake. Then I read and re-read things so much that words start looking strange, because how often can you type the word “office” until that looks wrong??? 42. Eventually I hit “publish” and go to bed, only to wake up and find some HUGE spelling and grammar error that my sixth grade teacher would have drawn a big circle around with her red pencil and given me that “I know you can do better” look but which you all are nice enough to never point out. I thank you for that :P

I’m supposed to nominate two bloggers to answer these questions so I’m nominating our friend Vicki at Another Sewing Scientist (because we haven’t heard from her in a while :) ) and Tanya Maile at Mrs Hughes because she’s adorable and I want to see her answers.

And now for a confession or two:

Somewhere around the end of July I got tired. I would drag myself out of bed, drag to work, use all my energy to be happy and peppy, drag home and collapse. I’d try to catch up on stuff on the weekends but managed to only get further and further behind. When I was finally able to say “I’m always tired” I tried to see my doctor. “Lose some weight, then we’ll talk.” Really? That’s the BEST you can come up with in the 12 minutes you scrolled through my chart, only looking at me once as I talked? So I tackled the problem one piece at a time. I made sure I was eating well, I got at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night, I stopped trying to do much of anything other than the most important tasks at hand. Gatsby nearly did me in, and the few days after that I helped a friend finally leave her awful husband, moving almost everything she owned to my house and cleaning out my studio/’fabric storage space to put all her possessions in.

I did feel better. I started getting my energy back, I picked out several projects from my myriad piles and started organizing the sewing room. See the picture above of the cute kitty with the little pumpkin? She died. She lived an extraordinary eight years with FeLV, a disease that kills most cats within a year. It was ok, she puttered along just fine until the last couple days and then she was gone. I grieved. We have her ashes in a small box on the book case. The day I picked them up I got home to find a note to call the landlord.

We now have 90 days to move. They have decided to sell the house I’ve lived in over 20 years. Yes, they did give me right of first refusal but I don’t have a spare $400,000 in cash laying around. They never maintained this wonderful farmhouse, built in 1925, so the property is being sold as investment only and doesn’t qualify for an standard loan. The new owners will probably just tear it down and build some hideous McMansion. Yes, I feel lucky that I was able to live here so long. I raised my daughter here, I’ve lived here longer than any other place. I wanted to buy it, fix it and build a small cottage at the front of the property to rent out. I even had a 2 year plan in place and was actively working on it but it’s too late.

I’ll get over it. I’ll find another place for us to live, but the dogs will make things tougher. I may have to give my chickens away, and I haven’t slept more than a few hours every night thinking about the feral cat colony we’ll have to leave behind. The delightful next door neighbor, the one that thought the sound of Chloe’s puppies playing was awful, has threatened in the past to kill them. I’ve had a long conversation with Alley Cat Allies, for whom I’m a Feral Friend ( need help with TNR in my area? I’m your girl), and trying to trap and move them would be exceedingly difficult. Generally you’d ask your neighbors to take over feeding but those people don’t live next door to someone who has more issues than National Geographic. I do. It IS illegal to threaten an animal and even ferals are protected under cruelty laws, but that also depends on having a decent division of Animal Services in your area and we don’t. The colony is small, only 4, and all are quite healthy and happy. The ideal situation would be to find someone with a barn who needs natural rodent control, I just don’t know anyone like that. This, of all the things I’m worried about, really does keep me up at night.

So like the smart person I am, I called my mental health practitioner. Four more weeks until an appointment. Sigh.

It all comes down to the numbers. My current salary won’t buy me anything in our area. I’ve looked further east and there *might* be some options in the future but truthfully, I can’t imagine living out there. That’s not to say I won’t give it a chance but we’re now running against the clock. If I can get another job at the same place I’ve been working that would help. I’m trying. I’ve also started looking for job/housing up in Oregon. If I have to start anew why not? There is a thriving art/sewing/vintage community up there and housing certainly hasn’t been hijacked like down here in the middle of tech-ville. There is SO MUCH information coming at me ALL THE TIME that you’d think I could sort it out and start making lists.

I’m just not there. Yet. I’ve run out of kleenex and ibuprofen. My neighbor has offered to help to a garage sale to move some things along (whee!) and my plans have shifted from things like “clean out the sewer line” and “fix the front steps” to “ebay, ebay, ebay”. I’m not as afraid as I was initially, the shock has worn off. My brother-in-law, who fixes and flips houses for a living, tried to negotiate a deal for me. He’s also looking for places for us to live or perhaps even buy. It’s all such a muddle.

In the long run things WILL work out. I’m NOT giving up my dogs or cats, I may have to board the chickens for a bit and find a new home for the bunny (his brother died yesterday, see what kind of week its been?). My “52 to do in 52″ list is largely crossed off now since most of those projects were for this house. Priorities shift, life slides along. I do a bit of microblogging on Instagram and twitter so please check those out :)  Vicki posted a pic of her laptop the other day and said ‘To be perfectly honest, this is the tool I use the most often: when I got back into sewing 5 years ago, I remember thinking, “Hmmm, I wonder if there is some sort of sewing community or tutorial site online?” Burdastyle led me to blogs and TSW and sewalongs and twitter and IG and meetups and IRL friends. Best tool ever.’

She’s right :) I read as many blogs as I can, I look at my Instagram and twitter feeds when I need a smile (Tempest is doing her annual “How hideous is THIS ornament?” posts, a MUST SEE for all). There are at least three new babies in our sewing world, new patterns  weekly and photos of sewing areas. I look at them all and sigh. One day, I will get back to all of this.

So my friends, I’m sorry for the length of the post. I’m sorry I never quite finished up the 20’s sewing projects (you should see the stacks of stuff I’ve only half done!), I may not get my Cat dress done and I’m guessing anything else will be boxed up soon. I have no idea where I’ll land. I just don’t. And I’m sad and mad and all of that, a jumble of emotions. I wish I had a partner to share things with, I wish I had someone to hug me and tell me things will work out. I guess if I was “stuck” all of these goings on will certainly “un stick” me. The sewing world is one amazing place. You guys make me smile and give me hope. Keep it up : )

Ariel Rose

romoThat’s Ariel with Sergio Romo, pitcher and human being extraordinaire.

I was there with the family the night the Giants won the World Series. Ariel was absolutely determined to see that final pitch and was just as sick as Dan describes.

Want to renew your faith in humanity? Read THIS.

Miss you, sweet girl.

The Gatsby picnic 2014


Ignore the date on the cover. The scanner is buried under a pile of papers. If we wait for me to unbury it we’ll be waiting until the day before Thanksgiving…

 It is that time of year again….time for the annual Gatsby picnic hosted by the Art Deco Society. Last time we were there was 2012 and we were three-fourths the way through the year with the Sew Weekly challenges. Angie and I put together a picnic based on the election of 1936 (FDR!), shared our area with Mena and her beau and didn’t win the picnic prize :( Mena said “we was robbed”. That’s ok, it strengthened our resolve to do better after we took a year off. Putting these things together is sort of like giving birth, it’s a LOT of work, a small amount of agony right at the end and then you get to enjoy something really wonderful (for a short amount of time, unlike babies that you get to enjoy for the rest of your life). There’s even some sleep deprivation involved :)

Our theme this year, chosen by Angie, was the 1924 Olympics. She envisioned 5 of us at the table, each one wearing a color of one of the rings. The table itself was FULL of color!


Table before the food…

I even found a menu for a 1920’s picnic that we used as a basis for our food choices which the judges apparently REALLY appreciated!

  • Tea Sandwiches
  • Tomatoes stuffed with shrimp salad
  • Thin slices of chicken or ham with cold asparagus/vinaigrette
  • Hollowed out oranges shell filled with berries
  • Rice salad with celery, nuts, raisins in ring mold
  • English trifle in crystal bowl
  • Champagne punch with block of ice floating

We added deviled eggs to the list because Angie LOVES deviled eggs and deleted the champagne punch in favor of 5 different lemonades. I had a huge container of iced tea that I made tea ice blocks for – instead of adding ice and diluting the tea I just froze the same tea in jello molds. Of COURSE there are no photos, for which I profusely apologize, but it works really well. I also didn’t do the slices of chicken/ham with asparagus. Doing a cold asparagus dish was on the menu but at 8am Sunday morning, with everything else that had gone on, I said “uncle” on the asparagus. Good thing too, that table was FULL.

Instead of basic sandwiches we did Motorloaves, just like our first Gatsby picnic:


We had a version of deviled eggs called “picnic eggs”. You make regular deviled eggs, put them back together and wrap them in parchment, twisting the ends so they look like candy :) I almost didn’t get the shot we ate them so quickly!


Lynette made Berry Baskets. Angie specially requested chocolate covered Madeleines and check out the plate under the baskets:


Olympic colors!


There’s homemade Limoncello in that little blue bottle…and check out the hand embroidered napkins. I did those on BART every day for a week.

We had a trifle that EVERYONE went bonkers over. Can I FIND that photo? I cannot. Rather than wait weeks days for me to look everywhere I’m just going to get this post up.

For those of you not in-the-know about this event let me just say it is a DEAL. No detail goes un-thought-of. The actual weekend of the event we spend all day Saturday doing a dry run of the set-up, packing the TRUCK and making sure shoes, hosiery, make-up, clothes are all in order. The morning of we’re up at dawn, finishing the food and last minute prep (Do we have enough ice? IS there enough ice?? What about the umbrella stands???) It’s a mad house. The cherry on top THIS year was Angie – the day before, as we’re in the middle of the madness, her phone rings and it’s her boyfriend who is calling to let her know his dad just died.

That’ll bring any party to a screeching halt.

We stepped back, took a breath and just stood there. Another call and she was on her way to his family’s house an hour south of us. I offered to drive her there so she could drive him back home and we set out. Midway down the freeway, change of plans, I dropped her elsewhere and went home to finish packing and food. We decided that we would go ahead with our plans and see if she was able to join us. I finished the sewing and hoped.

It was not to be for her. She stayed with the family, helping them make arrangements while three of us piled into my truck and headed to the Dunsmuir house in Oakland. We had an early entry pass which, in previous years, allowed us to get in line at 10 and be let onto the grounds at 11. THIS year they let us onto the grounds as soon as we were there !! It gave us an extra HOUR to get the picnic put together, an extra HOUR to get dressed, an extra hour to stop sweating :) Here is our before shot:


Check out my Mama Jade shirt there!

Dontcha just love Instagrammed selfies in the bathroom?? (If you’re curious about my shirt you can read the story here.) But oh just look at the afters:


This is Lynette, she represents the “green” ring.


Leslie is “blue”…


…Caolifhionne is “black”…


…and I am red :)

I have no pics of Angie, who was yellow, but I know she finished her dress.

As for the patterns, I used this for mine:


It is a vintage pattern that was traced off and reproduced by the woman that brings you Past Patterns. This is the second version of this dress I’ve made (you can see the cuffs of the first still-yet-unphotograhed dress). My one issue with the pattern is those front drapey pieces. First time round I cut them out as designed and spent 3 hours re-pinning and draping to get them looking like the picture. Second time around I draped them myself and then let them hang on the mannequin to “set” the pleats like you would window drapery. Pain in the rear is all I have to say. I do like the way you pleat the dress to fit a little better than a sack, the centerfront drapey panels are caught in a 3/8″ tuck as is the back belt. And yes, there is a small back caplet. I had a cape…

The other pattern we used was this one that our friend Leslie had in her stock:


We used the handkerchief hem version for her and the sleeker version with the side drape for Lynette. This is an EASY, EASY pattern so for everyone who doesn’t want to have to think about drafting or draping a 20’s dress and just wants something basic try this out. Leslie bought it on Amazon. It’s a little pricey BUT you either draft or purchase :) Lynette’s dress is remarkably similar to the dress I made for Wendy.

 Leslie made her own hat:


When we finally sat down to eat there were drinks:


Lynette is shakin’ up those gin cocktails!

TheGirlsHere we all are towards the end of the day, saluting Angie, because…


See that shiny silver champagne bucket under my elbow? That means WE WON the Grand Picnic Prize!!!


Third times the charm!

Although we won over what I would consider one of the Best picnic setups I’ve EVER seen and this picture just doesn’t do it justice:

Best tent everSorry for all the grass-filled shots, I’m trying to get this done on a computer sans photoshop :) They are still setting up here but you can see the tables of food, their wonderful chairs and that TENT. THAT is your basic patio umbrella with a million yards of RIBBON sewn to look like lattice panels, then draped with 48 custom dyed jade green net panels on the inside! They made those “fins” on the top of the umbrella to mimic the decorations you see on Chinese architecture, there was an enourmous light fixture on the inside of the tent, a huge arrangement of Chinese lantern plants on a table under the light, oriental rugs…it just went on and on in the details. To top it all off we met the charming Kim and family/friends, shared goodies and happily gave them some of our extra ice (because we finally had enough!). Turns out Kim used to make hats under the Topsy-Turvy label and for a few years I lusted after one of her creations. Never scored one but meeting her was even better!

You can see more photos of our set-up on the Art Deco Society’s facebook page. Looks like the got a shot of the trifle, rice ring and tomatoes with shrimp salad!

I had to grab a pic with this lovely lady, because she’s wearing polka dots, and you can see my awesome shoes.


And finally, I AM MAKING a version of this amazing vintage swimsuit!


Peace and love

The last two weeks…whew…

So much to blog about, so little energy so I’ll start at the top of the list. Robin Williams. He was a fixture here in the Bay Area. He was just a guy, just around town, not hard to spot but we always gave him the gift of just being. No celebrity, just a guy…

I saw him on stage back in the 70’s, as his star was beginning to rise and then again a few years later. The first time he was so frenetic I couldn’t keep up! My brain literally hurt after watching him on stage. The second time was after some rehab and he told us “Cocaine is gods way of saying you’re making too much money.” I was a fan for life.

Now he’s gone. Mental illness is such a trap, many people have it, and yet it’s still stigmatized. Fellow bloggers talk about their struggles, I’ve had a few. I get situational depression, meaning life starts piling crap on and I’m good for a while and then I start to buckle. When my daughter was very sick some years ago I went along ok until bam! Didn’t want to leave the house. Went on anti-depressants for a while, had some (more) talk therapy, things improved, left the anti-depressants behind.

A few years ago Jim got cancer, did OK for a while then bam! One day I wanted to ram the truck against the center divide so back onto anti-depressants. Here’s the kicker – different drugs this time. Had to try three different meds before one didn’t make me physically ill (one made my eyes track funny so I couldn’t stand without tilting, another made me puke, fun times) and the ONLY reason I stuck it out was I didn’t want to leave my daughter. By then I was SO OVER the cancer thing and the related garbage, not to mention one hideous doctor that I still wish liver cancer on, that my therapist actually put me on medical leave. It worked, things changed, life improved and I eventually ditched the drugs. Again.

It may happen again. I now have skills. But honestly it’s draining, people tell you ALL THE TIME you “don’t look sick” so they expect the exact same things from you, as if their reality could be yours. I felt like that Saturday Night Live character, Massive Headwound Harry (did I get that right?), if only people could see how I was bleeding inside.

And so our friend Robin left. I get it. I’m sorry for his family, especially his kids. I’m sorry there are trolls out there that feel it’s ok to judge. I am GLAD for my friends and a couple have let me share their memories.

From Courtney:

robin1This is her bike. Robin used to tease her about riding it. “Only way I know how to honor Robin; riding the bike he always gave me a hard time on. Riding in honor #churchofbike

This is posted on a fence in his neighborhood, there are photos like this all over the Bay Area right now:

robin2This is from my friend John:

“Just an enormous talent, and such a loss. My outstanding memory of him— Renaissance Pleasure Faire, Novato- 1988… 100 degree day, just got off stage, several us us laying out on hay bails backstage melting, Phyllis Patterson (‘Owner-Originator’ of the Faire,) flips open the canvas curtain and walks backstage with a stocky built man in peasant costume with a beautiful Commedia dell’arte mask. Mask comes off- And there he was- Robin Williams. Very quiet. We discussed the heat, where he made a crack about being in a bear costume 24.7.. He rested and drank water with us. Then went on his way. When we saw him around fair, still masked, he’d make a “Shhhh” gesture, we’d smile, He’d smile. It was out secret for the day and it was wonderful.”

Finally, some  years ago I was lucky enough to do a show with James Monroe Inglehart. He just won a Tony Award for his work in Disney’s “Aladdin”, he plays the Genie. His heart is bigger than his stage presence, which is HUGE : )  This is their tribute to Robin:

 Source: Disney on Broadway

“You’ll have bad times, but it’ll always wake you up to the good stuff you weren’t paying attention to.”

robin3“You’re only given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”

Peace and love, Robin.





Formal Draped Gown

THIS is the pattern that started this whole project : ) I saw this and just HAD to make it and it did not disappoint. This is, so far, the best picture of me in this dress, which I grabbed off my cell phone. I still have plans to do a photoshoot to get great detail of all these creations but that whole life thing keeps getting in the way. I did manage to get my hair done and LOOK!!

This dress is made from a REMNANT, a remnant that I purchased at least 15 years ago from Michael Levine fabrics. I think it was around the time we did “Jesus Christ Superstar” at DVC and I did a whole set of costumes using different burned velvets. I think I was going to make something for an opening night outfit, or something, but never got around to it. Chalk up a win in the procrastination category! Fabric hoarders unite!!

I had just a bit over 1 1/2 yards of 48″ side fabric. It was even BEADED just as you see it here. Note to all – remove beading from under arm sections, moving your arm back and forth over beading all night long is uncomfortable and will annoy you no end. That’s the only complaint I have about this dress. Oh, and I made the slip a little tight around the hem but a small opening will solve that issue. Again, most of the in-process photos, like with Wendy’s dress, were lost when the computer blew up. The conversation we had about that went something like this:

Jim – I think some cat hair managed to fry the mother board and a couple of other pieces. I’ll have it back up and running soon, the hard drives appear to be fine.
Me – My photos are all still there?
Jim – Yes, most are in the cloud but all should still be on the hard drives.
Me – You know, if it’s true the only reason the internet exists is to share cat videos, you’d think the people who designed the hardware to do said sharing would have considered the whole cat hair issue and done a better job to keep it away from delicate machinery.
Jim – < Slowly shakes his head and quietly backs away.>

The pattern above was *most* of my inspiration but this was the ah-hah! piece, a dress from the Miss Fisher exhibit that isn’t in the catalog:

See those flowers at the hips?

So simple, so pretty. Now how can I channel that?…

Step one: Save the scraps.
Step two: Pull out can of spray Polyurethane. If you don’t have any go indulge yourself.
Step three: Spray BACK of fabric, let dry and spray again. Don’t do this in the house or on a good surface. Or around cats. They hate sticky fur and feet. Wear a mask and gloves.
Step four: Cut out the motifs you want. They’re pretty stiff but can still be sewn through. If you want any beading try to do it before you spray. I did do some beading post-spray and it was fine, just a little stinky : )
Step five – Stitch onto garment OR, if you know you’re going to be wearing this more than once, stitch them to a ribbon that you tack to the dress so that you can easily remove the sprayed pieces when the dress is cleaned. I make NO guarantees that this method of stiffening fabric will hold up through any sort of cleaning!

Here’s a close up shot of the beading detail I added to the hip line and my stiffened flowers. You can see some of the petals drooping and I’m fine with that. They’re three-dimensional and give the dress a ‘vintage’ feel even though it’s brand new. That beaded trim was a late-in-the-game addition from Britex. The salesclerk was horrified that the beads are just fused to the netting but agreed that for the price and effect this trim was perfect. I’m just glad I didn’t pay $35 per yard, like the other trim I liked cost.

I ended up tacking those double flower pieces and leaf edges to the dress at the last minute. Because it was so hot everything, including the people, were melting.

Now that I’ve jumped to the END of the process I’ll go back to the beginning : )

“The bodice of the draped dress should be very plain. Use your plain waist pattern and cut the neck along the lines that are best for your figure. If your shoulders are narrow use the boat shaped line. If they are broad the deep U shown here. If your shoulders are narrow and your bust large a deep V will be most becoming. The bottom of the bodice should be arranged at the hipline on a foundation belt as at A.”

I did the basic pattern like Wendy’s dress yesterday. To finish off both dresses I cut bias binding from the dress fabric and hand stitched it ALL down. Because of the differences in our bust sizes mine gaped a bit so I put in an extra dart in the armhole. Worked perfectly.

Believe it or not I DID press this but it is a polyester I had in my stash and had its own ideas about wrinkles. It is only the lining of the dress so I let it have its way. I treated the chiffon/velvet fabric and the lining as one, I was going to do the lining separate and couldn’t think of one good reason to make 2 dresses : ) I did NOT do a foundation belt as the pattern suggests, I just attached the skirt pieces to the bottom of the top.

“The skirt is draped of two straight pieces. One should be four inches shorter than your hip measurement.” Lovely thought, and if you’re using a metal brocade fabric as she suggests this might be a FINE idea. I’m using a chiffon and even with an underskirt I didn’t want the line of that skirt showing underneath the top layer. I just made a basic black chiffon underskirt since I didn’t have quite enough of my fancy fabric. Can you tell? Of course not! So my underskirt is a tube about 44 inches around and 22 inches long. One seam, french seamed for beauty but NOT stitched on yet!

“The other (skirt) 20 inches longer than your hip measurement. The width of the pieces is your skirt length. The shorter (under) piece is brought around the figure from the back and sewn to the belt as at B.” I did this after I sewed on the top skirt piece. “There are two small darts in each front edge as at C.” I didn’t do the darts, they just don’t add or help anything in a chiffon skirt. “The long piece is brought around from the front. Small tucks are placed as at D and E to give the draped effect and the ends are left free to fall in cascades.”

Breaking that down – I sewed the longer overskirt onto the bottom of the shirt first. Then I sewed on the plain chiffon underskirt. Only then did I make a third underskirt/slip out of the same fabric that I underlined the top with. That third skirt is the one that needs an opening so I’m not walking like the dainty thing I am so not.
The skirt turned out great! I took another piece of scrap fabric, cut out the motifs and hand stitched them onto the center back of the plain skirt so no one would know that skirt isn’t the same as the overskirt. Pretty sneaky, eh?

Those drapey ends just clear the floor on me. I tripped on them a couple of times but no one else did and that’s all that was important!

I finished off the outfit with shoes from Aris Allen. They’re dance shoes but this style came with street soles. The purse is an actual vintage 20’s purse, all woven glass beads, that someone gave me years and years ago. Just thrown into a box with some junk jewelry, it has a couple of friends as well that might come out to play in future posts : )

And then there was the hair.

And selfies. Trish took pics every chance she got so her love of selfies and Instagramming things just made me do it more!

We spent a good amount of time on our make-up. I was annoyed that I lost the black eyeshadow I had made a special trip to get, and that the silver is a little too ‘blue’ for what I wanted but all in all the look was good. That hairdo lasted until I washed it out the next day! Jill BAKED it in for me and it did NOT move. Thanks Jill!!

There was a moment when I looked into the mirror and felt a little like Margaret Dumont, the Marx Brothers comic foil:

But she was a fairly elegant woman so maybe I’ll channel her more in the future and let go of my modern standards : ) At least my beads didn’t frame my chest. Where were the wardrobe people here?

In the grand tradition of things going wrong my big, nice camera died. It’s dead, Jim, dead. I was only able to finish using my cell phone and finally found my small single shot camera but seriously, universe, we can stop with the mechanical things dying. Anytime, k? Thanks.

The Pattern: Making a Draped Gown for Formal Wear
Chiffon with velvet flowers, poly underlining, all from stash. Purchased 5/8 yard chiffon for underskirt.
Ease of Instructions:
Easy, now that I have a good basic top pattern.
Effectiveness (1-10):
10. Best so far.
Notions: Thread, 1 bunny button (sorry, forgot a pic), I can spray Polyurethane, 3/4 yard beaded trim.
Hours to complete: Around 6, again, most of that was spent doing hand work.
Total cost:
$4 for chiffon underskirt, $12.25 for beaded trim so $16.25.

Pattern – Confirmed!

The Back Cascade dress

Simple and elegant. Just wait till you see what I did with an old tablecloth!

 I promised you a way to get a basic 20’s dress pattern so here we go:

This is the Sorbetto pattern from Colette, its FREE! Check this out: “The body of the costume is cut by a straight sleeveless pattern.” Now look at the black top I cut out. I cut it exactly as the pattern stated, basted it together and tried it on. For my body everything was fine except the hips, a little too much fabric there for the straight silhouette so I cut that part off. That’s why you can see a little bit of white pattern paper showing next to the black fabric on that one edge. That’s all I had to do to change the basic pattern. To turn the top to a dress pattern I just kept cutting below the hip/hemline of the top. I think I added about 27″ to make sure I had enough length. No fancy curves or seaming, just straight down and you’re done.

For my friend Wendy, who is about as opposite a body type to mine as you can get, I cut the same pattern in her size (go by bust and hip measurement, waist should be loose) and kept the flared hip piece because that’s how she’s shaped. One word – MUSLIN. Do a muslin, my friends. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, just do the muslin and save yourself time, fabric and money. THEN you have a go-to pattern that you know works. Just do a muslin.

Aren’t we cute??!! I know my mother will be horrified when she realizes that all her ‘stuff’ under the small couch is showing in this photo so shhhh…don’t say anything : ) This isn’t the best picture of us but it’s the best of what I had. Apparently in the melt-down of the computer a couple of weeks ago I also lost the in-process photos of Wendy’s dress so I’ll walk you through the pattern quickly:

“The body of the costume is cut by a straight sleeveless pattern.” See the pattern above? Yay! “The cascade drapery that falls from the left shoulder in the back is shaped as I have shown here in the diagram sketch. The drapery is cut six inches longer than the length of the dress from shoulder to hem. It is twenty-five inches wide at the top and is gradually sloped to the lower edge.”

This is NOT COMPLICATED! Look at the sketch, I did exactly what she shows. I cut the top edge 25″ across, used the selvage for the long straight edge and guessed at the length. You can always cut it shorter, you can’t add length : ) ” At a point halfway between the upper and lower edges it should be about twenty inches wide as indicate in the diagram.” Fold the fabric in half, or measure, and make sure you’re still around 20″ across; then taper down to the end point.

“When the edges of this piece are finished it is pinned and sewn loosely to the costume and stitched from the shoulder to the hipline as indicated in the draping chart.”

It took me longer to carefully hem this piece than the putting the dress together. I didn’t go quite as long as the pattern suggests because I didn’t want Wendy to get the drape caught in a heel or otherwise tangled in it.

See how pretty it drapes?! You wouldn’t even know that the right side is on the opposite side of what was originally chosen… Because the fabric is more of that rayon sari-inspired fabric it shreds as you look at, don’t even THINK about how much it shreds because it’ll do it twice as fast. I was also cutting around wax from candles and sun fading so when I discovered the red was going to be on the back and we’d see the ‘wrong’ side of the fabric I asked Wendy what she thought and she liked it just fine. Whew!

I found two leaf appliques in my stash that I added – one where the drape attaches to the shoulder and the other on the hip piece.

“The girdle is a band of self material cut about fifteen inches wide and slightly on the bias so that it will fall in soft folds. It is draped high on the left hip where it fastens under the cascade.”

Her hip band is NOT cut slightly on the bias and in retrospect I’d do it over. I wanted to use the woven bottom band of the fabric and thought I had draped it correctly on her. Well, cats got ahold of the piece and removed some of the pins for me so by the time I saw her again and we were dressing for the party things had “shifted” a little. It isn’t quite right but ended up looking ok. She kept saying how comfortable the dress was, which is good because it was 103 that day! It took us over two hours to do her hair and our make-up but was totally worth it : )

We both wore seamed stockings and while her shoes aren’t as dressy as we might like she did just have her second knee replaced so all things considered she’s moving really, really well! AND she’s a veterinarian, so NONE of her co-workers, clients or friends have EVER seen her like this!! Ever. We took many, many photos on her phone so she could show everyone her transformation this week : )

The OTHER thing that I added for weight on the drapery piece is a bunny button. The woman throwing the party does bunny rescue so in honor of her I added a bunny.

She’s being saucy here : )

I know, I know, the glasses are an anachronism. Well, they HAD glasses back then but not red ones with rhinestones and since neither one of us can read small print any more this was her solution to our aging issues, she was very proud of them and how well they matched. Her jewelry is my wedding jewelry. It is an Indian set I bought from one of the Indian stores on University Ave. in Berkeley one rainy Tuesday, they dropped the marked price from $175 to $35. For the best deals shop on rainy days mid-week : )

What kind of party would it be without a dog? This is an actual seeing-eye dog who was using his best puppy-eye skills to score a snack. It worked, just not on his owner : )

The Pattern: Back Drapery in Cascade Effect Trims this Graceful Costume
Rayon Indian-inspired sari cloth
Ease of Instructions:
Easy, just do a muslin of your top pattern first!
Effectiveness (1-10):
I’ll give this a 9.
Notions: Thread, 2 appliques from stash, 1 bunny button.
Hours to complete: Around 3, maybe a little more but only because we chatted and played around with other stuff. Most of that was spent doing hand work.
Total cost:

While watching MythBusters the other night I wondered if I should do a “Confirmed” or “Busted” category on these patterns. Some have been highly successful and look like the sketches, others have been a struggle to get right. What do you think?

Tomorrow – My dress!!!

A Negligee of two straight lengths of 36-inch-wide material

We have photos!

And we have a negligee!!

We just don’t have photos of me IN the negligee : ( I lost one days worth of photos, nothing I can’t replace and honestly I just wasn’t that happy with what I had so the loss is very minor.

“This graceful garment saves time as well as cloth. There is almost no cutting to do.” This is true.

“Just fold the material crosswise in the center and cut the round neck a little lower in the front than the back as I have shown at A.” I cut a slit in the fabric, I measured to the center of the cloth and cut about 4″ in each direction. I then cut a slit down what would become my center front and tried it on. It is very easy to cut the hole TOO BIG so be cautious! I then cut my oval, tried it on to make sure and moved to the next step…

“Then straighten the ends of the goods and hem them as at B and C.” Yes, I hemmed. For some crazy reason (I think I was watching “Mad Men”) I did a beautiful hand hem.

Before I went any further I added a band of trim to the left side of the garment. This fabric only had the pretty band you see on the outside edges on one side of the fabric. I seriously considered leaving things as they were and just having the trim on the one side but the Sheldon side of my brain won the argument about things being equal so trim was added. Now it looks balanced and “normal”, not “arty”.

“Measure down 16 inches from the fold (i.e shoulder ‘seam’) and six inches from the edges as at D and E, and mark these points with pins. Have both layers of the material machine hemstitched together from the points D and E to the bottom of the garment.” Easy peasy, self explanatory, this is what makes the side seams. The next step, on the other hand, caused a bit of angst.

“Also have the neck edge picoted.” I know what a picot edge is but how do I do it here? I’ll save you an hour or two of agony and research on this. The short answer is you just ZIG ZAG the darn thing! The picot refers to the point the stitching makes, like this:

I turned the neck edge under once, zig zagged, and then turned it under again and zig zagged again. Done. It may not be as peaked as per the definition but it’s done (Done is Beautiful!) and it encloses those pesky cut edges. This fabric frays as you look at it, let alone work with it!

“Clip the center of the hemstitching at a low waistline and run a ribbon belt through the slit thus made as shown at F.”

Because of the aforementioned fraying issue I decided to make a buttonhole on each side:

I also did a semi-fancy stitch for those side seams instead of a standard hem stitch. Do what makes you happy, considering this negligee has two hems, a picot’d neck edge and two seams you don’t have a whole lot of sewing to worry about : ) I turned under the selvage edges because they weren’t pretty but if you have decent looking selvages you don’t have to hem the sides!

I didn’t use ribbon for the tie, the fabric I cut off the hem I made into a belt placing the border at the ends of the ties:

I accessorized my outfit with an Indian necklace:

The back is just as lovely as the front:

The only other difference between my version and the pattern is my fabric width. I didn’t cut it down any (it was 42″ wide) and then I added the 2 1/2″ border on the one side. It hangs a little lower on the arm than the one in the photo but I’m fine with that. Do I care for this on me? Not really. It’s comfy but it is, in reality, a 70’s caftan in my mind : ) I have plans to take more photos this weekend when we do hair and make-up so I PROMISE to revisit this!

The Pattern: A Negligee of two straight lengths of 36-inch-wide material
Rayon Indian-inspired sari cloth
Ease of Instructions:
Easy once I figured out exactly how to do picot edging
Effectiveness (1-10):
I’ll give this a 7. Because this so strongly reminds me of caftans a family friend wore in the 70’s I’m going to need to do the whole make-up/hair routine to change my outlook.
Notions: Just thread.
Hours to complete:
If I include the hours spent researching picoting I’ll put this at 3.
Total cost:

Here is a sneak peak to an upcoming dress:

This amazing piece of fabric was a REMNANT I bought at least 15 years ago, it came beaded and everything!! There was *just enough* to make one of the Ruth Wyeth Spears dresses (with some fiddling) AND do a pretty nifty Miss Fisher-inspired accessory. We’re on a roll now : )


An update and a change

Hello fellow Sewists, Sewcialists et al…

You’ll notice there are no pictures with this post. All of my photos are currently residing somewhere “safe”.  I’m not sure where that is at the moment. Our computer died Tuesday, just about the time my bike was stolen from the BART station, it was one of those days….

Since then parts have been replaced in the computer but we’re still awaiting more, and I’ve fixed up my other bike so I can at least get to work but nothing is really working well right now : (

To that end, I’m extending the challenge end date to 8/3, to give any and all of us a breather and time to finish our creations. I have SO MUCH STUFF that is done, just needs photos and words! I haven’t taken many photos because I can’t upload OR edit them since the laptop I’m currently, and finally, using to even make this update doesn’t have anything on it! No photo files, no photoshop, and until an hour ago a limitied ability to even get on the internet. Oh, and there is no chocolate in the house. The horror….

So take a breath and keep your fingers crossed that the new mother board works. the memory is still intact, that 6 years of photos still exist and that I get some chocolate soon : ) Cheers!



Undergarments : )

Let’s start at the beginning, a very good place to start…

For the purposes of this project I chose to use Reconstructing History’s 1920’s corset pattern. You can check out their different 20’s undergarment choices here. They have a Brassieres and Bandeaux pattern that I briefly considered but I chose the corset pattern because, if we’re going to be honest here, boobs. Unlike todays fashions the whole point of the 20’s undergarments was to smash the boobs, get them DOWN not up and perky like the scoops-of-ice-cream look of today. I was intrigued by the notes, Kass has done a wonderful job explaining what they’ve done and why and bases her work on real vintage garments and research.

Here’s the garment I made:


It actually fits the way it should (at least according to the description of the pattern), does what it says it will AND is comfortable!

“The corset in the 1920’s (sometimes also called a ‘corselette’) was a very different thing from the whaleboned waist-cinchers that came before it. Longer, unboned and constructed from sturdy fabric or elastic, the purpose of the 1920’s corset was not to compress the waist or lift the bust, but to flatten the bust and control the hips. It was actually intended to hide the waist. More what we’d call a girdle than a corset at all, this is the garment that more zaftig women wore under their garments in the 1920’s to help them imitate the boyish figure of the flappers.” (from the pattern notes, thanks to Reconstructing History for permission to re-print).  I would say Zaftig is a good descriptor of my body type : )

I will admit to some skepticism : ) I have spent my WHOLE life trying to keep my boobs in the “right” place. My biggest concern wearing this is under-boob sweat but you know what? I’ll deal with it. Is that TMI? Sorry but hey, we’re almost all girls here (I think) so I’m just trying to keep it real.

To start, you NEED to take your measurements. Don’t know how or what/where? Check this out:

I’ve scanned pages from Butterick’s “Art of Dressmaking” from 1927. If you’re going to sew something from the era why not do it like they did back then, especially if you have that info? Fortunately, in this case, we do measurements today about the same as in 1927 but look at the illustrations, including the hair styles : )

Once I had my measurements I followed the directions in the Reconstructing History pattern to the letter. I initially made a muslin of this pattern, enough to make sure it was going to work. I used a nice cotton sateen for the finished corset and decided to leave out the 3 pieces of horizontal boning. I have plans to make another corset, in black this time, and try out the boning.

I showed my grandmother this pattern. She shook her head, “No, mama didn’t wear anything like that. She wore what we now call a teddy. I don’t remember seeing anything like that but I was so young.” I asked her about the inset elastic panels (those triangular pieces) and she didn’t remember seeing anything like those either but again, she wasn’t really paying attention : )

I used a cotton sateen with a little bit of lycra in it for those insets. It was the exact same color as the corset fabric so it all blends. Are those insets necessary? Depends on the size of your behind : ) Mine is relatively small so they give me a little room for movement, if I were built like a certain reality star whose initials are KK I would probably need bigger triangles but that’s what the muslin is for! You could also use something like a power mesh if you really wanted binding power but again, that’s not one of my issues so this works just fine.

All of the seams are flat felled. Aren’t they pretty?

The edges are all bound with double fold bias tape. I had a package of the narrow stuff in my stash. If I didn’t have anything that matched I would take the time to make some.

Once the seams were all flat felled and the rest of the edges bound it came time to sew on all those hooks and eyes. I briefly considered using hook-n-eye tape but no, the point was to make as authentic a garment as I had patience for so I sucked it up and pulled out my box of hooks-n-eyes. I didn’t have enough of the size smaller so I used some fairly substantial hooks and I can tell you unequivocally that this is a really, REALLY good thing! Trying to do this myself, and having to reach around my own chest, made the larger hooks SO much easier to deal with! But what would be the most period-appropriate methods? Back to “Art of Dressmaking”…

Yes, I did do the extra line of stitching 3/8″ from the edge. BEST IDEA in this whole process! It gave me a line to follow. I didn’t have enough extra fabric on the hook side to fold back over the hooks so I pulled out some twill tape and hand stitched that over the hooks so things would look good and nothing would poke me.

Here is the before, when all the hooks and eyes are stitched on but before the twill tape goes on.

And here is the after, the twill tape is on and all you see is the actual hook part, the rest is nicely enclosed. The sewing-on of the hooks and eyes took almost two full episodes of “Mad Men”, the twill tape took most of a third. I didn’t hurry and had some cat assistance which, as you know, always adds to the process. There also might have been home made Limoncello involved…

Here is a SUPER UP CLOSE shot of the finished hook and eye action -

With an embarrassing amount of cat hair. Sorry : ) But check out the tiny stitches that finish off the placket there on the left! I’m also glad I used the larger, sturdier hooks and eyes so that they’ll last longer. We used to use the small ones in costuming and most of them rotted out within a year. I hate redoing stuff like that, seems like such a waste of time, so I starting using the larger sized ones. The big thing that does them in is sweat.  I was worried that these might show through to the outer garment but so far so good!

The Pattern: Reconstructing History 1234 – Ladies 1920’s Corset
Cotton Sateen with cotton/lycra insets
Ease of Instructions:
Easy, just pay attention to the directions and do as they say
Effectiveness (1-10):
I’ll give this a 9.5. I haven’t had time to REALLY road test it but so far I’m quite happy with it.
Notions: Thread, 14 sets of hooks and eyes, 1/2 yard twill tape, 1 package bias tape
Hours to complete: 4, but most of that was spent doing hand work
Total cost:
About $8, all the notions were in my stash as was the cotton/lycra inset fabric, all I bought was the sateen.

This is a REALLY nice pattern, if you’re thinking of trying it go ahead : ) I’m going to try another pattern or two of theirs but so far I’m happy with this. I did the downloadable version since it was a little less expensive and I don’t mind taping pieces together.

When I started this journey I promised that you could make a basic 20’s dress using a free pattern.  Click here to get the free pattern : )

Recognize it? Yep, it’s our friend at Colette Patterns, the Sorbetto. You can use any basic top pattern if you have one that fits, but if you need a nice silhouette that comes in a variety of sizes this just might work for you. In the next post I’ll show you the very, very simple way to “make it work” : ) Then you, too, can cut out your dress like our lovely lady above is doing. That’s a pretty nice cutting table isn’t it?! It’s just missing a cat…

In my last post I had a picture of some very pretty tilework – that is what covers the Opera House : ) Something like 1,050,000 tiles, which were made in Sweden, cover the “sails”. And the shape of the Opera House and those sails? Inspired by peeling an orange.