Raiders of the Lost Ark’s Marion Ravenwood costume – a work in progress


A work-in-progress peek at what’s on my sewing table. For an upcoming show, the director is putting together an 80s Movie Medley and my husband and I are cast as Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood. As usual for community charity shows, we’re asked to provide our own costumes. Here’s my inspiration for Marion:

A quick look around the internet and it was easy to find the genuine Romanian Embroidered blouse Marion wears. But whoa, they are pricey [at the time of this post] going for $179! This is just going to be a costume that’s going to get a little thrashed in 4 shows. It could also be a good possibility for next Halloween. My nephew has the monkey toy I could borrow.

So I’m starting with New Look 6892.

I’ve checked out the blogs of other talented sewers who have made this costume. One ( even did the hand embroidery. Wow! I don’t have that kind of time. So with the limited number of embroidery stitches offered on my Janome 3160 QDC, I think I can come up with a close approximation. I’m using a white on white embroidered cotton to give the fabric a little more interest and to help make up for my funky machine embroidery.

The embroidery is done and here are the pieces ready to assemble. The white on white embroidered fabric has a scalloped edge I’ll take advantage of for hems which will save a lot of time.

Marion blouse 2

Stay tuned.


“So Fancy” Sapphire Dress. A retreat with Gertie and a dress from Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book.


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Last September I attended Gertie’s, aka Gretchen Hirsch, three day workshop at Beetle and Fred in lovely Beacon NY.Gertie Workshop 4If you love vintage style sewing, I highly recommend Gertie’s sewing retreats! The classes are small and you get lots of individual attention. Gertie Workshop 0I was with this awesome group of women.Gertie Workshop 7We were required to show up with muslins ready for test fitting. Good thing since Gertie can really fine tune the fit of the bodices and she takes the time to make sure it’s right! I choose to make a dress from “Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book”. I used the Basic Bodice but used the Boatneck neckline to better feature the border print fabric and the pleated skirt. I used Gertie’s “So Fancy” Sapphire border print cotton from her line of fabrics she designed for Michael Miller fabrics. I got it from her website: www.charmpatterns.bygertie.comso-fancy-sapphire-border-print-cotton.jpgI fully lined my dress with a lightweight cotton. Gertie showed an easy way to combine fashion fabric facing with full linings. She just sews down the facings pieces right on top the lining pieces and then treats it as one piece. I used the bodice pattern pieces for the lining. This is much simpler than using the couture technique of trying to puzzle together facings and cutting the lining to go around those difficult bottom edge curves of the facings.

Gertie demonstrated how to insert a center back lapped zipper with facings, a really easy way to pattern match fabric designs, how to apply boning, and lots more.

I didn’t quite finish my dress at the workshop but all I had left was the hand sewing  to be done at home. Here’s the finished dress:Gertie's "Ultimate dress book" - boatneck 1For the skirt lining I used the A-Line skirt pattern pieces from the book. I didn’t want the box pleats to get too bulky.Gertie's "Ultimate dress book" - boatneck 2There’s funny wrinkling in the bodice back because I’m twisting and leaning back slightly. The back bodice actually fits very well. And I managed to do a close enough pattern matching on the back over the lapped zipper.ultimate-dress-boatneck-3.jpg

And here’s a stocking flashie with these cool blue stockings from What Katie Did.Blue Stocking Flashie



The Finished Chick-Chicky-Boom Jacket

Retro Butterick 6256 Jacket – a vintage reissue of a 1947 suit. The jacket has a back peplum and the skirt is the long, mid-calf length, typical for its time. I made the jacket for my Lucille Ball outfit for a recent performance of “Cuban Pete”.Butterick 6256 1I cut away the front hem so it curved like the one Lucy wore. The  metallic tissue lame type fabric (from was a nightmare. It frayed like crazy. frayingIt frayed as soon as I picked up the cut pattern pieces. So I did a line of straight stitch around all the edges. I tried the 3-Step-Zigzag stitch, but it made things worse.

I did a quick-and-dirty tissue fit with the pattern pieces. I didn’t have time to do a muslin mock up so there are fitting issues I wasn’t able to address before sewing the fashion fabric. For me, tissue fitting only gives me a moderate amount of information, so I tend to use the tissue fit method only on simpler garments.Butterick 6256 3You can see the back bodice is too long for my short torso and it’s too tight in the underarm area. I recall reading elsewhere about the tightness under the arms and how one sewist solved it by adding a gusset to the underarm. If you use this pattern, definitely do a mock up muslin to fine tune the fit.Butterick 6256 2But hey, it’s a costume and won’t be worn more than a few times. I replaced the buttons with a frog closure which gave me more freedom of movement since I had to dance in this jacket. Plus I didn’t have to sew buttonholes. That would have been bad in this fabric!Butterick 6256 7This fragile fabric will not stand up to many wearings. The metallic threads pull and pop apart. Had I more time and if this were to be something I wanted around for a long time, I would have applied a super lightweight iron-on interfacing I have in my stash to all the pieces.

Cuban Pete 0 Steve & ChristinaPlaying Lucy was a blast!Cuban Pete 2 Steve & ChristinaCuban Pete 12 Steve & ChristinaCuban Pete 11 Steve & ChristinaI found the vintage 1950s hat on Etsy.Butterick 6256 5

And now I’ll leave you with a stocking flashie! The stockings are from What Katie Did.StockingFlashies

Youtube video of “Cuban Pete” performance: Cuban Pete with Steven and Christina

Retro ’47 Butterick 6256


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I have a dance show coming up and I need to make a retro style jacket. I am playing the part of Lucille Ball and my dance partner is going to be Desi Arnaz in “Cuban Pete”. My inspiration are these images of Lucy and Desi:

Lucy Desi cuban pete 2

It’s hard to guess colors in black and white film, but the few color stills I found show her outfit as emerald green.

Lucy Desi cuban pete 3

They’re even available as dolls!

Lucy Desi cuban pete dolls

The pattern I’m going to use, with some modifications, for the jacket is a retro Butterick 6256.


And just shoot me, I picked this metallic brocade from my stash that frays when I just look at it! The color theme of the event I’m doing this for is Black, White and Red.

Red gold brocade

I’ll have to do some pattern hacking to the front pieces to approximate Lucy’s jacket front.

pattern hacking

Hey, it least I gave myself a month to get it done!






Whatever Lola Wants Dress


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Last March was the 9th annual Dancing With Our Stars, my local library’s fundraiser show. The library generously opens up this fundraiser show to other local charities so we can spread the wealth around our community. This year I choreographed a Rumba to “Whatever Lola Wants” for my “Community Star”  Jim Wilkins. Jim represented the Atascadero Historical Society and raised $18,000+! Not bad for a construction business owner who had NEVER dance before. I wanted our number to be a tribute to the 1940s Film Noir, hard-boiled detective genre. This is the second dress I made for this dance number. The first one I blogged about here.

Butterick 6380, a Patterns by Gertie vintage style dress pattern.Whatever Lola 3I wanted a more fluid, flowy dress for the big main stage event. So I chose a beautiful Silk Charmeuse from my stash. I had bought it a couple of years ago from my local fabric store which is closing its doors soon. The owner, a 90 years young lady, is finally retiring. ACK!! This is the last fabric store in the county that had a huge selection of high quality fashion fabrics. Nooooooooooooooooo! Whatever Lola 1Butterick 6380 is a straight forward pattern and fairly easy to sew. It has a very low neckline, but it worked for me as a “Lola” costume. The silk charmeuse was a little tricky  to sew with – so slippery! The dress is fully lined (Bemberg Rayon) because the silk needed some support. I changed the sleeve a bit by adding a shirred/gathered vertical strip, about a two inches long, on the center of the sleeve to make it similar to my favorite vintage style short sleeves.Whatever Lola 2I made my usual FBA adjustment and shortened the midriff pieces by 1/2 inch (1.27cm). I have a short torso. I also doubled the length of the neckline tab strip. Otherwise it pulled the neckline apart so much that my bra straps were exposed and not in an attractive, sexy way. And I changed the back gathers into darts. I didn’t like the pouffiness on either side of the zipper, but that is just a personal preference. Whatever Lola 5This is a funny angle of the final dip, but you can see the Bemberg Rayon lining in the skirt. The lining wrinkled more than the Silk Charmeuse dress fabric. Hmmm.Whatever Lola 6I just loved the opportunity to wear the vintage rhinestone jewelry in my collection. I made a small fascinator hat to match with millinery from suppliers on Etsy. What ever did we do before Etsy!?! There are 15 hair pins anchoring that hat in my hair, otherwise it would have gone flying!Red facinator

Anatomy of a 1950s Vintage Dress


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This beautiful 1950s strapless dress was loaned to me by a dear friend (who is 90 years young) . It belonged to his late wife and is saved as part of the inheritance of true vintage dresses I’m sure his three daughters and two granddaughters will squabble over. There’s evidence of a label that has been cut out, so I can’t identify who the maker was. His late wife, like myself, found labels to be intolerably itchy.

1950 Turquoise dress 01

Its made of heavy, dark turquoise taffeta. The pleating of the crossover bodice just astounds me.1950 Turquoise dress 02

The corded and topstitched lines on the 3/4 circle skirt help it stand out.1950 Turquoise dress 03

Here you can see underneath how the cords were applied. They were simply sandwiched between the fashion fabric and a wide strip of mid-weight muslin-type fabric that was cut on the bias.1950 Turquoise dress 05

There’s an underskirt of un-hemmed, stiff cheesecloth-like fabric.1950 Turquoise dress 06

The bodice is boned on all the seams with most of the bone casings applied with hand-whipped stitches.1950 Turquoise dress 081950 Turquoise dress 10

It has a side lapped zipper, a metal one which is very typical for the era.1950 Turquoise dress 11

These tiny hooks helped to keep the zipper hidden. Such incredible attention to the details!1950 Turquoise dress 25

It appears the underskirt was attached after the main body of the dress was constructed. It’s edged with bias strips to keep it free from the zipper with a snap to close it. I want to try that technique on my next lined dress. Also notice they didn’t bother with a stay tape around the waist. The dress doesn’t seem to have suffered much without one.1950 Turquoise dress 14.JPG

It’s difficult to see here. The pleated bodice has a lining which is not attached at the top edge. I’m attempting to pull it open here so we can get a look.1950 Turquoise dress 20

And lastly the hem is a tiny rolled machine stitched one. They folded it once, stitched it, then folded it a second time and stitched again.1950 Turquoise dress 12

I hope you enjoyed this dissection of a vintage dress as much I did!

Vogue 7488 Men’s Vests – construction



Why, why, why do I do this to myself!?! I have an impending deadline and I have to go and choose the most difficult version in the pattern envelope. I have got to remember to check online if other seamstresses have tried a particular pattern and what, if any, difficulties they encountered. Vogue 7488 vest B is one such pattern I should have checked first [pounds forehead against the sewing room wall here].

My husband and I are ballroom dance instructors and are participating in a fundraiser hosted by our local library. It’s based on the “Dancing With The Stars” or BBC’s “Strictly Come Dancing” premise of taking a non-dancer (a notable community “star”) and teaching a routine to perform but minus the snarky judging panel. My husband and his “Community Star” are going to do a tango to “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” from Evita. The theme of this year’s fundraiser is “Dancing On Broadway”. And as with most local community fundraisers, costuming is on a very tight budget and we performers have to come up with our own. My inspiration for hubby’s costume:

AYME OLIVO as EVA PERON and DAVIS GAINES as JUAN PERON in Musical Theatre West’s Pruduction of EVITA.

Easy enough. I don’t need to come up with a full tux or Argentinian Military uniform. Just a nice tux shirt, white bowtie, a fancy vest and a blue & white sash. So I pulled my never used Vogue 7488 out of the pattern stash. I thought the design lines of View B would be elegant with it’s fancy lapels. I used a lovely white on white jacquard remnant I had in my fabric stash, always a plus to use something I already had. Assembly was going along with no hitches even though the instructions for attaching the under lapel piece to the front are unclear. The illustration just shows the end result and not how to get there. But I am comfortable with stitching pivot points. The trick is to stitch from the pivot point out one side, then manipulate the fabric so you can stitch again from the pivot point out the other side.

First is some stitching to reinforce the pivot area.

Yay! Looks just like the illustration. So far so good. Then OMG the pivot point on the notched collar when attaching the the lining/facing to the main body of the fabric. ACK!!!!! This is all you get in the instructions to do this VERY complicated step:Huh?!?! REALLY?!? You’ve got to be freakin’ kidding me! So here is how I did it:

I am not happy with the end result. There is a big lump under the pivot point area and it’s not a very sharp “V”, but more of an inelegant “U”. I am out of time, patience and out of fabric. Thank goodness no one is going to see it up close. Next time I’ll stick to the simpler vest without fancy lapels! I was so frustrated this pattern went right into the fireplace and up in flames.

Hubby on stage with his dance partner for the show:

Match Your Shoes Pattern Review Challenge – Finished Dress


Wow, brocade is a pain to sew. It frays if you even breathe on it. I got the royal blue rose jacquard satin fabric used for this project from and it was described as a “lightweight satin”. It is more of a mid-weight bordering on the heavy side brocade with the traditional long threads in the rose design, hence the terrible fraying. To stop the immediate fraying, each pattern piece had to be sewn as it came off the cutting table around all the edges with the 3-Step-Zigzag stitch.

I used a vintage pattern, Hollywood 945 and besides grading up 2 sizes, I had to make some adjustments to the fit, since my waist is not the same circumference as my neck as apparently women’s waists were during WWII. 

I took in the shoulders by 1 inch and skipped the shoulder pads. I already have broad shoulders and padding them makes me resemble a football (American Football) player. I also fully lined the bodice rather than the typical facings they always seemed to use then. I think they had to do that because of rationing to save fabric or maybe that was just the way dressmaking was done then.

I hemmed it above my knees because I’ll have to dance in this dress and will be doing a couple of high kicks. The shoes I matched for Pattern Review’s challenge are a pair of ballroom dance shoes. Low heels because my dance partner for this number is of short stature.

I skipped the bodice bow because I wanted to wear this beautiful pair of vintage rhinestone dress clips.

I not really pleased with the dress because of the fabric. It’s fairly stiff and it doesn’t show the side draping effect. I had to tame the side drape pleating by ironing it down with lots of steam. Otherwise it bumped out in a strange lump at my waist and not even the bow could hide it. I also made a change to the pattern by putting in a center back seam zipper with an anachronistic invisible zipper. I hate having to struggle into my dresses and the original keyhole back neck with a side seam of hooks or snaps just won’t do it for me.I would like to try this pattern again in a rayon challis, the kind of flowing, draping fabric this pattern seems to have been designed for. Here is the matching hat I made for the dance demo:Blue facinator

I just love any opportunity to wear my vintage Weiss rhinestone jewelry.

Here we are dancing for a local church’s awards night. I made Jim dance for a number a of smaller events to get him used to performing for an audience before the big main show. I think Jim did a remarkable job for a man who has NEVER danced before:

Pattern Review’s Match Your Shoes Contest 2018

Pattern Review’s Match Your Shoes Contest couldn’t have been more timely. The annual Dancing With Our Stars, a local library fundraiser show, is coming up in March. I’m the choreographer/trainer for my “Community Star” and I have two pairs of gorgeous royal blue ballroom dance shoes to chose from that I’ll need to make a costume to match. My number is set in the 1940s and is a tribute to the Film Noir, hard-boiled detective genre. So I’ll be using one of my vintage patterns from the WWII era.

Royal Blue dance shoes

Pattern Review describes this sewing challenge as, “We have all been there … sew a great outfit, but you have no shoes to match! So let’s approach it from the other direction. If you sew your outfit to match your shoes, you will be ready to step out the door as soon as you have tied off the last thread! The object of this contest is to sew an outfit to match a pair of shoes.”

Hollywood 945 & Blue Fabric

The pattern is Hollywood 945 from one of my favorite vintage pattern suppliers on Etsy, Vintage4Me2. The royal blue rose jacquard satin fabric is from It has a little heavier hand than I thought it would, but I think it will drape the way I want it to. That’s one of the drawbacks of buying fabric online, you can’t feel the fabric or test the drape in person before you buy. But the color matches the shoes perfectly so I’ll just have to make it work. My inspiration is bad girl Joan Bennet in “Scarlet Street” 1945.

Joan Bennet Scarlett Street

I plan to make a fascinator hat to match with supplies from Etsy’s Petershams Millinery.

Blue Hat Supplies

I hoping to be a dangerous dame in royal blue!


Film Fashion – The Time In Between (El Tiempo Entre Costuras)

Here’s another film series about a Seamstress circa WWII. “The Time In Between” is about Sira Quiroga, a young Spanish dressmaker who is engaged to a solid upstanding, if not very exciting, young man. She meets a suave, sweet-talkin’ typewriter salesman who sweeps her off her feet and upends her life. The film is in Spanish, so if you don’t speak it, you’ll have to read the subtitles.

It is set in the time when Spain is being torn apart by a civil war and the new regime’s growing alliances with Nazi Germany. Sira, smart, gutsy and resourceful has the  ability to whip up designer duds on a moment’s notice. She is a skillful seamstress who learned to sew at her unmarried, single mother’s knee. And then starting as a teen, works with her mother (Dolores) in a haute couture workshop.

After Sira jilts her fiancé, she runs off with her cad of a lover, and is callously abandoned by him in Morocco. She has to quickly scramble to raise some cash and agrees to run guns to raise the cash to return to Spain and start her life anew. She opens her own atelier and becomes couturier to the Nazi wives stationed in Madrid. Urged on by her new friend, the real-life British spy Rosalinda Fox, Sira too becomes a spy to aid the British cause.

The costuming is pretty freakin’ fabulous in this film. Even the day dresses are lovely and spot-on!

Here are Sira and Rosalinda on a picnic:

I just dig Rosalinda’s sunglasses:

And everyone wears hats or headscarves:

Here are some of Sira’s coats with fur accents:

Oh yeah, of course there are the evening gowns:

Here is Rosalinda in a “Fortuny” gown. As mistress of a powerful man, she can afford to wear such an expensive gown:

I love the embroidery on the collar of Sira’s cocktail dress:

The series is based on the book by Maria Duenas. Binge watch the series on Netflix even if it’s for nothing but the orgy of time period costumes!