Pattern Review Sheath Dress Contest


This is my entry for Pattern Review’s Sheath Dress Contest.Butterick 6582 Sheath 2

My inspiration is Ann Margaret from the Elvis movie “Viva Las Vegas”.Elvis & Ann

I made my dress from Butterick’s Retro Line of patterns, #6582. It’s a 1960s dress with a faux crisscross bodice and gathered shoulders. It can be made as a sheath or with a full skirt. The fabric is Deco Delight by Fabric Freedom London England, a mid weight cotton.Butterick 6582 Sheath 1

I started with the size 12 on the bodice and graduated out to size 16 on the hips. I have hips, so for a fitted dress, I need to go up 2 sizes. ACK!!Butterick 6582 Sheath 5The jewelry is a fab vintage celluloid set I nabbed on eBay.

I used an invisible zipper for the center back instead of a regular zipper or a lapped application. I like vintage style but I’m not a purist.IMG_1154The dress pattern just uses facings around the neck and armholes. Usually I would go ahead and make a full lining, but this cotton is mid-weight, probably a quilting fabric. It’s been in my stash for many years, so really I’m not sure. And so because of the heft, I chose to eliminate interfacing for the bows or they would have gotten very bulky. I have the bows attached with safety pins. Not sure if I want to make them permanent or leave them off.

Here is the dress without the shoulder bows.Butterick 6582 Sheath 4

For my figure, I needed to make a full bust adjustment, shortened the torso length by .5 inch/1.2 cm. I lopped off 4 inches/10 cm, from the hem (I’m short). I had to pinch out a 1 inch/2.5 cm, wedge from the front armscye to fix the major gaping there.


I love this dress. Paired with my kitten heels, I feel ready to meet Elvis in Viva Las Vegas!

“Bright light city gonna set my soul
Gonna set my soul on fire
Got a whole lot of money that’s ready to burn,
So get those stakes up higher
There’s a thousand pretty women waitin’ out there
And they’re all livin’ devil may care
And I’m just the devil with love to spare
Viva Las Vegas, viva Las Vegas!”

Avalon Ball Gown


I just got back from Catalina Island where we attended the Avalon Ball put on by the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles.


This was my first trip to Catalina Island. No wonder they named the town here Avalon. It’s an enchanting place.


I made Butterick 5136 (Retro 1948) gown out of a celery hued crepe backed satin from my stash. I have no idea what the fiber content is. It’s been in my stash for over 20 years!

Avalon Ball Gown 1


It was fairly quick to sew as this was a last minute decision to sew a dress. So typical for me to give myself a tight deadline of just 3 days, from muslin testing to finished dress. I made a wide fabric shoulder strap instead of the jewelry chain suggested in the pattern instructions. I sewed black mini Camellia chiffon flowers I got on Etsy to the strap as a kind of corsage.

Avalon Ball Gown 2

I also added a full self-fabric lining and an underlining with boning inserted next to the side seams and to either side of the zipper on the back. The pattern only called for a facing for the back. I didn’t want any wardrobe malfunctions on the dance floor! I did quick and dirty boning channels by cutting out 1 inch wide strips with pinking shears. The boning is that plastic stuff that has to be dunked in really hot water to get it pliable enough to unbend it. After cutting the boning to size, I used a lighter to slightly melt the sharp, jagged cut ends. This made it so much easier to slide it into the channels and avoided poking me while wearing.

Avalon ball gown boning

I moved the shoulder strap from the left side to the right side. This is a preference of mine as a ballroom dancer. In the dance hold, men tend to pull at the dress on the woman’s right side (because of the arm that goes around her back). I wanted my dress to stay put.

Avalon ball gown 4

I hemmed it to the top of my foot and eliminated the train. This is for dancing and I didn’t want a train tripping me up or getting stepped on all night.

Avalon Ball 4

It’s rare I can get hubby into a suit these days!

I ran into this lovely, talented lady, Angela (here on the right). She sewed her dress from a vintage pattern from Lady Marlowe Patterns on Etsy. I love that vintage dress clip she’s wearing.

Avalon Ball Gown 3

“I could have dance all night
I could have danced all night
And still have begged for more….”


What is currently on my work table: 1930s Day Dress

A quick peek at what I’m working on currently: Eva Dress 1930s Day Dress, with that interesting cut out on the bodice.EvaDress D30-6222

In an Amy Butler fabric:Water Bouquet by Amy Butler in Midnight

I don’t usually like to use quilting cottons for dressmaking, but this dress needs the structure to hold up that triangular cut out, so in this case it’s a win. Plus it’s such a striking design.

Marion Ravenwood costume finished



Here is my finished Marion Ravenwood costume dance show costume. New Look 6832 is an easy-to-sew peasant style blouse. After I did the machine embroidery, it came together in half an hour. I made a minor split-neck modification to the neckline to get an approximation to the costume actress Karen Allen wore in the movie’s Cairo market scene. I’m very happy with it.

StarWarsCantina 4

The peasant style blouse is roomy so I never felt constricted. I did do some hand embroidery around the neckline. Marion Blouse embroideryMarion blouse hand embroidery

I did a simplified version following an original Romanian blouse. The real ones (like the one pictured below) do actual smocking around the neckline.  Having never done smocking, I didn’t have time to teach myself with a short deadline. Original Romanian EmbroideryThese beautiful handmade blouses are available on Etsy and elsewhere on the internet. They are just too pricey for a costume and I don’t wear white. It doesn’t work well with my Autumn coloring.

Indiana Jones & Marion 3

The pants are Burda 2938. I added 2 inches to the width at the bottom and used elastic in the hem to make them more harem pants-like.burda2938

Hubby and I had a great time playing these iconic characters.Indiana Jones & Marion 4

This dance number was called, “Totally Awesome 80s Movies”. We had Princess Leia, Hans Solo, Ferris Bueller and his girlfriend Sloane, and the Ghostbusters.StarWarsCantina 2

The monkey did make an appearance in the number, but I had to toss him into the audience early on. I couldn’t figure out how to hold onto it and dance at the same time!Inspiration board

WooHoo! big finish!Totally Awesome 80s Movies 90

Uptown Girl Jacket



I was a choreographer/dancer in my local library’s 10th annual fundraiser dance show in March. The theme this year was “Back to the 80s”, (yep, get out those scrunchies!). My number was Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl”, a very popular 1980s song and music video. So I went on Etsy and found this 80s pattern, Butterick 4398 by Rimini. I’m not sure who Rimini was/is. Anyone know?

Butterick 4398

Wow, those giant puffy sleeves and the ubiquitous bow! I think I actually wore something similar to a company Christmas party back in the 80s. Go check out this Youtube video by Professor Hallay (one of my favorite’s for info on fashion history) on 1980s fashion:  She calls the 80s an “Excess of Excess”. No kidding! I remember the BIG hair, tons of makeup, giant shoulder pads, ginormous sleeves, and bows on everything. I think every bridesmaid dress I wore in the 80s had the requisite giant butt bow. I permed my hair back then until it was crispy!

Telio Kala LaceThe fabric I used is this Telio Kala Lace in Black and Gold, from, and a polyester lining fabric. I underlined the lace with black silk organdy (fortunately in my stash) to keep it from sagging. The lace turned out to be VERY fluid and this pattern needed fabric with some stiffness. The sewing was fairly easy since this jacket is collarless. I did add an organdy ruffle to the inside of the sleeve cap to help it hold its pouffy-ness. You can see here I only serged the armscye seam. If this was meant to be evening wear, not just a costume, I would have encased the seam with binding. As it was, some of the metallic threads poked through and were a little itchy, but I could live with it for the 10 minutes I was wearing/dancing in it.

Butterick 4398 d

I used one of those button cover kits for the buttons. I really liked the look of them.Butterick 4398 bWhat I didn’t like was when the top button cover popped off before going on stage for the last night of the show. I’ll have to look into how to prevent this from happening in the future. Maybe some E6000 glue where the shank attaches to the button insert?Butterick 4398 c

I’m really glad I took the time to do a muslin. The neckline had major gaping, which was easily adjusted by pinching out the excess in the pattern. I’m really happy with how it turned out. Maybe I can wear it for real? I’m seeing hints of 80s style creeping back into current fashion lately.Butterick 4398 a

The skirt is Simplicity 1200, view E, in a stretch panne velvet. I like this fabric for its fluid, swishy drape and the shininess. The pattern is meant for woven fabric so I treated the stretch velvet like a woven and interfaced the waist facing with a sturdy interfacing. Since the waist has zero stretch, I inserted an invisible zipper in the side seam.Uptown Girl 2

That bow cracks me up!Uptown Girl 3

That’s hubby in the back playing the Billy Joel Auto Mechanic part.Uptown Girl 1

The fundraiser show is loosely based on the Dancing With The Stars concept, minus the snarky judging panel. My star this year is Peachy Canyon Winery owner Nancy Beckett who raised money for the Paso Robles Youth Arts Foundation (PRYAF). They provide FREE classes to kids under 18 years in art, music, drama, dance… pretty much all the visual and performing arts. How great is that?!?

Uptown Girl jackets 1Nancy’s (on the left) jacket is 1980s pattern Butterick 5174 by Jessica Howard. The PRYAF sewed her costume as part of a costume making class at the Foundation. Pretty cool that the kids made her outfit!

Uptown Girl 4

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:

After a quick look around the internet, I easily found 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 will get a little thrashed in 4 shows. Although 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!