Surplice Dress from Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book


This pretty summer dress is from “Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book” by Gretchen Hirsch, the Floral Surplice Dress on starting on page 151.

I love it that Gertie set up her patterns to be mix-n- match. I chose the surplice bodice and the full circle skirt. I paired it with a Gertie designed rayon challis fabric with a lovely soft  hand and drape that I got from Joann’s ages ago, when they still carried her fabric line. I am royally miffed they don’t carry her fabrics anymore in the US. I would totally go to Australia just to raid their Spotlight stores for her fabric.

Worn sans petticoat

This has been in my UFO (unfinished object) pile since September 2018, when I tested the muslin and cut out the fabric in one of Gertie’s workshops in Beacon NY. It was my second dress in that session and we ran out of time. I was glad to be able to utilize Gertie to get the bodice fit just right. I just thought I would get to it sooner when I got home.

I had to do a full bust adjustment (FBA), pinch out a 1 inch slice in the armscye and do a sway back adjustment to the center back. Gertie just loves her a lapped zipper! I chose to go with an invisible one which is quicker for me.

Dress worn here with a petticoat

I’m wearing it here with a petticoat (from Pettiskirt Style, now sadly closed). I think the dress looks nice with or without a petticoat. The crossover bodice does reveal a lot of cleavage, so if that is not your jam, you may have to do some altering to raise the neckline. I’m wearing a vintage Coro enamel necklace and earring set. I love vintage jewelry! It has an aged patina to it that I adore. I’m still searching for the matching bracelet to complete a parure.

My petticoat is not a super floofy one. At the time of this writing, Malco Modes ( has a very similar one on their website. This would be a match to their “Zooey” line.

I fully lined the bodice and skirt. In the book, Gertie used only facings. I sewed facings right on top of the lining before sewing the front and lining together. That way you just see the fashion fabric and not lining peeking out. The lining is a mish-mash of various lightweight cotton fabrics I had in my stash.

Hello there! Bertie the kitten was wondering what I was doing.

He is such an adorable cutie patootie. He just likes to be wherever I am. Very typical of Ragdolls.

Ack! Blurry photo!

So this UFO is almost 2 years old. Do I win the oldest UFO award? Probably not. I would love to know old your UFOs are?

My “Rory Gilmore Chilton Alumni Day” Dress

Yes, I’m a Gilmore Girls fan. The series and the 9 years later re-boot are among my favorite shows to play in the background while I sew. I love this cute dress that “Rory” wears to her Chilton Academy Alumni Day.

I noticed that the darted sheath dress in New Look 6013 looked very similar. They even used the same color combination on the pattern envelope’s artwork.

Now that mustard, taupe and cream color combination works for the actress (Alexis Bleidel), but it just doesn’t do it for me. So I went shopping in my stash and came up with this quirky, Alexander Henry print called “Corazones Hearts”, a quilting-weight cotton.

Adjustments to the pattern to fit me: I had to do an FBA and take out 1 inch in the center back for a sway back adjustment. The raglan sleeves are way too big on me, so I added an additional ½ inch to the seam allowance along the entire top center seam.

My bust darts pucker slightly even though I re-sewed them twice. The FBA chapter in The Palmer/Pletsch Complete Guide To Fitting say that these styles of fitted dress with horizontal and vertical bust darts may need a more pointy [read vintage style] bra. I don’t own a bullet bra. Maybe I should invest in one? Even the authors admit they can’t get pucker-free bust darts with today’s molded bras so I’m not going to worry about my less than perfect darts.

The heart with the angel just happened to hit the center of my chest by happy accident. I was just trying to keep the hearts from being dead center bull’s eyes over the bust tips.

I tried to do pattern matching on the back but the back seam is curved, and with my sway back adjustment, VERY curved. So the pattern matching on the back is a fail. The only bit that matched up is the heart at about the center of my back. The rest shift and look like I’m seeing double. I won’t try that again with a curvy back seam. Another lesson learned.

But overall, I’m happy with my “Rory Gilmore” dress.

Bunny Moon Maxi Dress


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Ever since I saw Maestra Kelly’s Silk Dupioni, Mother-of-the-Groom gown on Pattern Review, I have had me some serious sewing envy! So I went shopping in my stash and happily came up with the perfect cotton fabric for a summer maxi dress. The Fabric is Cotton & Steel’s “Folklore Moon Rabbit” by Rashida Coleman Hale, Fall 2014. So this has probably been in my stash about 5-6 years.

Cotton & Steel “Moon Rabbit”

Maestra Kelly used McCalls 6953 for her beautiful dress. M6953 comes with different cup sizes in the pattern, so hooray! I don’t have to do an FBA. I did, however, make a muslin of the bodice just to check, and yes, it did need some minor tweaking to fit me in the upper bust and armscye areas. Pinching out an inch at the upper edge of the princess seam into the armscye gave me a better fit. Otherwise I have major gaping at the armhole which is typical for me. A super easy adjustment done in 5 minutes. YAY!

I altered the neckline to a deeper scoop neck. I plan to make a shorter version of this dress and I will stay with the higher neckline for that one. I did some minor fabric pattern matching to make sure the moons and the rabbits lined up across the dress.

I changed the order of the sewing instructions to accommodate my fluctuating weight. I sewed the front skirt to the front bodice to make one unit, and the back bodice to the back skirt. That way I could do the side seams in one long go and I can take them in or let them out as needed more easily.

I had pinched out 1/2 inch in the center back for a sway back adjustment. Looks like I need to pinch out a little more for the next version. There’s some fabric bunching at my center back waistline.

I didn’t do any fancy seam finishes for this dress. All seams are finished with overlocking except for the bodice which is fully lined. I took Maestra Kelly’s suggestion and sewed down the pleats for 2 inches for a slimmer waistline.

I love my new summer maxi dress. Bertie wanted to get in the pictures. He is just too cute!!!

Conversations with Bertie Dress

Bertie is the newest member of our household. He’s a 13 week old Ragdoll kitten. So now we total 4 cats, 2 rescues and 2 Ragdolls. This dress is McCall’s M8091 #NoemiMcCalls. It kind of worked – – and kind of didn’t work for me.

I love the design of this dress. I made view B without the pockets.

First I made a test muslin and thank goodness I did. Otherwise I would have wasted the Cotton & Steel “Mustang” by Melody Miller fabric, although I didn’t know it at the time. Here’s how the bodice fit on me with the princess seam opened to accommodate my FBA:

Here is the side-by-side comparison of the original side bodice pattern and my adjusted pattern piece:

Then I ran into a weird problem in the muslin. The waist band. I could not get it to work for me. The pattern piece is drafted as just a single, long, straight-as-a-board piece. It was really funky fitting around my waist and made the skirt hang wonkily. I think it would have worked better for me if it had been a shaped/curved waist band. I didn’t want to draft a better fitting waistband, so I took the easy way out and eliminated the waist band altogether, which kind of defeats the design of the dress and was one of the features I actually liked about the style. So here are a couple of my re-adjusted bodice pieces, elongated to make up for the missing waistband:

So, though I still like the dress, it wasn’t exactly what I had envisioned. I chose to skip all the topstitching since I ditched the waist band on my version.

I’m wearing a Mid-century parure of Peach colored thermoset jewelry.

“But mommy, I like clawing up the couch…”

Bertie kind of looks like an Ewok…

The Jenna Dress

I have been wanting to make By Hand London’s Jenna Dress for some time now, ever since I saw Kate Eva’s cute version. I made variation 1, with the knee length hem with the square-ish neckline. This style is fitted in the bodice and then skims over the bumpy bits in the bias cut skirt.

This fabric is a thin, very crisp cotton from my stash. The selvedge info says “Patty Reed Designs, 2011 Laurie Campbell, La-di-draw, Inc for Fabric Traditions. So according to the date on the selvedge, I may have had this in my stash for 9 years.

I love the tie detail on the sleeves. They were just a tiny bit fiddley. By Hand London has an excellent online sew along with two ways to sew the sleeves. I think a beginner could handle this dress. They do a lot of hand holding in their tutorials.

The cotton I used is very crisp and I had a lot of trouble with the dreaded pointy bust darts. ACK! I had to unpick and re-sew twice before I was happy with them. I also added bra strap guards because of the very wide neckline but forgot to use them in the photos. One of my bra straps is just peeking out. I may add just a little width to the shoulders so that doesn’t happen on a future version.

Variation 1 has a short skirt. I am 5’3” and on me, before sewing the hem, it hit just above my knees. I didn’t want to go any shorter, so I had to sew on hem lace/tape and folded that up for hemming. I’m a bit long in the tooth for very short skirts. Next time I will add 2 inches to the pattern. BHL said that if you use a fabric that is stable and doesn’t ravel easily, you don’t need to finish the seams in the bias skirt. My dress is fully lined with Bemberg rayon anyway, so I took their word for it and left the seams unfinished.

I made a matching “cough mask” just for the heck of it from the leftover scraps. Future generations will really be able to date this to the Coronavirus era.

I’d like to to make this again in a more fluid fabric, like a rayon challis. This cotton is just a tad too stiff, but regardless, I still really like this dress.

Sewing My Birth Year – the Sewcialists Mini Challenge

This “Sew Your Birth Year” sewing challenge by the Sewcialists has been a fun project to work on while trying to avoid going cabin crazy during the Coronavirus quarantine.

I’ve been holding on to this Spoonflower fabric for a couple of years. It’s “Crime & Love”, a design by Zapi in Spoonflower’s satin fabric. Here’s how the colors appeared on the website, variations of greenish-grays.

But here is what it looks like in person. Brighter teals. This did not make me unhappy. I’m not a person who wears gray, but I loved the Noir Spy Novel look of the design so much I just had to have it. So the teal was a nice surprise and one of my favorite colors to wear. Yay!

The pattern I chose for this mini challenge is one I’ve used before: Retro Butterick 5748. So as Jimmy Buffett sang in Pencil Thin Mustache, “Honey, jump right up and show your age…..”

This satin was very slippery and shifted slightly while cutting. I tried to do pattern matching on the back but the slipperiness made it just slightly off. I also had to use an off white zipper I had in my supplies. None of the fabric stores in my area are open right now so I used what I had on hand. It is an Invisible Zipper so it does not show too much.

Changes I made: I lowered the neckline in the front and raised it in the back. I moved the side zipper to the center back seam. I really don’t like side seam zippers and only tolerate them in formal wear. I hate the way I have to struggle into clothing with side zippers. Probably because I have wide shoulders, so it requires a lot of contorting on my part to get into side zipper styles. I also added ¾ length sleeves. My inspiration for the changes is this photo of Ella, Miss Victory Violet, in this red dress.

I had trouble with the neckline. It’s wavy and doesn’t sit right against my chest. I’m not sure what I could have done to fix it. But I still like the dress anyway. The dress is fully lined in a plain thin cotton I had in my stash.

This Retro vintage style needs a petticoat to give the skirt the right shape.

Just switch out my vintage rhinestone necklace for some pearls, and, hello June Cleaver.

Keeping with the theme here, my husband and I are dancing to the most popular song of my birth year. According to Billboard, the top song of 1960 was the theme song to “A Summer Place” by The Percy Faith Orchestra.

“There’s a summer place
Where it may rain or storm
Yet I’m safe and warm
For within that summer place
Your arms reach out to me
And my heart is free from all care
For it knows

There are no gloomy skies
When seen through the eyes
Of those who are blessed with love

And the sweet secret of
A summer place
Is that it’s anywhere
When two people share
All their hopes
All their dreams
All their love…..”

Pantone announces 2020 Color of the Year 2020: Classic Blue

Color of the Year 2020: Classic Blue. That will make a lot of people happy. Blue is an incredibly popular and versatile color. Just look at how blue jeans has become the sartorial standard for most people in countries all over the world. I love blue. And everything goes with blue.

Pantone – “Instilling calm, confidence, and connection, this enduring blue hue highlights our desire for a dependable and stable foundation on which to build as we cross the threshold into a new era.

Spoonflower has some very pretty designs featuring their take on Classic Blue.

Fortunately, as an “Autumn”, it is included in my palette. But I believe all people can wear Classic Blue, even as a foundation if not a stand alone color, like blue denim jeans.

It will be interesting to see in the coming year how fashion and interior designers use this color.

And I have plenty of blue fabric in my own stash, like this Cotton + Steel “Arrows” in navy that I’ve had for a few years now.

And their “Moon Bunnies” print.

Plus many other fabrics in varying shades of blue. Well it’s time to get planning. This color of the year is the perfect motivation to stash-bust all those blues.

“Blue moon, you saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own
Blue moon, you knew just what I was there for
You heard me saying a prayer for
Someone I really could care for…”

Film Fashion “Ladies In Black”

I just watched “Ladies In Black” on Amazon Prime, a charming comedy drama about the lives of a group of clothing department employees in the upmarket store “Goode’s”, set in the summer of 1959 Sydney. It has been adapted from the bestselling novel by Madeleine St John. It Stars Julia Ormond as Magda, Angourie Rice as Lisa/Leslie, Rachael Taylor as Fay, and Alison McGirr as Patty.

The costume designer, Wendy Cork, did a fab job of dressing each woman to character and evoking a dreamy 1959 look.

The story opens with Lisa (Angourie Rice), a shy 16-year-old, taking a summer job at Goode’s department store, where she meets the “Ladies In Black”. She gradually blooms as the story progresses, especially under the tutelage of Magda.

Patty, Lisa and Fay “Ladies In Black”
Lisa with her dad. Their home decor is all tans, browns and post war beiges.
Lisa as she becomes a more stylish teenager

Fay is the film’s romantic heroine. Costume designer Cork says she wanted to maintain that classic 50s Dior ‘new look’ – with the nipped-in waists and the big full skirts and the petticoats. Fay gets to wear some of the prettiest dresses.

Fay and Lisa
Fay in this pretty sundress
Fay looking beautiful in this Dior-ish gown
Another pretty sundress in a border print fabric

Fay meets Rudi (Ryan Corr), a Hungarian, at one of Magda’s parties. He is very cultured with a great sense of style. He’s a colourful character with a good heart, who is out to impress but still manages to be delightfully eccentric at the same time. He’s ready to fall in love and looking for a partner with whom he can share music and art.

Rudy and Fay
Fay and Rudi watching a film, when people still dressed up to go out to the movies
Fay in a lovely cocktail dress with a sheer overlay.

Patty is the working wife of the story. I couldn’t find good stills of her wardrobe and I don’t know how to capture good images from video. She dresses very housewifely, but still manages to get dolled up for a night out.

Patty at home with her blue collar working class husband

My personal favorite is Magda (Julia Ormond).

Magda heading up the Couture department

Magda, a WWII survivor and Slovenian immigrant with experience in European Haute Couture houses, runs the couture gowns department at Goode’s. She has impeccable taste in high fashion. Magda is strong-willed, sexy and feminine. She embraces her womanliness and unapologetically shows off her figure.

Magda and Lisa
Lisa and Magda on the ferry. Magda shows her sophistication with the animal print scarf.
Magda’s dress with accents of leopard print

Again I couldn’t find many stills for Magda. You’ll just have to go watch the movie and pay special attention to the cocktail dress she wears in the final scene. It is a beautifully fitted dress with bead embroidery around the neck and wrists, and a narrow scarf-like drape attached to the back neckline which trails bewitchingly behind her.

Magda with husband Stefan (Vincent Perez)

Magda: “I should have gone to mass this morning. Oh! Too late now.”
Stefan: “Well, there is a midday mass.”
Magda: “Oh, I need some rest.”
Stefan: “I’m sure God will understand.”

10th Annual International Red Panda Day


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Sept. 21st is the 10th International Red Panda Day. These cute little creatures are on the World Wildlife Fund’s endangered list. They are rapidly losing their natural habitat to deforestation and cattle grazing. They face dangers of poaching, traps meant for other animals and attack by cattle dogs. International Red Panda Day was created to bring awareness to their plight. My local zoo, The Charles Paddock Zoo, is aiding in the conservation of these cuddly looking creatures by offering them a safe habitat at the zoo. Go to to learn more about these little pandas.

Dr. Steve Robinson, the zoo’s vet and my “Star” for the next “Dancing With Our Stars” Atascadero Library Fundraiser in March 2020, says these guys are like the perfect, cuddly teddy bear come to life.

I’m wearing this great Red Panda pin by Erstwilder.

Help save the Red Panda. Use hashtag #IRPD2019 on instagram – set up by the Red Panda Network.

Chambray Dress Simplicity 8849



Here’s a dress I just finished for summer, even though summer is supposedly over. But here on the central coast of California, we’ve been having 100°F/37°C days with no end in sight. September into October is typically hot here, so more opportunity for warm weather dresses. The fabric is a chambray I got from It’s a medium weight with a very soft hand. It almost feels flannel-like.

This dress pattern is Simplicity 8849 which includes a top and skirt plus a light bolero type jacket or topper. The dress has a modest neckline, great for those times when you don’t want to show a lot of cleavage.

I left the pockets off. My hips are wide and I don’t like to add more width with extra large pockets. The button spacing was a little too far apart in the bodice so I sewed snaps in between the buttons to the waist. The pattern has no button placement at the waist either, so the snap sewed there helps to keep the button placket closed. No gaping at the waist please!

The facing edge is finished with a serger. The pattern has you turn under a narrow hem on the long edge of the facing which is sewn down later. I thought this would make it lumpy and I prefer my facings to be flatter where possible.

I tried the tissue fitting method instead of making a full muslin. It came out ok. I’m still not very good at the tissue fit process yet. I really have to take one of those class from Palmer & Pletsch. The tissue didn’t reveal to me just how high the underarm area is. On me it hits quite high right up under the arm.

So if you need more room in the underarm area, I recommend you check this carefully before you sew. Fortunately, I am very short from the top of my shoulders to my waist, so it worked out just fine for me. This is unusual in patterns. They are more likely to have arm holes that are way too low and large for me. I also recommend bra strap keepers on the shoulder straps if you like to keep your bra straps out of sight.

Overall I’m happy with this dress and it will get worn a lot as long as this hot weather continues.