A Tried and True (TnT) pattern is invaluable, and always hackable. The #Lenahornedress pattern by @TabithaSewer

A Tried and True (TnT) pattern is invaluable, and always hackable. The #Lenahornedress pattern by @TabithaSewer

I enjoy sewing with patterns. I’ve used the Mccall’s, Vogue, Simplicity, and Butterick patterns for years and years. In the 80’s I used to subscribe to Burda magazine, back before the internet, there were pullout pages with multiple lines for multiple patterns on every page. Have you ever seen a Rand McNally city road map? These brought out about the same amount of anxiety for me. I made a few things, but man there was a ton of work before I even got to cut into my fabric! Oh, and they were in German, I took one year of that in high school so…Nichts.

Burda magazine https://www.pinterest.com/pin/155303887189693019/

Now, since we do have the internet, I’ve come to love independent pattern companies and purchasing PDF’s here at home. Having done pattern drafting, my hat goes off to all these independant designers. This is a lot of work, so I want to support them anytime I get the chance. I have a bunch of new favorite indie pattern designers now, if your interested, I’ll tell you about a few. Ask away in my comments section.

The Lena Horne dress pattern by Tabitha Sewer
http://www.tabithasewer.com

One newer pattern to come on the sewing community scene, is the Lena Horne dress pattern by Tabitha Sewer. I love everything about this pattern. I did not buy it in PDF form, though so you know, it’s offered digitally as well. I purchased it through her website and got it in the mail because it comes in a iridescent mylar envelope which is basically like having a little rainbow at all times in my sewing room, and who doesn’t want that?

Being a sewist who does alot of refashioning, I often hack patterns because with refashioning you have to work with the fabric you have and there is no getting anymore. So with this pattern, Ive made two dresses. The first one a refashioning and the second is out of thrifted fabric yardage. With both dresses I did some hacking, I’ll explain.

Lena Horne dress out of a Refashioned thrifted vintage pieced
quilt from the 70’s
Trifted vintage pieced quilt from
http://www.goodwillsocal.org

I found this queen sized pieced vintage quilt made from early 70’s prints and Hawaiian bark cloth. In the early 70”s my family lived Hawaii and all these fabrics reminded me of that time and place. The amount of time that pieced quilts take To make, it killed me to see it there for under $5 dollars. So I refashioned it into the #lenahorndress. I did hack the skirt by using vintage pattern by McCall’s 3396 because of all the pieced seams, gathers would have been too many layers.

I did add the pockets from the Lena Horne dress pattern back into the vintage Mccalls pattern so I guess I hacked the hack.

One thing I did do with this make that I had never done before, is I followed along with the tutorial video that Tabitha has created. It was great! My first tutorial. What have I been doing all this time? Her printed instructions are easy and clear but sewing along with a video is awesome. What can I say, I was born in the 60’s. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vYgL4zymgE

Tabitha’s method for gathering by zig zagging over yarn was the way to go because again this was a pieced quilt there was alot of random seams and selvages, so with some gathers there were places that were 4ply thick.

I lined my “angle wings” which is what I was taught these kinds of pinafore ruffles are called. I lined them because the back side of a quilts wouldn’t be a good look.

See? Backside of quilt, meh..
Even my dog Zoey is unimpressed.

Lastly, I made the pom poms for my purse using Clover brand pom pom makers. https://www.clover-usa.com/en/ and the purse is from Amazonhttp://www.amazon.com/dp/B07GCHZ27X/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_Zp8kDbTN576J1

For my second dress, I worked out of My stash again. I got this roll of 8 yards of silk shantung from @colleaguesroom (another great thrift store here in Los Angeles, a designer resale store)

Another #Lenahornedress hacking the pattern, just a little. I wanted to pleat some of the fabric. A couple years ago on @pinterest I found a video on how to make your own pleater board. I made mine and It works great! Mine makes 1″ pleats.

@pinterest link for making pleater board:

https://blog.adafruit.com/2015/07/14/how-to-make-a-pleating-board/

Pleating Angle wing ruffles on my DIY pleater board

I cut out the above the knee skirt length view of the pattern and added 12″ of width to the skirt. I wanted denser gathers at the waist seam. Then I made the second skirt tier one and a half times wider than the first skirt tier and 9″long (finished this tier ends up 8″long) The last tier is pleated so I cut out 5″ long (finished this tier with hem is 4″ long) and 2 times the width of the bottom second tier circumference.

3rd skirt tier pleated

#Flashbacksewingchallenge on Instagram

In my left ear, away from carmera, my AirPod is blasting “Benny and the Jets”

I love a good sewing challenge. You’d think with my real job, a Costume designer/Wardrobe stylist for film and television, I’d have my fill of challenges. There definitely are plenty of them, but something about chasing that unique idea, really getting to be truly creative never gets old. Unconventional ones, don’t get me started.

So I’ve been trying some sewing challenges lately on Instagram. The most recent one I participated in was the #Flashbacksewingchallenge. Basically, you get to pick what period you want the garment to represent. I picked the 1970’s. I love 70’s fashion, always have. I was thinking about it and wondered why is that? In the late ’70s is when I first learned to sew, and I think it’s when I first became aware of fashion and clothing. What people wore and why. I can remember looking through my older brothers junior high yearbook and literally studying every person, picture, haircut, handbag, and shoe. This should have been a clue since I didn’t even go to this school, and by the time I did, none of these people would be there. My older brother had a big influence on me and my younger siblings. He was the one to bring new music into the home along with being the TV remote control commander. So Sugar Hill Gang, The Rolling Stones (Beast of Burden), Michael Jackson (Jackson 5 all the way to Off the Wall) Sonny and Cher show, Laugh-in, Happy Days, Soul Train and American Bandstand and Star Trek waaaay too much Star Trek, I’m officially allergic to that one.

So for this challenge I wanted one big ball of all that! I found an inspiration picture on Pinterest of Cher in a beaded stripe two-piece outfit next to Elton John in a Gold rhinestoned suit with his infamous rhinestoned glasses.

So my version mimics a nod to Chers wardrobe in a Elton John setting with his glasses.

https://pin.it/vhpvpqkhsyh6sz

I made the jump suit hacking two patterns. Buterrick 4343 dress to just a one shoulder bodice and used a Vintage Simplicity 7214, a pant suit pattern, just the pants. The fabric is from Joann Fabric and is a rainbow sequined stripped fabric. Each piece cut out one at a time to match strips. A little more time consuming, but I remove all the sequins from the selvages before sewing because I love my Bernina sewing machine and I’m not trying to press my luck.

Lastly, I created and DIYed the iconic sunglasses. I also made the red bangle braclette from Amazon (4 Pack, Wood Bangle Bracelet, Dome Exterior, 1.75″ Wide, Large Size, ReadyToDecorate (R)
by Itc Direct
Learn more: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BTTW1O4/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_z4.bDbKCKZ26Rand my hoop earrings. The glass were from Amazon Women’s Cateye Sunglasses Oversized Vintage Retro Bold Fashion Designer Shades (White, 70)
by Freckles Mark
Learn more: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07D6LKB21/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_HV.bDb57BM3KQ I spray painted them red and then rhinestoned all three items 4 Pack, Wood Bangle Bracelet, Dome Exterior, 1.75″ Wide, Large Size, ReadyToDecorate (R)
by Itc Direct

I’ve been a stylist on Dancing with the stars for a number of seasons now, this is the method used to rhinstone all those amazing costumes.

This challenge was a blast to do and I have to thank @faithstjues and @winmichele on Instagram for hosting it. Please do check out the hashtags #Flashbacksewingchallenge on Instagram there are some amazing makers out here.

“Oh Candy and Ronnie have you seen them yet? Oh but they’re so spaced out Be-Be-Bennie and the Jets

Mother’s, their dresses and refashioning memories.

On September 1, 1962, my Mother and father were married in Long Island, New York
My Mom is the oldest of five kids and the first daughter. In 1962 she was 18 years old, a good Catholic girl, obedient and honest.
My maternal grandmother, very fashionable and a proficient seamstress was very much in charge. Who’s getting married?
I don’t know that I have ever heard much about the planning or the dress shopping, other than my Mothers dress was made of Peau de soie.
Peau de soie, a fancy French name for a silk or rayon dress fabric with a smooth, satiny texture and a subtle ribbed or grained surface. In French, it literally means “skin of silk.” The only story I had ever heard was that my grandmothers dress for my Mother’s wedding, cost more than my Mother’s wedding dress. Hmmm, I’m thinking I’m giving a little side eye to this factoid, but I’ll continue.
My grandmothers “Mother of the bride” dress was a beautiful Ecru sheath dress, made entirely out of Alencon lace and lined in silk crepe de chine. After closer inspection, I think she made this dress. My grandmother always loved this dress, even swore she would be buried in it one day and I will say she looked stunning in it. Both my grandmothers always carried themselves with confidence and both exemplified the belief that as a woman you “keep” yourself up. You give a dam. Aging is inevitable, self-loathing is a choice.

Great Grand Father and grandmother Gilmore, Grand Father Eugene Gilmore, Grandmother Mildred Gilmore, and my Great Grand Father Higgins
My Grandmother and my Father, a young officer in the Air Force.

So when I got married in 1987, the 1st time, yes life ain’t perfect, I knew exactly what I wanted to wear. I was 20 years old and had been sewing since I was 8 years old. You would have thought I would want to make my own dress. The truth is, it had never crossed my mind. My Mothers wedding to my Father was so beautiful. I had studied their black and white wedding album for years, and I do mean study! I imagined my day to look just like my Mothers.

So I wore my Mother’s dress. My grandmother has had it hermetically sealed after my Mom’s wedding day. The first time I opened the beautiful gold box with the window underneath the front flap, it was the first time the dress had seen sunlight and been touched since 1962.

To give you perspective, I’m 5’6,” and on the day I weighed 128 lbs, 36″ x 27″ x 36″, I told you I’ve sewn a long time I knew every stat, even back then.

I pulled the dress out, stepped into it, my Mother buttoned up all 72 covered buttons up the back. Like a Cinderella glass slipper, it fits perfect, no alteration.

My brother Pat, me,my brother Tom and my brother Jack
My siblings and I. I’m the 2nd oldest. (left to right) Top #3 Pat, #1 Jack, and #4 Tom. Bottom #5 Tara, #2 Me and #6 Maureen

So now the refashioning, the day my Mom got married she left her wedding with an outfit change. A sheath dress suit, the jacket was cropped and 3/4 sleeved. From what I could tell it is shantung silk. I said to you I studied.

So I wanted to have a leaving outfit too. I decided to ask my grandmother for her dress. Reluctantly, she gave it to me. “I want that back, I’m being buried in that dress!”

So it being the 80’s and all, out of a champagne colored satin, I made some puffy sleeves that got narrower to the wrist and came to a point at the center of the top of my hand, just like my Mothers wedding dress sleeve. I hand sewed them into the arms eye to be able to remove them after the wedding so I could return it the way I received it, sleeveless. My grandmother said “Or else!”

My leaving dress. Nanny’s refashioned Mother of the brides dress.

Today, I still have both these dresses. Cleaned bagged and stored. I love them both so much. They make me think of my young Mother and my young fancy grandmother. My grandmothers dress is my personal gauge, when it fits, I’m in check. Come on guys you all know you have a pair of jeans like this.

10 Years

While scrolling our community this morning, I came across a blog post from someone I admire. It was her real self. Real life talking. Inspiring 🌈 🦄. There is our life and what we present our lives to be on IG. I hope that I can encourage and give hope whether it’s a beginning sewer or someone dealing with life on life’s terms.
So today is significant for me, I am ten years in recovery, sober, today. There is so much I would have missed. Below is a post from 2 years ago and it’s still true today. Dont let my God references turn you off. My God, is my God. You, do you.
“First picture a TB about ten weeks in from 5/10/2009
What I’ve learned:
That a drop of apprehensive hope is still hope.
That when I look inward at what about myself needs fixing, my relationships improve.
That when I am honest with myself and then with others with whom I’ve harmed, owning my part to them, My experience has been, 99% of the time they have forgiven me.
I stayed, and my father in heaven has continued to give me evidence that that was not in vain.
My dream of what it would be like having a relationship with my children when they were older was so small compared to what it looks like today.
I’ve learned not to have expectations of others but instead let go and be pleasantly surprised.
I’ve learned that every day that I stay embracing resentments or voiding relationships because of past shame and embarrassment is a day lost that I can never get back.
Show up, show up, show up because it becomes the evidence to others that they matter, they are loved and they can trust you.
Kindness is free, and I can always afford to be generous of spirit.
I have learned to smile, say hello, allow people to connect to me, though it is contrary action and makes me feel uncomfortable. The more I do it, the more comfortable I become.
I’ve learned that I’m allowed to have boundaries, that when a connection with others triggers an old narrative of “I’m not enough” I am allowed to limit how often I engage. I can take care of myself in a compassionate gracious way without a grand statement or being critical or judgmental of them.
I have learned that when I am of service to my fellow man/woman, I feel the most meaningful connection with my father in heaven.
I’ve learned that when I meditate and pray, fear passes, anxiety passes, self-loathing passes and the best version of myself emerges. When searching for answers while praying and meditating, answers always come in a still small voice, always from a place of compassion, ever much simpler and obvious than I would’ve imagined and again a version of myself that I did not even know existed.
To say I am grateful feels inadequate because I was as “the drowning man desperate for the life preserver” I was without hope and then, an act of Providence, a still small voice, a life preserver, one moment, where I made a decision ” I will do anything and everything you tell me to do, Heavenly Father. I’m just going to choose to trust in you.”
And
I stayed.

Refashioning “The Mini skirt prosecutor.”

In January of this year, as I set out to start this blog. I knew that I wanted to talk about Fashion, fashion history, and iconic people and do it visually by refashioning iconic “looks” of these people.

In the summer of 1974, my family was living in Northern Virginia. My father a major in the Air Force was working in the Pentagon. I remember vividly the national news each night on my families television. Watergate.


In July of 2017, I began noticing an MSNBC legal contributor. She was the new resident authority on Watergate and how it resembles our current President and our government. Two things I noticed about her, besides obvious class and intelligence, first, each night she had on these amazing brooch pins. A different one each night. Second, she commented on being known back in the early 70’s as “The mini skirt prosecutor.” Well, now I needed to know more…

Jill Wine-Banks was a Watergate prosecutor. ” She was the one who interrogated Rosemary Woods, the White House secretary responsible for the notorious missing 18½ minutes of the Watergate tapes.” (Author Rita Dragonette, http://www.ritadragonette.cohttp://www.ritadragonette.comm)

In mini skirts no less.

Jill has continued to succeed and have many firsts for women.

“List of achievements: first woman General Counsel of the Army, Illinois’ first Solicitor General and first female Deputy Attorney General of the state, first woman EVP/COO of The American Bar Association, Executive at Motorola and Maytag. After an equally impressive list of not for profit/social advocate positions she has championed causes in education and social services, most recently serving on the US Department of Defense Subcommittee investigating sexual assault in the military.

Jill never stopped fighting, particularly as an outspoken critic of sexism. An early iteration of her book was as a memoir contrasting what it was like to be at the pinnacle of success and attention, yet still facing sexist attitudes and practices in both professional and personal circumstances.”(Author Rita Dragonette, http://www.ritadragonette.com

Now those pins. So each time Jill appears on television she wears a different pin. The brilliant part is each pin has a meaning. She has on her website, Instagram and twitter #jillsPins with the photo and the meaning of each one. Yes, the like button is getting hit often. Definitely check these out.

Jill’s memoir about her years of Watergate is being revised and will be out in 2020 http://www.jillwinebanks.com#

Now my refashioning. This past Monday was Earth day and in the world of fashion, Fashion Revolution week (April 22nd-28th) is underway. I’m a big believer in sustainability and all of us doing our part. I make my clothes and try upcycle old garments instead of buying new. http://www.fashionrevolution.org

This project I did entirely out of thrifted clothing. Basically salvaging all yardage from the discarded.

First, Jill’s trench coat. I took three pairs of men’s thrift khaki’s from GoodWill. Let me just say there are way too many pairs of men’s khaki’s out there, I’m convinced our landfills must be full of them! I decided to do a color block version (like the inspiration photo below) and use the vintage Vouge pattern 1498 to make in 1970’s period appropriate. I hacked the pattern slightly by not lining it, because it’s hot here in southern Califorina. I did do Hong Kong finished steams though, refashioning old power ties, from my dead stock wardrobe from my regular job as a wardrobe stylist and costume designer. I often style celebrity men.

The “mini skirt” pinafore, I used three pairs of used old black stretch jeans of mine. Re-dyed them black with http://www.ritdye.com and used the Seamwork’s No.3093 Dani pinafore patternhttp://www.seamwork.com

The Pussy bow blouse, pattern by http://www.sewoverit.co.uk

was made out of a linen table clothed, from my wedding that the stains didn’t come out, but talk about good yardage! Slight hack, I slashed and spread the tie pattern piece to give it more of the 70’s style.

The boots I found thrift as well as the brief case.

Lastly, my pin. I wanted to find something to do with justice and with my fine tuned thrifting skills, I found it. A little cheeky, but I love it. Yes, I secretly want to send it to Jill.


A special thank you to Rita Dragonette and Jill Wine-Banks for allowing me to use the photos and to quote Rita’s blog post “The mini skirt prosecutor”

Vintage leopard faux fur coat,1964

Vintage leopard faux fur coat,1964

So I picked up this great vintage leopard faux fur coat. Technically the print is that of a cheetah, but most spotted furs are generically all referred too as a leopard.

I loved the silhouette, and the pile of this faux fur was dense, sweet and short. It’s just so much more beautiful and ”real” looking than most faux furs we see out there today. When I saw the label on the inside, it was familiar to me. Always curious about the history of fashion brands, I decided to do a little research. The label said, ”Safari styled by Fairmoor.” I could tell by the typography that the company was for sure from the late fifties, probably the sixties. Sure enough, this coat came out in 1964. Pile fabric coats have been around for quite a while. Let’s face it; humans wearing fur goes way back. In the late ’50s, the new synthetic ”fake fur” as they were called were becoming hugely popular because the synthetic textiles were produced for about $12.00 a yard. Did you know that faux fur fabric is a knit fabric? If you look at the wrong side of the textile, you’ll see it looks just like most knits we use.

” The story goes that the late George Borg, owner of a knitting mill was producing deep pile fabrics for paint rollers. One of the colors coming off looked attractive enough for coats and, and he took the fabric to Seventh Avenue. This was in the late 40s. It caught on, and the knitters began producing the fabrics also.” ( June 17, 1964 page 59 The New York Times archives)

So my coat, like I said the faux fur was in excellent condition, but the acetate lining was thrashed! The pocket lining was four layers deep (yes

four) from previous owners adding a new lining over the last one once it developed a hole. The buttons were alright, but the gold now lacked their luster. I don’t know about you, but I find when refashioning a vintage piece I found myself asking myself ” I wonder where this coat has been, what kind of life experiences has it witnessed?”

So I knew I would replace the lining and the buttons and initially thought I’d use a similar new lining textile and color. I was at brunch with girlfriends for our friend Jen’s birthday. My friend Laura gave her a little make-up bag. A small leopard faux fur with a hot, shocking hot, pink lining. I saw it, and inspiration said, “that’s it, that’s your lining!” I love this coat; I love that it’s older than me and I even put the label back in like a passport booklet for all the adventures I’m going to take it on.

1978, Simplicity 7771

I first started sewing when I was 8 years old. My Mother sewed mostly home interiors and an occasional special event dress for herself. She occasionally sewed things for me. Her mother was a stylish meticulous seamstress. I started sewing by sneaking and using my mother’s sewing machine, something I was forbidden to to do. I made clothes for my Barbie’s from scraps from my mother’s sewing projects. In the spring of 1978, my mother agreed to show me how to sew with a pattern. She wasn’t very excited to do this but I think I’d just worn her down and she was sick and tired finding her machine obviously ” used” by me. The pattern (Simplicity 7771) a wrap skirt that I made for myself to wear to church for Easter. The fabric was a lightweight off white broadcloth with tiny cerulean blue and coral colored flowers. Full yardage all of my own, I had arrived! Many times I had studied the backs of my Mom’s patterns, thinking to myself ”What does this all mean?” I really struggled with reading and math so those pattern backs were over my head. I remember her pulling out the instructions, my mind was blown, I didn’t even know that these newsprint papers were even in all those patterns envelopes. When she pulled them out, I saw, pictures, flat drawings, keys; wrong side white, right side colored. I knew right then, I can do this. This was a pivotal experience for me and would ultimately be the seed planted to what would be a lifetime of success and failure as a seamstress, designer and a creative. All I remember Mother saying was ” I don’t think I have the patience for this.” My thought was, ”I got this!”