This Woman’s Work

I came home from a long day spent doing “this woman’s work,” shuffling kids to doctor’s appointments in between my full-time marketing telework and full-time virtual school assistant jobs to find a package of deliciously-scented candles from Freres Branchiaux, a small candle business created in suburban Washington, DC by three brothers – aged 14, 12 and 9 – who started this business because they had “maxed out their toy allowance” and wanted to earn some money. These three young black boys took a candle-making workshop, then went to work developing a wide range of soy-based candles in great-smelling scents, like Cherry Blossom, Lime Cotton and Green Lavender, as well as others based on cultural icons, like Wakanda Forever – “Reminiscent of soft florals, bergamot, and thyme.  Smells like love. :)” and Wakanda Forever – “Ginger, saffron, and mixed fruits make this candle heavenly—Wakanda style!  And it is our FIRST colored candle—Vibranium Blue.”

While I was finishing up a Microsoft Teams meeting, the news of the indictment of one of the officers responsible for Breonna Taylor’s death in Louisville, Kentucky broke. I didn’t have time to read more until I was sitting in the waiting room while my niece had her appointment. I was horrified to read that the only indictment to come down was for a police officer who had shot into nearby homes – the charge was endangering others in the neighborhood. The sheetrock of these neighbors’ homes received more justice than award-winning EMT Breonna Taylor and her family. I thought of Breonna’s mother. A few weeks ago, I had read a magazine article in which her mother described the night of her daughter’s death and the following day. The police wouldn’t tell her what had happened – they went so far as to outright lie to her, telling her that her daughter had been taken to the hospital while she was laying dead in her home, and to ask her if she knew of anyone who would have wanted to hurt Breonna, all the while knowing their own officers had killed her.

I got home from all my driving around and opened my long-awaited box of candles. See, Freres Branchiaux received so many orders around Juneteenth that it had taken them quite a while to fill them all – a wonderful problem to have, of course. The two candles I’d picked both smell amazing: Whiskey Sweet has a hint of cedar layered with citrus, whiskey and musk. When I saw that there was a candle named after a Kate Bush song, later covered by Maxwell, you know I had to grab that one too! This Woman’s Work is sweet and fruity, with apple, grapefruit, vanilla, jasmine and sandalwood. I hadn’t heard the song in a while, so I listened to both versions. And as I listened, I cried for Breonna Taylor’s mother and for all the mothers who haven’t received justice. I cried for Tamir Rice’s mother, and for Trayvon Martin’s mother and for Michael Brown’s mother and for George Floyd’s mother. I cried because I feel so angry at the system that continues to fail non-white Americans, and I cried because I feel helpless to do anything to change it.

And when I stopped crying, I quietly set about resuming “this woman’s work.” It may not seem to be much, but I am being what my favorite musician, Tori Amos, would call a “Mother Revolution.” I’m raising three beautiful children to see the wrongs in the world and seek to right them, to be kind to everyone, no matter their situation, and to speak up for those who don’t have a voice. I’m raising three kids who can talk politics at the dinner table and who know that black lives matter and that everyone is welcome. I’m raising kids who will speak their mind and who won’t say they “don’t see color,” but will understand that we live in a racist system and have to fight it every chance we get. Most days, I feel like I’m not doing it well enough, but then one of my kids says or does something amazing and it reminds me that “this woman’s work” is mostly languorous and silent and done in the background while lives are being lived until something happens that brings our values into sharp focus.

Unboxing Fall’s FabFitFun Box

As soon as I felt the first early morning chill in the air, I got excited knowing my fall FabFitFun box would be coming soon. It arrived this week and I was so pleased with the items I received in my box.

In my box this time around were the following products:

The FabFitFun quarterly box curates a unique and interesting selection of trending products, some of which you get to select yourself. Each box is packed with value – for your $49.99 purchase price each season, you typically get more than $200 worth of products. My fall box is actually packed with more than $300 worth!

Beauty Bakerie “Proof is in the Puddin” eyeshadow palette

My favorite picks from this box are the Beauty Bakerie palette, the Botkier tote and the Dr. Dennis Gross serum. Beauty Bakerie is a black woman-owned and founded makeup brand that creates lipstick, eyeshadow, concealer, foundation, powder and more in a wide range of shades and colors to suit every complexion. This palette has the perfect mix of matte and shimmer shades, including lighter and darker options for daytime and evening wear.

The Botkier New York Bond Tote is roomy enough to carry a laptop, phone, chargers and other tech equipment, as well as all my other daily essentials. It has several internal compartments for organization and stylish tassels on the top zipper, as well as side zips with tassels (just for show)!

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve added a serum to my skincare routine, and this one looks promising. With farnesol, adipic acid and agarikon mushroom, it’s meant to flush away skin impurities and deliver smaller-looking pores without shine. I’m looking forward to trying this under my moisturizer and foundation.

I have to say – this may very well be my favorite FabFitFun box I’ve received. If you’re interested in scoring a free box, drop a comment below with your email address (feel free to format as name at provider dot com to keep spambots from scraping it). I will gladly send you an invite for a free starter box!

Mail Order Pattern 2961

This stylish pattern is for a misses’ sleeveless vest, with or without collar, with two different necklines. The pattern isn’t dated, but it looks to be from the 1950’s. I love the versions in the plaid fabric, and the nipped-in 1950’s waist. I also love view B in a dark shade with a contrasting top underneath and a cute scarf.

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If you’re interested in sewing vintage patterns, you should check out SewRena’s channel! She sews a wide variety of vintage patterns, and also has videos on styling her vintage looks. One of my favorite videos of hers is her Behind the Seams video on Simplicity pattern 8363 – a gorgeous dress and bolero jacket with decorative buttons.

Amplifying Melanated Voices

Like many bloggers over the past few weeks, I have put my blog on mute since June 2, #blackouttuesday, in order to step back, listen to black voices and educate myself more on racism and racially-motivated police brutality in America. As a white suburban southern mom who has long known that #blacklivesmatter, and who has been pretty vocal about it, it’s wonderful to see so many other white people finally waking up to the experiences of black Americans and the many changes that are needed to truly become a nation where all are treated equally and have equal access to opportunities and to the pursuit of happiness.

I’ve given a lot of thought to how to move forward with my blog. Since diving into the world of sewing again and exploring my newfound hobby of vintage pattern collecting, I’ve been so excited to share some of the beautiful patterns I bought in a gigantic mystery box, but I want to balance my excitement with some social responsibility. I want to use my platform to #amplifymelanatedvoices.

Moving forward, I will continue to post about sewing, cooking, travel, cocktails, genealogy and more, but each post will also amplify a black voice – whether it be a restaurant, a sewist, a designer, a shop, a place to visit, a writer, etc. In addition, I will be adding petitions and donation opportunities to forthcoming posts.

For those readers who are already a part of the struggle for freedom and justice for black Americans, indeed for ALL Americans who have historically been left out of the American dream, thank you for all you have done. Keep it moving and help out anywhere and in any way you can: donate funds to organizations doing important work, patronize black-owned businesses, speak up when a friend or family member or co-worker says something you know to be wrong, use your voice and your platform in situations and institutions where change is needed.

For those of you who watched a black man be murdered in front of your eyes on your cell phone or computer screen and felt that pit deep inside you of knowing how wrong it was, and felt spurred on to do something, anything to try to put the wrong things right, welcome. There is far to go, but we are all in this work together. Educate yourself on the history of the concept of race, and the history of race in America. Listen to your friends, neighbors and co-workers of color when they share their experiences with you, and amplify their voices anywhere you can.

As a start, I have donated to a project in my home city of Richmond, Virginia, that will provide funding to Ms. Impson, a city public school teacher who is writing a curriculum to use the movie “Freedom Writers” to teach tools exploring the themes of bias, racism and how to build a sense of community in the inner city. If you would like to donate to this cause, please visit https://www.donorschoose.org/project/race-and-reconciliation-using-freedom-wr/4971141/.

BLM

#VintagePatternADay – Day Four

Today’s lovely vintage pattern is McCall’s 9364 from 1953. This pattern is for a sleek misses’ dress, jacket and dickey. The dress has a long, straight skirt, belt and front buttons.

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Suggested fabrics for the dress are linen, lightweight wool, shantung, cotton broadcloth and gabardine. For the jacket, gingham, linen or denim are suggested. The dickey/bib should be done in linen or pique.

I adore the gloves, simple flap purse and solid colored flats, as well as the pale blue shade of the dress, which works well with the blue and white plaid of the jacket.

Which view is your favorite?

#VintagePatternADay – Day Three

Today’s #vintagepatternaday is a mail order pattern for a ladies’ vest, top or jerkin with a nipped waist and button detail. It is not dated, but my best guess is late 1940’s/early 1950’s.

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I’d love to make this in view B in a bold plaid, or view A as a solid-colored vest over a cute top. Miraculously, this pattern appears to have never been used or even ever unfolded. All instructions are included. I love the model’s neck scarf and the thin sweater she’s wearing underneath.

How would you style this top?

#VintagePatternADay – Day Two

Today’s pattern is a beautiful Advance pattern (number 5113) from 1949.

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This lovely dress has a belted waist, long skirt with or without pockets and offers a collar or boatneck. The collared version also has buttoned short sleeves and front buttons. The belt can be in the same color as the dress or contrasting, likewise with the cuffs and collar. This is luckily in a 42″ bust size and 45″ hip size, so only a bit of modification will be needed to size it up to my size.

The hairstyle is very late 40’s – so pretty! The dress could be made in different fabrics for more of a house dress vs. an evening/going out dress.

What fabric would you make this dress in?

#VintagePatternADay – Day One

You guys, I did a thing!

I bought a mystery box of vintage patterns from a lovely woman on Facebook Marketplace.

Look at this treasure trove:

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This box is chock full of vintage patterns from the 1930’s through the 1970’s. They were obviously collected by someone who took great care of them, as each pattern is in a plastic sleeve or envelope and all pattern pieces seem to be included. Many are not even cut. This is, quite literally, the JACKPOT of vintage patterns, and I want to share them with all of you.

My plan is to post a #vintagepatternaday to showcase the beauty of these garments. There are so many I plan to make, and some I will end up parting with. Those I plan to sell via my Etsy shop. I will attempt to include some historical notes for each pattern.

Here’s a little tease of the types of patterns contained in this box:

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My nine year old son has already requested the devil suit for Halloween this year!

This gorgeous McCall’s pattern is from 1961 and includes two versions of clown costumes with hats and a devil costume with cape, tail and hood.

What do you think I’ll find in this box?

My Vintage Pattern Collection Pt. 2 – 1960’s

Along with my love for 1930’s and 1940’s fashion, I absolutely adore the clean lines of 1960’s fashions also. Jackie O. dresses, skirts and jackets, late 60’s minidresses and a-line swing dresses are flattering on nearly every body type and easy to sew. Here are some of my favorites:

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This gorgeous dress or dress and jacket set from 1962 features a belt, edged sleeves and neckline and a knee-length straight skirt.

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McCall’s 5810 is a dress with two skirt variations from 1961. Both have a wide belt at the waist. One features sleeves a bit longer, while one variation offers a full skirt and the other a straight skirt.

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This pattern, obviously from the later 60’s (1967, to be exact), is an a-line minidress. There is a sleeveless option and one with short sleeves.

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McCall’s 6947 is a jumper-style dress with an optional belt. The skirt is straight, with a simple bodice as well.

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This gorgeous Vogue dress pattern from 1967 is a classic mod minidress with a variety of neckline and sleeve variations.

Which one of these classic 1960’s pattern is your favorite?

My Vintage Pattern Collection, Pt. 1 – 1930’s and 1940’s

Many many years ago, when I was in middle school, my mom signed me up for one of those craft classes at our local library that introduces you to sewing and using a sewing machine. I made a bag and a pair of sweatpants – crucial in the 80’s, I know. Later, when I was in high school, I took home economics, where I made another bag and learned how to hem and how to patch holes (quite important during the grunge era when everyone was making their own patched jeans).

Fast forward many years and, as a busy wife and mom of three, I realized I didn’t even own a sewing kit to stitch my sons’ scout badges and insignia on their uniforms. I watched the Spanish tv show “The Time in Between” (El tiempo entre costuras) on Netflix, which features a seamstress in Spain, Morocco and Germany in the leadup to World War II. This began my obsession with vintage clothing from this time period. Then my mom bought me a brand new sewing machine for Christmas last year, so I decided to dive back into sewing. But before I could sew, I needed some patterns.

I wanted to work on something simple at first, so I bought a classic straight skirt pattern and some fabric. While working on the skirt, I started researching historic patterns and discovered a whole world of fashion. My favorite time periods, the 1930’s and 1940’s, are full of gorgeous dresses, skirts, suites, blouses and coats. I quickly started amassing quite the collection of vintage patterns.

One of my favorite recent purchases was from Etsy: two reproduction issues of a vintage French fashion and pattern magazine from the 1930’s. The magazine was called Eclair-Coupe Paris, and was a system of dressmaking that involved using a measuring tape, sold separately, that matched your measurements, then sizing up the included patterns according to a system that is explained in the issue. I purchased the Fall and Spring 1935 issues, and the garments are absolutely gorgeous.

I plan to work on one of the straight skirts to see how well the pattern cutting method works before attempting one of the more complicated dresses or coats.

I bought three of Simplicity’s retro reproduction patterns from this time period, which combine the lines of the original garment with the assistance of clear modern instructions. Simplicity 8248 is a 1930’s pattern for a an afternoon or day dress with ruching at the bust, decorative pocket and collar details and puff sleeves. Simplicity 8463 is a 1940’s two-piece dress with a gathered peplum at the waist, and Simplicity 8242 is a 1940’s suit or two-piece dress with a double-button top or jacket with a waist peplum.

Next, I grabbed a few 1940’s vintage patterns from eBay and Etsy:

The first pattern is Hollywood Patterns 805. Hollywood Patterns was created by publishing giant Conde Nast in 1932 to mass-market patterns featuring popular movie and radio stars of the day. Pattern 805 features Brenda Marshall, the star of the Warner Bros. picture “Captains of the Clouds,” released in 1942. It’s a simple shirtdress, with or without pockets, with a belt and decorative neckline.

The second pattern, McCall’s 7204 (ca. 1948), is a simple and pretty cap sleeve dress with or without a belt, while the third is Simplicity 1425 – a one-piece belted dress, with or without a collar. I have not been able to locate a date of publication for this pattern, but it fits in with early to mid 40’s dresses.

My sewing role model is my grandmother, who passed away a few years ago. Growing up, she always had a sewing project going, and sewing makes me remember her and her passion for clothes. Besides sewing her own outfits, she also had a job working at one of Richmond’s downtown department stores in the 1940’s and 1950’s, so she was always wearing the latest styles. My holy grail would be to find a pattern that matches the dress she’s wearing here:

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I’ve seen a lot of peplum suit and dress patterns, but none with the three edges at the waist. If anyone comes across one, please reach out and let me know!