Tag Archives: Sewing

The Seamstresses in my House-Part 1

6 Mar


Judy Wills

My wonderful, delightful, loving sister-in-law DiVoran Lites, suggested recently that she would like to see some blogs about the clothes I have made and purchased.  She is interested in the fabrics, colors and things related to that.  Well…that is certainly a subject that I never thought to write about…yet definitely something to consider.

So, let me start with the blog that I did write about the “Fiesta Dresses” I made years ago while growing up in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  (Please see my post of December 9, 2012 – Fiesta Dresses)  That was my beginning experience learning to sew.  You see, my Mother, her sister (Aunt Jessie), and their Mother (Granny) all worked in a handkerchief factory in San Antonio, Texas when they moved there.  So sewing was in their genes, so to speak.  And, of course, back in those days, store-bought clothes were more of a luxury – everyone made their own clothes!

1959 – originally white with red trim, but the red “ran” when washed.  So we dyed it beige.

1959 – light green with white and silver trim

I remember my Mother being a working woman most of my life, and while she did a fair bit of sewing, I seem to remember that Granny was the one who taught me to sew.  It was Granny who showed me how to work the sewing machine, and how to sew those very straight rows upon rows of trim and rick-rack on the fabric to make the fiesta dresses.  Fairly boring sewing, but gave me a sense of what sewing was all about, and a great sense of satisfaction with the finished product.

I remember several garments Granny made for me.  Here is a turquoise velveteen jumper that I wore over a shirt/blouse.  


Turquoise is probably my favorite color in all things, so you will see Granny made several items for me that were turquoise in color.  For instance, she also made me a turquoise velveteen housecoat.  And a turquoise overcoat – I believe it was wool with a lining and filling that made it toasty and warm.

1953 – Me in my overcoat – Granny and her sisters (Lillie in the middle, Loa next to my Mom)

I am fairly sure she made this dress for me – it was the dress I wore for my initiation into Rainbow Girls when I was 13 years old.  The dress itself was out of a taffeta fabric, with a sheer overlay of chiffon.


I am fairly convinced that Granny made my Mother’s wedding dress. 


It was a taffeta fabric, and the skirt was full-circle.   Aunt Jessie took it following the wedding and wrapped it in tissue paper and kept it in a cedar chest in her garage.  All that to say that, when it came time for my wedding, we took Mother’s wedding dress, removed the sleeves, and had an entire over-dress made from Belgian lace.  I thought it was beautiful.


My brother, Bill wrote about Granny sewing for him, as well:

During my teenage years, Granny kept an up-to-date (as I got bigger) long sleeve Western Shirt pattern, so all I had to do was find a fabric and pattern I liked and buy (3) yards of that material and give it to Granny. She would make the shirt and then she and I would install the pearl snaps (front, sleeves, & pockets). Granny also made a Red Corduroy Ike Jacket for me that was one of the items, along with the Red Corduroy pants from Penney’s, that got DiVoran’s attention in Miss Millers English class the day I wore that outfit to school.

1955 – This shirt shows the pearl buttons quite well

A good example of  Bill’s shirt made by Granny

Another good example of one of the shirts Granny made for Bill

~~~~~~~~~~To Be Continued~~~~~~~~~~

Judy is living in Central Florida with her retired U.S. Air Force husband of 50+ years. Born in Dallas, Texas, she grew up in the Southwestern United States.She met her husband at their church, where he was attending the university in her town. After college and seminary, he entered the Air Force, and their adventures began.They lived in eight of our United States, and spent six years in Europe, where their oldest daughter was born. She was a stay-at-home mom for many years .

  Judy has always been involved with music, both playing the piano and singing. Always interested in exercise, she was an aerobic dancing instructor, as well as a piano teacher for many years, and continues to faithfully exercise at home.

After moving to Central Florida, she served as a church secretary for nearly nine years.Her main hobby at this point in time is scanning pictures and 35mm slides into the computer. She also enjoys scrapbooking.She and her husband have two married daughters and four grandchildren, including grandtwins as well as a great-grandson and a great-granddaughter. She and her husband enjoy the Disney parks as often as possible.


10 Jan

My Take

DiVoran Lites


11 Apr

My Take 

DiVoran Lites 

Young DiVoran

During World War 2 people couldn’t get fabric or clothes because almost everything was going for War supplies. My dad was at the front and Mother, Dab (my brother), and I lived in one of Granddad and Grandmother’s upstairs apartments in their beautifully restored Victorian house on Greenwood Ave. Grandmother wanted to keep herself and mother busy, so she started bringing the clothes out of the attic to alter for Dab and I. They started cutting children’s’ clothing from adult garments. It seemed to me as if I had to stand still every day for fittings. I fidgeted, but Grandmother and Mother went on relentlessly making clothes the whole nine months dad was at in the army.

One day they put a dress on me and I reached up and ripped it apart from neck to hem. My seamstresses were so astonished they forgot to smack my bottom and I seized the moment to make a swift getaway. Naturally the tailoring continued until the war was over and Dad came home to move us to another town where he had purchased a restaurant with the aid of the G. I. bill. There, I was the best dressed child in our new town, which was right up against the Sangre de Christo mountain range and to me the most beautiful place in the world.

When Grandmother came to look after us kids and the restaurant while Mother and Dad went on a trip I wore my jeans and flannel shirt for a full week and Grandmother didn’t complain about it one bit. I have never been able to understand why she let me get away with it. She let us have an ice-cream bar out of the freezer every day after school as well.

I got to dress up in brand-new cowgirl clothes, hat and all, to be in a fashion show with some of the other girls who lived in town. There were only about 20 children of all ages in the whole town. Grandmother had given me her boots by then and I wore a cowboy hat as well. We sang, “Ghost riders in the Sky” to entertain the ladies who came to the show.

Every year on my birthday, which was two days before Halloween, mother threw a party for me with the classmates that lived in town. We went trick or treating in that safe little town where no one ever got hurt, we didn’t lock our doors, and nobody stole. I wore a dress mother had given me to play dress-up in. It was a deep green velvet and I felt like a princess. The bonus was that I wore it for several years because it was adult sized to begin with.

Mother had another dress I loved. My daughter has it now. It’s pink silk with ruching and pink embroidery. It was given to my mother by her best friend, Katherine, who received it from England in 1922 when they were children. Katherine’s mother wouldn’t let her wear the dress because it was pink and she had red hair. What a beautiful dress it is, as light as gossamer.

Thank you Lord for giving me such a good childhood with parents and a whole town full of people who loved me. Thank you for the gorgeous mountains, and the teachers and pastors who worked so hard to help us all become more civilized.

Fiesta Dresses

9 Dec


 Judy Wills  


Growing up in New Mexico was a great experience.  Of course, we moved there when I was only four years old, so I didn’t know any different.  The Indian/Mexican culture was just something that was normal to me.

 When I was old enough to learn how to sew, my Grandmother and Mother began teaching me the sewing machine by having me sew row-upon-row-upon-row of trim on yards and yards of fabric.  It was all straight stitching, but some rows were metallic trim, some were rick-rack, some needed only a single stitch to hold it down, others required stitching on the top and bottom edges of the trim/braid.  Very boring.  But it gave me a sense of what sewing was all about.

All those yards and yards of fabric would eventually be made into a Fiesta Dress, or Squaw Dress, as some called it.  Three tiers, each one “longer” than the one above it.  Those dresses could be made from just about fabric and color combination.  I remember a royal blue fabric with nothing but copper trim – one of my favorites.  I remember a winter dress made from blue corduroy – no trim needed.  I remember one made from fabric that looked like bandana design – no trim needed on that one, either.  I remember one that was made in light cotton – white – with red and red-and-white trim.  It was great – until I washed it the first time – and the red ran like crazy!!  So my Aunt Jessie took the dress (blouse and skirt) and dyed them beige.  For some reason, the red didn’t show where it had run, and really looked rather classy with the red trim.  Another favorite of mine.  Oh, so many dresses.

And the skirts were not left “pouffy” like they might be today – they were hand-pleated after being soaked in starch!  And to keep the pleats in, we rolled the skirt into itself and stuffed it into a nylon stocking.  Jessie’s dogs LOVED to get at those to fight with them!

Dogs fighting

But those dresses were considered in good taste no matter where they were worn.  They could be worn to a very casual setting…..they could be worn to work….they could be worn to a fancy dinner setting – all worked equally well.

I’ve never seen them worn outside of New Mexico, however.  So when I took them with us to Texas, they were not the “in style” to wear.  I still have them, but can’t seem to find the right place to wear them now – even if I could fit in them anymore!

But they were just right for New Mexico.

Blue skirt

red skirt



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