Dream jobs… Blue Gardenia moves out to the country

Anyone in love with vintage fashion already knows all about Blue Gardenia – web destination for lovely patterns spanning the decades! And pretty much everyone who loves sewing is completely addicted to to the Sewing Spaces series over at The Blue Gardenia learns to sow her blossoms, blog-home of Denise, owner of Blue Gardenia. But! Did you know that Blue Gardenia has had a web presence since 1996?? Her WEBSITE spans decades! Here’s a story that’ll speak to anyone who’s thought of moving to (or, back to) a small town…

Tell us about your business…

Hubby and I have a website that sells vintage sewing patterns and costume jewelry.

Blue_Gardenia_1930s[Is it just me, or does this pattern have a total Sencha vibe? Find it in the 30’s section on Blue Gardenia!]

How long have you had the website?

The Blue Gardenia opened in August 1999. I sold on Ebay before that, starting in 1996.

What did you do before starting Blue Gardenia?

I was a journalist before, for 14 years at the Houston Chronicle.

How’d you end up in your current gig?

We wanted to try small-town life. I didn’t want to work at a small-town paper and make a fraction of my big-city salary. And I loved vintage sewing patterns and costume jewelry, so The Blue Gardenia came to be.

Did your previous experience (training, career, hobby) help you in your current gig?

Well, I suppose the writing experience helped with the update notices I’ve always sent to clients on our mailing list and with the blog I’ve written for a couple of years now. I forgot to pack my organizational skills when we moved from the city. Alas. However, I am quite anal that the patterns be carefully checked and stored in archival bags. That certainly harks back to my days as an editor.


[This is where the magic happens! Wouldn’t you like to have just 30 minutes alone with those boxes??]

What’s a typical day in the life?

Oh, gee. Do you really want me to put your readers to sleep? All right. So be it. I have multiple sclerosis (no pity, no pity, no pity, please!) and a symptom I experience is an ofttimes overwhelming exhaustion, so I sleep late. Quite. I usually get up around 11 or so. Check email. The bank balance if I am feeling brave. Breakfast. I watch “The Young and The Restless” if I get up in time. (Sweetie, I warned you that you were going to be bored!) Sort laundry for His Bertness to do later. Check email. Again. All this tires me, so I rest. Then if there are orders, I prepare those. Read. Procrastinate. Write. Check the bank balance if I’ve built up enough courage. Make grocery list. Maybe I’ll go to the grocery store with His Bertness. Maybe go to physical therapy or to a Pilates session or to meet someone for coffee. Rest. Again. Eat dinner. Maybe TV or a movie. Blog. Procrastinate. Pilates. Perhaps Facebook. Then off to bed to read. Do you need some No-Doz now?

What’s your favorite part of running Blue Gardenia?

Checking the email and finding orders!


[There’s jewelry too! I have a thing for vintage Trifari. Sigh. Find these lovelies in the Jewelry section of Blue Gardenia]

How do you make it work?

Mmmmm . . . I’m not sure I do! The Blue Gardenia was much more successful when we updated every two weeks. We haven’t done that since 2004. Cue the violins: Health issues prevent it. And sales have been affected by the recession as well. So. Snug Bug readers, shop, shop, shop at The Blue Gardenia.


[A little something to wear with your Lady Grey? Find this pattern in the Accessories section of Blue Gardenia!]

Is this your sole support?

Other than hubby, yes.

Any advice for those contemplating a big move to a small town?

If you want to move to a small town, I’d say research job opportunities there first. Make sure it has jobs! And better yet, get a job before you schedule the moving van. Prescott is beautiful, but there are no jobs. It took me several years to get a part-time job here. Research the cost of living as well. Go to a top-notch clinic like the Mayo and get a very thorough checkup to try to prevent nasty health surprises, which can be very expensive, whether you are insured or not.

[the move may be worth it… check out the view from Denise’s desk!]

What’s next?

A published novel, I hope. I write fiction. You can find some of my short story collection at my fiction blog, She Says.

Final thoughts…

I love The Blue Gardenia. I do. I love my customers. (Oh, sure, there’s the occasional pill, but I can count them on one hand, even after all these years in the biz.) I love patterns. I love jewelry. I do miss newspapers sometimes, especially when a big story breaks, like the oil spill in Louisiana. I wish The Blue Gardenia made more money. I wish everyone in the world would join hands and sing Kumbaya. But. Oh. Well. As some sage once said: Life sucks and then ya die.


Thanks to Denise for sharing her story and offering up pretties for our uncontrolled web-consumption. Head on over to Blue Gardenia and check out the site! As a special treat for Snug Bug readers (affectionately known as rickrackateers)Denise is offering a deal through November 18th!

Enter the code SB20 in the order box to get 20% off (wow!) orders of $40 or more! Last one to the Trifari bling is a rotten egg!


  1. Tasia says:

    Thanks for sharing your story Denise! It's always fascinating to hear how people ended up where they are. This is a great series!

  2. Our Heroine says:

    Thank you Denise for being so brave in sharing your usual day! I have chronic pain and my days are very similar.
    Your patterns are beautiful, wish I had more money and energy to sew some up!

  3. a little sewing on the side says:

    Nice to meet Denise through you! What gorgeous jewelry.

  4. Carolyn (cmarie12) says:

    Thanks for sharing more about Miss Denise with us! I'm thinking she should throw a party and invite some of us vintage afficiendos…I bet we could reduce that pattern stock with a little cash and carry action!

  5. K.Line says:

    Hey Patty: I left a comment yesterday but it didn't take – I have some weird experiences with your blog sometimes!

    At any rate, just want to say that this is another great post about another fascinating sewing blogger. Denise is great and now we know that much more.

    What a pioneer (but with better lipstick) :-)

  6. SewMentalMama says:

    This is a great idea for a series. It's nice to read about Denise especially because of all the great sewing spaces she's introducing us to. Thanks to you both for the code:)

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