Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane

Second Home (Mexico)


Get a cup of tea…..

There are many things I’ve never done in my life so far – I  have never travelled beyond the equator; been to the continents of Africa, Australia, Eurasia; nor even across the Atlantic Ocean. This summer I managed to accomplish one of those nevers: at the ripe old age of middle I managed to cross the Atlantic and for the very first time in my life set foot on USA soil, albeit for a few hours stop over in Atlanta airport on my way to Leon, Mexico.


Leaving Mexico

I haven’t been beyond UK borders for years. For 10 years or so as a family we took many holidays all over mainland Europe but generally speaking that’s just like being at home except for a different language and warmer weather; travelling to Mexico is culturally unique. I feel a trifle guilty showing you my suitcase because I did not sew everything I packed.

There are occasions in our lives when you have to make decisions and sometimes buying holiday-one-off clothes makes a lot more sense. My suitcase compromised a mix of RTW and sewn. I cannot foresee some of my Mexican wardrobe ever being worn in the very near future – I mean temperatures of 26 degrees and above are relatively unknown in my part of the world – and so I truly wasn’t prepared to spend money, time and effort on sewing things when I could buy them in the summer sales. This one of the reasons that I never signed up for 100% 12 months of sewing my own wardrobe. You never know what life will throw at you, offer you or knock you sideways.

In May this year I was diagnosed with yet another malignant melanoma – good grief, it’s my third! If not identified and cut out, this is a 80% death sentence. Wear the sunscreen people!! A temporary, damaging sun tan is not worth it. Take it from a bottle if it’s that important to you. My gratitude to our British National Health Service cannot be expressed enough. Obviously……


Proudly displaying my newest “I’m still alive” scar

So when I received an invitation from ReAnn to visit Mexico my first thoughts concerned my life, health, skin, potential sunburn and subsequently the consequences. I have typical Irish, Northern European skin – pale, freckly and my delicious blood is a gourmet meal for every flying insect


Decisions to travel were – Yes, then No it’s too risky – life’s short and all that sun is dangerous:  then YES! Life is really and truly too short so take all and every opportunity whenever they present themselves.

Thankfully when the husband was asked if he wanted to come too he gave the right answer – No!

So off I went solo.


Packing philosophy

Choose a base/primary colour and add co-ordinating colours to ring the changes.

Slide1My base colour was royal blue, it is surprising how many colours coordinate with this principal colour and the co-ordinating ones were neutrals of white and natural linen. I had a little bit of space left in the case so in went one black and a couple of patterned items.  Mostly my clothes were solid colours but I did add these few patterns for variation.


I bought two items while I was there – an expensive designer linen step-in skirt (a perfect opportunity for another blog post) and some khaki shorts from the tenguies (market) simply because I didn’t own a pair of shorts.

DSCN7751Merchant and Mills Bantam vest in lime green rib


I packed two pair of shoes – flip flops for pool and early mornings, one pair of blue flat sandals and I wore the leather lace-up shoes for travelling because I don’t like moving through heavily populated areas such as airports and underground stations with my toes exposed in case of back-stomping and trampling.


You will excuse me, I’m sure, that I do not model the entire suitcase. Everything that I packed was worn and most pieces at least twice, although I had the advantage of having a washing machine. Some items of clothing are very old and have been blogged before and it was ultimately very beneficial and gratifying that I had already spent the time making them, just waiting for their day in the sun. The olds include:


Donna Karan wrap dress

See the lotion on my pale Irish legs? (Emm delicious). This photo was taken last year after the Donegal midges attacked. The DK dress was worn at dinner one night and turned out to be a ‘signature’ look – see below….. I had a posh meal out at the Insitutio while a world renowned classical guitarist played and who happened to know I was from Ireland and played a little ditty with Latin influences. God bless him.



Self drafted T-shirt dress with beading

This self-drafted, beaded neckline dress was  worn for dancing the night away to what else but ‘the blues’. I went dancing with Jan to a Blues night uniquely sung in Spanish with the most adorable lead guitarist. I even got asked to dance.


Sateen patterned cotton trousers, so old now that I cannot rightly remember when these were made. The new additions were a hybrid Alabama Chanin/ CfPD Bias top in white cotton jersey.


Location is someone’s exquisite bathroom….

DSCN7752The white cotton CfPD Spiral Top with a little waist tie detail and needs an ironing…..






My version of Monsoon blue and white striped cotton trousers.







A homemade copy of Oska summer linen dress, made in a fine checked natural linen and the base pattern was StyleArc’s Toni.





Another modification of the Toni was the black muslin over-dress.












I bought a few plain white T-shirts, a swimsuit, a cover-up. I didn’t pack enough loose tops even though I’d made them, such was the temperature. Lesson learned.

At least now I have stuff that will travel the world with me wherever I go in the future- I have a wardrobe for all seasons and all temperatures.





IMG_0694So anyway, poor ReAnn felt a little under the weather one day and I set off to visit Canada de la Virgen (ancient pyramids) all on my own.

On the bus to the archaeological site this couple asked me if I had had dinner at a place the night before and that they remembered me because of my lovely blue dress (the DK). They then ‘looked after’ me for the rest of the day.

See – sewing has many unknown and undocumented advantages!





Then one other day as I was sitting by a fountain and waiting for ReAnne who was having her hair cut some American ladies walked by and commented that I should have a photograph taken. I gave them my phone and this is it. We met them again later that day.


On another day ReAnn and I had a fabulous day tour around Guanajuato.


I wore my black muslin over-dress with white cotton shift and white linen trousers and she wore a plain black dress too, both of us in total contrast to the colourful houses – we must have looked like two devotees of some religious sect together. Apparently Guanajuato was the backdrop for some Disney animation film recently but my days of watching such genre has become temporarily dormant.


One evening we went to a really bad fashion show which I would not have missed for all the tea in China or all the Tequila in Mexico – it was so bad it was good!


On Tuesday morning I shopped at the local market and had the best meal of the entire visit – a whole fried fish, crispy on the outside and creamy white on the inside. We were the only gringos at the long table. Perfect.


I had tequila. Salt and limes included.


I helped ReAnn fit and finish her Vogue 1442 dress.


I advised and assisted Kathy with fitting and understanding the instructions for her very complicated Vogue 1424



For which she very kindly gifted me the best present ever – a cactus pincushion.


And within an hour of unpacking, my cactus had fruit, just like the real thing.


I regularly sent home pictures of Car of The Day from San Miguel.


There was art, churches, markets, eating, walking, talking, cooking class (thanks to ReAnn for the following photos), characters, sunshine, scenery, mountains,


When I had 30 mosquito bites, I stopped counting!

I didn’t have altitude sickness (6000ft), I didn’t suffer jet-lag, I didn’t get sunburn, so a few irritating insect bites were a small price to pay.

Believe me, I saturated myself with insect repellent, Avon’s Skin So Soft – you name it, I lathered it on and the wee sh*tes still found the areas that I hadn’t covered – between toes, fingertips, thumb.

Other wildlife included Silence of the Lambs sized butterflies (moths) in the bedroom.

IMG_0760Amazing hummingbirds….honestly, can you ever imagine an Attenborough thingy visiting your garden???





I had an absolutely brilliant time in Mexico – a unique lifetime experience for which I wholly and truly have to thank ReAnn and will probably never have ample opportunity to repay ….and of course, sewing which was our initial reason for contact.

I have henceforth decided on a new acronym: AFS = away from sewing machine! What was the first thing I did on my return home??? You guessed it.

Suitcase still packed and I hit the sewing room………there was no time to suffer jet-lag.

Take life’s opportunities NOW.

Do not wait until next year, next week, next month, tomorrow……..and if ever anyone says to you that sewing is a solitary, isolated activity – here’s absolute proof that it is not and if anyone ever offers you anything – take it!


67 thoughts on “Second Home (Mexico)

  1. Thank you for this inspiring post. To your continued health and creativity, Cheers! Melissa

  2. Hi Sue. I understand that you shared a meal
    With my friend Victoria Gold while you were in San Miguel.
    She said you all talked about sewing
    & that I would have enjoyed the conversation.
    I love San Miguel & hope to visit there again soon.
    Did you buy any handwoven Mexican fabric?
    Happy sewing
    Catherine Ljungquist in San Francisco, CA

    • HI Catherine, thanks for your comment but are you confusing me with someone else?
      I’m not ‘Sue’, I’m Ruth and while I met a lot of people in Mexico I’m not sure i ever had dinner with Victoria.
      If you could provide a few more details I might be able to join all the dots…….

  3. Thanks for sharing your trip to Mexico . Sounds great. All the best for your future health, and sewing adventures.

  4. What a cool post! Glad you are continuing to blog…very inspiring!

  5. What a great time you had! So glad they zapped the melanoma, keep well. I’ve never been to Mexico, and probably never will, despite that fact that my mother was born there and spent her early childhood there.

  6. What a lovely and thoughtful post! Hope your recovery from your latest melanoma episode is going well.

  7. I LOVE how you love and share your life. Wonderful post – made me smile as tho I was having fun with you! Keep after those melanoma spots and keep enjoying (which I know you will!).

    • Thank you Yellowrose (Texas????)
      I shared a walking tour around San Miguel with a tonne of Texans because I suppose they all headed south as it was cooler.

  8. Thank you for sharing the ups and downs in your life

  9. The mosquitoes will never forget you and mourn not meeting your delicious like again! I’m delighted you took this opportunity and thank you for sharing your experiences. Now I am even more determined to go myself one day (sooner rather than later!!)

    • So one day the two of us were sitting side by side by the pool and later I reported another 7 or 8 bites and ReAnn said “I didn’t get bitten at all”.
      “That’s because I was sitting beside you” I replied. “Why would they bite you when my blood is so much better than yours?”
      If you ever need a mosquito trap – I’m it!

  10. Best post I think you have ever written!

  11. I am so happy that you did not miss this opportunity! What a glorious time you had.
    Years ago, I had taken my dog Little Bit to the beach. She ran and played much harder than I felt was good for her, and the next morning she laid on her bed, not moving and would scream if she thought I was going to touch her. I took her to the vet. As it turned out, she did have an issue in her back, but the vet gave me the best advice, “don’t keep her from being a dog. Take her on hikes, take her to the beach. Let her experience life as a dog should.” What he perscribed was some medicine that I could give her prior to the hikes, etc. that would keep her from feeling pain. As I look back, it was not only advice for her, but for all of us. Tomorrow is not a guarantee. Yes, take precautions, but live. And you did! 😊

    • Best advice ever Rhonda, thank you so much for sharting.
      We never know the day and if we could only live each day as if it was our last then we would be much better people.
      We would treat each other with respect, admiratiration, love.

  12. *waves* Fellow melanoma person here! What a glorious trip, so glad you went!

    • Back at you Elizabeth. Still here!
      Surviviorivers together …. Breast cancer gets so much more publicity than skin, so is there something we could do…..?

      • I’m definitely preaching sunscreen, long sleeves, etc. (although in my case I don’t burn and really didn’t get much sun damage growing up. But still–no sun exposure is the best prevention. ) Next check up for me is August 28, my second of 10. I’m on the six month plan for five years.

  13. I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I’m glad you’re recovering from your melanoma op and were able to go on this terrific sounding trip. I agree you have to grasp things now – carpe diem.

    • Carpe diem is my daily mantra Ann.
      I studied Latin in school and this was the single and most enduring thing I ever learned.
      Shame that the current syllabus has ignored the classics but then maybe you don’t need to know it because everyone has Google nowadays.
      Only you and I are elite – we can sew our own clothes and understand Latin – a rare combination, methinks.
      Thank you so much.

      • I studied Latin at school but confess I didn’t enjoy it! I got my Higher in it though, surprisingly. (Scotland = not A levels at that time; a Higher was probably equivalent to an AS Level)

  14. What a fantastic trip you had! And your travel wardrobe was perfect.

    • Thank you Tia. It was a holiday to remember and something to tell my ‘grandchildren’ about (should there ever be any)……
      I will advise them on how to pack…….

  15. Only one marquarita? Oh, Ruth, I’m so happy for your experiences and decision to visit with your friend. I love love Latin America, as you know, and am truly jealous 🙂 Mexico is just wonderful. I know this will stay with you … Coco

  16. I am so glad that I discovered your blog a few years ago. It was my second blog to sign up. My
    first being Goodbye Valentino which I love. To suggest that you might give it up means I would be
    losing contact with a valued friend, so I hope you have returned from your trip with renewed
    interest in pressing on. You are an inspiration to a lot of people. I wish you wellness and many
    wonderful years ahead filled with endless yards and yards of absolutely gorgeous fabrics, with always
    just the right patterns for every piece and every occasion possible.

    • Thank you very much Peggy, I never knew you were a stalwart of sewing blogs and you are truly one of the reasons why I really still do this.
      You have made all this so much worthwhile, thank you.

  17. What a lovely, long post on your great visit to Mexico. Wondering, with all the photos, what your fried ReAnn looks like!! Just kidding. And get ready, I’m coming for a visit next summer – Payback!!!

    • Yeah, she was in the previous post……if only you’d read it!
      Honestly, if someone doesn’t know you, then their life is very small and restricted.
      Already planning a bedroom for you, even if it means I lose a sewing space – and you know how much that means………..

  18. Thank you for sharing your wonderful trip!

  19. Lovely photos! I am still amazed at all the beautiful matching clothes you take with you when you’re on holidays.

  20. I absolutely loved this post. It is so interesting and uplifting and fun. I love your philosophy and your wardrobe and joy. You deserve to have great experiences with your positive approach to life and I am sure you will surprise us with other adventures over the next few years.

  21. What an amazing adventure, and a wonderful record of it too! I love the ‘Attenborough thingies’ description and lol’d happily at it. I was baffled by CPfD, googled and got ssome WEIRD answers THEN of course while typing this comment, it came to me. Duh.

    • Centre for Pattern Design.
      You sweetie. Good luck in your new job and I hope it doesn’t interfere with your sewing adventures.
      When I ever get an opportunity to travel to England this year for training I’ll select the Midlands instead of London as my option and you better be ready….

  22. Hi Ruth,
    What a fabulous post; sharing Mexico with us and all your adventures.
    So pleased that all is well following your recent procedure and that you are taking good care of yourself. Long may your excellent state of health continue. I am sure all of us are cheering you on and so happy that you continue to shake up life and have lots of fun!
    Take care. M.xx

    • All is well thank you Marysia. Just had a medical review this morning and I got the all clear although I am now on a 3 month appointment system instead of once a year. I cannot fault the NHS and the care they have given me. Aren’t wwe lucky to live here?
      Take care of yourself and keep sewing……

  23. Oh my goodness, it looks like you had a brilliant time! And I’ve very glad ReAnn is keeping well, and you’re check up went well. But if I found one of those moths in my bedroom, I’d faint!!!!!

  24. Well as usual what a wonderful wardrobe you have put together, I love it all (and covet it). Mexico looks lovely and vibrant so pleased you have a lovely time. Please write another blog asap so that I can get inspired by your plans for the upcoming autumn and PLEASE do not stop blogging.

  25. Sounds like a wonderful trip! Mexico is magical–you’ve seen a tiny corner of it now, you’ll have to go back and see the rest!

    The “Disney” film may have been Pixar’s animated movie, “Coco,” a tribute to the Day of the Dead and the importance of family. As someone who hadn’t seen an animated film for about 18 years, I actually went to the theaters for this one, and can’t recommend it enough.

  26. Ruth, i’m So glad you’re back blogging and thumbs up for your continued health my luv. I am of course a Derm nurse and know only too well how serious melanoma is. Don’t beat yourself up though, it’s not always sun exposure. I learned recently that halogen lighting emits 25% UVA – bloody hell, there’s no escaping it! Love your travel wardrobe, such beautiful colours. Mexico is one of my favourite places, those mayans were incredible. Xx

  27. OH MY Ruth, you certainly have captured the flavor of Mexico as it should be savored! Who else would feature all her vacation clothes and co-ordinated shoes but you? Listen, if you ever get tired of those fabulous blue and white striped pants, please send them my way!!!!

  28. I’m so glad that you took this trip Ruth – no-one is promised tomorrow and your post is a reminder to grab today by the throat and give it a good shake. It looks like you have been doing just that so very well done (and keep at it!)

  29. I love your blog. You sew such wonderful outfits and teach me so much. I would miss your voice so much if you stopped. I am going to San Miguel in a few days so I know it will be wonderful from reading your blog about your trip. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Hi Helen, you’ll have a lovely time. Wear sturdy flat shoes as all the streets are cobbled – you will not need to pack your heels. The dress code is consistently ‘relaxed’.
      Just one thing – don’t do the Walk-about tour – it’s a stand about tour! Honestly, standing for 20 minutes in front of a door was my downfall. Give the donation as all the guides are volunteers and I certainly can’t take away their commitment and dedication to the charity work but really, just dander about the city yourself and you’ll see much more.
      Thank you. Do you know ReAnn?

  30. Oh, my…what a wonderful travelologue! I am so glad you enjoyed Mexico-and Guanajuato is one of my fave cities there. I love the wardrobe you packed and you look fantastic in the pics. Glad you are okay after your third cancer scare. We share similar coloring…I just went to the dermatologist to check out some funny spots (they are “age related”) :-p

  31. Pingback: Holiday Legacy 2 – Suit V1467 | corecouture

  32. Hello! I am now retired, mid 60s, new to sewing and live in the tropics of North Australia (Cairns). I originate from Lisburn – just down the road from you. When I retired I gave away my day-to-day corporate-type uniform clothes – black, stretchy, synthetic, zero style and very unflattering. Instead, I decided to make my own in cool, light cottons and linens with no zips, buttons, over fitting, etc. I do encounter problems when DH and I travel to the northern hemisphere – I don’t own any winter clothing! My favourite patterns come from Style Arc, Tessuti (Eva dress), Jennifer Lauren Handmade – but mainly I try to draft my own from the TNT patterns I already have. You may enjoy blogs from The Insouciant Stitcher, Blogless Anna and Anne Whalley – just a few of my favourite Antipodean sewing blogs. Keep up the great sewing and the fabulous craic. 😊

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