Friday, November 21, 2014

Victorian Era Sewing?


Weirdly enough, we seem to be heading right into the holiday season. And I have a party to attend which requests Victorian period dress. Now, there is nothing I love more than an excuse to sew something totally frivolous and extravagant. However this is totally out of my comfort zone in terms of time period. But I just know that some of you are historical sewing enthusiasts and experts, right?

I've fallen quite in love with Butterick 5823, with its beautiful bodice and sleeve draping.

Here are my concerns: First, historical accuracy. Now, I suppose if the theme of a party is "Victorian," you really have a wide berth when it comes to that, right? When I think Victorian Christmas, I think Dickens. I have no idea where this Butterick pattern falls in terms of era. It's in the Making History pattern series, but there's no more info than that. Thoughts?

Secondly, fabric choice. The pattern recommends lightweight cottons like voile but I'd really like to do it in something more winter appropriate, maybe a crisp shantung with a drapey silk for the ruched insets. What do you think?

Third, foundation garments. I'm assuming one wears a corset and petticoats underneath this. Overbust or underbust?

This may just be pure fantasy sewing since time is of the essence, but I'd love to hear your thoughts! Have you ever sewn anything from this era? Please share!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Shaping a Neckline with Horsehair Braid



Horsehair braid is not just for hems! You can also use it in a neckline to add shape and structure. This works especially well in strapless or strappy dresses, where the bodice is supported by boning. Sometimes interfacing the neckline isn't quite stiff enough to stand up to the structure of the bodice, especially when you want a lot of shape and stiffness around the neckline.

This red halter dress is a great example. As you can see above, it's boned around the bodice, but not over the bust. The horsehair braid keeps the neckline from collapsing above the bustline. It also keeps the neckline nice and crisp. I've seen it used in dresses like this pink chiffon one, where you need extra structure to support the ruching of the lightweight fabric.


To apply the horsehair braid, you'll want to stitch it to the lining neckline so that it's positioned just below the seamline. (Do this step after all lining seams are constructed and boning is sewn in.) Because my seam allowance is 5/8", I stitched my horsehair just a hair below that. 


The braid can go all around the upper edge of the bodice, or stop at the side seams, which ever you prefer. If you have it go around to the zipper opening, make sure that you cut it just short of the opening so it doesn't get caught in any seam allowances. 

Pull up the string in the horsehair braid so that it shapes to the curve of the bodice. It's a nice touch to stitch some scrap fabric around the short ends of the braid so the cut edges don't poke through the dress. 


Stitch the bodice to the bodice lining, right sides together. Understitch the lining, catching the horsehair braid and the seam allowances in your understitching. Turn the lining to the right side and press, and there you have it! A nicely shaped neckline.


P.S. Happy Halloween!






Thursday, October 16, 2014

Sheep & Wool Festival This Weekend!

I'm signing books at the Sheep & Wool Festival in Rhinebeck this weekend! Though they might as well call it the Angora Bunny Festival, because I lose interest in all other things when I see one. It will be a miracle if I don't go home with one sooner or later.

I'll be in the author signing area from 12:00 to 2:00 on Saturday signing copies of Gertie Sews Vintage Casual. Hope to see you there!

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Wrap Dress from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

My new book has been out for a couple weeks now and I've been wanting to show you some of the designs! Here I am wearing the Wrap Dress, a simple short-sleeve dress with a narrow shawl collar, gathers on the shoulders, and a gathered skirt. 

In the book, the design is modeled by my friend Allyson and she looks adorable in a plaid seersucker version. 

Of course, I wanted to make the dress for myself too! I chose a floral quilting fabric by Amy Butler. I love the big blue roses. 


Here you can get a better view of the shoulder gathers and the collar. 



The skirt has side gathers in the front, and is gathered all the way across the back. It has a slight fullness, but not a huge amount. In keeping with the casual theme of the book, I wanted something that felt very wearable on a daily basis.

This is one of 10 included paper patterns in the book. (Bonus: I also show you how to adapt the Wrap Dress bodice into a Rosie the Riveter style jumpsuit and a one-shoulder romper.) In case you're wondering, the sizes go from 2-16, and they're pretty equivalent to ready-to-wear sizing.

I have more designs to show you, so stay tuned!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Make a Bralette Using Butterick 6031

Hey, remember my lingerie pattern for Butterick? B6031 is a collection with patterns for a slip, cami, and panties.

I discovered last weekend that it's also shockingly easy to convert the slip/cami pattern into a bralette. This is a cute little piece for lounging or casual daywear, NOT aerobic activity. (Trust me.) It looks cute when made up with the matching undies. I made this in sheer 4-way stretch mesh for a little spice.



To convert the pattern to a bralette, all you have to do is make the back shorter. Take the bra pattern piece and the slip/cami back and align them at the side seam notches.


Then draw a line across the back pattern so that it ends at the same point as the bra. (See the blue line above.) Then cut off the pattern piece. I added a new "cut on fold" bracket since the original got cut off. (If you don't want to cut up your pattern, make a fresh copy!)

Sew the bralette as you would for the slip, except finish the bottom edge with wide stretch lace, after sewing on the straps. It helps to first hold a length of the lace snugly around your body, right under the bust. Cut the elastic to that length (plus a little extra for seam allowances). Sew the stretch lace into a ring, and then zigzag it to the bottom of the bralette, lapping the lace over the mesh by 1/4". Stretching the lace to fit as you sew. 

For a little more support, you can also zigzag some plain elastic to inside of the bra, at the top of the midriff lace, just below where it joins the bra fabric. Measure it to your torso, as you did with the lace, and then stretch it as you're sewing to fit the lace, if necessary. 

You may also notice that I made the neckline of the bra slightly lower than the original design. See how the center front meeting point of the lace reaches down to the midriff lace? 


If you want to try this, just lay some lace on the pattern piece where you want it to be positioned on the final bra, keeping in mind seam allowances and such. (There's 5/8" seam allowance at center front, and 1/4" at the bottom of the bra, so I placed the lace accordingly so it would end up at center front when the piece is sewn.)

Then fold in the excess at the top of the pattern and cut out with the new lower neckline. 

That's all there is to it! If you'd like more pointers on sewing the slip and panties in this pattern, check out all my relevant posts, including a step-by-step sew-along. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

See You in Novi this Weekend?

It's time for the American Sewing Expo again! This show in Novi, Michigan is one of my favorite sewing events ever and I've been going every year. I'll be there this Friday and Saturday, hanging out in the the McCall's booth. Please come by and say hello!

I will also be signing my new book, Gertie Sews Vintage Casual, in the social media lounge Saturday from 10:00 to 11:00. Hope to see you there!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Book Giveaway! Gertie Sews Vintage Casual!

My new book is out! Gertie Sews Vintage Casual: A Modern Guide to Sportswear Styles of the 1940s and 1950s just released this week. It's a collection of techniques and patterns to create a vintage-inspired wardrobe for your everyday life. To celebrate, I'm hosting a giveaway right here.


To enter, all you need to do is leave a comment on this post by the end of the day on Monday, September 22nd. In your comment, make sure that I have a way to get in touch with you (i.e., make sure your username links to a profile with contact info, or just leave your email address in the comment if you like). The giveaway is open to all countries.

I'll announce a winner on Tuesday.

Good luck, readers! Thank you for all your support on this new endeavor. I hope you love the book. Look out for some upcoming posts on the designs from the book too!



Friday, September 12, 2014

It's Here: Gertie Sews Vintage Casual!


My new book, Gertie Sews Vintage Casual, officially releases in just 4 days! However, it does seem to be shipping early and some of you have reported receiving copies already. How exciting!

To celebrate, I thought I'd give you a little sneak peek into some pages of the book.


Title page!


Illustrations are done once again by the amazing Sun Young Park. Just like in my first book, there are many illustrations of my beloved cat Henry hidden throughout. Rosie the dog also makes an appearance now!


The book was inspired by the American Look, an era of practical yet chic fashion that spoke to women's everyday lives.

There's lots of technique stuff.



The emphasis is on solid vintage-style construction, with added content on knits and pants!


And, of course, the wardrobe! Ten patterns are included on heavy duty paper.

There are plenty of skirts and dresses, pants, jackets, tops, and sweaters.




I had modeling help! Here's the Halter Top and Flared Skirt on gorgeous Atayla.


The Sailor Blouse on lovely Dani.


And the Shift Dress on my adorable friend Allyson.


Here's the patterns and their envelope, which bound into the spiral spine.


Look out for lots more info on the book. I'll be showcasing the patterns and garments, as well as doing a giveaway. A big thanks to everyone involved in the book!

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Black Lacy Dress for Summer

I love black dresses for summer, especially with a full skirt. I've been working on developing a princess seam bodice pattern, and I decided to test it out with some beautiful black stretch sateen from B&J Fabrics. It's a basic sleeveless scoop-neck bodice with full circle skirt, and then a straight-grain ruffle sewn all around the hem.

Let's discuss the neckline. I ended up trimming it with some gorgeous black Venice lace.

This, however, was not originally the plan. I was working with my student Rachel, who has been a wonderful constant in my life for several years now. I mentioned I was making a basic black dress and was thinking about trimming it with some cool trim, like rick rack or mini pompom trim. This launched Rachel into an idea about an Italian countryside/Dolce & Gabbana inspired neckline with lace that gives a sort of lingerie-inspired vibe. We discussed. (I think the dialogue included something like, "It's like you're Sophia Loren: 'Oops, my dress is too small!'" Have I mentioned that Rachel is hilarious?) I was instantly on board. 

I found the lace at M&J Trimmings. It's a 2 inch-wide Venice lace with tiny roses. Perfect. It would have been ideal to sandwich the lace trim between the bodice and the bodice lining--but that was difficult to maneuver. Instead, I fully lined the bodice with the outer dress fabric and then cut the lace into small pieces and pinned it behind the neckline. Then I secured the lace to the lining with very tiny hand stitches. Here it is from the inside.



I ended up adding a little bit of narrow clear elastic into the neckline seam (between the two layers of the bodice) to keep it hugged close to the body, which resulted in a slightly gathered look to the neckline. I'm trying to decide it if bothers me or not. 

The skirt is not lined, since the fabric is medium weight and opaque.

Back lapped zipper. Please excuse the wrinkles. I'd been sitting for a bit. 


The ruffle on the bottom is a strip of fabric that had to be extremely long. I made it 2.5 times the circumference of the skirt, which is a full circle. Daunted by the hemming, I tried out the narrow hemmer foot on the eXcellence 760 that Elna is lending me. 

It was so easy. Luckily, it was a straight grain hem. Narrow hemmers tend to be much more difficult on curved areas. 

The best part? Bike pictures! My friend Shari took these pictures on my new Bobbin bicycle (dude, it's called a Bobbin!) which I think completes the Italian summer look. Watch out, Sophia Loren. (Just kidding. There is just no competing with Sophia Loren, especially when it comes to plunging necklines.)

P.S. Biking in 4-inch heels? Do not try this at home, readers. Believe me.
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