Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Coming Soon! Gertie's New Fashion Sketchbook: Indispensable Figure Templates for Body-Positive Design


Readers! Between book projects, I've been working on a  . . . wait for it . . . book project! But this is a sketchbook project and one with a super exciting concept at that. Let me explain.

Have you ever bought one of those fashion sketchpads filled with croquis (body figure templates) all excited to hash out your ideas? And then once you realize the figures are a little bizarre-looking, your excitement fades a bit? (By "bizarre," I mean that the figures are strangely elongated and spindly, and twisted into strange poses like the "broken doll" or the "sad alien.") That's because fashion people work with a concept called "nine heads," where the figure is nine head-lengths tall. To put this in perspective, actual people are only seven to eight heads tall. Here's an interesting image that breaks it down:

Source

One of my missions over years has been to write about sewing and fashion in a body-positive, feminist way. So these nine-head ladies were bringing me down. And so the idea for this sketchbook was born and brilliant illustrator Sun Young Park brought it to life. Here's how it works:

For Gertie’s New Fashion Sketchbook, Gretchen Hirsch teamed up with illustrator Sun Young Park to reinvent traditional figure templates—known as croquis—for the 21st century. Instead of the unnaturally skinny, tall, and frequently off-balance croquis the fashion industry has been sketching on for decades, this game-changing alternative presents hundreds of realistically sized and proportioned female forms in balanced, lifelike poses. In addition, Park has rendered the croquis with multiple tracing lines, allowing the sketcher to follow the lines that most accurately reflect the body shape desired. Also included are an overview of the design and sketching process and a visual history of garment component styles, all to make it easier to create fashion sketches for women of all shapes and sizes.

The figures are presented in a "nested" configuration (almost like a sewing pattern!), so that you can follow the lines (bigger or smaller) to represent different figures. You can make the figures smaller on top or bottom to replicate a woman's actual curves and proportions. I tested the whole thing out with some wonderful sewing friends, and it really works! I can't wait to show you more once the actual books arrive.

But for now, just know that the sketchbook is available for pre-order!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Making a Quilted Skirt, Part 1


I absolutely love the look of a quilted skirt! Using machine quilting on full skirts was very popular in the '50s. The best thing is that the quilting adds lots of body, for a very full look.

Did you know the skirt on the cover of my book Gertie Sews Vintage Casual is quilted?

For that skirt, I used a layer of cotton and a layer of flannel and then outsourced the quilting to my mom. Here's a view of the inside.

See how well the skirt is supported by the quilting? It's like magic!

I recently got a yen to make another quilted skirt in spring-like fabrics. I'm using the rose print sateen from my new fabric line. (It seems to be sold out online, but it's definitely available in Joann stores. The print also comes in yellow on poplin. In other fabric news, it looks like the border print is back!)

I decided to try a more traditional quilting configuration, using batting between two layers of fabric. So the first thing I did was gather my supplies:


  • About 3 yards each of the sateen and a backing fabric. I'm using Kona Cotton in Red for my backing. 
  • Cotton batting. I chose a twin size package, and will have plenty leftover. 
  • A skirt pattern. I'm using my flared skirt pattern from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual. (See the section on the quilted skirt for more specifics on how to use the pattern and draft a waistband.) 
  • A 9" regular zipper. 
  • Spray fabric adhesive, to hold the layers together. 
  • Painters tape (or masking tape), to mark quilting lines. 
  • Lightweight fusible interfacing for the waistband (not pictured).
  • Also handy: a walking foot for your machine (this keeps the layers smooth while quilting). Having a foot with a "bar guide" is especially handy for this. 
Start by washing and drying your two fabrics to pre-shrink. Then iron and starch, if desired. (Starching helps put some body back into the fabric after pre-washing. I learned this on quilting message boards! You can even make your own starch, which I totally did. Just mix a tablespoon of corn starch and a pint of water in a sauce pan. Heat, mixing well, until boiling. Leave to cool. Add two drops of essential oils, like lavender (optional). Pour into a spray bottle using a funnel.)

Cut your skirt front and backs out in both fabrics and in the batting. 


Lay out the layers one at a time and spray with the adhesive. Roll up the next layer, and set it down, unrolling it so that the edges match and they stick together from the adhesive. 


Once you have your "skirt sandwiches," mark your first quilting line with the painters tape. Find the exact center front of the skirt (you can fold it in half and mark with pins) and then find the 45 degree angle to this. I like to use a 2x18" ruler, and align a 2" square with the center front line, as in the illustration below: 

By Sun Young Park, from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual
Place your tape along the 45 degree angle, starting at one upper corner of the skirt. 



Before stitching along your taped line, make a quilting sample! Use a small swatch of all three layers together. Make sure you're happy with your chosen thread color and the width of your stitching lines. 

Once you're happy with everything, start stitching along the tape. Remove the tape and stitch parallel lines, using either the guide on your walking foot or more rows of tape. 

Hey, the quilting guide even works well when you put the bar in upside down! (Whoops.)


Keep on making those parallel quilting lines. I hope you have a good podcast to listen to. (OMG, have you heard Serial? I binged on all 12 episodes last week.)



Next time, on Serial: how to make the crisscrossing lines, matching the quilting lines on the skirt backs, seam finishes, and skirt construction!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Gertie Fabrics Are Here!

What an insanely busy few weeks this has been, readers! I took a whirlwind trip out to Puyallup for the Sewing and Stitchery Expo and got back just in time for two weeks of photo shoots for my upcoming Gertie's Ultimate Dress Book. In the midst of it all, my first line of fabric was released! Joann Fabrics now has the full Gertie line in stores. I was so excited when I saw them in my local store in Poughkeepsie, NY!


Would you like to know what each fabric is? Yes? Okay, here we go.

First, a classic rose print on a swiss dot! This is lightweight and textured, and would be perfect for blouses and dresses.

Swiss Dot Roses

I have my freshman design students at Marist College make tank tops as a first project, and I sewed my sample in this rose print. You can see the swiss dot texture here!




Here's another swiss dot with a floral-bow stripe print! This was inspired by Horrockses dresses of the '40s and '50s. I would love to see this with a chevron design on a bodice, like Vintage Vogue 8789.

Swiss Dot Stripe
Next, a rose border print with polka dots on cotton sateen.

Border Print Rose Sateen

I designed Butterick 6167 specifically with this print in mind. Here it is on display in Puyallup!


Is it okay to have a favorite fabric in your own collection? Because mine might be this one. Huge roses in lovely pink and red tones on a black background. This is also a sateen. My next project is to make a half circle skirt in this for spring.
Sateen Rose in Black 

It also comes in coral and yellow on cotton poplin! I want to make a HUGE full-skirted dress in this to go flouncing about in.

Coral Rose Poplin

Of course, we couldn't do without a tropical floral print sateen. This would be perfect in a Shaheen-esque pattern like my Butterick 6019.

Tropical Floral Sateen

Cherries! We have them on an aqua background in a heavenly rayon challis with an amazing drape.

Cherries on Aqua Rayon Challis

And on a white background on crisp cotton poplin.

Cherries on White Cotton Poplin

Another favorite: KITTIES. This is inspired by a 40s novelty print and is done on a poly chiffon with a sheer windowpane background. I was hesitant about polyester, but when I felt this one I was so in love! It has a really nice hand and feel to it. (Also, the grey kitty is my Henry. Obviously.) I'm going to be making the "40s-Style Blouse" from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual in this print. More to come.

Poly Dobby Chiffon Kitties

Also on the poly windowpane chiffon: BOWS!

Poly Dobby Chiffon Bows
Don't worry, I didn't forget the doggie lovers. Poodles and polka dots on cotton lawn. Squee!

Poodle Dot Lawn

Next, a mini-collection of three grey chambrays. These are all cotton and feel so nice. In little white bows:

Chambray Bow Print

Pink cherries.

Chambray Cherry Print

And red polka dots:

Chambray Polka Dot Print

Embroidered strawberries! This is on a medium weight ribbed-texture cotton.

Embroidered Strawberry Cotton

And finally (whew!): a really cool novelty weave fabric. It's a swiss dot cotton with polka dot chiffon "pinwheels" appliqued on top. This is super special and would make a beautiful full circle skirt.

Embroidered Swiss Dot in Black 

It also comes in pink!

Embroidered Swiss Dot in Pink 

Well, there they are! They are in Joann stores and on their website (which ships to the US and Canada. I will be doing a giveaway for international readers, so look out for that soon). I really hope you like them, readers. I would love to extend a huge thanks to Fabric Traditions, who made the line a reality, my supporters at Butterick, and of course Joann Fabrics and their dedicated sewing-obsessed employees.

Now that all my sewing for the dress book is done, I plan to spend some time making myself a spring wardrobe in these fabrics. More to come!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Brown Hair, Puyallup, and More!



Well, the deed is done! I'm back to my (kinda sorta) natural hair color. It required an enormous amount of work to get it to this shade, so I can hardly think of it as really natural. But I'm sure it's someone's natural hair color. My big photo shoot for Gertie's Ultimate Dress Book is mere days away, and I have a closet full of 25 dresses ready to go. I'm happy with the color, and think it will make a nice neutral "accessory" for the frocks. I'll admit that I'm kind of fried from prepping for this shoot and I'm looking forward to the downtime from when it's over. I'm already planning what I'll sew for fun and relaxation! (Gracious, this sewing stuff is addictive.)

In the meantime, I'm headed to Puyallup for the Sewing & Stitchery Expo! Perhaps I will see some of you there? I'll be in the McCall's/Butterick/Vogue booth on Saturday (I'll be there all day signing books and such) and we're going to announce the Gertie's Grand Giveaway winner! There were so many amazing entries, and Butterick has created this super cool look book of all of them. It's so amazing seeing all these fantastically creative versions of my patterns!


Thank you so much to all who entered! I can't wait to reveal the big winner!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Fifty Shades of Brunette


Goodness gracious, are you so sick of hearing about that Fifty Shades movie everywhere? I will fully admit to reading all three of books (all the while complaining about how terrible they are, yet unable to stop myself). But I think I must draw the line at seeing the movie. (Though seriously, go see it for me and report back please!)

Anyway, I'm much more interested in talking about shades of hair color at the moment. You see, I've almost certainly decided to go back to brunette later this week. In case you haven't been following my hair saga, I dyed it pink over two years ago, then went purple. Then came blue. And then purple again! I haven't seen my natural hair color in quite some time. And I've loved it. And I don't think I'm completely done with the crazy colors.

The thing is, there's the photo shoot for Gertie's Ultimate Dress Book in just a few weeks. I'm modeling 25 dress of various colors, textures, and prints. Add colored backdrops to the mix, and I felt like my purple hair color might clash in some of those photos. How about a nice neutral brunette instead?

The great thing is that I get to choose the brunette I'd like since my base hair is bleached at this point. And who can remember their natural hair color after so long anyway? So I've been collecting images on my pinterest board and having lots of fun doing it. I wouldn't mind something a little warmer and a bit red, like Lana del Rey's hair above. Or maybe even an outright auburn!


There's the classic deep chocolate Bettie.


Or Zooey.



Or maybe something a little paler.

[source]
Or, perhaps the wisest and safest bet: get the salon to try to match my actual natural hair color!



At first I thought it seemed a little strange to dye my hair just for the purposes of the photo shoot. But now I'm really into the idea. Hey, natural hair color seems like a novel idea again!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Snow Day, Sew Day!



We've been hit with lots of snowstorms in the Hudson Valley this winter, and I can't help but love it. Is there anything better than watching the snow fall from a cozy vantage point sitting at a sewing machine? The past year has seen some changes for me, including going back to work part time (more on that some other time) so I have to take my sewing hours where I can get them. And there have been a LOT of sewing hours recently.


I'm working on my next book, which will most likely be called Gertie's Ultimate Dress Book. I'm making 25 dresses. When I plan these things, it always seems so do-able and natural. "Of course I'll make 25 dresses for the book! Any other number would be insane!" I don't know if trying to make 25 dresses in a relatively short period of time is a sign of insanity, but it certainly causes it.


In good news, I'm on dress 24 and I'm proud to say that I couldn't be more excited about this project. The most difficult thing about making sewing books for me is trying to get my vision to align with the finished product. Things always seem to shift and change along the way of course, but there's always a fundamental concept that I want to come through in the end. (In my first book, the concept was vintage couture inspired by Vogue's New Book for Better Sewing; in my second book, the concept was the way vintage can be sewn and worn in our everyday lives.) Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't. It seems to be happening more often than not on this project, so I'm happy as can be.


There's also something to be said for sewing 25 of one thing in a row. 25 zippers, 25 hems, etc. Just logging in those hours in the sewing room makes one a better seamstress. How could it not? I can't share the dresses with you yet, but I've sprinkled this post with some little detail shots that I've been taking along the way. And a cat.



In other news, I have a new Butterick pattern out! B6167 is a dress meant to get us all thinking about the warmer days to come. It's made here in one of my new fabrics that will be available in Joann stores next month. I love roses, polka dots, and border prints, so . . . why not all three?!


The dress has a boned bodice, a gathered bust inset, straps, and a full gathered skirt. 
I hope you love it!

For those of you in this stormy winter weather, I hope you're safe and enjoying being snowed in and getting some sewing done.
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