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.

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.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Introducing My New Fabric Line, With Sewing Contest!

I'm so happy I finally get to share this with you, readers! I've been working with Fabric Traditions on a line of retro-inspired apparel fabrics that will be available in Joann Fabric and Crafts this March. To celebrate, Fabric Traditions and Butterick (home of my pattern line, Patterns by Gertie) are teaming up to do a fantastic giveaway.

First, a little about the line:

  • It's a collection of 17 designs on apparel fabrics: cotton sateens, cotton poplin, rayon challis, Swiss dot, chambray, and more. 
  • The designs range from classic vintage florals to 40s- and 50s-inspired novelty prints (cherries and strawberries and bows and poodles!). There are also some super fun novelty weaves especially intended for retro dress patterns. 
  • The idea was to create special vintage prints that are hard to find, produced especially on apparel fabrics. (Retro kitty cats on a textured chiffon, for instance!)
I hope this all sounds interesting to you, because it's pretty much my dream come true. I will be sharing more of the fabric designs as we get closer to the actual release date. 

Now! More about the contest. For a grand prize, we're giving away a bolt EACH of all the designs. (That's over a hundred yards of fabric, and worth $2100!) Have you made any of my Patterns by Gertie? Because to enter the contest, all you need to do is send in a photo of the garment. I will be announcing the winner in February at the Sewing and Stitchery Expo. The winning garment will be displayed in the Butterick/McCalls booth. All the rules and details are right here. If you want to make up a garment specially for the contest, there's time! Submissions are due January 31st. 

I hope you will consider entering, readers. I can't wait to see the submissions! And I can't wait to show you more of the fabric designs. There's a stunning large-scale rose print I'm dying to sew with. Hmm, I wonder if  I have time to make a dress for myself for the expo . . . 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Sewing Your Own Retro Lingerie: Are You Into It?

As you may know, last year I released a lingerie pattern with Butterick for a vintage-inspired knit slip, cami, and panties.

Since then, lingerie has been on my mind: sewing it, researching it, shopping for it. My Butterick pattern was easy to sew and super simple. A big part of me wants to go deeper into the whole subject: more complex designs, more authentic retro styling, more lingerie knowledge for everyone! I love the vintage-inspired designs from Gossard (see the Retrolution collection at the top of this post), What Katie Did, Dita Von Teese, Agent Provocateur, and Kiss Me Deadly--to name just a few.

Agent Provocateur Abby Basque
What Katie Did Valerie Cathedral Bra
Dita Von Teese Star Lift collection 
I suppose this post is an informal post of sorts. Do you share this interest in sewing retro lingerie, readers? How into it are you: would you make your own slip? Your own bra? Your own corselette? Would you buy a whole book on the subject, or maybe just an individual pattern?  

If you are interested in sewing lingerie, what has stopped you up to this point? Difficulty finding patterns, notions, and instruction? Lack of time? Fitting concerns? 

I'm so looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this. Several years ago, I brought up the idea of writing a lingerie sewing book, but there's always been a concern that it's too much of a niche topic. What do you think? 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Comfiest Ever Pencil Skirt

I keep meaning to write about this skirt because I'm so darn proud of it! I made many prototypes trying to get to a casual wear version of a retro pencil skirt for my new book, Gertie Sews Vintage Casual. I knew I wanted it to be made out of a knit fabric with an elastic waist, but still have the structured look of a classic pencil skirt with a high waist and a tapered silhouette. Many test versions later, I came upon this: the Easy Knit Pencil Skirt.

For me, the real triumph is the hidden elastic waistband. It's smooth and lays completely flat so you don't get that sweatpant look around the middle. It looks cool on the inside, too. At first glance, it looks like a facing.

But flip it up and you'll see the secret!

One of the reasons the skirt is so easy is that it just has one pattern piece: the skirt front/back. It has a cut-on facing. You serge or zigzag the elastic to the facing and then flip it in.

I've made several more of this skirt for myself, including this floral version.

(Excuse me, I was having a bad face day.)

P.S. The book also has a '60s inspired mini skirt version and a '40s gored, flared version!

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!

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