Monday, August 3, 2015

The Daily Dress: '50s Nautical Rope Detail

Vintage dresses can be the best inspiration for unusual trims. Designers of the '50s in particular seemed to have a special knack for using basic trims in completely innovative ways. Take this cherry red dress for instance--how sweet is that that rope trim on the skirt? This design is by Mam'selle by Betty Carol, one of the "better Seventh Avenue junior labels."

And I think my favorite thing about it is how accessible it would be to reproduce. A basic red frock, scalloped lace trim, thick cord, and grommets: done! Large grommets are set vertically down the skirt. The cord is laced through with a chinese ball knot on one end and a bow on the other. That's it!

I love the idea of reproducing this dress with my pattern B6094 as the basis.

The back could even use more knot balls or bows on the flaps.
I haven't gotten to make this design for myself yet, and now I'm a little obsessed with the idea. Cherry red corduroy would be perfect!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Sewing Scenes: Magic Mike XXL

Well, there's a title I didn't expect to be writing! Life has been a little heavy lately, and I decided that going to see Magic Mike XXL was the perfect remedy. I went with a group of six rowdy ladies, which is really the only way to see this show. It was spectacular.

I have a lot to say about this movie, starting with: sewing! There's a fabulous montage (God, I love a montage) where the ragtag bunch of "male entertainers" is getting ready for their big show, and it involves lots of DIY. There's a great little shot of a handheld sewing machine stitching along on a costume. These guys really do it all!

Of course, handheld sewing machines are notoriously terrible and there's no way an entire costume could be sewn on one in a pinch, but I'll suspend my disbelief.

(Side note: the first Magic Mike also included sewing, with the perfect Joe Maganiello as "Big Dick" Ritchie sewing a gold thong.)

If you have any desire at all to see this movie: run, don't walk! to your nearest theater. Not only is it a big, campy male stripper road trip odyssey filled with lots of eye candy, it's an unexpectedly feminist film. There's tons that could be said about the politics of female sexual desire, but what's more striking is the politics of female happiness.

These guys make it their mission to get their customers hot and bothered, for sure. But their primary goal in two instances is to get them to smile. There's a Joe Manganiello convenience store strip scene that will go down in history, the point of which is to get the dour cashier to grin. And he does! The crowd goes wild!

Which leads me to: male strippers are hilarious. They just are. They don't even have to try. I laughed my head off for two hours, as did my friends. Personally, I think that's the real secret to why women love this movie.

(Hey, I didn't say it was the only reason women love this movie.)

So, have you seen it? Will you? Please share your thoughts! The crafty feminist blogosphere needs to weigh in on this one.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

New Butterick Blouse Pattern

I have a new Butterick blouse pattern--and I'm on the pattern envelope and catalog cover! Since I've always done my own modeling for this blog and for my books, we decided to give it a try with my Butterick line too. This is B6217, a retro summer top with various design options. 

Here it is on the real model. 

And hey! Here I am on the envelope cover with the little illustrated ladies. (Speaking of which, how much do we love this Tumblr? So much.)

In other blouse news, here's a little video tutorial on It's Sew Easy TV for adding a back button extension to a blouse pattern. This uses the Portrait Blouse pattern from my first book and adds a little variation to it. You can use the technique with any pullover or side-zip blouse pattern though. The video is only up for the rest of the week, so watch it soon! 
I've appeared regularly on the PBS show It's Sew Easy over the years, but I've never actually watched it on TV! (I don't have cable, and it shows at different times in different states.) They release an episode on the website every week, so you can still watch it even if you don't get the show in your area!

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:


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!
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