Sunday, February 28, 2010

Drafting a Peter Pan Collar, Part Two!

{Click here to watch video on YouTube}

Okay, we're back with part two in this vlog series on drafting your own Peter Pan collar! There will be one more short part in this set. I suppose that probably seems like a lot to make one little pattern piece, huh? It's not hard; it just takes a little while to explain and I promise you'll love the results!

Also, can I just say that YouTube is really messing with my self-image? Why, oh why, is the still for this video a picture of my back with my bra lines showing so unattractively? I swear they did it on purpose. Anyway, I promise you won't have to spend too much time looking at my back, but it was kind of hard to avoid. Update: Oh, I fixed it! Hurrah!

Anyway, let me know if you have any questions!

Update #2: Here's the link to buy Swedish tracing paper.

Friday, February 26, 2010

It's Time! (Back to VoNBBS)

So remember this little book called Vogue's New Book for Better Sewing? And how I'm supposedly on a journey of making all 14 fashions from it? Well, the journey took a little detour, but I've decided that it's time to get back on track!

So here's my plan to shake things up. I think I'm going to skip forward a couple patterns to the background dress. Mostly because it's a long-sleeved dress and it's the dead of winter here. And I have the pattern in a 34" bust size, which isn't too hard for me to size up to fit me.

So I'm TEMPORARILY skipping over the little girl's party dress (which I've decided is boring because apparently I'm a selfish seamstress - like some other people - and I don't feel like making clothing that isn't for me).

I'm also skipping (for now) the full-skirted dress which I LOVE but is more spring-like and I unfortunately could only find in a bust size 32" which sounds impossibly tiny to me. I know I'll have to do some pattern grading, and I'd like to put that off as long as possible.

So the background dress it is! It's a lovely frock on the model, though I do worry about a potential dowdiness factor in real life. Here's the pattern:

What do you think? Any tips for fitting and styling this so it's not too dowdy?

VoNBBS includes directions for making the coordinating scarf, as well as the little double button doohickey that you see the on the upper righthand illustration. (Jeez, those poor ladies on the perimeter only have half a head each!) VoNBBS suggesting making this in a navy silk faille, so when I saw that the Vera Wang navy faille was $1.95 a yard on, I snapped it up. It's rayon and cotton - not silk - but who can pass up a bargain like that?!
BUT. Is navy a mistake with this dress, do you think? Is that a one-way ticket to Dowdsville? Should I think about a jewel tone instead? Help!

I'll be making a muslin this weekend. Woo hoo! Feels good to be back on track.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sencha, Dressed Down

As promised: me modeling my green Sencha blouse! The great thing about these retro button-back blouses is that they look just as great with jeans or cords as with a pencil skirt. I think it's a super cute weekend look when paired with some victory rolls and Chucks.

I am so digging the rayon drapey-ness of this fabric.

Here's a back view. When untucked, you get a cute little split at the bottom of the blouse.
You can really see the waistline tucks in this picture.

A perfect weekend outfit, I think. I made a size 8 (Colette Patterns sizes are closer to ready-to-wear than traditional sewing patterns), and it's roomy enough to be comfortable but fitted enough to look great tucked into a skirt.

I feel like I could use one of these blouses in every color! Ah, if only I had the time . . .

Speaking of time, editing the second and third parts of my Peter Pan collar video tutorial is taking me longer than expected. But Part Two will be up this weekend! (If you missed it, check out the first part here.)

Drafting a Peter Pan Collar, Part One!

{Click here to watch video on YouTube}

Hey, friends! As promised, here is part one of my video tutorial on making a Peter Pan collar for a blouse, like the one I wore here. (The blouse pattern I'm using is Colette Patterns Sencha.) In this first installment, I give a little introduction on the process (including what tools you'll need) and then show you how to prep your pattern pieces. I hope you enjoy it!

The updated edition of the book I mentioned is Make Your Own Dress Patterns by Adele P. Margolis. I have an earlier edition of this book, and I can't recommend it highly enough!

Check back for the next part tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Featured Sponsor: Gorgeous Fabrics

Readers, I am thrilled to have Gorgeous Fabrics as one of my sponsors. When I first started the sponsorship program here, I wrote down a list of my top picks for partners - and this fabulous online fabric shop was definitely among them since I'm one of their many satisfied customers! I've always loved the selection of fine garment fabrics and the fact that owner Ann Steeves takes the time to suggest patterns to go with them. Luckily, Ann agreed with me that we'd be a perfect match. Read on for a little interview (Ann tells about the time she got kissed by Tim Gunn!) and a fabulous sale (get 24% all orders today!).

Gertie: How did you get started with Gorgeous Fabrics?

Ann: Gorgeous Fabrics grew out of my previous business, Gorgeous Things. Gorgeous Things was a manufacturer of women's handbags and accessories. One time a vendor suggested, after seeing me wearing a dress I had made, that I try selling fabrics. I tried an experiment where I bought 15 yards of a fabric I had used to make a dress. I put the fabric up on my blog and it sold out in less than 6 hours! And so it began.

What's the most gorgeous fabric in your shop right now?

Oh, that's a really hard one! Of course, I love the Parisian couture fabrics, though most of them have sold out. This one, Tea at the Ritz Bouclé, is so sumptuous! But I also love a lot of the knits, and the stretch, and the wools, and the silks, and the cottons . . .

What's been your favorite part of your business so far?

The people I meet. I'm really fortunate that I'm doing something I adore, and it allows me to meet all sorts of great people. I have clients all over the world. They range from people who sew for themselves to designers who manufacture clothing for a wide range of clientele. I really LOVE it when customers send me pictures of things they have made with my fabrics. That's the best!

So how did you get that fabulous picture with Tim Gunn?

That picture came from the finale party for Season 4 of Project Runway. I was invited to the party as the "official" Project Rungay photographer. Tom and Lorenzo and I were talking when Tim Gunn came running over to say hello to them. Then he looked at me and said, "And who is this?" and gave me a big kiss on both cheeks. It was one of the best nights of my life! You can read about it here and here on my blog.

Isn't Ann just lovely? Also lovely is the sale going on at Gorgeous Fabrics. Everything is 24% off TODAY and then most fabrics are 20% off through this Sunday the 28th.

There are so many beauties that I don't know where to start! But how about taking a look at the silk 4-ply crepe in coral or perhaps some shantung in jewel colors like this emerald green? And then there's this fantastic polka dot stretch charmeuse. And I'm sure you'll want some deep red wool crepe to go with that, right? Oh dear, we could really be here all day . . . I hope you'll go over to Gorgeous Fabrics to see for yourself!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

An Interview with Gretchen Hirsch, My Alter Ego!

Goodness, I feel famous! The lovely ladies of the new craft site Yay!DIY posted an interview with me today. I'm weirdly delighted with the title: "Eleven Questions for Crafty People: An Interview with Gretchen Hirsch." After going by my internet alias for so long, it's fun to see my full name in print! Yeah, I'm easily amused. Anyhoo, head on over and check it out.

Suspender Skirts of Yore: a Snappy Timeline

My suspendered Jenny skirt was made from a contemporary pattern, but I was moved to make it after seeing a similar silhouette on a 50s pattern. I sported the look to work yesterday, and was pleasantly surprised by how flattering and wearable it was. I was compelled to look a bit more into vintage patterns with similar details, and I was blown away by my findings. I discovered suspender skirt patterns from the 30s - and every subsequent decade on! I honestly didn't realize what a ubiquitous garment this was for the majority of the 20th century.

Want to see the vintage pattern gems my research turned up? Snap on your suspenders and follow me for a magical mystery tour of suspender skirts through the decades!

The Thirties
Lovely Etsy seller Wearing History had the above pattern for sale (sadly, it's now sold) with this fascinating bit of background:
The suspender skirt came in with swing and collegiate styles in the late 30s, and also the Tyrolean or alpine influence, which is why this pattern has the option for an attached apron made in a printed cotton after the folk style that came back. It has a high waistline and suspenders that button in place behind pointed tabs.
Indeed, this is a style that lends itself to both a preppy-chic look as well as a Bavarian/folkloric vibe, and I found both of these styles in my research.

The Forties
On the more collegiate side of things, this darling pattern from the 40s is classic and clean with a gored skirt. Meet you on the quad, ladies!

The Fifties
The suspender skirt styles of the 50s seemed to skew a bit more juvenile, with the patterns being made only for little girls and teens, as far as I could tell. Emblematic of the decade, the skirts were either very full or very slim. Check out the adorable envelope art on the pattern above - how cute is the bit with the puppy?! Love!

Here's the slim skirted teen pattern from my collection that sparked my interest in the Jenny skirt.

The Sixties

It's a mod mod world, baby! Love the chic silhouette of this junior pattern from 1965.

The Seventies

The Bavarian influence comes back in the form of boho chic! There are so many things to say about this pattern below, and so little time.

The Eighties

The 80s never disappoint, do they? This pattern would create an . . . interesting bustline, don't you think?

The Nineties

On the above pattern: Can't you just see View C on Cher from Clueless?

The pattern illustrations below demonstrate Laura Ashley tendencies, but I actually love the look the gal in the front is working. Polka dots and statement glasses: you know I dig it!

Interesting to note that in the 80s and 90s, the suspender skirt moved away from the lederhosen/folksy look.

. . . and Today!

BurdaStyle brings the suspender skirt back in '10! I love that the saddle shoes and crisp button-down hint at the style's vintage-preppy roots.

Thanks for joining me on this exploration of suspender skirts of yore! The cool thing about this style is that it's easy to incorporate into any skirt pattern - just slap on a pair of suspender straps. What do you think? Will you be sewing any of these looks - vintage or contemporary?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sencha + Jenny = True Love Forever

Ah, love. We already know that pencil skirts and blouses go together like peanut butter and jelly. Throw in some suspenders and a Peter Pan collar and that's a recipe for awesomeness, in my opinion.

This skirt is BurdaStyle's Jenny skirt, and I spent a lot of time fitting it - to my actual measurements, no less! I started by cutting a 44 in the hips and a 42 in the waist, and ended up taking it in more in the waist and upper hip. (Yeah, okay, I'm a pear. FINE.) I like my skirts below the knee, and I had to add an extra three inches to this pattern to get it there. (Seriously, skirts are getting shorter every day, aren't they?!) I also changed the waistband layout. The pattern had it cut on the bias, and then stretched to fit the skirt pieces. I didn't really like the idea of having to stretch out the fabric to get it to fit, so I cut it on the straight grain instead. This meant that the waistband needed to be just a little bigger, since it wouldn't be stretched on the bias. So I made sure that the seams lined up as I was checking the pattern. Anyway, I'm so pleased with the fit of the skirt and I know I'll be making this pattern again and again. One of my favorite things about it is that it tapers in at the knee, creating a super curvy silhouette.

The fabric I used is a black cotton stretch sateen, and I lined it with a hot pink stretch poly lining fabric.

The blouse, made from Colette Pattern's Sencha, is in a rayon polka dot print. I drafted the Peter Pan collar myself. Tutorial is on its way!

I crossed the skirt suspenders in the back for extra cuteness (and so they'd stay up).

Suspenders are handy for tucking your thumbs into. Also: behold my lime green pumps! (I finally got Jeff to understand the importance of getting the shoes in the pictures.)

Anyway, I give both these patterns a big thumbs up! If you're looking for basic retro-style separates that you can personalize, these definitely fit the bill.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Back Soon! (Plus Fancy New Widget Action)

Hello, my lovely readers! As I mentioned yesterday, I've been a bit under the weather as of late. I'm also behind on everything blog-related. (Taking pictures, videotaping tutorials, etc.) Plus I had a bad day at work! Can you believe it? Anyway, I wanted to let you know that I will be taking a little blog vacation, but plan to be back (refreshed!) in a couple days.

Oh, also! Have you seen my new Google Reader widget on my sidebar? It's on the righthand side under my blogroll, labeled "Gertie, Girl Reporter." I love this new widget so much it hurts. Every time I see something in my Google Reader that I think you guys might like, I just click "share" and it pops up there for you all to see! Isn't that genius? So if you're looking for some good reading, make sure to check it out. I update it every gosh darn day!
Until next time . . . happy sewing!

P.S. The above picture is my all-time favorite shot of Henry. (I actually have it screen printed on a t-shirt. Yes, you read that right.) Isn't it hilarious? I think it's very LOLcat worthy.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sencha Blouse in Polka Dots (Naturally!)

Oh, cruel irony. When Casey showed us pictures of her lovely Sencha blouse on her dress form, I brattily demanded to see pictures of her in it. Now I've made my own Sencha (two actually!) and what am I doing? Posting pictures of it on my dress form, naturally. Oh, cruel irony indeed.

This week has been a little rough, with a cold keeping me in bed today. While I didn't exactly take the day off, it was lovely to work while bundled up in my flannel pajamas. I hope to get caught up on photos and the Peter Pan collar video tutorial this weekend.

Anyway, the Sencha is a lovely little blouse pattern from Colette Patterns and was a joy to sew, just like all of Sarai's patterns. I used a rayon print from New York Elegant Fabrics, and it drapes so nicely!

Come back soon for more pictures and more Senchas! Just as soon as I get out of my jammies, I swear . . .

Better Buttonholes (and Thoughts on Fancy Machines)

Readers, thank you so much for your manual buttonhole tips! My new Bernina 1008 and I are getting along fabulously and I've been putting your suggestions into effect. Doesn't this latest one look so much better than my last one?

The big thing I discovered is that you should use the BUTTONHOLE FOOT. Shocking, I know. My tips are cutting edge once again. For some reason, I thought that there wouldn't be a dedicated buttonhole foot for a multi-step buttonhole. Indeed there is. (I know, I can't believe I'm writing this either. Gertie, Queen of the Obvious.) For a multi-step buttonhole, it's a simple little doohickey with grooves on the bottom that slide smoothly over the "beads" - the raised sides of the buttonhole. The other change I made was to set the stitch length just a little shorter than recommended. Voila! Lovely buttonholes. At least I think they're lovely. What say you?

Also, I just wanted to share that I love my new machine. It's perfect for me, and I'm so glad I went with this one. I've made a blouse and a skirt on her, and we've bonded already. I still don't have a name for her though! All in good time, I suppose.

Anyway, on the topic of fancy sewing machines, as promised in this post title. I was interested in a comment Robin made on my earlier buttonhole post. She said:
I think you did a great job assessing your needs and weighing them to make your sewing machine decision. The business model used by SM manufacturers /dealers is frustratingly outdated and much maligned. Too many people go in with an idea of what they want and come out with a machine costing way more; with features they will never use.
Great point, I thought. It would have been very easy for me to be talked into a fancier machine, like the Aurora I was originally looking at. Though I agree the business model of sewing machine manufacturers and dealers is somewhat shady (convincing you that you NEED the top of the line model to sew beautiful things), is it also outdated, like Robin suggests? There does seem to be a push toward more streamlined, USEFUL technology in the computer world (like what Apple is doing, for instance). I wonder how this could be applied to the sewing machine industry.

And yes, I'm sure I would have loved the Aurora as well. Time will tell for sure, but I don't think I need the features of the Aurora, which would have cost me an extra $1,049. And with the money saved, I'm planning on attending one of Susan Khalje's couture sewing schools, an experience that I think will advance my sewing more than 283 stitches would.

What do you think? Are there ways you would like to see the business model for the sewing machine industry change? Are you frustrated with the choices (or lack thereof)? Please share!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Covered Button Tutorial

I like to use matching covered buttons on my blouses, and a few of you have asked for a tutorial on how to make your own covered buttons. I've hesitated up until now because all I did was buy a Dritz covered button kit and follow the instructions. Lately, though, I haven't been happy with my results while using slippery fabrics like silk or rayon. But over the weekend I discovered a really nifty trick that makes the process much easier and more professional looking. I'm really quite pleased with myself, to be honest. Read on to see the tutorial!

You'll still need a covered button kit (the ones marked "refill" are fine, you don't need the silly tools included in the basic kit). The first thing to do is cut out your circles of fabric, based on the pattern on the back of the package.

Take your fabric circles to your machine. Using a long basting stitch (4mm is a good length), stitch all the way around the edge of the circles, using a 1/4" seam allowance. Leave long thread tails. Cut off the upper thread tails, leaving just the bobbin threads hanging.

Pull the bobbin threads up, causing the circle to gather. Don't pull it all the way closed, just let it form a little cup.
Put your upper button piece face-down into the little fabric cup.
Now, pull the bobbin threads tight so that the fabric is snug around the button.

Keeping the threads pulled taut, snap the back of the button on.

Cut off the thread tails.
Voila! Lovely covered buttons.

That's all there is to it. I used these little polka dot buttons on a blouse made from Colette Patterns Sencha blouse. I'll model it for some pictures later, but here's a sneak peek of the back.

You'll notice that my version of this blouse has a little Peter Pan collar, which isn't included with the pattern. But guess what? Coming later this week is a video tutorial on drafting a Peter Pan collar yourself! I'm super excited about it, and I hope you love it.

P.S. Question: are you all able to easily get these Dritz covered button kits? Let me know if not. I'm sure there's a way to do this tutorial without the kit, perhaps using regular shank buttons and wrapping the shank in buttonhole twist or something? Hmm, I'll think on it.

Monday, February 15, 2010

News Flash: Models Are Thin (A Night at Thakoon)

So, as I mentioned yesterday, Jeff and I went to the Thakoon show at Fashion Week last night. This was the first event like this I've ever been to and my first impressions were: Wow, what a weird thing this is. The people, the ritual of it, the clothes, the models. We got there early and were lucky enough to get a little backstage tour. It was complete madness. I mean really: madness. People and things everywhere. It was kind of like a Bosch painting, except everyone was doing hair and pinning clothes rather than killing each other.

We had a standing room spot RIGHT at the end of the runway. Killer. The soundtrack started as a reverberating, thumping heartbeat (very "Tell-Tale Heart") and then morphed into a lovely, somber instrumental. The models started to walk down the runway. The clothes were gray, drab, and often furry. Their expressions were strained or bored. And their bodies?

Okay, I know I shouldn't have been surprised at their thinness. But believe me when I say that they looked a good 20 pounds thinner than they do in the photographs. Seeing it in person, only several feet away from me, was disturbing to a degree I couldn't really comprehend. Paired with the somber music, monastic ambiance, and drab clothing, it was truly like watching starved inmates march to their deaths. I was viscerally horrified as I witnessed spindly, fragile arms and legs, baggy pants seats, pinched faces, and protruding ribs.

It was admittedly hard for me to focus on the clothes. But of what I took in, it definitely wasn't my cup of tea. (And I don't think it will be Michelle Obama's cup of tea either, so I'll be surprised if we see her making use of this collection.) There was lots of fur, weird gray sweatpants, and fluffy hotpants made of what looked like twisted tulle. The few dresses I liked were definitely the most wearable, like this wonderful little number with pompom trim (a detail has already deemed as too "cutesy").

I also liked this LBD with ivory trim.

The one piece I could totally see Ms. Obama in? This printed, drapey number.

I'm not sure what had to die to make this coat, but it's scary.

Fluffy tulle hotpants!

I've been looking over the other recent shows at, and gray and serious seems to be the theme of the season. I have to say, I felt wildly unsophisticated in my tastes. I like pretty dresses in pretty colors. There was certainly none of that. As for what I wore? I went with the black and white polka dot dress, but never ended up taking off my coat. Good thing it's red and fabulous! I definitely stuck out like a sore thumb in this crowd. If you're interested in what the fashion types are wearing right now, it's this: Gray cape-like coats, tiny skirts, black leggings and sky-high black ankle boots. It painted a very militaristic, somber picture. And there I was in my huge fire-engine red coat, with a large, sparkly strawberry brooch pinned on the lapel. Oy.

So all in all? I'm glad I experienced this. But I'm surprised to feel so much more disturbed by the fashion industry today. As my post title suggests, none of this is exactly a news flash. But it was still unsettling. Oh, and celebrity sightings? Anna Wintour was there and I believe I caught the back of her shiny little bob as she was rushed out at the end of the show. But I did get a very good glimpse of Grace Coddington, the Vogue editor who stole the show in the documentary The September Issue.

All in all, I was happy to get back to Queens where people don't all dress alike and wear scary shoes. Also, after the show I had an intense comfort food craving so Jeff rushed me off to our favorite burger joint. Ah, back in the real world!

If you'd like to see the whole show, click here.
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