I'm a sewing enthusiast in Beacon, New York, with a love of all things retro. This site is all about tutorials, tips, inspiration, and lots of spirited discussion about sewing as it relates to fashion history, pop culture, body image, and gender. My first book, Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing, is now out from STC Craft/Melanie Falick Books! Also look for my line "Patterns by Gertie" from Butterick.
No more singing mice, ladies. Things are about to get fierce up in here.
Reader Amy took issue with the girly sweetness of prior sewing film scenes explored here (Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty) and proposed something with a little more bite, if you will: Selina Kyle's transformation into Catwoman in Batman Returns, as portrayed by Michelle Pffeifer.
I gave it a watch, and damn. This is some powerful stuff. To start with, it's visually stunning. The film was directed by Tim Burton, and his trademark aesthetic shows through in every shot. Also, there's something very retro about Selina Kyle (though I suppose the aesthetic of comic book films is, in general, very retro). We first see her in this lovely cocoa-colored suit. I know she's supposed to look mousy here, but look at that amazing vintage tailoring!
Her transformation into Catwoman is full of pathos and rage, and it all takes place in her girly, super-retro apartment. She refashions a vinyl trench into her kickass cat costume with wild handstitches and the help of a vintage Belvedere sewing machine.
Amazing stuff. I do remember seeing this film when it came out in 1992, and I only recall being freaked out by the way she was acting all unstable around her cats. (Someone think of the kitties, please!) I'm not a huge Batman fan (much to Jeff's chagrin), but this film obviously warrants a re-watch as an adult. As reader Amy put it, this scene is chock-full of the symbolism of her transformation. There's something completely captivating about this character who takes her rage and sadness and sews it into a new persona. See it for yourself below.
All together now: "I don't know about you, Miss Kitty, but I feel so much yummier."
Okay, first things first: remember that tomorrow's your last day to get 10% off at Gorgeous Fabrics. The details:
"For the month of September, Gertie’s readers get 10% off any full-price fabric in the Coatings, Woolens and Oo La La categories at Gorgeous Fabrics. Just enter the coupon code GERTIE at checkout and we’ll deduct 10% from any of those fabrics!"
So if you haven't bought your Lady Grey fabric yet, now's the time! (Speaking of which, how's the cutting out going, Sew-Alongers?)
Secondly, from the Department of Random, have you all read Beatrix Potter's The Tailor of Gloucester? A few of you have brought it up when we were discussing Cinderella's sewing mice recently. I searched it out online, and goodness! It's a delightful little read. Do yourself a favor and head over to Project Gutenberg where you can read the whole thing online, charming illustrations included.
Wasn't it so fun looking back at the sewing scene from Cinderellalast week? However, I think I may have been a bit hasty to call that dressmaking scene the best ever. You see, a couple commenters reminded me of the sewing scene in Sleeping Beauty. I watched it again, and it left me wondering: how could I have forgotten this gem? I've always loved the dress the fairies finally produce (with magic, rather than their own hands and wits) and I wrote about it as one of my favorite movie dresses of all time. But I had a complete lapse of memory when it came to the scene where they attempt to make said dress (and bake a rather dubious-looking cake). I'm so glad you helped me rediscover it, readers, because it is brilliant and hilarious.
How delightfully bitchy these fairies are! (Merryweather: "It looks terrible!" Flora: "That's because it's on you, dear.") Oh, and the priceless sewing moments! Flora's interpretation of a how a hem is formed is pure genius: why, you just cut a hole in the fabric and drop it over the wearer's head til it falls to the floor. (Flora: "Well, it's got to have a hole in the bottom." Fauna: "That's for the feet to go through!")
Have a watch of the clip below (turn your volume all the way up; the sound isn't so great). And then do tell: in a Disney sewing scene smackdown, who's your choice for the win? The highly-proficient mice of Cinderella or the fabulously catty fairies of Sleeping Beauty?
Calling all Portland folk! Fabulous designer and regular guest poster Alyson Clair will be having a trunk show for her wonderful vintage-inspired line this Friday. I know you love Alyson's posts on sewing with knits, and now you can meet her in person! Go down to Union Rose from 6:00 to 8:30 to say hello and see her lovely clothes on display.
Oh, how I wish I could go. I'm counting on you Portland readers to represent for me! Have a wonderful time and please report back.
Seam finishing is one of those intensely personal things: some high-tech sewists love their sergers, others are minimalists with a set of pinking shears. Some can't stand the sight of an unfinished seam (even if it's going to be covered up with lining), others are more relaxed. But I think most of us are pretty flexible, and tend to adapt our techniques to the task at hand. (If you're new to seam finishing altogether, check out this great comprehensive post.)
I've often heard that if your garment is to be lined, you don't need to worry about finishing the seams to stop fraying. (Though it's worth noting that the lining won't stop the seams from fraying, it will just shield you from having to look at the fraying!) But I've always interpreted this to apply only to garment interiors that are completely enclosed; in other words, a garment with a free-hanging lining (like the Lady Grey coat) would still require seam finishing since it's open at the bottom. There's always a chance the lining could flip up a bit when you're twirling about to show off your swishy peplum!
Last winter's coat project!
The tailored coat I made last winter also had a free-hanging lining, and I spent plenty of time thinking about the seam finishes. Here's what I decided: since the wool cashmere I used for the outer coat was very tightly woven (almost felt-like), I did nothing to finish its seams. But since the silk charmeuse lining was very fray-prone, I finished it with my serger. I'll be taking a similar strategy with my Lady Grey, and evaluating each fabric independently: my fashion fabric is a moderately loosely-woven wool and the rayon lining has a tendency to fray, so both will need to be finished. I like my serger for these kinds of fabrics. After I cut and mark the pieces, I just disengage the blade on my serger and finish them all before I start sewing.
What's your strategy for seam finishes on lined garments? Do tell!
Hey Sew-Alongers! How are we all doing? This week I want us to focus on finishing up with muslins and cutting out our fabric. Are you still having fitting issues? Please post your muslin pics in the Flickr pool with notes on specific feedback you'd like.
If you're feeling good about your fit, take the muslin apart, make any changes, and use that baby as your pattern. (Or transfer your changes to your paper pattern, if you prefer.) Time to cut your fabric! I will leave you to do that on your own, and just remind you to be meticulous about grainlines. And don't forget to transfer all your markings!
Now, let's talk about the future, my dears. I thought I'd put us on a schedule! Here's what I'm thinking:
Week of 9/27: finish up muslins and cut out and mark fabric, serge seam allowances (if desired)
Week of 10/4: make bound buttonholes, interface/padstitch jacket front and collar (tips/tutorials to come on all)
Week of 10/11: Assemble coat body, apply back stay, and set in the sleeves
Week of 10/18: Tailor collar, assemble lining and facings, attach to coat
Week of 10/25: Hems, belt/loops, and finishing touches
If we stick to this schedule, we'll have our new coats for Halloween!
Here it is, at long last! Overall, I'm very happy with the fit. The biggest problem I noticed right away was a gaping in the lapels. You can see it in the side view. See how the lapels stand away from my chest?
I just pinned out the excess, through both layers of fabric.
As usual, I'm not totally sure about the back, and I would love your thoughts. There are a few wrinkles in the mid-back region. I tried letting the back princess seams out a tad, as readers suggested in an earlier post, and that seemed to help. The shoulders look a little mushy, so I will probably try to rectify that with shoulder pads.
Other than that, the only other change I want to make is shaving about half an inch of width off the lapels and collar. They look a bit exaggerated to me here:
Here's how I re-drew the lapel point (the green line is the new one). I'll repeat that on the collar point.
Here's the tuck taken out of the front piece, to reduce the lapel length.
Okay, now here's the next important part about making a muslin for a tailored garment: you want to mark your roll lines on the lapel and the collar. Put your muslin on, and see where the garment folds at the lapel and at the collar stand. Pin it in place. Here's mine on my dressform.
Once it's pinned into place, you want to mark the fold right on the crease (see the handy purple arrow below). I do this with a thin Sharpie.
Do the same on the crease of your collar:
When you take the pieces apart, true the roll lines with a ruler and a marker or pencil. See the new roll line in green below?
Here's the collar roll line, which curves around the neck. (Ignore the sloppy pen marks! Oy.)
And that's it! These marks will need to be transferred to the coat pieces once the interfacing has been applied. More on that later. As always, let me know if you have questions or suggestions!
Hey, remember this little number? I made it over a year ago (blogged here), but I've never actually found an occasion to wear it. I considered it for a wedding, but it felt too fancy for the afternoon ceremony. There's just something wrong about wearing red satin in the daytime, if you ask me! But I got over it today and just wore the darn dress. To what fabulous event, you may ask? After all my worries about it being too formal for various things, I ended up wearing it to eat dinner in a cafeteria-style fried chicken joint. And I only got a little bit of grease on the skirt! Sometimes you have to just live a little and wear a red satin dress to eat friend chicken, right?
We did go out to a Broadway play afterward, so that was a more befitting setting for the dress. (We saw Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and it was awesome.) Thanks to all your fabulous tips on yesterday's post, I was very happy with my hair. I gave it a little hot-roller action and that did the job.
Other than that, I've been working away on my Lady Grey muslin, and am planning lots of sew-along posts for you. Hope you're having a fab weekend!
So, it was time for a little change of the old coiffure. As my hair got longer, I noticed I wasn't getting the results I wanted from setting it anymore. Pin curls and rag curls both just made my hair hang sadly and heavily. So I decided it was time. No more sad curls!
I took a couple inspiration pics to the salon. You might recognize these lovely hair models:
I'm liking the length, though it wasn't as dramatic a change as I thought. People hardly noticed at work yesterday—it's almost like they had more important things to do than discuss my hair!
I set it in pin curls and it came out very nicely. I unfortunately didn't get a good post-set pic, but here's how it looked at the end of the day, after brushing.
I also tried some fanciness.
I'm looking forward to experimenting more with it. Any tips on how to get that extreme pageboy rolled-under curled look?
Readers, the lovely Patty of The Snug Bug has written such a detailed account of her Full Bust Adjustment process on the Lady Grey, that I asked her if I could re-post it here. Luckily for us, she graciously agreed. It's very complete; make sure you click "read more" at the bottom to see the whole thing. And don't forget to check out her fab blog. Thanks, Patty!—Gertie
I've finished the Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) on my Lady Grey for the sewalong and made another muslin! While I'm happy with the fit of the top, now I've got a bit of problem with the bottom. For step by step photos on how I did my FBA and dealt with the gaping lapel, read on. But first, updated photos!
To recap - my first muslin was pretty much a straight-out-of-the box size 18 that was huge around the shoulders. For a full rundown of muslin #1 photos, an explanation of how I chose the sizing for muslin #2, cut down the pattern and tissue fitted to determine my FBA amount, check out yesterday's post. After all of that figuring, I determined I would do an FBA to add 5" to the bust area.
I'm just going to go right out and say it: I don't think there's a more memorable sewing scene in pop culture than the one in Cinderella. Last month, I posted about the most cherished movie dresses of my childhood, and I was delighted by how many of you mentioned "Cinderelly's" dress, sewn by her little mice and bird friends.
I re-watched this scene last night (see the full clip below), and I was amazed by how vividly it brought back emotions and memories; I hadn't realized how strongly these images were imprinted in my mind. As a kid, I loved the mice ladies measuring out the trim, the cutting of the ribbon at the perfect length, and especially the illustrated dressmaking book they consult (hmm, there's a little foreshadowing into my adulthood!)
For the fellow femi-nazis in the house, there is a depressing little line from one of the female mice when one of the guys tries to help out: "Leave the sewing to the women, now you go get some trimmin'." (Though it must be noted that one of the men is shown sewing later on in the scene.) I did have to wonder: would the line have been the same today? Can you imagine a modern animated movie where the dude mice help out with the sewing? I'm honestly not sure either way, but it's an interesting thing to ponder.
Big questions aside, I think the best thing is that memories of this film span several generations. Though the Disney film debuted in 1950, I loved it as a child in the 80s, and it remains required viewing for kids today. And no matter how much time goes by, the sewing scene is firmly established as a part of our cultural memory. I loved Austin Scarlet's remark on an episode of On the Road with Austin and Santino (which you know is one of my favorite shows ever) that he wanted to sew a dress together with "little mice hand stitches." I think we all know what pop culture phenomenon he was referring to!
And now, for your enjoyment, the beloved scene. Can you feel the nostalgia up in here?
Hey, Sew-Alongers! So, it's been a busy week for me—you know, what with meeting fashion royalty and all. And then there was the Glee season premiere last night. (Glee, I just can't quit you!) Tonight will be tied up with a salon visit where I plan on doing something slightly dramatic to my hair. So DO NOT WORRY if you're behind on your muslin. Hey, I am too!
However, many people have been posting their muslins in the Flickr pool (where we are 189 members strong!) so now is a good time to talk about fitting issues that people are encountering. The fit problem that we're seeing a lot of is the need for a swayback adjustment. This simply means that the wearer's lower back is slightly curved in (resulting in a sexy dip at the waist!), and extra fabric pools in that area. Here are a couple examples from the Flickr pool.
From Erika Jean
From Emmy-Seamstress (who's using a different pattern)
See the extra ripples around the lower back in each of these? This points out the need for a swayback adjustment. All you need to do is pin out the excess fabric at the waist, taking out a wedge-shaped dart. This dart will taper to nothing at the princess seams.
Now for the second step: check to see if your hemline looks uneven now. Often, you will need to take the amount you took out at the lower back and add that amount back at the hem, tapering it the way you did with the wedge in the lower back. Make sense?
Update: as a couple commenters have pointed out, extra fabric in the back waist could also point to a too-long bodice all around. Test this by seeing where the pattern's waist sits in relation to your natural waist. (Though the waist on this pattern is not marked, it's easy to see because it nips in so dramatically.) If it's too low all around, you can take out a horizontal tuck out all the way around.
Okay, on to the next topic: making the lapels smaller. This is a concern that I've seen with some of the petite ladies, who feel that the large lapels look oversized on their frames. This is a super easy adjustment. Here's how I would do it: Press in the seam allowances on your lapel, so you can get a sense of the true size. Now, while you're wearing it, stick pins in around the lapel where you'd like the new edge to be. Taper it down to the bottom of the lapel (as well as to the top of it) so that you don't mess with the fit of the coat elsewhere. (The arrows point to the pins.)
Now, take the muslin off, mark where the pins were placed with a Sharpie, and connect the marks smoothly with a French curve. Try it on again to make sure you're happy with the shape.
You can make your collar smaller this way as well.
That's it! And hey, I forgot that I haven't shown you my fabric. Here it is:
The coat fabric is a thick navy and white wool tweed. I love this particular navy color; it seems to have a bit of purple in it. To coordinate, I chose a deep purple rayon Bemberg for the lining. The buttons are blue velvet flowers from M&J.
Sorry, readers. Sew-Along posts will have to wait until tomorrow. Because I. Met. Tim. GUNN! Prepare yourselves for a post with an abundance of exclamation points.
Oh, where to begin? First, I must tell you that it was a work event. I so happen to be employed by the company that published Tim's latest (fabulous) book Gunn's Golden Rules. I about died when I found out we'd have an in-house book signing! It was limited attendance, so you know I was one of the first to get on line. (Work? What work? Tim Gunn is here!) I established myself as the dorkiest fan when I brought my Tim Gunn American Library Association poster for him to sign.
We were all waiting outside of the conference room where he was to be signing. And then down the hall comes Mr. Gunn himself! He was so charming, saying hello to everyone and thanking us for waiting. And, as you probably guessed, he was impeccably dressed. And his shoes were very shiny.
Now for the best part. When it was my turn to meet him, I introduced myself and then he complimented my dress! And actually asked "Who are you wearing?"(!!!) Well, readers, I about died of happiness and replied, "I made it!" Tim seemed quite impressed by that, requested that I spin for him, and then asked if I designed it myself (I had!). Readers, I couldn't believe what he said next: he declared that I was "very talented." He continued regarding my dress, with that fist-to-chin pose that he does so well, and then said, "Goodness! I'm examining you like you're some sort of object." I assured him that it was an honor to be objectified by him.
Then I unfurled my poster for him to sign, which seemed to amuse him, though he looks rather serious in the photo below.
We had our picture taken, and that was that! My brush with the great Mr. Gunn.
What a thrill to meet someone so widely beloved—and to discover that he's just as charming (perhaps more so) in person than on TV.
In preparation for our coat sew-along, I thought I'd do a "back-to-basics" type of tutorial that will help with the Lady Grey pattern: how to sew princess seams. Princess seams are only tricky because one pattern piece is more curved than the other, resulting in potential differences in length and puckering. But with proper clipping, notching, and pressing, they're a snap!
Here's what your front pieces look like; they will be sewn together to form an armhole princess seam.
Start by clipping the less curvy piece (the front, on the left here) around the bust at regular intervals, around 1" apart. Be careful not to clip too close to the seamline.
Now, put that piece on top of the other one, right sides together—as they would be sewn. First, match your pattern notches at the bustline. (Indicated below with an arrow.)
Now, spread the clipped side to fit the curvy side piece. Pin along the seamline. Your clips will spread out to allow the pieces to fit together.
You might want to also clip around the waist, since this pattern is curvy there too.
Now, go to your machine and stitch the seam, being careful to avoid puckers as you go along. Here's the stitched seam.
Next, you want to help the other seam allowance (the unclipped one) lie flat. Flip the two pieces together so that this side is on top.
You're going to notch this side, staggering your notches with your clips on the opposite seam allowance.
Time to press! Make sure to use a tailor's ham.
See how the clips spread out, and the notches overlap each other?
Here it is, all pressed!
Let me know if you have any questions–or princess seam methods of your own!
Update: great tip from reader Josephine.h for adapting this to the muslin stage. If you think you might need to make your muslin bigger in the bust, you'll probably want to avoid notching your muslin seam allowances so you can let them out easily. Instead, use a gathering stitch on the curvier piece to ease it into the other piece. Use the notching/clipping method above once you've got the fit right. (Of course, if you're like me and will probably need to take your muslin IN at the bust, notch away!)
Update 2: Here are a few more shots of how the pieces meet up at the shoulder, as requested. Hope this helps!