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.
Look! It's starting to resemble a book. Here's a little peek at the first pass of my book, which means it's the first time I've seen it all put together and illustrated and designed. It's quite a rush! It's no where near finished, though. I have to review the whole thing by tomorrow and make any corrections and edits.
I have a lot of work ahead of me in the next couple days, so I hope you'll understand if the blog is light on posts this week. (Plus it's Thanksgiving here in the U.S.! And Jeff and I are going on a little romantic mini-break!)
I may have a finished coat to show you in the next few days, though. Reader Cindy came to my aid on the lining issue--she had some of that charmeuse in her stash and gave me some! Isn't that the nicest thing you've ever heard? Anyway, I just have to hem the lining and sew on the buttons and it will be done.
Thanks for hanging in there while I've been working on the book, readers. You are the best. It will all be worth it, I promise!
Kind of scary looking, huh? My coat fabric is a lovely double-faced wool and angora blend, with one side being light robin's egg blue and the other a pale lime color. I'm only using the blue side, but you can see here how the right and wrong sides work in this pattern.
Here's a close-up of the back neck. The directions called for a length of twill tape to stabilize the neckline.
I'm having trouble getting the top seam on the raglan sleeves to lay flat. Do you think a clapper would help? I don't have one of those contraptions, but maybe it's time to invest in one.
Here's the facing and pocket inside. I finished the backs of the bound buttonholes by making little windows
with silk organza patches and then hand stitching the windows around the
You can also see the inside of the welt pockets. They have a self-fabric facing and a pocket bag made out of the lining fabric.
Speaking of lining! You may wonder why the heck I haven't finished this coat yet. Well, there was a lining mishap. I was a little short on the polka dot charmeuse, and the store I bought it from doesn't have any more. The horror! I ended up buying a solid charmeuse to supplement. And then I spent a while obsessing over how the shades of peachy beige don't exactly match each other.
But the reality is that I only have to cut one lining piece from the solid: the sleeve front. Which means it will hardly ever show. Which means I need to get over myself and finish this damn coat.
Oh! I also bought gloves! Aren't they pretty?
They're a sort of plummy pink that looks lovely with the light blue.
Readers, what would you have done in the lining situation I had? Start over with an entirely new lining so it would all match? Or maybe you would have been wise and bought enough lining to begin with. (I did read the envelope! I swear!) Would it drive you crazy if one sleeve piece was solid and the rest of the lining was a print?
DUDE! Does my hair look awesome or what? (Or maybe it looks like a bump-it gone awry. But no! It's all real, baby. Just teased to high heaven.) Anyway, I wrote a post today for STC Craft in which I try out a couple hairdos from the new Bust DIY Guide to Life. Come check it out. (The other 'do was inspired by Frida Kahlo, my idol.)
This is the style that inspired me to come up with a plan for a motorcycle jacket sew-along; more to come on that front. The readers on Facebook and the Twitters were very responsive. What do you think--badass jacket sew-along in early 2012? After all, we need something to wear with our bouffants and skintight pedal pushers! (I feel a Grease number coming on.)
I saw Wicked on Broadway last night, and it was truly amazing. (I love musicals, and I can't believe it took me 8 years to go see this thing. Oh, to have seen it with the original cast!) I have a friend who worked at the shop that constructed some of the costumes, and her tales of the intricate details that went into each piece are stunning. So I expected to be blown away by the most opulent and dazzling costumes, and I was. (My dad said the chorus members all looked like Elton John, which is surprisingly apt.) But it was the more understated ensembles in basic navy and black, worn by Elphaba (aka the Wicked Witch of the West) that really held the most power, in my opinion.
What's most impressive is how the clothing tells a story in such an authentic way. It's first a product of good writing, I suppose, that Elphaba's iconic witch costume comes off as real, rather than kitschy. There's a story behind each piece: the hat was given to her as a cruel joke by classmate Glinda, for example.
But the costume designer (Susan Hilferty, who won a Tony for Wicked and also designed the brilliant Spring Awakening) made sure that the costumes told an unwritten story. In fact, the coming of age theme comes across stronger in the clothing than anywhere else. In the beginning, Elphaba wears navy and black shift dresses that play up her dowdiness, but also exude youth. I remember thinking how young the actress looked, and I (needlessly) worried that she didn't have the maturity to pull off such a powerful role.
Fast forward to Act II. Elphaba spends the latter half of the act in a magnificent gown. (See this fabulous blog for many detailed photos of the dress.) It has a distinct Victorian silhouette to it, but the arrangement of the rows of trim play up the body's curves. The actress was truly transformed: sexy, confident, wounded, angry.
Elphaba is an incredible character on her own: a radical who is ostracized and misunderstood because of her ideals. But the costumes took her journey to another level altogether, telling of her sexual awakening and the incredible glamor of being an outlaw.
I don't spend much time with people who think fashion is inherently frivolous or shallow, so I never really have to defend my interest in the subject. But if I did, I would use Wicked as an example of how clothing can carry as much symbolic and emotional weight as any other visual representation.
Which brings me to the question of the day: are you ever made to feel shallow for being interested in fashion and garment construction? Do you think that fashion is a powerful art form, or is that overstating it? Do share!
Hey, if Jeff and I had known each other in high school and gone to prom together, this is kind of what our picture would have looked like! Of course, I probably wouldn't have been holding a giant pair of scissors. And the prom scenario would have been an impossibility in the time/space continuum since I am so much more youthful than Jeff. (Six years! I'll never let him forget it either!)
But why am I holding a giant pair of scissors, you ask? We were at the BurdaStyle book launch! And well, they were there. Jeff's glasses were another acquired prop. He now thinks he should get glasses like that, but I think he should step off my turf because I had Buddy Holly glasses first.
We had a great time at the launch. Beside a digital photo booth, there was also a lady giving glitter tattoos. (The line was too long for that, so I eventually gave up.)
But the guest of honor was, of course, the book itself.
It looks fabulous. I do have a project in it, this cute little bag variation.
I call it my "weekend in the country bag" and it was inspired by the casual straw handbags that ladies used to carry on vacation.
So that's the news to report on that front. I hope I can have a book launch party that's half as cool as this one was. (Note to self: find corporate sponsor asap.)
This weekend I'm teaching at Heather Ross's sewing retreat right here in New York City! It's being held at the Sewing Studio, where I work, so that's awfully convenient for me. Tonight we're having a private shopping event at Purl Soho. I'm sure I'll need to buy myself something pretty as a souvenir.
Also, my dad is coming to town and we're going to see Wicked on Broadway on Sunday. I can't wait to see the costumes.
Man, my life does sound kind of glamorous right now, doesn't it? Well, don't worry, I'm still writing this in my jammies drinking coffee. Some things never change.
Kitties! Peanut butter and honey sandwiches! Hanging out in your jammies all morning! Does it get any more glamorous?
I wrote a lengthy post for Tilly for her "Day in the Life Series" in which she features ladies who make their living in the sewing world. I hope you'll pop by and read it! (That's British for click here.)
Also, I have a new post up at the STC Craft blog where I talk about the new Oliver + S book. Don't you all just love their patterns? I don't really have opportunity to use them (unless I made a Sailboat outfit for Henry! Hey, that's not a bad idea . . .)
Anyway! The post is about ways we vintage-loving seamstresses can find inspiration for ourselves from the fabulous Oliver + S Little Things to Sew.
Okay, I have to get back to my very important task of drinking coffee in my pajamas and petting Henry.
This sleeve is great when you wish you'd drafted a bodice with kimono sleeves, but you didn't realize that until the bodice was already cut and assembled. No problem! This simple little sleeve mimics the look of a short kimono sleeve, but you can cut it on a different grain than the bodice for some visual interest. (See the finished dress modeled here.)
As the name implies, it's just a simple band. It doesn't have a cap or require any easing. It's wider at the shoulder and then tapers to very narrow underneath the arm.
Here's how you do it. Measure your front and back armholes, excluding the seam allowances. (Double click pictures to see the text better.)
Start drafting. You'll have a line the length of your total armhole, with the center marked with a circle.
Now draw the outer curve.
Finish up the pattern.
Cut four of your sleeve pattern, 2 for the shell and 2 for the lining. Stitch each set together along the curved line, right sides together. Understitch the lining. Stitch the short ends together and press open. Flip sleeve right side out and press. Baste the raw edges together and then treat it as one.
Sew your sleeve in as usual, but don't worry about easing, as it should fit exactly. Match your circle up to your shoulder seam. I finished the raw edge with my serger to keep it very neat.
That's all! Let me know if you have any questions.
At the risk of sounding terribly cliche: we talk about our own fears. When I notice that Lea Michele has lost weight (see yesterday's post), I start to think: Oh god, here goes another one. Do I have to lose weight again now too?
I've seen myself on camera and in photographs recently. I understand the urge to change everything about one's self, starting with just 5 pounds.
About 6 years ago, I decided that I was too fat. (To give you some context, I was about the weight I am now.) That feeling of "too fat" was so strong that I would have given anything to change myself. I went on a very restrictive diet (under 1,200 calories a day) and lost over 20 pounds.
I thought I looked fabulous. And so did everyone else. But honestly, I didn't feel fabulous. I felt rather frail. I wrote down my calorie intake every day in my notebook at work. (I even included coffee.) My digestive system was a bit messed up. I tried to self medicate to fix it.
I started to worry about gaining weight. I knew it was inevitable. How long could I maintain 1,200 calories a day? I knew my days as a skinny person were numbered. That dread of gaining weight defined my life for some time.
And then, at some point, I just gave in. It was terrifying. I still wrote down calories and panicked when they went over 2,000. I gained back the 20 pounds, and maybe then some. Life went on. I stopped writing down calories.
Before the photo shoot for my book in August (for which I had to model 27 garments, yikes), I went on a brief crash diet again. It felt good, knowing that I could do something about my weight. But it also felt horrible because I knew I could never do enough. I lost about 5 pounds, felt briefly triumphant, and then gained it back.
So. That's where I'm coming from when I talk about weight, and what I was thinking when I mentioned Lea Michele's weight yesterday. Another woman may see my post and think I'm slamming naturally thin women. While it may have felt good to get my own thoughts out, it feels bad to tap into someone else's insecurities.
And that's the interesting thing about the conversation about weight between women: it never really feels better, does it?
While it's wonderful that we can have so many frank discussions about body image, too often we use language that makes us feel better, but simultaneously alienates another group. You know: "Real women have curves." Or: "It's not healthy to be so fat." And so on.
The best body image moments I've had in my life are when I've realized that we're all different, and it's all good. (No, I wasn't high. I think I was doing yoga. I have to get back to that.) I could look at a skinny woman and not feel less than--I just felt okay, like we all looked the way we were supposed to look.
Anyway, this post has probably gotten awfully hippie dippy. But I thought it was time to get back to our own experiences as a starting point for talking about weight, rather than feeling defensive (as I know I did when I wrote about Lea Michele yesterday). I hope you'll share your own experience.
Lots of Glee fans hate it when the characters wear vintage, because that means they can't find the same garments in stores. How silly! The vintage pieces Rachel wears are often the most interesting on the show, take this black frock for instance. (From the episode "Asian F," when she and Mercedes sing "Out Here on My Own.")
It's hard to find a great picture of this dress, but trust me: it's fabulous. I barely listened to the music because I was so busy studying it. (And also noticing how thin Lea Michele has gotten since season 1, but that's another discussion for another time, I suppose. Update: I'm not trying to "body snark" here, and I apologize if anyone is offended by the reference to her weight. It's just been quite a dramatic change since she first appeared on TV.)
The dress is very classic early 60s: kimono sleeves, shaped midriff with piping, adorable bow, and a full pleated skirt. A search for similar patterns will bring up lots of gems, including this one (which is a bust 36" and I would like you to know I have refrained from buying just so one of you can have it. You're welcome.)
Happy Friday, readers! We haven't done an open thread in a while, have we? I always love the conversation that comes out of these posts, so let's do this.
Suggested topics include (but are in no means limited to):
Portable crafting projects. I have a post on the STC Craft blog this week sharing the results of my Alabama Chanin ribbon embroidery (pictured below, isn't it purty?). I'm hooked! I love having a project I can take with me on my commutes into Manhattan. I also sometimes like to knit on plane trips. How about you, readers? Do you have a favorite portable project?
What's in your sewing machine? Tell us what you're making this weekend. I'm finishing up my VoNBBS raglan sleeve coat--the perfect thing for New York fall days.
Fabric dyeing. Do any of you dye your own textiles? If so, how did you get started? I bought some amazing ombre-dyed lace in Salt Lake City (see above) and it's rejuvenated my desire to try ombre dyeing. I'm usually the type who just jumps into a new technique, but this seems to overwhelming for some reason.
Project Runway, Season 9. Did you watch Season 9? What did you think of the results? I have to say, I think it was the most boring season yet. I couldn't even get worked up about the winner's shoddy workmanship. I will say this, though: damn, that girl is pretty.
Project Runway, Season 10. So now comes the time that Mood and other garment district haunts will be plastered with ads for auditions for the next season. Do any of you ever think about trying out? I always consider it, but then never do. (Reality TV sometimes seems so . . . icky.) Maybe this time I really will. It couldn't hurt to audition, right? We'll see.
Today Sarai from Colette Patterns is here on the second stop of her blog tour for her new book--and she has an awesome tutorial to share. Welcome, Sarai! --Gertie
As a big fan of Gertie's blog, I'm happy to be joining you all here on the tour for my first book, The Colette Sewing Handbook! It's really wonderful how supportive the whole community of sewing bloggers has become, and Gertie is an especially wonderful example of that. Isn't it nice to see women supporting each other?
Today I'm going to share a tutorial for a decorative detail that didn't fit into my new book, but be sure to take a look at the link at the bottom as well to see a link to the giveaway I'm doing for the book plus five sewing patterns!
First, a little bit about the book. I wrote The Colette Sewing Handbook as a guide to the five fundamental areas of sewing that I think are so often confusing or challenging for the beginner (and even intermediate) sewist: planning your projects, working with patterns, getting a good fit, understanding fabric, and finishing techniques.
The book is designed to be a hands-on tool for learning these concepts, so each of those five sections has a project to go with it. The final project is the lined dress above, called Licorice.
Personally, I am a big fan of little details that you can add to just about any sewing project to change the look. After I've made a pattern once and spent some time getting the fit right and familiarizing myself with the design, I like to make it up in different ways, using different fabrics and switching up some of the construction details and embellishment.
Today, I thought I'd show you one of those details that didn't quite fit into the book. It's an easy way to add a simple lace insertion, using the Licorice dress. It involves just a teensy bit of pattern manipulation, and it's a great way to work through your stash of lace (I have a ton).
* Dress or skirt pattern. I'm using the Licorice dress from The Colette Sewing Handbook, sewn in a lovely woven mint green silk.
* Lace (about a yard to a yard and a half)
First, decide how far from the bottom of the skirt you'd like to place the insertion. I like the way they look a few inches above the hem, but I think multiple insertions around the skirt would also look pretty amazing. Or a really wide one further up. It's up to you.
On your pattern pieces, start by marking the seam allowance on the lower hem. For this dress, the seam allowance is 5/8".
Draw a line parallel to the hem, whatever distance you've decided for the insertion, on both the front and back pieces. Drawing in the seam allowance on the previous step lets you position the insertion just where you want it. Cut your pattern pieces along this line.
Now you have a choice:
(a) If you're using lace that's wider than 1/2", you'll be adding a little length to your skirt. If you don't mind that, you can go ahead and proceed to the next step.
(b) If you want to avoid adding any length, that's easy too. Just take the width of your lace and subtract 1/2". Trim that amount off the bottom of the dress front and back. So, for example, if your lace is 2", trim 1 1/2" off the bottom of the dress front and back pattern pieces at this point.
Mark the pieces so they don't get mixed up.
Cut out all the fabric pieces and sew the dress as instructed. Stop before sewing the center back seam.
With right sides together, stitch the front lower hem to the back lower hem at the side seams, finish the seams and press.
Now that you have the dress sewn together, measure around the bottom of the dress and cut a piece of lace long enough to fit. Add a couple inches to make sure you've cut it long enough.
Fold the bottom hem of the dress under 1/4" and press. Fold another 1/4" and press.
Do the same on the lower hem piece, along the top. Fold the top under 1/4", press, fold again 1/4" and press.
Pin the lace to the bottom of the dress, placing the right side of the lace onto the wrong side of the dress. Align the edge of the lace with the hem crease.
Stitch the lace in place on the dress.
Flip the dress to the right side and edgestitch the bottom of the hem to the dress. The two rows of stitching will keep the edges of the dress neat on both the inside and outside.
Repeat the last two steps for the lower hem pieces.
We used a slightly scalloped lace for this insertion, which worked fine. You may just need to adjust the position of the lace a little if your lace has a shaped edge like this.
Finish sewing the dress, putting in the back zipper, sewing the back seam, and hemming. You may want to shorten the lining on the dress, unless you're using a natural color that won't be obvious through the lace.
And there you are, a simple insertion that you can use on just about any skirt, dress, sleeve… you name it.
For a totally different take on this dress using an insertion, check out this daisy insertion I did during my Spring Palette Challenge project earlier this year. I used a silk-linen blend fabric for that dress, removed the sleeves, added basically a big ruffle for a cape neckline, and did an insertion using vintage daisy trim.
Thanks for joining me today for this stop on the tour! To see the other blogs that are participating and enter the giveaway to win a copy of the book plus five sewing patterns of your own choice, visit my post about the blog tour.