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.
Hello, readers! I thought I'd do a quick update from my holiday at the beach. My family and I are currently in Delaware (my home state!) in a rented house right on the beach. I'm getting a bit of sewing done, finishing the hand sewing that needs to be completed for my next Craftsy course. I leave to film it next Wednesday--yikes!
There have been lots of walks on the beach and boardwalk with the family. Here's the whole gang on Christmas day.
We met a bunch of greyhounds, and they are now my absolute favorite kind of dog.
This is me and Luke; we're in love.
My brother, Bryan.
I found out I'm going to be an aunt! Bryan and his wife Amanda are with fetus!
I'm already thinking of ways Aunt Gertie can corrupt the little one.
My mom made me this amazing hat.
Here she is, looking adorable in a reindeer sweater.
I've been wearing my new blue coat all week.
Me and my dad. As you can see, I got very good genes on both sides.
I hope you all are having a wonderful holiday season! I'm on a little break from regular blogging, but I'll be back with more posts (and a tutorial!) next week.
This is a project that has been hanging around my sewing room for MONTHS. But it's finally done! It's a simple black wiggle dress with pink soutache trim (more on that in later in this post). The pink swirls remind me of a Hostess cupcake. Yum. The black fabric is a tropical wool of excellent quality and drape that I scored in the Paron's 50% Annex years ago.
I made the pattern by attaching the bodice of this dress that I draped last year:
I really love how the pockets stand slightly away from the body--perfect for embellishing!
So let's talk soutache. I read an article on soutache in Sew Beautiful
magazine (issue 139) a couple months ago, and got really obsessed with
the idea of using it on a dress. Sew Beautiful is an heirloom sewing
magazine, but I've found that it has lots of great techniques for retro
garment sewists too. Here's a little snapshot of the dress they
I ran out to Mokuba (OMG, have you guys ever been to that store? It's a Japanese trim place and it sells the most amazing stuff. Worth a blog post on its own) and they had soutache in dozens of colors and varieties.
Soutache is a fascinating trim. Here's how it works. It's a rayon braid with two cords inside it.
You have to fray the ends slightly to get to the cords.
Pull one cord and the soutache will curl up. If you pull the other cord, it will curl in the opposite direction.
I made my embellishments by arranging the soutache how I wanted it, pinning it to the dress, and then attaching it by hand with a small back stitch. Any ends have to be covered up and sealed with a product like Fray Check.
Kinda cool, right? It's kind of painstaking work, so I think it's best for small areas. I had a fantasy of embellishing the hem of a circle skirt this way, but I'm thinking better of it now.
The inside of the dress is both faced and lined with bemberg.
I learned this technique from an article in Threads. You cut out both facings and linings, turn the facing edges under 1/4" (I staystitched at 1/4" first to make this easier), and lay the facings on top of the linings. Baste together, and then edgestitch the facing so it's attached at the bottom to the lining.
Also: pink lace!
All in all, a fun project. I love this pattern and can imagine making it in other colors and varieties. Sans soutache--I only have so much patience!
Wow, what a great response to the Hart's Fabric giveaway! Alas, there can only be one winner and I'm happy to report that it is Alexandra R, who commented:
I have been looking for a nice grey chambray so I was super happy to see
Black Caroline Chambray (which is actually greyish) on their site)-
even if I don't win I will be buying some!
Congrats, Alexandra! E-mail me to arrange your prize. And please share the results of your chambray with all of us.
If you didn't win, don't be sad! There's another giveaway going on today at the STC Craft blog, and you can win your choice of craft books, like Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross or Oliver + S: Little Things to Sew. But hop over there quickly, little bunnies! You have to enter by noon today.
Holy crap, readers. Did you all know there's a Ryan Gosling "Hey Girl" tumblr out there just for crafty types? It's called Handmade Ryan Gosling and you need to go read it. I previously thought Feminist Ryan Gosling was the pinnacle of this meme, but now I see that I was wrong. Damn, Ryan Gosling is a gift that just keeps on giving.
(If you have no idea what I'm talking about, just know that there's a whole world of blogs out there that imagine what adorable things Ryan Gosling would say if he were your boyfriend and started every sentence with "Hey, girl". Gotta love the internet.)
I'm catching a train back up to my editor's house today for more fine-tooth combing of my book, but I couldn't let this go unblogged. Can you blame me?
Readers, it's that time of year: the time I decide I desperately want to make a fancy holiday dress even though A) I have no occasion to wear it and B) I have so much else to do I shouldn't even think about taking on a big sewing project for myself.
But SIGH. I can't help it. 'Tis the season that gets me longing for red lace frocks (remember the epic red lace dress project last year?) and mulberry-colored velvet ensembles. My lovely silk velvet is hanging around (literally) and taunting me (not literally, that would be weird). And I found the perfect pattern for my velvet.
I saw this on etsy, and could not resist. It's perfect for velvet, with its soft pleats and folds.
I even made a bodice muslin in the wee hours the other night, when I should have been sleeping.
It needed a few tucks and pinches taken out, but it's almost perfect.
Readers, I certainly don't have time to make the dress as pictured for Christmas. But maybe I could make the bodice and slap a circle skirt on it? That would be lovely and quicker. Or perhaps (considering this will be a casual family Christmas), I will work on it in the new year. Velvet is appropriate for January and February too, right?
How does she do it? It's like Pip can smell expensive fabric from a mile away.
It's been a busy couple weeks, readers. I know I've been a little absent around these parts, but much has been happening behind the scenes! I've been frantically prepping for the filming of my next Craftsy course. The Bombshell Dress class was a big success, and Pip and I have been scheming day and night to make the next one even better. Can you guess the subject? I am super excited for this online course--it will have an exclusive pattern designed by yours truly in a wide range of sizes.
I also spent the weekend at my editor's house revising the second pass of my book. She put me up in her cozy guest room, fed me, and even lent me hand-knitted socks to wear.
More to come! What's on your sewing table, dear readers?
Great news, readers! Hart's Fabric is offering one lucky reader a $100 gift card (with shipping included, no less). They have a lovely selection of garment fabrics online. All you need to do to enter is leave a comment saying which fabric you'd like to use for your next apparel project.
Isn't this fun? Okay, it's your turn! All countries are eligible. Please just make sure I'm somehow able to find your e-mail address (either by linking to your profile or by leaving it in your comment). I'll choose a winner at the end of the day on Wednesday.
Ah, velvet. So lovely, so temperamental. I bought an amazing silk/rayon blend in a gorgeous mulberry color from B&J. At the store, all the velvets are kept on hangers, attached by the selvage with safety pins. For some reason, I never thought to wonder exactly why this was done.
And then I got my velvet home and stored it in a bin, as usual. One day, out of the blue, I was dreaming about my velvet and had a sudden panic: the nap would get crushed if stored folded! Of course! Duh. I rushed to my fabric stash, folded the velvet like an accordion, and hung it from a metal hanger by attaching it by the selvage with safety pins.
Velvet has a short pile that basically has a mind of its own. I like to think of it as one of those brush doormats that make you slip all over the place when you step on them. (I hate those things. Just try stepping on one in high heels. Evil!) If you press velvet directly, or even just look at it wrong, the pile will crush. And, of course, if the pile is flattened in a bin for months on end, it will stay crushed permanently. The only thing to do then is channel a Stevie Nicks look and crush the whole damn thing. I want my velvet to say Hollywood glam rather than "witchy woman", so a non-crushed pile is essential.
So there's a little storage tip for you, readers! Hopefully it's more of the useful variety than the "Duh, Gertie" variety.
The hard thing now is figuring out what to make with my lovely velvet. I was hoping for a peplum jacket, but darts and style lines don't look so great with the nap. I might just need to wrap my naked body in it, toga style, and flounce around the apartment wearing it. It's that fabulous.
Here's a finished garment that I totally didn't blog about, can you believe it? I picked up some great Nanette Lepore ribbed sweater knit at the Haberman Fabrics booth at ASE (hey, it's available online!). I'd never sewn this kind of knit before, but I just did a little research and it was surprisingly easy. It helped that this particular knit is very stable--it doesn't stretch a ton and it didn't fray too much as I was working with it.
The pattern was the challenging part. I knew exactly what I wanted: a sort of "sweater girl" look with cute short sleeves. So I did something I've never done before: I draped the pattern, in the garment fabric! I draped the front and back separately, marking the seam lines with chalk. Then I basted them together on the seamlines to fit it. Once I was happy with the fit, I serged the seams. I borrowed the sleeve pattern from a knit dress pattern I have on hand, and measured carefully to be sure that it would fit properly (knit sleeves have no ease, so it had to be a precise fit).
I learned from my research that it's very important to stabilize any horizontal seams, so I basted some Stay Tape into the shoulder seam before serging it.
The neck binding worked really well in the fabric, since it's a rib. I just cut a piece of fabric a little smaller than the sweater neck and twice the width I wanted the binding. I serged the short ends together, folded it in half wrong sides together, and basted the raw edges together. Then it just gets serged into the neckline. Easy! The last step is to top stitch to get the binding to lay flat. The pro way to do this is to use a twin needle, and stitch with the neckline seam in the middle of the two needles. I just used a zigzag, though, because I was too lazy to set up my twin needle.
I did the hem on the bottom and the sleeves by turning it up and zigzagging. I tested this method first, and it worked well since the stitches really disappear in this knit.
I'm happy I now have a paper pattern for this, because I feel like I could use one in every color of the rainbow. Probably in a softer fabric--the ribbed wool is a little itchy to wear so close-fitting. It will be interesting to see how different types of knits work for this.
So there you have it. Isn't it so cool that you can sew a sweater?
As I mentioned last week, Jeff and I took a romantic get-away on Thanksgiving weekend. We've both been traveling so much this fall, sometimes we've barely seen each other. It was really lovely to get a weekend away from it all and reconnect. But then a new man stole my heart on vacation, readers!
His name is Carbon.
Isn't he handsome? (I especially love how he always has bits of his last meal on his face.)
When Jeff and I arrived at the inn, I saw a pamplet for a nearby alpaca farm. I could hardly contain my excitement. Because, well, alpacas seem awesome and I've never met one. Plus they make lovely fabric and yarn! I could barely contain my excitement--to Jeff's amusement, as he wasn't aware I had any feelings on alpacas at all. (I guess it just hadn't come up in conversation before!)
So we made our way to Nature's Reserve Alpaca Farm and got a tour from the owners, who are (rightly) incredibly proud of their weird little animals. We got to meet the whole alpaca gang and they're so charming. (Plus, they have very soulful eyes. Just try to look away.)
We got to visit the farm store, where they had the most amazing alpaca fabric on a backing of silk! (I didn't come home with any; can you believe it?)
Before we left, Jeff asked if I could have my picture taken with an alpaca. I acted all embarrassed, but I was secretly pleased. They brought Carbon out on a leash for a photo op! I love this little series of shots, because it looks like we're having an intimate conversation.
Readers, his fur (?) is so soft. Is it any wonder he stole my heart?
Other vacation highlights included tromping around in nature. Look, trees!
I loved the color of the moss.
But the biggest highlight of the trip was spending two luxurious nights sitting by a fireplace with Jeff, listening to Adele, and embroidering. I made a new "animal that says hi" for my wall!
It's a raven, get it? (Jeff came up with the copy; isn't he clever?) The transfer is from the amazing Sublime Stitching.
Anyway, moral of the story? If you ever get the chance to meet an alpaca, do not pass it up.