Thursday, March 29, 2012

Inspiration: The Capelet Sundress

How great is this pattern? I almost hit "buy it now" before I realized how simple it is: a square neck fitted bodice, flared skirt (circle or half?) and straps that button on in front. The cherry on top? The little capelet that attaches to those same buttons. Mon dieu, I'm getting a little pink from the sun! I must put on my little capelet! (Yes, that's exactly what I would say.)

Anyway, it's getting to be sundress sewing season, and I think it would be such fun to incorporate at least one little capelet into my ensembles. I think I would start with a fitted capelet pattern, like the one from Butterick 5032:

Then I would make a muslin of it, try it on with my dress and figure out my style lines and buttonhole placement from there. (You could also do this on a dress form.)

What do you think? Will you be also be flouncing about in a sundress capelet ensemble this summer?

P.S. The pattern at the top is from a repro seller that I am not familiar with, and I have no experience with their products, FYI.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Re-post: The Modern Crinoline Tutorial

Readers, this tutorial is from a couple years ago, and I think it's an "oldie but goodie." I dug my yellow crinoline out of a moving box this morning (yes, I still have things in boxes; don't judge) to wear under a 50s-style shirtdress. I was reminded how handy this crinoline is for those days you want just a little extra fullness, plus the benefits of a half slip. Enjoy!

Here's how to use this tutorial:

1. Watch the video for an introduction.
2. Look at the pattern diagram for the measurements on my crinoline (yours might be different depending on your hip measurement and the length desired).
3. Follow the sewing directions.

The video!

The pattern diagram! (Click to see it full-size.)

The sewing directions!

**Note: finish all seams with the method of your choice.

1. Cut your pattern pieces out. Cut two of pattern piece 1 in Rayon Bemberg or another slip fabric like charmeuse or china silk. Cut pieces 2 and 3 out of a sheer fabric with lots of body like cotton organdy or silk organza.

2.Sew the upper portion on the crinoline following the instructions on this tutorial.

3. Sew pieces 2 and 3 together at the side seams. Press seams open. They'll now be large circular pieces.

4. Gather the tops of pieces 2 and 3. I prefer to gather by sewing a large zig zag over a piece of sturdy cotton string or cord, and then pulling the cord up to gather.

5. Pin gathered piece 2 to the bottom of piece 1. Distribute the gathers evenly and pin together. Baste, and then stitch. Press seam upward.

6. Pin gathered piece 3 to the bottom of piece 2. Distribute the gathers evenly and pin together. Baste, and then stitch. Press seam upward.

7. Sew lace to the bottom of piece 3 using a very narrow zig zag stitch. Trim the excess fabric from the back of the lace.

8. Add a bow to the waistband.

9. Slip your crinoline on under a full skirt.

10. Sashay about!

Please let me know if you have any questions!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Giveaway Winner!

The winner of the vintage blouse pattern, blue jersey fabric, and Nars lipstick is Katty Lea! Come on down and claim your glamorous prize.

A big thanks to The Blue Gardenia for another fabulous giveaway!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Easy Felt Roses Tutorial (with Video!)

I never get tired of roses! (I have at least 21 tattooed on my body--I can never quite count them correctly.) The ones here are made from wool felt and I plan on making buckets full of them. They're great as a bouquet on your tabletop, but they're also fantastic for hair clips, brooches, sashes, etc.

I came up with my technique after reading this lovely paper roses tutorial. One day while working on my millinery class homework on the train (of all places), I realized that the process could be applied beautifully to felt-like fabrics, if they were stitched in place by hand. A tilted retro hat was born.

I became a little obsessed, and starting making roses out of a wool felt remnant I had on hand. (I'm using this lovely felt from Purl in the video below.)

To make one rose, here's what you'll need:
  • a 2 x 32" strip of wool felt (you can play around with longer or shorter lengths for different effects)
  • all purpose sewing thread
  • a long hand sewing needle
  • green florist's stems (optional, use these to make a rose to put in a vase) Note: I used a small-gauge wire for this, but I would recommend looking for something like a 20 or 18 gauge to support the weight of the felt rose.
Now's the part where I demo the technique. Please forgive the casual outfit; I got really excited about this and didn't have time to change out of my Pee-Wee Herman t-shirt or touch up my makeup.

I hope this is useful to you, my dear sewing friends. Let me know if you have questions! 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Vintage Pattern + Fabric + Lipstick Giveaway!

It's a lovely day for a giveaway, don't you think? Denise from The Blue Gardenia is back with some goodies, and as usual, they are FABULOUS.

Denise always lets me pick out the pattern to giveaway, which is both fun and makes me feel powerful. I noticed that she has an unusually good selection of 50s patterns in bust size 38", which can be hard to find. I've been feeling the need for simple but adorable casual blouses in my wardrobe. So McCall's 3848 really spoke to me.

Isn't it cute? It's got the perfect slim kimono sleeves, sexy-but-not-too-low scoopneck, and a lovely v-neck back. And it's "instant"! (Gotta love the quotation marks on that one.) (I also love how the lady in brown accentuated with a brooch on her hip. What a style trailblazer!)

But that's not all. The winner of the givaway will also get fabric to make this top, a peacock blue jersey.

And last but not least! A lipstick to complete the look. (Actually, you should probably wear a skirt or pants or something to complete the look as well.) Funny Face by Nars. (How Audrey!) It's a fabulous fuschia.

To enter, please leave a comment here by the end of the day on Monday the 26th. All countries eligible. Please make sure I have a way of getting in touch with you, whether that's leaving your e-mail in the comment or linking back to a profile or page where I can contact you.

And finally! Denise is giving a discount on all her fabulous wares at The Blue Gardenia as well. Get 15% off by entering the code Gertie Blue through the end of the giveaway period.

Thanks, Blue Gardenia!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

And the Next Thing I Knew, I Was Ripping Up the Carpet.

Hey, there are only so many times a girl can hear "why don't you rip up a little corner of the carpet and take a little peek?" before she succumbs to temptation. And once I ripped up that little corner, I discovered that I reeeeally like ripping up carpet. (It makes the most satisfying sound!)

Before I knew it, I had gathered some proper tools and put my workin' clothes on.

Many satisfying ripping sounds later, I had this.

Don't worry, I did a little research first though. I didn't realize so many people paint their subfloors! What an excellent idea! So rebellious! (Here's a blog with great advice, BTW.)

I saw some stenciled floors and fell in love.

Dudes, it's a lace floor! So now I'm thinking a background color like this wall.

With white stenciling on top.

Of course, I have to do the whole "wood filler" and sanding thing first. Home Depot, here I come!

P.S. Thanks for all of your excellent advice yesterday! Without it, I might never have known the joy of ripping up carpet.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Carpet in the Sewing Room: Okay or Nay?

Hello, readers! I'm back from a week of moving into our new house (!) and I really have nothing to complain about: it's gorgeous, roomy, brand new, and did I say roomy? Henry had to learn how to navigate stairs, but he's now a pro.

I'm in the midst of getting my sewing room worked out. There's one little problem: it's carpeted. And I am a DISASTER at losing pins all over the place. (If Jeff ever decides to leave me, that will be the reason, I swear.) I worry about pins and needles getting lost in the carpet and getting embedded in my feet (this comes from someone who once had to have a toothpick removed from her foot in an emergency room; just ask my mom).

I had hoped to put in some sort of hard flooring before we got completely moved in, but it's not quite in the budget. So I'm curious: do any of you sew in a room with carpeting? How do you handle it? I've heard of some clever methods of pin sweeping that include a large magnet attached to a broom--anyone?

P.S. So as to not completely ignore the formality of including a picture with a blog post, here is my new dining room table, along with some paint chips that I'm thinking about for the sewing room (1, maybe 2 walls of it). Did you know there's a paint color called "couture"?  I'm surely not the only lady who's chosen a paint color based on its name, right?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Interfacing Insights from Fashion Sewing Supply (Plus Discount!)

Readers, I know that interfacing can be a tricky subject to understand fully. That's why I'm thrilled to have an interview with Pam Erny today, owner of Fashion Sewing Supply. Pam has interfacings custom milled to her specifications, and her products are widely thought of as the best available to the home sewing market. (I would have to agree; that's why I used her interfacings in my new online tailoring class!) I asked Pam some of my burning interfacing questions below. Read on for her answers, and for a special discount on Fashion Sewing Supply.

Why did you decide to start an Interfacing Business?

Many of your readers may know that I am a Professionally trained Shirt-maker and Tailor.  I decided to start Fashion Sewing Supply, when the Italian source for the interfacing I had been using for my personal sewing and for my clients' custom-made  garments was no longer available.  So, seven years ago...using my savings and begging for a loan from the bank, I started Fashion Sewing Supply. That sounds easier than it was, because the Interfacings already on the wholesale market did not meet my very picky standards. I could not find true "professional-grade" Interfacings to offer to my customers. That meant I had to design and manufacture my own line, by consulting with textile chemists and by contracting with mills to produce a full range of Interfacing types.

Why is interfacing important?

Interfacing is the foundation of any garment.  It's not a "second-thought" sewing product!  To have a great looking garment on the outside, we all need great quality interfacing on the inside.  Just like proper seam stitching: just because you cannot see it from the "public side" of your garment, it's still very important.
What makes your "Pro-Series" brand of Interfacing different than others?   

I firmly believe that  fabric should be supported by fabric. So all of my interfacings start with the best quality fabrics, not mill leftovers or that stuff that looks like paper.  And the fabric we use is milled very wide, we do not slice it up into narrow widths. Why? Wide interfacing saves you money, makes your layout easier, and one yard can often be used for many projects (and it goes a long way, especially since we always cut 38-inch "yards"). We then have those wide fabrics thoroughly steamed at the mill 2 times and then flash-dried with heat so that they do NOT shrink when you use them. Then the interfacings that are going to be made fusible have specially designed "finely crystallized" resins of the highest quality applied to their wrong side.  Since all of our interfacings do not shrink, none of that annoying "interfacing pre-soak/ pre-treat routine" is needed.  Fashion Sewing Supply  Pro-Series interfacing is ready to use right out of the box when it arrives at your door.

How do you recommend fusible interfacing be applied?

Regardless of what brand of interfacing you decide to purchase, always follow the directions.  And if your interfacing does not come with application directions, call the place where you bought it, and ask. At, we include a detailed set of instructions with every order, and a PDF download of those instructions is  available in the Tutorial section of our site. And soon, more useful information about using  our Pro-Series interfacing will be available to download. In the meantime here are some links to some cool ways to use and apply interfacing (now on my blog site) that you might find interesting and useful:

What are some common mistakes sewers make when applying interfacing, and how can they be avoided?
The most common mistake I see and hear about, is not preparing/pre-treating the fashion (sewing) fabric you are using by washing, steaming, or dry-cleaning it before the interfacing is applied. Our Pro-Series interfacings from do not shrink, but your fabric might. So please pre-treat your fabric!  If you see bubbles or ripples after washing your finished garment, it is for two possible reasons: 1. The interfacing you used was not of high quality and shrunk, pulling the fabric along with it.  2. Your fabric shrunk, and pulled the interfacing along with it. And one more very important thing...always follow the directions that come with your interfacing.

What are the types of interfacing you recommend every sewer have on hand, and why?
I am often asked this question, and I recommend that sewers have the following interfacings on hand, and because they are of such fine quality, even if you do not use them for years they will still be as "fresh" as the day they were milled.  And remember, because they are so wide, one yard goes a long way.

-- Pro-Weft Supreme Light (and Medium) Fusible Interfacing,
for most tailoring applications and collars/cuffs on shirts made from medium weight fabrics like flannel and denim.
-- Pro-Tricot Deluxe Fusible Interfacing,
for all weights of knit fabrics.
-- Pro-Sheer Elegance Fusible Interfacing,
for lightweight woven fabrics like dress/blouse-weight cottons and linens, cotton lawn, "silky" polyesters, and most silks.
And if you make classic shirts, having Pro-Woven Shirt Crisp Fusible Interfacing on hand will help make your shirts look like the expensive designer shirts you  see in upscale boutiques!

Gertie, in closing...I would like to offer your blog readers a special offer. Get 10% OFF  your entire purchase at by using the Coupon Code GERTIE10 during checkout. This coupon-code will be good for 5 days, starting on the day this interview appears on Gertie's Blog. 
(And don't worry...if you have already purchased interfacing from us within the past few days, we added 10% more to each yard we cut for you :)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Dude, We Bought a House.

Life changes are afoot! Jeff and I have been in the process of buying, um, a house. We closed on it yesterday, and then we bought a car for good measure! We're moving to Beacon, NY, as of next week. I'm a little overwhelmed right now and not really in the best blogging state of mind, so things may be a bit quiet here.

My plans for the next couple weeks consist of: 1) staying sane while packing up our little Queens apartment, 2) sewing curtains and pillows with the garment fabrics I have on hand, 3) purchasing the washer/dryer of my dreams, and 4) blogging as much (or as little) as I can.

Things are changing, but not too much. I'll still be here, and I'll still be teaching at The Sewing Studio in New York City. (Want to help a girl pay her mortgage? I still offer private lessons!) When I set up my new studio in the new house, I'll be back to sewing my usual stuff.

Readers, I'm so excited. Jeff and I have wanted this for a while. And it's happening! Thank for your support; it means the world to me to get your nice comments and emails every day.

P.S. The cats have no idea what's in store for them.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Scenes from the Sewing and Stitchery Expo

It was a whirlwind trip! I'm still recovering from the red-eye flight I took home, but I wanted to share some of my favorite pictures from the Sewing and Stitchery Expo. I will be back with a more detailed post on my experience and thoughts; this is just a teaser!

One of the first things you see is the giant bull head, pictured above. (That's a bull, right? I'm not up to date on my farmyard animals.)

Inside, the vendors, runway, and classrooms! Here's the Palmer/Pletsch book display.

Nancy's Sewing Basket was a great booth. They had Vintage Vogue 1019 made up in some cocoa-brown sparkly suiting.

I had to come home with some of the embroidered velvet you see on the left here; it was a necessity.

I attended several fashion shows. I met these gentlemen after the Simplicity show. They come together every year and always make coordinating outfits from flamingo-print fabric. They're pretty popular, as you might imagine.

I was hosted by Coats and Clark, who are celebrating their 200th anniversary! Here's Lynn Browne and Michele DeFay displaying commemorative tins they gave out. The tins are adorable and have vintage thread ad artwork on them.

Coats sponsored a charity event called the ProAm Fashion Show. 16 mentors (the "pros") were matched up with 16 local girls (the amateurs) and sewed a project to be worn in a fashion show, and ticket sales raised money for the Mary Bridge children's hospital. I was beside myself when I got to step in at the last moment to introduce one of the girls. Her name is Maya, and we were like two peas in a pod. Here she is wearing the cute floral sundress she made for the show.
It was totally the highlight of the event for me, meeting these girls who are so into sewing! They were all so sweet and enthusiastic; I loved it.

Another highlight: the scone truck. These scones are made with pure magic; that's the only explanation.

I tried out a Juki straight stitch machine. It does 1500 stitches a minute!

A vintage dress form on display. It's made from cardstock pieces, and could be mail ordered and assembled.

The book shopping was excellent. The Unicorn Books booth was carrying items from Lacis, which I found has a huge inventory of historical fashion and sewing books, like Vintage Lingerie by Jill Salen.

 Look inside! A 1950s Dior brassiere.
There are also patterns from each garment (in the sample size only) that can be blown up to be used. Fantastic for research purposes.

We passed a carwash with a rotating pink elephant sign. Of course I had to take a picture!
 More to come!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

All A-twitter In Puyallup!

Readers! I'm here at The Sewing and Stitchery Expo. Taking in fashion shows, buying appliqué stabilizer--ah, the glam life! I'm live tweeting on The Twitters as @sewgertiesew. More to come!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Also in Progress: Vintage Surplice Bodice Dress

Man, I am all over the place right now. It's like UFO Land at Chez Gertie. I'm making a quilt, trimming a hat I blocked (I'm taking a millinery course at FIT!), and knitting some socks. And then last night I madly started dyeing 5 yards of extra-wide muslin in a tiny bucket in my kitchen sink to make a duvet cover. I'm basically out of my mind. So, what to do? Add another project, of course!

In December, I blogged about making the pattern above in velvet. Well, I've clearly missed the velvet train so I'm making it in cotton brocade! Peacock blue cotton brocade!

This pattern has a one-piece underarm gusset, as opposed to the two-piece gusset I wrote a tutorial on. It's different in its application in that you have to sew the entire underarm and side bodice seam first, leaving a diamond-shaped hole for the gusset. Then the gusset is inserted in one go, pivoting at each corner. It's kind of tricky, and I'm still working on sewing them a little more, um . . . effortlessly.
This brocade has a really lovely geometric pattern and a soft sheen.

I used fusible stay tape to stay the neckline and top of the sleeve, both of which are cut on the bias.

It really helped keep things in place. I didn't stay the back sleeve, and it stretched by a couple inches! Not to self: stay BOTH sleeves next time.

P.S. Oh, I'm also doing the final check on the pattern sheets for my book. Pippi is helping.

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