Monday, April 30, 2012

The Ins and Outs of Pattern Sales

A quick question for you today, readers. How do you buy your "Big Four" patterns? And what do you expect to pay for them?

Of course, no one ever pays full price for a pattern--I was trying to explain this to a friend the other day and realized how strange the whole system is. And some people seem to understand the sale schedule with a special sixth sense. When I wrote about the recent Vintage Vogue release and sale (which was ending that night), several people commented to alert me that there was a pattern sale at Joann's coming up, along with precise details about dates and prices. Okay, people: HOW DID YOU KNOW THIS. Is there some special underground communication system about upcoming pattern sales? Or is it painfully obvious and I just don't get it? Is it in the newsletter? Because I signed up (twice!) and never get anything. Jo-Ann, I want your junk mail. Please.

Because now that I live near a Jo-Ann, I want to be one of those people who's on those 99 cent sales like a hawk. That's right: I want to be waiting in the parking lot that morning so my size doesn't sell out. (Okay, maybe not. I value my beauty sleep too much.)

Also, is there a way to find out in advance about the online sales? Come on, friends. Share your secrets! My Googling ended up in vain, so I'm hoping this page can become an information hub for other clueless people like myself.

P.S. Does anyone here frequent the Poughkeepsie Jo-Ann? Maybe I'll see you at the pattern table!

P.P.S. Thank you for your overwhelming response to my post about pre-ordering my book. I'm grateful to say I was the #1 bestseller in Crafts for a day or two! Thank you so much for your support, readers.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Pre-Order My Book! (And the Cover Reveal!)

The time has finally come! My book, Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing: A Modern Guide to Couture-Style Sewing Using Basic Vintage Techniques, is available for pre-order on Amazon. Here's the product description (I can't believe I have a product description!):

Gretchen “Gertie” Hirsch is a passionate home seamstress, a sought-after sewing teacher, and the creator of one of the web’s most popular sewing blogs: Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing. The blog began as a way for readers to follow Hirsch’s progress as she stitched all 14 fashions from the iconic 1950s sewing book Vogue’s New Book for Better Sewing (a Julie & Julia–esque experiment for the modern sewist). It quickly became a place for Hirsch to share tutorials and lively posts about sewing as it relates to fashion history, pop culture, body image, and gender. An extension of the blog, Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing is a hardworking reference title packed with lessons on couture techniques and customization, as well as an inimitable pattern collection featuring 25 wardrobe essentials and variations inspired by vintage fashion and Gertie’s spirited, modern style.
Readers, if you've enjoyed my blog, may I humbly ask that you support the book by pre-ordering it? This is a crucial time in showing bookstores that the book will sell if they carry it.

A few fun facts:

  • Can you spot Henry on the cover? 
  • The dress I'm wearing is a brocade, short-sleeved version of the Wiggle Dress pattern (see below), which is included with the book, along with 9 other patterns. The patterns are printed on sturdy paper sheets and go from bust size 32" to 46".

  • The infamous green clogs made the cover!!!
  • I love the way the cover echoes VoNBBS, with the larger-than life sewing illustrations (done by a fabulous illustrator named Sun Young Park).

I think that's it for now. Of course, I will have many more things to tell you about the book between now and September 1st, when it officially releases!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Happy New Vintage Vogue Day!

I mean, it's practically a holiday in the sewing world. New Vintage Vogue patterns, readers! I'm just popping in quickly because this is a matter of utmost importance, since the $3.99 Vogue pattern sale ends at midnight tonight.

Here's 8812, one of my favorite Vintage Vogues in recent memory:

Nice photography, too. Are those Remix Shoes I spy?

The line drawing reveals the pretty bust shirring and the easy, breezy shape of the skirt.

Then there's 8811, which is simplicity defined.

At first, it didn't do a whole lot for me. (But the shoes? YES PLEASE.)

A look at the line drawing revealed what a useful dress this could be--the vintage-loving gal's version of a t-shirt dress, if you will.

Okay, ladies. Five and a half hours of the sale left to place your orders!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Finished! Simplicity 1803

Well, this was a fun little project! This is one of the quickest things I've sewn in recent memory. Just a simple LBD made from stretch cotton jacquard.

I tried to pose on the deck with my hat box, but apparently there is such a thing as too much natural light. Who knew?!

So I took her upstairs to the new sewing room (!). Here she is with her new necklace, wearing a little crinoline for fluff. On her new stenciled floor. (And yes! I totally have a floor post planned.)

Simple scoop back (with lapped zipper) and princess seam pockets.

And voila! This was a fun pattern and the size 14 fit perfectly right out of the envelope. I did add an inch to the waist length though.

And like pretty much everything else, it looks great with my green clogs. (My mother disagrees with the notion that these shoes go with everything, can you believe it?!)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Week in Review {4.20.12}

Well, it's been a doozy of a week. The idea of blogging has confounded me because, well, there's just too much muchness. How would I pick a topic? I think the remedy is to write a post all about me me me and just get it out of my system. Okay, here's what's been going on.

  • Let's start with the good news. My sewing room is finally ready to move into! I ripped up the carpet, smoothed the subfloor with wood filler, sanded the whole thing with an industrial sander I rented (that was an interesting day), painted three base coats, and then stenciled on top. Whew! If I do say so myself, it looks beautiful. 
  • I want to start offering private lessons in my home studio, so if you're around the Dutchess County area and might be interested, please let me know!
  • Okay, now for the not-so-good stuff. Jeff and I adopted a dog last weekend: a big, goofy, adorable lab/boxer mix named Phillip. We had him home for four days, and he started having behavioral problems during the afternoons: barking, whining, storming through the house like a hurricane, biting, etc. I called his former foster mom to discuss what was going on and ask for advice. It turned out that the time that Phillip was freaking out was the time of day that her two sons would come home from school, take Phillip (and his best doggy friend Gage) down to the creek, where they would play for hours with about 10-20 other kids and dogs. Obviously, this made him very happy. The foster family missed him sorely and told me that if we wanted to bring him back, they would adopt him permanently. Readers, it was obvious what we had to do. We tearfully drove Phillip back to his new forever home and said our goodbyes. Jeff and I adore animals and we never thought we'd be returning a dog we adopted. But it was obviously the right choice and Phillip is happy, so that's what's important. We miss you, Philly!

  • The cats are happy again, too. (OMG, how handsome does Henry look on that floor?!)
  • My dad is having his third brain surgery on Monday. They're going to remove his latest tumor and implant some sort of radiated seeds in his brain, which sounds very sci-fi to me. He's very resilient--stubbornly so, actually. So I can't worry about him too much. But if you think to send him some good thoughts in Arizona, please do. Feel better, Dad! 
  • Wow, sewing stuff seems so minor after that last one, but let's get back to some fluffier content. I finished Simplicity 1803 last night. That's the Kate Spade-inspired LBD I wrote about last week. I'm going to wear it today and get some pictures taken that I can share with you!
  • I ordered a cotton-candy pink necklace to wear with it from this etsy shop. I can't wait for it to arrive. 

  • I made cheery new pillow covers.
  •  I've been making napkins too. 
  • There's a lot more home dec stuff I could show you. A pink coffee table! Skull stencils! A treadle sewing machine table! But I actually have to run and grab a train into the city. I'm teaching a private lesson and then I have my millinery class at FIT. Thanks for listening, readers.
Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Modern Ceil Chapman-esque Pattern

Hello, readers! Sorry I've been MIA lately. It's been a really stressful week (more to come on that later, if I can bring myself to write about it!). When I'm feeling overwhelmed, one of the things I love to do is peruse the "Big Four" pattern websites. I always notice new things, even though I  feel like I've looked at these designs a million times. Today I was struck by Butterick 5750, a Suzi Chin design.

It's a little flow-ier than I'm usually drawn to, but there's something so pretty about it. I love the mock wrap bodice, and the layered folds at the top of the neckline. Then I realized why I like it so much. Doesn't it really resemble the draping on a vintage Ceil Chapman dress, like these ones?


Even the backs are similar.

Anyway, I'm now curious to get my hands on Butterick 5750 and play around with it. So many possibilities! Like trying it in a more structured fabric, with a straight skirt. Or sticking with chiffon or voile and making the skirt super full.

Any of you have this pattern? Or given it a test drive?

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Daily Dress: Full-Skirted LBD

When we think of the Little Black Dress, it's usually the sleek, slim-skirted model, right? But lately I've been dreaming about a fluffy-skirted dress in black cotton for summer. Like the Kate Spade number above. Wouldn't that be an incredibly useful dress to have in one's wardrobe? (Love it with the pink shoes and necklace!)

If I make my own version, I think I'll use New Look 6886. (I just got it for $1.99 at Jo-Ann! Yes, I have a Jo-Ann's now!)

I'd make View D, and add some box pleats to the flared skirt for extra fullness.

The fabric would be simple, like a black sateen or pique with just a little stretch.

Another great pattern option? Simplicity 1803, the pink version.

Okay, I've now worked myself up into needing this dress. I have a sewing afternoon with a friend planned for this weekend, and I just want to cut out a ton of summer dresses. This one will be included!

Anyone else down with the full-skirted LBD?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Student Spotlight: Jacob

Isn't this Warhol-esque portrait of moi wonderful? It was a birthday gift from my sewing student, Jacob. He nailed the lipstick color and even accentuated my beauty mark! I love it so much; I have to find a place of honor for it in our new house.

Jacob is 14 and a budding fashion designer, photographer, and all-around creative type. We've been working together for almost a year, and he's very inspiring, to say the least.

Here's one of his first projects, a Charlie tote bag.

He later moved on to skirts. (He makes clothes for his mom!)

He's now graduated to a cocktail dress that he draped himself. I couldn't be a prouder teacher!

Jacob is also a budding blogger, authoring The Fashion Procedure. I notice he hasn't written in a while, perhaps some new followers will motivate him! Hint hint.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Self-Indulgent Birthday Post

Readers, it's my birthday! I am the ripe-ish age of 33, which is probably a little old for eagerly  announcing my birthday in a blog post, but, well, you can stay immature forever.

Jeff has promised me hiking boots as a gift. Last weekend, we hiked up Mount Beacon (yes, our new town has its very own mountain) with some dear friends. The mountain kind of kicked my butt (my knee is still making a funny sound when I walk up the stairs), but I vowed to do it again--in proper footwear! It's kind of hard to get excited about hiking fashion, though. Any tips?

My gift to myself was the pink Dutch bike, featured in my eyelet sundress post, which I will now show you again just because I'm giddy over it. It's a Gazelle Basic, for those of you who asked.

P.S. When I'm feeling a little overcome by hiking, I will remind myself that even Marilyn Monroe got pit stains (see photo at the top of this post). Also, her hiking shoe of choice? Saddle shoes. (I was hoping for something with a little more ankle support, personally.)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Fashion and The Hunger Games

There's something distinctly uncomfortable about critiquing the fashion in The Hunger Games. In the book, clothing is a marker of the role one plays in a totalitarian regime: the villians are futuristic Marie Antoinettes, with a grotesque interest in adorning themselves--we're supposed to be disgusted by them, not covet their fabulous clothes. The victims have other things to worry about than fashion, like staying alive.

So it was strange to me that some well-known voices from the fashion industry would choose to haughtily express their disdain for the movie's costumes in a New York Times article, and to do so in a way that was completely oblivious to the politics of fashion in the film. A sampling:
  • The costumes “looked cheaply made,” said Joshua Jordan, a fashion photographer who has done campaigns for Anna Sui and Neiman Marcus. “You wanted it to bring you to an evil Thierry Mugler place, and it didn’t. It has nothing on the fashion business.” 
  • Olivier Van Doorne, the head of SelectNY, a fashion advertising firm that makes commercials for brands like Emporio Armani and Tommy Hilfiger, agreed. While he liked the film, he said he found the outfits “ridiculous.” “ ‘Blade Runner’ gave a vision of the future you’d never seen before,” he said. “With this, there’s nothing new. It looks like a lot of recycling stuff Jean Paul Gaultier had done before.” 
  • “This is not a fashion film. It looks too cheap.”--Sally Hershberger, celebrity hairstylist
  • Paul Wilmot, the public relations guru who has worked for designers like Oscar de la Renta and Calvin Klein, simply called the film’s costumes “hideola.” (This did not appear to be a compliment.) 
"Hideola"? Can these people hear themselves? They're practically critiquing the Hunger Games fashion in the voice of the Capitol residents themselves, sniffing at the "cheaply made" outfits of the lower classes. The irony is too much to bear. Sadly, their whining points out that the world of Panem (the Hunger Games's dystopian North America) is not so far off from current North America. Can't you just see these folks in their Effie Trinket get-ups, thumbing their noses at the poor people's outfits while watching them fight each other to the death?

Not that the costumes are exempt from critique--just thoughtless critique. And I'm not suggesting that the fashion industry outsiders are blameless. Far from it. When I saw the film last week, I found myself transfixed by Katniss's blue dress that she wears at the reaping, the public drawing where two kids from each district are chosen participate in the Hunger Games.

In fact, it reminded me of a retro dress Betsey Johnson designed a few years ago. A quick online search for "Katniss blue dress reaping" shows that people have built entire Polyvore sets around this dress. There are also at least a dozen YouTube videos showing you how to achieve her braided up 'do. I too loved her dress and hair, but not without a sense of major discomfort, an icky feeling that in Panem, I would be more of an Effie than a Katniss.

Did you see the movie? What do you think of the fashion industry's reaction?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Friday Open Thread!

I figured it was high time we had one of these, readers. Topics may include--but are certainly not limited to:
  • Everyone's favorite: whatcha sewing this weekend? I'm working on my white eyelet sundress. I'm temporarily sewing at the dining room table, since I'm still painting the floor in my sewing room! I have the base coats down, now for the lace stencil. 
  • I'm also craving an eyelet shell with hot pink cigarette pants, as in the new Banana Republic Mad Men campaign.
  • Speaking of Mad Men. Are you watching the new season? What did you think of Betty's weight gain storyline? I kind of loved it. Betty is the last character we would expect to "let herself go" (I hate that phrase) and it provides a new twist for a character who wants to be perceived as perfect. 
  • Also, that rose print silk blouse she's wearing in the photo above? I have some of that fabric! In pink! I got it at Mood last year. 
  • Seasonal sewing. Are you just starting your summer sewing (or winter, depending on your hemisphere), or are you one of those clever people who plans way ahead?
  • Fabric Softener. Do you use it? Since I now have a washer and dryer (hallelujah!), these are the kinds of things I think about. I don't really like dryer sheets since they leave a greasy residue sometimes. But I hate static cling, so I don't want to go without. I'm now using liquid stuff for the first time--Mrs. Meyer's lavender scent (which smells amazing, even Jeff thinks so). I'm still noticing a bit of static sometimes though. 
  • Pre-washing. I've been on a mission to pre-wash every cotton in my stash (no small feat) and it's become a sort of obsession (apparently I love doing laundry). Do you pre-wash when you buy your fabric, or right before you use it? 
Okay, party time!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

First Summery Dress of the Season

Okay, so it's still tights weather around here. But I love the summery sewing season! Flouncy dresses in cotton florals? I can never get enough!

This is my own pattern, and a very simple one: sleeveless, boatneck bodice with a dirndl-style skirt that's only gathered on the sides.

I wanted to showcase the fabulous cotton floral, which I got at Paron's Fabrics.  Paron's had a ton of fabulous prints that were all labeled "Ascher Studios" in the selvage (including the rose fabric of this dress I made) and they were all so gorgeous; you'll definitely be seeing more of them here. I delved a bit into the history of Ascher, which is a fascinating story for another day.

I took a cue from a ready to wear dress I own and lined the skirt with poly organza. It has a lot more bounce than silk organza, so it makes the skirt incredibly fluffy.

Here I am demonstrating said fluffiness.

And here I am demonstrating my general sauciness.

The bodice is lined with a bleached cotton muslin.

The back neckline dips down a bit.

And here's my new favorite photo of myself, which I plan to supply whenever anyone asks for a picture for a bio or something.

Happy summery sewing!
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