Friday, September 28, 2012

Coat Sew-Along: The Muslin

Hey readers! I'm here in my hotel room in Novi, Michigan getting ready for the American Sewing Expo (and having a slumber party with Sunni of A Fashionable Stitch!). But I wanted to put up these pictures of my muslin for our Butterick 5824 Sew-Along. For your reference, this is a size 14 made without any fitting adjustments. Overall, I'm happy with the fit!

First things first. It's a good idea to thread-trace your seam allowances on the collar. (Just use a basting stitch and a contrasting thread color to stitch 5/8" from the edge.) This way you can get a sense of how big the collar will actually look on your frame. If you're petite, you may wish to reduce the scale of the collar on the outside edges so it doesn't overwhelm your frame. (Just don't forget to make the same change to the collar facing.)

I also thread-traced over my center front line and my buttonholes so I knew where to pin my overlap in place--the center front lines should match when worn.

Also, pin up your sleeves 1-1/2" to account for the hem allowance.

When you try on your muslin, wear the same amount of layers you usually wear in the cooler weather. In my case, a long sleeved sweater.

Okay, let's talk fit!

One thing to remember with this pattern: the skirt on this coat is really heavy, so it will be putting weight on the bodice. (Some participants have reported the bust darts ending too high, and the lack of skirt weight at this point could be the reason.) You may want to pull down slightly on the bodice to get an idea of how it will look when you're wearing it.

You also may notice some pull marks under the arms. The kimono sleeves cause this, and without a gusset to shape them, there's not a whole lot to do about it--since you want the sleeve to have plenty of ease to allow for clothing underneath. Also, remember that your fashion fabric will add some structure to the entire garment.

Make sure that you have enough room to place a few fingers between your body and the waist of the muslin.

I like the way the fit is looking in the front. However, I'm noticing more excess than I'd like in the back sleeves. My plan is to try to take some of this out at the overarm seam. (Unless any of you have a better idea, that is!)

While you have your muslin on, it's a good idea to mark your roll line--the place where the collar creases on your body. (You only have to do one side.) Pin the roll line in place for future reference. This will help us with our fusible tailoring in upcoming steps.

I got Rosie to hop into a picture!

How is your fitting going, readers?

Next week I will introduce our sew-along moderators, talk about cutting, interfacing, and constructing the bodice front and back! (Don't worry, I will go over those pesky pivot points on the back neckline!)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Gertie's Scholarship Book Giveaway!

Hello, lovely readers! I just received a huge box of my book from my publisher, and I want to put the extra copies to good use. I know a lot of people are under tight budgets these days, so I want to do a giveaway targeted specifically toward people who can't afford to buy the book right now. If you're a student, unemployed, underemployed, a new mom, saving for buying a house . . . whatever the case is--it's none of my business, quite frankly! But I want to make sure that folks who want a copy have a way of getting it. I know library wait lists can be long and frustrating.

If you'd like a copy of the book and can't swing the cost right now, send me an email at gretchen (at) blogforbettersewing (dot) com with the subject line "BOOK GIVEAWAY" and please include your email and mailing address. All countries are included. I will randomly pick five people and send you a free copy of the book. The drawing will be in a week. Good luck!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Do You Do Sewing Conventions?

{photo from ASE's Facebook page}
I remember the days when I used to dream wistfully of going to the sewing conventions. How magical they seemed! Classes, vendors, fashion shows . . . And now I'm a regular attendee and sometimes even a teacher! (Someone pinch me, please.)

Later this week it's time for the American Sewing Expo in Novi, Michigan. You can see the entire course brochure here. (On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I'll be teaching "Intro to Retro Dressmaking" from 11-noon and "Writing a Successful Sewing Blog" from 2:45 to 3:45.)

Are you into sewing expos--or are you interested in maybe someday attending? If you're not going to this one, I would totally recommend saving your pennies for a future trip. Personally, I used to think that  these shows were just for quilting/crafty types. But the wealth of resources for garment sewing is astounding. And the classes! Susan Khalje, Kenneth King, and Claire Shaeffer all in one place. (Plus: shopping! There are vendors for everything from scissors to fancy fabrics to sewing machines and accessories.)

I would love to see a younger demographic start attending these shows regularly--but do you think that's a tall order? Going to the shows certainly requires a wad of disposable income. What do you think organizers could do to get a new generation involved in the shows? (In my imagination, we all share hotel rooms to save money and it becomes a huge sewing slumber party and the convention floor is taken over by tattooed ladies and their bearded hipster boyfriends.)

Have you ever gone to a sewing show? Do you think you might in the future?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sew-Along Sources: Fabric

Today in sew-along prep, I have some fabric recommendations and a discount from my friend Ann at Gorgeous Fabrics. I love how Ann always suggests patterns to go with her fabrics, so of course I was eager to hear what she would recommend for my own pattern design!

First, she picked this stunning wool in kelly green, "for a rich color that goes from fall through winter." I love the idea of this coat in a jewel-like green tone.

Next, Ann picked these lovely pre-fused boiled wools. I love the fuschia! Try the winter white for pure cool-weather glam.

Ann notes that you will still need interfacing to shape the lapels and collar, but other than that, these pre-fused wools are "needle ready."

Lastly, for the "ultimate in luxury," try this double-faced alpaca. You can use either the charcoal or black sides. Or mix it up and use one color for the body and one for the collar. Chic!

Ann is providing a 15% discount on all her coatings, including winter weight and raincoatings. Use the code GERTIECOAT. Thanks, Gorgeous Fabrics!

How's the sew-along prep going everyone?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sew-Along Sources: Interfacing (with Discount!)

Hey, readers! The coat sew-along is coming up soon, and we've got 253 members joined up in the Flickr group. Hurrah! I have a recommendation and deal on interfacing I wanted to share with you today.

You all probably know that I love the interfacing from Pam at Fashion Sewing Supply. I'm going to be using the Pro-Weft Supreme Medium Weight Fusible on my fabric, and you might want to look into the Pro-Weft Supreme Lightweight Fusible if you're using a light wool. Pam was kind enough to let me publish this response she sent to a customer inquiring about this coat pattern and interfacing--it explains everything much better than I could!

I love to make is such satisfying sewing. And Gertie's pattern is such a nice style! 
Last year I added a new kind of weft interfacing to our line. I developed Pro-Weft Supreme Medium Weight Fusible because I wanted a "go-to" interfacing that would work on virtually any coating fabric regardless of weave, weight, or fiber. It is a "double-weave weft", meaning that the base fabric has had 2 threads woven though/between the lengthwise grain.  These fibers have been lightly brushed, resulting in a mid-weight interfacing with some loft, and an absolutely incredible fluid drape. I have yet to find a coating fabric that ProWeft Supreme Medium doesn't seem to improve. In my opinion it makes each and every fabric's "hand" better than it was before. I know that may sound a bit dramatic...but I truly just love how it makes coating fabrics so much easier to work with, and how lovely the coats look when interfaced with it. 
So to sum up,  I recommend our Pro-Weft Supreme Medium-weight Fusible Interfacing for this coat style. It is 66" wide, and comes in 2 colors, Ivory and Charcoal Black. More information about this interfacing can be found on our site, , and we send a full set of instructions with every order.  As to yardage needed: The pattern calls for 4 yards of narrow interfacing, and in most cases the conversion would be one yard of this 66" wide interfacing.  However for this pattern, I think you will need 2 yards to have enough lengthwise grain for the coat facings.
Pam is giving us a 10% discount on all her products for the next three weeks. Use the code SEWALONG10 at checkout. You can use the code on any products, regardless of whether you are doing the sew-along or not.

A big thanks to Fashion Sewing Supply! Tomorrow I will have a fabric deal for you.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Book Party Was a Success!

On Saturday night, a crew of fabulous guests came to The Sewing Studio to help me celebrate my book release. It was a grand time! Above you'll see me and my parents, who came all the way from Arizona. Attendees raised $800 in donations for Pets Alive!

Mom put all the gift bags together, which had goodies from sponsors The Sewing Studio, Kollabora, Creativebug, Coats and Clark, and STC Craft

I set up a little display at the entry with my half-scale dress form, which I draped in rose fabric. My publishers sent me the lovely flowers! I completed the effect with a bowl of Coats and Clark thread in the color "Lipstick" (how appropos!). 

Jeff set up the bar. 

Here's me and the fabulous Ava from Creativebug getting ready. 

Some dresses on display. I wore the strapless party dress from the book, which is embroidered black organdy with a silk taffeta lining. Festive!

Jeff bought me a cake with the book cover on it!

It got crowded! Dad says I never shut my mouth the entire party, as evidenced in the below shot.

Friends came from near and far.
 Mom with guest Darby, who wore an adorable plaid frock she made.
There were lots of super cool bloggers there. I wish I had pictures of all of them to show you. Speaking of which, if you were there and got some pictures, please send them my way! I was apparently too busy running my mouth to get good shots. Oh, and signing books!

Thanks to all who came out; you made it an amazing evening!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Coat Sew-Along Resources: The Pattern

The weather is getting little chilly here; it's perfect for cultivating that coat sew-along mood! So I decided to put together a series of resource posts to get you primed and prepped.

The pattern, Butterick 5824, can be obtained in a few ways. This week is a great time to buy--check out the sales!

  • The Butterick website is having a sale this week! The pattern is $1.44. And only $1.22 if you're a Club BMV member. The sale ends on Thursday the 20th. 
  • You can shop at your local Joann Fabrics. Buttericks are 99 cents through Thursday! Definitely call ahead of time to see if your store has it. Some readers are reporting that their Joann has not stocked the new patterns yet, though I found it last weekend at the Poughkeepsie location. 
  • UK readers! You can order from Sew Direct to get good shipping rates. 
  • Australia readers! Check out Sew Squirrel, who has a selection of my patterns. 
Check back tomorrow for a whole post on interfacing!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Coat Sew-Along Schedule

As of last night, we have 160 members of the Butterick 5824 coat sew-along! Check out the Flickr page; there are already lots of great discussions happening.

Here's a tentative schedule for the sew-along:

  • Now until October 1st: purchase pattern, fabric, and supplies, make and post your muslin to the Flickr group
  • Week of October 1st: Interfacing, Bodice Front and Back (Steps 1-9 in the pattern instructions)
  • Week of October 8th: Skirt (Steps 10-17 in the pattern instructions)
  • Week of October 15th: Facing and Bodice Lining (Steps 18-25 in the pattern instructions)
  • Week of October 22nd: Skirt Lining (Steps 26-31 in the pattern instructions)
  • Week of October 27th: Attaching Lining and Finishing (Steps 32-39 in the pattern instructions)
Looks like we'll have fabulous new coats in time for Halloween!

These steps follow the pattern's instructions, but I will also be giving additional tailoring tips throughout the process. (Also! Have you all seen the new Stitch Magazine? I have an article called "Your First Coat: What the Pattern Instructions Don't Tell You" that you may find of interest. I've seen the magazine at Barnes & Noble, Joann, and Hobby Lobby.)

Next week I'll put up a couple posts on supplies and muslin making. If you want to get a head start on your muslin, that's awesome. I would recommend just sewing a muslin of the bodice; the skirt doesn't have a precise fit. No need to include facings or linings. 

Let me know if you have questions! I'm so excited to be sewing along with you all. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

My New Online Workshops with Creativebug!

Meet Gretchen "Gertie" Hirsch from Creativebug on Vimeo.

Have you all heard about Creativebug? They are a super cool new San Francisco-based company that produces online craft and DIY videos. They have a host of amazing teachers like Natalie Chanin, Heather Ross, Anna Maria Horner, and Liesl Gibson, so of course I was psyched when they asked me to be involved. One of the first things they did was come out to my place in Beacon, NY, and shoot a trailer which you can view above. It's kind of a mini-documentary where I got to talk all about sewing and feminism--and also try to get my pets on camera as much as possible. (Look for Rosie at 00:19! She's wearing a hot pink felt rose!)

Then last week I got to go out to San Francisco (which only my New York pride is keeping me from declaring the best city ever) and film a whopping four workshops. Yesterday, the first was released! It's a class on how to make these super cute retro tap pants. (If you click the link, you can watch the intro for free.)

The class shows you how to draft an easy pattern based on your own measurements, work with slippery silks, apply a picot elastic waistband, and finish the bottom with lovely scalloped lace. My favorite part about this class is the custom fit element, no doubt.

Tomorrow, a second workshop will be released that shows you how to sew a petersham ribbon facing on a pencil skirt. This is a great alternative to a fabric facing, especially in thick winter wools (like the amazing plaid Harris tweed you see below).

Creativebug is a monthly subscription site, so once you join, you get access to every single video on the site. The content doesn't end at sewing--there's book binding, embroidery, knitting, crochet, and lots more. I politely asked Creativebug to give you all a little discount, and they enthusiastically agreed! So until the end of October you can use the code GERTIE10 to get $10 off your membership. Click here for all the various membership options and sign up.

I hope you enjoy the new workshops!

Millinery Mood Board, Take Two

{click to enlarge}
Well, it's back to school season! I've returned to FIT for another semester of scintillating millinery; and this time we're doing BRIDAL. Yes, BRIDAL. Sweet!

I've decided that half the battle in a fashion program is learning to make a good mood board. In fashion school, the mood board is queen. Showing that you can arrange pretty pictures in a pleasing manner is apparently a very important skill. Since my mood board last spring was not so highly praised, I decided to take a different tack. No hats! That's right, you don't have to show any hats on a millinery mood board. Instead I focused on, well, the mood. (Look, I'm really learning!)

My theme is "Backyard Wedding" and it's the kind of summer celebration where there are dogs running around and everyone kicks off their shoes after the ceremony. Fried chicken is the entree and the signature drink is an iced tea cocktail. Old fashioned buttercream cake is a must. Gingham and polka dots everywhere.

And what do you know? My mood board was a big hit!

So what's next? We're making 5 hats this semester, starting with a Juliet Cap, also known as a cocktail hat. This is not to be confused with a fascinator. A Juliet Cap must sit on the head, and not need a comb or an elastic to hold it on. They were big in the 50s, especially cut high on the forehead to show off your hairdo.

A few examples:

I will show my progress as I got along. Next project: turbans!!!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Coat Sew-Along Is ON!

We're doing this, readers. A sew-along for my Butterick coat pattern! It's Butterick 5824, and it's on sale for $4.99 until the end of the day today! So if you haven't ordered, hop to it like little bunnies.

Now, a few FAQ:

What's a sew-along? 

A sew-along is an online group sewing project. Everyone sews the same pattern--in this case, Butterick 5824. I will lead the sew-along through a series of blog posts, photographing the major steps of the coat construction. But the most important part of a sew-along is the community involvement. To avoid Gertie having a nervous breakdown, everyone pitches in by answering each other's questions and commenting in the Flickr group.

What's a Flickr group? 

It's a dedicated page on the Flickr website, where you can upload photos of your progress and participate in group discussions. Join Flickr here. Then join the Sew-Along Flickr group here.

How do I officially join the sew-along? 

Just join the Flickr group!

I want to help you, Gertie!

THANK YOU! Gertie needs help, lots of it. Please email me at if you're interested in becoming a volunteer moderator of the sew-along. This means answering questions here and on the Flickr group page, and commenting on member's muslins and fabric questions.

When do we start sewing? 

The first sewing post will go up on Monday, October 1st. This gives everyone plenty of time to gather their patterns and supplies. A more detailed schedule will be posted shortly.

How much fabric do I need? 

Please refer to the fabric and notions requirements on the pattern envelope back. You can find these online on the Butterick 5824 pattern page.

What kind of fabric should I buy? 

I would suggest looking for a light to medium weight wool. Fabric weight is the biggest concern with this pattern--this thing eats yardage for breakfast. At certain places (like the collar), you will have three layers of the fabric on top of each other, plus interfacing. To test if your fabric is too heavy, stack up three layers of it in your hand and ask yourself if that's something you want to wear on your chest. You also need to consider the drape. The skirt on this coat is a full circle. Thicker fabrics will stand out dramatically, while thinner fabrics will drape and cling around the body more. It all depends on the effect you're going for. Drape the fabric around your waist so it's hanging down like a skirt to test the effect.

If you live in a warmer clime, look for trenchcoat fabrics like cotton twill. If you want to dress this baby up, look for a light to medium weight brocade.

If you have specific questions about fabric, please post them in the Flickr discussion group. I regret to say that if you send me an email, it will probably get lost. My inbox is currently like a black hole where emails go to die.

What can I do in the meantime before the sew-along officially starts? 

Buy your pattern, fabric, notions, and supplies. I would also recommend making a muslin of the coat bodice and uploading it to the Flickr group. I'll write more about muslins soon!

I hope this helps answer some questions. Will you be joining the sew-along? I hope so!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Please Come to My Book Launch Party!

Hi readers! I'm excited to announce that tickets can now be purchased for my book release party, which will be held the evening of Saturday, September 15th, in New York City. The cost of the ticket will go entirely to Pets Alive, a no-kill animal sanctuary. I've added two purchase options: one for $10 tickets, one for $25 if you're feeling especially generous. We will have a festive evening with snacks, drinks, cake!, a book signing, and a fabulous gift bag for each attendee.

I'm so pleased to be able to make this a charity event, thanks to a few special friends who are sponsoring the event and providing awesome crafty gifts for attendees:

  • Coats & Clark, maker of many fine crafty products, who are celebrating their 200th anniversary this year!
  • Kollabora.coma new fashion-forward DIY community, connecting inspiration, tutorials and the best, hard-to-find supplies.
  • The Sewing Studio, where I teach, is generously providing the space for the event. 
  •, a fab new site for video tutorials (and the home of my next series of online classes!). There will be free memberships for the first 50 people to arrive at the party!
  • STC Craft, my beloved publishers. 

Please purchase your tickets here. There is a limited amount of space, so buy now! I hope you will be able to be a part of my book launch party.

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Coat Sew-Along, Anyone?

A funny thing about designing patterns for Butterick: I haven't actually made the garments for myself yet! I make them in a sample size (a 10), and then send them off to be photographed while the patterns get digitized and graded into the full size range. So of course I'm dying to make the patterns for my own wardrobe!

I'm definitely planning on sewing Butterick 5824 for the fall. I have this amazing fabric; it's an ivory boiled wool with black lace fused on top.

I think it would look smashing in this pattern, especially with a silk lining in a bright jewel tone.

I'm in the middle of yet another big exciting project (more to come on that), so I won't actually be able to start sewing this until the end of the month. Which makes it a perfect sew-along contender!  This will give us a few weeks to get our supplies and patterns gathered, and start making muslins.

My plan for this sew-along will be to focus on faster, easier tailoring techniques than I've featured here in the past. I'm especially interested in writing about how to get good shaping results with fusible interfacings, as opposed to pad stitching and hair canvas. (However, I do think this coat needs bound buttonholes, don't you? Luckily there are only two!)

Anyway, let me know in the comments if you'd like to join a sew-along for this pattern. If there's enough interest, I will start planning the schedule and Flickr group. I'd also love to know if anyone is interested in being a volunteer moderator, which would involve commenting on muslins, responding to comments, and the like. I'd also love volunteers to write guest posts on fitting, fabrics, interfacings, and other relevant topics.

I hope you'll sew along with me!

P.S. Katrina of Edelweiss Patterns has already made a coat from this pattern. Doesn't she look amazing in it?

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