Thursday, February 28, 2013

Challenges of Going Pro

One of the major challenges of turning sewing blogging into a career is that often you can't blog about what you're working on. For instance, right now I'm developing the patterns for my next book while also hard at work on two new Butterick patterns. While it would be fun to show you every step of the process, my publishers would, quite frankly, not be pleased. (And I like to think you all enjoy the surprise of a big reveal once something is released. What lady doesn't like to make a grand entrance?) I also have an incredibly full teaching schedule right now (teaching my first college level courses and still doing private lessons as well) that is eating up most of my sewing time.

Every now and then I'll get a comment noting that my blog has changed--that I don't blog what I'm sewing as much as I used to, or it seems like I'm just promoting my "products" (oddly, I don't think of my book or my patterns as products, that seems too clinical a word for something that so much of myself has gone into).  Unless I give up sleeping, the only way to turn my blog back into what it was 3 years ago would be to get an office job, break all my current contracts, and just sew for fun. I hope you'll forgive me for not wanting to do that! (Though maybe I could get a job in a fabric store instead of an office. Yeah, that would be awesome.)

I guess this post is really about stress, which I know we can all relate to. As modern women, we're pulled in so many different directions: career, family, basic life chores, email inboxes, bills, etc. Often taking care of ourselves is last on the list of priorities. We're also used to saying yes to everything and trying to please everyone, right? Sometimes it feels like we're all just scraping by, doing lots of stuff but not doing any of it as well as we would like. I've certainly made my share of mistakes along the way. Scratch that, I know I've made more than my share.

I suppose I'm just trying to say I'm doing the best I can to keep all the balls in the air, but I've also learned that being successful means knowing which balls to juggle. (Does it make me immature that every time I type "balls" I giggle inside?)

Hmm, I think I just wrote a post about my feelings. I hope you don't mind! And if, by some chance you actually enjoy reading stuff like this, there's plenty more where this came from.

P.S. In lieu of any sewing photos, here are some shots of me hanging out with Henry and Rosie. Almost as good as dresses? (Also, have I mentioned that I'm learning to play the ukulele? Great stress relief!)

Monday, February 25, 2013

About Butterick 5882: Straps, Etc.

Thanks for all your kind words about my new Butterick patterns! Your lovely comments make my day; I hope you all know that.

I wanted to clarify something about the straps on B5882. As I mentioned briefly in my last post, I had intended for the straps to twist when worn. And, as it turns out, the folks at Butterick (while genius) are not mind readers. Who knew?!

So I wanted to show you pictures of the dress as I made and styled it, so you can make your choice when sewing the pattern. Here's a picture I took in my sewing room, right after I finished the dress.

See how the strap is turned down underneath the bust, and then twists at the side of the bust? This is how I draped the original pattern, so it helps eliminate any rippling of the strap.
I feel like an idiot for not giving Butterick more detailed notes on the placement of the strap. Live and learn, right? Happily, the dress still looks fantastic on the model and I love everything they did with the photo shoot.

Oh! And here's the dress on display at the Craft and Hobby Association in Anaheim last month!

This shows the dress without a crinoline, a more subtle look that works well also.

Several of you asked about how to do an FBA on this pattern, so I'll be sure to write about that soon.

Thanks again for all of your support! It means the world to me.

P.S. Several of you mentioned waiting for a sale to purchase the pattern, and you're in luck! Patterns are currently $1.88 on the Butterick site. The sale ends this Thursday, February 28th.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

My New Spring Butterick Patterns!

I'm so excited today, readers! Two new designs have been released in my "Patterns by Gertie" line with Butterick. The first one is B5882, a flirty 50s style dress. How cute does the model look?!

The major design feature is the "shelf bust," a vintage element I have long admired (and blogged here). It's so hard to find a great shelf bust dress pattern in my size! So I made one, thanks to my friends at Butterick. The "shelf" is a pleated bust inset that's framed by a bias strap. (Interesting tidbit: I had intended the straps to be worn with a twist at the edge of the bodice, but they're straight in these pictures and look great that way too!)

The bodice is steel boned and has a waist stay for support. The skirt is a 3/4 circle with gores at the princess lines. The fabric is divine--an embroidered shantung from B&J. It looks like strawberries, but they're actually little rose buds. The red contrast is silk taffeta.

They also show it illustrated in one fabric, which gives a more modern look.

I would love to see this in white on a retro bride!

The next one, B5895, is totally different: casual separates. The perfect thing to wear to a picnic or on a camping trip!

This model is totally doing it for me, by the way. Love that wicked grin.
The shirt has kimono sleeves, a wing collar, and a tie waist. (It wasn't actually intended to be midriff-baring, so I'm guessing the model is especially statuesque. It's also easy to length the bodice  a bit if you like.) The jeans are capri length, have side pockets and a back zipper, and red contrast top stitching.

I made the shirt in Liberty of London cotton lawn, and the jeans in a stretch denim.

What do you think? I so hope you like the new patterns. I can't wait to make them in my size (sewing in a sample size is no fun at all!) so I'm sure I'll be writing about them more very soon.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Book #2: Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

Fun news today, readers! Since publishing my first book last year, I'm not wasting any time to do a couple more. My fabulous publisher has signed me up for TWO more books, yay! The next one is coming out in fall 2014 (which sounds far away, but is scarily close) and will focus on the theme of "vintage casual." I'm in the thick of writing and designing the patterns for it now, so I thought I'd share a bit of my research and process with you.

When I was planning the first book, many of you asked for a pattern for pants (better known as trousers, for those of you of the British persuasion). I wanted to comply, but came to the realization that a pant pattern would pull me too far from the couture theme of the first book, and require a lot of extra content (fitting, for instance) that I hadn't planned on. Caroline, my genius agent, suggested saving that trouser pattern for another book, and perhaps even focusing on casual clothing exclusively. I loved the idea. So here I am, writing it.

It's the perfect timing too, since my life has gotten decidedly more casual since writing my first book. But I still want to wear cute vintage stuff! So I'm designing a bunch of patterns that are easy and comfy to wear, while still maintaing a retro vibe. Not necessarily just pants, either! I'm talking skirts and dresses that are more at home at a picnic than a cocktail party.

Without giving too much away, I wanted to share a few of my main inspirations.

Rosie the Riveter is essential to the spirit of the book. Never has vintage casual looked so badass.

If I were to choose one inspirational designer, it would be Claire McCardell. Her cotton dresses and easy separates were revolutionary in their time.

And, of course, my thoughts keep gravitating toward Katherine Hepburn.

Did you know she had 30 pairs of beige garbardine trousers in her wardrobe at the time of her death? I've never been a huge fan of beige pants, but perhaps I need to reconsider.

Another huge inspiration is coordinate wardrobes. Don't you love this type of vintage pattern?

That's pretty much all I can give away at the moment. I hope you are as excited as I am about this! More to come, of course.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Guest Post: Pattern Junkie on Heart Pockets!

Readers, I'm delighted to have a guest post for you today! It's from Jace, the blogger behind Pattern Junkie, of which I have long been a fan. Bonus: Jace is a fellow pinkhead (well, more like a lovely magenta) and is really fun to eat Mexican food with. Enjoy!--Gertie

Hello, fellow Gertie readers!  I’m delighted to be a guest writer today: I’ve been a fan of Gertie’s blog for several years, and had the chance to meet her when she visited L.A.  (Guess what?  She’s as wonderful in person as she is in blogland.)  Like many of you, I have a love of sewing – and a love of (some might say obsession with) sewing patterns.  And why not?  They offer glimpses into fashion history and individual seamstresses’ lives.  Some designs make me gasp at their beauty.  Others leave me scratching my head at their peculiarity.

Since it’s Valentine’s Day, let’s talk about an interesting vintage detail: heart pockets.  Beautiful?  Weird?  What’s your take?  I think they can go either way, so join me on a journey through some examples.  I’m focusing exclusively on women’s dresses with heart pockets: aprons and kids’ clothes with this detail are a little too easy to find…and when you do, they look like this:


 ACK!  Didn’t I warn you about the weird?  The more you look at Aunt Martha’s 9619 (1940s), the stranger it gets.  The twin kitties…Sis wearing nothing but an apron, socks, bonnet and shoes with Mom looking so sad in the foreground…I’m about to take a hot iron to my eyes to burn the image from my retinas.  Quick!  Something pretty!  Let’s take a gander at Anne Adams 4923 (1940s):

For me, this works.  The dress is classic and simple and the pockets are a sweet, unexpected touch.  Bravo!

Next: Simplicity 3716, 1950s.  Giant heart pockets are one thing, but hearts on the end of a rick rack neck bow?  That’s taking things too far.

Plaid agrees: she’s looking a little smug.  And you know what?  Now I’m coming around to Blue’s point of view.  It’s a housedress, after all.  Blue, if you want to eat your breakfast looking like a Valentine and getting muffin crumbs stuck in the little pointy bottoms of your pockets, you go!  Don’t let Plaid put you down.

This mail order pattern, Anne Adams 4589 (1940s), does everything right in by book.  I love how the illustration places a plain heart and yoke against a flowered fabric.  It’s not too sweet – almost matter-of-fact.

 Unfortunately, I just can’t get behind Simplicity 1090 (1940s).  I don’t think anyone’s going to take you seriously if your business suit features hearts right above your bust – or anywhere, for that matter:

While the lace-trimmed pockets of Simplicity 3186 (1950) are too sweet for my taste, I love the pattern illustration:

Navy Lace makes a heart with her hands, while Pink Gingham scolds her for being so forward!  And what is Pink about to pull out of that heart-shaped pocket of hers?

Lest you think that the heart pocket faded with the fifties, check out its appearance in Simplicity 5803 (1973):

Finally, a pattern I can’t resist including, even though it technically doesn’t have a heart pocket.  Check out Simplicity 4924:

YES!  You saw that right!  It’s a HEART HAT!  Glorious, isn’t it?!

Thanks for exploring this odd little corner of the sewing pattern world with me, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Thanks again to Pattern Junkie!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Style Shifts

I've been traveling a lot lately. (That's an understatement.) Recently, going through security at some airport, I saw a woman who looked like the epitome of cool to me. She was wearing a flannel shirt, skinny black jeans, and slouchy motorcycle boots. Granted, I have a serious devotion to Grunge; so it might have been my inner Riot Grrl responding to this ensemble. The 90s was an awesome decade, as far as I'm concerned. Hole, Doc Martens, slips as outerwear; I love it all.

Anyway, this airport sighting has left me with a motorcycle boot obsession. As I've written about before, being a vintage devotee can sometimes make you feel like you have an obligation to dress vintage at all times. But lately, I've been feeling the urge to dress, well . . . cooler. 

You're welcome, fellow Pony fangirls.
Perhaps dyeing my hair pink has set off some sort of latent adolescent rebellion. (And perhaps this is why people usually get their pink hair days out of the way in their 20s?) In any case, on some days lately I've been feeling slightly more Joan Jett than Joan Holloway.

One of the awesome things about being a modern woman is that we live in a time when it's not only acceptable but encouraged to indulge personal style whims, whether or not they fit with your usual "look." At the risk of sounding trite, may I quote India.Arie? "Sometimes I shave my legs and sometimes I don't/Sometimes I comb my hair and sometimes I won't/Depend on how the wind blows I might even paint my toes/It really just depends on what feels good in my soul."

While the idea of "personal style" can be watered down in a Lucky magazine sense (Are you a "bohemian eclectic"? A "nouveau prep"?, etc.), I believe there's no doubt that the feminist movement brought us freedom to experiment with fashion in a way that previous generations couldn't. (Of course, I'm not suggesting that this was the major coup of the Women's Rights movement, just a happy byproduct.) Do you agree?

Anyway, my new motorcyle boots are set to arrive tomorrow. (Stop the presses!) I will update you accordingly.
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