Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing

25 Aug

Hello, sewing and fashion friends.  I took a little time off–off from sewing, and off from blogging, off from reading blogs about sewing (or anything, really).  I look  forward to catching up, and to giving my sewing room the  cleaning-out it needs so I can get started again.

In  the meantime, I received the most wonderful shipment in the mail: my copy of the long-ago  pre-ordered book,  Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing It’s a delightful, beautiful book.


I particularly love these illustrations, done by Sun Young Park. They’re part vintage pattern cover art, and part modern fashion illustration, and wholly contemporary and perfect for the subject of the book.

I’m going to assume you know about Gertie’s blog, and all the background, and that her book is about using couture techniques from vintage sewing in modern versions of retro styled pieces, and just  tell you instead why I, personally like this book.

First, though, I should confess that I have no patience for vintage couture sewing techniques. As you’ve seen, I am an “instant gratification” type of seamstress all the way. I have a short attention span, flit from project to project, and am the target market for all the “two hours or less” projects and patterns ever published.  I once signed up for an online sewing class on improving techniques through  learning couture methods (yes, that one) and I watch all of half of one lesson. Half.  Once I saw the recommendation for hand-stitching the muslin, I was out. I love my sewing machine, it makes things go fast. Hand-picked zippers? I have no interest. I get bored with a project far too often just between muslin and fashion fabric…if, in fact, I bother with a muslin at all. Patience, it is not my forte. When I see someone hand-stitching their seam-finishing, I want to scream “That’s  on the INSIDE! No-one will ever SEE it! It’s not holding anything together!” I have never, and might not ever join one of the millions of online conversations about the beauty of a well-finished buttonhole. The magic of sewing, for me, lies elsewhere.

Which means, in short, that I might not even have the patience to read all the chapters of this book, let alone try one of the projects. (Patterns are included with  this book, in sizes from 32″ to 46″ bust.)  For me, this a sewing cookbook. I have a whole shelf of cookbooks and I generally use no more than three of them for actual propping up in the kitchen and following along to make a meal–the three where all the recipes have ten ingredients or less, and whose meals are based around ingredients which I already stock in my kitchen.  If I have to go to a specialty market and ask for food items I can’t pronounce, it’s unlikely that I will ever accomplish any of those  recipes in my own home, unattended.

Sewing is the  same way, although I do like to try new techniques (one by one) and experiment with new gadgets (like my recent excursion in home-made bias tape). But  I also like to peer into how other people do things, in both their kitchens and their sewing rooms.  Gertie has given, in this book, as she does in her blog, a really good window for how-to voyeurs like me.  She gives good, clear pictures and simple illustrations so that if one day I really do want to do a faced horsehair hem, or bound buttonholes, I will have them in one place, on my bookshelf.

The very best part of this book, for me (beyond the beautiful projects and the retro styles, which  of course I love) is that she displays her projects inside-out. “Here, come look at what I’ve done,” this says. If I never use a Hong Kong seam, at least I have a reference on hand for what it might look like, if  I did. And seeing a horsehair braid used as a stabilizer in a skirt waist, from the inside, I  can understand why that might  be a useful step, and maybe one day might be tempted to try that one, myself.  So there’s a strong bit of fantasy to it, as with my gourmet  cookbooks: some day, I might  be the kind of seamstress who stabilizes waists with horsehair braid, or the kind of chef who has time for dumplings. But my turning everything inside-out, Gertie makes it seem not so difficult, after all, and maybe worth trying, one step at a time.

But until then, I will enjoy the lovely photos of multiple variations on each pattern provided, the encyclopedic illustrations of techniques  I might have elsewhere in my sewing library (like the old swayback  adjustment) but still appreciate seeing again.

In my fantasy future where I don’t get so impatient with things, I would make both the Wiggle dress and the Coat Dress. Yes, part of my problem is that it’s the more intricate designs that call to me…I should probably start with something simple, like one of the blouses, and go from there. But alas, it’s the more advanced ones that I favor! So I will trot off to my quick and easy projects, with visions of pad stitching dancing in my head…

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8 Responses to “Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing”

  1. sophie o. August 25, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    What you say rings a bell in my mind, I wish I was more patient – though it doesn’t seem to be as bad as you 😀 I’m intrigued by your review of the boo, I’m now eagerly waiting for my own preordered copy as your blog is the second I see this book popping up in! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on your approach to sewing!

  2. gingermakes August 26, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

    Ugh, I missed the mailman yesterday, so I won’t have my book until next Saturday– sad!! I’m really impatient, too, so I wonder how much use I’ll get of the book. It looks incredibly fun, though. 🙂

  3. Becky August 28, 2012 at 8:51 am #

    I love the way you sum up your sewing personality — I think we must have been separated at birth! I don’t know about you, but in addition to FAST, I want the materials to be INEXPENSIVE (a polite word for CHEAP). As long as we are having fun, who cares? But I LOVE Gertie and find her very inspiring. Thanks for the good review.

    • handmadejulie August 28, 2012 at 9:10 am #

      What? Do I look cheap to you?! Hee hee–yes, indeed. If I can make a project using some scrap of leftover curtain fabric I’ve been storing, or a tablecloth I found secondhand, I’m all over that. Fast, cheap, and out of control!

      But still, a girl’s gotta dream…and for that, we have Gertie.

  4. ReadyThreadSew August 28, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    Methinks you may not have paid enough attention to the course – there’s no hand-sewing of the muslin (I’m making a presumption about the course you are talking about, though, so I could be wrong). I totally get the desire for quick and easy. I’ve signed up for four courses on Craftsy, hoping to improve my sewing, and have realised that I’m actually quite happy where it is, thank you very much :).

    Oh, and I totally agree with “it’s on the inside – no-one will ever see it”. Years ago I used to do cross-stitch and would read in magazines (this was pre-internet – I AM that old) about people making the back of their work look as good as the front and all I could think was – why bother. I do appreciate the amount of work it takes to make a garment look fabulous inside as well as out – but I doubt I’ll ever do it. I machine sew about 90% of my hems (top-sewing) because I hate doing a catch-stitched hem. The only time I ever handsew a hem is when I can’t decide which colour thread will show up less in a machine sewn hem, such as when I made a red and white print skirt – both colours looked wrong if I sewed a top-stitched hem so I hand stitched it – that was about three years ago and I haven’t handsewn a hem since.

    And thanks for the photos from the book, which confirm why I didn’t buy it. The pink dress, for example, is, I’m guessing, showing a horsehair braid hem – but all I can see are the drag lines on the bodice which show it isn’t a good fit. I wouldn’t notice those lines on a dress that a normal blogger made because I’d just be interested in the pretty dress – but Gertie is now playing at being an expert so should know better.

  5. Jacoba Francis April 13, 2013 at 3:12 am #

    I have aquired a book that read “The New Butterick Dressmaker”.Printed in 1927 and signed by Jacques Worth.Is it worth something?Thx

    • handmadejulie April 13, 2013 at 10:50 pm #

      I have no idea. I’m not a book dealer or anything, just a hobbyist. Good luck!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Gertie’s New Book for Making me Eat my Words | Sown Brooklyn - August 31, 2012

    […] I started reading glowing reviews of the book and considered breaking that (very weak) promise. My husband didn’t help when we […]

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