on October 6, 2012
The first part of this book is great. Lots of information on vintage sewing techniques explained in an easy to understand way. The art for the book is spectacular. Sun Young Park is a wonderful talent and I look forward to seeing more of her work.
The problems are centered around the patterns.
First- the size chart doesn't have an accompanying figure to show you where exactly to measure yourself. Early in the book Gertie talks about measuring and recommends using your high bust measurement. But I'm still not clear if she wants the reader to use a high bust or bust measurement. (see edit below)
Second- there are no technical drawings of the garments. There are some artistic renderings throughout, but not all of them match the patterns, nor are they paired with the patterns. And there are no technical drawings of back views.
Third- the patterns lack lengthen and shorten lines.
Fourth- some of the patterns seem like they're not just inspired by Vogue's New Book for Better Sewing, but that they are the exact same Vogue patterns that have been made larger and then multisized. i.e. the portrait blouse, the bow-tied blouse, and the sultry sheath (she says that she wanted to include a version of that dress but with a different neckline. It appears to be the same dress (jumper version) down to the uneven dart placement). The uneven dart placement drives me crazy. I wish Gertie had moved the darts so they lined up. For someone who wants to sew the Vogue projects, but doesn't want to spend the money buying the individual patterns, this is a great option for them, but it didn't appeal to me and I wish the book had stated that some of the same patterns were included.
And yes, the fit bothered me a little. Some of the clothes look too tight in some areas and too loose in others. And sometimes the clothing looks vaguely upholstered.
Anyway, the first part of the book is wonderful, the information for sewing the patterns is ok, but the patterns present a few problems.
*the sizing~ Early in the book Gertie recommends using a high bust measurement. Hers is 36". Her full bust is 39" and her waist is 30". Later she says she created her own sizing using herself as a size 8 and then graded up and down from there. But when you get to the sizing chart, size 8 is 38"-30"-42". So do you use a high bust like she recommends earlier or a full bust which is closer to the size 8 given in her chart? There lies my confusion.
on September 13, 2012
My biggest beef with this book is the writing style: I wish Ms. Hirsch had cleaned up her blog-style writing a little bit more in favor of something that sounded more professional and more like something we would expect from someone who bills herself as an editor and a writer. She starts far too many sentences with "Being a [whatever] . . . ". I know she meant to sound approachable, but it makes the book feel a bit flavor-of-the-month and less like a respectable sewing reference.
Her section on fabric types wasn't meant to be expansive but I still wish it had been more comparative. Descriptions are nice but less useful to people who don't have samples on hand to determine whether organza is lighter than chiffon. I wish that she hadn't snubbed quilting cotton wholesale. I thought it was odd that she passed over denim and chambray--the classic casual shirtwaist fabric--in her section on fabric types but included gingham, apparently because it's cute. Most cotton gingham readily available today is either sloppily-woven faux homespun or awful cotton-polyester blend, and the stuff that isn't is usually, well, printed quilting cotton. Furthermore, if you're in the market for a crisp white cotton blouse, you cannot do better than Kona, which is opaque and an absolute dream to handle (as anyone who does applique can tell you).
I agree, too, with the reviewer I read somewhere (Amazon?) who wished that the clothing had been shown on somebody other than a whole series of Gerties. Between the drawings and the photographs, there is an awful lot of Gertie in the book. Not that we don't like her, but she happens to have a figure that lends itself well to 1950's-style clothing, and those of us who have figures that don't would like to see what her designs look like when adapted, say, for my thin shoulders and low bust.
Page 84: Half-size patterns " . . . are delineated by odd numbers, rather than the even numbers of misses sizes". This isn't very clearly stated: Petite patterns are sized in *odd-number body measurements* (bust 37, for example) instead of the even-number measurements (bust 34, 36, etc.) used for regular misses' sizes. Petites are also proportioned a little differently to fit womanly figures. Juniors' patterns are given odd size numbers (size 11, 13, etc.) but the body measurements are still usually given in even numbers.
I have not yet had time to try the patterns but I like the way the directions are laid out, with necessary materials and "Key Skills" in a colored box on the first page of the project. I wish, though, that Gertie had been standing in the picture of the drop-waisted cocktail dress so we could see what it looked like, and I wish overall that the dresses in the examples had been made of lighter fabrics without busy patterns so that their details would show up better.
This book might be useful as a bridge book between beginner projects and more advanced and demanding dressmaking. I would say it's advanced-beginner level. I haven't decided yet if I will keep it. Readers will need to be familiar with standard sewing terms and comfortable with their machines but won't already need to have learned more than basic skills. None of the information here is groundbreaking but she does a reasonable job of explaining not only what to do, but why it should be done.
on September 19, 2012
I'm a fan of the blog. I pre-ordered the book--my point is that I am glad I bought it and look forward to learning what Gertie is sharing with us.
But I couldn't get past the photos--Is it just me, or are there some serious fit issues in the photos? I am not more than an advanced beginner sewer. But from looking at so many books on fit (because I have a very oddly shaped body and NOTHING fits me without adjusting, it seems), it just appeared that every photo showed wrinkles and puckers and, well, fit issues.
on August 27, 2012
I knew this book would be good because I've been following Gertie's blog for some time now and have taken her online courses. Still, I was surprised that everything about it was so wonderful. I had to sit down and read it cover to cover as soon as I received it.
The narrative is written in the very readable and friendly "Gertie" voice. I really enjoyed the commentary on social implications of wearing and making vintage clothing. The technique and garment instructions are broken down into easy-to-follow steps. The photos and the line drawings are lovely. I think this book is a success in the stated goal of bringing some vintage couture and dressmaking techniques back for the modern home sewist.
Another great thing about the book: TEN multi-sized* patterns are included! Plus instructions for several variations on each pattern. The blouses are already on my sewing to-do list
* Important note on sizing: Do not be confused about the pattern sizes 2 through 16. Read very carefully to understand the sizing in this book, which is DIFFERENT from all other pattern sizing and also different from ready to wear sizing. Size 2 would be similar to size 12 in BMV, for example, while Size 16 would be similar to size 24 in BMV. So read the book before doing anything drastic!
on December 31, 2012
Received this book for the holidays, doing a muslin of the Pencil Skirt first, will update with further information after finishing that project.
My impressions of the book as someone who has read through it and traced off one of the patterns: first, the book itself is lovely. The spiral binding was an excellent choice and the whole thing is substantial and looks like it would last through years of being paged through and referenced. The master patterns are on sturdy paper. The photos are crisp and pretty although not without their issues (more on that in a minute). I like the layout of the section that handles the patterns, with colored boxes for specific information about each garment and fabric suggestions. I *love* that the book walks through several variations on each pattern. In theory these variations would be simple without photos or step by step instructions, but for beginning garment sewers/pattern drafters like me, it can be intimidating and it's encouraging to have our hands held just a bit at the beginning. The book doesn't do all the work by including the variations ready-made, but it does show very clearly exactly how to change the master patterns and how it should turn out, and I think that's a perfect balance to strike.
I also like the chatty tone. A technical tone can be offputting for novices to a skill. Chattiness is reassuring and friendly, and the information is still clear and concise.
I would have liked to see some fabric variation for each pattern piece, even if only in a color sketch. The garments are made up to Gertie's taste, and there's nothing wrong with that but it is highly individual and probably will not resonate with all readers. It's easy to look at the draped tiki dress, for example, and decide "I don't like that" because I don't want to wear a bright tiki-themed dress, but made in severe gray linen (for instance) I would adore it, and it would have improved the book to demonstrate something of that kind and show what a huge difference fabric choice can make in a garment.
I have to address the elephant in the room, which is the sample garments in the photos. I honestly don't understand how someone can get one big chance to show off the garments she can produce and end up with such poorly fitted examples. This is not *as* big of a deal to me because I've read a lot about fit and can identify the problems, but for someone less familiar with fitting issues it would be very easy to simply decide the clothes look frumpy or unflattering. If Duchesse silk satin doesn't look good in photos, for heavensake, why choose it for a photo shoot? And with the detailed advice on fit in the book, why not fit the sample clothes well? It almost looks to me as if the garments were constructed for a different model and Gertie stepped in at the last minute. It seems to me that if a sewer follows what the text of the book says they'll probably do fine, but they have to be able to overlook the poor examples of fit in the photos.
I sincerely wish that the individual pattern pieces did not overlap on the pattern sheets. I understand that it saves paper and cuts down on bulk. I understand that master patterns for experienced sewers are probably printed like this quite often. But this is not a book for experienced sewers, and for those new to paper patterns the whole thing can be daunting already -- which cutting line is mine? what are all these marks? am I supposed to mark this? did I miss anything? -- and overlapping pattern pieces, all of which have exactly the same kind of lines, multiplies the confusion exponentially. I knew exactly what sort of shape I was looking for with the pencil skirt pattern and it was still difficult for me to make sure I had the correct outline. At the very least, each pattern piece should be printed in a different color, or pieces that overlap should be differentiated by making one black one one gray, for instance. I also wish there were technical drawings of each piece, front and back. I don't think this would have been too complicated to provide and could have been done in the lovely style of the other sketches.
Bottom line for me: I gave the book 4 stars instead of 3 because it got me excited about sewing again. It's colorful, easy to follow, well-organized, and it maintains an awareness of the fun in sewing your own clothes and having no limitations on your creativity. I will be using it and it will be helpful. I look forward to Gertie's future books; I think the flaws this one has are very much first-book flaws, and as a sewing instructor I think she will only get better.
on October 2, 2012
Don't you love our blog-pushed culture? Anyone who writes a blog and gets a decent amount of followers can find themselves with a book contract. In a way it's good - in others, it isn't.
I have dropped by Gertie's blog occasionally - not often, as I can't see the pics at work and can't be bothered to hang too much on the pc at home - I'd rather be sewing - or knitting - or playing with my tarot cards! I've picked up a few bits of info from her and adapted them to my needs... Like her method for narrow hemming a circle skirt, which is very close to the one advocated in Schaeffer's book, but which she screws up in the last step IMHO by machine hemming what looks like a nice silk circle skirt - quel horreur. I did the first steps by machine but the last by hand. And I was only working on tana lawn and linen for my two skirts. Silk!
So, who am I to give a three star review? Well, I was lucky enough to have an aunt who was a sewing genius and the family dressmaker - an adult during WWII, she obviously used vintage techniques.... she taught me a lot, including the total NON-necessity to finish seams that are going to be protected from rubbing and fraying by lining - or by being enclosed, like the seams of facings - likewise, no need to finish bias seams, think about it. Zigzagging or serging any of these seams will only produce a bit more bulk than one wants and make your seams more visible than they need to be. Anyhow, I learnt most of my hand stitching techniques from her - all the ones in this book plus others - pad stitching, lapel work, using pieces of bias fabric in shoulders etc etc. So why, you might ask, did I buy this book? The patterns, natch. And one can always learn - I don't consider myself an expert AT ALL even though I am approaching 50 and have been sewing since I was a kid - and made coats, jackets, and my wedding dress.... my aunt didn't consider herself an expert - but big sis with her wardrobe of expensive designer duds says that in New York and Vienna the only time people complimented her clothes were when they were my aunt's work. How, pray, does anyone get to be an expert after sewing through Vogue sewing book in a couple of years?
Having said all that, I would maybe have given this four stars for the amount of info put together - but after a flick through my book I was SO shocked at the badly fitting clothes in some of the photos. What a turn off - in a blog, bad enough. In a book? Hello! And the terrible pressing.... that skirt hem. And how can Gertie say that darts on top and bottom should line up (they so should!) and then not practice what she preaches? Seriously, Gertie, totally not on. Especially when your title includes the word couture...... If it weren't that I like some of the other stuff, it would have been two stars just because of these last. One thing that also annoyed me was her definitive statement that bound or machine made buttonholes have total vintage cred... no way. It's either bound or hand stitched otherwise there's no vintage cred at all. Nothing wrong with machine made buttonholes if that's what you want and if you are good at them - just leave out the last bit of the sentence.
I don't really care about the gushy girly tone - meaning, it doesn't bother me at all, she's cute - I didn't really expect anything else from her blog. A couple of other models would have been nice though. The whole book is a bit too much of a Gertie worshipping fest. Although it's nice for a change not to see clothes on the typical slim models, the whole real person effect would have been enhanced by at least one model with a totally different shape and look.
One tip to everyone - after an expensive mistake when I trusted a pattern by a designer who sells quite a bit, I now double check all my pattern pieces against each other before I cut my fabric. The startlet jacket lining had issues, so I would recommend the same with these patterns.
on May 7, 2013
I've referred to Gertie's blog over the last few years. It has good ideas and some nice tutorials. I thought this book would give me some good dressmaking ideas and help for working with vintage patterns.
In this respect, the book was good. It has a variety of pattern ideas, and some good info about vintage sewing. However, I didn't feel that there was a whole book's worth of good material. All in all I felt that I would be better off getting this book from the library and flipping through for a few tips and then going off to the fabric store to buy patterns like I usually do.
-A variety of instruction on dealing with vintage patterns and using good careful sewing techniques.
-Details about the inside constructions of jackets and advocating for slow careful and traditional construction.
-Variety of garments from blouses to jackets, skirts, and dresses.
-No suggestions on suitable fabrics or fabric substitutions. Commercial patterns come with a list of suitable fabrics and precise info on notions, buttons, etc. These patterns should too.
-The pattern instructions and variations are unclear. The instruction pictures are drawn in an artistic and sketchy way which is difficult to follow unless you are already experienced. Compared to the clear, technical diagrams in most sewing handbooks (Collette, Burdastyle), these are very inadequate. An experienced sewer would not require the basic how-to info in the beginning, and a novice would have difficulty with the patterns. Thus I wasn't sure who would be able to benefit from the whole book.
-No technical drawings of the garments. It's hard to see all the details without a basic line drawing or even multiple photos of the garment and I don't want to invest time and money in fabric and construction if I don't know what I'm making.
-Like other reviewers, I'd like to see the garments on different women. The tattoos are very very distracting and I had difficulty knowing what the garments would look like on anyone else. I want to make vintage blouses but maybe don't want to wear them with vintage skirts, tights, shoes, haircut and glasses.
on April 25, 2013
I already own several reference books and so bought this for the patterns rather than any of the technique material. So far I've made the pencil skirt and a muslin of the wiggle dress and my experience has been mixed. As someone with a fairly exaggerated hourglass figure, I love Gertie's sizing - so that's a plus. Tracing the patterns I found quite difficult (compared to tracing, say, a Burda magazine pattern). In some places you'll find a dense mess of seam, dart etc. lines and symbols and it is hard to identify the correct line - a minus. I've made the pencil skirt and while I had to make some fitting changes, it was a great base pattern. I also spent quite a few hours tracing and making a muslin of the wiggle dress, only to find that the back and front of the dress don't align (there's about a 1.5-2" difference in the shoulder and side seams between front and back). I had seen a few versions of the dress online and no reports of this problem, so I quadruple checked - that my fabric hadn't stretched out, that I had traced the pattern pieces correctly, that the pattern used a traditional 5/8" seam allowance, etc. I also got out the original pattern sheets and my measuring tape - an exercise which confirmed the issue was a drafting one. This may be a problem specifically with the size 2 pattern line. In any case, it was hugely irritating to have spent several hours tracing, cutting and sewing (gussets, for god's sakes), only to find the pattern was incorrectly drafted.
I'm still pro-Gertie - I like her style, her writing and her personality - I just might stick to her Butterick patterns because I feel confident they'll have been through more rigorous drafting and grading processes.
on November 27, 2012
This was a great buy! The verbiage is fluid and easy to read, and the detailed photos of different hand stitches and seam finishes are fabulous. The pattern making section isn't as detailed as books dedicated to the topic alone, but for simple alterations it's more than adequate. I love the full size pattern pieces- I've purchased other books where I had to size them up from smaller diagrams- this book has an envelope with all of the full size pieces in tact. Overall it's a lot of great information packed into one manual.
The only criticism I have is that the sample wardrobe garments they show in the photos don't do the pieces justice. For example, the pink suit jacket and matching skirt don't look like they were tailored well to the figure, and the fabric itself looks bulky and frumpy. The book states it was created with "double wool crepe" but it reminds me of thick polyester fabric, and it just doesn't look crisp and clean. The skirt that matches has an uneven and messy looking hem, which drives me bonkers and makes me wonder why the authors chose to include this as their best example. The design is lovely, it's just such a shame to see it presented so shabbily.
Nonetheless, it's still a great book with great patterns, and I'm looking forward to sewing some of the fabulous pieces included.
on August 22, 2012
First off I wish to congratulate Gertie for starting as a blog.... then progressing as far as she has today. To go from a seamstress who had a passion then sharing that passion to others, then finally being able to create a published work of art... Amazing!
So to start off, I pre-ordered this book- wasn't supposed to get it until September 6th.... well I got word I would get it by the 26th of August. To my astonishment, waiting by the door on the 22nd was the book! Amazon, you are wonderful.
Now about the book, great information: detailed technique for someone who has made more than curtains but never made a formal gown. The section on zipper insertion was heavenly ( I am scared on zipper insertion- messed up something very expensive and many hours all because of a simple zipper) Gerties vintage techniques are much simpler then the conventional way of sewing. Now some of the patterns are wonderful, others I hope turn out better that the picture ( I think its just due to the fabric used for that "vintage look" ) the only down side is the patterns only come up to a size 16-ish, however if you follow the directions in the book on pattern fitting and manipulation it should be no problem to make them a tad larger( I'm a size 20, so there will be a tad of work until that party dress will be ready for my wedding)
Overall, this was a great investment, a great book, and Gertie is a great individual to support. And to think i found out about her from a simple google search one day to find a free skirt pattern.....