And so, to the book.
It took me a year to buy the book, primarily because I have been sewing for more years than I care to admit to. While I’ve consulted Gertie’s blog on occasion, for technique, I thought the book was better suited for women who were new to sewing. And while I still believe there is some truth to that, so far, this is not a book I would recommend to someone who had never made clothes before – not unless she has someone to guide her through the trickier bits.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
On first reading, this is a beautiful book. If you are a fan of Gertie’s style and aesthetic, then my suspicion is that you will adore this book. The design, the mix of photographs and illustrations, Gertie’s writing, and the garment styling all combine to make a really lovely book. Sun Young Park’s illustrations are worth a blog post on their own.
The book is divided into two parts: Part One – Skills, Part Two – Wardrobe. Part One is similar to Gertie’s blog; she talks about vintage style in a contemporary setting, vintage patterns versus modern patterns, and vintage sizing. There is a chapter on tools and fabric, which the seasoned seamstress will probably skip (although I loved the dictionary of fabric).
There are a couple of chapters on technique, which is worth book price alone. Gertie talks about grain, stitches and when to use them, seam finishes, zips, buttonholes and buttons. Tailoring techniques, interfacing and stabilizers, underlining, boning. Everything the Seasoned Seamstress – who might want to slow down a little, might want to return to the couture techniques, the reasons why you can still buy and wear, garments made in the 1940s and 1950s – will want to have in her sewing repertoire.
There’s a chapter on basic pattern making, which shows you how to alter necklines, move darts, add and remove fullness, as well as how to draft, from scratch, a dirndl and circle skirt.
And then Gertie talks about the F-word – Fitting – and the various methods of fitting before you take your scissors to fabric.
But if all this was not enough, there are patterns. And oh, what patterns they are!
There are ten patterns in all, which expands to about 22, with pattern alterations, that Gertie steps you through. The patterns are stored in a lovely envelope, and need to be hand traced – this is not like buying a commercial pattern, where you can cut them out. Although I have to say, as someone who has cut commercial patterns out for years, in the last twelve months I have stopped, and take a tissue tracing of every garment I sew. But we’ll talk more about that later.
Having only sewn a couple of garments from this book so far, the patterns are worth the book price alone. I’ve already said that, I know. Of course, the big disclaimer here is that you have to love the 50s silhouette, and be able to wear it. This really is a book for the Hourglass Woman, so if you aren’t working T&A, if you are more athletic in stature, you might want to reconsider buying this book.
Now there has been some criticism of this book, and without going into it in any great detail, I have to say it’s warranted. While I love this book, and am thrilled that Gertie has had success with it (I love it when women succeed, don’t you?), I was a little taken aback at the appearance of some of the garments. But these are minor things, things that the seasoned seamstress will pick, and will fix in her own garment making. They are tiny nit-picks, and do not in any way take away from this book, which is gorgeous.
There’s one final thing. If you are going to buy this book – and I’d recommend any seamstress serious about technique, vintage tailoring & styling consider adding it to her library – I’d really love it if you bought the book from a bookstore, and not the sodding internet. Retail is in the brown stuff Lovelies, and while a lot of that is due to poor customer service, I’d still encourage you to venture out, and up to your local bricks and mortar bookstore, particularly if it’s an independent. Books, bookstores and the brave souls who own them are essential to our well-being, and we must support them. Go spend an afternoon browsing in your favourite bookstore. Buy books. Buy this one. You won’t regret it.
(Listening to Cheerleader, Grizzly Bear, Vekatimest)