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Contents Introduction

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PA R T 1 : S K I L L S 8

CHAPTER ONE: SEWING RETRO 101 CHAPTER TWO: PREPPING (TOOLS, MACHINES, FABRIC)

22

CHAPTER THREE: ESSENTIAL TECHNIQUES

42

C H A P T E R F O U R : S TA B I L I Z I N G A N D TA I L O R I N G

68

C H A P T E R F I V E : PAT T E R N M A K I N G

86 108

CHAPTER SIX: FITTING

PA R T 2 : WA R D R O B E Pattern Maps

198

Resources and Links Acknowledgments Index 4

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GERTIE’S NEW BOOK FOR BETTER SEWING

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• •

202 203

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SEWING RETRO 101

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5


PA RT O N E

CHAPTER ONE

Sewing Retro 101

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GERTIE’S NEW BOOK FOR BETTER SEWING

S E W I N G W I T H C O N T E M P O R A R Y PAT T E R N S

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T H E A L L U R E O F V I N TA G E PAT T E R N S

14

15

• Sourcing • Vintage Sizing • Tracing Vintage Patterns • Storing Your Patterns • Pattern Reissues

SEWING RETRO 101

17 18 20 20

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W

hile a kitschy retro look isn’t for everyone, I don’t know a single woman who doesn’t love classic

glamour (think perfectly fitted sheath dresses and tailored coats rather than poodle skirts and bobby socks). I’ve personally always loved ’50s-inspired looks. But I’ve found I prefer sewing vintage-inspired clothing rather than shopping for vintage clothes, for the sole reason that almost none of them fit me. Seriously! If I can find something big enough in the shoulders, there’s still no way it’s zipping up my midsection. And while I’m not against a little body-shaper action, I’m just not going to wear an industrial-strength girdle or corset to get into a dress that—let’s face it—may smell a bit of eau de mothball.

So before I started sewing clothes in earnest, I

used to cobble together a retro-inspired wardrobe from chain retailers. I’d top it all off with vintage costume jewelry inherited from my great-aunt and brightly colored

Pros & Cons of Contemporary and Vintage Patterns CONTEMPORARY W I T H R E T R O D E TA I L S

V I N TA G E

PROS

PROS

• Large size range • Readily available • Relatively cheap (Look out

• Details like interesting pockets

for online sales!)

• New offerings every season

• Modern fit with shorter

hemlines—a plus if your tastes run more toward contemporary

round-toe pumps. Done! Instant retro.

All this is to say: Cultivating a retro-glam look

is not just for those with the body type, time, and money to troll charming little vintage shops for the perfect wardrobe. There are several ways to sew the chic wardrobe of your dreams: 1) Use contemporary patterns with retro details, or 2) Go for the real deal with authentic vintage patterns. One isn’t better than the other, but they each have their pros and cons.

• Notions and materials

needed are easy to find

Detailed instructions

CONS

• Modern silhouettes might

need to be “retro-fied”—for example, a hem might need tapering

• Pattern envelopes don’t

have that amazing vintage artwork and aesthetic— they just don’t design ’em like they used to!

• Lack vintage detailing,

like kimono sleeves and underarm gussets

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GERTIE’S NEW BOOK FOR BETTER SEWING

and lovely draping

• Drool-worthy envelope art • You may find treasures, like old

photos, fabric swatches, or love letters, in the envelope!

CONS

• Tissue can be fragile and difficult to work with

• Expensive if rare (While vintage patterns start at a few dollars for more commonplace designs, prices can exceed $200 for rarer ones.)

• Limited sizes • Difficult to imagine the garment

on your body when the illustration shows a woman with a waist smaller than her head!

• Notions called for can be

dated (Ever seen marquisette in your local fabric shop? Yeah, me neither.)

• Minimal instructions (Example: “Make a bound buttonhole,” with no further illustrations or explanation. Yikes!)

SEWING RETRO 101

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I

n this chapter, we’re still exploring techniques: specifically, the

techniques that will help mold your garment into its lovely vintage shape.

When I went to see the amazing

Golden Age of Couture exhibit at the Frist in Nashville, I was struck by the fact that the masterpieces of the ’40s and ’50s fall into two categories: highly constructed eveningwear and expertly

Stabilizers Just as its name suggests, a stabilizer is a fabric or another product used to stabilize areas of a garment and add structure and body to it. A stabilizer, for example, can keep a neckline from stretching out of shape during construction, which is important since stretching on this or another area of a garment containing bias fabric can cause pattern pieces to not fit together properly and may also produce gaping on the final garment. A diverse array of stabilizers are

available. The most common one is interfacing, which comes as a fusible that needs to be ironed onto the fabric it will stabilize, or as a sew-in interfacing, which (guess what!) is sewn into place. Interfacing is often used to stabilize a garment’s waistband, collar, and cuffs; and, in the drawings below, you’ll see other areas that benefit from stabilizers too. Boning, flannel, and horsehair are also commonly used as stabilizers in addition to interfacing.

tailored suits for daywear. The dresses had boning and crinolines, and some even had separate, specially designed

W H E R E T O U S E S TA B I L I Z E R S In a strapless Dress

In a Tailored S uit

undergarments to support them. One of my favorite designers of the period is Charles James, whose dresses were so stabilized with boning, flannel, hair canvas, and netting that they could stand up on their own. The suits were just as breathtaking. Balenciaga’s bound buttonholes, softly folded lapels, and structured peplums were a highlight of the exhibit. The hallmarks of great tailoring were evident in each piece.

For these reasons, I’ve devoted this

chapter to the skills that will help you achieve those looks of the golden age: boned bodices, pad stitched lapels, and much more.

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S TA B I L I Z I N G A N D TA I L O R I N G

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The Portrait Blouse This sweet blouse is figure-flattering and amazingly versatile. Make it in a cotton eyelet and pair it with shorts in the summer. In wool jersey, it’s a great wintertime layering piece with a pencil skirt and cardigan. And it’s absolutely smashing in a drapey silk satin for a glam evening look. There are very few fabrics this design won’t work in! I would just avoid anything that’s too stiff (like taffeta, for instance), as it won’t provide a flattering drape. The length of the blouse is relatively

KEY SKILLS

• • • • •

Working with slippery fabrics Narrow hems (see page 64) Hand overcasting (optional; see page 55) Fabric Interfacings (optional; see page 72) Hand-picked zipper (see page 56)

SUPPLIES

• •

short, so add length at the hem if you like

Portrait Blouse pattern pieces (from pattern sheet TK) following layout on page 198) 1.5 yards (1.4 meters) 45" (114 cm) blouse fabric or 1 yard (9 meters) 60" (152 cm) blouse fabric 9" (23 cm) zipper ½" yard (.5 meters) interfacing

your tops on the longer side.

• •

I N ST R U CT I O N S

FABRIC NOTES

1. This neckline needs to be stabilized well

so that it won’t gape. Stay-stitch H" (1.3 cm) from top edge, or use one of the other methods described on page 77 (A). 2. Stitch front-bust darts, and press them (B). 3. Stitch dart tucks on front and back pattern

pieces by bringing the two lines together and stitching. Backstitch at beginning and end of the tucks. Press tucks to the center of each piece (C). 4. Stitch blouse front and back together at the shoulder seams. Press open (D). 5. Stitch front and back together at side seams, starting at upper notch and leaving left side open under lower notch for zipper. Press seams open, clipping into seam allowance at waistline to allow seam to lie flat (E).

My sample blouse is made up in a dotted silk charmeuse. Charmeuse is known for its luxurious feel and signature sheen. It’s also known for being fussy to work with because it’s so slippery. The two best tips I can give you are 1) put weights on your pattern pieces when cutting out, and cut with a rotary blade. This keeps the silk from shifting as you cut it because it remains flat on the table. 2) Hand-baste your darts and seams together before stitching on the machine. This may seem like overkill, but it makes working with charmeuse a snap, rather than a nightmare. Plus, on a small project like this one, there aren’t too many seams to baste. Remember to remove your basting before pressing!

THE PORTRAIT BLOUSE

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Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing by Gretchen Hirsch, illustrated by Sun Young Park - Abrams STC  

A hardworking reference that teaches seamstress’s the couture-quality techniques that were once standard, plus instructions for 25 versatile...

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