As soon as I started hearing that Amazon was shipping copies of Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing early, I went ahead and snapped up a copy for myself! I’ve been eager to see how Gertie (whose blog many of us sewing-types love) had translated and added to the knowledge she’s shared over the years through her blog. It’s been amazing to watch her journey from just starting her blog to publishing a book. My hat goes off to her for her success! She’s well known in the sewing world for her love of and extensive use of vintage and couture style techniques, which oozes from every page of this book.
The book is a fantastic compendium of information for those who are interested in sewing vintage inspired garments. About half the book is devoted to the basics of sewing and techniques. I admit, I just skimmed over this because I have so many vintage sewing books that much of the information is just repetitive to me. And having been so immersed in the vintage sewing culture online for the past decade, there is no new information to me about the pros and cons of vintage versus new patterns, storing them, sizing, etc. But, I have to say what impressed me the most is that Gertie hasn’t watered down many of these sewing methods, which makes this a great resource for those who are looking to expand their sewing knowledge (even if vintage style sewing isn’t your thing). It’s like all the essentials of Couture Sewing Techniques and the best vintage sewing books, only condensed into just the ones that most home casual sewists will need or use. You’ll find everything from how to make a self covered belt (yay!), to tailoring, common handstitches, hemming for different skirt styles, and her favorite couture zipper insertion methods.
The patterns are what I really bought this book for, I have to admit! Packaged along with the book in a sleeve inside the front cover (and printed on heavier paper!), the styles range from super fitted dresses to separates, but all have a distinct vintage flair which is Gertie’s trademark look. I’m a bit sad that I won’t be able to make any of these up until post-baby–because the 1940s zip front dress is really calling to me! (But will be super comfy to wear after the baby arrives with it’s shirred elastic waist, and nursing friendly too! I have the perfect novelty print rayon I’ll be saving for this.) I feel like Gertie found a good balance of classic styles that can be made suitable for day or fancier wear based on your fabric and embellishment choices. Whether you want to make a more involved suit jacket or a classic pencil skirt, there are some really fetching base styles here. The patterns range from a 32″ bust to 46″, and have been tailored for gals with larger hiplines (like myself!) in mind.
I am pretty impressed by the basics of drafting and pattern alteration that she managed to fit into the book. Condensing this sort of information in an understandable manner is no easy feat. It’s not extensive as a book devoted to drafting would be, but for the average sewist, it’s a great starting point. Another aspect that I love about this book is how Gertie stresses planning out your sewing process. Rather than rely on step-by-step instructions, she encourages you to gather the knowledge you absorbed in the first (techniques) half of the book, and apply it to making the garments in the second half. While there are instructions, they are more guidelines. When you start to strike out onto your own and customize patterns, the ability to know what technique and steps to use when becomes extremely helpful, and yet something that a lot of sewing books don’t teach. Kudos, Gertie!
May I just say a word on the aesthetics of this book? I am completely in love with the sketchy illustrations scattered throughout the book! Cute with a retro vibe, but they don’t look like they’re out of a circa 1950 book (not a bad thing, but just updated and a little cheekier!). The spiral binding is a big plus too; the ongoing trend for opting to use that binding method with crafting books is something I love. So much easier to keep you’re book open when you’re referring to a technique.
If you love vintage or vintage inspired sewing, but are frustrated by the lack of affordable vintage patterns (or styles that translate well for the 21st century woman), or are looking for a good resource to up your sewing skills, then I definitely recommend taking a look at Gertie’s book. I know my copy is going on my sewing shelf and I’m eagerly looking forward to making a few things next year!