Hello readers! I preordered Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing from Amazon and it’s finally arrived. I’ve had some time to sit with it and whip up a muslin from one of the patterns, and I know lots of sewistas who have been waiting with bated breath for this book; so I thought it was time to write a review.
This book is beautiful. My favourite part are the illustrations which are beautifully done and add a very sophisticated artsiness to the book. Cudos to Sun Young Park who illustrated the book – very well done. The instructions for the patterns are also illustrated, which I found to be not entirely clear. I would have preferred photographs or technical line drawings (more boring, yes, but when it comes to instruction, the clearer the better). One thing I found frustrating was the lack of technical drawings for each pattern. I would like to see what features the garment has, both front and back, before I make it – and the photographs (although lovely) just don’t cut it in this regard. Sometimes there are photos of all sides of the garments, sometimes not. Also, the darts on the sheath dress don’t match up!! This is why I gave this category 4 Kat dots out of 5.
This book is organised into two parts: Skills and Wardrobe (where all the patterns are). Skills is divided into a) Sewing Retro 101, b) Prepping, c) Essential Techniques, d) Stabilizing and tailoring, e) Patternmaking and f) Fitting. This is where the book really shines, in my opinion; it’s full of great information on incorporating couture/vintage techniques not seen in normal pattern instructions to help make your garments that little bit more special. Gertie does this without being too full on (like Claire Shaeffer’s Couture Techniques – which I love, BTW); which will appeal to someone who has some sewing under their belt, but wants to up their game a bit. However, if you want it from the experts, get Claire or Susan Khalje’s books. Like her blog, the sewing is interspersed with commentaries on things like vintage sewing, designers to inspire you and undergarments – much of it from a feminist perspective. All in all, the skills section of the book is good if this is your first introduction to using couture/vintage techniques. However, if you’ve already read Couture Techniques or Bridal Couture or taken one of Susan’s Khalje’s couture courses, you won’t learn anything new here. 5 out of 5 Kat dots.
Patterns and Instructions
I must admit, I bought this book for the wiggle dress! I like most of the designs in the book and the variations inspire you to alter the garments to suit your personal style. Here are the designs in order of appearance:
The Pencil Skirt
The Portrait Blouse
The Sultry Sheath
The Scalloped-Waist Skirt
The Bow-Tied Blouse
The Sweetheart Sundress
The Wiggle Dress
The Shirtwaist Dress
The Suit Jacket
The Coat Dress
All in all, classic and beautiful vintage inspired designs. So, if you’re into that thing, you’re in for a treat with this book. I’ve made up toiles (muslins) for both the portrait blouse and the the bow-tied blouse. They went together quite well (no drafting problems there), but the fit was not good for me, which is certainly not Gertie’s fault!! I think she drafted the patterns according to her own body type, so if you vary a lot from that, expect to do quite a bit of fitting. If you check out the comments there seem to be others who are also having fitting problems. The one other quibble I have with the patterns is I would have liked to seen the notches done in the traditional way, which is one notch for centre front, two for side seams and three for the back. I always look for these as clues as to which pattern pieces go with which - especially helpful when some of them look very similar. I also want technical drawings (again!), so I would know what the finished garment should look like from the front AND back. I also found there were not enough notches to match things up, so more would be appreciated. Also, markings for the natural waist and hiplines would be great, as well as lengthen/shorten lines. These are very very helpful when determining if you want to lengthen/shorten a garment and where to do it. The instructions are ok, but again, would like more clear line drawings or photographs to illustrate the steps to construction. So, 3.5 Kat dots out of 5.
All in all, this is a well put together book It has some useful information about incorporating couture techniques into your daily sewing. A good review by Burke over at mysewcalled life (you can check out her blog here) on Amazon said it rightly, I think – basically, I would give Colette to a beginner sewer, but this book to someone who wants to increase theirs skills (hence the Intermediate Home Sewer target audience), however if you have one of the books from any of the couture greats such as Claire or Susan, you won’t learn anything new here; and I would recommend “Couture Sewing Techniques” or “Bridal Couture” over Gertie’s book if you want to get into couture sewing. The designs are vintage and kitch (only good if you’re into that kind of thing) and the variations presented are inspirational. I have a few quibbles with the way the instructions were presented and I think the patterns could have been better drafted, but hey, no one’s perfect. I would recommend this book if you want the patterns or if you want to learn a few couture techniques without being too full on. 4 Kat dots out of 5.
Have you ordered this book yet? Do you have it? Do you want it? Tell me about it!!
UPDATE: It sounds like there is some interest for me to do a post on my experiences with the bow-tie and portrait blouses, so these are in the works – stay tuned!
Relax and Enjoy,