Monday, October 6, 2014

Vintage Casual, Gertie-style

I just finished my first go at one of the patterns in Gretchen Hirsch's new book, Gertie Sews Vintage Casual. This is the Zip-Front Dress.

I'm going to take a quick detour to talk about this book, which I've been really enjoying. It includes a bunch of patterns that I'm looking forward to trying. Vintage casual seems to be just the ticket for my dog-walking, retired-person lifestyle.

The book is organized a lot like Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing, with a beginning section talking about her inspiration for the designs and discussing the kinds of tools, materials and skills you'll be learning (including a section on sewing with knits).

In the second section she has patterns for the following pieces, along with instructions for some very cute variations:
  • a 40's style blouse with tucks, which you can turn into darts if you want a sleeker look
  • a flared woven skirt
  • a knit top with neckline and sleeve variations
  • cigarette pants, with variations including 40's style wide-leg trousers
  • a knit pencil skirt that you can flare, or gore for even more drama
  • a pin-up sweater, with instructions for tweaking to a very cute, basic cardigan. I'll be trying that one for sure. 
  • a shift dress
  • a wrap dress designed for woven fabric. I'll be giving this one a whirl too.
  • a halter top (if I were 30 years younger...)
  • and the zip front dress you see above
Gertie says she sizes her patterns pretty close to RTW, but with a curvier bent (a bigger waist to hip ratio).  My bust is a Gertie size 4, my waist is a size 6 and my hips are a size 2. What can I say? I'm a brick. For this dress I decided to start with a straight-up size 6 (36-28-40). I thought a little looseness would be comfortable in the top, the waist might be more or less right and with a skirt this full, why stress about fit in the hips?

I toyed with the idea of doing some flat pattern measurements to double-check for size, but take a look a the shape of this bodice piece:

The bodice back and front are cut as one piece, with the kimono sleeve shaped with a pleat in the shoulder. Looking at it all traced out I had no idea how to measure, let alone how to sew, but Gertie's instructions are clear and the size worked out pretty much just as I'd hoped.

I used a chunk of cotton I got at IKEA because I thought the beetles were cute.

The fabric is really navy and white, as it looks here. Not the brighter blue in the outdoor photos.
When my sewing buddy Jessica saw it she asked if I knew any entomologigists. The fabric is really more a home dec weight, but I was so enchanted with the print that I dove in despite some misgivings.

Gertie advises you to secure 3 yards of 60 inch wide fabric. I had probably 2 1/2. I got the end of the bolt. It required two minds and about 30 minutes to squeeze on all my pattern pieces. Turns out this is a directional print, but no way I could take that into account, so my beetles are climbing up my dress on the front and down my dress on the back.

There are some cute design details that are lost in this print, like patch pockets with little pleats. The collar would be really fun to do in a contrasting fabric. Gertie gives instructions for adding piping to the sleeves and pockets, which I bypassed for this version but will totally try out on my next.

Hand in patch pocket
I really enjoyed sewing this dress! It was a trip to see how the bodice came together. It's very comfortable to wear and I love the zip front. I have plans to make another in an actual garment fabric. 

My pattern review is on here.


  1. What a cute dress, Nancy! Love the fabric and it seems to work well with the style lines even if it is a bit heavy. Your version of that dress made me check the local library and put in a request for the book....not that I need any more patterns, for goodness sake. But ones that are useful and not just pretty, can be hard to find.

    Love the styling with the red shoes, too!

    1. Thanks very much! When I was playing with the idea of piping I was going to use red. Then the shoes would really have matched! Next time...

  2. I think the fabric/pattern combination is perfect. I appreciated your overview of the book. Good review to increase my curiosity to find the book and delve further.

    1. Thanks! I'm really enjoying the book. Next up is going to be the cropped cardigan using some grey sweater knit I have in stash. I've been wanting to try using a ribbon button band with machine-made button holes!

  3. Such a cute dress! Looks great on you and the pockets and zip front raises the comfort level bar to a high level. You always find the best patterns!

  4. I love this dress, I don't think it matters at all about the direction of those beatles. The print is awesome I can see why you needed it.

  5. I love the print and the dress style on you! I have Gertie's new book on my Christmas list this year. Fingers crossed!! :)

    Also changed my web address to
    Just wanted to let you know since I enjoy you so much!