intrigued review: gertie’s new book for better sewing

i received my copy over the weekend. the book is gorgeous, but i definitely have some opinions about it. they are my opinions, mine alone, and not intended to be upsetting. i think gretchen’s book is an important addition to the sewing book library, especially for a new generation of sewasaurus rexi.  the retro vibe portrayed in the book is absolutely unique and well-presented.  adventures in dressmaking also has a great mini-review up, highlighting a lot of my favorite bits of the book.

Book Index/Chapter headings
Part 1/Skills:
-Sewing Retro
-Essential Techniques
-Stabilizing and Tailoring

Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing

Part 2/Wardrobe
-The Pencil Skirt
-The Sultry Sheath
-The Scalloped-Waist Skirt
-The Sweetheart Sundress
-The Wiggle Dress
-The Shirtwaist Dress
-The Suit Jacket
-The Coat Dress

PaperBack or HardBound?
the perfect in-between: hardbound with a spiral.

Does this book have clear illustrations or photographs?
the illustrations are truly wonderful, whimsical, and inspiring. the technical drawings are not so much technical so much as additional fashion illustrations for inspirational or planning purposes.

the photographs all portray gretchen wearing her own creations, which is great on several levels: it’s fabulous to see a real woman with real curves who had real fitting concerns to deal with sporting these fashions. also, “knowing” gretchen through the sewing community (and once, IRL), you can really relate to her in these fashions and try to picture yourself in them. much more effective than a technical drawing!

after all of that, i still have some ambiguity. i think it is because so many of us in the community have eagerly followed gretchen on her journey these past three years. on one hand, it’s wonderful to see gretchen have an opportunity to present, in a printed and professional fashion, some of the techniques we watched her develop on her blog, as illustrated by her variations on the portrait blouse and the button-back blouse, as well as her trademark peter pan collar and tailored wool coat.

on the other hand, having had a chance to “take part” in many other garments via the blog, i can remember which resources she utilized (such as susan khalje’s bridal couture, which played a critical role in her show-stopper of a yellow dress). it’s not my place to say, but i do feel uncomfortable that i can immediately reference, for myself, possible sources for the information that gretchen presents in the book–either because gretchen credited them extensively on her blog, or because i remember reading those sources myself, or because i have also taken classes with some of the teachers acknowledged near the end of the text.  i would wish that some of these references had been more clearly marked out as sources for both inspiration and additional information (and credit), especially because gretchen covers a LOT of ground over the course of her text:  in some ways, more of an appetizer than a main course.  knowing explicitly that these sources are out there would be a great way to encourage more novice seamstresses purchasing the book to keep going with their explorations.

HOWEVER, at the end of the day, i think gretchen did some wonderful work with the way she presents her information and her patterns. the voice with which she describes all of her efforts is unique and fresh, and i think it’s really brilliant and innovative that each pattern comes with suggestions for variations (the 40s-style version of gretchen’s shirtdress will be making its way into my repertoire). more importantly, gertie’s new book for better sewing, much like the colette sewing handbook, speaks to a new generation of seamstresses looking to express themselves via fashion and sewing–and speaks to it eloquently about a wide range of topics that will leave any novice eager to dive farther into the sewing pool for more information.

i will be eagerly scouting the PR boards for women working with the patterns, to see how they work for people, and to see how other seamstresses respond to the book. even with my qualms i was thrilled to purchase such a fresh new take on a sewing book and, more importantly, support one of our own in the sewing community.
have you received your copy yet?  what do you think?

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13 Responses to intrigued review: gertie’s new book for better sewing

  1. Debi says:

    Great review. I am eagerly awaiting my copy!!!

  2. K-Line says:

    Very good review. I have ordered this also. I have concerns about the patterns included, based on the experience I had with the Starlet Suit Jacket, but I’m looking forward to reading it for the visuals and to align it with what I know of the blog.

  3. Pingback: Gertie’s New Book for Making me Eat my Words | Sown Brooklyn

  4. nettie says:

    You really articulated my feelings on the book better than I was able to. I’ve really enjoyed reading the it and thinking about incorporating the techniques within since it arrived. I even bought a tailors ham today lol

    Even with the little concerns niggling at me I’m glad I invested in the book and anticipate making very good use of it.

    • puu says:

      Thanks, Nettie. I do admire Gretchen, and her work is beautifully presented, but the credit thing does niggle. I’m also curious to see if other women have the kind of pattern issues that K-line had.

  5. Clio says:

    I haven’t ordered/pre-ordered the book for two reasons. First – related to your credit issue – I already have several books which are comprehensive and have great techniques. So, I’m not sure what new or better info or techniques there could be in this book. Second, the patterns. I would probably be tempted if the styles were more my style and if I hadn’t been a spectator to K-line’s epic starlet jacket adventure. I’ll probably decide when I see some patterns from it made up and read more discussion about it. I do wish Gertie every success – I’m sure that this book will be just the thing for her target audience.

    • puu says:

      clio, i totally agree. you absolutely articulated a few more of my concerns about the book. still, even though i would not turn to gretchen as, say, a tailoring expert, or for perfect patterns, i do know that when i was first trying to learn about tailoring, a chapter like hers would have been a great jumping off point.

      so in the end, i was happy to be supportive, cash-wise, but personally am not sure how much i will use the book beyond the inspiration value.

  6. Janice says:

    I wasn’t sure if I wanted to buy it at first either, but I already bought the book. I do like her instructions for couture-style sewing, but as for the patterns I’ll be using actual vintage patterns.

  7. Kessem says:

    I actually had the same thought today, about how I remmember gertie saying that a lot of the techniques she learned were from this-and-that. BUT, when you think about it, it’s not like any author that publishes a sewing book (or any other book for that matter) makes up all the techniques, most basic sewing books have the same idea in the (how to treat fabric and how to sew with specialty fabrics – which rarely changes between books, how to construct basic garments – again, doesn’t really change. and I can say pretty much the same about more advanced books or couture books). I think there are very few techniques that were made up in the last 30 years, so I don’t really expect Gertie to fill up a book with original content.
    would you agree?

    • puu says:

      actually, i agree with you and think you said it very well. one of the major bonuses of gretchen’s book is there sheer volume and variety of sewing techniques she includes–including many techniques that i would have loved to have all collected into one book when i was first learning how to sew.

  8. Mimi says:

    I love the information part of the book. I think she presents it in an approachable way. I’m just trying to figure out if these are the same patterns as the original Vogue patterns referenced in Vogue’s New Book for Better Sewing.

    • puu says:

      my feeling on the patterns is that while they were definitely inspired and informed by some of her favorite vintage looks, including the pieces she’s worked through in the Vogue New Book for Better Sewing, the drafting was all her own.

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