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I've long been a fan of Gretchen Hirsch (known as Gertie) and her blog Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing. I love her rockabilly style, kitschy-cute dresses and her treatise on feminism and foundation garments. She really is an entertaining and interesting writer. So in 2012 when I heard she'd released her first book, Gertie's New Book For Better Sewing, I was thrilled. It took me ages to get the courage to buy it though!

I know you're wondering why.


Detail of open pages of Gerties New Book For Better Sewing, by Gretchen Hirsch.

Gertie’s New Book For Better Sewing, by Gretchen Hirsch, includes lots of diagrams to explain techniques that might be new to inexperienced sewists.


Because as much as I love vintage fashion, I knew virtually nothing about the couture techniques used to achieve those gorgeous, structured garments. Vintage sewing and couture sewing have an awful lot in common. They share fine sewing techniques, unusual fabrics, strange terminology and a whole lot of hand-stitching. I let that level of commitment to a garment overwhelm me, but I really shouldn't have.

Gertie's New Book For Better Sewing is a wonderful introduction to the world of fine, vintage-inspired clothing. She covers extensive techniques and tips—from pad stitching to stabilising to laundering—which I found easy to understand and quite inspiring. She also covers some history of fashion designers from the early part of the Twentieth Century, gives an outline to common silhouettes and features found in vintage fashion, and even covers the pros and cons of using true vintage patterns versus reproduction retro patterns. Gertie doesn't stop with just stitching and couture techniques though. She also covers pattern adjustments and patternmaking, and gives advice on how to achieve the perfect fit.


Gertie gives a comprehensive take on the pros and cons with working authentic vintage patterns and compares it to working with reproduction retro patterns. It’s a very useful guide and worth taking into consideration next time you’re lusting over that hard-to-find vintage sewing pattern.


Gertie's New Book For Better Sewing also comes with 12 garment patterns, plus instructions for a whole swag of variations. I particularly love her 1940s A-Line Military-style skirt and plan to make it soon. Her patterns range from the deceptively simple Bow-Tied Blouse (bound buttonholes, anyone?) to her New Look-inspired suit jacket, which is anything but simple.

Final verdict

This book is not for beginners looking for a quick make. No way! However, this post outlines all the best books I recommend for sewing beginners. But if you're a beginner sewist with a penchant for fine sewing and wanting to expand your repertoire, then it's definitely one worth adding to your sewing book collection.

Gertie's New Book For Better Sewing is published by Stuart, Tabori & Chang available from The Book Depository for about $40 (AUD). 


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