Sunday, 14 December 2014

Gertie book review (Part 1): New book for better sewing

I recently completed my set of Gertie sewing books so I thought it would be fun to do a bit of a comparative review to see how they differ from each other. I hope this helps anyone wondering which book they should, the first book I am reviewing is her first book (my latest purchase). Her first book I would say is dedicated to more 'couture' and classic 'vintage' styles. The techniques are more difficult and there are more challenging patterns, so I would say this is for an advanced beginner. You would need to have a few garments that you have already sewn as I suspect a newbie might want to tear their hair out if this was their first project.

The book is split into two distinct parts, one being skills and one being wardrobe. 

Skills: the skills section includes a section with information on sewing vintage patterns, repro and vintage inspiration. It also includes a section on preparation which focuses on pretreating the fabric, tools and fabric required and general sewing information that you might find in a beginner book. This provided a good base and reference point, even if you are not totally confident with sewing some of the projects this section is still very useful. Also included is a section on techniques ranging from simple hems, stitches, zippers, buttonholes and stabilising to more couture techniques such as tailoring, boning, pad stitching and bound buttonholes. These techniques are all used throughout the book and are explained clearly with well drawn diagrams.  There is also a section on pattern making, cutting and altering which comes in handy with the paper patterns included. The lucky last section is on fitting and goes through all sorts of flat pattern adjustments useful in creating a great fit. 

The second section of the book is the wardrobe section, this includes the patterns, pattern variations and cutting diagrams.  There are 10 base patterns with many different variations, each pattern has comprehensive, easy to follow instructions and illustrations. Each variation has instructions and illustrations guiding the reader through adjusting the existing pattern to achieve the look. I feel that this is a good way to encourage people to play around with patterns. 

There are 10 base patterns with many variations: 
1. Pencil skirt: the pencil skirt is fitted and has a classic shape with a high waistband. The high waist band can be boned. With this pattern there are also instructions on creating a pencil skirt with a flounce and a 1940s style A-line skirt with pin-tucks. 
2. Portrait blouse: A fairly simple blouse that is neither too loose nor too tight and looks great tucked into a skirt. There are also instructions on how to make this blouse in Chantilly lace, which requires different finishings.
3. Sultry Sheath: A red hot dress that is close fitted with a low heart shaped neckline. It creates an hourglass shape and has double darts in the bodice and skirt waist. Instructions are also included on how to change this into a square necked winter jumper dress and a sundress.
4. Scallop waist skirt: A high waisted full gored skirt with scallop waist detail, the waist is boned for shape. One variation is included with a straight waist akin to the dior new look suit skirt that is so famous. 
5. Bow tie blouse: a simple, slightly shaped blouse with a bowtie neckline that opens by bound button holes in the back. Two variations are included, a keyhole version and a peter pan version.

6. Sweetheart sundress: A sundress with gathered, sweetheart bust with thick straps, front facing and gathered skirt. Two variations are included; a tiki dress with shirred back and slightly draped skirt plus a sweetheart strapless dress with circle skirt.

7. Wiggle dress: A fitted classic wiggle dress with 3/4 sleeves and underarm gussets. A brocade dress (pictured on cover) and dropped waist cocktail dress are included as variations. 

8. Shirtwaist dress: A classic shirtwaist dress with puffed sleeves and shirred back. A zip-front 1940s style variation is included.

9. Suit jacket: This is in the style of the famous 1940s Dior newlook suit jacket. It is very tailored with slight flare at the waist. No variations are given for this pattern

10. Coat dress: elbow length coat dress with circle skirt, collar and off centre buttons. No variations are given for this pattern and looks to be one of the more difficult patterns. 


Throughout the book there are many beautiful illustrations that make this book not only practical and easy to understand, but also very pretty to look at. 

One of my favourite patterns in the book is this dress, the wiggle dress. I feel that it gives a nice shape with a good length. The sleeves make it good to wear in between seasons or in an air-conditioned environment. The underarm gussets would add ease of movement making it more practical for everyday life. I love the colour of the fabric used and the styling. I would like to make this in both a stunning colour and a plain black as I feel this would be a great wardrobe staple that can be worn for work, evening or everyday. 

I also love the simplicity of the pencil skirt. It is such a basic pattern that with correct fitting looks a million dollars. The length is perfect and adds the the vintage vibe and the high waistband gives a very hourglass shape that is very flattering. Again, this is a wardrobe staple than can be made in many colours and fabrics that can be worn on almost any occasion. I also have this on my to sew list. 

Also pictured is the bow tie blouse, I think it looks perfect with the pencil skirt, what do you think? 

Another pattern I love is the shirtwaist dress. I love the fabric used in the picture as it plays up the vintage vibe and makes it look really fun. The covered belt makes it look very polished and hides the shirring in the back. Yay for shirring! Yay for comfort! Depending on the styling and fabric I feel this dress could be made to look from both the 40s, 50s or  early 60s.

This is not a pattern but a variation of the sweetheart sundress pattern. The tiki dress is a beautiful rendition of the pattern that feels very tropical and glamourous. It too has shirring for comfort and fit and I am very excited to work up to this dress as I have wanted to buy a 1950s tiki style dress for a long time (but cannot afford it).

  • beautiful illustrations
  • helpful instructions and diagrams
  • includes variations on patterns which encourages pattern altering skills.
  • simple to advanced techniques and patterns 
  • techniques required to create variations or patterns have written instructions on the page and within the skills section. 
  • Discusses vintage patterns and inspiration
  • Advanced beginner can grow with the book using each project as an opportunity to learn new skills. 
  • Beautiful vintage style patterns that will build up a lovely wardrobe.
  • Not a  starter book, this is a book that one would get after they have mastered the very basics. 
  • Some images and fabric used make it hard to see detail, especially the drop waist cocktail dress.
I would say that this is a great book and I am very glad to have bought it. It can create a mini wardrobe full of vintage styles and is a great way to learn new skills or practice complex skills if you are a intermediate/advanced sewer. I would highly recommend it. 

Hang around for part 2: Gertie sews vintage casual and part 3 where I compare them.

Have a good week!
Alecia xxx


  1. Thank you for a lovely comment :) I'm glad I found your blog as I love sewing too!

  2. Oh, I can't wait for part 2 of your review! I certainly don't need any more 'fancy' dress patterns as my box of vintage patterns is full and well and truly overflowing with patterns I haven't sewn up yet...

    However, when I saw that Gertie had released a casual vintage pattern book, I was all "Ooo! Me wantie!" I haven't been brave enough to try sewing pants or shorts, so I'm hoping this book might hold my hand a little and I can give some vintage trousers a whirl. Definitely very interested to hear what you have to say about this book. ❤

    bonita of Lavender & Twill

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it! It shall be up soon after Christmas (I left it behind in the rush to fit everything in the car to bring back to my hometown, oops!)

      I feel you! I have sooooo many fancy patterns that I haven't gotten too. When it comes to vintage patterns its so easy to get caught up in the gorgeous fancy patterns and forget things that are a little more practical.

      It does have a lot of info on fitting pants and shorts so I think you'll find it useful :) It certainly has built my confidence up a bit so I think I might try to make some soon. Pants and the fitting issues that come with them seem so scary!


  3. This is a great Review, I have been thinking about this book for a while now! x


Hello! Thank you for commenting. I read every single comment and will try and reply as soon as possible.

Have a lovely day! :)