Monday, 5 November 2018

Sewing with Gertie

The international sewing starlet (by her own description) is touring little ol' New Zealand. Whilst Gertie's class was pretty expensive by local standards my girlfriend and I decided to indulge for a bit of fun. This was the prize for working hard.

Thanks to Linda McCarthy Studio for organising the tour, which all started with Jasmine and her Facebook conversations with Gertie.

I have to confess to being a bit unsure about taking this class. Not being into retro chic, as you can tell from the class photo. It was however a great way to spend a relaxing couple of days. Gretchen is very down to earth, was attentive to our needs and abilities and provided good sewing advice. Gretchen also managed to sew up a pink jacquard version of the Night and Day dress during her quiet moments.

Creates Sew Slow: Sewing with Gertie
Gretchen and I, posing for photographs before the start of day 2

The finished garment

So there is no finished garment and I wasn't going to publish this post until I had the finished dress to show you. But I decided to publish and be damned as I am still debating about ordering more fabric to re-do the skirt back. I will try hard to finish the dress in time for the end of year round up!

I made a small cutting error with the back skirt pieces, which were cut out after tea on the evening of day one of the class. I cut the piece single layer, carefully lined up the centre back seam on the straight of grain and made sure I had enough fabric left to match the centre back seam when I cut out the other half. Unfortunately it wasn't the centre back seam I lined up on the straight grain but the side seam. It took me over an hour of moving the pattern piece around, not understanding why I couldn't match the flowers before the penny dropped. Because it was a stupid mistake it bothers me especially when the bodice is pattern matched beautifully.

Here is the photographic evidence of the almost beautifully fitting bodice for the Night and Day dress.

Creates Sew Slow: Sewing with Gertie

Creates Sew Slow: Sewing with Gertie

Creates Sew Slow: Sewing with Gertie
The perfectly matched back seam. Hope it still looks like this after the zip is inserted
Creates Sew Slow: Sewing with Gertie
The not perfectly matched skirt centre back seam

The fabric

I have rather a large fabric collection so resisted the lure of a Gertie fabric from Spotlight as well as the discount offered by Bolt of Cloth (Gertie class attendees were given a discount code) and used something from my collection. The fabric must have been bought with a dress in mind as there was plenty, but the dress had not yet materialised. Oh that would be because I am much more prolific at buying than I am at making.  It actually felt good to use something I already had.


Creates Sew Slow: Sewing with Gertie
Liberty of London Carline tana lawn
In all honesty this fabric was probably unused because it is a bit too pretty for me. Not sure what I was thinking when I bought it, during my visit to Liberty earlier this year, but at least I didn't buy the pink colourway. When I found it and realised I had three metres the fates spoke it was destined to be a Gertie Night and Day dress.

The pattern

The class was to teach Gertie's (Charm Patterns) Night and Day dress. Whilst I am not a 1950's glamour dresser there were enough options in this pattern to be excited to try it.

For class Gertie wanted us all to use the sleeveless bodice with the flared skirt and for it to be unlined, although we could choose whether to use the round or square neckline. I chose the round neckline and managed to comply with the sleeveless and full skirt requirement but had to line it. Even though the class size was small (limited to seven) I can imagine it would be challenging to teach and assist us all if we all made different versions of this dress.

From the Charm Patterns website: "This is the most versatile dress pattern you’ll ever own. This vintage-inspired design has two bodices, three skirts, six sleeve styles, and two collars, giving you 72 dress designs in one package. The “Choose Your Own Adventure” style of instructions lets you decide how you’ll finish your dress—neckline facing, all-in-one facing, partial lining, or full lining. Be the heroine of your own sewing escapade!"

Creates Sew Slow: Sewing with Gertie

Creates Sew Slow: Sewing with Gertie

The pattern alterations

We spent quite a bit of time on the first day tissue fitting the bodice. Gertie spent time with each of us tissue fitting the pattern pieces to make sure the bodice fit us well. Darts were moved and lengthened, gaping at the armhole pinched out and shoulder seams lifted. I had made a sway back adjustment before the fitting but wonder looking at the pictures if I should have taken a deeper dart across the back.

Creates Sew Slow: Sewing with Gertie
Front sleeveless bodice: Left - the tissue fitted pattern piece original lines in black pen and changes in orange;
Right - new pattern piece incorporating the changes

Creates Sew Slow: Sewing with Gertie
Back sleeveless bodice - with fewer alterations to make!
I toiled the pattern alterations using the lining fabric before committing to cutting into the fashion fabric. The front waist dart finished quite high so I lowered it an inch for the fashion fabric. It needs further tweaking as now it doesn't remove enough excess fabric beneath the bust. Whilst I have cut out the full skirt it may still shrink to a more A-line shape, as whilst many years since I last wore a full skirt I don't have fond recollections of the look on my body.

The sewing

I debated for some time about which sewing machine to take to class and in the end I used my faithful Singer Featherweight because I was feeling lazy.  The internal justification for that choice was: (1) I couldn't be bothered to bring my Wellington Bernina Activa 210 back to Christchurch for the class; (2) My Bernina 830 is far too big to be moving about especially when I don't need its functionality; (3) My old Bernina Artista 180, which has a trolley bag, is still much bigger to carry about than the Featherweight; (4) the Featherweight was the only hope I had of fitting in with a 1950's theme!!

As I was lining the dress I sewed the seams with a straight stitch and pressed them open then trimmed them using my pinking shears.

Gertie advised us to stay stitch the neckline starting from the shoulder seam to centre back / front then from the other shoulder seam to centre back / front/ This is good advice as it prevents the neckline stretching out whilst you are handling the cut out pieces and when you sew the lining (or facing) to the main fabric at the neckline. Once we had sewn the neckline to the lining (facing) Gertie had us grade the seam (I just pinked mine) and then under stitch before we pressed the neckline.

Once we had sewn the neckline we did the sleeveless armholes in the same way.

There was also a very neat trick to achieve a neat finish for the lapped zipper. Not only is it neat it helps you get the zip aligned at the top without needing a hook and eye.

All of this is detailed in the very comprehensive instructions that accompany the pattern.

The tutor

From Gertie's blog she describes herself as "Author, pattern and fabric designer, teacher, and Instagram influencer. Gretchen Hirsch is a passionate sewist who’s been sharing her love of vintage frocks for over 10 years."

Gertie became widely known through her original blog "Gertie's Blog for Better Sewing" based on the Vogue New Book for Better Sewing and her search for all of the sewing patterns referred to in the book. Now she designs for Butterick Patterns, has her own pattern line Charm Patterns and designs fabric for Michael Miller. All in her inimitable 1950's style.

I felt that the instruction was well balanced and at a pace to suit everyone in the class. Gertie is a true professional able to accommodate the different needs of sewers with quite varied experience.  For some this was the first dress ever sewed and some of us had been sewing for years.

The class

The venue (Woolston Working Mans Club) was great. The room was large and space plentiful. The only slight problem was that the days were very hot and sunny, with the room getting a bit warm even though we had both sets of doors open. We started off at the table looking out of the window. Lots of natural light for those ancient eyes!! The sun drove us to sit facing the wall under the air conditioner.


Creates Sew Slow: Sewing with Gertie
The sewing studio for six of us - we sat facing the back wall to the left of the doors
Creates Sew Slow: Sewing with Gertie
Our original sewing position looking out of the window

Creates Sew Slow: Sewing with Gertie
The 2018 Sew with Gertie NZ Tour Class Photo (from @lindamccarthystudio)
I didn't necessarily learn anything new but I thoroughly enjoyed the ambience and relaxing nature of my two days sewing. As usual I wasn't particularly fast but did surprise myself by not getting the dress sewed in two days. This could have been a mental holding back to enable me to buy more fabric so that I could recut the skirt back. Little things like this can be a significant block when you are a perfectionist.
 

Field of Remembrance

And on a completely different topic...  I just had to share these photos which are such a moving display of sacrifice.

A Field of Remembrance is established in Cranmer Square each ANZAC Day (25 April) and ends on Armistice Day on 11 November 2018..  Red poppies are placed by each white cross.  The crosses are provided by the Trust and bear the names of more than 4,300 Cantabrians who died in World War I.. Every effort has been made to identify men from the wider Canterbury region who served in other specialist units e.g. the Machine Gunners and include those who served in overseas forces i.e Australian and Great britain. The numbers have increased progressively each year as the men who died one hundred years ago are added to the Field.

The Fields of Remembrance Trust was established in 2012 to honour those who served and died for New Zealand during World War One.  There are also fields of crosses in Auckland, Dunedin and Wellington.

Creates SEw Slow: Sewing with Gertie

Creates SEw Slow: Sewing with Gertie

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