Saturday, 25 October 2014

Review: Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

First up - this is a full on book review, so if you just want to know about the patterns go to the part marked PATTERNS half way down!

I bought this book as I've always been interested in styles of the past, but don't have a life that requires cocktails dresses or suits. Also, I look strange in some of the 'vintage' styles. The subtitle is 'A Modern Guide To Sportswear Styles Of The 1940's And 1950's', so I purchased it with much hope.

As you can see, the format is spiral bound hardback. 

I found Gertie's writing style light hearted while still being clear - if you like her blog, the book has the same tone. 

Photogprahs are clear and appropriate to illustrate techniques described in the text.

The first section is SKILLS. Unless you are completely new to sewing, these sections can be really boring. The information here was more comprehensive/detailed than many similar books I have read, and while I did know most of it there were a few useful reminders, such as where to interface - an area I could really improve on. I've had a few problems with my zips recently and had completely forgotten about stabilising the area with strips of interfacing!

The whole book is made much more attractive by the addition of gorgeous illustrations such as this one, drawn by Sun Young Park.
They add the charm and style that seduces me in the same way as vintage pattern covers.

Also in this section is a chapter on fitting and a chapter on pattern making, necessary because of how the patterns work (more below).

I thought I would try a pattern before I wrote this review because otherwise reviews can be like selling something for someone else when you don't really know if it's any good. I fully admit the pattern I choose is hardly a departure from my normal style. I had this organic cotton stripe jersey in my stash for a summer t-shirt that never happened, so it was the economic choice. When I make something woven from the book I'll put a new link in at the end of the post.

This is the Boat Neck Top I made in the book:
And here is mine IRL:
How the patterns work is there is a core of 10 full size, multi-size patterns on which all the garments are based. There is some overlay (nothing major) so you trace off whatever you want to make, then follow the instructions to alter the patterns to produce variations. This top was based off the Knit Sweetheart Top pattern (garment picture below).

To make it into a boat neck, I resized the shoulder area, re-drew the neck (using French curves) and swapped out the sleeves following the instructions. It wasn't difficult at all but maybe not ideal for complete beginners. There is quite a bit of flipping back between pages to refer to method for the base garments during construction as well, so there is some room for confusion for a total newbie. Having said that, none of the designs are complicated. For me, it's a nice 'step up' book, giving a little confidence in altering and fitting basic designs.

Sizes are 32" - 46" bust, 24" - 38" waist and 36" - 50" hip. My bust measurement fell between two sizes so I went for the larger one which was a good call as this top is just as fitted as the photo suggests.
I would have to be feeling pretty body confident to wear this without a cardigan. I think a little looser, more figure skimming than figure hugging does me more favours. However, I would consider making it again in black, as I am firmly of the opinion that this will turn me visually into a B cup ;)

Here's the back view for reference:
I shortened it by an inch or so but I am petite so there's plenty of length there for everyone else.

Pictured below are a couple of the designs I really like and can see complementing my existing wardrobe.

would also love this but know I couldn't carry it off.

Most of the patterns in this book are relatively simple shapes that can be adapted to produce different variations. Some, such as the jumpsuit, zip-front house dress and sailor blouse feel like they do have a more old school vibe and I really like those too. A massive plus for me though was that the majority of the patterns could be styled in a modern/classic or vintage direction - exactly what I was looking for - and I this will surely widen the book's appeal. I think it would make a nice present for a sewer who wanted to move on from the basics, especially if they didn't have a large pattern collection. It is a very cost effective way to get a collection of basic garment patterns.

Have you seen or bought this book? What do you think of it?

As ever, I paid for this book myself, don't know the author from Adam, and all opinions expressed are my own :)

Happy sewing, 'till next time,

Philippa X


  1. Thanks for your comprehensive review. I have had this book in my wishlist for a while. Like the fact that it's not a beginner's book. Think that there are too many of those around. Your top is lovely.

    1. THere does seem to be a glut of beginner's books around at the moment. I wouldn't call this advanced, as most of the clothes aren't detailed - maybe intermediate? I think altering patterns and making fitted trousers probably falls in the lower end of that range. I'm never sure quite where the boundaries are with those sewing categories.

  2. Thanks Philippa, I flicked through this in my local bookstore and was sorely tempted, so I'm very happy to read your review. I like your striped top & think it would be a fabulous essential in black too - have you a likely first woven project?? ;)

    1. I am torn between the 'cigarette trousers' and one of the shirts (the 1940's one or the sailor one). Mostly because I would like to branch out a bit in what I am making, and also because I have fabrics for both of these in my stash!

  3. Great review Philippa! I really like the boat neck top you made too. I think it looks great on you.

  4. Thank you for the review, Philippa. I've wondered what patterns were in the book. I shall have to look for it now.
    The knit top fits you perfectly and is not clingy at all. You looks lovely. IMO, you don't have to make a looser version at all!

  5. The top looks lovely, no need to cover it up. It was nice to read a review by someone who'd clearly bought the book read it and used it. Sometimes I get the impression blog reviews are done by online mates and are very gushy but you're not sure how useful they are.

    1. I know exactly what you mean, and then I sometimes question (rightly or wrongly) the validity of the review.

  6. Awesome review Philippa! You covered a lot of things about the book. I wasn't interested in it before, but now you have me wanting it! Your striped shirt is something I need in my wardrobe - It looks great on you!

  7. I enjoyed your review and you make me think I may get the book. I like the fact you are honestly reviewing it as I feel sceptical about "reviews" that are really promotions, if that makes sense. The boatt neck top looks good! A great basic for yourwardrobe xx

  8. That's a really helpful review, thank you. Your top looks lovely on you; I'm sure you'll get a lot of wear out of it.

  9. Great review! And your top looks lovely. Hopefully you'll get lots of use out of the patterns. I like the cardigan pattern.

  10. Wonderful review, dear Philippa! Gertie's books and blog always feel so approachable and easy to follow along with. I'm certain that if I was a sewer, too, I'd be making a hasty beeline for this new title as well. It's great to read your review of it, as I've been debating giving it as a gift to one or two sewing friends, but wanted to see more from fellow bloggers before doing so this Xmas season. Thank you for providing me with just that. I'd happily give it anytime now.

    Big hugs & many thanks for your splendidly nice comment (and compliments!) on today's Halloween costume blog post,
    ♥ Jessica

  11. Interesting review -- and I can see a lot more people going the 'casual' vintage route, for obvious reasons.

    I love your boatneck. Very nice on you!


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