A bit of a book review - Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

The other day I saw Gretchen Hirsch’s new book “Gertie Sews Vintage Casual” (GSVC)  in the window of my local craft shop, Sew and Tell. And well, as is often the case with sewing books, I had to buy it even though I’m not that into vintage. Well, my reasoning is that I need to make sure Sew and Tell knows there is a market for these books locally, so they keep stocking them..so I can buy them. This is purely selfless, I’m doing the local sewing community a service. Seriously.
“Gertie Sews Vintage Casual” (GSVC) has the same, format, look and structure as the Gertie’s first book “Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing” (GNNBS) . A spiral bound book, in two parts. The first part focuses on inspiration, fabric information, and skills. GSVC has a chapter on knits, as there are three knit patterns in this volume. The second part covers the patterns: eight in all, with instructions on how to vary your pattern to achieve different looks.
Here’s a rundown of what you get for your money, pattern-wise:
40s style blouse – a blouse with two dart tucks front and back, collar and patch pocket, short sleeve with cuff. Variations: sleeveless blouse with tucks converted to darts; zip front long sleeve bomber jacket.
Half circle skirt – a skirt in four pieces with facing. One main pattern piece for skirt pieces front and back. Variations: short A-line skirt; a quilted skirt cut with pattern piece placed on the fold, this skirt is featured on the cover; topstitched skirt with pockets.
Knit sweetheart top – with cap or three quarter sleeves, bound neckline and pleats in centre front to form the sweetheart. Variations: scoop neck sweater; puff sleeve sweater, three quarter sleeve boat neck top.
Cigarette pants – darted, faced waist pants with front hip pockets and cigarette leg.Variations: 40s wide leg pants with waistband and cuffs; pedal pushers; flared shorts; sailor shorts; and jeans with relaxed leg and topstitching.
Easy knit pencil skirt – a tube skirt in two pieces with hidden elastic waist. Variations: flared skirt with gores and waistband; A-line mini skirt
Pin up sweater – a round neck sweater sized for sweater knits. Variation: cropped sweater with button trim; button-front round neck cardigan.
Shift dress – with Peter Pan collar, French darts and all in one facing. Variation: flared summer dress (combination shift dress/half circle skirt pattern); swing top.
Wrap dress – shawl collar wrap dress with waist seam, forward shoulder seam with gathers, gathered  skirt. Variations: one shoulder romper, with bodice of wrap dress drafted with one shoulder combined  with shorts pattern ; Jumpsuit using the wrap dress bodice and pant pattern.
Zip front dress – short kimono sleeve top with zip front and flared skirt from above pattern. Variation: sailor blouse.
Halter – sweetheart neckline halter neck top with bra cups, side panel elastic shirring and boning. Variation  - a romper, halter pattern with shorts.

Stylewise, this is a bit of a mixed bag for me. Some of the patterns appeal,some don't. To be expected.

Gertie writes that the patterns are a lot simpler than the array of patterns provided in GNBBS, which featured patterns for more formal and dressy  occasions that were identifiably vintage.   The separates patterns are indeed simple and it seems to me that most of the patterns would not look out of place in a modern catalogue. The vintage element kicks in with styling and fabric choice. This is not necessarily a criticism.  Vintage is not everyone’s  thing.  If it isn’t yours, there is plenty of potential for some nice makes out of GSVC.
The dresses and halter offer more challenging sews for those who have progressed beyond beginner projects, especially the zip front dress which has the front and back bodice, and kimono sleeve cut in one piece. No shoulder seam. I think the dress is kinda cute but yikes! Fitting alert! Make a muslin!
The clothes are photographed on a variety of models (not just Gertie, as in the first book) against a flat background. While the photography isn’t a reason to buy this book, it doesn’t bother me as much as a lack of technical drawings. A tech drawing is worth a thousand words, and personally, I always check out the technical drawings to help in making a decision as to whether I will make a particular pattern. Without technical drawings I had to read the pattern blurb, go to the back to check out what  the pattern pieces look like, and in some instances read the instructions to get a sense of the technical aspects of the pattern.  Irritating, when a simple drawing gives you so much information.
The book is written in Gertie’s chirpy, chatty style which is a pleasure to read. The first section of GSVC mirrors the first section of GNNBS in a lot of ways, but it not a direct copy. Common topics have been rewritten for GSVC.  I’ve delved into this section on GNNBS, and will probably do the same with the knit chapter in this book.
Bottom line time: should you buy this book? If you are a vintage junkie, I think Gertie’s first book was a lot more interesting, and aspirational. However, the fact that the patterns in GSVC are more classic is not necessarily bad thing, especially to those who aren’t into the vintage aesthetic overly much.  If it sounds as if I’m in the middle of the road on this book, it’s because I am.

Maybe though, the final word on whether books of this nature are worth our money  is in how the patterns perform. On this score,  I haven’t made anything yet, but I have plans to make the shift dress for my daughter. And maybe the 40s style blouse for me.   So I'll reserve my final judgement as to whether GSVC has been a worthwhile investment until after I've completed these projects. 


  1. Thanks Paola - Firstly for supporting the local economy, I buy what I can at my local independent booksellers for the same reasons, and borrow all the crafting books from my library so they keep stocking them!
    I also really appreciate seeing all the patterns, and variations, although I'd be equally as vexed not to see line drawings, such a small yet essential omission.
    I will watch with interest for your review of the patterns when sewn ;)

    1. Yes, I'm always on the lookout for new sewing books at the library too.
      The line drawing thing! Aargh! So irritating! Equally, I have a sewing book that only has line drawings - no photos. Completely uninspiring.
      Hopefully some completed projects will be in the offing soon - my daughter in on my case about the dress.

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