How our histories interweave

Tag Archives: Gretchen Hirsch

Dressmaking seems to have taken over my entire brain, house and bank balance since I took it up seriously last year, so I thought I would post about a few of the things which have inspired me the most.

  1. Tilly Walnes

Since I took up dressmaking, I’ve been completely obsessed with Tilly Walnes and her gorgeous patterns. It’s thanks to her book, Love at First Stitch, that I’ve even mastered sewing clothes in the first place.

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I love her clear instructions and her stylish retro patterns, and so it was a huge honour for me to be able to test out one of the new patterns for her last year. It was the Martha pattern, which is now on sale in her shop. I can’t even tell you how excited I was to get a handwritten note from my sewing idol along with the test pattern. It made this learner dressmaker very, very happy!

I’m very excited to have been asked to test another pattern for her too, although it is top secret, so I can’t reveal any details. I will hopefully be getting started on it this weekend. I hope I make a good job of it, I can’t let Tilly down!

 

2. Pinterest

This is an obvious one, but I was very late to the party with Pinterest. I already had Facebook, Twitter, this blog and two Tumblr blogs, so I resisted the urge to get on Pinterest and waste even more of my time with social media. But it’s an awesome source of tips and techniques, plus it’s a great way to find inspiration for dressmaking styles, colour schemes and fabric choices. One of my favourite boards is my vintage fashion board, where I pin gorgeous things like this, which one day I will attempt to recreate, once my skill level has caught up with my ambition.

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I have a confession to make though, my absolute favourite board is my hot men in knitwear board, where I pin these glorious man creatures, amongst others.

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I would not like to say how many hours I’ve spent searching for pictures of hot men in knitwear. Bless you Pinterest, you filthy enabler.

3. Gretchen Hirsch

Gretchen Hirsch, AKA Gertie, is my latest dressmaking obsession, after I spent my birthday money on two of her books.

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I absolutely love her retro, kitschy style, and the fun fabrics and colours she uses to make her clothes. I am itching to make one of the dresses she designed for Butterick, to wear to two weddings I’m going to later in the year. I’m already on the lookout for some suitable fabric for it. Apparently Gertie has designed some fabrics for the Jo-Ann’s craft store chain in the USA, which means next time I go to Florida (hopefully next year), I might end up spending even more on fabric in Jo-Ann’s than I did when I was there last year.

4. The Great British Sewing Bee

This is where it all started! It was watching this show that first inspired me to take up dressmaking, having only dabbled with it slightly in textile class at secondary school. It took me a while to build up the confidence to enrol on a sewing course and give it a go, but I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress since then. Watching the contestants making such beautiful and original garments gave me the sewing bug, and I can’t wait for the new series to start.

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Patrick and May would probably have a few things to say about my less than perfect hems and my complete and utter inability to insert an invisible zip, but I’m sure they’d be pleased that they’d inspired someone to get behind a sewing machine and start creating their own clothes. To think I’ve gone from starting and abandoning a McCall’s sun dress, to making a party dress with a lined bodice and full pleated skirt in such a short space of time is something I’m really, really proud of, and I won’t be giving up this hobby any time soon – I have too much fabric stashed in my house to stop now!

 

 

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It dawned on me the other day that I’ve now been dressmaking for about a year, which is mind-boggling. It’s gone so quickly, and I feel like I’ve learned so much. I have had some notable disasters (like the princess seamed dress where I stitched all the panels the wrong way round!), but I’ve also had some successes. This week I’ve proudly come to work in three different garments that I’ve sewn myself, which is a nice feeling.

This week’s sewing adventures began by me finally rectifying a mistake I made a few weeks ago. I was making a version of Tilly Walnes’ Lilou pattern, but with a gathered skirt rather than the pleated version in this picture, and minus the bow belt.

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I’d bought some gorgeous cotton fabric from a shop in York with teacups all over it, and was excited to make this dress with it. I’d done the lined bodice, gathered the skirt and sewn it to the bodice, and then disaster struck. The instructions told you to trim the seam allowances, and I actually wondered to myself whether it was worth bothering to do it, but then I decided to be a good girl and do as I was told. On about the fifth snip, I realised something was wrong. Look what I had done to the bodice…

 

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Somehow, the bodice had got folded in with the seam allowances, and I cut right through it. Luckily, it didn’t go through any darts or seams.

I was so upset I wanted to throw the whole thing in the bin, but I phoned my mum and she talked me down! I put the dress into the wardrobe in my spare room, where I couldn’t see it, then let myself calm down before I decided to try to do anything with it. It took WEEKS for me to feel like I was able to face it again.

Eventually I felt calm enough to have a go at fixing the dress. I sewed some fabric behind the hole to hold the whole thing together, then I added a nifty waistband, in fabric which matched the polka dot lining. It’s a little bit thicker on the side where the hole had to be repaired, but I don’t think most people would notice. I was really pleased with the finished dress, and I actually think the waistband adds a little something to it.

 

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Most of all, I think this episode has taught me that I am still learning when it comes to dressmaking, and I really should be less critical of my efforts. Nobody is going to care that my zip is slightly wonky, or my hem stitching might go for a slight walk halfway around, so I shouldn’t. And at the end of it all, I’ve got clothes that nobody else has, which is not something everyone can say.

Feeling more confident after rectifying my mistake, I decided I was on a sewing roll, so I was going to carry on with some more projects. I whipped up another of Tilly’s gorgeous patterns, a Delphine skirt, in a cute heart-print needlecord. I didn’t take a picture, unfortunately. I managed the whole thing from start to finish in one day, which was impressive for me, as I usually sew at the pace of an exhausted tortoise.

With some of my birthday money I’d recently bought these two Gretchen Hirsch books.

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I decided to try out one of the patterns from the books, so I embarked on what I thought looked like the simplest, the Portrait Blouse.

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I have a feeling that Gertie might become my new sewing icon, alongside Tilly. I love her style, and I’m itching to make so many of her designs.

I chose some cheapo polycotton to make my portrait blouse, and it actually turned out to be a pretty good choice. The top was easy to sew, and the fabric held its shape well without creasing too badly when I wore it.

My only slight concern with Gertie’s patterns is her sizing. I’m pear-shaped, so usually I end up making a combination of two to three different sizes, gradually grading from the smallest to the largest. With Gertie’s patterns, I seem to jump up one measurement for my waist, then back down again for my hips. It’s going to make some of the more fitted dress patterns slightly tricky, I think.

Here is my finished portrait blouse, with my face cropped out of the second picture because it was right before bedtime and I was not exactly looking my best.

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I think my blouse ended up slightly more fitted than Gertie’s, but I like it that way. And yes, I am wearing Star Wars PJ bottoms in this picture.

So, I think I can say I’m back on the horse after my accident, which is bad news for my bank balance, because it means I’m going to be buying A LOT more fabric…