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My favorite birthday present last year was Gertie Hirsch’s „Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book“: a wonderful thick and heavy ringbound book filled with beautiful dress patterns and tipps on sewing them. But let me tell you, these are no projects for the faint-hearted – the dresses are true labours of love! No quick, one-evening sews – but when we received an invitation for a winter wedding, I went straight for Gertie’s book. As the wedding was scheduled for November, I wanted to make a pattern with sleeves and settled on the Hot Pink Crepe Dress. You don’t have to make it in pink, of course, but in my opinion, nothing trumps pink – so off I went in search of the perfect fabric!
I found a bright pink “sateeny” material with an Asian-looking pattern and matched that with a dark blue thin cotton fabric for lining. I cleared my schedule for one weekend and went to work (the plan with one weekend turned out to be very ambitious – it actually took me several weekends to finish the dress). The pattern is very fitted, so I went for a muslin before cutting into the actual fabric. I don’t quite remember all the fitting changes I made, but it must have been a gazillion. I think I worked on every seam… But that sounds like more work than it actually was: I always use Joi Marhon’s book “Creating the perfect fit” for all my fitting changes, and Joi’s technique allows you to make most changes directly on the flat pattern before cutting out the toile. So you end up just tweaking the toile, and the whole process does not take all that long.
The skirt actually fit quite well straight off, I just had to adjust the waist seam to match it to the changed top. After all the fitting changes were complete, I cut out the lining and sewed that up. The cotton was great to work with, but wearing it made me regret my fabric choice pretty quickly. The skirt lining keeps on riding up my legs, I should have picked a more slippery fabric…
When cutting the sateen, I tried to be meticulous on the pattern matching. It worked better than earlier projects, but pattern matching just isn’t my forte. Luckily, the fabric is busy enough, so the glitches aren’t that obvious! When I ironed the first seam I realized that my fabric choice wasn’t the best for the dress either: I think it might actually be plastic instead of fabric! But well, too late for regrets, and anyhow I really liked the colour – I’ll only wear the dress in cold weather!
The pattern calls for a lapped zipper, but I went for an invisible one instead. No matter how thin my sewing needle was, the plastic fabric always turned the top stitching into a “stitch crater”, and that ruined the whole back part of the dress. I surprised myself with the invisible zipper – it turned out PERFECTLY!!! However, I hadn’t thought off pre-washing or steaming the zipper before putting it in – and when I washed the dress for the first time, it shrank considerably. So no more perfect zipper seam! But well, I learned my lesson and now pre-wash or steam my zippers.
But back onto the dress pattern: The finishing step is hand-stitching the lining to the dress at the walking slit. I didn’t do this accurately enough and ended up with quite a crooked edge. Thanks to the dark blue fabric, this gap was quite visible when walking, so I employed one of Gertie’s tipps and attached some lace to the lining seam. This covers the unevenness and looks really pretty, too!
So although the Hot Pink Crepe Dress wasn’t the easiest sew for me, I learned a lot, and I am very happy with the result. I’ve even already bought a navy pin-stripped crepe to make up a slightly less colourful version as office attire! So on to the Flying Needle Sewing Blog Summary:
Pattern: Hot Pink Crepe Dress from Gertie Hirsch’s “Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book”
Fabric: thin cotton as lining and hot-pink “plastic sateen” for the dress
Changes made: A lot! My body doesn’t seem to be a good match for Gertie’s pattern blocks – but as I enjoy making fitting changes, that does not bother me too much. I remember shortening the back and front bodice pieces, moving the bust ruffles and taking in the side seams. I think I also changed the arm hole, but not sure on that one.
Summary: Gertie’s dresses aren’t easy projects, but they are beautiful. This definitely will not be the last project that I make from her book – and I will sew up the Hot Pink Crepe Dress another time, to make the fitting changes worthwhile!
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