Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Burda and Gertie

No two sewing books have caused more hype in the sewing blogosphere in the past few years as The Burda Style Sewing Handbook and Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing.  The Collette Sewing Handbook was and is also quite popular.  I bought an advanced copy and was quite pleased with the projects I completed.  But when these other two books came out, I thought I would wait and check them out at my library before I purchased.  

Finally, after months and months, both books were available to me at my local library, and I didn't even have to put them on hold.   

The two questions that need to be answered are:
1) Do I like the styles enough to complete a project, and
2) Do I like the book and the styles enough to buy the book?

Let's begin with Burda.

Burda seems to be geared toward a more intermediate sewer.  The focus is on individual variations of their original patterns.  Even with this focus, there is not a lot of information on fitting a pattern.  It also appears to be geared to a younger audience.  In other words, skirts were short, and dresses were sleeveless.  I'm not going short and I'm not going sleeveless.  It is easy to lengthen a skirt, but I am shaky on drafting a sleeve pattern and adding it to the garment.  As far as I can tell there is nothing in the book to help with the addition of sleeves.  


I did like that each pattern had three variations and then several examples from sewists who had made their own variations. 


There was nothing in the skirt section that I particularly liked.  And skirts are easy to make and adjust to your own style.  

I only liked the main blouse in the blouse section.  

I liked the dresses but they were all sleeveless.  

Loved the main coat patterns and variations.

I didn't care much for the handbags.  

As many of you know, Burda patterns are printed without the seam allowances.  So you need to add a 1/2 to 5/8 inch allowance when tracing your pattern.  And you have to trace your pattern because the pattern pieces are printed on top of one another. Although you get to use one of those cool double tracing wheels! (Sewing nerd alert!) 

Are any of the styles calling out to me to take the time to trace a pattern, add the seam allowances, and sew?  Even though I like some of the styles, not really.  I've seen some cute renditions of these patterns on the internet, but I still won't be buying the book.  

However, I do like some of the free patterns from the website, and I may be trying these soon.  Did I say free?  Free is good!



Might need to change the poofy sleeves on this one!
 Ahhh, Gertie.  The queen of the sewing blogospere. Everyone loves Gertie. I love Gertie.  I love her retro style.  I love her success in the sewing industry.    Do I love her book?  Let us see, shall we?

My Book

This book has excellent instructions that even a beginner can follow.  It is loaded with great tips on retro style and sewing techniques.  There is an excellent section on fitting a pattern.  The illustrations are fantastic.  I have only one criticism of the photographs.  Some of the clothes just don't look like they fit as well as they should, and some appear as if they could use a good pressing.  Is that just me, or has someone else noticed that as well?  Oh dear, I just criticized the queen!  

Now, let's get down to the patterns. There are 20.   I would make two of the blouses,  and 4 of the dresses including the coat dress.  

Gertie's Coat Dress

Gertie's Shirtwaist Dress

That is 6 out of the 20 patterns that I like enough to make.  The book is $25.60 on  So a little over 4 dollars each for 6 patterns.  That's a pretty good deal.  Will I purchase the book?  Yes, eventually, if I get through the list of projects I already have on the docket!  Therefore, tomorrow I am sewing and not blogging. Probably.  


  1. On the whole I find that I have stopped buying sewing books as for one thing like you say they are too expensive and then very often the projects turn out to be disappointing for one reason or another so the book just sits there ...until it goes back on Amazon to be sold secondhand.
    The dresses in the Burda book look nice but they are the sort of dress my daughter wears....and I am sure that at 21 she does not want to go out with her recently turned 52 year old mother looking the same.I know I am not ancient but stylish clothes appear to be definitely aimed at the young these days.
    Enjoy your day of sewing.....I'm sewing too while waiting for the repair man!!

  2. Great review of both books! I have Gertie's book and I agree with the fitting/pressing of some of the garments.

    I also don't really like the style of her writing. But other then that I like the book. The illustrations and desciroptions of the sewing techniques are very clear!

  3. Interesting to read your thoughts on these books! I actually skipped buying the Colette book after browsing a friends version. It's pretty, but all the techniques outlined I either know or have excellent instructions for in other books.

    The Burda book I don't have, but I have to say: I don't get what's so hard about tracing and adding seamallowance! Most american sewists seems to find this very taxing, yet I start every project with it, regardless if I draft a new pattern from my sloper or (rare occasion) use a commercial pattern. To each her own, I suppose =)

    I also noticed the so-and-so fitting and pressing in Gerties book, but has been too much of a coward to call it out... Thank you for saying it! I found her book an interesting read, went from cover to cover when I first got it. But hasn't opened it since. My old 80s sewing books are just better for techniques!

    Since I never/extremly seldom use commercial patterns, the one's who comes with the book(s) has little lure for me. Realising that and that I anyway prefer using my old technique books, I've decided that the only sewing books I'm buying from now on are those that target areas I don't master and that isn't covered in my existing books. Like I recently bought Metric pattern cutting for menswear and Coffins Shirtmaking book. Plan on combining those two soon... =)

    Thanks for the reviews!

  4. I have the Colette Handbook and Gertie's book, but wasn't interested in the Burda. I might re-sell the Colette, as I should have realized and didn't when I bought it that it is really geared toward beginning seamstresses. I would still keep it for the patterns, but Colette Patterns don't seem to be right for my shape. I have made a few garments from their patterns, and fitting was very frustrating. But then I am one of the ladies that Simplicity patterns fit almost perfectly with a 1" adjustment for my high waist, so I guess that makes sense.

    The New Book for Better Sewing is full of great techniques, and I do like the styles. Just as a heads up, I know there appear to be some drafting issues with the bow tie blouse- nearly everyone who has made it up has said the neck is suffocating (including me!) As for the fit issues, I think she may have addressed this on her blog saying that during the writing of the book she gained some weight sitting, and the garments no longer fit well. I noticed the fit problems as you did, so I applaud her honesty as it must have been a painful thing to put out there (hey everyone- look how my waist grew!)She wrote that she did Weight Watchers to get back down to her previous size.
    Anyway- I really love her book despite those things. It makes her a real person, and shows that these techniques are attainable for anyone. Plus, I love having a resource that I can actually find info on some of the bygone techniques.
    Thanks for your honest reviews and interesting discussion!

  5. Good review! I can't wait to get down to the library & see what I can find! I rarely buy new books, as my mom manages to find me lots of thrifted ones. But now I know where to go to check out the newer stuff!

  6. You make such sensible, rational purchasing decisions! I did not buy either the Collette or the Burda book, partly because I felt I had too many patterns and dressmaking/fitting books already, and partly because their patterns don't really appeal to me. Then when Gertie's came out, all logic flew out the window and I bought it out of sheer excitement and love for the author. Fortunately I quite like the book, Gertie's cute writing style, and the great illustrations. Don't know if I'll ever get around to trying out the patterns, but I like having it as a reference and for inspiration.

  7. Great reviews, I've not gone down the dressmaking route yet, though I have had a pattern and fabric in since last May ready to make a dress for Flicky. Still I really enjoyed reading your reviews which I incredibly interesting and fun :)

  8. Great review of the books. I have the Burda Style book and I too felt it was geared more toward the intermediate sewer without a lot of explanations. I've yet to attempt any of those projects. I love the Colette book because the pictures and descriptions are so lovely. Based on your review I might just pick up Gertie's book as well!


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