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Nov 17, 2011

Peter's New Book For Better Sewing or "The Dert on Gert"

Readers, I own many sewing books.  Probably too many.  I try not to think about it.

But there is one sewing book I've wanted for a long time now, a rare old sewing book, around which something of a cult has formed.  Can you guess which book this is?

Yes, that book!

Blogging buddy Gertie and I have so much in common.  We both love vintage sewing, small, furry pets, and deep red lipsticks with blue undertones. 

I know it reflects poorly on my character, but I often ask myself, What does Gertie have that I don't have, other than translucent skin (I've started exfoliating), a book deal (be patient), and youth?  Some say I have borrowed too liberally from Gertie since launching MPB.  But isn't imitation the highest form of flattery?

Anyway, friends, I decided I simply had to get my greedy mitts on Vogue's New Book For Better Sewing to see what all the fuss was about and perhaps to figure out Gertie's next move.  So last week, when I saw a copy available on eBay for the bargain price of -- let's just say half what a used copy currently costs on Amazon, I jumped at the chance.  At first I was resistant to spending so much money on another sewing book, but Michael convinced me that if I didn't like it, I could always resell it.  I have even discovered that Gertie herself is looking for another copy, so I could sell my copy to her, with a minor mark-up, of course.

Long story short, I bought the book and it has arrived! 

So what's it like?

Readers, VNBFBS is a lovely book.  Does it include sewing techniques I wouldn't find in other vintage sewing books?  Probably not.  But the concept -- unusual in its day -- of moving the reader through progressively more challenging sewing projects, is a brilliant one.  And unlike many of today's sewing books, it doesn't have you starting off with a pencil case, a sewing machine cover, or a tote bag (people didn't tote in 1952, they threw their packages in the back of their Chrysler Town & Country Convertible).

No, you jump right into a chic chemise dress, and the book assumes you have the skills to handle it -- though sewing techniques are outlined at the beginning of the book, along with a glossary of sewing terms.

One of the things about most other sewing books -- back then as well as today -- is that they are organized by specific technique.  This makes them excellent reference books, but they are much less likely to be read from cover to cover.  Nobody sits down and thinks, I'm going to spend today inserting zippers.  You're more likely to be working on a project that needs a zipper, and after inserting it, move on. 

VNBFBS focuses on projects, and walks you through each one in great detail.  As you probably already know, the projects themselves are Vogue patterns the reader would have had to purchase separately.  Thanks to the Internet, these patterns can now be collected (I believe Gertie has found all of them), but the process is time-consuming and potentially very costly.  But there are zillions of vintage patterns out there that are similar to the ones in the book.  In fact, only two days ago, for about $5, I picked up this vintage Vogue pattern on eBay that resembles both the "background dress" project and the coat project in the book.  Lovely, no?

I think the bolero chapter, for example, would be helpful for any vintage bolero, not just the one discussed.

I think I'll be keeping VNBFBS for right now.  It's charmingly written -- "Under the sun or under the stars, the portrait-neckline blouse has a way of making you your prettiest and most feminine." -- and beautifully art-directed, with excellent illustrations and period photography.  I think any vintage fashion home sewer would appreciate it.  I'll admit, though, the constant focus on tailor tacks to mark every dart line seems archaic to me, but it's obviously a couture technique others find valuable.  I'll stick to pencil or chalk.

You can see more photos of Vogue's New Book For Better Sewing here.

Moving on, to be filed under "Solutions in Search of a Problem" I  must share this cutting-edge June Tailor notion I recently stumbled upon.

Friends, how often are you in the middle of a complicated sewing project when you find yourself in need of a pin.  You reach over to your pin cushion, only to discover dozens of protruding possibilities.  Which to choose -- the glass head pin, the flower head pin, the blue, the red, or the black?  Seconds pass, which over the course of one's sewing career could add up to countless minutes of precious life you won't get back.

Choosing a pin the old-fashioned way also requires casting one's glance to the periphery of one's line of vision or even turning one's neck, risking vertigo, whiplash, or worse.  If only there were a solution to this potentially crippling problem!

Friends, look no further!  June Tailor's Pintastic makes your pin choice for you!  This battery-operated device automatically dispenses a pin -- as if by magic!  No twisting, no turning, and, best of all, no thinking!

How much would you expect to pay for this amazing space-age convenience?  $200?  $100?  How about just $59.99?  It's true!  But wait -- are you sitting down? -- you can now purchase Pintastic directly from June Tailor for the reduced price of only $29.99!!  But hurry, quantities are limited.  (4 AA alkaline batteries not included.)

And to think, Christmas is just around the corner!

Personally, I love the aerodynamic lines of June Tailor's Pintastic, which resembles nothing so much as a vintage 1950's toilet bowl -- in fact, my Aunt Florence had one exactly like it in the bathroom of her suburban ranch house in Clifton, New Jersey.

Aunt Florence's toilet

Friends, that's all for today.  I have much sewing to do as I'm sure you do too.  Right now, however, I need to pay a visit to my Pintastic, or the next closest thing (wink, wink).

Have a pintastic day, everybody!

Any owners of VNBFBS out there? What do you think?


  1. Beautiful book. The increasing difficulty in projects is indeed a very nice angle!

    No vintage here, but waiting for some books myself. Will arrive next week or so. Among them the 'Making pants' with dvd and 'Shirtmaking'.

    Love the pin-machine! And a hilarious bowl to match- a Daily D.... coming up this weekend? But serious: where do you find stuff like that?

  2. great post on a great book! thanks for your thoughts as always, peter :-)

  3. That picture of Cathy with the dark glasses does look remarkable similar to a certain someone....I never had pieced it together before! At first I thought you had received Gertie's book in the mail to review! But VoNBBS is fab too. I really love that pattern you picked up for WHAT? $5??? AMAZING!

  4. Oh, I must clarify that! Thanks, Debi.

  5. "solutions in search of a problem". Love it, too funny!

  6. I went through a similar (much shorter) phase of denial where I refused to purchase the overpriced book on the basis of the hype. Then of course I found a lonely mis-categorized copy languishing on eBay and purchased it in one of my late night spending sprees. It really is a historical treasure and a beautiful piece of art, even if you don't go through and methodically make each item.
    Pintastic, on the other hand, I think I can do without. That is, unless, they drop the price for a limited-time special offer to ... TWO for only 29.99 (plus shipping and handling)!

  7. What's next? Glow-in-the-dark pinheads? (Wait -- don't steal that. That's MY idea, okay?)

    You know, I am such a whirlwind of frenzied sewing! I've pricked myself so many times, I can't even feel the tips of my fingers for the scar tissue. I thought I'd have to give up sewing forever (or resort to using paper clips and staples). That's when I discovered Pintastic! I can reach for a pin without even looking. And I love the sweet little humming sound it makes to keep me company. Plus, I only have to bang on the machine every fourth or fifth pin to get them to line up for me. It's the answer to my prayers. Thanks, June Tailor!

  8. A toilet bowl that dispenses pins, how nice! And if you encounter a bent pin? Is there a little handle on the side to flush-I mean whisk it away?

  9. I have a copy of that book, without the jacket cover. What is the copyright of your copy? I bought mine at the Friends of the LSU Library book sale several years ago for $2!

  10. Peter, I almost never comment--- and almost never sew--- but I've loved your writing for a long, long time. Also, I suddenly want a turquoise toilet.

  11. Thanks, Rebekah!

    Carol, mine is a first printing. Yours had better not be! LOL

  12. I think I was bidding against you! Sorry! :)

  13. I've always wanted to know what that book was like. Thank you for sharing. Now, if you *really* want to share, I'll email you my snailmail address....

    LOL at the pin dispenser and the toilet! Let's just say you see things in an unique way, shall we, and leave it at that?

  14. I have quite a few books similar to the one you have shown. They are all helpful and interesting. To be honest, I go to youtube to look for quicker and more up to date techniques, but I do love to look at them for some old style sewing. I made some pin tucks on a top for my daughter.


  15. Not to worry, Erin. It was a "Buy It Now."

  16. Thanks for sharing pictures of VNBFBS.
    I love the toilet more than the pn dispenser but I love the Chrysler Town & Country Convertible

  17. Oh Peter, you're funny. I'm glad you like the book but super pissed you won't sell it to me. (Not really.) Also, I think maybe Cathy is MY identical twin, not yours.

  18. Peter, you can exfoliate all you please, but nothing today does as much good as Lanolin Plus used to. It was a huge seller about the time your Vogue sewing book was published, but - as with all really good things - is no longer around. Too bad, because its smoothing powers were so great that it probably could have turned Eleanor Roosevelt into Shelley Fabares.

  19. Oooh, congratulations on your score! (I have to wonder how much the prices of those books have gone up since Gertie started blogging it... the sellers should be paying her royalties! ;) )

    As to the pin gadget... wow. Just wow. I can't believe how much it resembles that toilet, either!

    ... I should probably confess that I segregate my pins by type on different areas of my pincushion, so that I can grab the kind I want faster and more easily...

  20. I think the Vogue book for better sewing is the sewing equivalent of Julia Childs' first book on French Cooking( I cant remember the precise name) I found a first edition of Julia Childs book at my antiquated public library and I believe it was also from 1952. And both books made bloggers famous, right? I cant bring myself to steal the JC book from the library although I was tempted since I believe I was the only one who checked it out in 50 years. Maybe if I found the Vogue book there I could! Great post!
    Justine @
     Sew Country Chick

  21. Nice score on the book, Peter. While I'd like one, I think this will be one of those that I can wait patiently for it to enter my life.

    I've only seen the pintastic in ads, and my though was "??why??" but never made the turquoise toilet connection. I asked on stitchers guild forum if anyone has one, and no one does. Some have seen it in real life and said it's also noisy. And pointed out you still need something to put pins in when you remove them from whatever you pinned. It will be interesting to see how many sewists receive one for Christmas.

  22. Gail, I never thought of that (about needing someplace to put the pins when you remove them). Brilliant!

    I think we may see further price reductions in the future. I'd hold out a bit longer! ;)

  23. Now I want that book AND the coat-and-dress pattern. Sadly, your post will have caused the prices of both to skyrocket. . .
    -- stashdragon

  24. LOL! You are so hilarious!
    I have a very old book that I treasure. It's "The Good Housekeeping Needlecraft Encyclopedia" from 1947. It has everything in it, and I mean everything, from simple to advanced sewing, knitting, tatting (!), upholstery, lampshades. It calls zippers "slide fasteners." Any technique I want I can find in it. Want to make frog fasteners with Chinese knots? In there. It was a score in 1964.

  25. Ha! I have to tell you that the exact same thought was passing through my head and then came the picture of Aunt Florence's toilet! There is something to be said for 'form follows function'.

  26. Of course, you wouldn't want to sit on a Pinterest. That would be very uncomfortable!

  27. Hi Peter! I just discovered you blog! So witty you are- oh I am talking like Yoda again.... anyway- I have seen you pictured with Gertie- (I love her) and I guess I just didn't make the connection with her and also Burdastyle... I am asking my husband for the Vogue New Book For Better Sewing for Christmas.... hope I am as lucky at scoring one as yourself.
    Thank you for all your inspiration!

  28. Peter thank you!!! I have a project for you :) For those of us who don't have the book, you can go through the patterns, and on this blog give us several different suggestions of patterns similar to all the ones in the book! YAY, you hate me now don't you? *evil laugh*
    My gradnma has the pintastic and loves it. I used her;s and see why it would be lovely for folks like her...but I don't see myself needing one. But gosh darn it, I need that toilet! LOL
    I love your blog and Gertie's (my mom is Gertie's cult follower, she jokes that she wants to be Gertie when she 'grows up') Yeah...we are weird XD


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