Wednesday, 9 November 2011

A Day in the Life of Gretchen Hirsch - Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing

Does this woman need an introduction? I doubt there's anyone in internet sewing land who doesn't know - and adore - Gertie. Writing her sewing blog was the start of a whole new, exciting, multifaceted career for this super talented seamstress, so she makes the perfect interviewee for A Day in the Life. "That's all very well, but what does she wear when she's sewing?" you beg. Read on, my friend, read on...

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"Hi Tilly and Tilly’s readers! Thank you so much for having me here to write about a day in my life. I’ll admit I was a little daunted by this prospect because it seems that every day is so different! I’ll do my best to try to wrangle my various tasks into something coherent for you to read.

First off, I used to work full time at a “day job.” I was a children’s book editor and worked at some of the big publishing companies. After I started my blog, I began to get lots of other opportunities related to sewing - teaching, writing articles, and even a book deal. I juggled all this with my 9-5 job for quite a while before finally taking the leap to go freelance in March and have a career in the sewing biz. I think the best way to explain all this is to first give you a run-down of all the different ways I bring in income:

1. Blogging. First and foremost, I’m a blogger. The blog doesn’t directly bring in the most money, but I can definitely say that every opportunity I’ve been given has come about because of my blog.

2. Teaching sewing at The Sewing Studio here in New York. I teach group glasses once or twice a week, but the majority of my teaching income comes from private lessons. I have a group of regular students and I meet with each of them once a week for two hours, so it’s steady work.

3. Writing. I have a book coming out next year, woo hoo! I also write articles for sewing magazines.

4. Editing and proofreading craft books for STC Craft/Melanie Falick Books on a freelance basis.

5. Teaching sewing online. Earlier this year, I launched my first online course with Craftsy, Sew Retro: the Perfect Fit Bombshell Dress and it’s been a great success! I loved the experience of making that course; it was very gratifying to be able to teach really intricate garment construction. I’ll be filming my next online course in January!

6. Traveling to conferences and events to teach.

7. Selling ad space on my blog. I have an advertising program on my blog, and it brings in a small chunk of my income.

8. Another super exciting thing that I can’t tell you about yet but it’s killing me because I’m the worst at keeping secrets.

So, as you can see, my freelance life involves juggling many different tasks—and I love it that way! Every day is new and exciting, and I don’t feel bored by the endless routine that used to fill me with ennui when I was in the corporate world. (Yes, I’m a touch dramatic at times. My first career choice was Broadway star, but that didn’t quite pan out.)


I live in Astoria, a neighborhood in Queens, New York. I start each weekday by getting up around 9:00, right after my husband leaves for work. I wish I could be more of an early riser. But, well, I’m not. Moving on! I usually spend the mornings working at home. I don’t get dressed or do my hair/makeup until I’m preparing to leave the house. Many people would find this slovenly, I suppose. I had grand ideas of getting dressed every morning and looking fabulous to work at home. But then I figured: what’s the point of working freelance if you can’t do it in your jammies?

Mornings are my “administrative/writing” time. I have coffee in bed with my laptop and check my e-mail. I answer e-mails for a bit, respond to questions on my online course, and work on my book. My two cats are usually nearby. In fact, Henry stays by my side if I’m home (he even follows me into the bathroom) so I never feel lonely.

The book is taking up a lot of my time right now. It’s in the stage of being illustrated and designed, so I work with those folks quite a bit these days. I’ll often have meetings with the illustrator so we can review how things are sewn and what she needs to draw. It’s very hands-on. I’m also working on finalizing all 11 patterns for the book. This means making sure I’ve drafted them correctly, sending them out to a grader, and then having them tested in a variety of sizes. It’s a huge job, and definitely the hardest part of my freelance life. The book is a big, daunting task and I’ve often felt like I’m in over my head with it. But I must forge on! (See? Drama.)

If I’m working on a freelance project, I’ll often spend long-ish hours proofreading or editing. For instance, I’m currently proofreading a book on terrariums (which are rad, by the way) and I’ll work in big chunks of time to get it done by a deadline.



In the afternoons, I usually head to the Sewing Studio in Manhattan. I take the subway and it’s about a 20-30 minute commute. I love not being a part of the rush-hour commute anymore! Sometimes I read or embroider on the train, but usually I just sit and think. It’s quite peaceful, actually. The Sewing Studio has become my office in a sense. I bring my laptop and any patterns or sewing projects I’m working on, and get things done between lessons and classes. I often have a private lesson in the afternoons. Tuesdays I teach late, until about 9:00 pm. Other days I’m home around 6:00 or so.

Fridays I generally work at home all day, and I get stir crazy around 1:00 or 2:00, the time I usually leave for the studio. So I get dressed and run an errand that involves taking a long walk in my neighborhood. Sometimes it’s grocery shopping or going to the post office, but other times it’s something silly like buying a new shade of nail polish.

Oh! You asked about eating. I find my daytime meals very tedious and annoying to deal with. I have cereal or a peanut butter and honey sandwich for breakfast, and then I grab something light for lunch from one of the many places near the Sewing Studio. My husband gets home from work around 6:30, and he usually makes dinner. (Mostly because if I did it, we’d have cheese and crackers or peanut butter sandwiches all the time.) It’s usually something simple with a salad, but on the weekends he makes really extravagant things like delicious stews and banana cream pie! I do the dishes.

Jeff is a writer too and he spends his evenings working on his latest novel. I’ll use this time to write a blog post or work on a sewing project for fun. At around 10:00, we have tea together and chat or watch a sitcom. Jeff goes to bed and I stay up - reading, writing, or sewing - until about 1:00.


On the weekends we sleep late (until 10:30 or so) and then have coffee in bed together. We’ll write or go to the gym, and often I’ll sew for several hours on end. We love to go out to eat on the weekends, or get takeout and stay home in our comfies. (That’s our term for jammie pants and t-shirts.)

All in all, it’s an extremely pleasant existence and I think I’m incredibly lucky to have this life. My favorite parts are the ones when I’m feeling completely inspired, usually when I’m at the beginning of a new idea - a new design or a new subject that I’m compelled to blog about. I also love my interaction with my private students, because we get to know each other so well. They’re all a big part of my life now. I like going to conferences because it feeds my urge to be “on stage” but I’m trying to cut down on traveling in the next year or so, just because I find it a bit stressful. But I’ll definitely go to the big sewing shows because they are so incredibly fun and inspiring.



The hardest part is something that I think a lot of writers and creative types deal with: self-doubt. I go through periods when I’m really affected by a negative comment or don’t feel qualified to write a book or show someone how to make a bias-cut wedding gown. And perhaps I’m not! But there’s no subject I feel more passionately about than fine garment sewing and sharing it with others, and that at least counts for something, right? And, to be honest, I’ve learned the most from critical feedback; it always pushes me to try harder. It also helps that 99% of the interaction I have is with completely lovely, supportive, talented people!

Thank you again for hosting me here, internet friends! And hey - let me know if I can shed any more light on the freelance sewing life."

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Phew! I feel exhausted just reading that. No wonder you sleep in late. I bet even your jammies are super stylish though. Thanks, Gertie!

44 comments:

  1. Fabulous guest post and a great sneak peak into Gertie's life :) Just wish I lived in NYC so I could take advantage of the private sewing lessons on a weekly basis! And I am super excited about the secret surprise!

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  2. I have always wondered how Gertie got so much work done. Amazing! Thanks, this was very interesting.

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  3. This is so inspirational! I love how things worked out for Gertie. And I'm only a tiny bit jealous. OK, very much jealous, but in a positive way :-)

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  4. What an amazing interview - thank you Tilly and thank you, Gertie. 1am? Every night? No wonder you don't rise until 9am. I am the opposite - early to bed and then creeping out of bed at silly o'clock to do some sewing whilst the world sleeps.

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  5. Thanks again for featuring me, Tilly! And thanks for your sweet comments, ladies!

    Yes, I'm a bit of a night owl. I've stopped trying to fight it. :)

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  6. This was an awesome interview. Gertie, I am so inspired by you and the life you live. You are such a great example of going for one's dreams and making them happen. You and Jeff have such a wonderful arrangement and you are both so supportive of each other. I think that is a major key to your success. Him cooking dinner really frees you up to stay focused on your work and not get sidetracked. I am really looking forward to your book. Thank you for hanging in there and working so hard on it. I am also excited about your next Craftsy online class. It is great to be able to learn from you since I don't have access or the time to go to classes to improve my sewing. Thank you for passing on the things you have had the opportunity to learn. You are providing a great service. I so happy to know you.

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  7. Wow... What a wonderful life. It's so great to see someone doing what they love. Gertie is so inspiring. Her blog is the first that I ever followed once I decided that I wanted to take up sewing and I truly aspire to be like her especially and other wonderful sewist in the blogosphere. Off topic... I seen her husband book in walmart the other day and I got so excited, it was like I knew him personally, my husband thought I was going nuts the way I was gushing. Gertie, Tilly please keep up the good work. I know it can be challenging at times but please know that you guys really inspire new sewist like me and i hope that is enough for you to keep going. Thanks

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  8. Wow! I really enjoyed reading this. It's so interesting to see how other folks structure their lives. Thanks for bringing us another great interview!

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  9. Thank you for sharing, its intriguing to read about others sewing experiences - Gertie's life sounds amazing!

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  10. Fantastically inspiring post Tilly and Gertie! All the women you've featured ont this series have their passion and drive in common, it's what makes them stand out from other people. I love reading these, thanks again!

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  11. Ok, I am officially jealous! LOL. I wish I could take sewing lessons in NYC but alas, I'm in a different state. I am so excited to hear about the surprise. A television show, maybe?????

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  12. I've always wondered how she does it! :)

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  13. great feature, tilly, and a great post from gertie. thank you both for sharing!

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  14. I was thrilled to share a day in the life of Gertie, definitely, she is proof that dreams can come true if you pursue them.

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  15. Fantastic interview with a fantastic lady, thank you so much for this Tilly! I loved it so much I have star it. Gertie is so inspiring!

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  16. These are always fascinating Tilly; great idea!

    And Gertie: what a fun job you have! I like variety, too..& am lucky to get it in one job.

    Thanks for sharing!

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  17. I have been a fan for quite some time Gertie, and I loved seeing/reading about your day. Sometimes people who get a lot of press are seen by others as "perfect". Your work has always inspired me to do my best while sewing, and I think it is because you are so real and human in your blog. You have a wonderful attitude about your work, creativity and effort.

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  18. And who is this gorgeous gray guy?

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  19. Ladies, now you all have to come visit my studio in New York!

    Miriam, that is my sweet Henry, who keeps me company all day. He is the apple of my eye, so thank you for asking. :)

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  20. So glad you all enjoyed the interview (and the series in general) - thanks for the great feedback.

    Geminimistress - that is so sweet, and so great to hear :)

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  21. Hi, I'd like to invite you to post your giveaways on our giveaway directory: Giveaway Scout (http://www.giveawayscout.com). Please submit your blog here: http://www.giveawayscout.com/join/ \'a0Once you receive our confirmation email you can post your giveaways on our site. Thanks.

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  22. I am a daily reader of Gertie's blog (and yours, Tilly!), so this was a really interesting post to read. One can only become very impressed by her apparent work ethics in keeping up with such a busy schedule! And she seems so sweet and funny:) Great post!

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  23. Gertie, thank you for sharing your life. I, too, make my way in freelance/contract sewing and design and it can often be difficult to balance my time. You are inspiring.

    p.s. Henry is soooo handsome!

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  24. Hi Gertie. I have my gorgeous Bijou (a kind of little Maine Coon), who is a great companion too, althoug she thinks that she is a princess and I'm part of her staff.

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  25. Ooh, a new course being filmed in January and a top secret something!!
    I've loved reading about Gertie's very varied day. It's an ambition to one day meet her and have a lesson, but I'd have to get across the pond first.
    In fact, I've loved reading every one of the Day in the Life posts!

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  26. I loved reading this so much. I didn't think it was possible to love Gertie any more than I do, but now my girl crush is official. Gertie's life sounds wonderful and I am completely inspired by it. Thank you for sharing and I can't wait to hear about the secret surprise! What could it be?

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  27. I so enjoyed reading this! I love Gertie and am so excited to hear that she is going to be filming another craftsy online class. I took her bombshell dress class and can't even begin to tell you how much I learned. I would love to be able to take real life lessons with her, but unfortunately don't live anywhere near New York :(

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  28. I love this series! Gertie certainly is a fabulous person, hers was the blog that got me into the sewing blogosphere... :D

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  29. So excited about the new Craftsy course! I've honestly been combing that site and others for a class like yours, and guess what? Came up empty...I will be signing up asap. I have a hard time believing that you get ANY negative comments on anything you do!

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  30. I'm a long time reader of Gertie's blog, and I loved this peak into her daily life. Gertie's blog has inspired me greatly in my return to garment sewing. (I'm primarily a quilter.)

    C.B.

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  31. What a great guest post. Gertie's blog was the 2nd sewing blog i discovered when I had time to leave the big world and actually have time to return to my sewing roots. Always inspiring and sometimes provocative, sewing has a new face and a new direction because of people like Tillie and Gertie.

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  32. I think it's great that Gertie remembers her opportunities have come from the blog, so it's still important to the business side of things! I feel like sometimes people can get busy with their other stuff (books, etc) that more obviously make money and leave the blog behind.

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  33. Awesome post and continued Success.

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  34. My favourite guest. She sounds so fun ... It's very inspiring. I'm current doing an MBA in the creative industry sector and her success story is a great case study as very little people can transform their hobby into a successful business. And she did it so well. Thanks Tilly... And Thank you so much Gertie. You are amazing.

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  35. I continue to LOVE these 'day in the life of..." blog posts.

    Thanks so much!

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  36. I absolutely loved reading this one, Gertie is such an inspiration and a talent, the girl must be a machine to get done all what she does.
    thanks to both of you for putting this together.

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  37. I LOVE GERTIE! She was my inspiration to start sewing. If only I could make a living doing it too! Way to go her. :)

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  38. wow, such a great guest post! the whole series is great but i love how in depth she was and also that she stays in her jammies til she leaves the house and isn't an early riser. there is hope for me!! ;)

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  39. Really enjoyed reading this post,its great to know that you can make a living in the sewing world and doing something that you love. Gertie's blog is great and I'm a new and addicted reader to this one! XxxX http://thesecondhandrose.blogspot.com/

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  40. Great interview! Thanks for arranging, Tilly, and thanks to Gertie for sharing her life with us. After having followed Gertie from almost the beginning of her blog (when she had only a couple of hundreds followers, in the autumn of 2009), it is amazing to see how far she has reached and how much stuff she has accomplished! It's so impressive, and I'm proud of her and just a tiny bit jealous, as I guess a lot of other seamstresses are... :) Keep up the good work, Gertie, and also Tilly: Keep up the interviews!

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  41. Wonderfully inspiring post! Love your personal/creative style.

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  42. I love Gertie too! I'm a little bit in awe of her actually, she really gets a lot done and is fabulous on several planes, though I do feel a bit of a procrastinator by comparison! I am enjoying her online course and wish I lived in NYC and could have private lessons with her... can you imagine? the amazing Gertie in the same room as you and sewing too! the very thought makes me a little faint! I can't wait for her book, Gertie really has a talent to engage with people and her life is quite fascinating, stuck here in boring old UK I often imagine Gertie popping out to the garment district for some interfacing or a latte! Can't wait to see what that girl does next!

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  43. I really enjoyed this post. Love Gertie's blog. But then, who doesn't?!

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  44. so neat to learn a day in the life :)

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