BEACON, N.Y. -- What started as a sewing blog in 2009 has turned into a full-blown career for Gretchen Hirsch .
An avid crafter who'd always been into the retro look, she started writing "Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing" with the goal of sewing her way through a vintage sewing book. This, after being laid off from her NYC job in children's book publishing.
"Sewing was my main hobby and creative outlet," said the Beacon resident. "But it can be isolating, which is why I started the blog -- to connect with other people."
The fact that she was young and hip in what traditionally is a more mature market, made her all the more attractive. Plus, along with her instructions on how to make certain items, she'd inject her personal opinions about feminism -- along with photos of her cat ("to lighten things up," she said.)
The topic of women's issues arose when readers asked why she was so fascinated with 1950s fashions. When she put out her opinions, her readership spiked.
"From then on, anything that popped into my mind about feminism as it related to vintage fashion, sewing or crafting, I'd just write about," she said.
She attracted so many followers that she ended up getting a book deal.
Fast forward to now. Hirsch has since written four more sewing books -- with another in the works -- and branched into pattern designs for Butterick, who sells to Jo-Ann's Fabrics & Crafts stores. She also has her own line of fabrics, Gertie by Gretchen Hirsch, that she sells to Jo-Ann's as well as to stores in Australia.
And she teaches sewing, mainly from her home studio and at the recently opened stitch shop, Beetle and Fred . She also travels a lot to teach, both in the U.S. and abroad.
Her blog is not as active as it used to be; in fact her main forums now are Instagram, where she has 21,800 folllowers, and Facebook (with 22,000 fans). She's also added posts about her dog -- she still has the cat -- to keep fans engaged.
Hirsch said she's gotten some pushback on the feminist front since the election and has ramped down her words as she's gotten to be more of a public figure. "Sewing brings together a lot of people from different age groups and backgrounds -- from preteen to their 90s - so I try to be more neutral," she said.
Still, she sewed a bunch of pink pussy hats for her and her friends. And she continues to use her social media platforms as a way to resist the current political climate.
"If folks want to unfollow me, that's fine," she said. "I've always said I was a feminist."
Still -- she has her dog, Hattie, and her cat, Henry, as a way to change the focus when things get heated.
"Sewing people tend to be cat people," she said, "So when it becomes too politically charged, I just show a photo and go 'Hey, here's Henry.'"
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