Gingham Gemma

It’s almost December and therefore sweater weather, so it may seem strange to post about a Gemma Tank, but this top is something I find myself wearing quite a bit these days, under cardigans of course. I find I prefer sleeveless tops to sleeved tops when I’m wearing a sweater, because I don’t like that bunchy feeling you get when you try to stuff a shirt sleeve into a sweater sleeve; it makes me really twitchy and uncomfortable. Much like Clementine when she’s putting on her socks in the morning and doesn’t like how the sock seams feel in her shoes and then throws a fit and is late for school. What was I talking about?

Gemma tank

Here is is, sans cardi:

Gemma Tank

If this fabric looks familiar, it might be because this is the third (and final, I’m now out of yardage) garment I managed to squeeze out of this navy gingham  I picked up at Purl Soho. The other two things I made were this cute little Charlie top for Hugo and a Pearl shift for me. I like how the bias around the neckline pops out because of the gingham.

Gingham Gemma Tank

To be completely truthful this tank isn’t exactly the same as the Gemma pattern, because the pattern changed a bit as I worked on it and this was one of the earlier versions I made. The shoulders are a bit wider on this one than they are on the final pattern — I felt like the broader shoulders were a bit frumpy, so I narrowed them — and I eventually settled on two necklines for the final pattern, one a bit higher than this one, and one a bit lower.

Gemma is available in my pattern shop, comes in both A/B and C/D cup sizes, and looks great under winter cardigans!!!

Posted in gemma

While She Naps podcast

Hey friends! Just a little note to let you know that I’m sponsoring this week’s While She Naps podcast. I listened to the episode yesterday while I was running/walking (I’m getting back into shape using a Couch to 5K workout schedule, so I’m taking it sloooow), and I really enjoyed Abby’s interview with guest Jennifer Judd-McGee. Have you ever heard of her? She’s an amazing artist and I loved hearing her story. It’s a good one!!


I’ve also got a special discount set up for While She Naps listeners, so head over to While She naps, listen to the podcast, and get the discount code for my shop. Many of you know that I rarely do sales or discounts, so take advantage of this one while it lasts!!

You can subscribe to Abby’s podcast on iTunes or Stitcher. I listen to all my podcasts with my Podcast app (for iPhone). I also recommend subscribing to Abby’s newsletter if you are a creative entrepreneur; she always has the scoop on the latest stories and tools for handmade business owners.


Marble Dyed Isla Top

Isla Peplum

This marble-dyed fabric is fun, isn’t it? This is another Isla top that I wear all the time, even though it was meant to just be a studio sample. We wanted to test if the Isla pattern could be sewn entirely on a sewing machine instead of a serger, and it turned out great! The stitch I prefer to use when sewing knits on with my machine is a zig zag stitch, and I usually set the length a little longer (3-4 mm) and the width pretty narrow (1-1.5 mm). I don’t have an exact number for these because it helps to try it on a sample and play around with the width and length a bit. Every fabric can be a little different.

Isla Peplum

This particular fabric is a rayon jersey that I bought online at a shop that I found on Instagram (unfortunately I haven’t had great luck with the fabrics from that shop so I can’t recommend it), and since I didn’t realize when I purchased it that I should hang dry rayon jersey, it’s since gotten a bit pilly (read more about rayon jersey care via this post). But it’s not too bad for a sample.

made by rae | tie dye Isla top

You can see from these photos if you look carefully, especially at the second one, that this top has some bunching under the arm. I really didn’t notice the issue in my first few Isla samples — they were rayon jersey and therefore super-stretchy — but when we sent the pattern to testers, everyone’s photos came back with big wrinkles at the armpit and the comments were that it felt too tight. So we widened the armholes as a result. I love how testing really helps eliminate problems from a pattern. Anyway, I think it’s kind of fun to hear about the process, hopefully you do too!

Isla can be made as a dress or as a top and is available in my pattern shop.

Posted in isla, knits

Staystitching is Important


Attention, everyone, this is a sewing PSA. Staystitching is a garment-sewing technique that is really important. I am sharing this with you because when I started sewing, many years ago, I did not know what staystitching was, but even if I had, I probably would have skipped it. Now that I am older and wiser, I want to share this nugget of wisdom with you.

If you’ve ever sewn one of my women’s patterns (specifically for woven fabrics, such as Ruby, Beatrix, or Gemma), you may have noticed a step that instructs you to staystitch, followed by the words “IMPORTANT: DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP.” I’m guessing most people ignore this, mostly because if I didn’t know better, I probably would.

I’ve mentioned before that my mom taught me how to sew, but knowing how stubborn and headstrong I was as a child,* I doubt once she communicated the fundamentals to me that I spent much time listening to any further details. Details like: be careful about skipping steps that might initially seem unnecessary, because you may regret it.

In addition, my younger sister Elli took a 4-H sewing class from a very strict and anal retentive seamstress, and her experience left a strong impression on me. I remember the jumper she was working on taking her the better part of a year to complete, which seemed like utter torture to me. It made sewing seem so un-fun. As a result, I took an alternate approach with a more carefree sewing attitude: skip all but the most essential steps, and see what happens. In some cases, I discovered it didn’t really matter that much (three rows of gathering stitches vs. two or even in some cases — GASP — ONE.), but in other cases, I’ve discovered that taking a little extra time to add a seam finish or in this case, staystitch, can make a big difference.

*I can picture my mom thinking, “Just as a child…?” as she reads this.

So…what IS staystitching?
Staystitching is a line of stitching added to the edge of a piece of fabric (often along a curved edge such as a neckline or an armhole, but not always) that stabilizes the fabric so that it won’t stretch out while it’s being sewn. Additionally, if you’re making a piece of clothing, staystitching prevents the edges from stretching out if you try it on to check fit. The staystitching lines in the photo below are around the armholes and neckline of my chambray Gemma tank.


How and when do you staystitch?
To staystitch an edge, sew along the edge of the fabric, about 1/8″ away from the edge, using a normal straight stitch. Earlier patterns of mine said “using a regular length or slightly shorter than normal length stitch,” but I’ve since decided that a shorter stitch actually stretches out the fabric too much, so I now recommend a regular length stitch such as 2.5-3 mm.

As for when to staystitch, I think there are two schools of thought. The stricter approach is to staystitch edges after you cut out your fabric pieces, but before you do any sewing. I feel this is only necessary when sewing with a really unstable or slippery fabric. The other approach, which I prefer, is to staystitch any curved edges such as necklines or armholes after shoulder or side seams are sewn, but before facings or bindings or sleeves are attached. I take this more moderate/less strict approach because in most cases, woven fabrics are stable enough to sew some of the seams before staystitching without stretching out the garment significantly. Additionally, staystitching goes much faster when you can do a whole armhole in one go, instead of, say, having to staystitch the front armhole separately from the back armhole due to the shoulder seams having not yet been sewn.

That said, I can appreciate that some sewists would disagree and say that it’s better to be safe than sorry. I almost always favor the quick and easy sew, as long as it doesn’t sacrifice good construction technique.

I’ve probably utterly confused some of you, and if that’s the case, my recommendation would be just to try staystitching the next time you sew a piece of clothing. It definitely make more sense if you’ve got the garment in front of you, to be sure.

So, what say ye? Are you a Die-hard Staystitch-er? Or do you play it fast and loose and skip it? Have I convinced anyone to change your short-cutting ways?

Green Striped Cleo Skirt

Cleo Skirt | View B

Oh Nani Iro double gauze, how I love you so. I sewed this delightful fabric into a Cleo skirt (the sewing pattern I’m currently working on, yay!!) earlier this summer. I la-la-love it. Double gauze is so crazy comfortable and soft, and these stripes look like they were painted on by hand. This skirt has inseam pockets which seem more and more critical to me in a garment the more I sew, plus a flat-front with elastic-back waistband, so it’s quite comfortable to wear. New favorite skirt alert!

Cleo Skirt

The “midi” length falls below the knee, resulting in something that gives me strong flashbacks of the skirts my mother wore to church in the summer back in the 80’s along with a large perm and sandals, even more so when I wear it with my chambray Gemma tank. I am admittedly confused by the word “midi.” Has this word been around a very long time? It seems to have popped up in the last couple of years, and the first time I heard it I had to look it up. I suppose I risk sounding incredibly stupid by admitting that, but there it is.

Cleo Skirt

This version will be “View B” of the Cleo skirt pattern, with View A sporting cut out pockets and a band along the hem ala the Flying Crane skirt. If you got my fall pattern preview newsletter back in September, you’ll have seen a more thorough description plus more photos of Cleo already (you can sign up for my email updates here, by the way). If not, rest assured you’ll see more posts of this pattern very soon!

Cleo Skirt

Let me tell you how long it takes to make a sewing pattern: forever. I previewed this skirt pattern on Instagram back in February (though I’ve been working on this design since early 2013…yes, 2013), and if you asked me in February when this one would be ready, I probably told you late spring. But then there was Gemma, and Isla, and now I’m serious, this pattern will happen next. I do feel a bit badly since I know some of you have been excited for this pattern for a long time and probably feel a bit impatient. If so, you have a good sense for how long it takes me to make a pattern. So I have a question for you: do you prefer when pattern designers surprise you with a design once it’s ready so that you can sew it right away? I feel like a lot of the big indie pattern designers keep everything very secret until they are absolutely ready to a launch. Or do you enjoy seeing the designs while they are in progress? As a sewing pattern consumer, I can see benefits to both approaches, but as a pattern designer I wonder if it would be better if I took the Super Secret approach. What do you think?

Posted in Cleo