Birthday Dress

Clementine’s Birthday dress!

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It was perfect for running after bubbles,

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playing in the sandbox,

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pulling around her new suitcase,

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riding her new bike,

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(though a bit of modification was needed for the actual bike-riding)

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and, extra bonus, it coordinated nicely with the Birthday Hat:

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Happy 3rd Birthday Clementine!!!

Fabric by Sarah Jane, from her “Children at Play” line (and be sure to check out “Out to Sea,” her latest line with a nautical theme that is just as adorable!)

What I did this weekend

We had a party yesterday for our sweet little stinker Clementine, who turns 3 today!!! She requested a Lowly Worm cake, and I was more than happy to take on the challenge.

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If you follow me on Instagram (madebyrae) you got to see the “magic” unfold yesterday…hee:

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I have to say this is definitely the most “involved” cake design I have ever attempted. It required a bit of creativity because I wanted to avoid piping any frosting: cocoa powder for Lowly’s body, marshmallow and chocolate chip for his eye, marshmallow rolled in red sugar for his bow tie. I have to say I was v. proud of self after the birthday girl expressed her satisfaction with it.

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I also finished a special birthday dress for her with some Sarah Jane fabric I’d been saving for this occasion:

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More pics of that later (the birthday girl is due to wake up from her nap soon)!

Posted in at home
19 Comments

Foxes, Moonrise Kingdom, and Washi

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First. Am so excited about my fabric samples that came from Spoonflower yesterday. This little foxy print is one I designed in Inkscape last fall in just the blue and orange. It took a $1 swatch sale at Spoonflower last month for me to try out a few other colors. Still like the blue best, but the pink/orange combo is a close second. More on these later, but if, perchance, you need some foxy fabric of your own, these are now available in my Spoonflower shop. What do you think??

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Second. I finally saw Moonrise Kingdom this past weekend with Mr Rae (it finally made it to our indie theater here in Ann Arbor) and I lalaloved it. Not as much from a what-a-great-story standpoint but more of a “wow that is really cool/hilarious/amazing!” standpoint. Let’s be honest, Wes Anderson’s story lines are more of a delivery vehicle for the more central cinematography, music, and styling aspects than anything else.

Skip to the point Rae. How much do I love Suzy’s pink dress? Lots.

image via Moonrise Kingdom

So, question: Is there a way to combine the uber-adorbsible collar, awesome color, and (dare I dream of finding something similar) textured fabric without needing to go the mini-dress route, which, let’s face it is going to look hilarious on my 30-something self? I am dying for the color, fabric, collar, and cuffs. Did I mention that already?

Third. Brenda of Pink Castle informed me last week that the Washi fabric line has been discontinued. Waaah. Let’s hear it for a good, long run for the Washi line, woot!! And before you weep into your coffee cup, know that the word in the blogosphere is that Rashida Coleman-Hale is currently working on another line for Cloud 9 that is sure to be just as fantastic!

image via Cloud 9 blog

So what does this mean hey? It means all bets are off if you plan to recreate this dress unless you can find it and snap it up now:

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The Washi Dress pattern is coming-oh-so-soon (tester copies are out as of this week, yay!), and just so you know, Brenda has the Washi tape prints left yet (at least 39 yards of the beige, 16 yards of the grey as of this writing) and you will need 2.5 yards for the smaller sizes (up to about a size M/women’s 8 ) and 3 yards for the larger sizes (up to about a women’s size 16).

Summertime creations by…YOU!

Hey everyone, it’s time for a totally awesome photo roundup! Here’s just a small sampling of what you have been making, via the Rae Made Me Do It Flickr pool:

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1. Purple Long Sleeves, 2. Tiny Tour de France Yellow Jersey, 3. Heartbreaker Tee, 4. Sweet Ride, 5. Painted Purple Stripe, 6. Upcycled Pippi Tee

Lots of great Flashback Tee variations have been popping up, including many that are short-sleeved. If you haven’t seen my tutorial on how to turn the Flashback Tee into a short-sleeved tee, be sure to check it out. And you also absolutely must check out this tutorial on how to turn the Flashback Tee into a mini-maillot ala Tour De France from Laura of Craftstorming. So. darn. cute. !!!

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Or if muscle tees or ruffles are more your thing, check out these:

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1. Flashback Tank, 2. Pink girlie tee by CailaMade, 3. Pumping Iron by skirtastop

You can see even more in the Flashback Tee photo pool. And then there’s the bonnets and dresses:

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1. Blue Easter Bonnet, 2. Red & Yellow Flowers, 3. Charlie Elephant Dress, 4. Itty Bitty Butterflies, 5. 4th of July Bonnet, 6. Itty Bitty Jungle, 7. Peekaboo Green Trim, 8. Itty Bitty Blue, 9. 3 Peekaboo Bonnets

I also love this pair of cuties in their Charlie Tunics

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This short-sleeved Pierrot Tunic in voile from Anna is perfect for summer!

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You can find the Peekaboo Baby Bonnet, Itty Bitty Baby Dress, Pierrot and Charlie Tunic patterns (and ALL of my other patterns) right here.

And of course let’s not forget baby pants:

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1. B3 Pants in the Garden, 2. B3 Pants Clothesline, 3. Monkey Butt Clown Pants , 4. Grey, Yellow, White B3 Pants, 5. Red Pants, Jump Rope, 6. Newborn Pants

The Big Butt Baby Pant Sewing Pattern and free Newborn Baby Pant pattern and tutorial can be found right here. And now that summer’s in full swing, so don’t forget about the Rainbow Dress Tutorial/Printable, as modeled by this lovely darling:

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Keep posting your amazing creations to the Rae Made Me Do It Pool and/or these other pools:

Flashback Tee Photo Pool | Charlie Tunic Photo Pool | Pierrot Tunic Photo Pool | Big Butt Baby Pant Photo Pool | Itty Bitty Baby Dresses Photo Pool

Posted in roundup
10 Comments

Traced Teal Tee

A couple of weeks ago I taught the Trace and Make Tee class here in Ann Arbor along with my friend Karen. I wanted to make another tee just to make sure I knew what I was doing before the class so I pulled out the teal rib knit I’d bought earlier this year from Brenda at Pink Castle for the knit series and made a short-sleeved version of the striped 3/4-length-sleeve tee I posted earlier on this blog, which was traced from a tee I own. And what the heck, why do I always have this same serious expression on my face? I guess I need to start laughing more in my photos.

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Believe it or not I actually wear it like this, with three different bright colors all competing for attention at the same time. I like my brights, y’alls. I also really love this deep teal color; turquoise and teal are two colors that almost always look good on me.

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And here are some pictures from the class, which was so much fun! I was so pleased with how well everyone did, some people even learned to sew on a serger for the very first time!

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One thing I’ve noticed about teaching sewing classes is that somehow, no matter how well you map out your class time, the time is never enough to have everyone walk away with finished garments. I used to stress about that a little bit, but after talking to Deborah about it (Karen and I taught a kid pant class at her shop, Whipstitch earlier this year and she is a sewing class pro), I’ve realized that it’s really not the most important thing. It can be difficult explaining to participants that the main goal is not necessarily COMPLETION (because obviously most people want to walk away a finished garment) but more the learning process itself, but I think this group got it and learned a ton. I was proud of the things they did manage to do in the time we had! Does that sound too much like “everyone got an A+ for EFFORT?” Because I really mean it even if it does sound cheesy.

Speaking of classes, today is the last day to sign up for my Made-to-Measure Skirt Workshop next week Tuesday night, and we still have space! So if you want to sign up, please do it now!

Seattle

I hopped off the plane to Seattle on Friday (and a blissful 5 hours without children THAT was, I say!) and had a snack and went straight downtown to see the big new ferris wheel that just opened on the waterfront along with my sister Elli and my dad. The line was long, but it was fun. I love a good ferris wheel. Some photographic evidence:

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The Big Wheel.

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Love the colors on this crane/barge thingy near the pier:

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Waiting in line. Those are my new Dansko sandals. They look like something you might see in a Las Vegas movie scene from the 70’s. Love.

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Umbrellas from the ground:

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Umbrellas from the top:

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I love this town! Mom’s 60th birthday is tomorrow so we’re having a great time planning and getting ready. Elli and I also hope to sew a couple Washi Dresses. We’ll see. Back soon!

Posted in travel
12 Comments

Colorblock Pearl Bracelet Dress

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A little friend of Clementine’s turned two a few weeks ago and I made her this little dress as a present. Couldn’t help myself. How could I help myself when these three Lizzy House prints go SO WELL TOGETHER? No answer. I must say she looked quite fetching in it the other day at the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum. So cute!!!

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The ambulance at the museum was an unexpected hit (with all of our kids).

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A bit more about the fabric:
For the last couple years, Lizzy House has been putting out new colors of this circle print (called “Pearl Bracelets”) each time she designs a new line of fabric. I made the now-“iconic” pair of Big Butt Baby Pants using the orange/grey pearl bracelets from Red Letter Day (by the way, the term “iconic” came from someone who stopped my cousin and her daughter A on the street in Brooklyn because A wears Clementine’s hand-me-downs and happened to be wearing THAT pair of pants — isn’t that insane? Love it!). Also: you must check out the version Lizzy made for herself (scroll down in this post) — inspired by this Instagram pic of mine shown below. Love her buttons on the back especially!!

The red and aqua prints are from the Hello Pilgrim collection which is still widely available, and the yellow is from Outfoxed and is a bit tougher to find. A few of my sponsors over there on the sidebar still carry lots of Lizzy though, so have a hunt and see if you can find them!!

A bit more about the pattern:
Perhaps you can see a bit of Charlie-Dress-influence in this design; Elli and I were actually working on the pattern pieces for this dress earlier this year, then deserted it for other projects. I’m not saying we won’t pick it up again, but it needs a bit of tweaking to be it’s own thing yet.

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Well. I’m headed to Seattle soon for my mama’s 60th birthday celebration. Not sure how much time I’ll have to blog since I shall no doubt be up to my elbows in fabulous birthday preparations and/or cocktails. Have a great week!!

Making clothes for me, lessons learned

I have to admit that reading your comments on the Orange Washi Dress post last week made me freak out, just a little bit. For one thing, it made me really excited to see how excited so many of you are for this pattern. NO PRESSURE.

But the other thing: I worry that some people might think that because I have spent so much time on this pattern, getting the bust darts just the way I want them, for example, that the bust darts will automatically be perfect for you as well. Knowing what I know about women’s bodies (that we are curvy and all shaped differently), I know that just simply isn’t true. And while the Washi Dress has some really awesome qualities from a fit-standpoint (like shirring in the back so that people who need back darts like me won’t need to add them (yay!) and a fair bit of cup-size flexibility), I’m afraid that people will pick up the pattern and be disappointed when it doesn’t fit them perfectly right off the bat.

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So I want to talk a little bit about the things I’ve learned in the process of making clothes for myself over the years in hopes that some of these pointers will help some of you find ways to get a good fit when you make clothes for yourselves!

I started sewing clothing for myself right around junior high, and though I don’t remember much about that anymore, I’m pretty sure the first thing I ever sewed for myself garment-wise was a yellow cotton skirt. I DO remember much of the clothing I made back then was pretty baggy and big, so fit wasn’t always much of an issue. Yay 90’s!

Most people my age who started sewing when they were young share the same experience as I did: If you wanted to sew a piece of clothing for yourself, you would go to the fabric store, flip through the McCalls (or Simplicity or Butterick, Vogue was “too hard”) catalog, pick out a pattern you liked, find the fabric you liked, and then read the back of the pattern envelope to get your size and yardage. The construction process was pretty standard as well: you’d cut out the pattern pieces in “your size” from those insanely finicky tissue pattern pages, then pin the pieces to your folded fabric with a bajillion teensy pins, carefully cut out your size (right through the tissue) using sewing scissors, sew it together, and hope for the best. I think my mom taught me to do it this way because this was just the way her mom had taught her to do it, and so on. How many generations back did this go? I have no idea.

I’ve been “selfish sewing” pretty seriously for the last 5 years or so now, and I’ve discovered that this process just doesn’t really work for me anymore. For one thing, tissue paper patterns make me crazy. For another, my body is far more curvy and dynamic than it used to be when I was 15 (Having two babies did not help. I gained about 45 pounds when I was pregnant with Clementine and never lost all of it). And with current styles being much more fitted than they were back in the 1990’s, I’ve come to understand that the “hope-for-the-best” philosophy when it comes to picking a size is actually pretty delusional.

How to cope? It doesn’t make any sense to sew things for myself that are going to fit poorly. I’m just not going to wear them, and what’s the fun in that. And why go through the entire process only to discover at the *end* that it doesn’t fit? Depressing! Big SAD FACE!!!

So, here are some of the lessons I’ve learned, steps I’ve built in to my sewing process that have helped insure that when I make something, it’s not a surprise at the end how it will fit. And sure, these steps take extra time. But again, is it better just to hope for the best just so I can save a little time? Nope, nope, nope-ity nope.

Choosing size
My bust, waist, and hip measurements all put me into different sizes on most women’s patterns, commercial or independent (waaah). If I pick a dress pattern based on hip measurement, it comes out too big, if I pick based on bust measurement, it’s usually too small. So, what to do? Most of the time, I pick based on the most important measurement for that pattern. If it’s pants, I pick the size based on the waist because I can always take the hips in. If it’s a top or dress, I pick the size based on the bust to start with.

Tracing pattern pieces
I almost never cut into my pattern pieces even when I am absolutely certain that I know the pieces will fit me just the way I want them to. This means that to try out sizes, I trace them using swedish tracing paper first. I know that “takes it up a notch” for some of you home sewists, but it is seriously one of the BEST supplies in my sewing room and I don’t know how I ever lived without it.

Once I have taped together a PDF pattern, I can just trace the size I want and then fold it all up and put it into a file folder. If I need a different size later, there’s no need to print it out again, I just unfold the pattern sheet and trace again (the same is true for pattern pages from sewing project books or even tissue patterns). I’ve found the swedish tracing paper pieces last longer than paper anyway (they can be pressed, sewed together, and are really hard to tear…they are actually similar to dryer sheets when it comes to tensile strength). I talked about tracing patterns at the end of this post last year (pictured above).

Another thing: if I think I am between two sizes or I’m just not sure, I trace TWO sizes while I’ve got the pattern sheet spread out on my dining room table. That will save me time later!

Making muslins
This is probably the single most important thing I have learned to do when it comes to making clothes for myself. Once I have my pattern pieces traced, I cut them out of muslin FIRST before I touch my Real Fabric. And by “muslin” I literally mean the super cheap unbleached stuff you can buy by the bolt at JoAnn. Don’t wash or dry it either. I used to make “wearable muslins” (see the example shown above, which was a wearable muslin made for this final top) but I’ve since realized that it’s way faster to make a real muslin-muslin. Sometimes I will make just a partial muslin, like the one shown below that I made for the Washi Dress. In this case, I already knew that the skirt would fit, but I was worried about the bodice, so I made the muslin for just the top half of the dress.

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When you make a muslin, you machine-baste the seams together instead of sewing them with a regular stitch length (learned that from Liesl Gibson at a Weekend Sewing workshop), and do absolutely NO finishing. No hemming, no facings, no bias binding, etc. If the pattern calls for darts or pleats, you definitely do those (they affect fit!) but skipping all of the more tedious construction steps is a huge timesaver. Then I try it on. If that muslin doesn’t fit, I either try the next size down/up, or make changes such as pinching the muslin together in places where it gapes to see if you can take the seam on the side somewhere to make it fit. The whole muslin process (cutting, basting together, trying on, making another muslin) usually takes me a half hour to an hour, max. The trick is to do it really really quick. And it takes time, DEFINITELY. But the time you save in the long run is irreplaceable!

Blending sizes
Unless you are fortunate enough to have a body that fits perfectly into your muslin the first time, you may have to adjust the pattern a bit at this point. If a muslin is too big on top but too small on the bottom, you can pinch the muslin along the side seams to see where to sew it to make it fit. Sometimes I need to draw a line along the side of the pattern from say, the size 8 line at the bust to the size 12 line at the hip, to “blend” the two sizes together. That is a pretty easy fix. I’ve also discovered that sometimes I fall right between the size S and M size in some patterns. When that happens, I literally (while I am tracing) draw a line *right* between those two sizes’ pattern lines to get new pattern pieces that will fit me better.

Bust adjustment
I’ve known for awhile that both my armpits and my bust apex* (the fullest part of your bust) were lower than average. Armpits always felt too high, even when everything else fit fine, and bust darts always seem to point OVER my bust…not cool! So the armpit thing was pretty easy to fix, I just cut out the armholes a little lower than normal, sometimes up to an inch. It turns out that sliding a bust dart down (or up) is actually pretty easy as well! If a bust dart doesn’t point to your bust apex*, it will look weird. Sometimes it’s just a matter of sliding it up or down the pattern a bit. See this post on i could make that! for a nice tutorial on moving a bust dart.

*This is NOT the same thing as your nipple. OK just realized that in the course of just one week I have used the words “boob” and “nipple” on this blog. Greeeeat.

Just last week I finally came to terms with the fact that, being small-chested, I might have to occasionally do a small bust adjustment. For women who are more largely-endowed, I have learned that knowing how to do a Full Bust Adjustment (or FBA) on any pattern is a) pretty easy once you learn and b) TOTALLY WORTH IT because oh my goodness things finally fit properly!! A small bust adjustment and a full bust adjustment are pretty similar, in one you spread the pieces together (SBA) and the other you spread the pieces apart (FBA).

I just this month started subscribing to Creativebug – a crafty video website where for the price of your subscription you can watch as many videos as you want — and one of THE BEST videos on there which I think completely justifies the price of your subscription in one fell swoop is Liesl Gibson’s Bust Adjustment video. You can see a preview at that link as well. The way she breaks it down so clearly is a beautiful thing to behold I tell you. If a Creativebug subscription is not in the cards for you, even for one month, here are a couple of tutorials to try (although I have to say, watching it on a video is so much better in my opinion):
http://sewmamasew.com/blog2/2008/05/full-bust-alterations-or-adjustments-fba/
http://sew-la-fabric.blogspot.com/2010/04/full-bust-adjustment-aka-fba.html
or just google “Full Bust Adjustment” to find oodles of links that will help you learn how (that’s what I did to get those links, y’all. The Power of the Internet). I swear, for those of you who are Big Up Top, once you learn how to do this, you will never go back. A whole new world of sewing will open before you.

Read up
I can’t really take credit for any of this information. All of it is stuff I’ve learned from other places. Let me recommend a few books that I feel are easy to understand and give great information about fit and sewing for yourself. These are some books I own and consult on a regular basis:

  • Built By Wendy books. Especially her “Dresses” book goes into nice detail about adjusting fit, making muslins
  • Colette Sewing Handbook: Also some great info on making muslins and adjusting patterns to fit, including bust adjustment. Her blog, Coletterie, also has a ton of great fit tutorials, and although most are specific to her patterns, many include principles that can be adapted to other women’s patterns as well
  • Design-it-yourself clothes by Cal Patch – this is a great intro to pattern making, and although it’s really basic (no bust darts, etc), it was really a life-changer for me in terms of understanding the basic dimensions of a pattern and how to manipulate them. By the way, did you see that Cal’s also got pattern-making lessons on Creativebug too? Awesome.

OK, so I could keep going on and on and on but at some point this is going to stop being a blog post and turn into it’s own book instead. Hopefully I have given you a few great pointers for ways to perfect your Selfish Sewing.

I definitely feel that sewing for oneself is a process learned over time, not a single leap into couture-sewing for most to be sure. But it can be really rewarding to start to see the hard work pay off. I feel like I should know — five years ago I was sewing straight from a pattern, and now I’m making my OWN patterns! It all happens with baby steps. And If you already do these things (or have other suggestions that you feel strongly about), please suggest!!