On the Rae-dar

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This week I worked on two little Charlie Dresses to send over to the You Are My Sister fundraiser event hosted by Heather Ross at Hart’s Fabric in Santa Cruz this weekend. It’s not too late to buy tickets for the event this Sunday evening, or (if you’re not in the area) purchase raffle tickets for the event, t-shirts, or prints.

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These combinations of Heather’s fabrics just melt my heart. They’re right up my alley, given my continuing love affair with pink and yellow. Are you a Heather Ross fabric hoarder too? I have enough Far Far Away green unicorn double gauze to make a Washi Dress (I just can’t get up the nerve), not to mention enough Mendocino to make pajamas for the kids for years.

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This Little Geranium (free pattern here) is also headed to Hart’s as well:

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I also made some headway this week towards some new studio space in downtown Ann Arbor. This spare bedroom-slash-sewing-room situation is getting a bit crazy at my house, what with all the fabric overflowing the closet and shelves. More real estate is the clear answer, right? I’m also hoping to hire someone to help me sew samples and do other odd jobs here with me in Ann Arbor. And maybe I’m crazy, but I think it would be awesome to have ice-cream-and-sewing socials in downtown Ann Arbor (there’s a Ben and Jerry’s right by my [hopefully!] future space).

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Speaking of pink and yellow, I just made the Tassel Necklace from the class taught by Liesl Gibson over at Creativebug. LOVE. IT. Also, Creativebug is offering kids’ classes for the summer at Camp Creativebug, and they look like fun! Here’s a little peek. Kids can learn to make Clothespin Dolls with Amy Karol, sew an Infinity Scarf with Annabel Wrigley, build a Puppet Theater with Amelia Strader, make Shrinky Dink Jewelry with Nicole Blum, and much more. They will be adding new classes every week, all summer long. To kick things off, they have a free Summer Teepee class. Fun, fun!!!

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You’re in luck! They’re now offering the first month of Creativebug to Made by Rae readers for only $9.95 with the promo code MADEBYRAE (normally it costs $24.99/month) if you’re interested! FYI, I am not a Creativebug affiliate or anything, just friends with the Creativebug folks and love what they do over there. I have personally been a paid subscriber of Creativebug since they launched last year, and I really enjoy it! So many fun things to make and do.

Let’s see, what else? Things seem pretty crazy around here with summer in full swing…we’re hoping to get that Geranium Dress in bigger sizes up and running really soon, and I’m working on a new women’s pattern that I think you will really love.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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Keeping my patterns organized

organizing your patterns


This post was originally part of Pink Castle’s Spring Cleaning series. I’m bringing it home today — thought you might enjoy seeing how I organize my patterns!

When you’ve spent as much time using sewing patterns as I do, you realize that if you don’t figure out a decent pattern-organization system quick, you’re going to have a problem on your hands (in the form of a very messy pile of pattern pieces). Today I’m here to share my “system” with you. Maybe you’ll find it as handy as I do!

file cabinet

My system is pretty simple: I use file folders and a file cabinet. I label each folder with a sharpie (I used to use a label maker, as you might be able to see from the picture, but that ended up being tedious), and it goes in the file cabinet. I have two file drawers, one for my children’s patterns and one for my women’s patterns, which includes purses and bags. All the patterns are alphabetized by name, so they’re easy to find.

patterns on top

I also keep a few hanging file folders on the top of the cabinet for the patterns that are currently in use. It’s necessary to “weed” this one out occasionally and put the files back in the cabinet, but overall, it works great. Let me give you a few examples of how this works for me. All of the patterns I own fall into three main groups:

1. First there are the digital, or PDF patterns. I’m a pattern designer, and most of the patterns I sell fall into this category. PDFs get stored in a folder on my computer, but to be useful, they have to be printed out and taped together.

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When I’m done using it, I just fold up the PDF pattern, still taped together, and put it in a folder, and store it in the cabinet.

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2. The second type of patterns I own is traditional print patterns in their envelopes. I’ve been buying these kinds of patterns all my life, so I’ve got a bunch. These get stored in a plastic tub, but the file folder system works for these, too, as I’ll explain shortly.

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3. Finally, there are patterns from books and magazines. These have big pattern pages in the back with all the pieces nested or overlapping each other. I use the file folder system for these types of patterns, too.

patternbooks

The thing all of these patterns have in common is that when I want to use them, instead of cutting them apart, I trace them. Whenever I want to sew something from a pattern, I first make a tracing of the pattern pieces so that I don’t have to cut into the original pattern sheets or print-outs. Not only does this save me a huge amount of paper and ink with PDFs; it also keeps my pattern sheets from books or envelopes in great shape.  Whenever I need a pattern piece, I take it out and trace the size I need. Where do the tracings go? You guessed it: into folders in the file cabinet!

tracing paper

I make all of my tracings from Swedish tracing paper, which is sort of like a non-fusible lightweight interfacing in that you can cut it, you can sew on it (think tissue fittings without the danger of ripping), AND you can press it! It’s transparent, so it’s really easy to trace a pattern outline in the size you need. Swedish tracing paper makes really nice lightweight pattern pieces that are easy to fold and store in my file folders, and if they get wrinkled, I can just press them flat again with my iron in a split second. (Three places you can find it: Dry Goods Online, Near Sea Naturals, and Amazon).

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Whenever I need a pattern piece from ANY of my patterns, I trace the size I need from the original pattern with Swedish tracing paper. It’s really important to label the traced pattern with the size and name, because after a while those tracings all start to look the same. The tracings get put in a file folder, labeled with the name of the pattern, and put in the cabinet.

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When I want to use a pattern from a pattern book? I trace the size I want from the pattern sheet, then fold up the tracings and put them in a folder in my cabinet. I store the pattern sheet in the back of the book it belongs to on a bookshelf.

sew lib tracing

And when I use my traditional print patterns, I trace them, too (why destroy those nice tissue sheets when they can be reused for other sizes?). Those tracings? You guessed it, they go in the file folders, too.

print pattern tracing

And that’s really it! Questions? I’d be happy to answer them in comments.

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Super seams!

This post is part of a fun online event called “Shorts on the Line!” It’s a summer sewalong all about… shorts! It’s hosted by imagine gnats and  small + friendly. Fabulous guest bloggers are posting their shorts inspiration, tutorials, and pattern reviews, and those sewing along at home have a chance to win some great prizes, including fabric, patterns, and gift certificates! Welcome, Shorts on the Line readers!!!

Today I want to talk to you about something I think is pretty important when sewing for children: taking a little extra time whilst sewing to make sure your seams are nice and strong. Let me show you what I’m talking about. Take, for instance, these cute little shorts I made for Clementine last week from my Parsley Pants pattern (shortened into shorts; see the how-to post here):

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They look pretty innocent and adorable, right? What you don’t see, though, is that on the inside they have…

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SUPER SEAMS!! That’s right. Don’t be fooled by the cuteness, people. These shorts are made to last.

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When I began making clothing for my children six years ago (for BABY Elliot!), I used a pinking shears to trim the seams, figuring that would help keep them from fraying. The trouble is that kids are pretty rough on their clothes. All that crawling and rolling and running around? After washing the clothes multiple times I started to notice fraying seams, which led to holes. It felt like a waste of time to spend precious nap hours making a pair of pants for Elliot, only to go back and fix them later. It was always worst with the pants and shorts.

Now when I make my kids shorts or pants, I have three ways I like to “finish” my seams. But first, let’s review the basic steps of sewing a pair of shorts or pants with the help of this handy-dandy infographic (by the way, these steps are outlined in MUCH greater detail, along with hints, in both my Parsley Pants Pattern and in my Newborn Pant tutorial, which comes with a free pattern):

how to sew shorts

Step 1: First, you need to sew the center (“crotch”) seams, for both the front and back. This is done by placing the two pieces of the shorts together and sewing the front and back curved edges.

Step 2: Sew the legs together: open up the pant, pin the center seams together, and sew up one leg and down the other. This seam is also called the “inseam.”

Step 3: For basic pants or shorts, an elastic waistband can be made by folding and pressing the top edge 1/4″ towards the inside of the shorts, folding another 1-1.5″ down, and then stitching along the lower fold to form a casing for the elastic. Then you thread the elastic through the waistband, stitch the ends together, and close the hole. I always put a little piece of folded ribbon in the hole before I sew it shut so my kids can tell front from back when they’re getting dressed.

Step 4: Hem the bottom of the shorts by folding and pressing 1/4″ twice towards the inside of the shorts and then stitching that second fold down. You can make a wider hem by folding 1/4″ and then 1,” or replace the 1″ with whatever width you want!

OK, so now that you have the basics, let’s take a look at three ways to finish a seam to make it a SUPER SEAM! (Instructions follow photos.)

SUPER SEAM #1: Fold and stitch down

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I use this seam finish most often when sewing the center seams (step 1 in the basic steps above). First, to make the seam itself stronger, I use a “5 stitches forward, 2 stitches back” approach, meaning I stitch forward a spell, then back a couple stitches, forward a bunch, back a couple, and so on. This insures that the stitches themselves won’t pull out with wear. Then to prevent the seam allowance from fraying, fold each side under on either side of the seam, and stitch the folded edges down. A quick easy seam finish that takes almost NO extra time! Here’s what it looks like from the outside:

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SUPER SEAM #2: Flat fell

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I use this seam finish most often on inseams (step 2 in the basic steps above). After sewing the seam, trim one side of the seam allowance to half the width of the other, fold the bigger side around the trimmed side (to enclose it, if you will), press it flat and stitch it down. Takes a little extra time but has the added advantage of being super strong AND looking awesome.

SUPER SEAM #3: Serge and stitch down

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If you have a serger, you can finish seams quickly just by running them through the serger after you’ve sewn them. Once you’ve serged them, press them to one side and stitch them down. Main disadvantage: You need to own a serger. But for speed reasons, this is definitely my preferred method.

UPDATE: If you don’t own a serger, you can use a zig zag stitch over the edges for the same effect — works just as well, just doesn’t look quite the same.

Note: I don’t usually use the serger to sew the seam itself, because if I make a mistake or need to adjust something once I’ve tried it on a kid, a serged seam is a heckuva lot harder to un-sew.

Here’s what this finish looks like from the outside:

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So that’s it! I often use a combination of two or more of these finishes on one garment. I think you’ll find that using these three seam finishes, you’ll be able to make clothing for your kids that will last without much extra time invested. Put them on your kids and watch them go!

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You can see a few more pictures of the blue shorts in action on Clementine over on this post.

If you need a bit more detail or want to read about even more great seam finishes, I highly recommend these other top-notch resources:
Sew Mama Sew’s Seam Finishes Simplified
Seam Finish Tutorial Roundup from the Coletterie

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The Shorts on the Line sewalong is hosted by imagine gnats and small + friendly, sponsored by Jo-AnnPretty Prudent/Pellon®, and Hawthorne Threads. Here are the rest of the Shorts on the Line posts for you to enjoy:

6/10 Petit a Petit and Family and Shwin & Shwin

6/11 Delia Creates and Buzzmills

6/12 Cirque du Bebe and Sanae Ishida

6/13 Fake It While You Make It and elsie marley

6/14 No Big Dill and Max California and Designs by Sessa

6/17 girl inspired and Casa Crafty

6/18 Frances Suzanne and Caila Made

6/19 Made by Rae and Craftstorming

6/20 Noodlehead and emmyloubeedoo

6/21 Siestas & Sewing and Made with Moxie

6/24 imagine gnats and small + friendly

Coming Soon: Geranium Dress in Larger Sizes!

I have a little feeling you’re gonna love this.  Behind the scenes over here we’ve been working on sizing up the Geranium Dress!  The Geranium Dress will SOON be available as a separate PDF pattern, in sizes 6-12. I know a lot of you have been asking for a bigger version of this sweet little dress, and your wish will be granted imminently.  We’re just putting the finishing touches on the pattern.

UPDATE: GERANIUM DRESS SEWING PATTERN SIZES 6-12 IS NOW AVAILABLE HERE

Now for some sneak peeks from my awesome testers! Lynn at The Little Red Hen blogged here about the version she made for her daughter, Miss P (this is the size 6, lengthened a bit):

Geranium dress yoke

Even more adorable versions from the testers:

Left to Right: Green & Yellow (by Brittany), Purple Floral (from Sarah), Colorful Dots (from Cindy), Roses (by Clover):

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I love the pintucks on this version from Johanna:

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A couple more sweet necklines:

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(left) Geranium Top, (right) front.

Now, something amazing.  Miss P made this green tunic all by herself, using her mom’s Bernina!  Didn’t she do a lovely job? You can read more about it here. She used Heather Ross’s Crafty Chloe fabric. I can’t tell you how excited it makes me to think of kids making their own garments!

Crafty Chloe - Geranium yoke

There are a few more testers’ photos in the Geranium Dress Flickr Pool. Before long you’ll be able add your own! Stay tuned.

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Tsuru Washi with a bow

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I made this fun Washi Dress for Quilt Market this spring with one of the “Motif Madness” prints from the Tsuru line designed by my friend Rashida for Cloud 9.

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The ties got stuck inside the dress the first time I put it on, and when I started to pull them out they made a fun little origami-esque collar…gotta love those happy accidents. I actually wear it that way most of the time now, but I pulled out the ties for these photos so you could see how it’s *supposed* to look! Do you think it looks better tucked in or tied out?

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I used a wide piece of elastic in the back instead of the elastic shirring that the pattern usually calls for. This is a nice option for those of you who Fear the Shir. The other thing I did differently on this version was bind the armholes so that the bias tape shows on the outside of the armhole (in the pattern, the bias tape is put on the inside of the armhole so it doesn’t show on the outside).

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I’ve hinted in the past that I’m working on an expansion pack for the Washi Dress that includes a tie-neck option. I’m not certain when the extra options will be available, but it’s on “The List”…I just work at my own special pace, which is a slow and steady one. With two small kids, I really don’t see any other way, and that’s fine by me.

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I heard a rumor that the Tsuru fabrics will be shipping to shops again in the next month or so, so you should be able to find these fabrics again very soon! You may also remember the Motif Madness Geranium Dresses that I posted earlier this year. Clementine’s big into matching mama right now, so she keeps asking for HER dress that looks like this (meaning the red one), but since that was a Quilt Market sample (and they all got shipped back to Cloud 9) I think I’m going to make her another one. I guess I would have thought that was pretty lame in my 20’s, but now I just think it’s cute that she wants to dress like me. We even wore our matching Washi Dresses to the Toledo Zoo last Friday. It was part embarrassing, part adorable…but she loved it, so that made it totally worth it! What’s your take on matchy-matchy? Would you do it??

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Also: I was totally into wearing my dresses with skinny jeans this spring. It’s been SO COLD!! I’m thrilled that it’s finally looking a little more like summer here in Michigan!

Want to see what everyone else is making with the Washi Dress pattern? Check out the Washi Dress pool. You’ll be amazed!

Washi PatternMade by Rae - Washi TunicWashi Dress 1Washi Dress 1Washi, London CallingWashi DressWashi DressWashi Dress Kleid Vintage türkis Polkadots with BeltWashi Tunic.Sleeve.Washi Dress in ChambrayMy First Washi

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Parsley Shorts in Action

I just finished another pair of Parsley shorts for Clementine, this pair in a lovely Oxford fabric from Yuwa called “Cat and Bird” (I found the fabric here).

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I had considered making her a matching Flashback Tee to go with them, but this morning she put together this genius ensemble, making me wonder why I ever bother making matching clothes for her. I can’t say it would have ever occurred to me to put these two things together, but it works (shirred Pierrot tunic blogged here).

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They look a little puffy in the bum, but that’s because there’s an entire ruffled hem tucked in there.

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Here are some “new” poses she insisted on (please don’t pin these pics below; the ones above are fine, though). Very creative, this girl. I sense that she may have a future in theater.

Parsley Shorts

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Now for a few shots of Elliot’s moon shorts (you can see a better shot of them in this post):

Parsley Shorts

Parsley Shorts

And that is my little Zombie. Having grown up in a house full of girls, I can safely say I never imagined I would have a six-year-old who was obsessed with zombies. I for one did not know what a zombie was when I was six, that’s for sure. I certainly never anticipated that his preschool teacher would pull me aside last year and explain that it is NOT OK to talk about zombies at preschool because it was frightening the other children. THAT was a bit embarrassing. Oops.

If you would like to make the Parsley Pants pattern into shorts, you’ll find a very handy little how-to over on this post. Check it out!

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How to make shorts from a pants pattern

Today I’m going to show you how to turn the Parsley Pants into shorts! I’m using Parsley because that’s my current favorite, but of course you could do this with ANY ol’ two-piece pant pattern (including the Big Butt Baby Pants).

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Here are two pairs of Parsley Shorts that I made for my kiddos (both the pouch pockets and the flat-front waistband are included in the Parsley Pants pattern):

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Moon shorts for Elliot (with pouch pockets and flat-front waistband)

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Frog shorts for Clementine (with flat-front waistband)

The great thing about making shorts from a pants pattern is that it IS rather simple, but one or two little issues can pop up if you just hack them off across the middle of the leg (most common: front and back inseams not matching up), so let me just walk you through the process. It is very easy!

Step 1: Draw in the seam lines on the pattern piece along the inseams, 1/2″ away from the edge.

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You want to draw in your seam lines on both the front and back inseams of the pant leg. The inseams are the seams that go down the leg from the crotch to the cuff or hem. For Parsley the seam allowance is 1/2,” so draw them 1/2″ away from the edge (but adjust this distance for different seam allowances). Sometimes I use a clear ruler so I can easily measure 1/2″ away from the edge of the pattern piece, but sometimes I just estimate what 1/2″ looks like and draw it in freehand. Start at the crotch and work your way down the pant leg.

Step 2: Decide how long you want your shorts to be from the crotch to the bottom, and add extra for the hem (“hem allowance”).

In this case, I wanted Clementine’s shorts to be shorty-shorts, and some of her other pairs are about 2.75″ long from crotch to the hem. The hem allowance of the Parsley Pant Pattern is 2″, so:

Length of shorts (2.75″) + hem allowance (2″) = Total length of pattern below inseam (4.75″)

For boys’ shorts, I like the inseam a little longer. Elliot’s moon shorts are 6″ long below the inseam, so that would be: 6″ + 2″ = 8″ long total.

Step 3: Measure that distance (from Step 2) down the seam lines on the pattern piece.

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Start at the crotch and measure down the pant leg along the seam lines you drew in, then make a mark at that point (for me that was 4″ below the crotch). Do this for the front inseam AND the back inseam.

{Some of you may be thinking, why not just measure down the edge of the pattern piece instead of going through the trouble of drawing in the seam lines and measuring along those? In this (Parsley Pants) case, the back crotch point has its point cut off to reduce bulk (do you see how the back is less pointy than the front at the crotch point?) so some of that inseam edge is missing. If you measured along this edge, therefore, the front would come out about 1/2″ longer than the back.}

Step 4: Connect the dots.

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Using a ruler, draw a straight line across the pattern piece from the front mark to the back mark. This will be the bottom of your new (SHORTS!) pattern piece.

Step 5: Trace the new pattern piece.

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I personally do not enjoy printing out copious numbers of pattern pages and taping them together over and over. Not only is it tedious; it makes me feel like a bad human being. So I tend to just trace the size or outline I need and then fold up the original pattern page and file it away (see my post on organizing patterns over here!). The advantage of this is that you can use it again and again!

Don’t forget to label the size and add any pattern markings you need!

OK, so now you have a new shorts pattern piece! Now you can cut your fabric and sew the shorts together; instructions for this can be found in any basic pant or shorts pattern (including my Parsley Pants pattern). Plus, I’ll be back again soon with another post on basic shorts/pants construction and how to sew strong seams that will last. So stay tuned! UPDATED: Click here for the “Super Seams” post!

PS. You can get a copy of the Parsley Pants pattern right here!

Want to see what everyone else is making with the Parsley Pants pattern? Check out the Parsley Pants pool for more great Parsley pants and shorts:

Parsley Christmas pantsdarth vader halloweendarth vader halloweenfanfare elephant pajamasfanfare elephant pajamasfanfare elephant pajamasparsley pants 003parsley pants 002Red corduroy ParsleysRed corduroy Parsleysshamrock parsley pantsshamrock pants

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You are my sister

Many of you know what a huge influence Heather Ross has had on the sewing community and (if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time) on me. I am honored to call such an inspiring and talented artist my friend. She’s crazy funny as well. But here’s what I want to tell you: Heather’s twin sister, Christie, has been diagnosed with breast cancer and lacks proper insurance to pay for her treatments. This sort of financial burden could be completely devastating for their family. Heather has organized an event and auction at Hart’s Fabrics in Santa Cruz to help raise money to pay for Christie’s treatments.

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If you have a moment, please click over to Heather’s blog to read her post about it, learn more details about the event, or simply leave your words of support. Tee shirts, signed posters, and tickets (both tickets for the event and raffle tickets for those who are not in California) are available through Heather’s webstore. Please consider supporting this event; it would mean so much to me and to Heather. Thank you, friends!!!

Meet Elli!

Today I want to introduce you to my sister Elli, who works as Director of Pattern Production here at Made By Rae Enterprises. Doesn’t that sound official? We enjoy making up pompous titles around here.

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Elli worked for many years making geologic maps as a cartographer for a geological survey, while her husband Joe worked on his PhD. Then two years ago Joe got a job as a history professor at Baylor, and they moved to Texas, and she needed a job. So now she puts all of those map-making graphics skills to good use for me instead! Elli is the person who takes my pattern pieces, scribbled sketches, and instructions and turns them into beautiful patterns. I used to do all of that myself, but I gotta tell you, the quality of the finished product has really increased since she started working here. It was interesting at first, figuring out how to work together cross-country, but we patched together a system of communication using Skype, chat, email, Drive, and Dropbox (and it must have worked OK, because now I have two other employees, Jessica and Michelle, who also work remotely).

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One funny thing about us working together is that we used to fight ALL THE TIME as kids, and this is embarrassing to even admit, but we even had trouble getting along as adults. We used to drive each other CRAAAAAZY. When we started working together my mom thought it would never work out. But somehow we made it work, and now we have a great relationship (at least I think so, haha!) and I really enjoy being able to talk to her throughout the week, even if it’s work-related most of the time.

Elli also has the distinction of being the first person to introduce me to blogging. Long ago, when she was a big knitting blogger (she’s since given up blogging), she pulled me over to her computer and said “HEY. There’re these new things, called BLOGS? I think you would like them.” She also linked over to my blog and sent the very first visitors here, way back when. Isn’t that cool?

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Herringbone Mittens, knitted and photographed by Elli, image via

Last fall I went to visit her in Texas (and tacked on a trip to Quilt Market in Houston). She has a fun house that she’s working on fixing up and decorating, bit by bit. I took a few pictures so you can see her awesome design sense.

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Love the mix of prints and textiles in the living room. Elli has a knack for finding cool textiles and prints that go together really well.

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Fun little curios in the kitchen…

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and dining room.

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The bedroom. Notice the awesome waterfall vanity that I want to steal.

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I love the way she hung up all of her colorful jewelry on little nails around the top of the mirror.

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Aren’t these fun little hooks?

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So that’s a little about my awesome seester Elli and a peek at her cool house. Want to ask her a question? I’m sure she’ll answer them in comments.

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