Happy birthday, dear Clementine!

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She’s four today! Yay!!! *kermit arms*

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Wait, how did she get so BIG??? *sobs*

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Birthdays are a mixed bag. On the one hand, I’m so proud of what a fun, silly, smart, capable girl she is becoming. On the other hand, I wish she would always stay my little baby. You know? Yes, you know.

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This is the birthday dress I made for her, a simple shirred design with bows on the shoulders. I la-la-love it! I think Clementine has always been particularly cute in yellow. She’s been wearing another shirred sundress that I made for her last fall quite a bit lately, mainly because it’s easy to get on and off by herself. So rather than go with something complicated and time-consuming, I decided to make something similar. The actual dress part took about 15 minutes (sew a rectangle together at the sides, finish top and bottom, sew shirring around the top); the bows took a bit longer to make and attach, but overall it was a quick and easy sew. If you’re looking to do something similar, do check out my shirred sunsuit post for an intro to shirring and a similar design (skip the leg holes, of course, for a dress), minus the bows.

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Fabric: Lecien double gauze…possibly one of the most lovely solid double gauzes out there. As far as I know this double gauze is no longer available anywhere except at Pink Castle, so you’ll have to get it before it’s gone if you want some for yourself!

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And here’s a peek at the “rainbow cake” I made for her party. Compared to the effort I put into her cake last year, this was ridiculously easy, so I’m feeling rather clever and smug about it, if we must be honest.

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Photo books from Aunt Sara Beth

Clementine will turn four tomorrow, so we had a party at our house yesterday afternoon and evening and invited some family and friends. Clementine was a holy terror, having skipped her nap with all the looming excitement, and spent much of the party whining or screaming at the other children (mainly her brother), but at least it made the other parents of toddlers feel better when their kid had a tantrum too, right? It’s a good thing she’s so stinkin’ cute, that’s all I’m sayin.

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I’ll show you some pictures of the dress I made for her birthday (got it finished!! YAY!!!) later, but today I want to show you one of the most thoughtful gifts Clementine got yesterday, from my sister-in-law, Sara Beth: a photo book. Every year she gives each of my children a book on their birthday, and it’s become one of the gifts I appreciate the most. Admittedly it is also the one gift that my children usually tear open and then immediately toss aside. But later, they always ask me to read them over and over and over, and the books make it into the bedtime story rotation. Moreover, my guess is that, unlike most of the other presents (toys, bikes, games) that will be given away or grown out of over time, these presents will remain with them and be cherished their entire lives.

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(one of my all-time favorite pictures of Mr Rae and Clementine)

Sara Beth has been giving these to my children every year since they were born. And she doesn’t just throw a bunch of photos into a book and order it. She even comes up with a THEME for each book, which I think is just downright brilliant! The theme for the book pictured below, for example, was the four seasons. So there were pictures from each season of the year. Elliot got that book for his second birthday.

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Here’s a couple other examples of themes from past years:

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“I love…” for Clementine’s third birthday

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“I can imagine…” for Elliot’s third birthday

The time and care she puts into figuring out a theme and then curating the pictures is really amazing. She has a knack for choosing pictures which — though maybe not always the most wall-worthy — really document what each child enjoys and bring out their personality. I personally have attempted (rather unsuccessfully) to create annual photo books for the kids myself (through Snapfish or Shutterfly or MyPublisher, etc), so I know how much work this is. We have boxes and boxes of printed photos in the house…but guess what the kids enjoy looking at more? Their books!

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For Clementine’s book this year Sara Beth picked the theme…”FOUR!”

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“four outfits mommy made for me”

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“this is me in four seasons”

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“four places I have traveled this year”

And this is the page that makes both of my kids belly-laugh:

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You want to know one more thing about this gift that is completely and totally brilliant? Sara Beth always gives them TWO identical books. One for now — for dirty fingers, ripped pages, to be loved — and one to keep nice in the closet.

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I know posting about photo books may be a bit off-topic for a blog that is primarily about sewing, but I thought you would enjoy seeing these! I think it’s a great idea, and maybe it will give you gift inspiration. Do you have other great ideas for cherished gifts? I’d love to hear about them.

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Yellow Striped Peplum

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I mentioned earlier this week that I had made more than one peplum top; this one was supposed to be the “muslin” version of the Briar Rose peplum, since this yellow striped knit is a rather inexpensive (maybe $6/yard?) knit and therefore seemed like a small loss if things went horribly awry compared to cutting right into the Briar Rose jersey. I mean, here’s how I think about it: $6 on a top is ridiculous; it’s about a coffee and a half at Starbucks, and there was a fair chance it would be pretty cute. Sewing is like that; sometimes you have to take a bit of a risk and just hope for a nice result. Personally I think that makes things more exciting. Since knit fabrics don’t exactly have the equivalent of “muslin” (I talk about making a muslin in this post), I often test out a pattern on an old tee that has made it into the thrift pile or use less expensive material.

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This top differs slightly from the other one because I used just one piece for the skirt (the entire 50″-something width of the fabric), instead of the two 44″ pieces I used for the strawberry version. And now, looking at the photos, I think I might actually like this width better (*bangs head against wall at the thought of tearing out the strawberry skirt to make it narrower*). So I guess I should check with you guys first; it DOES look better with the less-poufy skirt, right?

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Fabric: I ordered this stripe (along with some other amazing garment fabrics) from Dry Goods Design, though I’ve seen this particular stripe in a few other knit shops online. So it may be pretty easy to find. It seems to be a pretty popular fabric, since I also spotted it on Jessica’s bio pic, and I know my friend Emily has made a Flashback Tee for Penelope because we wore them on the same day. That is a hilarious picture, by the way; do make sure to click over and look at it.

The arms are bound with a peachy-pink knit which I personally think looks pretty cool juxtaposed with the golden yellow. Probably not the most traditional color combination, but I like it.

In other news…

I got my first real samples of my new flannel line, Fanfare, from Cloud 9 today, and I’m uber-excited to start sewing with them! It’s supposed to ship to stores next month. You can see a peek at the bundle I got in this Instagram pic.

Clementine’s birthday party is this weekend; she’ll turn 4 next Tuesday (CAN YOU BELIEVE IT!?!). Here’s the post from her birthday last year. I want to finish a new birthday dress for her tomorrow but I’m not sure if I’ll have time. And I should also probably figure out what to do for her party, eh? *facepalm*

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Easy Parsley Shorts for Elliot

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Somehow I ended up making all of my kids’ shorts this summer (too lazy to buy them…haha), and it seems like we are always running out of pairs to wear because they’re in the laundry. Kids get dirty, especially in the summer. Go figure. So I finished up another pair for Elliot earlier this week with a bit of fabric I had left over from the Washi Dress I made with the same print. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but this print is probably my favorite from the Tsuru line. Quilting cotton is perfect for summer shorts, and it means I can make much more colorful and interesting items, especially for Elliot, who is now entering the size category of boys’ clothing that is entirely boring. I mean, total snoozefest. What is UP with that?!

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I trimmed off the Parsley Pants pattern as shown in my “Make Shorts from Pants” tutorial to make them into shorts (I believe I measured 6 or 7″ down the inseam) and used the most basic waistband option, which is just elastic all the way around. I also double-stitched the hems; this is something I learned from Dana, and I love how it makes them look a bit more “BOY” and profesh.

Speaking of Dana and shorts, if having a ready-to-go shorts pattern in your arsenal is more your speed than cutting off pants (I hear that!), you should definitely check out her recently released KID Shorts pattern, which is really great! It’s formatted a bit differently from the typical eBook instructions; I love that she’s doing a series of blog posts to show you how to make all kinds of different shorts with the one pattern (which is totally the way I love to sew)!

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It was difficult to get a good photo of these shorts ON the child. By the time I got my camera and brought it outside, he had already turned on the hose and sprayed himself with it. I just had to laugh…it’s so ELLIOT. I did manage to snap the shot below with my phone later in the evening when we went to the park. I think it captures something wonderful about summer evenings, when the sun is going down but it’s still warm and light outside. I love summer so much.

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See what everyone is making for summer with the Parsley Pants Sewing Pattern!

Red corduroy ParsleysRed corduroy Parsleysshamrock parsley pantsshamrock pantsparsley shorts hands in pocketsyellow piped parsley shortsparsely shorts and bow tieroundingXander Parsley Pantsparseleyfamilyparsley shorts

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Strawberry Peplum Top

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I have really been on a top-sewing kick lately, and my latest creation is this knit peplum top with the recently-released Briar Rose jersey, which I may or may not have procured directly from Windham with a slightly pushy email. AHEM. The important thing is, they were kind enough to send me a couple of cuts of the strawberry jersey, one of which I have slated for a dress or PJs for Clementine, and the other which I whipped into this lovely top. Briar Rose jersey is now available in many fabric shops, including a few of the sponsors of this blog (see the sidebar or bottom of post).

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The pattern…hmm. Now, where did I even get this pattern from? I think it began as a regular tee pattern that I extended slightly in the shoulders to create a small built-in cap sleeve, and then cut off at my natural waist. The skirt part is just two 10″ rectangles of fabric that I cut from selvage to selvage, then gathered and attached to the top with elastic thread in the bobbin of my machine. Using elastic thread in the bobbin (usually called “shirring”) when you attach the skirt has the advantage of helping to prevent the top from stretching out where you attach the skirt (nifty, eh? Don’t you love it when you learn something?). This seems to be a problem of mine whenever I sew a gathered anything to a piece of knit, so I’m happy to have found a solution.

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I bound the armholes and neckline with a strip of navy blue jersey, thinking that would “grow it up” a little bit. Admittedly, this is a print probably intended for children’s wear, but has that ever stopped me in the past? NAH.

I had to fiddle with the height of the skirt a bit — it felt a little high to me because my legs are so long and I have such a short torso, but when I lowered it so it was closer to my hips, it felt frumpy. So, lesson learned: the peplum style looks better on me when I use my natural (high) waist.

I think you could create a very similar version of this top if you cut off Kristin’s Scoop Top and added a skirt. The Scoop Top is another built-in sleeve tee pattern that I’ve been meaning to try. It has a slightly less fitted sleeve than this top, but I think it might work!  And if you’re looking for tips and tricks for sewing with knits, be sure to check out my knit posts.

Are you a fan of the peplum? Big trend lately. I have to admit that when I first saw it, I said no way. Yeah, just like with the skinny jeans. Clearly I am not a trendspotter; it always takes me a bit of time to warm up to new things. But once I do, I go all out. In fact, this is my second peplum top; I’ll have to show you the other one soon!

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New space

studio swatches

YOU GUYS! I got a new studio space in downtown Ann Arbor!! I moved all my stuff in last Friday and have been gradually getting everything unpacked and put back together. How fun is this?? So let me give you the big tour: when you first walk in, you see this room (pardon the squalor…still unpacking!):

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And then off of the big front room there are two smaller rooms, one where my sewing machines will live (last pic in this post), and the other where the computer-blogging-fabric design-photography stuff will live:

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It is a bit weird to see my name on the door. I keep thinking, “IS THIS TOTALLY CRAZY?” but the thing is, nearly every successful endeavor I’ve had in my career as a professional blogger/designer-person has been rooted in some decision or idea that was totally spontaneous, and if “crazy” means I move forward, then I’m going to just take the leap and go for it. By contrast, it seems like when I premeditate or overthink things they always seem to backfire on me. Crazy is a good route for me, I think.

So what am I going to do here? I don’t exactly know. I was thinking maybe I could hire an intern or something to press and fold all my fabric (KIDDING. Sort of)…but I need to really sit down and make a thorough list of things I need done to see if I could truly keep one person busy working for me here (Elli and Jess work remotely in Texas and Missouri, so waaaah, they won’t be able to work with me unless they move, hint HINT). Karen‘s already promised she’ll come and work here with me occasionally, so maybe I can get her to sew for me. And of course my Ann Arbor friends are welcome to stop by!!!

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I have dreams of it being a place where I could have sewing socials or even teach the occasional sewing lesson, maybe even a class…I don’t know, maybe host small events of some sort. But all that takes quite a lot of work, and because I’m already planning on teaching a few sewing classes at Pink Castle Fabrics at their NEW location here in Ann Arbor this year, the stuff I do here would be in addition to that. For now I’m happy having this be my work space.

Anyway, this is the “before” post. I’ll make sure to show you more photos once I get it all souped up. Do you have any fun ideas for my little studio space? And who’s up for coming to visit me in Ann Arbor?

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Blue Rayon Staple Dress

***And the winner of the Staple Dress printed pattern is . . . TAMMY, who wrote “I’ve seen this dress around on different blogs. I’d love to have my own copy. Thanks for the chance!”  Congrats, Tammy.  Happy sewing to all! ***

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Today I’m participating in the Staple Dress Blog Tour that’s been happening all week long to celebrate the fact that the Staple Dress pattern is now in PRINT! The tour wraps up today over here and at Sew Caroline, so thanks for stopping by! I’m so lucky to know April Rhodes (the designer of the Staple Dress) in real life; she is such a dear friend. She has to be one of the sweetest and most authentic human beings on the planet. In addition to a huge heart, she has a great passion for sewing, and she is clearly focused on creating lovely, basic patterns so that others can share her passion, as well.

Staple Dress in PRINT

Staple Dress (back cover) in print

The Staple Dress has been a HUGE hit this year, and it’s easy to see why: April’s directions are easy to follow; she adds helpful hints along the way; and the pattern pieces are well-designed, with just the right amount of ease. It’s obvious she worked hard to achieve a great fit here. I’m thrilled that there’s been such a great response to this pattern, and I’m even more excited about the new patterns she has coming!

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Today I wanted to show off my latest Staple Dress creation (you can see the top I made for Spring Top Sewalong here) and give away one print version of the Staple Dress pattern, as well, since April so generously offered to send a pattern to one of you, you lucky readers, you (UPDATED: THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER)!

This dress was made with a clearance rayon I randomly found at a tent sale a few years ago for $2/yard. It’s a polyester rayon (not cotton like the rayon challis I talk about in this post from earlier this week), so it’s not quite as soft and lovely and flowy as the cotton rayons, but I just couldn’t pass up this print. Have you ever had that moment where you’re staring at a fabric, and you can’t decide whether the print is really awesome or completely ugly? Yeah, that. But I’m so glad I didn’t pass it up, because about a year later the eighties decided to come back, and now this kind of thing is totally hot again. Who knew? (Not me. I’m the person who scoffed when I saw skinny jeans come back into style. *ducks and looks sheepish*)

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Anyway, I personally think the Staple Dress looks amazing in rayon, since the flowy nature of the fabric helps give it a great silhouette, and I love how this turned out! It will be perfect for a date night since it’s a wee bit scandalous on me in the Length Department, which means Mr Rae thinks it’s perfect (Note to self: you are roughly 2 feet taller than April. Plan accordingly next time and add a few inches). It’s not TOO short, because I almost always wear my dresses with leggings or skinny jeans underneath, so that’s probably how I’ll wear this one more often than not once the weather cools down again.

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I made the pattern with the hi-lo hem option (there’s also a straight hem), which I love; the dress went together like a breeze, and I even surprised myself a bit by sewing French seams on the entire thing — yes, even around the pockets. Extra nice.

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Okay, by now you’re like, when will this girl stop blathering on and tell me how I can win a pattern already? Fine, FINE! Here you go: Leave one comment (and one comment only!) by 9 PM Eastern on Sunday July 14th for a chance to win a printed copy of the Staple Dress. We’ll randomly select a winner and contact them via email. April has generously offered to ship internationally, so readers with an email address and a postal address are free to enter. Void where prohibited, of course. (UPDATED: THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER.)

You can find the print version of the Staple Dress on April’s website.

And here are all of the stops on the Staple Dress blog tour for you to enjoy:

Mon. July 8th:  Aneela Hoey –  Comfortstitching
Tues. July 9th: Katy Jones - I’m a Ginger Monkey
Wed. July 10th: Jeni Baker - In Color Order
Thurs. July 11th: Julie Herman - Jaybird Quilts
Fri. July 12th:  Carrie Bloomston - SUCH Designs
Sat. July 13th:  Caroline - Sew Caroline & Rae - Made By Rae
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Parsley Shorts Roundup

I thought it was about time we did a roundup to show all of the great SHORTS you guys have been making with the Parsley Pants Pattern (here’s the Pants-Into-Shorts How-to).

Kids can really wear any color and print combo and look cool, but I think shorts in particular lend themselves to more wild and playful motifs than pants.  I also love the patchwork effect of colorblocking in a bunch of these photos.

Laura of Craftstorming made those green shorts (top right) as part of a ‘Mouk’ outfit for her son and blogged about it here.
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Top: Left, Right. Bottom: Left, Right.

Look at these kids workin’ it! Clearly Parsley shorts are made for serious fun.  I love Jane’s idea to make swimming shorts for her kids (middle).  Check out the ensuing water fight here (and a great photo tutorial on how to sew those stripes).

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Above: Left, Middle, Right.

Have you ever seen anyone so elated to be wearing shorts?  For a closer look at that adorable Red Riding Hood linen print (middle top), read Katy’s blog post here.

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Above: Left, Middle Top, Middle Bottom, Right.

This only scratches the surface of the Parsley Photo Pool on Flickr. Go take a look at all the cuteness, and add your own renditions of Parsley, too!

Red corduroy ParsleysRed corduroy Parsleysshamrock parsley pantsshamrock pantsparsley shorts hands in pocketsyellow piped parsley shortsparsely shorts and bow tieroundingXander Parsley Pantsparseleyfamilyparsley shorts

And, hey! FYI Kids Clothes Week Summer 2013 edition is happening next week. Check out the blog here; and they have a new website where you can create a user account here.


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My top five fabrics for clothing

I think about fabric a lot–probably more than is healthy or normal. I love how nice fabric looks and feels, and I love sewing clothes with it that I can wear over and over. I like looking at fabric just sitting on my shelf. It’s true, I am a hopeless FABRIC NERD.

fabric top five

When it comes to sewing clothing, I’ve tried just about every kind of fabric you can imagine; silk, rayon, knits, chambray, tulle, corduroy, you name it, I’ve tried it. The fabric I have the most experience with (hands down) is definitely quilting cotton, which I have tried on many occasions to beat into submission to produce clothing, with some successes and some failures (more on that later). But like many, I find myself drifting towards a special few types of fabric when it comes to sewing for myself. The following five types are my personal favorites, the ones I buy over and over, for things like the Washi Dress, clothes for Clementine, and blouses/top-type things. I’m ignoring the ginormous fabric category known as “quilting cottons” for now, partly because I think they really deserve a post of their own, and also because, though they do sew up nicely into certain kinds of garments, I still find myself, well, preferring these five instead when it comes to sewing tops and dresses.

You may notice that these fabrics aren’t necessarily the most traditional garment fabrics, but most of them are pretty widely available. I think the reason for this is that, like many of yours, most of my fabric purchases come mainly from the same online shops that typically sell quilting fabrics. I’ve also noticed that many of the garment fabrics that I grew up sewing with became pretty scarce when sewing went out for a spell (the Dark Years, when it was NOT COOL to sew your own clothing, so the only people who were sewing garments were the ladies making patchwork vests? Remember that? *shudders*). Obviously garment fabrics are still widely used by the ready-to-wear clothing industry, but they’re much harder to find by the yard in great variety unless you’re pretty savvy online or have access to shops like Mood or Britex in the bigger cities.

1. Double Gauze

This fabric is a double layer of gauze stitched together with tiny stitches to hold it in place and keep the two layers from sliding around. It has a loose weave and breathes well, making it really nice for summer dresses. And did I mention how soft it is? SO SOFT. My Aqua Washi is what I wear on days when I want to feel like I’m in my pajamas all day. No joke. One small downside: the loose weave can make it slightly more difficult to sew.

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Top: aqua WASHI dress, far far away top
Bottom: shirred sunsuit, princess and the pea dress

2. Voile / Lawn

I’m grouping these two types together because they are so similar in weight and behavior. Also: I understand that the “voiles” on the market now from Anna Maria Horner and Free Spirit and soon from Cloud 9 (KOI by Rashida Coleman-Hale will be the first collection to include voiles) are actually not true voiles, which are more loosely woven and sheer, but are indeed lawns passing for the fancier French-sounding substrate. (But since this is The Internet, as LeVar Burton would say–don’t take my word for it.) Why do I love these so much? Lawn/voile is really easy to sew as it is quite stable and doesn’t wobble around a ton like, say, silks or knits, but is still soft and floaty and lightweight enough to feel really comfortable. One small downside: it can be sheer, especially in lighter colors, so lining is often a must.

lawn voile quad
Top: green pleated top, pink maxi WASHI dress
Bottom: Liberty tie neck top, yellow voile top with white ric rac

3. Knits

It should come as no surprise to you that knits are high on the list of my favorites, since I’ve now posted two series of posts about knits (see them here). It just makes sense: if you are the type of person who loves to throw on a t-shirt every day (I am), why wouldn’t you sew with the fabric you wear the most? For kids, this is a no-brainer. My kids wear Flashback Tees almost every day.

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Top: Nani Iro knit top, whale tee for C
Bottom: teal knit top, fox tee for E

4. Rayon Challis

Rayon is what we were all sewing with back in the nineties. Now it’s baaaack, but it’s even better. This year, the highly-anticipated cotton rayon challis fabrics designed by Anna Maria Horner hit the market, and they are TO DIE FOR. If you haven’t already read Anna Maria’s fantastic posts about rayon challis, please read this onethis one and this one right now. I’ve sewn one top with it so far (not yet blogged), and I’m hooked. Drapey, silky, easy to sew, doesn’t fray a ton, washes like cotton…is this my Dream Fabric?? Maybe. My biggest problem with rayons currently is that the print selection is really pretty small. I also get the feeling that fabric shops that sell mainly quilting cotton as their bread and butter are hesitant to carry it, making it trickier to find online and in person. And so far, most of the prints on rayon recently have been — though lovely — a bit large for clothing; I think the smaller prints lend themselves better to garment sewing. Hello, manufacturers? Let’s see some more (small-scale) prints on rayon challis!!!

5. Cotton-linen sheeting

Finally, the lightweight cotton-linen blend fabrics called “sheetings” from Kokka of Japan are another of my favorite fabrics; they have a similar weight to quilting cottons, but I find them to be nicer and a bit drapier (is that even a word? I don’t know). Not quite as soft as the double gauzes or voiles, but I’ve really enjoyed wearing the clothes I’ve made with them, and you can’t beat the amazing prints from Melody Miller and Heather Ross printed on them in the past couple of years.

sheeting quad
Top: Charlie Dress for C, Green Snow White top
Bottom: Arrow Dress for Quilt Market, Ruby Star Washi Dress

Note: You can find most, if not all, of these fabrics in online fabric shops, including those that sponsor this blog; for those who are unfamiliar with shopping for fabric online, check out this post I wrote about shopping for knits online or this one: Rae’s Big List of Fabric Shops).

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