New knit maxi dress

Hey look I made a new maxi dress! This is technically my first “make” for 2016.

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This dress is great but the thing that really makes you go WOW is the fabric, which I found at a Field’s (a local fabric chain) in West Michigan. It’s a cotton baby rib that has been dyed, and it wasn’t super great fabric because it was full of little holes which I had to try and (sometimes unsuccessfully) cut around in order to cut out this dress, but I still love it anyway. The pattern is something I made up (I made a similar one before, but that pattern needed so much tweaking I started over this time). It could be a candidate for an upcoming Presto pattern, we’ll see. I have so many ideas it’s hard to decide what should really happen and what should not. I’ve worn this with a sweater and leggings and boots, but it was perfect in Palm Springs this past weekend, too.

maxi dress / made by rae

maxi dress / made by rae

These pics are not up to my usual standards but at least you can get a general idea of how it fits. The first pic is cracking me up. Caption should be: “why oh why is it still February?” Seriously, when will I have natural light so I can take better photos again? I used a filter because the color of the dress comes through a little truer than it did originally in the photos; in real life it is a dark salmon pink, almost a clay color, if that makes sense. The dyed areas are a deep navy blue. It’s really beautiful in person. Looked good with my gold toes in Palm Springs too.

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Aztec Drapey Cardi

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Wendy Ward is a UK pattern designer who caught my attention earlier this year on Instagram. Wendy designs sewing patterns and sells them in her shop, MIY Collection, in both digital and print formats, has a great blog, and has written The Beginner’s Guide to Dressmaking. She also owns MIY workshop where she teaches garment sewing classes and workshops that look really amazing. The MIY pattern that first caught my eye was her Drapey Cardigan; it has all of the elements of a comfortable draped cardigan with enough finishing that it doesn’t end up looking sloppy. When Wendy first reached out to sponsor this blog, I decided this would be a great way to feature her pattern shop so I ordered it immediately (I also ordered her book but haven’t had a chance to try anything yet). At roughly the same time, Allie of Indiesew released a fall fabric collection that included this awesome aztec-inspired knit and I was lucky enough to purchase 3 yards of it before it sold out in like 5 minutes. So I’m exaggerating, but it did sell out wicked fast.

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The knit did end up being much heavier than I anticipated, so the result is less a “drapey” cardi, and more almost of a structured jacket. But I still love it. It’s incredibly flattering in the back and I love the waterfall effect and fold-over collar in the front. The construction is clever — you use double-folded bands to finish almost all of the edges, which makes sewing much easier — and I love how finished it looks from both outside and inside.  This was the first time I had ever used the triple step zig-zag stitch on my machine and it worked great.

aztec cardi

aztec cardi

The only thing I didn’t totally love about the finished result was the sleeves. In this fabric I think the sleeve would be nicer if it were shorter, or even 3/4 length. The sleeve pattern pieces are incredibly long (and I have crazy long monkey arms), but I think if it had been sewn up in a lighter/drapier fabric, they would work nicely because they’d scrunch up more and contribute to the overall drapey effect. I also ended up lowering the sleeve cap because, again, the fabric was too stiff and pointed out at the shoulders. Again, an issue that using a normal weight knit would probably solve, but it still looks fantastic in this heavier knit.

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I really want to try this pattern again (and again and again) in a lighter weight knit; I can see this being a closet staple in grey, black, navy, and a stripe. Ah, for more time in the day.

The Longley Drapey Cardigan is currently available in print format from the MIY Collection Shop. MIY is a sponsor of this blog, but the choice to purchase and post about this pattern was my own.

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Holiday Skirt

bespoke double gauze skirt with pleats

I can’t believe that it took me this long to post this skirt to the blog. I actually sewed and wore this skirt for a completely different holiday this year (though I think it would be entirely appropriate for New Year’s Eve): Valentine’s Day. Which also happens to be my anniversary. There are pros and cons to having the Valentine’s Day anniversary, trust me. One of the pros is that I can sew myself a red skirt for my anniversary date night and I will match nearly everyone else at the restaurant. Or is that a con? I’m not sure.

The fabric is a lovely Bespoke double gauze from Cotton and Steel that I purchased from Fancy Tiger (a sponsor of this blog) earlier this year. Words can’t describe how awesome and bright this red is. The fabric actually seems to glow on its own, as if it had it’s own internal source of energy. Skirt fusion? I know that isn’t really possible.

bespoke double gauze skirt with pleats

After wearing the skirt out for one evening, however, I decided there was far too much fabric in the back. The elastic waistband was producing a poofy effect that I was not happy with. So I tore out an entire side seam in order to fix it, which included un-sewing a serged lining and inseam pockets, which was a total pain in the ass (one of the cons of designing a ridiculously complicated fold-over pleat skirt that is also lined), and the short version of the story is that it took me a long time to fix. If I’m honest, there’s still a safety pin holding the elastic in place on one side. Let’s move on. Now it’s fixed and isn’t that what matters.

bespoke double gauze skirt with pleats

bespoke double gauze skirt with pleats

The front waistband is folded over, box-pleated, and then stitched down for a flat-front effect. The lining inside hides the folded edges. Now I’m realizing I should have taken a picture of that because it was an architectural triumph. The back is just gathered with elastic, and also has a folded edge at the top; I think this is what is referred to as a “paper bag waist” though I’ve never understood why, and now, typing this, I’m not even sure if that’s even right.

bespoke double gauze skirt with pleats

I used the tiny bit of light the sun gave us this December to shoot these photos, so they’re super low-res and they feel a bit dark, just like this season feels to me. Which is why I treasure the bits of light that come here and there this time of year, when the days are short and cold: when the sun peeks out of the clouds for a moment, having my kids home (and playing nicely together for five minutes, even) for winter break, celebrating the birthday of Christ, and the hope of the New Year.

And of course, knowing that you, dear readers, care enough to stop by and read for a few minutes, buy a pattern to sew something beautiful for yourself or someone else, or leave a kind comment is a source of great light, and joy, and encouragement to me. Thank you for being here, and for your support. I cherish this space because of you.

Happy New Year!

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And now for some PANTS!

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I’m not entirely sure, but I think this might be the very first pair of pants for myself that I’ve ever posted on my blog.

Update: Luna Pants Pattern is now available!   buy now

I’ve made my fair share of schleppy pajama pants and one year, back when I was a teacher, I spent a great deal of time making a pair of fancy pink trousers complete with pockets, a waistband, zipper flap, and belt loops — that is to say, I’m not a complete novice when it comes to pant sewing — but I don’t think any of those ever made it onto the blog. In truth, I have felt for so long that I was waiting for my body to return to a stable size that I didn’t feel it was really worth the time investment to sew pants, not knowing how long they would be worn. I’m really excited about these! They are similar to pajama pants in the sense that they are comfortable and were incredibly quick to make, but the pockets and fabric choice especially makes them appropriate for out-of-the-house-wear. I also love them with Birkenstocks.

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I have ventured out of the house in these quite a few times now, and I have gotten SO many compliments on them. This surprised me at first, actually, because floral pants can be a bit, well…Crazypants. But I was reassured by the comments they got, and nothing is more rewarding when wearing one’s creations out and about than receiving unsolicited compliments on them, I do believe. The fabric is downright lovely, so that is half of it right there; this is one of Leah Duncan’s prints from her Meadow line for Art Gallery. Leah has since joined the roster of Cloud9 designers as of this fall (yay!!), and I’m very excited to see her new line with Cloud9. I’ve loved all of her fabric lines; her artwork is lovely and the colors she chooses are really spectacular, and this deep green floral print is one of my favorites.

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I do think this pattern may be a strong candidate for my next sewing pattern; I love that these are basically a ladies’ Moon Pant, just not quite as wide at the bottom, but also not as tapered and fitted through the calf as some of the pairs of elastic-cuffed pants I seem to be seeing around latelt. At first I wasn’t sure that the waist should be completely elasticized, so I might experiment with a flat-front waistband for these yet, but we’ll see. For now I’m just having fun making (and wearing!) my own pants. Above all I am about keeping it simple and not making them too fussy or tailored; that’s really what’s led me away from most of the other pant patterns I’ve seen on the market this past year (though, I said this before and I’ll say it again: I really would love to make a pair of Ginger Jeans at some point!!), so I’m focusing on that right now.

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So, what do you think? Would you wear these out of the house?? Or would these be utterly mortifying for you?

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Corduroy Pearl Shift

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After making my first Pearl dress (blogged here), I immediately made this one. The Pearl Dress pattern is from Green Bee and this version was made with one of my favorite prints from my latest collection for Cloud9Small World. It’s lightweight organic corduroy, and this print is called “Oh my darlin.” I was inspired to design it by my own darling (and strong-willed) Clementine. The corduroy is light enough for a dress, thought its weight would also also be well-suited for skirts or light pants. Though I would definitely add knee pads if making pants for a child whose playtime consists of more than coloring and tea parties.

I had some trouble deciding between a shorter or longer sleeve, which resulted in the hybrid you see here. Initially I cut the sleeves 3/4 length (the pattern also includes full length sleeves), but after trying it on, I felt perhaps the whole package was a bit too much and cut off the sleeves to a short-sleeved length, ala Beatrix. I immediately regretted it — the proportions were all off — but by then the damage had already been done, so I folded the bottom portions of the trimmed sleeves in half and reattached them to create a sort of cuff. It was all a bit “let’s see how this goes wheeeee” but in the end it turned out fine.

The only other teeny tiny change I made here is that I pulled the extra ease on the sleeve into a gather at the top to create a bit of a puff sleeve. The sleeve is a set-in sleeve, hence it does include some extra ease for the shoulder. I think the little puff at the top seems to suit the print quite nicely.

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I’m always a big fan of pockets in a dress (who isn’t?) and I went for the zipper option again. I didn’t have an invisible zip — which would have been really great — but I think even a standard zip looks fine on this dress, and makes it easy to get in and out of without having to pull over. You can see all of the Pearl Dress pattern options over at the Green Bee website; the pattern is available in both print and digital formats.

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It’s almost time to say goodbye to my lovely turquoise (green? some people see green) extensions. They’re getting all tangled at the top where they’re attached to my hair so I’m going to have to have them taken out soon, probably next week when we get back from vacation. I’m trying to decide if I want a break from extensions, or if I should try a different color (last time I did pink), or even do something a little bit crazier this time. I haven’t decided yet. I’ve gotten a ton of compliments on these, and they always seem to match what I’m wearing (I often wear aqua and turquoise). What do you think?

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Watercolor Tank Dress

summer tank dress

With the hottest days of summer upon us I’ve been wearing dresses almost daily, especially my Lotus Pond tank dress. So it made sense to make another tank dress that could stand up to the heat. It took next to no time to sew and already in the few weeks since I made it has been threatening to surpass the rayon maxi washi for Most Worn Status in my closet.

summer tank dress

The top is a black baby rib knit from Organic Cotton Plus (I love their rib knit. I also got some natural and mint) and the bottom is a watercolor rayon print from Wanderlust. I also had the good sense to include pockets, something I always consider skipping to save time but never regret later when I add them.

summer tank dress

As you can see, it’s all pretty simple. I even skipped adding binding to the arms and neck and just folded the edge under and zig-zagged it down to finish it.

summer tank dress

It looks great with my little black bolero which I did not make, but I think I need to try making one of these soon. The bolero sweater always seems to look fantastic with the high-waisted styles I’m drawn to.

summer tank dress

Gingham Pearl Dress

gingham pearl shift

Earlier this spring I spent a lovely weekend at Camp Stitchalot teaching garment sewing and fitting to about twenty awesome ladies along with Christine Haynes, Alexia Abegg, and Karen LePage, three of the best co-teachers I could ask for. It was an absolute treat to watch these ladies teach, not to mention how fun it was to meet, sew, and hang out with the rest of the retreat participants. The weekend focused on garment-making so we chose the Pearl Shift from Green Bee Patterns (the pattern company owned by Alexia and her mom Michelle, also a sponsor of this blog!), because we felt it would be a great template for anyone interested in sewing clothes for themselves. And by that I mean that it seemed simple enough to construct in a weekend (not fussy), yet features many of the things you often find in a typical women’s sewing pattern (bust darts, a set-in sleeve, etc). Anyway, to prep for the weekend we all set about making Pearl Shifts for ourselves, and this was one of the first versions I made, and is still one of my favorites. I always get compliments when I wear it out of the house!

Gingham Pearl Dress

I found the navy gingham at Purl Soho after Erin posted about it on Instagram and immediately purchased it in three colors, including the navy. I included the zipper, though one of the great things about this pattern is that it can also be made sans zipper as a pullover dress. The other thing that’s a wee bit different (that you probably wouldn’t even notice, but I’m pointing it out anyway just in case there are any eagle-eyed readers out there) is that I made facings for the neckline; the pattern includes a bias trim instead which is just as lovely. Oh! And I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that there are options on the pattern for a henley neckline, a scallop boatneck neckline, and two sleeve lengths. Awesome!

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You can purchase the Pearl Dress from Green Bee Patterns either in digital format (now!) or print format (preorder, ships in a few weeks)!

Bespoke Double Gauze Blouse

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Here’s a blouse I made last fall out of the new Bespoke double gauze for Cotton and Steel which is in shops right now. I originally intended to make another Geranium Dress out of this double gauze for the Stylo photoshoot, but after first making the striped Moon Pants I decided I absolutely had to make something for myself with the remainder. It was definitely a spur of the moment decision based on the fact that I love this stripe so much. That bronze color is yum and the print is brilliant. And honestly I already had so many garments for the Stylo shoot that I figured it wouldn’t matter if I made myself a little something.

UPDATE:
The Beatrix Sewing Pattern is now available! BUY NOW

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The decision to use the selvages for the button placket was not only aesthetic, it was also practical. I didn’t have much fabric left (I had to do a little patching of one of the back bodice pieces to make everything fit, actually) so cutting the backs right along the edge made sense. It’s a little tricky getting a selvage to lay nicely due to the thicker weave along the edge but I think we managed it.

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The pattern is something I’ve been working on for the last half year probably. Will it ever be released? Only time will tell. Le Sigh.

UPDATE:
The Beatrix Sewing Pattern is now available! BUY NOW

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Gold Dot Knit Dress

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I should have considered the fact that this shade of nudey-beige is NOT the most flattering shade on me before buying yards and yards of this dotted knit last spring, but I was drawn like a magpie to those gold dots and I just couldn’t resist. In fact I broke a number of my own “rules for buying knits,” as it ended up being more sheer than expected (I didn’t request a swatch), and it was pretty cheap, which seemed great until I realized I was starting to get a pilly knit dress. Why oh why did I think it would be different this time? Two words: GOLD DOTS.

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I also should have remembered that I’m at least a whole size larger than I was last summer when I decided to add a longer skirt to the same pattern I used for the Strawberry Peplum Top. As a result, I now have a really cute dress that is waaaay too tight on the top half. But it has GOLD DOTS!! Even with a tank top underneath it shows EVERY line of my bra, which you can see in the last picture of this post, and is pretty embarrassing. I keep wearing it though. Despite the pilling and sheerness and the fact that this project was probably Not A Win. I think we all know why.

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On the plus side, the pink scarf (JCrew, two seasons ago) does two things for this dress: it covers up some of the sheerness and tightness, and it adds some delicious color to the ensemble.

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I love the aqua flower necklace (found locally at a gift shop in Kerrytown) with it too, but I need to figure out a solution to the “skin-tight” problem if I’m going to wear this without the scarf in public, as you can see above. One possible solution is to just wear the baby in a carrier over it, like I did to a wedding a couple weeks ago. After all, babies make great accessories.

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