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.


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!!!

Rainbow Quilt

If it seems quiet around here on the blog, there’s a good reason: I’m in the midst of flitting back and forth between what feels like a million projects at once: a new pattern, sewing projects for a blog series coming soon with this good friend of mine, another project that I can’t talk about (!!!), and making various decisions of one kind or another. Meanwhile I’ve been puttering away on this lovely project (first previewed here last fall) while watching back-to-back episodes of Gossip Girl on Netflix {dies a little bit from embarrassment}:


When I say this quilt is lovely, I mean SO lovely and soft I literally can’t stop staring at it. I swear, this thing GLOWS.



It took all of my willpower to remove it from my lap where it had been snuggled up with me for hours and hours while Blair and Serena went to Paris, when Chuck went missing, when Charlie showed up, when…(WHAT? You can’t seriously tell me you’re going to watch it. That would be embarrassing. For you.)…anyway, I was saying, it took all my willpower to finally walk it into the kids’ room and spread it out on Clementine’s bed. I really wanted to keep it. But I’m an adult now, and I’m letting it go. She’ll probably leave it behind when she goes to college and then it will be MINE, ALL MINE. Right?



So, here’s the rundown on this quilt: the fabric on the quilt top is all from either Far Far Away (double gauze) or Far Far Away III (linen sheeting) by one of my favorite designers, Heather Ross, making it one of the softest quilts I have ever felt. Seriously, Quilting Cotton, I am about to break up with you forever. Frankly, you suck compared to double gauze. OK, I really, really shouldn’t say that since Heather is about to debut her new quilting cotton line with Windham next week at Quilt Con. Let me rephrase: I will need to be re-wooed. And you’d better be soft this time, I am so totally serious. Can we talk about this issue some other time, though? I really want to focus on this quilt right now.


I used Red Pepper Quilt’s “A Quilt Without Binding” tutorial (basically you sew the front and back together right sides facing, and turn the whole thing right-side-out through a hole, but please do yourself a favor and go read the tutorial before you attempt this on your own; Rita gives some really useful tips) and did the actual quilting with purl cottons (from Purl!) in straight lines. I love that they came out just uneven enough to really make it look hand-made. Also: the stitches create a rainbow on the back. LOVE.





The back of the quilt is shot cotton, another one of my current favorite substrates of all time. Also: VERY SOFT. Love it. Can’t really find it for sale anywhere right now, but I bought it at Sew Mama Sew; lots of local shops carry it, though.

OK, just a few more shots for you of the quilt on Clementine’s bed, and yes, I did make a matching scrap quilt for Bee-Bee.





Clementine loves to tuck Bee-Bee into bed before she climbs in right next to her, and both she and Bee-Bee are uber-cute in their matching quilts, to be sure. OK. Do you love it?? Because I do.

New backpack for Clementine!


Toddler Backpack Sewing Pattern – $8

Tonight I’m winding up the “Back to School Wardrobe” course I have been teaching over the last couple of months with Karen LePage at Blue House in Ann Arbor. We’re having a “show and tell” at a local restaurant and I cannot WAIT it’s going to be so much fun. We had a fantastic group of women who have been sewing up a storm and have been so much fun to hang out with. There were five projects over five sessions (a basic pant, Tee for Two knit tee, Charlie Tunic woven top, the Toddler Backpack, and the Reversible Jacket from Sewing for Boys), so as you can imagine it was a rather ambitious curriculum. One of the fun things about teaching classes with your own patterns is that you get to revisit them again, and every week in preparation for our class Karen and I would make a few samples to use as demonstration and make sure we knew what we were doing. This little backpack was used as a sample for the class, but now it’s finished so Miss Clementine has been proudly carrying it around.


These prints are from the Far Far Away II line by Heather Ross . The cotton/linen canvas with the girls and the horses is (I’m not sure, can see this in the pictures?) a pale grey with orange and coordinates with the lighter-weight orange floral linen blend from that line so well. A half yard of each fabric is really plenty for one backpack, so I think the backpack is a nice way to feature the print. I ordered a yard and am terribly conflicted now with what to do with the rest of it. So many ideas, ack!!! A few of my sponsors still currently carry all or part of this line, so I would love it if you would shop with them (they’re linked from my sidebar) if you decide you need some.



The Toddler Backpack was the very first pattern I digitized and began to sell back in 2009 at the prodding of readers, and as I combed through it again I realized it needed a facelift. So Elli (my seester and design-software-extraordinaire) and I are currently re-working the pattern a little bit: improving the section on the larger (school-aged) version of the backpack, which is very easy to make but needed some clarity in the instructions, changing the type-Os and adding a section on lining the backpack, something I have always wanted to do. I lined this version and found it to be quite easy to do. Here’s a little peek at the lining, which I found harder to photograph than expected:


We’ll be putting up the new and improved version of the pattern soon so I wanted to put the word out on the street that the current version of the pattern will only be available for a little while longer at its current price ($6). The new version of the pattern will include (in addition to the original pattern pieces and updated instructions), a new printable summary sheet, improved instructions for making the larger school-aged version of the backpack (to fit a binder and letter-sized papers), and a new section on lining the backpack and will be sold for $8.

UPDATED: The new version is available now in the pattern shop; you can also read more about the updates here.

If you’re interested, Karen and I are thinking we might offer the kids’ wardrobe course again next winter, maybe in January or February. Let us know if you’re thinking about this as it definitely helps to know how many people might be interested.

And speaking of Heather Ross, did you see that she is offering the always-awesome Blueberry Hill workshops again next summer? AND a new Fabric Design workshop in New York next spring? I don’t know which will be more fun, but I do know they sell out fast!!!

Finally, we’re having another one of our Crafty Meetups here in Michigan on Thursday night at Makerworks — it’s rollicking good fun so if you can join us, let us know on our Facebook page or November Meetup page (more information there as well). If you don’t “do Facebook,” just send me an email (click on the contact nav button, above). If you can’t make it this week, our next meetup will be Thursday, December 1. Hope you can join us!

Return of the Bonsai Bag

Yay!  I’m so happy to be able to show you a few samples for the Bonsai Bag Sewing Pattern which will be forthcoming.  Here they are (along with the brown one I made last year)!  I have to admit with fall on the horizon they are a little summery compared to the brown one but I loves thems anyhoos.

That blue Princess and the Pea one there has been in progress for almost a year.  I started with a ric-rac trim which I scrapped for pompoms and then got hung up on the recessed zipper and had to tear out the entire thing, but don’t worry, this bag does not take a whole year to make, haha (smooth, Rae, that’s great advertising *rolls eyes*).  In fact one can be assembled in a few hours, and honestly now that I’ve gotten the kinks ironed out with the pattern pieces, the zipper part is easy-peasy.

To answer the question I always get when I talk about a new pattern, no, it will not be free. Sometimes I feel bad about charging for patterns because I really like getting free things on the internet and I like giving stuff away for free.  But then I start counting all the hours I’ve poured into this thing and will, yet. It’s a conundrum for sure, because free patterns bring new people to the website, and so many of you have emailed me asking for tips on how to make and digitize your sewing patterns (I hope to post about that soon!) that I know you must be thinking about it too, for your own blogs. And I think that’s fantastic, we should keep sharing with eachother and don’t worry, I have plenty of free patterns in my brain for y’all. But I also think it’s important to assign value the work that you do, even if it’s online and doesn’t feel like a “real job.” I’m lucky enough to have been able to start a small business from what I do here on the blog (most of my revenue comes from pattern sales, with a much smaller part coming from advertising/sponsors), but I often still find myself undervaluing my time and skills, especially when I compare myself to professional designers who have true industry training.  But when all’s said and done I think I still do a pretty good job producing nice patterns, even if I go about it in a completely unprofessional way. Can we call it “organic” instead of “unprofessional”? That sounds so much nicer….

Anyway, do you want to see some closer shots of the bags?  One of the things I like about this pattern is that it takes very little of the center fabric (basically a 10×10 square for each side) and shows it off nicely.  This one is made with Heather Ross’ Princess and the Pea fabric from her Far Far Away collection, framed with a pale blue baby wale corduroy:

And this one is a Heather Bailey print from her Freshcut collection, framed by a pale pink baby wale cord:

This one was inspired by my weekend in Vermont. Denyse Schmidt showed us how to do a fabulously easy strip quilting project and I really wanted to try the technique for this purse, so I did on both the front and the back. I imagine you could take any small quilt sampler and use it for that middle panel (zigzag, patchwork, embroidery, you name it).

Most of the fabric on the center panel is from Denyse’s Katie Jump Rope line from a few years back.  I made a bunch of other stuff with it and all that remained is a bunch of scraps — perfect for a small quilt project.


So obviously I wanted to show these off and give you a preview of the pattern, but I also want to announce that I will be giving away these three bags next week on the blog.  I think the best way to do this is to give them away on three different days so that if you prefer one over the other you can enter for the one(s) you want.  It’s been a long time since I had a giveaway so I’m excited and I hope you are too!

So. Excited. Can. Hardly. Breathe.

Very soon I’ll be leaving Mr Rae and the kids and going to Blueberry Hill Sewing Weekend. For those of you who haven’t heard of it yet, it’s a weekend of sewing hosted by fabric designer extraordinaire Heather Ross. The workshop involves sewing in a barn, eating good food, cocktail hour, endless supply of chocolate chip cookies, ack!  Not only is the workshop, which lasts a weekend and is hosted at a bed and breakfast in Vermont, the coolest idea ever, I also to get to meet one of my favorite fabric designers, the amazing Heather Ross *dying of excitement*  And if that wasn’t enough, a few months ago Heather announced that Liesl Gibson, designer of Oliver+S fame, is going to be leading the workshop too. And oh yes then just the other day she casually informed us in an email that Denyse Schmidt will be there too. I’m terrified I’m going to spend the entire weekend immobilized by Sewing-Celebrity-Paralysis.

the book that inspired the workshop (minus dust cover)

For those wondering, this year’s two workshops are already full, but last year I kept a close watch on Heather’s blog and she announced the following year’s workshops pretty early in the fall.

Now I need to plan: what fabric to bring, what projects to work on?  Obviously I’ll bring the book, but much careful planning will be required.  I may have to charter a cargo plane to fly my fabric stash to Vermont to avoid having to make any serious decisions about what to bring.  Should I sew baby stuff so the fabric takes up less space or clothes for me since it’s MY vacation, or should I just sew cloth napkins so I don’t have to concentrate too hard on anything?  Just in case, you know, my brain stops working from Sewing-Celebrity-Paralysis? 

I got Mr Rae to procure an autographed copy as a Christmas Prezzie…awesome paper, eh?

And this is so pathetic I hardly want to ask, but what am I supposed to wear?  If you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time you know that almost every item of clothing I make for myself (see here, here, here, here, here) is from Heather’s fabric. So the question is, am I going to look like a total loser/stalker if I spend the whole weekend bedecked in Heather Ross fabrics?  Tell me the honest truth.

Seriously though, one of the reasons I am so excited about this is that it seems like events where you actually meet and sew with other crafters and bloggers are few and far between.  The current big events are things like Quilt Market (more of a supplies/fabric focus) and BlogHer Conferences (more of a business of blogging focus there) or Renegade (an art fair thing).  But there’s nothing really for US.  They even have a sock summit for knitters for crying out loud.  Right now there’s a Sewing Revolution going on right under everyone’s noses. So I demand a Sewing Bloggers Conference!!! It could have sessions led by all kinds of sewing bloggers, how to put in a zipper, how to attach piping, how to draft a pattern, how to take good pictures of your sewing. What do you think?  What other sessions shall we offer? What shall we call it? I think Detroit is a nice central location.  Can you come?

For now though, can’t wait to head to Vermont, will report back soon!

Seaside Sundress for Baby Evy

It’s a little crazy how many friends I know with babies who have just arrived or are arriving soon. I’ve had baby sewing on the brain.  I know the shift from boy-sewing to selfish-sewing to baby-sewing can be a bit abrupt around here (I haven’t forgotten the plea of one reader who wrote something like “don’t forget the boys!”) and I have a few baby-related posts coming up here before I switch back to the men.  Just a warning.

Here’s a little sundress that I made for a dear friend’s baby, Evy, who just arrived a few weeks ago:

It shouldn’t shock anyone that these prints are from Mendocino by Heather Ross.  I say that so often around here I feel like a broken record. What can I say? I’m a sucker for sea creatures. The fish fabric is actually a very very pale pink but I don’t think you can see that in the picture. The pattern for the top is something I sketched out on a piece of paper, measured across to make sure it would fit a 3-6 month old, and then just went for it.  The nice thing around ties on the shoulders is that then the only part of the dress that really needs to fit is the underarm circumference.  So the hope here is that it will fit Baby Evy sometime around mid-summer. 

And I’d just like to repeat since I got comments saying “congratulations” the last time I posted new baby stuff: Baby Evy is NOT my baby.  *shudders at hypothetical thought of getting preggers again only a month after having C last summer…shudders again at hypothetical thought of being preggers again EVER*

The bloomers are the same pair from Little Stitches by Amy Butler that I made last summer, only reworked (this time I read the directions….sometimes you just have to do it) so they should actually fit a real baby.  C never actually wore them because they didn’t clear the cloth diaper enough to be practical.  As Evy is also a cloth diaper babe, I’m hoping these will finally get some wear.  This outfit was so fun and easy, will definitely have to make another one soon.  If you want to make something similar, you could try the Popover Sundress pattern by Liesl of Oliver+S. 

Congrats to Josh and Michelle and big brother Sam!!!

Far Far Away Top by Rae

Here’s my top for today, a tunic of my own design made with Far Far Away double gauze by Heather Ross.  The main fabric has little tiny snails which are oh-so-cute and as you can see the orange fabric has unicorns on it.  Some of you old-timers may remember that I made another top from the orange fabric last summer (blogged here).  I really love these unicorns, what can I say?

see the little snails? aww…

I can’t really say much more because Clementine’s on a nap strike today so I have about 5 minutes to get this post up  (don’t worry, she’s playing happily beside me on a blanket, not screaming in her crib or anything), but I do want to say that of the fabrics I’ve worked with so far this week (voile, knit, double gauze), this one is not my favorite.  I don’t hate it, it’s just not my favorite.

When I first saw this line I almost died I loved it so much (and by the way Heather just announced Far Far Away II…gah!).  The prints are just so adorable and lovely.  And when I found out it was on double gauze I was even more excited.  This seemed like something that would make breezy floaty lightweight garments.  Well that is not exactly correct.  Being two layers of gauze it’s actually quite a bit more hearty than I expected and the fabric has a surprising amount of stand.  On the other hand, it’s not really stiff, it still moves around quite a bit when you sew on it. Those piped seams were a real bugger and had to be torn out a number of times. So while I still love this fabric I’m not sure I’ll be making many more garments with it, at least not ones that are as complicated as this one was.  So let’s see, how should I describe this fabric?  Beautiful, lovely, tricky.  I’d still love to make a quilt out of it sometime, and you should definitely check out Ashley’s Far Far Away Quilt over at Film in the Fridge (by the way, Ashley is one of our Spring Top Week judges).  It’s one of my favorites that she’s made, although she makes so many amazing ones it’s really hard to pick.

I’m still not completely sure of the proportions. I might lower the band at the bottom yet. And would this look better with orange bands on the sleeves?  Shorter sleeves?  Longer sleeves?  I keep studying this trying to figure out if it’s just the way I want it yet…another work in progress.  OK, enough analyzing.  Be sure to VOTE on today’s best top if you haven’t already!

UPDATED: Thanks for all the suggestions on modifications!  It doesn’t seem like there’s a strong consensus but I love hearing your opinions.  Sometimes I can be a little indecisive.  I’d also like to give a couple of tips on sewing with this gauze:  I found that two things really, really made things easier when working with this fabric: first, pin like crazy to hold things in place, and second, baste along any curved edges (like sleeves, armholes) before sewing.  It seems like a pain at the time, but you’ll be happy you did when it comes out nicely the FIRST time and you don’t have to rip it out!  Has anyone else made projects with double gauze?  Post links if you have…I’d like to see them!

Rae’s Prairie Girl Top

Hello everyone!  One of the advantages of having this be my blog is that I can divert your attention from voting for today’s tops by showing off one of mine.  The other advantage of course is that I didn’t have to have them all finished by Friday night.  And really, neither did you.  If you’ve just finished up or you finish one this week, please post it to our Spring Top Week Pool!  It won’t get entered in the contest anymore, but we’ll still get to see what you’re working on and be inspired by your patterns and ideas.

Right now in my sewing room there is a heap of tops in various states of completion/disarray.  Only time will tell if I’ll meet my goal of five tops this week.  Here’s the first one to be completed, although let’s call it a work-in-progress, shall we?

Fabric: Anna Maria Horner Little Folks Voile 
Like everyone else who’s used this fabric, I’ve found this cotton voile incredibly enjoyable to work with.  I’ve heard others describe it as “buttery” and that is true.  It’s also silky without being shiny or slippery and is extremely forgiving in addition to being machine washable.  Big plus for me.  Now that I’ve used up a few yards on these tops, I can’t wait to buy more of this (I really like the yellow deer print and the solids).  If you’d like to buy it Phat Fabric and Fabricworm (two of the Spring Top Week sponsors) both carry a great selection; Fabricworm is also giving away 2 yds of it as part of one of the prize packages)

Pattern: Summer Blouse from Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross with modifications
I received my very own signed copy of this book in the mail from Heather last Christmas last (you might wonder why? More on that later.) and this was the first project I wanted to try.  Then Celebrate the Boy happened in February and I made a variation of the Kai shirt for Elliot.  Now that I’m back to selfish sewing, I’m glad I had a chance to try it out. 

If you want to try making a similar version of your own, here is a rundown of the modifications I made:

  • Chop off the placket piece at 11″ so it’s square at the bottom.  Cut a 2″ wide strip of fabric, fold in half, and gather along the raw edge.  Pin and baste to the edge of the placket, iron outward, and attach placket to the outside of the top rather than the inside.
  • Cut the neckline so that it’s narrower (my pattern pieces were 4.5″ along the shoulder seam, size M) and about four inches deeper in front.
  • Add 4″ to the center of the sleeve pieces and gather the tops to make them fit.
  • Cut off the sleeves mid-forearm, fold under about 3″ at the bottoms of the sleeves, and add a 1/2″ elastic casing to gather with elastic. 
  • Add a ruffle to the bottom: cut a 3.5″ strip 50″ long, gather and pin to the bottom of the hem (match raw edge to raw edge on the outside of the top, sew and iron down, and then finish the edge so it won’t fray.
  • Add three rows of elastic shirring to the back (about 8″ long)

So overall I’m happy with it; lovely fabric, lovely pattern.  It’s still a work-in-progress because it came out a little large.  I still would like to shape the side seems a little more, make it slightly less roomy.  My shirring helped a little with this but next time I’m definitely making a size smaller.  Being a tall person, I could have used it a little longer too.  That’s totally my fault, usually I measure the pattern pieces before I begin to make sure they’ll fit and this time I just barreled ahead.  Silly.  And oh yes, it wasn’t until I took these pictures this morning that I realized how totally WONK the placket bottom is.  It looks fine in the top photo but it’s actually slightly crooked as you can see in the others.  So I tore that out already and just need to tack it down again properly.

And what do we think about some leetle covered buttons for a closure instead of the sewn-shut opening?  That might be really nice.  Or maybe shirring all the way around the waist?  OK, that’s all for now, E’s up from his nap.  Don’t forget to VOTE!

Tutorial by Rae: Western-style Flap Pockets

Yesterday I showed you my favorite way to recycle a men’s button-down shirt into a boy’s shirt.  Today we’ll add pockets!  I really like the retro/western look that flapped pockets add, but real flaps always seem like too much work for a boy’s shirt.  This tutorial will show you how to make easy faux-flap pockets for a boy’s shirt.

You can put them up high:

Or down low (this shirt was blogged here last fall):

Let’s get started!

T U T O R I A L : 
Boy’s Western-style Flap Pocket
 Hey! Don’t take text or images from this tutorial without permission!  Thanks.

Step 1: Print out the pocket pattern.  There are two sizes provided, the 1-2T (which I used for the fish shirt shown above) and the 3-4T (which I used for the plaid shirt), but you could easily enlarge this for any size shirt.  Click on the image below to download the pattern PDF.

Step 2: For each pocket you want, cut two pocket pieces from your desired fabric.  I wanted two pockets, so I cut four pieces total.

Step 3: Take two of the pocket pieces and place their right sides together.  With a 3/8″ seam allowance (included in the pattern, it’s indicated by the dashed line), sew all the way around the pocket, leaving about 2″ open on one of the long sides of the pocket.

Step 4: Press pocket, clip corners, and turn pocket right-side-out.  Tuck the raw edges into turning hole and press again.

Step 5:  Fold pocket over to create a flap (use your judgement here; some people like the pocket a little taller, some like it shorter), and press down.  Now PIN the flap down to the pocket so it won’t slide around while you’re topstitching it in place.  Then topstitch around the edge of the flap. I usually do a double row of topstitching, at about 1/8″ and 1/4″ from the edge.

Step 6:  Place pocket(s) on shirt in desired location, pin in place, and topstitch around sides and bottom of pocket to secure, backstitching at the beginning and end of your stitching.  I usually do a double row of stitches here as well.  Stand back and admire!  Then go put your pictures in the Celebrate the Boy! Flickr Photo Pool.

I happen to think these pockets also look great in contrasting colors or with a little pearl snap or button sewn on for extra embellishment.  And of course, you needn’t limit yourself to just boy’s shirts for this sort of pocket…I’m sure I will be amazed and astounded by all the great ways you readers think of to utilize these!

Be sure to check out Dana’s GIVEAWAY today over at MADE! And if you haven’t yet seen her fantastic tutorial for the 90 minute shirt yet, you’d better head on over!