How to crop the Gemma tank

How to make a cropped Gemma Tank / made by rae sewing patterns

As promised, and just in time for some fun weekend sewing, here’s a tutorial to show you how to turn your Gemma tank into a cropped tank, as seen in Jess’ fantastically popular Cleo / Gemma outfit in this post. I’ve included an original Gemma tank in the pic above at right so you can see the difference between the original tank and the cropped version. If you need the pattern, you can buy it in my shop.

The best way to figure out how much to crop off the bottom of the pattern is to make an original Gemma (or at the very least, a muslin) first, so you can make sure you have the right size and bust size. Gemma comes with both an A/B and C/D front bodice piece for each of its nine women’s sizes. Once you’re happy you have the right size, you can use your pattern tracings to make new modified pattern pieces (Not sure how to trace a pattern? Check out this great tutorial where we show you how to trace a pattern!) . Try your Gemma on and determine how long you would like the cropped version to be.

You will need:

  • The Gemma tank sewing pattern, traced in your size
  • Straight edge and pencil (clear quilter’s ruler is helpful)
  • Additional Swedish tracing paper (see this post for sourcing STP)

How to crop the Gemma pattern

Step 1. Decide how long you want your cropped version to be
Try your Gemma (or Gemma muslin) on and determine how long you would like the cropped version to be. Measure down the side seam from the armpit to where you’d like your cropped hem to land. You may find it helpful to fold under the hem of your Gemma to visualize what it would look like cropped, mark this distance at the side seam with chalk, and then measure the distance.

Step 2. Draw the new hemline on your pattern
Measure this distance from the armpit along the side seam of the BACK BODICE pattern piece and make a mark. Then use your straight edge to draw a line perpendicular to the fold line (“finished hem,” shown in red). We measured down 7 1/2″ inches from the armpit for this version. This is quite short, so you may want to start with 8-1o inches instead just to be on the safe side, especially if you have a long torso. Remember that you can always trim it shorter, but you can’t add length once you’ve cut it.

Step 3. Add a hem allowance
Draw a cutting line parallel to the finished hem and label it “cut here.” The distance between your two lines will be your hem allowance. In this case, I added 2 1/2″ so that I could fold the bottom edge up 1/2″ first, and then another 2″ for a nice wide hem. A wider hem allowance also gives you a little more flexibility to try it on and get the length just right!  This will be where you cut your fabric when cutting your cropped tank (see tank in photo, left).

Step 4. Straighten the side seam along the hem allowance
Draw a vertical line between your two horizontal lines at the side seam. Cutting your fabric along this line will straighten the side seam and make it easier to fold up the hem allowance when you’re hemming the tank. Bonus points if you can get your line to mirror the angle above the hemline.

How to make a cropped Gemma

Note that both of your horizontal lines should hit the center of the pattern at 90 degrees; it helps to use a clear quilter’s ruler when drawing them to insure that this is the case.

How to make a cropped Gemma

Step 5. Transfer hem and cutting lines to front bodice
Now put your front and back bodice together, matching them up at the bottom and sides (not at the top! the front bodice has a dart that adds extra length to the side seam above the lines you drew), and transfer your lines to the front bodice just as you did for the back bodice.

How to make a cropped Gemma

And again, make sure they intersect center front at a 90 degree angle:

How to make a cropped Gemma

Step 6. Cut out your tank 
Now you’re ready to use your pattern pieces to cut out a front and a back from your fabric as shown in the instructions. I find it works well the first time to fold under the pattern piece at the “cut here” lines to try them out. Once you are happy that you’ve gotten the right cropped length, make a new tracing of the pattern with crop lines so that you can use that one for your cropped versions moving forward.

Step 7. Sew it together
You’ll sew the tank together as instructed in the pattern, but note that to hem this version of Gemma, you’ll fold and press 1/2″ and then another 2″ (or whatever hem allowance you chose) toward the wrong side along the bottom of the tank, and then stitch along the first fold.

I can’t wait to see your cropped Gemma tanks! Please use the #gemmatank and #raemademedoit tags on social media to share your creations. Happy sewing, everyone!

Bird’s Eye View Gemma + Cleo

Bird's Eye View Gemma + Cleo

I’ve always thought the Cleo skirt would look awesome in a border print, so when Jess and I first laid eyes on the “Viewfinder” print from Sarah Watson’s recent collection, Bird’s Eye View for Cloud9 Fabrics, we knew it would be perfect for Cleo. We asked Cloud 9 for a couple of yards which they graciously sent over (thank you, Cloud 9!) and Jess sewed up this awesome cropped Gemma and Cleo skirt combo for herself. My jaw dropped to the floor when I saw these together. It’s just perfect, so chic, and I love the way that Jess cut these so that the Gemma has the larger-scale portion of the print, and the Cleo has the smaller-scale portion with the cactus.

Bird's Eye View Gemma + Cleo

Jess looks ridiculously adorable in this outfit. I’m pretty jealous, not gonna lie.

Bird's Eye View Gemma + Cleo

Bird's Eye View Gemma + Cleo

Bird's Eye View Gemma + Cleo

Sewing details

  • Both skirt and top were cut on the cross grain (that is, the pattern pieces were laid out on the fabric such that the grainline arrows were perpendicular to the selvage rather than parallel as is standard).
  • The solid orange waistband and back detail are made from Cloud9’s Cirrus Solids in the colorway Clementine
  • The armhole and neckline binding was applied using the french method (I wrote a tutorial for that method) without seam allowance added, resulting in a narrower shoulder.

Bird's Eye view Cleo + Gemma

We’ll post a quick how-to showing how to make a cropped Gemma soon — it’s a super fun and easy mod that I think you’ll love!

Posted in Cleo, gemma

Lace Easter Dress

Lace Easter Dress

It’s not unusual for me to get really excited about sewing something, do most of the work, hit a hurdle of some sort, and then quit the project altogether. That almost happened with this dress which I started at the end of last summer. I started with my Gemma pattern, which I lengthened and cut in two layers (lace and white jersey knit) and managed to sew together at the neckline, armholes, and side seams. Then I decided it needed a waistband and that’s where the project stalled.

Lace Easter Dress

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, when I picked it up again, added the waistband — when you have two layers this is as simple as sewing two lines of stitches and threading elastic between them — and hemmed it. I make that sound quicker than it actually was; it took me a few tries to get the waistband location right, but now I have a lovely dress for spring! Whyeeeeee did I wait so long to finish it?!? Sometimes I scratch my head at my own self. But at least it’s finished, and damn if it felt good to cross this project off the WIP list.

Lace Easter Dress

I find most of my lace here in Michigan at Field’s fabrics, which is a West Michigan chain that carries both quilting and apparel fabric. I think I bought at least three other laces, so look for more handmade lace clothing in my future.

Lace Easter Dress

Gingham Gemma

It’s almost December and therefore sweater weather, so it may seem strange to post about a Gemma Tank, but this top is something I find myself wearing quite a bit these days, under cardigans of course. I find I prefer sleeveless tops to sleeved tops when I’m wearing a sweater, because I don’t like that bunchy feeling you get when you try to stuff a shirt sleeve into a sweater sleeve; it makes me really twitchy and uncomfortable. Much like Clementine when she’s putting on her socks in the morning and doesn’t like how the sock seams feel in her shoes and then throws a fit and is late for school. What was I talking about?

Gemma tank

Here is is, sans cardi:

Gemma Tank

If this fabric looks familiar, it might be because this is the third (and final, I’m now out of yardage) garment I managed to squeeze out of this navy gingham  I picked up at Purl Soho. The other two things I made were this cute little Charlie top for Hugo and a Pearl shift for me. I like how the bias around the neckline pops out because of the gingham.

Gingham Gemma Tank

To be completely truthful this tank isn’t exactly the same as the Gemma pattern, because the pattern changed a bit as I worked on it and this was one of the earlier versions I made. The shoulders are a bit wider on this one than they are on the final pattern — I felt like the broader shoulders were a bit frumpy, so I narrowed them — and I eventually settled on two necklines for the final pattern, one a bit higher than this one, and one a bit lower.

Gemma is available in my pattern shop, comes in both A/B and C/D cup sizes, and looks great under winter cardigans!!!

Posted in gemma

Staystitching is Important


Attention, everyone, this is a sewing PSA. Staystitching is a garment-sewing technique that is really important. I am sharing this with you because when I started sewing, many years ago, I did not know what staystitching was, but even if I had, I probably would have skipped it. Now that I am older and wiser, I want to share this nugget of wisdom with you.

If you’ve ever sewn one of my women’s patterns (specifically for woven fabrics, such as Ruby, Beatrix, or Gemma), you may have noticed a step that instructs you to staystitch, followed by the words “IMPORTANT: DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP.” I’m guessing most people ignore this, mostly because if I didn’t know better, I probably would.

I’ve mentioned before that my mom taught me how to sew, but knowing how stubborn and headstrong I was as a child,* I doubt once she communicated the fundamentals to me that I spent much time listening to any further details. Details like: be careful about skipping steps that might initially seem unnecessary, because you may regret it.

In addition, my younger sister Elli took a 4-H sewing class from a very strict and anal retentive seamstress, and her experience left a strong impression on me. I remember the jumper she was working on taking her the better part of a year to complete, which seemed like utter torture to me. It made sewing seem so un-fun. As a result, I took an alternate approach with a more carefree sewing attitude: skip all but the most essential steps, and see what happens. In some cases, I discovered it didn’t really matter that much (three rows of gathering stitches vs. two or even in some cases — GASP — ONE.), but in other cases, I’ve discovered that taking a little extra time to add a seam finish or in this case, staystitch, can make a big difference.

*I can picture my mom thinking, “Just as a child…?” as she reads this.

So…what IS staystitching?
Staystitching is a line of stitching added to the edge of a piece of fabric (often along a curved edge such as a neckline or an armhole, but not always) that stabilizes the fabric so that it won’t stretch out while it’s being sewn. Additionally, if you’re making a piece of clothing, staystitching prevents the edges from stretching out if you try it on to check fit. The staystitching lines in the photo below are around the armholes and neckline of my chambray Gemma tank.


How and when do you staystitch?
To staystitch an edge, sew along the edge of the fabric, about 1/8″ away from the edge, using a normal straight stitch. Earlier patterns of mine said “using a regular length or slightly shorter than normal length stitch,” but I’ve since decided that a shorter stitch actually stretches out the fabric too much, so I now recommend a regular length stitch such as 2.5-3 mm.

As for when to staystitch, I think there are two schools of thought. The stricter approach is to staystitch edges after you cut out your fabric pieces, but before you do any sewing. I feel this is only necessary when sewing with a really unstable or slippery fabric. The other approach, which I prefer, is to staystitch any curved edges such as necklines or armholes after shoulder or side seams are sewn, but before facings or bindings or sleeves are attached. I take this more moderate/less strict approach because in most cases, woven fabrics are stable enough to sew some of the seams before staystitching without stretching out the garment significantly. Additionally, staystitching goes much faster when you can do a whole armhole in one go, instead of, say, having to staystitch the front armhole separately from the back armhole due to the shoulder seams having not yet been sewn.

That said, I can appreciate that some sewists would disagree and say that it’s better to be safe than sorry. I almost always favor the quick and easy sew, as long as it doesn’t sacrifice good construction technique.

I’ve probably utterly confused some of you, and if that’s the case, my recommendation would be just to try staystitching the next time you sew a piece of clothing. It definitely make more sense if you’ve got the garment in front of you, to be sure.

So, what say ye? Are you a Die-hard Staystitch-er? Or do you play it fast and loose and skip it? Have I convinced anyone to change your short-cutting ways?

Bias Binding Tutorials

bias binding tutorials

There are lots of ways to sew a bias binding to finish a garment, so I’ve put together a series of tutorials to walk you through three of my favorite options! You’ll see these demonstrated on my Gemma sewing pattern, but you can use these techniques for any necklines, armholes, or hems that you please! Click on the photos below for each tutorial.

bias binding traditional

bias binding topstitch

bias binding tutorial, french method - Made by Rae blog

And here’s a bonus if you need some hints for making your own bias binding:

how to make bias binding
bias binding tutorials | made by rae blog

Gemma…as a DRESS!

Gemma Dress!

I’m pretty excited about this one! I love to hack patterns, and the simplest hacks are sometimes the best hacks. Since releasing the Gemma sewing pattern last month, I’ve wanted to try making it into a dress (the basic pattern is a tank). My pattern hacks don’t always work, so I was happy that this one worked out nicely!

Gemma Dress

Gemma Dress!

Gemma Dress!

I chose this light blue Anna Maria Horner voile that has been sitting in my stash for years and years. It’s a bit sheer on its own, so I wear a short slip underneath. I think it also looks great with a belt and this purse that I got for my birthday!

Gemma Dress!

There is more than one way to extend a bodice pattern so that it is longer. In this case, I wanted to keep the “S” shape at the hem, but exaggerate it more so that it had a better proportion relative to the dress and didn’t just look like an accidental uneven hem. I started by tracing the basic Gemma pattern, front and back. Then I extended the side seams from the hip by 11,” extended the Center Front by 13,” and connected them with an “S.” Since I also wear a larger size on my lower half than my top half, I ended up having to bump the hip out by 2″ to accommodate my large-ish derrière (my bodice size is medium). You can see all of this in the photo below, which is the front pattern piece, but of course I also did the same to the back.

how to turn the Gemma Tank into a dress

I wore it out for sushi with Mr Rae and Elliot and Clementine for my birthday dinner a couple of weeks ago when the weather was still seriously hot. For fall, I’ll just add leggings and/or skinny jeans and a sweater.

Gemma Dress!

What do you think? Do you like Gemma as a dress? I’d love to know if you give it a try!

Jess’ Rayon Gemma Top

jess's tomato rayon gemma

Look!! Jess made this awesome flowy Gemma tank out of Field Study rayon which I would steal but it’s not my size. I am also coveting her hair. Moving on. She used the french binding method (tutorial at that link!) to finish the neckline and armholes without adding an extra seam allowance (more details on that in the tutorial). You can see here how the straps come out narrower as a result.

jess's tomato rayon gemma

This is Jess doing her “Rae” impression, below. Har har.

jess's tomato rayon gemma

I love this view of the back here:

jess's tomato rayon gemma

If this fabric looks familiar, I made a Bianca and a Washi maxi dress out of the same print. Do we love it or what? It really is great, and so comfortable.

Rayon is one of my favorite fabrics for sewing garments because it is super comfortable to wear, and if you buy higher quality rayon (Free Spirit and Cotton and Steel are two manufacturers I like) it’s actually quite easy to cut and sew. The same is not true for cheap rayon though…no fun!!

jess's tomato rayon gemma

The Gemma Tank sewing pattern is available in my pattern shop, and you can access all three binding tutorials from the Gemma Page if you need them for future reference!

Posted in gemma

Bias Binding Tutorial (french method)

bias binding french

This is the third and final tutorial in my bias binding series. Many of my women’s sewing patterns, including the Gemma tank shown in this post, use bias binding to finish the neckline and armholes. There are so many ways to attach bias binding! Here are the methods I have shared so far:

  • Traditional Method – my preferred technique and found in the sewing instructions for Gemma, Ruby, and Josephine
  • Topstitch Method – another great technique, easier than traditional, and the reverse of traditional

This third tutorial will show you another fantastic bias binding technique called the “french method,” which creates a lovely invisible finish. This involves folding the bias binding in half, attaching it to the outside of the garment, flipping it completely to the inside, and stitching it down from the inside. This method is wonderful because you won’t see the binding at all when it’s finished, which can look very sharp and professional!

You will need: 
1.25″ wide bias binding* (see my handy tutorial to make your own)
a garment with an unfinished neckline and/or armholes
iron + ironing surface
(optional) clear quilter’s ruler
your sewing machine

*also called bias tape or bias strips

Before you begin:
Since this method involves folding the seam allowance and bias binding all the way to the inside of the garment, the armholes and neckline will end up 1/4″ wider, and the shoulders 1/2″ narrower than they would using the other binding methods. If you’re ok with those changes, proceed to Step 1. If you’d rather preserve the same proportions, add 1/4″ seam allowance to your pattern pieces along all the neck and armhole lines. Do this by marking dots 1/4″ away from the pattern piece edges, then connecting the dots to make a new cutting line. This is shown in red on the front and back pattern pieces of Gemma here:

add seam allowance

Step 1. Press binding in half lengthwise
Using your iron, press the bias binding in half lengthwise with wrong sides facing.

Step 2. Make sure you have enough
Place binding loosely around the neckline and armholes before pinning. Since the binding will not be visible from the outside, it is not essential to make sure the seams in the binding are strategically placed.

Step 3. Staystitch
If you haven’t already, staystitch the neckline and armholes. Use a regular stitch to sew around the openings 1/8″ away from the edge. This will prevent the edges from stretching out when you add the binding.

Step. Pin binding to neckline/armhole.
Instead of overlapping the ends of the bias binding as in the other tutorials, I’m going to show you how to sew the two ends of the bias binding together before sewing it to the neckline. This results in an even smoother finish. With garment right side out, pin binding to neckline with raw edges aligned. Begin 1/2″ before one shoulder seam.

Made By Rae | French Binding Tutorial

Pin all the way around, and allow the end of the bias binding to extend past the starting shoulder seam. With chalk or disappearing fabric marker, mark both ends of the bias binding at the shoulder seam line.

Made By Rae | French Binding Tutorial

Trim the end of the bias binding 1/2″ past the shoulder seam. If necessary, remove the pins on either side of the shoulder seam. Unfold the ends of the bias binding and pin them with right sides together and seam marks facing.

Made By Rae | French Binding Tutorial

Made By Rae | French Binding Tutorial

Made By Rae | French Binding Tutorial

Stitch the two ends together with a 1/2″ seam allowance.

Made By Rae | French Binding Tutorial

Open up the seam you just made and finger press to smooth.

Made By Rae | French Binding Tutorial

Fold the binding back in half and pin to neckline. See how the seam lines right up with the shoulder?

Made By Rae | French Binding Tutorial

Step 5. Press in place
It helps to give your bindings a quick press after pinning to encourage them to curve along the neck or armhole opening.

Made By Rae | French Binding Tutorial

Step 6. Sew!
Sew the binding to the neckline using a scant (that means just a hair under) 1/4″ seam allowance. For my machine, this is not the same as where the edge of my presser foot is, so I have to keep a close eye on the marks on the throatplate to make sure I don’t go over 1/4”. It’s really important to go slow, keep the edges even, and not go over 1/4″.

Made By Rae | French Binding Tutorial

Continue sewing around the entire neckline or armhole.

made by rae french binding

Step 7. Press binding to inside of garment.
Press binding up, away from garment (not shown). Flip binding all the way to the inside of the garment and press, allowing the the outer fabric to roll slightly to the inside for a nice clean look. With the 1.25″-wide bias tape folded in half as shown, the binding should be sufficiently wide to cover the seam allowance. If you’re using narrower bias tape, or have trouble hiding the seam allowance, you may need to grade the seam allowances to 1/8″ before pressing.

Made By Rae | French Binding Tutorial

Step 8. Pin binding to inside of garment
Turn the garment inside out and pin the binding all the way around. If you’d like to add a tag to the back of your neckline, now is the time to pin it into place.

Tip: Pin with the pins pointing clockwise; this will make it easy to pull them out as you sew!

Made By Rae | French Binding Tutorial

Step 9. Edgestitch
Stitching from the inside of the garment and removing the pins carefully as you sew, sew along the folded edge of the binding.

Made By Rae | French Binding Tutorial

Step 10. Press
Give your binding a final press, step back, and admire!

Made By Rae | French Binding Tutorial

A note about thread color: I used white thread for this tutorial so that you can see the progress of each step. Choose a thread that matches the garment to make this method’s stitches virtually invisible.

made by rae | french bias binding

Want to see another example of this method in action? Check out Jess’ Rayon Gemma top; it looks amazing!

bias binding tutorials made by rae