Selecting fabrics for Gemma

Orange Gemma Tank

Gemma tanks are a great summer staple, and we at MBR have been been putting ours into heavy rotation now that the weather’s warming up. Jess has easily made more Gemmas than I have, and I dare say has become a bit of an expert at selecting good fabrics for this pattern, to the point that I might even be a wee bit envious of hers (all I’m saying is she’s lucky she’s a size smaller than me otherwise they might start to disappear).

Orange Gemma Tank

Jess is general manager here at Made By Rae (she is in charge of wholesale, coordinates pattern testing, serves as project manager, and answers a ton of email), and she does a lot of sewing both for work and for fun. Jess made this particular Gemma tank with Robert Kaufman Manchester cotton in Poppy, a looser weave medium-weight cotton that has turned out to be a really comfortable Gemma.

The other day we were discussing this tank, and that led to a discussion about our favorite fabrics for Gemma, because ultimately the ones made with fabrics that are more comfortable will get worn, and the ones that aren’t, won’t. That seemed like a great topic to share on the blog, as I know many of you are also sewing Gemma tanks of your own (check out #gemmatank for some great examples).

Orange Gemma Tank

Fabric choice is one of the most important factors if you want to end up with a comfortable garment, especially when you are working with woven fabrics (knits are, by their nature, usually more comfortable to wear, but Gemma is designed for wovens). Here are a few things to consider when selecting fabric for Gemma:

  • a fabric with a looser weave tends to be more comfortable than tighter weave.
  • a fabric with a lighter weight tends to be more comfortable than heavier weight
  • a fabric with more drape tends to be more comfortable than fabric with less.

Every fabric has some degree of each of these characteristics (weave, weight, drape), as well as other characteristics that have less impact on comfort, but in general, I find these useful when choosing fabrics for Gemma.

Orange Gemma Tank

Here are some more fabrics to consider making your next Gemma out of:

double gauze – while it’s not super drapey, it’s fairly lightweight and has a very loose weave, to the point that you might even need to go down a size. Double gauze frays quite easily (so seam finishing is a must!), but the darts are easy to get to lay smoothly and it’s actually quite manageable to sew with, due to the stabilizing effect of the two layers. Manufacturers include Kokka, Andover, Monaluna, Cloud9, and Cotton and Steel.

shot cotton – also lightweight and with a looser weave but very little drape, this is a nice option if you can find it (as far as I know, Kaffe Fassett is the only one who designs shot cottons). I love the depth of solids due to the different colors in the warp and weft threads. Manufactured by Free Spirit.

cotton lawn / voile – lawn has the advantage of being widely available in many different prints due to an increased number of manufacturers producing it in recent years, and it is light weight. Be careful when using lawn for Gemma, however, as some of the lawns (looking at you, Cotton and Steel) are very tightly woven and less lightweight than others, and even have a bit of a silky sheen to them, making it less comfortable to wear and a more difficult to sew the dart smoothly without a noticeable pucker at the end. Manufacturers include Windham, Andover, Robert Kaufman, Liberty of London, Free Spirit (under “voile”), Cloud9, Monaluna, and Cotton and Steel.

chambray – most chambray is medium-weight, fairly tightly woven, and has very little drape, so in general I would avoid it for Gemma. However, the fabrics under the category “union chambray” produced by Robert Kaufman have become popular in recent years because they are lighter, drapier, and even have a bit of stretch to them. Manufactured by Robert Kaufman

rayon / rayon challis – a synthetic fiber that drapes beautifully, the quality will determine how easy it is to sew with, but one thing to consider (and one that I need to do more research on, frankly) is that rayon production can be pretty horrid for the environment; rayon tencel is the most eco-friendly rayon. Manufacturers include Free Spirit and Cotton and Steel.

batiste – in the past year Cloud9 (the organic fabric company that produces my fabric designs), has begun producing a fabric on a new “batiste” substrate for them; it’s loose-weave and light, so it’s almost a single gauze, but it’s less sheer than gauze. The prints they’ve released so far on batiste are quite lovely; however, it’s best to choose prints with darker backgrounds if you use this fabric for Gemma as they are still pretty sheer.  Manufactured by Cloud9.

Orange Gemma Tank

And now, a note about quilting cotton (dum dum DUMMMMMM): It’s not a great fabric for Gemma (or garments in general, really). I know…there are so many awesome prints, but it’s not going to be as comfortable to wear as the fabrics listed above. Even the quilting cottons that are lighter weight (like the one I made with Alison Glass’ Handcrafted fabric) end up looking great on the hanger but not so great to wear. I’d recommend QC for making a wearable muslin, but that’s pretty much it. Sorry.

Orange Gemma Tank

Do you have a favorite fabric for Gemma? Let us know in comments! You might also want to check out this post: My top five fabrics for clothing.

The Gemma Sewing Pattern is available as a PDF in my shop.

Posted in gemma
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Fancy Dress for Clementine

Clementine's Pink Daisy Bow Dress

Clementine (the other day): “Mom, I’m not a Fancy Girl.”

Me: “What’s a Fancy Girl?”

C: “Well, you know, there are some girls at school who always wear the fancy clothes, like dresses with tights, and fancy shoes, and they like pink and purple and stuff?”

Me (in my head): “There are kids who go to elementary school in tights?

Me (outloud): “Oh, right. So that’s not you? What kind of girl are you then?”

C: “Well, I’m like, a Cool Girl.”

Me: “Ahhh. What’s a Cool Girl?”

C: “Well, you know how I like video games? And I like blue and aqua and other colors, not just pink and purple?”

Me: “Yeah. I love that about you.”

C: “So, that’s like, a Cool Girl. You know that pink dress you made me for Easter, with the bow and the flowers?”

Me: “Yeah?”

C: “That’s what a Fancy Girl wears.”

Me (laughing): “OK. Got it. Wait! There are blue flowers on it??”

C: (rolls eyes)

Clementine's Pink Daisy Bow Dress

Yes, it’s pink and it’s pretty fancy, but she wore it for Easter, and even though she likes blue better, I happen to know she still wears a lot of pink. So I’m not going to write this dress off yet. But even if she never wears it again, I pretty much died of cute when she put it on the first time and danced around like a fairy. I’ll just hold that memory in my heart while I sew her a pair of blue skater punk shorts this summer, right?

Clementine's Pink Daisy Bow Dress

Clementine's Pink Daisy Bow Dress

Clementine's Pink Daisy Bow Dress

Clementine's Pink Daisy Bow Dress

But she’s definitely less “this:”

Clementine's Geranium with Bow

And more “this:”

Clementine's Geranium with Bow

My weird little monster.

Clementine's Geranium with Bow

Fabric: Cotton lawn by Cotton + Steel, designed by Melody Miller

Patterns: Geranium Dress + Geranium Expansion Pack (zipper, bow, and gathered elbow-length sleeve). I used the selvage-to-selvage width of this fabric for the skirt, resulting in a fuller skirt.

PS. This dress gave me a chance to try putting the zipper together with the sleeves (these are the gathered elbow-length sleeves) from the Geranium Expansion Pack. I was v. pleased at how this turned out; I’ve never been a big zipper fan — quick and easy is my personal sewing motto, and surprise! zippers don’t usually fall under that category — but I’m really in love with how this looks. More info on the zipper can be found in the GXP zipper post.

Geranium Expansion Pack: Tester Versions

I want to share some great photos with you today from my awesome Geranium Expansion Pack testers! When these photos starting rolling into my inbox a few weeks ago, I got even more excited about this pattern. Seeing these great combos of the different expansion pack (or “GXP”) elements is so fun, and I hope they’ll give you some great ideas for your own Geranium variations!

Made By Rae Geranium Expansion Pack - tester roundup

During our #lovemygeranium contest back in March, Mackenzie posted a few adorable dresses that I was completely smitten with, so when it came time to test out the expansion pack, I asked if she would be willing to try it out. Here’s Mackenzie’s little one in her long-sleeved Geranium. See more on her Instagram: @mackenziesasser.

Made By Rae Geranium Expansion Pack - tester roundup

Erin at Hungie Gungie chose the short fitted sleeve and added a contrast neck bow to Coco’s Geranium. Read more about it over on Erin’s blog!

Made By Rae Geranium Expansion Pack

I love the combination of the floral print bow with the lightweight white Swiss dot. So dreamy!

Made By Rae Geranium Expansion Pack

Natalie at Hungry Hippie Sews chose the long gathered sleeve for her tester version. She later added a sash, which you can see in her blog post.

Made By Rae Geranium Expansion Pack - tester roundup

I love this girl’s style. Mix and matching that print, dots, and stripes. Perfect!

Made By Rae Geranium Expansion Pack - tester roundup

Lindsay posted a whole bunch of gorgeous photos of both her girls in their GXPs on Instagram. You can follow Lindsay on Instagram at @lindsayinstitches. Both these dresses have fitted sleeves, and the floral one features the bodice extension.

Made By Rae Geranium Expansion Pack - tester roundup

A lovely back view of the bodice extension with buttons:

Made By Rae Geranium Expansion Pack - tester roundup

This pout just slays me. And look at this adorable seersucker with the keyhole neckline!

Made By Rae Geranium Expansion Pack - tester roundup

Jess over at Craftiness is not Optional put a neck bow on Ava’s dress, and used the 3/4-length fitted sleeve shortened to elbow length. Check out her blog post for more details!

Made By Rae Geranium Expansion Pack - tester roundup

Made By Rae Geranium Expansion Pack - tester roundup

I love to see what people start doing with a new pattern, and now that the Geranium Expansion Pack is out in the world, I can’t wait to see what you make! Use the tags #geraniumxp and #geraniumdress so we can see your posts!

Need a copy of the pattern? It’s in my shop!

Geranium Expansion Pack: the zipper

made by rae GXP zipper

For our final installment of the Geranium Expansion Pack element series, I want to introduce you to the element I’m perhaps most proud of: the zipper. The zipper is the most difficult element in the expansion pack, technique-wise, so I debated initially whether to include it at all, but in the end I really loved how the zipper looks in the back and how it eliminates the need to sew buttonholes, something I know some people find difficult.

Geranium XP - zipper

My goal was to write the zipper section so that someone who had never sewn a zipper before could do it without tears or swears (not sure if I got there; you’ll have to let me know if you try!). I worked very hard to make this set of instructions as detailed yet clear as I possibly could. I experimented with a few different ways of attaching it before settling on this approach (there are definitely other ways to add a zipper with a lining), so I hope you’ll find this to be a great way to add your first zipper!

Geranium XP - zipper

This technique involves using a standard coil zipper (though I also wanted it to work with an invisible zipper, which it does) and sandwiching the zipper between the lining and the bodice, as you can see in the photo above. The result is a rather lovely inside finish.

Geranium Expansion Pack - collar + zipper

Geranium Expansion Pack - collar + zipper

Geranium Expansion Pack - collar + zipper

The zipper is the only element in the expansion pack that re-orders the steps of the original pattern (instead of: shoulders/lining/side seams/skirt/hems, the order for the zipper is: shoulders/skirts/zipper/lining/side seams/hems). For this reason, I’d recommend that confident beginners try other elements in the expansion pack first before tackling the zipper. Additionally, adding the fitted or gathered sleeves makes the construction a bit more intense, but never fear!! If you follow the instructions carefully, they tell you exactly what to do and when, whether you’re adding sleeves, a collar, or a neck bow to a zippered dress. The expansion pack is very much like a “Choose-Your-Own-Adventure” book, truth be told.

Evidence that the sleeves and the zipper can indeed be added to the same dress:

Geranium XP - zipper

We added the zipper to the rose-colored dress for the cover shoot, which had the extended bodice, so you could see that it also works with the longer bodice. This means using a slightly longer zipper, and the longer lengths are provided in the zipper chart along with the zipper lengths needed for the original bodice.

Geranium Expansion Pack sewing pattern

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of all of the elements that make up the Geranium Expansion Pack! You can visit the Geranium Expansion Pack Page to see all blog posts related to this pattern!

Buy Now: Geranium Expansion Pack

Geranium Expansion Pack: the neck bow

made by rae GXP neck bow

Neck bows or “pussy bows” are really trending right now and I knew I needed to add one to the Geranium Expansion Pack! Isn’t it cute? It really stands out when you use a contrasting solid fabric, as shown in this newborn sample made with Liberty of London lawn and a Robert Kaufman Greenwich solid:

Geranium XP - neck bow

The neck bow cleverly utilizes the the U-shape cutout from original Geranium Dress pattern. The ends of the bow are nicely hidden between the bodice and the lining of the dress.

Geranium XP - neck bow

As far as difficulty, making the two bow pieces is not at all difficult, but sewing the bow into the U-shape can be a bit tricky. I’d give it an “intermediate” level rating, but it’s not too hard to tackle, especially if you’ve sewn the keyhole neckline before.

I’d recommend choosing a lighter fabric for the neck bow if possible; this makes it not only easier to sew into the dress, but also easier to tie!

Geranium XP - neck bow

Here’s a peek at one that I made in size 8 for Clementine for Easter; I’ll post more pics of this dress soon!

Clementine's Pink Daisy Bow Dress

The pink dress from the cover shoot really highlights how even in a solid matching color, the neck bow really stands out beautifully.

Geranium Expansion Pack sewing pattern

Visit the Geranium Expansion Pack Page to see all of the posts I’ve written about the expansion pack elements, or head to my shop to buy the Geranium Expansion Pack now!

Geranium Expansion Pack: the sash

made by rae GXP sash

One of my favorite reasons to make the Geranium Dress is for a fancy occasion, such as a wedding or a family celebration. I decided to add this lovely sash to the expansion pack for just those sorts of occasions, for dress up, for any other reason you might want a sash, or no reason at all. I could envision the sash in a solid color to match a print on a dress, or vice versa. My dream is to see this made up one day in a little flower girl’s dress, in a fancy fabric with a sash and hem band to match (more on that hem band here).

Geranium XP - sash (front)

We’ve included three different ways to attach the sash in the instructions, so you can gather it, pleat it, or just attach it directly to the dress (shown here). It’s added after the dress is completed so that you could even detach it when washing the dress if you need to (try adding small snaps instead of stitches to attach it if you’d really like to be able to do this). And if you think it looks sweet from the front, it’s even cuter from the back.

Geranium XP
The samples shown in this post are size 0 (newborn), so the proportions of the sash/dress in other sizes will differ slightly depending on what size you choose. In all sizes, I think you’ll find that it’s fairly dramatic in both length and width, and of course you could adjust both to suit your own taste.

Geranium XP

Here’s another little sample in a slightly larger size (6-12 months) with the sash pleated at the side seam where it attaches:

GXP with sash

Visit the Geranium Expansion Pack Page to see all of posts I’ve written about the elements in this pattern.

The Geranium Expansion Pack is available now in sizes 0-12y from my shop!

Geranium Expansion Pack: the hem band

made by rae GXP hem band

I’m particularly fond of the hem band as a design detail and have made many Geranium Dresses with this easy-to-add element, so it only made sense to include it as one part of the Geranium Expansion Pack.

One way to add the hem band is to use a solid fabric, like I did here on this newborn sample by adding a teal double gauze to draw out the blues and greens in this lovely floral Liberty lawn:

Geranium XP - hem band

Another way to incorporate the hem band is to use a coordinating fabric, like I did for this Ice Cream Birthday Dress for Clementine:

Ice Cream Dress for Clementine

Ice Cream Dress for Clementine

One thing to note is that the hem band definitely adds length to the skirt, so if you add it to the top-length Geranium, you won’t have a top anymore; you’ll end up with something that’s almost more dress- or tunic-like in length, like this one shown below from my collaboration with Cloud 9 back in 2013 to feature the Tsuru fabric line.

Tsuru Geranium

You can read more about the dresses and that project in this post: Tsuru + Geranium

Tsuru Geranium

(I personally love the extra drama that the length adds, but if you want to preserve the original length of the garment, it’s quite easy just to shorten the skirt pattern piece before cutting it out)

Here’s another dress from that Cloud 9 collaboration (from this post: Taking flight) with the dress-length skirt.
Taking Flight

Taking Flight

Finally, another option is to use the same fabric for the hem band, but turn the print sideways to produce a contrast effect, like I did for the striped dress in the bodice extension post.

Adding a hem band is so easy, and it’s even easier since we’ve taken the guess-work out of it with pattern pieces that are perfectly proportioned and designed to fit both the View A and View B skirts. I hope you’ll have fun and experiment with adding this element to the Geraniums you make!

Visit the Geranium Expansion Pack Page to see all blog posts related to this pattern, or head to the shop to purchase a Geranium Dress Expansion Pack for yourself!.

Geranium Expansion Pack: the bodice extension

made by rae GXP bodice extension

In this post I want to introduce you to the bodice extension, a new pattern piece included in the Geranium Expansion Pack. The bodice extension is probably the easiest element in the expansion pack to add, and I love how it really transforms the dress into something more sophisticated and “grown up,” which i think you’ll love, especially if you’re making this dress for an older child.

To help you visualize what the bodice extension does, I made two Geranium dresses for Clementine in the same size, one with and one without the lengthened bodice:

Geranium XP - bodice extension

As you can see, the one on the left has the bodice extension added, and the one on the right is the original bodice. For both, I started with View B of the original bodice, which has the faux cap sleeve. Both have the top-length skirt from the original pattern. I added the hem band to the one on the left to make it into a longer dress.

See how the hem of the skirt is lower on the left? Something to consider when you add the bodice extension is how the entire length of your dress will change; the one on the right is tunic-length, and works nicely with leggings, pants, or shorts underneath, while the one on the left (even without the hem band added) is definitely a dress, even though I used the top-length skirt for both.

Geranium Expansion Pack - bodice extension

Here are some photos of them on Clementine, so you can see the difference when worn.

Geranium Expansion Pack - bodice extension

Geranium Expansion Pack - bodice extension

Geranium Expansion Pack - bodice extension

As you can see, Clementine loves her new Geraniums. Diva much?

Geranium Expansion Pack - bodice extension

Here’s a look at the back. You can either add an additional button, or just spread the buttons apart if you add the bodice extension:

Geranium Expansion Pack - bodice extension

Geranium Expansion Pack - bodice extension

Geranium Expansion Pack - bodice extension

Here’s another side-by-side look at the bodice extension. For our cover shoot, we made the pink dress with the bodice extension, and the gold dress without. I love how it looks with sleeves and the neck bow!

Geranium Expansion Pack sewing pattern

Level of difficulty
The bodice extension pattern pieces are taped to the bottom of the original bodice pieces before cutting them out, making it by far the easiest element in the expansion pack to incorporate. You can also slide the extension down for more of a drop-waist effect, or up if you want something in between. This adjustment is something that is easy to do (even if you don’t own the expansion pack), but I thought that it would be a nice addition to have these pattern pieces to make it super easy. They produce a really nice proportion, and you’ll love how this simple addition can really transform your Geraniums!

Visit the Geranium Expansion Pack Page to see all blog posts related to this pattern, or buy the Geranium Expansion Pack in my shop!

Geranium Expansion Pack: the collar

made by rae GXP collar

Let’s talk about the collar! This adorable element included in the Geranium Expansion Pack is both sophisticated and sweet. I love that it looks fantastic both in a contrast fabric, and in the same fabric as the rest of the dress. It also works beautifully with or without sleeves (personally, I think the faux cap sleeve + collar is ridiculously cute, and a great option if you want to try the collar for the first time and want to keep it simple).

Geranium XP

The collar has a lovely subtle curve in the front and is divided in the back to accommodate either a zipper or buttons. Like the sleeves, the collar is tidily sandwiched between the lining and the outer bodice for a truly professional finish.

Geranium XP - collar (back)

It think the collar is really cute with the gathered long sleeve, below. When made in the same fabric as the main dress, it’s really great:

Geranium XP - gathered sleeve with collar

But I also love the drama that making it in a contrast fabric adds:

Geranium Expansion Pack - collar + zipper

I sewed this little sample to test out how the collar would work with the zipper, and it turned out really nicely. I’ll post more about this little flamingo sample (which is a size 2) in the zipper post, so you’ll also get a chance to see this sample inside-out!

Geranium XP - zipper

Geranium Expansion Pack - collar + zipper

Geranium Expansion Pack - collar + zipper

And finally, why not try a solid on solid collar and dress? So lovely in this sample Rachel sewed for our cover shoot!

Geranium Expansion Pack sewing pattern

Level of difficulty
The collar is fairly easy to sew; it’s four collar pieces, sewn together in pairs, turned right side out, and basted to the bodice before adding the lining. As long as you can sew a smooth curve, the biggest difficulty might be turning and pressing it right-side out, so we’ve made sure to include some hints to help you along. I think you’ll find it’s quite easy to add the collar if you have some sewing experience!

Visit the Geranium Expansion Pack Page to see all blog posts related to this pattern, or buy the Geranium Expansion Pack now in my shop!