What are my WIPs telling me?

Elliot and Clementine are back to school as of yesterday. Woooooohoo. I crave the beginning of school not because I want to see less of my kiddos, but because I love the feeling of turning over a new leaf (I do miss them, but honestly I think the structure of the school schedule is good for all of us after the many many weeks of vacation). The start of the school year is a chance for a new start. Forget New Year’s. A set of resolutions in the dead of winter when you’re still full from Christmas cookies. Who came up with that dumb idea? September is the time for new beginnings, I say!!! Even if I am at the same time sentimental about the end of summer.

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I knew I would have a few days this summer when all three of my children would miraculously end up in camps or daycare at the same time when I would have a chance to work, and my goal for the summer was mainly to work on finishing up a long list of my unfinished projects. My assistant Tashina finished college and moved away at the end of July (waaah!!!), and Karen, the other person who works with me in Ann Arbor was home with her daughter for the summer, so it was a fine chance to work by myself for a bit. Sadly, that list of things to finish seems only to have grown. I think I just completely lack the ability to hunker down and focus on anything anymore. At any rate, I managed to take a few pictures of the WIPs (works in progress) I have lingering on my sewing table that are still taunting me as this school year begins. I was thinking that maybe if I had them visually in one place, I would be motivated to finish them, but…

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What really is the point of trying to cajole myself into finishing things I’m dragging my heels on? I don’t like to waste time or fabric, so that part of me hates to just give up on something, even if it goes to the thrift store so someone else can repurpose it. But from an artistic standpoint I feel like I should intuit some meaning from the things that cause the most serious procrastination. If I’m not passionate about it then should I even be wasting time on it at all? Maybe I should just move on to the things I really truly want to do. I always liked Nancy Pearl’s approach to books: read the first 50 pages and if you’re not hooked, walk away. And that Magic Art of Tidying Up lady has a similar philosophy: rid yourself of the things in your home that don’t make you happy, seriously just throw it all away. That axe-it-all attitude is awfully appealing to me, as a philosophy for life in general as well as around my house (of course I’m only about half way through that book so the question of what happens if it doesn’t make me happy but I need it anyway, like my toothbrush or the toilet plunger? hasn’t been covered yet, hopefully she will address that because that’s my biggest question so far). When you’re a creative person, the non-passion-inducing projects are things like “why did I just lose an entire afternoon rooting around Quickbooks because it won’t freaking sync with my Paypal properly #?@!?!” Unfortunately, it can’t all be fondling fabrics and sewing the beautiful things. I can’t toss stupid dum dum Quickbooks out the window. Much as I might like to. But I could definitely be better about tossing away sewing projects that induce malaise.

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Moving on. I have some fun ideas planned for this new season, but it’s like a suspense novel over here, even I have no idea which ones if any will come to fruition. I’m keenly aware that even with Hugo in daycare two days a week, my life as a mother of three will always be somewhat of a hindrance to professional progress. Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not whining, I choose it, and love it, it just is what it is. I’m just saying, it’s still fair for me to feel mildly jealous of the sewing bloggers who prolifically post lined jackets and trendy rayon jumpsuits betwixt fun updates on their latest pair of handmade Ginger Jeans. Meanwhile, I’ll be dutifully plugging away at my humble pile of WIPs. Maybe you can guess what some of them will become? And what do you think, is it better to power through and finish the things you start on principle, or just pursue the projects you love?

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)!

Sparkly tote with piping

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Look, a fun tote! This is what I take with me every time I leave the house lately. The outside is Ruby Star Sparkle canvas by Melody Miller; I believe this was the last line she designed for Kokka before founding Cotton and Steel, and just in case you can’t see from the photos, it does have metallic ink across the top band so it’s ever-so-slightly-sparkly. 

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Melody gave me a few fabric samples from that line at Camp Stitchalot two whole years ago and I’m embarrassed it took me this long to make something with this. Once I actually started it, it was really easy. I didn’t use a pattern; it’s just a bunch of rectangles sewn together. 

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It ended up quite long and narrow, so I always end up fishing around in the bottom of it for my keys and wallet. I guess I wanted to finish it more than I wanted to add pockets, but at least I had the good sense to add a magnetic snap (here’s my magnetic snap tutorial, if you’re interested). It’s also the perfect size for my laptop, which was a happy accident. 

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To make it a little more exciting than a plain tote bag, I added some pink piping, because piping makes anything look 100% better, in my opinion.  I have a piping tutorial, if you’re interested. The lovely gold lining is a linen I found at Bolt in Portland when I was there for Quilt Market a few springs ago.

 

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Men’s Shirt with a Color Map Surprise!

Pantone Negroni / made by rae

I made this Negroni shirt for my brother-in-law for Christmas. Ross is an architect and as such, a designer who has a great appreciation and understanding of color. Once when he was looking around my workspace he spied a big Spoonflower fabric color chart that was on the wall and mentioned that it would be neat to have an entire shirt out of it. When I ran this idea past my sister Kricket (his wife) a couple of months before Christmas, she suggested kindly that it might be nice just to have color chart ACCENTS rather than the whole garment. I still think a shirt made entirely of color swatches and corresponding hex codes would be really awesome, but if Kricket didn’t want to be seen in public with him when he was wearing it then that would make said shirt considerably less practical.

Pantone Negroni / made by rae

I don’t usually make a habit of sewing dress shirts for all the male members of my family for Christmas because that would be crazy and insane, but this year — and for the past couple of years — we’ve been picking names instead which makes giving gifts less stressful, and this year I had Ross’ name. I’ve found year by year that my list of things to sew before Christmas gets shorter and shorter, which I attribute to my getting wiser and wiser with age. One year (I forget which, having largely blocked it out due to the trauma associated with the memory) shortly after I had Elliot, the Hoekstra family decided to have an entirely Handmade Christmas, which ended up being ridiculously stressful. I tried to sew amazing one-of-a-kind gifts for everyone and ended up nearly suffering a nervous breakdown. I still love the idea in theory, but have since realized that kind of gift giving requires one to start making in May or June, and not, shall we say, in December, as I am apt to do, being a Procrastinator with a capital P.

Pantone Negroni / made by rae

Pantone Negroni / made by rae

Back ’round to the topic at hand. Without anything else on the to-do list, I found that whipping up this shirt before Christmas was quite fun. It took me a few evenings put together to finish the entire thing (and yes, I was sewing on buttons the morning of our gift exchange, so sue me), but when it was complete I felt quite proud. The recipient seemed quite pleased and I hope it proves as wearable as it is attractive.

Pantone Negroni / made by rae

The Negroni sewing pattern by Colette Patterns is one of my favorites for men (and as far as I’m concerned, still one of the only good indie men’s sewing patterns). I’ve made it many times for Mr. Rae and find it to be a relatively quick and easy project each time. It does not have a collar stand so it is definitely more of a casual shirt than dress shirt, but Mr. Rae prefers that anyway. The herringbone Chambray Union is from Robert Kauffman and has just the right amount of stretch to be comfortable. The buttons came from hmmm I don’t remember, I’ll have to look that up if anyone is interested. Procuring the color chart fabric could be a bit of a challenge; I had this chart printed up at Spoonflower but I have no idea where I got the original image from, which also means it probably wasn’t a legal use (oops). Spoonflower does have a nice color map though that could do quite nicely. For the inside of the cuffs, yoke, and undercollar, you need less than a yard anyway.

These days it seems easier and easier to find fun fabrics that I want to turn into men’s shirts. I have a nice pile of prints waiting to turn into more Negronis for Mr Rae or dressy-ish shirts for Hugo and Elliot, but alas my free sewing time is pretty scarce these days. Maybe someone will start a men’s dress shirt cutting service for sewists — you pick a fabric and they cut out the pieces in the size you need and mail them to you. Wouldn’t that be nice??

Pantone Negroni / made by rae

Sleeping Beauty Super Tote

Hey look I made a Super Tote! This ultra-popular pattern is from Anna of Noodlehead and turns out it’s the perfect size for a me-bag-slash-diaper-bag. When I saw this version that Gail made I knew I wanted to try a version with the piping and bust out some Heather Ross Far Far Away sleeping beauty canvas I’ve been hoarding forever. Well, since 2009, which in Blog Years is forever. You know it’s only a matter of time until they reprint this line, and I still have a huge pile of it sitting around begging to be made into something. So: Super Tote! And: it matches my rain boots! That was a happy coincidence, since I’m not usually a huge purple fan. But for some reason when I was pregnant last year I went through a purple phase.

Super Tote Far Far Away canvas by madebyrae

My only regret with this project was I wish I had added the (recommended) stiffer interfacing. I used quilt batting for all of the layers but I wasn’t sure I wanted to use fusible interfacing on my precious Far Far Away canvas so I skipped it. Looking back I think it would have made the bag stand up and look a little sharper, but that’s OK. Next time.

Super Tote Far Far Away canvas by madebyrae

It took me a long long time to make this only because I kept setting it aside for higher-priority projects. That’s one drawback of being a pattern designer is that I end up with next to no time to make anyone else’s patterns. Wah-wah. On the other hand, I kind of suck at making other people’s stuff anyway because I usually end up hacking it or “improving” on it because I always try to change something (that is more a testament to my personality than the quality of the pattern in question, by the way). The fact that I did NOT change anything about the Super Tote pattern is a testament to it’s fineness. Especially fine: this nice zipper closure at the top:

Super Tote Far Far Away canvas by madebyrae

I’ll be taking this tote with me to Austin next week; our whole family is headed to Texas to visit my new niece in Waco and then head over to Austin so I can make a stop at QuiltCon on Saturday (you can find me at the Stitch Lab booth on Saturday afternoon around 3pm if you want to stop by and say hi!) and teach a Buttercup Bag workshop at Stitch Lab on Friday that is SOLD OUT, wooot I am super excited! (But: there are spots open in a couple of Stitch Lab fabric printing and screen printing workshops yet next weekend, so check those out if you’re going to be in the area).

Super Tote Far Far Away canvas by madebyrae

So, since it’s our first time in Austin and we have three kids in tow, I would really love some suggestions for places to go and eat while we’re there. Mr Rae will be on the town with all three kids for a couple of days while I’m at QuiltCon so he ESPECIALLY appreciates any advice you can give!!

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Another Washi Dress with a big bow

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I think the title pretty much sums it up. This is a Washi Dress that I made last winter, but I just added sleeves to it last week (it had a ruffle around the armhole that was really not working, just trust me on this one). I like the deeper colors of this striped voile for fall, and adding a sleeve makes it even more fall-esque. Perfect for leggings and boots with a big gray cable knit sweater (note to self: purchase gray cable knit sweater). This voile is part of Anna Maria Horner’s Innocent Crush fabric line.

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This bow is in fact even wider than the bow that will come with the soon-to-be-released Washi Expansion Pack (more details on that in this post); the voile was so lightweight that I thought I’d push the limit a bit and see how wide I could get away with. The result is very fun, if you like a big bow. Do you think this is TOO big for a big bow? I don’t think we have quite reached that point yet, but then again I’m always one for a big statement. For contrast, see this post for the “standard” big bow width I chose for the expansion pack.

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I’ll be heading out to Texas at the end of this week for Quilt Market and a visit to my sister Elli of course, so now it’s time to decide which of my Washi Dresses to pack. Or figure what else I should try and make last-minute before I go! Should be fun.

Fall Pattern Preview: Josephine!

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Introducing Josephine, a new sewing pattern coming later this fall! UPDATE: Josephine is now available

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I’m so. excited. to show you this first fall pattern preview — it’s kind of in the early stages yet but I just couldn’t wait to show you these photos. I love the pleats. I love the sleeves. And this rayon fabric is divine.

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Josephine will have both a top and tunic view (this is the tunic length). As you can see it can be worn as a mini-dress as well as with jeans or leggings, and the top will be slightly longer than hip length. The belt will be included, along with two different width sleeves.

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Do you love it? I love it. Can’t wait.

Blue Rayon Staple Dress

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

Staple Dress in PRINT

Staple Dress (back cover) in print

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

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Today I wanted to show off my latest Staple Dress creation (you can see the top I made for Spring Top Sewalong here)!

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

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

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

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

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

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

A look back at my year in sewing

I’ve been seeing lots of project roundups from last year pop up on other people’s blogs over the past week, and I realized how much I enjoy them. I love seeing a bunch of things from the entire year presented in one place! So satisfying. It just appeals to my visual side. So I started to look through all of my projects from this past year to see if I could sum up my 2012 projects in photos. It turns out that’s a pretty big job, yikes. At the same time, I definitely started to see some general trends. For instance, I sewed a TON of stuff for me this year, especially dresses and tops (YAY!!):

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1. scarfonme, 2. Sparkler Top, 3. libertytop1, 4. Wiksten Tank by Rae, 5. green snow white top ., 6. Charcoal striped shirt by Rae, 7. Alabama Chanin Babydoll, 8. teal tee with green skinnies, 9. figuring the eight

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1. Washi Dress, 2. Pink washi maxi dress, 3. Summersville Washi top, 4. aqua washi dress, 5. Time for Tea, 6. aquawashi7, 7. Orange Washi, 8. hello pilgrim full length, 9. Ruby Star Washi Dress

I’m super proud of what I accomplished this year when it comes to sewing for myself. Believe it or not, I learned a ton of new techniques and I feel like the things this year I made are more comfortable and wearable than clothing I’ve made for myself in the past. I also made a TON of stuff for Clementine (DOUBLE YAY!!!):

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1. Pink Geranium Dress, 2. fauxfurcoat, 3. flutter sleeve linen dress, 4. Princess and the Pea Dress, 5. pomegranate pierrot, 6. yellowjacket, 7. Bubblegum Dress, 8. nursery versery pamama pants, 9. charliegreensnowwhite, 10. geranium fox top 4, 11. whale shirt, 12. pink and gold crochet sweater, 13. Striped flashback tee with puff sleeve, 14. Little folks dress, 15. pierrotwithabow, 16. Charlie Dress

So that’s cool. BUT. For the boy? Not so much.

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1. flashback13, 2. awesomepants1, 3. shirtshorts5, 4. short sleeved flashback tee

OOPS.

It makes me really want to sew more for this little guy. The crazy part is, he really likes to wear things I make for him (unlike Clementine who is very hit or miss and usually requires bribery to get photos), so I actually do sew quite a bit of stuff for him, but not much of it ever makes it onto the blog because it’s always a little bit boring. Like two plain brown Flashback tees. A pair of grey linen pants. Yeah. Time to amp it up in the boy department, Rae.

So, my sewing goals for the new year…hmmm. I think we should Celebrate the BOY, don’t you? I’d also like to try more skirts and pants for myself this year. And I know this might seem strange, but I think I need to cut back on the amount of stuff I sew for Clementine. It is really fun to sew for her, but she seriously had more clothing this year than I knew what to do with, it was crazy.