My first Squam

Squam Arts Workshop 2017

Squam Arts Workshop 2017

Squam Arts Workshop 2017

One of the things they tell you at Squam is that you’ll have a hard time explaining it afterward to other people. I’ve been thinking for over a week about how to communicate to you what a wonderful experience Squam was for me, and though I’m pretty sure I’ll come up short, I’m going to try.

Squam Arts Workshop 2017

Squam Arts Workshop 2017

Squam Arts Workshop 2017

Squam Arts Workshop is a retreat for creatives (think ALL kinds of creatives: this fall’s workshop topics included printmaking, knitting, spoon carving, sewing, writing, and diorama-building). The setting is the Rockywold-Deephaven camps on Squam Lake in New Hampshire. The lake is huge, and rocky, and deep, and beautiful. Loons call at night while you’re falling asleep. One morning: beautiful fog. Another morning: a gorgeous blanket of mist. The camp itself is full of history and beauty; the old buildings date back to the 1800’s, and the iceboxes in each cabin are filled each day with ice that was harvested from the lake in winter and then stored in sawdust during the year in a beautiful old ice house, which we passed each day on the way to meals and classes. The camp offers a gorgeous and peaceful environment.

Squam Arts Workshop 2017

Squam Arts Workshop 2017

Squam Arts Workshop 2017

Squam begins with dinner on Wednesday and ends with breakfast on Sunday, and the schedule includes two full day workshops (I took photography with Tori Williams, and sewing the Matcha Top with Meg McElwee), meals, free time, yoga, evening presentations, and the Squam Art Fair on the last night. The fact that there is even a schedule seems to be more just an excuse to bring everyone together, as so much seems to happen outside of the schedule, but the workshops were wonderful and I learned a ton.

Squam Arts Workshop 2017
(photography with Tori Williams)

Squam Arts Workshop 2017
(Kate and Jenny sewing their Matcha Tops)

Squam Arts Workshop 2017

I had never been to Squam before, and I really had no idea what to expect going into the weekend, but it’s safe to say that I knew I really needed, and wanted, a break. Elizabeth, Squam’s founder, sent out an email the week before we arrived with instructions to “clear your mind of all expectation of what the weekend might be for you,” and I tried my best to do that. Back in January, I had chosen “BREAK” as my word for 2017, and had invited myself to be open to all of the possible ways that this word might manifest itself to me throughout the year. Big break, more little breaks, break with the way I had been doing things, break open…there were a lot of ways I could think of that “break” could translate. The most obvious seemed to be to go on a retreat, so I signed up for Squam early in the year after doing a little research into creative retreats (there are others besides Squam, including The Craft Sessions, Camp Workroom Social, and Craftcation, all of which are still on my list, but Squam was the one that worked out this year).

Squam Arts Workshop 2017

Squam Arts Workshop 2017

Squam Arts Workshop 2017

Post-Squam, I’m happy to report that I sincerely feel renewed. On the plane ride home (which in itself is like a spa vacation when you don’t have three kids with you), I wrote down so many things I wanted to remember. Two pages were just about the people I met and what they had taught me. The many conversations I had with the other creatives were so helpful to me. One conversation with an artist who is no longer making art sticks out to me. Another lesson: that being “present” — something I often feel like I’m not — is really just as simple as thinking about what you are doing while you are doing it. Whoa. I’m happy that I really did have the ability and the space to relax (the loose schedule with plenty of free time helps) and just be. Such a wonderful feeling. And I’m happy to have made so many new and wonderful friends.

Squam Arts Workshop 2017
(dinner on the dock with Meg and Carol)

Squam Arts Workshop 2017

It was nice that most of the people at Squam didn’t “know who I was,” which I truly hope doesn’t sound half as self-centered as it feels to write. When I’m around people who are familiar with Made by Rae, I often end up having long conversations about myself or my business, and while those interactions are always lovely and encouraging, they can also be a bit intense. I love to talk, and I very much want to be helpful to others, but it can leave me feeling drained and overwhelmed rather than relaxed or inspired after I return home, not to mention then having to deal with my stupid inflated ego. Feeling largely unrecognized at Squam allowed me to have an experience that felt more authentic, if that makes any sense?

Squam Arts Workshop 2017

One thing I feel challenged to do after Squam is to write more. I don’t have much confidence in my writing ability, or really even love to write, and writing (especially on this blog) has been hard for me lately. Over the years, I’ve become more intimidated by the idea that so many people are reading (and possibly judging) my writing and work. That’s Fear talking, and I’m trying to look it square in the face and remember that writing can be an act of love. I know how many of you have felt a connection through my writing over the years, and just sharing the experience of being a creative person who is also a mama of three is helpful to many of you. And also, my mom wants to know what I’m up to (hi, Mom!). I’m inspired now not only to write more, but to love the writing process more.

Squam Arts Workshop 2017

I can’t end this post without mentioning what a blessing it was to spend time with my dear friend Meg (of Sew Liberated, above). Meg had a slightly different, more intense experience than me, as she was teaching the Matcha Top workshops, which was one of the workshops that I took (so fun!!). Meg and I met five years ago at Quilt Market (a much different environment), and have connected on and off online over the years; she is a true kindred spirit. Meg was one of the very first indie pattern designers slash sewing bloggers, and in addition to designing beautiful patterns, her writing is amazing, and if you haven’t been following her for years like I have, please start. I’m often amazed that despite unschooling three kids of her own and running her own small business like I do, she finds time to write such beautiful things (this is a favorite post). When I asked her how she manages to do this, her answer was that it sometimes takes months, literally months, to write some of her posts. She also — and I love this, because it really takes guts to truly take a “break” — stepped away from her business and sewing for a number of years while she was dealing with her son Lachlan’s heart condition. I’m grateful to her for all of the wonderful conversations we had at Squam, and to Elizabeth for putting us in the same room so we could stay up late and talk and talk and talk into the night.

Squam Arts Workshop 2017

Squam Arts Workshop 2017
(photo, above, of me and Annri by Amy of Mindful Art Studio)

Squam Arts Workshop 2017

OK. After all this rambling, I hope I’ve managed to communicate something to you about this beautiful experience. Thanks for reading my thoughts here, lovely readers. I hope someday you will have a transformative experience of your own that relaxes and renews you, if you haven’t already.

You can find out more about Squam Art Workshops on their website, follow Squam at @squamlove, or check out the #ultimatesquam or #squamlove hashtags to see photos from Squam.

Posted in events

Green + Orange + Yellow

My current mood: YAY FALL! I don’t like to switch over to more muted, dark, or neutral colors in my own wardrobe as it cools off outside; though I love the look of the capsule wardrobe that’s all black, white, and neutrals, it’s just not me. Instead I lean on bright colors to keep things happy and bright. There’s something about this color combination that evokes autumn: picking apples, the changing leaves, and orange skies at sunset, yet still feels very cheerful.

fall color crush

All images can be found via my Style file, Color, or other Pinterest boards. Especially loving that beautiful green shirtdress from Emerson Fry, and that orange skirt + shirt, upper left.

On turning 40

This past weekend I turned 40 (if you didn’t catch the sweet and hilarious Happy Birthday post from Elli and Jess on Saturday, do) and in a little over a week this blog will turn 10. That means that for the entirety of my thirties, I have been writing more or less regularly on this blog. For a quarter of my life — longer than I was a teacher — I have been sharing things I have made in this space. For a whole decade, I have been connected to the online sewing community. I’ve gotten to watch it grow and change, just as I myself was growing and changing in real life: having children, moving, starting a business, renting a studio, and so on. As readers, you have shared this decade with me, which is — let’s be honest — a little strange, but also really amazing and cool! Nothin wrong with strange.

I love being forty, and I’m definitely not ashamed of my age or growing older. I always joke that maintaining an online presence as long as I have requires a certain amount of inherent narcissism anyway, so the idea that I would feel badly about being forty is ridiculous. Forty is great! I made it this far, WOW, high five, me! And now it seems that having made it, I should be able to share helpful and uplifting thoughts that reveal how truly old and wise I am, right? Ummm. If anything, I’m even more hesitant to unleash any nuggets of wisdom than ever. The experience of approaching forty seems to be characterized by an increasing (and somewhat disturbing) knowledge that I know just about nothing at all.

What I know now that I’m forty = a lot less than I thought I knew at 30 = a crap ton less than I thought I knew at 20.

Side note: I thought I remembered reading a wise quote about what you know at 40 versus 30 versus 20 etc, and when I looked it up, it turns out what I was remembering was a line by JLo from InStyle magazine last year:

“In your 20s you think you know everything. In your 30s you realize you know nothing. And in your 40s you realize you’re not perfect and that’s OK.” – Jennifer Lopez, InStyle Magazine, Feb 2016

Admitting that I read InStyle (occasionally) feels like a step backward. Or not? You decide. Even saying that can be taken the wrong way, like I don’t think JLo can possess wisdom (not true) or that InStyle is elevated reading material or a good use of my time (pretty sure no tho?). There, I added the that (occasionally) to make myself look better. Is it better? I don’t know. See, I really just don’t think I know anything anymore.

(by the way, I like this TedTalk: Why 30 is not the new 20 about why we shouldn’t write off our 20’s)

Now that I know I know just about nothing, I feel like I’m in a pretty good position to focus on the small handful of things that I do know, like: BE  KIND. Or how about SHUT UP AND LISTEN MORE? These things seem even more important now than ever. This has been a weird year to turn 40; disturbing and heartbreaking and disheartening, for many reasons. I’m not sticking my head in the sand. But I’m not going to act like I know everything, either. I have a lot to learn, but I do know something. And I have a lot of hope.

It’ll be fun to check back on this when I’m 50.


Posted in at home

A Very Important Announcement

Greetings, sewwy people! Elli and Jess here. This blog has been officially commandeered by Rae’s team. It is our solemn duty to inform you that today Rae is celebrating a milestone birthday. We won’t say which one, but it might just rhyme with “schmorty.”

To prepare you for this momentous occasion, you may have noticed that we arranged for the moon to block out the sun for a couple minutes earlier this week. We hope you appreciated our efforts and had a nice time.

To celebrate the actual anniversary of Rae’s birth, we thought you might enjoy having a peek into Rae’s handmade childhood. *cue twinkly sound effect and wibbley flashback graphics*

Rae started life as a pretty cute baby with an astonishing amount of hair. Most kids are as bald as watermelons at this age:

[Seersucker overalls sewn by Mom]

She existed on the planet for a couple of years, siblingless:

[Pink sweater knitted by Grandma B]

And then, THANK GOODNESS, Elli was born. Rae was understandably delighted.

[Blue smocked dress sewn by Grandma B. Elli is the one with no hair.]

Rae continued being cute for quite some time….

[Raggedy Ann costume + matching doll sewn by Mom]

[Rae’s jumper sewn by Mom; Elli’s dress sewn by Grandma B]

[Flashback tee inspiration sewn by Mom]

Fashion milestones included matching seersucker rompers:

[Rompers sewn by Mom]

Rae celebrated her book debut with an embellished geranium-esque corduroy jumper:

[Pretty sure Mom made this one too]

Then Kricket was born! We suspect she was conceived specifically for the purpose of wearing our fabulous hand-me-downs:

[Quilted vest sewn by mom]

None of us were immune to the stenciling craze:

[Dad’s suit not sewn by Mom]

The 80s hit their stride. Hair started to get big:

[Rae in pink; Elli in purple. Dresses sewn by Mom, of course]

Then it got bigger:

[The itchiest wool jumper ever, sewn by Mom from upholstery fabric intended for office chairs. Turtle bread by Rae.]

Before we knew it, Rae and her sleeves graduated from 8th grade:

[Dress sewn by, you guessed it, Mom]

We will leave Rae here because she is now a teenager and, as such, will refuse to wear anything handmade for about a decade. Then the cycle will begin again

We feel pretty darn lucky to have Rae as a sister / cousin / bosslady, and we’re so glad she started sewing! Here’s to at least rhymes-with-schmorty more years of creativity, inspiration, and online fellowship.


XoxoxoxoxoX Elli & Jess

Wanna give Rae a little birthday love? Head on over to Facebook or Instagram and leave a note or a virtual high five!



Cleo Skirtalong Day 5: Elastic and Hems

Welcome to the last day of the Cleo sewalong! If you’re just joining us, see all of the skirtalong posts here.

Cleo skirtalong Day 5

Today we’ll add elastic to the waistband and hem the skirt (or add hem bands if you’re making View A).

Step 8. Add elastic and close the waistband

Using a safety pin or bodkin, thread the elastic through the back waistband casing.

Cleo skirtalong / elastic and hems

Secure both ends with safety pins at the sides seams.


Try on the skirt to check the fit, adjust the elastic as needed. It’s now that I need to tell you something important: Cleo really needs to be worn at the natural (high) waist, not the low waist or above the hips. I know this can be tough, but it really does look best when it’s worn at the natural waist. I usually need to trim the elastic down from the recommended length by a few inches, because I like to be able to put my hands in my pockets or keep my phone in there without feeling like the skirt is falling down.

Cleo skirtalong / elastic and hems

Here’s a closer look at the waistband, with elastic added and pinned at both sides:

Cleo skirtalong / elastic and hems

Once you are happy with how it fits, take the skirt off and stitch through all layers of the waistband at each side seam to secure the elastic.

Cleo skirtalong / elastic and hems

Now pin and topstitch the folded edge of the front waistband to the inside of the skirt as you did for the back.

Cleo skirtalong / elastic and hems

When you’re finished it will look like this from the outside:

Cleo skirtalong / elastic and hems

And here’s how it looks from the inside:

Front waistband - inside view


At this point, I recommend trying on the skirt again to check the length. You have yet to hem it up (View B), or add the hem bands (View A), but this should still give you a rough estimate of how long it will be on you. If you want to add wider hem bands, narrower hem bands, adjust the amount you’ll fold up at the bottom, or shorten the skirt before adding the hem bands, do that now. This is your skirt, so customize it so you get the length that you want!

Step 9. Attach the hem bands (View A only; scroll down for View B)

Sew the front and back hem bands together along the short ends. Press the seam allowances open. There is no need to finish these seams.

Cleo skirtalong / elastic and hems

Note that I interfaced the fabric I used for the hem bands (shot cotton) because it was lighter than the orange shirting I used for the rest of this skirt; in retrospect I don’t think that was necessary, but you can see it in this photo.

Press the hem band in half lengthwise with wrong sides together. The center fold/crease will become the bottom of the skirt.

Cleo skirtalong / elastic and hems

With the skirt right side out, pin the hem band to the bottom of the skirt, matching the side seams and lining up all three raw edges together.

If the side seams don’t match up, make sure you have the front hem band matched to the front skirt, and the back hem band matched to the back skirt.

Cleo skirtalong / elastic and hems

Another issue I sometimes have is that the hem band comes out slightly too big or too small to fit around the bottom of the skirt. If this happens, adjust one of the hem band side seams until the skirt and hem band are exactly the same size (you may have to rip out the hem band seam to do this).

Now sew the hem band to the skirt through all three layers with a 1/2″ seam.

Cleo skirtalong / elastic and hems

Finish this seam as desired (again, a serger or a zig zag stitch through all layers over the edge are both great options), and then flip the hem band down and press it.

Cleo skirtalong / elastic and hems

Here’s how mine looked after finishing the hem band seam and pressing it:

Cleo skirtalong / elastic and hems

One thing to add: if you’d like, topstitch just above the hem band seam to hold that seam allowance in place. It can add a nice professional touch once you’re finished, but it will create a visible line of stitching, which I don’t always want (so I didn’t do it here).

Cleo skirtalong / elastic and hems

Step 9. Finish hem (View B only)

Fold over and press 1/4″ toward the wrong side along the bottom edge of the skirt.

Cleo sewalong day 5 / hemming View B

Fold over another 1 1/2″ (Note: use whatever amount you want here — sometimes I like to do a really wide hem, so I fold 4,” and sometimes I’m short on fabric and use a very narrow hem) and press.

Cleo sewalong day 5 / hemming View B

Pin the hem in place. Don’t skip this — it helps prevent the fabric from twisting as you sew the hem!

Cleo sewalong day 5 / hemming View B

Finally, stitch along the first fold to secure the hem in place. For this skirt I used a straight stitch and a 3/8″-wide hem (see more pics of this skirt at my Green Striped Cleo post):

Cleo sewalong - hems

Here’s another skirt I made with a wider hem. For this one I used the blind hem foot and stitch on my sewing machine, which produces an invisible stitch line from the outside of the skirt (you can see more pics of this skirt in the Gingham Cleo post).

Cleo sewalong - hems

That’s it for our Cleo Sewalong! I hope you enjoyed this step-by-step deep dive into the Cleo skirt pattern.

Cleo skirtalong / elastic and hems

Please post any questions and comments if you have them, and share your photos with us using the #cleoskirt tag so I can give you a virtual high five!