Jess’ Polka Dot Isla

Polka dot knit Isla

Last summer, Jess came to Ann Arbor for what we call a “workaway” — a week of intense work here in Ann Arbor at my studio (Jess and I live in separate states, so our work is always remote), eating out, playing with the kids, and general cousin-bonding hangout time. That was when we were developing the Isla Pattern, and we made several tops that week. This one for Jess came out especially well; we’d been tweaking the armholes and bodice length, and this was one of the first that fit just right.

Polka dot knit Isla

Polka dot knit Isla

We snapped some photos before Jess left, and then we launched the pattern, and then it got really chilly (we could delve into my angst over never being able to release seasonable patterns, but let’s not get into that right now), so I put these pics on hold. Now that warm weather is here, it seems like the perfect time to post this cute little top.

I’ve been rounding up my favorite summer patterns and your makes in a “Summer Wardrobe” newsletter series over the past few weeks, which has been really fun. Today I sent out the Isla edition, which featured a bunch of your Islas from the #islapattern tag on Instagram (you can see a bunch more on my Made by YOU with Made by Rae Pinterest board as well). You can see past issues of my newsletter or sign up if you’d like!

Polka dot knit Isla

Fabric: Cloud9 Fabrics interlock knits “spots” in citron. Cloud9 sent me this fabric so I could see what their interlock fabric was like (super soft!) when I was designing Sidewalk.

Polka dot knit Isla

Posted in isla
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Matcha Top

Matcha Top

Earlier this spring my friend Meg of Sew Liberated released the Matcha Top pattern and I had that thing in my shopping cart and downloaded before you could say Matcha. I loved the versions that Meg had posted on Instagram, and the combination of the collar, center front slit, and roomy design just seemed like the perfect pattern for spring. I used a rayon I found at Indiesew, so it’s incredibly comfortable, and between that and the great design, it’s become one of my favorite tops to wear!  Even in hot weather it looks great with shorts, though this is how I wore it most of the spring:

Matcha Top

I found the pattern to be quite easy to sew with the possible exception of the collar which is understandably less “beginner” than the rest of the top, but I’ve sewn a fair amount of collars before and didn’t find it to be difficult.

Matcha Top

In the photo below you can see how much ease the pattern has, which is why I think fabric choice is really critical for this pattern. If you tried making it in a poplin or quilting cotton, I don’t think it would work. Meg made some great fabric recommendations, including double gauze (one of my favorites) and also some great loose-weave ikats, and I’d love to try both of those for a subsequent version.

Matcha Top

After sewing the collar on the first time and finding it too tight (I later realized I had traced it incorrectly — Hugo was probably pulling on my leg or something), I ended up using a collar from a larger size to help widen the back; normally the collar would be closer to the neck than what you see in these pics, but I like it this way too. Next time I will use the correct size and just add a bit of width between the two back notches for my broader-than-normal shoulders. Meg also recommends using a smaller collar to widen the gap between the two sides of the collar, which could be really cute too.

Matcha Top

I’m actually also taking Meg’s Matcha class at Squam this fall, so I’m really excited that I’ll have a chance to make another version and learn some tips from Meg. Squam is something I’m just really excited about, period. I’ve wanted to go for years, and this fall is their last one and I managed to squeeze myself in after getting on the waistlist. It looks like it’s going to be amazing!!! And that reminds me, I need to go buy my plane tickets yet…

Starry Sky skirts for Clementine

Clementine's Starry Sky skirt

These simple gathered skirts are so easy and addicting to make. I used the Starry Sky skirt project that I contributed to the most recent issue of Making Magazine for these. Perhaps the fact that I made not one but three for Clementine is evidence that they are basically Sewing Crack? They nearly fall off my machine. Bonus: she’s worn these three skirts non stop since January. When it was cold she’d wear them with leggings underneath, and now that it’s warm she wears them with those shorty-legging things that are called tumble shorts or undershorts or something like that.

Starry Sky skirt for Clementine

This first version is made with a Japanese quilting cotton that I picked up on a trip to Seattle last year at a great shop in Kirkland called Circa 15. Great quilting fabric selection but also a great selection of apparel fabrics (union chambray, double gauze) there as well. It’s hard to see but there are tiny little pandas scattered in the flowers. Clementine picked it out.

Starry Sky skirts for Clementine

The second one is a Nani Iro brushed cotton that has some sort of magical glitter ink (unicorn blood?) so the flowers sparkle. The sparkles are a Big Win with my girl, and the brushed cotton makes it super soft.

Starry Sky skirts for Clementine

Starry Sky skirt for Clementine

Check out my little vampire. Until a couple of weeks ago we were convinced those front teeth would never grow back. She’s been completely toothless in front for nearly six months. And then, a few weeks ago, a solitary front tooth started growing in, and the dentist assures me there are more to come.

Starry Sky skirt for Clementine

One thing I should point out (that you can really see in the photo above) is that Clementine is taller than the size I made for her, so the hem on these skirts lands a little higher than normal on her. She measures a size 7 in her waist but a size 9 height, so a I made a size 8 as a comprimise. There’s still a 2″ hem, however, so I can take them down yet in fall. I also like to leave a little excess elastic in the waist so that I can take the waist out too. These skirts really can last a long time if you want them to!

Starry Sky skirts for Clementine

I made the third skirt with my Sidewalk Knit in the green pencil print. I’ve discovered that this print is nearly impossible to photograph correctly; I think it must be a combination of the super bright colors with that teal hue…for the life of me I cannot get my camera or editing software to get the colors right on screen, though the closest one is above.

Starry Sky skirt for Clementine

The knit makes the skirt drape closer to the body, so there’s less “poof” to it than the other two, but it’s comfortable and swishy.

Starry Sky skirt for Clementine.

Starry Sky skirt for Clementine

If you’re looking for the instructions for this skirt (it comes in both children’s and women’s sizes), pick up a copy of Making Magazine issue 3! It’s now available online from the Making shop, as well as many other local yarn and fabric shops. Here in Ann Arbor you can pick up a copy at Spun in Kerrytown.

Jess’ Bianca Dress with Contrast Facing

Made By Rae Bianca Dress

Made By Rae Bianca Dress

One of my patterns that never really got its time in the spotlight is Bianca, which launched just months after Hugo was born three years ago. It’s a lovely pattern for summer sewing, and this dress version from Jess that features the facings on the outside and contrast hem has always been one of my favorites.  Bianca also can be made as a top, and is best suited to fabrics with drape or a looser weave, like this Nani Iro double gauze (a collection from a few years back). The contrasting facings and hem bands are Kaffe Fassett shot cottons purchased from Hawthorne Threads.

The Bianca PDF pattern includes tips for how to make the facing visible the way Jess did for this version, and she added the contrast hem bands for a fun variation.

Made By Rae Bianca Dress

Here’s how to add the hem bands:

  • The finished hem band on this dress is 3″ tall. For the same proportions as shown here, remove 2.5″ from the hem of  both the front and back pattern pieces. Bianca has a slightly curved hem, but it’s way easier to add a contrast band if the hem is a straight line, so measure 2.5″ up from the bottom edges of each pattern piece, connect those with a straight edge, and slice along that line.
  • For the hem bands, cut two rectangles out of contrast fabric that are 7″ tall, one as wide as the front and one as wide as the back.
  • For Step 6 in the pattern sewing instructions, choose option B to sew side vents, and sew the seam allowances as directed for a “Clean Finish.”
  • Fold each hem band in half lengthwise with right sides together and sew along the short ends of each hem band with a 1/2″ seam.
  • Trim the corners, turn each band right side out, and use a point turner to push out the corners. Press.
  • Pin hem bands to front and back hems of the dress with raw edges together (two layers of hem band, one layer of dress), and sew together with a 1/2″ seam. Finish these edges with a serger or zigzag stitch.
  • Press seam allowances up (toward dress) and top stitch 1/4″ above the seam you just sewed to hold the seam allowance in place.

Made By Rae Bianca Dress

Alternate instructions: View B of the Beatrix Pattern has detailed instructions to attach hem bands in a slightly different way, so you can refer to those steps if you have Beatrix in your pattern library.

Made By Rae Bianca Dress

Made By Rae Bianca Dress

Posted in Bianca
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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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