Adding a circle skirt to the Flashback Tee

This weekend I made a twirl dress for Clementine to wear to a friend’s Nutcracker performance. I used the Flashback Tee pattern (size 9/10) and added a circle skirt. She was delighted. Both the fact that it’s pink and it’s got major twirl are big selling points for her. I’ve made her a number of Flashback dresses before, most involving two gathered rectangles, but the twirl skirt was such a big win I’m not sure she’ll let me make another gathered one. We’ll see. 

Here’s a quick how-to just in case you want to make one with your Flashback tee pattern! 

You will need: 

*Additional yardage is absolutely necessary in order to make the circle skirt, especially if you want the circle to have no seams. I purchased 3 yards of this pink double brushed poly knit (see my quick guide to knits for more info on the different types of knit and how they differ), and ended up with about 30″ left over after I was finished (this is a size 9/10). However, if you are making a smaller size or want a shorter skirt (this one was 25″ long), you’d definitely need less than that. My best advice is to sketch out your skirt ahead of time (see the diagrams below) and use that to calculate how much additional yardage you’ll need beyond what the tee calls for. 

**Serger. Do ya need one? My head says no but my heart says yes. Check out my Do you need a serger post for more thoughts on this. Could I have made this dress as quickly without my serger? No. Could it have been more mindful and relaxing process if I had used Natalie Chanin’s hand-stitching knit techniques to sew all of the seams? Perhaps. But I wouldn’t be finished with the dress yet. And that smooth waist seam is easier to achieve with a serger than with a sewing machine.

Step 1: Crop the bodice pattern piece

You need to shorten the tee bodice pattern piece if you want the waist seam to land near the waist and not the hip. 

I first folded the Flashback Tee bodice pattern piece in half from hem to armpit, but the skirt was so heavy (it’s super stretchy poly and has quite a bit of weight) so had to crop it higher up for the waist to land where I wanted it to. This ended up being roughly 1/3 of the way down from the armpit. You may want to start by cropping the pattern halfway between armpit and hem, pin the skirt on, and see how it looks before you sew it. 

Step 2: Sew the tee

Cut out the fabric for the tee (bodices, sleeves, neckband) and sew it together. Skip hemming the tee. I added ruffled cuffs rather than hemming the sleeves.

Step 3: Cut out the circle skirt

Here’s where it gets a little tricky but stay with me.

To make a circle skirt, you cut a big circle with a little circle cut out of the center (for the waist). The radius of the big circle minus the radius of the little circle is the length of your circle skirt (I made mine about 25″ long, though I ended up trimming away a bit of length at the sides and mid-way to the center since she wanted a bit of an uneven cascading look when it was hanging down). 

To get the radius of the little circle, first take the width across the bottom of the finished tee, and divide by 3.14 (that’s right: PI, you math nerds!):

width of tee / 3.14 = X

Now take X and subtract 1/2″ to get the radius of the small circle:

X – 1/2″ = R

“R” is the radius of the little circle, and R in my diagrams below. The reason that you subtract 1/2″ from X before cutting this circle is a safety measure: you actually need the circle skirt waist to be a teensy bit smaller than the tee waist, and it’s ALWAYS BETTER TO CUT THAT CIRCLE SMALLER THAN TOO BIG!!!

Now cut your skirt out. Cut this way if you want side and back seams (I did mine this way); you also save on fabric if you do it this way:

Cut out your skirt this way if you want it to be a continuous circle, no seams:

Step 4: Sew and attach the skirt

You’ll need to sew the sides and back seam together if you cut it out the way I did, then pin and sew the skirt to the tee, right sides together. To achieve a nice smooth waist seam, I sewed them together without pulling or stretching the fabric out at all. I tried it first with my sewing machine on a zig zag stitch (to try it on), then ran it through my serger with the differential set to 1.7 once I was happy with the location of the waist seam.

Twirly dress, achieved!

For extra overachiever points, sew a matching one for the doll. Heh heh heh, yeah. I DID. Not the first time, either. 

Doodle Quilt

doodle quilt / made by rae

Another new thing I learned this year was how to make a Doodle Quilt. My friend Annabel Wrigley, whom I first met at a Heather Ross Design workshop in NYC years ago, came to Michigan in September to teach two Doodle Quilt workshops with the Detroit Area Modern Quilt Guild and the Ann Arbor Modern Quilt Guild. I was excited for the chance to learn how to do this from her, as I’ve admired her doodle quilts since she started posting them on Instagram a few years ago (check out #doodlequilt for some serious inspo).

doodle quilt / made by rae

I worked on this gold quilt during the workshop, encouraged by Annabel to really go for it with the bold background color even though my initial feelings were that I should stick to white or grey.

doodle quilt / made by rae

At the end of the day, I went home and immediately made another teal one #obsessed. Clementine was also intrigued watching me do this and together we made one for her. I still haven’t finished the gold one and Clementine’s is still in progress, but the teal one is already hanging up in our front entryway.

doodle quilt / made by rae

As someone who teaches, I find taking classes that aren’t about sewing garments to be incredibly fun. To be the person in the room who knows the least about what’s going on is amusing and interesting. I know you think I’m exaggerating but remember that this was a guild workshop, so these ladies were serious quilters. I didn’t even come with the right kind of thread (not knowing enough about quilting threads), but it ended up not being an issue. When you start knowing very little about something, the feeling of figuring something out (that light-bulb moment!) is really great.

doodle quilt / made by rae

One thing I love about these quilts is that start with this random doodle and end up with something that looks colorful and bold. It’s a great way to use smaller solid pieces of fabric (scrap alert!) and being relatively small, they make great wall hangings, and don’t take as much time as a larger bed-spread-style quilt might. I also love the matchstitck quilting. It’s downright calming to sew back and forth, creating lines that are roughly 1/4″ apart.

doodle quilt / made by rae

If you’re into learning how to do this, I’d encourage you to find a copy of Modblock Magazine 2018 vol 4, as Annabel is no longer teaching this workshop (as of this writing, she has moved on to other — very exciting — projects), but she has written a great article and included a pattern for a doodle quilt in this issue.

I also consulted Elizabeth Hartman’s book, Practical Guide to Patchwork, for tips on how to do the actual quilting of the layers (we didn’t cover much of that in the workshop, as we were mainly working on completing the top).

If you love these doodle quilts as much as I do, put it on your to-sew list — it’s really fun!

Posted in quilting

Tolt River Cowl

This year I picked up knitting with a zeal I’ve not experienced before; it’s normal for me to consider the odd knitting project around September and maybe make a baby sweater or cowl by March. But this past July, I went on a Maker+Stitch hiking and knitting retreat in Colorado that jump-started my annual knitting early. I continued knitting through the summer into fall and am still going strong. At this rate I may manage to make not one but possibly four things with yarn this year. WHO IS THIS PERSON? I don’t know but SHE CAN DO A LONG TAIL CAST ON WITHOUT LOOKING IT UP. Shocking.

tolt river cowl / made by rae

Andrea Rangel was the instructor on the knitting retreat, and the topic was colorwork, which for those of you unfamiliar with knitting really just means knitting with more than one color. In this case we used her soon-to-be-published Tolt River Cowl as a practice piece, and I’m quite thrilled with the boost my knitting skills have seen thanks to her patient instruction as well as how my cowl (above) turned out. Here are the other cowls that were made at the retreat, most still in progress:

tolt river cowl / made by rae

I’d love to tell you more about the retreat…I have so many thoughts about what I learned and why it was such a good choice for me this year, but for now I’m going to just share the reaction of the cowl’s intended recipient with you, for laughs.

tolt river cowl / made by rae

Let’s just zoom in on this a sec.

tolt river cowl / made by rae


tolt river cowl / made by rae

I love that he’ll give me the pointed looks for the camera so I can capture it for posterity. To be fair, he said the wool was “too scratchy” and as a kid who herself spent a portion of her winters breaking out in hives from scratchy hand-knit items, I completely sympathize and was happy to pass it on to a more willing wearer:

tolt river cowl / made by rae

tolt river cowl / made by rae

I’m now currently into my second cowl; I decided to get Andrea’s book, Alterknits, from the library and attempt another pattern (sheep!) on this next one. I love that you can take any number of her patterns in that book and as long as your project has the correct number of stitches, insert her patterns into them as you like. Highly recommend the book (and it’s on my to-buy list, thank you library but I now need a copy of my own). Here’s some of the lovely samples Andrea brought along on the retreat from the book:

My next knitting goal now that Level: Colorwork has been unlocked is to try brioche. My friend Megan promises to show me how, and I’ve been eyeing a number of fun projects online and stalking Andrea Mowry on Instagram ever since setting my sites on brioche. Who are your favorite knitters to follow online?

I know many of you are knitters as well as sewists! Are you working on anything fun? Any new (or not-so-new) skills you’ve picked up that I should know about?

Pattern update: Rose pants!

Just wanted to give you an update on the pants pattern I’ve been working on this fall! The working name for this pattern is currently “Rose” as in the flower (my late grandmother’s favorite), and I love that the name “Rose” is both strong and feminine. Plus it’s consistent with my pattern naming history in that it’s botanical (“Parsley, Geranium”), a female name (“Bianca, Josephine”), and/or a color (“Jade, Ruby”).

After the striped Loominous pants (shown above) I made this summer got such an incredible response on Instagram, I decided to work on a pattern for it. The concept behind these pants is similar to my Cleo skirt design (flat front waistband, elastic back waistband, super comfortable), but in a pant rather than a skirt. I also wanted a super high rise, wide leg, and multiple lengths. After the initial prototype, Karen made pattern pieces in my size and I tested them out with this fun gold floral print from my recent line, Fanciful. I thought these were pretty cute!

Note that this fabric is quilter’s cotton, so it worked nicely as a sample muslin but could also be a fun summer pant. Since there’s very little drape, it behaves similarly to actual muslin fabric and is therefore helpful for finding and fixing fit issues. Here’s the back view so you can see the elastic in back.

Next I tried a much different fabric, and also played around with a longer length, for those of you who would prefer to have a long pant pattern. The inseam length on this brown pair is 32″ which is really a “tall” (I’m 5’8). I’m planning to include a cutting line for the more standard length (30″ inseam), as well as an easy guide so that if you need less or more length on the inseam it will be super easy to get the correct length.

I was really happy with how these turned out — I love this slub linen/rayon blend fabric (posted more info about it here, by the way, if you’re interested in sources). which made these pants incredibly dreamy and comfy.

Last week, I made another pair out of yarn-dyed Manchester cotton. Like quilter’s cotton, this fabric has very little drape and will probably get pretty wrinkly, but I wanted to try and see if a kick-pleat would work as nicely as four separate outward-facing pleats (like the ones above have). What do you think?

Currently we have the pattern graded into all nine sizes (that’s our extended women’s size range) but the pieces need a few more edits before it will be ready for testers. Meanwhile, I’m starting to sketch diagrams and write the instruction steps this week. Fun, fun!!! Tentative launch is set for early next spring.

I’m really excited to bring another fun pant pattern to the sewing pattern market — Luna has been a huge success and I hope you’re excited about Rose, too. Which view is your favorite so far? Do you prefer the separate pleats or the kick-pleats? Any other ideas you want to share? We’re always open to feedback and it’s fun when a great idea gets incorporated into a new pattern.

PS. If you’re interested in reading more about how we make a pattern here at MBR, check out my behind-the-scenes post from last week!

Luna Pants with a triple channel drawstring

These pants are easily my most-worn Luna pants this fall. I was inspired by another pair of dark chambray pants that I saw on Pinterest (they’re #14 on my Luna Inspiration list, if you’re interested), so Jess sewed this pair out of Rustica Chambray from Robert Kaufman Fabrics (59% cotton / 41% linen). They are ridiculously comfortable.

Chambray Rustica Luna pants
Chambray Rustica Luna pants

In order to get the narrow drawstring into the wide waistband facing without it swimming around, we made these with a triple channel drawstring. This is so easy to do. Here’s how!

Luna Pants drawstring


  1. After adding the waistband facing but before you stitch down the bottom edge, add two 1/2″-tall buttonholes to the center front of your pant, centering them vertically so that they’ll land in the middle of the waistband (See my other Luna drawstring tutorial if you need more guidance with this).
  2. Stitch down the bottom edge of the waistband, leaving a couple inches open in the back
  3. Mark two horizontal lines 3/8″ from the top and bottom of the facing for the channels, then stitch down around those lines, leaving a couple inches open at the back of the pant so you can thread the elastic through. This will leave about 5/8″ for the middle channel. Before you stitch, double check that the buttonholes will land in the middle of the center channel!
  4. Cut two pieces of 1/4″ elastic to the length needed for your waist (a chart is included for each size in the Luna sewing pattern). Using a safety pin or bodkin, thread the elastic through the top and bottom channels, starting with the top channel. Overlap the ends and stitch them together.
  5. Cut a strip of fabric for the drawstring, 1″ wide by your waist measurement + 1 yard long. Fold the two long edges of the strip into the center so that they meet, press, then fold in half, and press again. Edgestitch around the outside of the drawstring to finish it.
  6. Using a safety pin or bodkin, thread the drawstring through one buttonhole, around the pant through the center channel, and out the other buttonhole. Tie or knot as desired.
  7. Once you have tried on the pants and are happy with the fit of the waistband, stitch the holes for the elastic shut in back.
chambray rustica how-to / made by rae
chambray rustica how-to / made by rae

Voila! Pants with a triple channel drawstring!! Also: I love the hidden Lotus Pond pockets and waistband.

Chambray Rustica Luna pants