#2018MakeNine plans

We’re halfway thru February, which means it’s the perfect time to post about my sewing goals for 2018, right? LOL. I hope this post will encourage any of you who worried if it was already too late to post your #2018makenine lists (answer: never too late). I’m here to tell you that you can post your list whenever you want and still not miss the party. And if you’re just now hearing about #2018makenine, check out Rochelle’s post. She’s the brains behind this low-pressure, gentle sewing challenge and explains it better than I could.

As will come as no surprise to anyone, I always have a to-sew list a mile long, but it’s often things I need to sew for my kids or versions of my own patterns or new pattern ideas. Which kind of qualifies as half “work.” Hence, I wanted to be more intentional this year about not only having a more realistic list, but taking time to sew things with other designer’s patterns that I already own, something I don’t usually find a whole lot of time for. I enjoy learning new techniques or creative construction tips from other patternmakers, and I’m excited to try out these great designs from some really talented indie designers.

Here is my list for 2018:

2018 Make Nine

1 // Willamette Top by Hey June

Adrianna has so many great patterns! This one’s a favorite and I’ve seen so many cute versions this year online.

2 // Wiksten Tova by Wiksten

I’m embarrassed at how long I’ve owned this pattern and yet have never made one. This one was one of the first great indie sewing patterns, no?

3 // Carolyn Pajamas by Closet Case

Anything with piping immediately sucks me in and I’ve got the perfect cotton lawn for this one.

4 // Stasia Dress by Sew Liberated

Buying Stasia the minute it was released was a no-brainer for me and I’m excited to give this one a try.

5 // Roscoe by True Bias

I knew it was meant to be when I saw a fabric I had already purchased at IndieSew in Kelli’s Roscoe fabric inspiration post. I cut the pieces out last week for a blouse and can’t wait to start sewing.

6 // Maritime Shorts by Grainline

Also embarrassed at how long I have owned this pattern; my friend Megan wore a couple really great pairs of handmade Maritime shorts at Squam this fall and reminded me that I really need to pull it out again. I was thrilled to discover the other day that I had already printed out and trimmed down all the pattern pieces.

7 // Abigail Swimsuit from Ohhhh Lu Lu

This is gonna be a bit of an experiment as I’m hoping to print my own swim fabric through Spoonflower. But I’ve sewn a handful of swimsuits before and this one looks good!

8 // Wiksten Oversized Kimono Jacket from making magazine

I bought the #4 Lines issue of Making Magazine mostly for this pattern, and Jenny also has plans to release the pattern on its own in her shop soon. I’ve already started sewing this one from an amazing fabric I picked up at Dry Goods a couple years ago (here are some WIP pics on Instagram) and can’t wait to finish it!

9 // Fringe Dress by Chalk and Notch

I met Gabriella briefly in San Francisco in December and have loved watching her patternmaking star rise this past year. This pattern was the smash hit of the summer and there are so many good versions online. I’ve made my muslin already and I’m ready to start cutting.

Are you participating in this challenge? Have you made any of these patterns yet?

PS. Seeing Made by Rae patterns make it onto your #2018makenine lists was so very lovely and encouraging to me.

Liberty Gemma Tank with ruffle

Liberty Gemma Tank with ruffle

Here’s a fun Gemma mod I’ve been wearing for nearly a year but never blogged: a Gemma Tank with a ruffle. You’re in luck if you want to make one of your own because I’m posting a tutorial for how to add a ruffle to Gemma along with this post….simultaneously! Ta-DA!

Liberty Gemma Tank with ruffle

I’ve been hoarding this Liberty Tana Lawn from a trip to Purl Soho in NYC since 2010. I think I purchased this print thinking I would make a dress for Clementine but every time I thought about making her something with it the possibility of it being outright rejected prevented me from even cutting into it. What I’ve now come to understand is that it needed to be worn by someone who would be sure to love and appreciate it. (ME)

Liberty Gemma Tank with ruffle

In the winter (hmmm…actually, most of the year) I wear this one with a cardigan. Sleeveless tops like Gemma and Ruby are perfect for layering under cardigans rather than trying to stuff something with a sleeve into the arms of a sweater.

Liberty Gemma Tank with ruffle

Mirror Selfie from last summer:

Liberty Gemma Tank with ruffle

I’m not sure if it’s even worth mentioning, but I ended up raising the waist seam by about an inch after taking some of these photos. If the waist seam hits me too low on my torso, it makes the overall proportions of a garment look odd.

Here’s a “before:”

Liberty Gemma Tank with ruffle

And here’s the “after” (higher waist seam):
Liberty Gemma Tank with ruffle

Can’t tell the difference? Yeah, I get that. They both look fine, but for whatever reason I got hung up on it. In fact, looking at the photos in this post now I find I prefer the longer ones. TOO LATE! So the moral of this story is: you can make something shorter, but it’s a hell of a lot harder to make it longer.

Liberty Gemma Tank with ruffle

You can check out the tutorial for how to add a ruffle to Gemma for an easy how-to, or buy the Gemma pattern in my shop!

Liberty Gemma Tank with ruffle

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How to add a ruffle to the Gemma Tank

How to add a ruffle to the Gemma Tank

One of my favorite mods for the Gemma Tank has been adding a ruffle to the hem. It’s super easy to do, and it doesn’t even take any extra yardage!
How to add a ruffle to the Gemma Tank

Step 1: Crop the back bodice pattern
You’ll need to shorten the bodice and straighten the hem to add the ruffle. Measure 8″ down the side seam of your bodice pattern piece, beginning at the armhole, and draw a horizontal line perpendicular to Center Back at that spot. Discard the rest of the pattern or fold it up if you want to keep it intact. 8″ is my preferred crop length, but you may want to experiment. Every torso and body is different, and a slightly longer or shorter crop may look better on you!

Step 2. Crop the front bodice pattern
Repeat for the front bodice. VERY IMPORTANT: Remember to skip the dart when measuring along the front side seam!

Now cut out your front and back pieces using your modified pattern.

Step 3. Cut the ruffle pieces
Cut two rectangles out of your fabric for the ruffle. These should be about 10″ tall (again, you may want to experiment with this). The width will depend on your size. I like to use my waist measurement (if you want a nice even number, use the “waist” measurement from the size chart: look under “body measurements” and use the number under “waist” for your size). I like the proportion that this width lends to the ruffle, but if you want a fuller ruffle, you could also use the “hip” number for your size.

Step 4. Assemble the tank
Using the pattern instructions, sew the darts, shoulders, and side seams of the bodice and finish the armholes and neckline with bias binding.

Step 5. Assemble the ruffle
Next, sew the two ruffle rectangles together at the sides with a 1/2″ seam. Then add two lines of gathering stitches along the top of the ruffle, 3/8″ and 5/8″ away from the top edge. I use the longest stitch length and highest tension on my machine for gathering.

Step 6. Attach the ruffle to the tank
With right sides together, pin the ruffle to the tank, matching side seams and pulling on the gathering threads until the top of the ruffle is the same size as the bottom of the bodice. Distribute the ruffles evenly and pin like your life depends on it. No such thing as too many pins here!!! Then sew together with a 1/2″ seam, remove pins, and press seam toward bodice.

Step 7. Hem ruffle
Press under 1/4″ and then 3/4″ along bottom edge of ruffle (or desired amount — I like to try it on and mark the finished length I want before I do this). Press and pin around entire hem, then edgestitch to finish.

Liberty Gemma Tank with ruffle

Voila! Finished ruffle tank!

Liberty Gemma Tank with ruffle

You can see more pics of this Gemma tank in action over at this post. All of the Gemma tutorials and mods can be found on the Gemma page, and you can buy the Gemma sewing pattern in my shop!

Piper Top

Green fleece Piper Top

The Piper Top pattern by Christine Haynes is a super quick make. The shape and collar give it a fun 60’s vibe, like something Audrey would have worn with black pencil pants and flats, you know?

Green fleece Piper Top

I chose this green Malden Mills fleece (which I pick up locally at Field’s, a Michigan chain) because I wanted something super cosy for winter, as it gets down to negatives here quite frequently, and I like how the fleece gives the pattern more of a structured, sweater-like appearance. I didn’t quite think through the 3/4-length sleeves combined with my ridiculously long arms, so I added a little cuff to the ends of the sleeves to lengthen them a bit after trying it on mid-sew and deciding I could use a little more length (and warmth) there.

The shoulders on the pattern are angled more than most, so if you have square shoulders as I do, you may want to tilt the shoulder angle a bit, which is what I did (remember then to open up the neckline so it doesn’t get too small!). I also have fairly broad shoulders, so next time I may do a broad shoulder adjustment…but…it usually doesn’t matter too much with knits due to their stretch unless you’re super picky about fit, drag lines, etc. I find it’s a delicate balance when making ones own clothes: you start to notice fit issues that you’d normally just ignore in your RTW clothing…this “Sewing Tunnel Vision” is both a blessing and a curse, I suppose. I have to be careful not to get too picky or I’d never get anything finished.

Green fleece Piper Top

This Piper been keeping me nice and cosy all winter! You can find the Piper PDF sewing pattern in Christine’s shop.

PS. I really loved this Love to Sew Podcast where Helen and Caroline interviewed Christine!

Some thoughts for the new year

I’ve been slowly easing into 2018 rather than hitting the ground running, as you might have noticed from my lack of posts this past two months. Taking a break, evaluating new ideas and last year’s accomplishments, spending some time to collect myself. Considering that many people post their end-of-year roundups in December, it’s easy to feel like you’re already behind by the time the new year rolls around if you do this.

Studio clipboards

However, I recently stumbled across this post, which contains some good writing about pacing your life to match the rhythm of the season. I wholeheartedly endorse the idea that winter should be more about cozying up and relaxing than galloping off to execute a million new plans, especially when you live in a cold place like Michigan. It also reaffirms my long-held suspicion that Labor Day is a more appropriate New Year’s Day, something I’ve privately been observing for the past few years. I’m happy to report that it works rather nicely, especially considering seasonal rhythms. Who’s with me?

Last month I intentionally took a break from posting or starting new projects, since I was filming with Creativebug the first week in December, and then we were traveling as a family to Seattle for Christmas, where I also taught a class at Dry Goods. I intended to return to posting in after the new year but I have to admit, it’s been tough to get my momentum back. Nevertheless, taking a step back is good. It forces me to think carefully about why I do what I’m doing, rather than just barreling forward because that’s what I’ve always done, and to reflect on the past year’s accomplishments.

There’s something quite pleasing about writing down your accomplishments, and once I’d made a list, I thought perhaps you might like to see it too. Understandably not all of you stay glued to your screens waiting for my latest post (and good thing too…imagine the wait!), so here is a rundown of some of the things we did here at MBR last year:

Gingham Cleo skirt

The Cleo skirt pattern was our first new pattern launch, which we followed in summer with the Cleo showcase (aka blog/IG) tour, a Cleo sewalong and the Cleo print pattern launch. Spending that much time on Cleo throughout the year meant we didn’t develop any summer or fall patterns, but I still think it was a good decision. It really helped focus attention on Cleo, which took a little while to gain momentum, as some patterns do. The effort paid off; Cleo grew more popular as the year went on, and it was really fun to see so many people making and rocking their own versions of it and including it on their #2018makenine lists.

Cleo in print

Putting Cleo into print also gave me an opportunity to give the print pattern covers a little facelift. I replaced the teal border with white, and for Cleo we introduced a stapled instruction booklet rather than the fold-out sheet. I think both formats have their advantages and disadvantages (the main disadvantage of the stapled booklet being cost), but I really like it and will definitely consider using it on future print patterns.

Big geranium in print

We also used the new cover design for a print launch of Geranium in bigger sizes (kids’ 6-12) and for a reprint of the Geranium in baby/toddler sizes (0-5).

The Geranium Expansion pack was our other new pattern launch for 2017, and I had fun working with Rachel Kovac, who did the sample sewing and photography for that shoot. I had been feeling dissatisfied with my own product photography and felt it was time to hire it out to a professional. Having had admired Rachel’s photos and blog for many years, I asked if she’d be interested in working with us. Gratefully she said yes, and I’m so happy that she made time for this project. The dresses turned out so beautifully, and the photos were fantastic.

Geranium Expansion Pack sewing pattern

We also had a lovely showcase tour for Geranium Expansion Pack in the fall. I’m grateful to the talented women who participated for their lovely contributions to the tour.

GXP tour roundup

Interestingly, the release of the expansion pack also fueled a rise in sales for the original Geranium pattern, which ended up being our top pattern seller for 2017, making it the first year in quite a while that a children’s pattern has been beat out a women’s pattern for shop sales (though Cleo was a close second).

GXP samples

Other projects from this year include:

….the Starry Sky Skirt in Making magazine (a basic gathered skirt in both children and women’s sizes which I am considering selling in the shop),

…the Sidewalk knit showcase (many of these knits are still available, by the way — I just saw the flamingos in Annie’s shop yesterday),

…a reboot of the Buttercup Bag pattern, which is now available in two sizes for free when you sign up for my newsletter,

Pop up shop

…we had a quick pop-up pattern shop through my shop website (usually we don’t ship patterns direct-to-customer from my studio) in September,

…I traveled to San Francisco for a week to shoot three of my women’s patterns with Creativebug in December. I’m excited to reveal those to you when they launch this spring; I think it’s going to be awesome for those of you who enjoy having video tutorials as a resource to help you sew!!

…I posted two Beatrix’s for the fall Stylemaker tour,

…and I went to Squam for the first time.

That’s not all; there are still a number of projects we started but haven’t finished. I’m excited to share those with you, too.

Looking back on a full, productive year, I feel an immense gratitude to all of you for your encouragement and support. Thank you for showing up and sewing my patterns and sharing what you make with the rest of us. It inspires others, encourages me more than you can know, and it propels me forward. Without your energy and enthusiasm for making, my work would not exist, and I feel very lucky to be able to do something I love so much and grateful for the opportunity to help you sew things you love.

Thank you, friends! May your 2018 be even better than you hope for.

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