Blue Nurtured Sweater for Elliot

Elliot wanted me to knit him a sweater after I made myself the Nurtured sweater early last winter. It’s been a while since I knit anything for him and mostly I thought it was super sweet that he wanted me to knit him a sweater, so I brought him to SPUN and he picked out some yarn — Shepherd’s Wool, made here in Michigan (woot!) — and I got around to casting it on mid-February or so. Like an idiot, I decided that rather than pick a kid-sized basic crew sweater knitting pattern,* it would be easiest to just try and adjust the Nurtured pattern (by Andrea Mowry), so I measured one of his sweaters, did some math, and came up with a plan for adjusting the pattern that I thought would fit him.

*in fairness, sweater patterns for size 12 kids are a bit harder to find. I did do a few unsuccessful Ravelry searches. Any suggestions for designers who are working in this size range?

Next time, I need someone to remind me (again) that it’s best to leave the knitting pattern design to the experts. I ran into enough issues with scaling it down that I had to hide from it for a few months, which normally is fine unless your kid is growing like a weed and the clock is ticking if you want him to fit into it for more than a hot second. I finished it in early August, just in time for Not-At-All-Sweater-Weather here in Michigan.

Luckily, we were just about to leave on a family road trip to the west coast, and it was cool enough that he wore it a handful of times. It turned out beautifully, and he loves it. I love that blue color especially, and the marled yarn gives it a cool texture.

I was hoping it would be a bit oversized so he could grow into it and get a lot of wear out of it, but alas, it fits near-perfectly (which you can see in the arms in these pics), so I doubt he’ll wear it much past this fall, depending on how quickly he grows. Oh well! Luckily, he has two younger siblings who will hopefully wear it when he’s finished with it!

That’s a pretzel rod. If you’re wondering.

I do want to acknowledge that knitting a sweater is hard, and grading a sweater pattern down to a kids’ size when you’re not a knitting pattern designer is even harder. So I am super proud of the fact that I managed to finish it, and that it turned out nicely despite the hurdles. Next time I will definitely search harder for a pattern in his size, but this was a good learning experience.

Jade tee for Cassie

When I started planning to make Cassie’s Rose pants, I knew I also wanted to make her a Jade tee to wear with them. She ended up wearing a grey tee she already owned for some of the photos (see this post for pics), but we both loved this tee with the pants, too. The gold striped knit adds a summery feel when it’s combined with the blush pink pants, and it also gives her another super versatile tee to wear in fall.

Here you can see a closeup of the gold stripes (I found this rib knit at Shop La Mercerie, by the way)

I just really love the elbow length sleeve (one of four sleeve length options in the Jade tee pattern), especially with the boat neckline. Super chic.

We had a lot of fun mixing and matching outfits for this shoot. One winning combo was this tee with Cassie’s cargo-style skirt:

So great, right? Here’s a couple more shots with the tee untucked so you can see the curved hem on the tee…

You can the buy the Jade sewing pattern in my shop! (Rose is available there, too)

Red Rover Backpack for Hugo

This was supposed to be for his first day of Kindergarten but when you realize you want to make your kid a new backpack the day before school starts, that is simply not a realistic goal. I finished it this past weekend, though, just in time for week four.

Made by Rae Backpack Sewing Pattern

I love this little backpack sewing pattern (designed for Elliot TEN YEARS AGO and I’m pretty sure it was the very first PDF pattern I ever sold in my shop. can you even believe?!), but it’s not exactly something you can whip up in an afternoon. It’s not necessarily all that difficult at any given point, but there are a lot of pieces and steps to get through (straps, piping, quilting the bottom piece, the zipper, etc), so it’s always been one of our more “advanced” designs. One of the things I love about it, though, is that if you can stay focused and stick with it, you get this amazingly crafted backpack at the end. Never ceases to leave me with a sense of immense satisfaction at the end result.

Made by Rae Backpack Sewing Pattern

Currently the Toddler Backpack Pattern includes pattern pieces for a smaller “toddler” size, with instructions to easily modify the pattern for bigger kids; it also does not currently include any pocket pieces, but over the years we’ve seen lots of you add pockets of various shapes and sorts, and we’ve always thought it would be great to add pocket options to the pattern if we ever updated it again. We’ve worked a bit recently on new pattern pieces for the larger school-aged-kid size as well as some new pocket pattern pieces, so this backpack for Hugo was a bit of a test run to see how everything worked, with the additional experiment of trying out the laminate* as an additional experiment (it was tricky, not gonna lie, see notes below). While I wouldn’t expect the new pattern pieces anytime soon (we’re still in the thick of updating size range for two of our womens’ patterns), it was fun to try them out on this backpack and get some idea of how they might work.

Made by Rae Backpack Sewing Pattern

A few notes:

  • I used fusible fleece to reinforce the outer panels, with limited success. You have to be pretty careful using an iron on the laminate (I put a piece of butcher paper between the iron and the laminate surface to prevent it from melting).
  • I couldn’t find my teflon foot, so I used strips of washi tape on the underside of my presser foot and along my throat plate so that the laminate wouldn’t “stick” while I was sewing it. Painter’s tape also works well for this.
  • Pattern mod: added a front pocket with a magnetic snap (this pattern piece will be added if/when we ever update this pattern)
  • Pattern mod: added an elasticized water bottle pocket on the side. This seems like something most kids need, so we’ll have pattern pieces for that in an eventual update as well. Mine came out a wee bit shorter than I think it should have been, but it’s perfect for the mini-Kleen Kanteen that Hugo uses.
  • I used a separating zipper because it was the only red zipper I had and that ended up being a bad idea because if you accidentally unzip it all the way to the end, it can be a bit hard to get it back together. Don’t recommend. Oops!

Made by Rae Backpack Sewing Pattern

*About the fabric: this “Red Rover” design originated with my Small World corduroy collection for Cloud9 back in 2015. The dog design was so popular that it was the first one in the collection to sell out, so we added it to the Sidewalk knit collection (in a slightly different size and colorway), and later Cloud9 decided to add it to their organic laminate collection, which is a nice waterproof alternative to oilcloth in that you don’t have all of the toxic off-gassing (just google it).

Anyway, I finished it this past weekend so he’s been carrying it to school all week and he seems to like it so far. Especially the attention it gets him. It’s heavier than his previous one — the “school-age” size definitely feels oversized for a kindergartener — but it had to be this big to fit his homework folder (please don’t get me started on homework in kindergarten, I will rage.), so there you go. Happy dog backpack, happy kid.

Made by Rae backpack pattern

PS. This backpack pattern is available in my shop! It currently comes with easy instructions for modifying the smaller sized pattern pieces to a larger, school-aged size backpack like the one shown here.

How to Sew Beautiful Knit Hems

Smooth hems on knits can be tricky to achieve; with Jade we felt like we finally landed on a technique that REALLY worked (no curling; looks smooth, not stretched out or puckery, stitches that won’t pop with wear, and works with both CURVED and STRAIGHT hem edges).

Since most of us don’t have coverstitch machines to sew the hems we’re used to seeing on our ready-to-wear tees, this method uses a regular home sewing machine. The key elements to success: a wider (1″) hem, and stabilizing the edges using knit interfacing. Adding the interfacing adds a bit of extra time, but it’s totally worth it!

How to: Below, we’ll demonstrate the technique that is incorporated into our Jade Tee pattern. You can use these steps for hems on any knit tee you make!

Step 1. Cut interfacing

Using a rotary cutter, cutting mat, and ruler, cut 1″ strips of knit interfacing, estimating how much you’ll need for your sleeves, front, and back hems.

(PS. Check out my favorite source for interfacing here).

Step 2. Attach interfacing to hems

Use an iron to fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of the hems of your pattern pieces. Jade’s hems are a little curved, and the interfacing is flexible enough to follow those curves easily, but this works just as well with a straight hem (like the one on the Flashback Tee).

Step 3. Press hem allowances

I like to press my hems before I sew the shirt together — it’s not technically necessary to do now, but I find it’s a little easier to press flat pieces than 3D pieces, and I always thank myself later. Just fold the hem up along the edge of the interfacing, and press.

Step 4. Construct your tee

Sew your shoulder seams, attach sleeves, and sew side seams from the end of each sleeve to the hem. (Make sure the hems are unfolded if you pressed them in the last step). In the sample below, I used a serger for one side and a narrow zigzag stitch for the other side — was just experimenting!

Step 5. Pin or clip hems

With the shirt still inside out, fold the hems up and press (skip this if you already pressed in Step 3). Use clips or pins to hold your hems in place before sewing. It’s important not to skip this step; failure to secure the hem before you sew it can cause it to twist while you’re stitching it in place.

If you use pins and plan to use a twin needle, turn shirt right side out first, pinning from the outside and making sure you catch the edge of the hem underneath.

Step 6. Sew the hem

Now that you’ve stabilized and also pressed and secured the hem, you’re ready to stitch. Note that what you did *before* you even did any stitching is the key to getting the hem to lay flat. However, the stitches you choose are also important because they will determine how long the garment will last. There are various stitches to choose from for this step:

  • narrow zig zag: A narrow zigzag is the fastest and simplest. At a very narrow setting of 1.25 mm and stitch length of 3 mm, it barely looks like a zigazag, but it provides a bit of added stretch. It’s not the most durable, though, and those stitches sometimes break while taking the tee off and on.

  • twin needle: Using a twin needle makes for a professional-looking finish, and holds up quite well to wear. You can get twin needles in different widths, and our favorite is 4mm. To use a twin needle, simply replace the regular needle on your machine with the twin needle, and hold two strands of thread together to thread the machine, only separating the strands when you reach the separate needles. (Pro tip: if you don’t have two spools of the same color thread, wind an extra bobbin and use that!).
  • To sew, place your hem right side up (this means you’ll have to use the throat plate to make sure you are at the correct hem allowance; in the case of Jade this is 1″), set your machine to a straight stitch, and sew a quick test on a scrap of fabric to check tension and determine the stitch length you’d like to use. When you sew the hem, make sure both needles catch the folded-under hem. If one goes off the edge, the seam will sometimes pucker. On the other wrong side of the fabric, you’ll see that the bobbin thread automatically makes a zigzag pattern, which provides the stretch for this hem.
  • triple straight stitch: For an easy and very durable, utilitarian hem, I use the “triple straight stitch” setting on my machine (which is a Bernina – circled below, in case your machine has a different name for it). With the stitch width set to zero, this creates a straight stitch that goes back and forth repeatedly as you sew, making a straight line that appears a bit wider than a regular stitch. I love this stitch for knits because it’s super strong and won’t stretch and pop, so it works particularly well on super stretchy knits (like the bamboo knit used in the photo below).

Once you’ve sewn your hem, give it one last press and voila!! You’ve got yourself a beautiful knit hem!

PS. All of the Jade tutorials and mods can be found on the Jade page, and you can buy the Jade tee sewing pattern in my shop!

Summer cropped tops

These four tops have been my most-worn this summer, not just with the high-waisted jeans shown here (eco toothpick from JCrew… it really has been quite a cool summer) but also other high-waisted handmades such as Rose shorts and my white silk noil Cleo skirt, not shown. First up: a cropped Gemma tank.

fabric: Double gauze Atelier Brunette, purchased Oak Fabrics
pattern: Gemma tank (see also:tutorial for cropping Gemma)

Next up, three cropped Emerald tops, turns out this is the boxy cropped top of my dreams. The first one I just cut the pattern horizontally about 10 inches below the armhole, then hemmed it up:

cropped Emerald top / made by rae

Fabric: Alexia Abegg’s Sienna rayon, purchased from Imagine Gnats
Pattern: modified Emerald Dress, available in Making Desert issue

This one was the first Emerald top I made out of green double gauze, not cut on the bias as the pattern indicates, just on grain. This one gets rumply and wrinkled when it’s washed which is how I wear it. I curved the hem which got a bit tricky to turn so for the next one one, I drafted a curved hem facing piece.

Fabric: Kobayashi double gauze, purchased at Pink Castle Fabrics
Pattern: modified Emerald Dress, available in Making Desert issue

cropped Emerald top / made by rae

Fabric: Avery slub viscose-linen, purchased from Shop La Mercerie
Pattern: modified Emerald Dress, available in Making Desert issue

The top version will definitely be included in the pattern when release it in the pattern shop; since it released as a dress pattern this past spring in Making, it’s been quite popular and we’ve had a bunch of requests to release it as a standalone pattern. Once we’ve satisfied the Making contract period we would be happy to release this on its own. For now, you’ll have to buy a copy of the magazine to get the pattern!

PS. Read more tips and info about that slub linen blend (one of our faves!) in this post!