You can do it! Easy Manshirt

On the topic of Spring Top Sewing, I thought I’d give out some pointers for an easy men’s top. It’s hard sewing for the man in your life when their clothes are, well…boring. All the patterns seem to be a variation of the same dress shirt, Hawaiian-style shirt, pajama set, or fleece pullover. There’s also a noticeable lack of guy-friendly fabrics in designer quilting fabrics, although it’s getting better for little boys. The patterns for menswear also seems ridiculously time-consuming. So last month when I was making shirts for Mr Rae’s birthday, I took Simplicity 4287 and streamlined it. I was amazed at how much time and sanity I saved with some easy alternatives to the traditional collar and button placket. You can do it too with just about any basic men’s shirt pattern!

Here’s how:
1. Cut out the back pattern piece, the sleeves, and the front, only instead of cutting out two front pieces, put the front pattern piece on the fold, placing the fold of the fabric along the mark on the pattern for “center line.”

2. Add a placket. Here’s my placket tutorial. The one pictured here was 11″x11″ for a men’s large shirt. Add buttons or snaps as you like.

3. Add a mandarin collar: Measure around the collar, starting at the edge of one placket and ending at the other. Mine was 22″ all the way around. Cut a rectangle 4″ wide and as long as your measurement + 1 inch for seams (so mine was 4″x23″). Follow the flour tutorial to attach the collar, except ignore the part about the pleats and use the dimensions I’ve given here, not the ones she gives. Because you aren’t adding pleats, the collar will stand up on its own. If you have a thinner fabric, add interfacing to make it more rigid. I didn’t with this one, but I liked the lightweight fabric and wanted the collar to fall over on its own to give it a more casual look.

4. Add pockets if desired: I cut two 6″x12″ rectangles, folded each in half with wrong sides out, and sew all the way around the three unfolded sides, leaving 2″ open on one side. Clip corners, turn right-side out through 2″ hole, press, and sew onto shirt (I lined up the bottoms with the placket, 1.5″ away) along three sides, closing hole as you sew.

: : bottom edge of shirt along side seam : :

Finish shirt as directed in pattern (sew front to back at shoulders, attach sleeves, sew side seams, hem sleeves and bottom of shirt). I did however skip the notching detail at the sleeve if you happen to be using the same pattern I did.

I know some of you will ask about the fabric; I actually don’t know what this is (feel free to let me know if you see it available somewhere) but I do know that MI locals can get it at the Viking Sewing Center in Ann Arbor.

And here’s a new place online True Up was featuring a few weeks ago for good menswear fabrics: Bolt 44. I thought they had a pretty nice selection, so if you need a place to start for fabric that might be your ticket.

Spring Top Sewalong: Call for Pattern Ideas

A few of you have asked about possible patterns if you are a beginner sewist. I usually make my patterns up, but you have to start somewhere, so here are a couple I think are pretty great:

Simplicity Built By Wendy 3835

Simplicity 3887 (warning: the neck is really huge on this one, so err on the side of smaller size-wise)

McCall’s 5388 (maybe try a Simplicity or Butterick before this one; it’s pretty easy but is maybe not the best beginner beginner pattern)

Generally, Simplicity and Butterick are the easiest of the mainstream patterns (but sometimes don’t fit as well), McCall’s is slightly more complicated (usually just more steps, not necessarily trickiness), and Vogue I usually only attempt if feeling very ambitious. There are also a ton of patterns in compilation books. One I’ve been wanting to try is the smock top in Seams to Me by Anna Maria Horner which looks really easy.

I know there must be other really nifty easy-peasy patterns for beginners…so let’s hear other suggestions from the rest of you.

Other miscellany:

  • Here is the new Spring Top Week Sewalong Flickr Pool for those of you who would like to begin putting tops in!
  • I’ve gotten alot of questions about selling/donating the Buttercup Bag purses, so I’ve tried to make it more clear with a Terms of Use statement on the Buttercup Bag post. It pretty much comes down to: you may not sell Buttercup Bags, but you can probably donate them for charity, and just ask if you’re not sure!

SPRING TOP WEEK (you know you want to)!

I’m getting so excited about sewing tops for spring! Skirts I can’t get as excited about; as a toddler-mama I really just wear the same pair of jeans almost every day (gross, but who are we kidding?). Dresses are kind-of the same…I’ve had a couple of windy days at the playground that were touch and go, although I’m softening a little to the idea of wearing them as I see lots of comfy/flowy/casual ones around.

: : My picks so far for potential tops. Which one should I start with? :

So I’ve got my fabrics picked out for about 8 tops; realistically my goal is to make 5, one for every weekday of my upcoming Spring Top Week (April 27-May 1). The plan is that it will be a showcase week here on the blog of the tops I made, pictures of your tops, and links to your blogs, with a vote at the end of the week for best top.

I would love it if you would join me; maybe this can be a challenge for you if you are new to sewing to make just one for yourself? Maybe you’ve had a yard of fabric sitting around for eons and need someone to give you a kick in the butt? Maybe you bought a pattern and never had the time to make it? Maybe you want to take the full challenge and make one for every day? Whatever your motivation, this week is about being selfish and sewing for yourself for a change and inspiring the rest of us in the process. Yay! So much fun…

DATE: April 27- May 1
(yes, yes, the date has been moved back yet again, but it’s for a reason that I can’t completely divulge quite yet. I will say it involves a free spring top tutorial)

1. Make a top for spring (jacket, blouse, shirt, tunic, etc)
2. Post one picture of your top to the Spring Top Week Sewalong Flickr Pool. Include your first name or handle in the picture title.
3. Send an email to me with a small copy of the picture (no bigger than 800 px wide/tall please) and if applicable, a link to your blog entry which features it. If you want to have your top featured on Made By Rae, I must get this by 8 pm EST the night before you want it posted. I will post for 5 days (April 27, 28, 29, 30, May 1)
4. Put a Spring Top Week button on your blog (optional)!

Here are some things you might be wondering:

Q: Do I have to make the top during that week?
A: No, you can start now (but it should be something you’ve made this spring); I’m just setting that week as a deadline to give myself a goal

Q: Can I make a children’s top for Spring Top Week?
A: Not unless you are a child

Q: Can I make a men’s top for Spring Top Week?
A: Sure, let’s keep it to adult tops, though

Q: Will there be a contest with prizes?
A: If we have at least 20 outside entries I will set up a vote or elect a panel of judges to pick a winner (or winners?) at the end of the week (I will not enter that contest).

Q: What is the prize, please?
A: The joy of knowing you won, the inspiration of seeing what everyone else is sewing, and some small prize…(truth be told I’m still working on that; maybe a free PDF sewing pattern that’s not already free on my blog or other some fun little gifty thing). Suggestions here are appreciated.

Q: If I make more than 5 tops, can I still post them to the pool?
A: Yes, but you will get 5 entries max in the vote so I’ll ask you to pick your 5 favorite.

Q: Does the top have to be my own design?
A: No, it can be any pattern or your own design; please share the pattern name and number with us on your blog or Flickr post if is a purchased one.

Here’s the button for you to use on your blog if you’d like:

Other questions? Post them to comments. Now I just have to decide where to start….Happy Sewing!

Toddler Backpack Sewing Pattern PDF


buy now2


(NOTE: this is the new updated version of the pattern, if you purchased the pattern between March 2009 – October 2011 and do not wish to purchase the updated version click here to find the edits you should make to your pattern.)

Purchase this version if you will use the pattern for yourself or for gifts for others (no profit, for personal use only).

License to Sell Toddler Backpacks (pattern not included)

Purchase this license in addition to the pattern if you would like to sell backpacks from the pattern. Small-scale handmade sales only; one license for each person who makes/sells the bags. Design credit must be given wherever the bags are sold (“Pattern designed by Rae Hoekstra of” on tags or listings) Please register your shop with me once you have backpacks ready to sell. For more information on my Seller’s Program, please click here.

Included in the Toddler Backpack Sewing Pattern PDF:
Step-by-step instructions
Full-color photographs to augment the instructions
Clear directions on how to easily enlarge the pattern for a larger child
Complete set of pattern pieces (including rectangular pieces)
*Updated instructions
*Clearer and more detailed instructions for making a larger (school-aged child) sized backpack
*NEW! Step-by-step photos and instructions for lining the backpack
*NEW! Printable one-page summary instruction sheet (“cheat sheet”)

The pattern uses about a 1/2 yard of medium- to heavy-weight canvas for the outside. The backpack holds its shape pretty well due to the piping and the quilted bottom, but if you wanted a more rigid backpack you could also interface it with something thick, like another layer of canvas. In addition to the outer fabric, you’ll need about 1/4 yard of 54″-wide (or 1/3 yard of 45″-wide) medium-weight fabric (I used some bottom-weight twill from JoAnn) for the straps and bottom and a small amount of fleece or quilt batting for the bottom panel and strap padding.

Notions: two 1″ plastic strap adjusters (or four 1″ D-rings), 3/4″ yards of 1″ nylon strap, one 14″ zipper, and one package of pre-made 1/2″ bias tape piping (2 1/2 yards total if you are a Crazy Person and think you’d like to make your own).

The larger version uses the same materials/fabric amounts as the original instructions with these exceptions:
• 16″ zipper (14″ + 2″ width increase)
• 3 yards pre-made ½” bias tape piping (you will need two packages instead of one.)

a few of the notions needed

I actually bought all of my supplies at JoAnn. The piping comes in all kinds of colors and I was pleasantly surprised at the selection of colors in nylon strap (often called “webbing”).

Finished dimensions, toddler size:
Height: 11 3/8″, Width: 10″, Depth: 4 1/4″

Finished dimensions, Larger size (if you add 2″ to the pattern pieces as clearly instructed):
Height: 13 3/8″, Width: 12″, Depth: 4 1/4″

See more Toddler Backpacks
The toddler backpack was featured on my blog in the following posts:
Toddler Backpack
Little Truck Backpack
Backpack Madness
Jackpack Giveaway

Here’s my little guy (almost 2 years old!) modeling his very own backpack:

Almost here…Toddler Backpack Pattern!

:: Now there are two! ::

So just popping in today to say that I’ve been working all week (remember, that’s in Toddler Time, meaning during naps and after bedtime) on the PDF backpack pattern, and it’s almost ready for sale. My guess is in the next day or so, so check back. I’ll also be selling the little yellow backpack pictured above if anyone’s interested; not sure we need multiple toddler backpacks around here..

So glad you liked them; thanks for all the kind comments! And someone must have linked to me today because gadzooks my inbox is full…

Oh and thanks to the Riesen family, I think my Russian translator has finally arrived:
(for those just joining us I was wondering what the Russian on the fabric said)

“It says: “The gingerbread man is twirling or turning”

Toddler Backpack

This weekend I made up a new pattern for a little backpack with a zipper. Elliot’s birthday is coming up soon, and he’s been walking around the house with my two-strap purses over both shoulders exclaiming “Elliot’s Backpack!” (I suspect this may have something to do with the shopping trip his Aunt Sara and I took with him to the Coach outlet a few weeks ago). Poor child, he has no idea people don’t (usually) wear purses like backpacks. Why else would they have two straps?

I’m really thrilled that this turned out the way I pictured it in my head. The piping is key, I think; it just snazzed it up enough to make it look like something you’d buy in a store. It took a little longer than I wanted as I thought it would be cool to line it because I am a Crazy Woman. Next time I’m going to skip the lining because it was so totally unnecessary.

: : Fabric from Superbuzzy : :

I think this is Russian? Does anyone know what this says?

So I’ll sell this pattern in my Etsy store if there’s any interest (and I am purposefully not linking to it as am too embarrassed that there’s nothing currently in there…gah!)…let me know if you think you might want it. No commitment of course.

Spring Top Week Update: I am two tops into my Spring Top invention/construction, so I’m still planning on having a showcase and/or competition in a few weeks. I’m going to move the date back to mid-April though as I’m going on vacation in the beginning of April and don’t really want to bust my butt trying to make it happen by the end of March. Stay posted!

Buttercup Bag Flickr Pool

It’s so fun to see all the photos of “Buttercup Bags” that have been sent in over the last week! So I’ve put together a photo pool over at Flickr for you to put pictures of your Buttercup Bag creations. I would love it if you would add your pictures so we can all see them! []

A number of you have already posted — very cool!
1. handmadebyalissa, 2. AFriend2, 3. summernightsmiles, 4. shastababee