Rae shows you how she takes pictures

I’m a bit of a Photo Snob. It bugs me when photos are grainy or blurry or poorly lit.  One thing popular craft, design, and sewing blogs all have in common is good photos and I know that’s probably the first thing that draws most of us to a website.  But don’t have the best camera (more on that in a minute) and I’ll be the first to admit my photos don’t always live up to my own expectations. Especially when winter hits here in Michigan and I subject you to dark photos of my creations that look like they were taken in a cave. Which they pretty much were since the sun doesn’t make it up to this latitude for about four months and I begin to feel like a deep-sea creature with no eyes.  And can I say, I appreciate the fact that if you guys even notice, at least you have the good manners not to mention it.

So I have a few photo tricks.  This is one of them:

For taking pictures of smaller things like kids’ clothes or purses, I use a piece of 20″x30″ foam core poster board for my photo background (you can usually get a piece for about $1 at most craft stores). I think having a plain background is half the battle.  For larger garments I put two side-by-side and edit out the line in the middle.

I prop the board up next to a window or open door to get as much natural light as possible.  If it’s a rainy or dark day, I wait until nicer weather comes along.  I prefer not use flash much because it makes the object look overexposed and often distorts the color.

And then I take about ten pictures.  After editing the best one a little in iPhoto (cropping, brightening, sharpening, upping the exposure), here’s what I end up with:

Fall jumper for Clementine

(By the way, if you didn’t see that post about the green jumper, it’s here)

And now a few words about my camera. UPDATED (8/12): I no longer use this powershot camera; I bit the bullet and bought a DSLR last summer)

The often annoying but overall pretty nice Powershot S5 IS

I don’t happen to own a DSLR camera like many of my online blogger comrades; in fact I’m currently using a point-and-shoot (Canon Powershot S5 IS) if you must know.  While I don’t want to necessarily recommend this camera, it does do a good job (nice zoom, great pictures outdoors) and I am generally happy with the results. However, I will say that there is one feature especially that drive me completely bazonk. It has this annoying habit of expelling the lens cap whenever I am not physically holding it on. When I set it on a table, the lens cap falls off.  When it’s hanging around my neck, the lens cap falls off.  And you can forget about taking it out of a purse or bag; the lens cap is. always. off. So…if you can stand having to repeatedly put the lens cap back on over and over and over, this is the camera for you, haha!  Mr Rae assures me that there is a new DSLR coming out soon that sounds pretty great so I am holding off for that. I’ll let you know what happens with that.

Anyway, I hope this post was helpful. Sometimes it’s just nice to see what other people are doing behind-the-scenes.

Fall Jumper for Clementine

I finished a fall jumper for Clementine for the Kids Clothes Week Challenge this afternoon and wanted to quick share:

Fall jumper for Clementine

Fall jumper for Clementine

I am a bit of a dreamer when it comes to planning my projects, and I wanted the KCWC projects I chose to be JUST about sewing for my kids, not about getting patterns on the blog or anything else. So it was great to just sit down in my sewing room on Monday and think “what do I want to make for my kids?” and peruse my stash, etc.  But of course I ended up wasting my first day’s hour just thinking and planning, so at the end of day 1 all I had to show for it was this:

Day 1: KCWC

So I rallied yesterday and today with a bit of sewing, so at least I have one thing to show for it.  I love that it’s reversible and will go with so many things in her wardrobe!  Boo-yah.

By the way, today Meg’s giving away the new Oliver+S Music Box Jumper sewing pattern so get off your butts and get over there right quick to enter!  And I la-la-love those grey cords too…

Chambray Baby Pants for Baby C

So today is officially Day One of Meg’s Kid’s Clothes Week Challenge, and I’ve been watching that flickr pool like a hawk.  Love the stuff there already (esp. these Oliver+S sailor pants!) and can’t wait to add my own stuff.  I don’t think this pair of chambray pants qualifies since I made them last week, so let’s just call it inspiration, shall we?

These are made of cotton chambray (a fabric that looks like denim but feels more lightweight) from my recently released Big Butt Baby Pants pattern.  I was needing a more basic pant to coordinate with other stuff in her wardrobe and this fabric seemed perfect, since it’s a lighter weight than the jeans Elliot handed down to her.Speaking of the Pierrot Dress…  Can you believe this Pierrot Dress (now a top) still fits her?  I think I made it when she was 7 months old.  If I ever get around to publishing that pattern I’m going to make it a one-size-fits-most-6 months – 2T.  Seriously. I made up a quick pocket pattern to spruce these up and it looks nice — adds enough interest without making the pants too busy. It’s always tempting for me to make every piece of clothing a showy piece, but if I always do that nothing ends up going together, so this is a nice compromise.  I took some pictures so when I finally get around to some of the pocket tutorials for the Big Butts that I’ve promised, these will definitely get included. Otherwise if you’re making a four-piece pant (the B3P’s are a two piece pant), you can try MADE’s Flat Front Pants Pocket tutorial; I just love this style.To see everyone else’s pictures of the Big Butt Baby Pants, you can go to the flickr group by clicking below:

And don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten my promise to give away these three Bonsai Bags this week — I’m still working out a few details of the giveaway but stay posted!!

I did not make this sweater or top, just the pants
I did make this top…only it used to be a dress
from our recent vacation to the Pacific Northwest, taken at Myrnie’s neighborhood beach park
(shown here with a different pair of jeans)

Book Tour Stop: Stitch By Stitch by Deborah Moebes

I’m so excited to be a part of the Stitch by Stitch Blog Tour today, woohoo!  Author Deborah Moebes is here to answer a few of my questions, take us through a normal day in her life, and give us a peek at the book.  When I first “met” Deborah online a couple years ago she was working mainly on children’s clothing, but soon after that she switched gears and focused on her online Whipstitch fabric shop and the Whipstitch website.  This past year she opened her brick and mortar shop/studio, Whipstitch Lounge in Atlanta, published her book, and had a baby (her fourth). Wow. Isn’t that amazing? I can’t even comprehend that kind of craziness.

Stitch by Stitch is a how-to-sew book containing a number of lovely projects and patterns (the patterns are included on your very own CD). The projects range from home decor (piped cushions, zig-zag cafe curtains) to garments (belt, skirts, button-up shirt). I love that the projects are incorporated into the sewing instruction as exercises to build up solid sewing skills, so it’s great for beginners, but experienced sewists who already have a practiced skill-set will find plenty of challenging projects too. This book is definitely a must-have for both the sewing reference and the projects!

One of the BEST things about this book is that Deborah really puts her personality into her writing. And let me tell you if you don’t already know, this woman is stinkin’ hilarious. I just about died when I discovered the Power Phrases like “You’re the boss (not Tony Danza – YOU)” interspersed throughout the book to empower you as you sew. Who else can say “don’t let that machine sass you” in a sewing book? And you’ll have to read the book to find out which sewing mishap can “snap a needle and scare the crap out of you.” It’s great fun.

Here’s my interview with Deborah so you can get to know her a little better!

RAE: If I told you that everything had been taken care of in your life for a whole day and you could sew anything you wanted to without interruptions, what would it be?

DEBORAH: You’ll think I’m crazy, but I have this idea for a full-size vintage Chevy front end made entirely out of fabric–my parents used to have a salvaged one that hung on the wall above our patio and it was super cool.  I would love to do one and hang it in the shop. That makes me nuts. I know.

RAE: Do you have an absolute favorite piece of fabric of all time?

DEBORAH: As far as a single favorite print, I might as well choose my favorite of my children.  It depends on which one is making me the least crazy right now.  I do love Heather Ross’ Lightning Bugs collection, especially the goldfish and the VW buses.  And the Anna Maria print on the cover of the book is basically in my perfect colorway–the instant it came in on the bolt, I cut two yards for my mother and three for myself.  Yum. 

RAE: I have to admit the number one thing I wonder when I look at everything you’ve got going on in your life (family, store, blog, events, book, online classes) is how tha heck do you do it?  Can you walk us through a typical day?

6 am:  Wake up when child #2 comes downstairs. Lollygag as much as we can.
6:45 am:
Get up to give Child #2 breakfast and let the dog out, go upstairs and get Child #3 out of bed and change his diaper, give him breakfast, make lunches for everyone.
7:30 am: Bring kids #1 and #2 to school
8:45 am: Back home with two little ones, shower, dress, get #3 ready for preschool (two days a week)
9:30 am: Drop off #3 and go into the shop with #4 or head home and get some sewing done /
do housework, paperwork and bookkeeping if #3 doesn’t have preschool (because the laundry never, ever, ever stops, but it just HAS to get done)
1:30 pm: Pick up #3 (luckily his school is just a couple of blocks away), and then he and #4 both take an afternoon nap. Take a 30-60 minute break, just for my own sanity.  I have a snack, maybe watch some DVR from the night before.  If I’m paying attention, I get out some meat to thaw for dinner.
But then I kick it into gear, because I only get those two hours with no kids at all, and I feel foolish if I don’t use them well.  Nap time is when I write my blog post for the day and shoot photos–the light in my studio is best that time of day.  It’s also when I usually respond to email or make phone calls for the shop, follow up on orders, put out fires, that kind of thing.  I would love to say I sew during nap time, but most of the time I have so many other bureaucratic duties that have to get done during business hours. 
3:30 pm: Little ones wake up. Wrap up what I’m doing and plan for the evening and the next day.  PBS Kids is enormously helpful at this point. 
4:45 pm: My husband runs afternoon carpool, he and the older girls arrive home and we all drop everything to make dinner happen
5:30 pm: Dinner on the table, we all sit down together to eat, and bathtime for the three youngest is right after.  We do the bath routine, then read books.
6:15 pm: We get #2 and #3 in their beds (yes, really–it’s the only way to stay sane) and then I nurse the youngest and get her to bed.  Two or three nights a week I leave right after the kids go to bed to head to the shop and teach a class; on the nights when I don’t teach, my husband and I usually sit together and talk over our days for an hour or so, and then both work on projects until bedtime (he’s also self-employed, so there is always plenty of work to do!) This is when I am most likely to work on writing content for the e-courses, pattern testing, sewing various projects for the blog or the store, and planning events for the shop–no one needs me and I can be selfish in how I allocate my energy.  My husband and I do try to work in the same room, just so we can see each other, but also so we can cover all the operational tasks of home and family–my studio and our family room are connected, so we’ll put on some music or a Netflix and work side-by-side until it’s time to sleep.
10 pm: We like to be in bed by 10, but it’s usually 11 (and if either of us has a big deadline, it’s later).  

And then we get up the next day and do it all over!  They are very, very busy days, but we look at our lives now as a season, not as permanent: we both recognize that we’re in a place where we’re really seeing a ton of growth, and that it will level out as we go along, and that in the future we’ll go through another season of quiet. So we’re riding the wave, and working to keep our family at the forefront as we go so that when we come out the other end of this crazy period, we’ll have the most important things intact.  It has taken a lot of scheduling and trial-and-error to get my work outside of our home to be largely invisible to my kids–like getting them to bed before I leave the house–while also encouraging our family to recognize that both Mommy and Daddy have dreams and goals, and that we are a family ahead of, but not instead of, that. And I will say although we’re very busy, I am the happiest I have ever been in my whole life, and so grateful each morning when I wake up to learn that I am allowed to do what I love one more day.  It’s an amazing time, and I’m having so, so much fun!

RAE:  You just opened a hip new brick and mortar sewing shop in Atlanta AND you have an online presence.  One of the things I worry about is the disconnect between the younger online sewing community and the more traditional sewing/quilting industry (I’m thinking quilted vests here). I worry about the older fabric shops going out of business but at the same time feel frustrated that they don’t seem to understand that there’s a Sewing Revolution going on with the younger generation. What are your thoughts on this?
DEBORAH: I have oodles of women come in the shop who have been seriously dissed at more traditional stores and they’re a little broken inside.  It makes me feel ill when I hear stories like that, both as a stitcher and as a business owner.  The average age of the American quilter is 62.2, up from 60 last year.  And I think many shops see that and cater to that demographic.  But the core of my customers is 25-45, educated, intelligent, and very creative. My mission statement is to lead people to passionately love sewing, and I want everything I do to revolve around that, from the shop to the book to the blog to the e-courses, all of it.  I think that shops who miss that have forgotten that love of fabric and sewing is what got them into this business to begin with, and now they’re focused on doing what they’ve always done rather than sharing their excitement and enthusiasm about something they really love–with anyone who wants to learn, regardless of their background or age. I’m working hard to make sure there’s a place for all the younger folks to go to find modern sewing, both in Atlanta and online.
I think the older sewing community has a lot to teach us and offer in the way of techniques and skills and traditional patterns that some of the younger stitchers aren’t seeing or aren’t valuing.  I love the curtain project in the book because it touches on traditional Seminole Indian patchwork.  I’m teaching an English Paper Piecing class at the shop this month because I find the handwork soothing, love the look of the shapes, and I really value the connection to the past.  I wonder sometimes if the older brick and mortar shops don’t feel a little disenfranchised by this new movement, as though it’s made up of Those Crazy Kids and has nothing to do with them–and that to an equal degree the new young folks dismiss the older set as painfully outdated.  And the one doesn’t see that younger stitchers are essential to bring sewing into the new millenium, and the other neglects to appreciate that the older stitchers hold the history and culture of sewing in their hands.  I’d love to see more of a relationship between the two, and I’m hoping that the Sewing Buddy project will be a way to begin to see it happen, at least on a small scale.

RAE: I totally agree. Here’s to more connection in the sewing community, from all sides. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and life with us, Deborah! Your book is awesome and so are you!!!

You can watch Deborah give a little preview of her book with this movie from the Whipstitch blog or buy the book here. Here are the upcoming stops on the Stitch by Stitch Blog tour:

You can see the full tour here.

Posted in book

Return of the Bonsai Bag

Yay!  I’m so happy to be able to show you a few samples for the Bonsai Bag Sewing Pattern which will be forthcoming.  Here they are (along with the brown one I made last year)!  I have to admit with fall on the horizon they are a little summery compared to the brown one but I loves thems anyhoos.

That blue Princess and the Pea one there has been in progress for almost a year.  I started with a ric-rac trim which I scrapped for pompoms and then got hung up on the recessed zipper and had to tear out the entire thing, but don’t worry, this bag does not take a whole year to make, haha (smooth, Rae, that’s great advertising *rolls eyes*).  In fact one can be assembled in a few hours, and honestly now that I’ve gotten the kinks ironed out with the pattern pieces, the zipper part is easy-peasy.

To answer the question I always get when I talk about a new pattern, no, it will not be free. Sometimes I feel bad about charging for patterns because I really like getting free things on the internet and I like giving stuff away for free.  But then I start counting all the hours I’ve poured into this thing and will, yet. It’s a conundrum for sure, because free patterns bring new people to the website, and so many of you have emailed me asking for tips on how to make and digitize your sewing patterns (I hope to post about that soon!) that I know you must be thinking about it too, for your own blogs. And I think that’s fantastic, we should keep sharing with eachother and don’t worry, I have plenty of free patterns in my brain for y’all. But I also think it’s important to assign value the work that you do, even if it’s online and doesn’t feel like a “real job.” I’m lucky enough to have been able to start a small business from what I do here on the blog (most of my revenue comes from pattern sales, with a much smaller part coming from advertising/sponsors), but I often still find myself undervaluing my time and skills, especially when I compare myself to professional designers who have true industry training.  But when all’s said and done I think I still do a pretty good job producing nice patterns, even if I go about it in a completely unprofessional way. Can we call it “organic” instead of “unprofessional”? That sounds so much nicer….

Anyway, do you want to see some closer shots of the bags?  One of the things I like about this pattern is that it takes very little of the center fabric (basically a 10×10 square for each side) and shows it off nicely.  This one is made with Heather Ross’ Princess and the Pea fabric from her Far Far Away collection, framed with a pale blue baby wale corduroy:

And this one is a Heather Bailey print from her Freshcut collection, framed by a pale pink baby wale cord:

This one was inspired by my weekend in Vermont. Denyse Schmidt showed us how to do a fabulously easy strip quilting project and I really wanted to try the technique for this purse, so I did on both the front and the back. I imagine you could take any small quilt sampler and use it for that middle panel (zigzag, patchwork, embroidery, you name it).

Most of the fabric on the center panel is from Denyse’s Katie Jump Rope line from a few years back.  I made a bunch of other stuff with it and all that remained is a bunch of scraps — perfect for a small quilt project.


So obviously I wanted to show these off and give you a preview of the pattern, but I also want to announce that I will be giving away these three bags next week on the blog.  I think the best way to do this is to give them away on three different days so that if you prefer one over the other you can enter for the one(s) you want.  It’s been a long time since I had a giveaway so I’m excited and I hope you are too!

Pinkety pinkety pink. Pink. Pink.

I used to be pretty anti-pink for girls but now I find myself not caring so much. It’s gone the way of most of the idealistic rantings of my twenties, meaning now not only do I realize that I’m pretty much a hypocrite but I’m comfortable with it.  All that to say yes I do dress my baby girl in pink. And speaking of being a hypocrite, I know I just had a mini-freakout over not having my kids’ names or pictures on my blog a couple months ago, but I went back and forth and then just decided to heck with it I had to show you this picture. (If it’s gone tomorrow you’ll know I had another mini-freakout. In the meantime, please do not use any of these pictures for your own use)

“how big is clementine? so big!” with spaghetti

This is actually another one of the many Tee for Two by Patterns By Figgy’s* I’ve made this month, this time in the 12 month size.  Love it. Jenny over at SIDAC just made one too (Elliot would be so jealous of that one. He is going through a strong Beatles phase) and reading her comment about the neckhole being a little tight reminded me that I too had that issue and ended up adding about an inch or two to the neckband for both kids and cutting the neck hole about 1/4″ larger.  If you have Big Headed Babies too you may find this helpful.  

I decided spur-of-the-moment after making that Lion Tee to applique this one too (just haven’t had time to take pics with it on yet, OK actually if you must know I think I lost it), so the pic below is what it looks like now (wherever it is).  I love the ice cream applique, definitely.  But there’s something great about the non-embellished tee that I’m kind-of missing now.  Oh well. Move on, Rae….good grief it’s not like it’s ruined:

I know that based on a lack of evidence to the contrary you must think that I put a ridiculous headband on Clementine every day of the week.  But in fact that is not so.  Usually she does not wear anything in her hair, but it’s getting so crazy and unruly that for blog pictures I’ve been headbanding it up so that you won’t think she’s Einstein’s love-child.  Case in point:

here we are with our Beco baby carrier and some crazy hair

Other blahdeeblah around here:

  • WIPS: One of the reasons I haven’t had much to show for myself lately is that I’ve been a) on vacation, b) working on top-secret Sew Mama Sew tutorials, and c) working on the Bonsai Bag again, in case you didn’t already guess from this post.  And FYI there will be a Bonsai sample giveaway on this blog very soon.  Yes you heard that right. 
  • TWITTER: I put my Twitter up on the sidebar but I know that most of you don’t actually come TO the blog as you read with your Readers.  So if you want to be privy to my daily blatherings you can check out madebyrae on Twitter.  I probably post once a day at most.  And it’s usually pretty dull, to be completely honest, but there at least you know about it now.
  • KIDS NAMES: I decided that it was stupid to not use my kids’ names on the blog when I hadn’t had the time to go back and delete all of the past posts that had their names in them. Especially since now with these little links at the bottom of each post, their names pop up more now than ever.  If and when I ever get a chance to delete them, it will be easier just to do a find and replace on the entire blog and do it all at once.
  • KCWC: Have you seen that Meg is doing the Kid’s Clothes Week again??? Yippee!  I totally missed it last time but I really really want to this time.  Marking. It. On. The. Calendar. There are special buttons for you over there if you want to sew along too!

*UPDATED for Full Disclosure: Since meeting in “real life” earlier this year, Karen and I have become friends and now have playdates with our kids every few weeks or so.  I guess that’s just how life goes.   I actually didn’t have the full pattern when I wrote this post since Karen had given me a computer printout taped together with masking tape precut to Elliot’s size.  Since the writing of this post PBF’s has very kindly given me a Tee for Two pattern so now I can at least claim to own a real copy.  Am I biased in writing this post? Absolutely. Does that mean this pattern is any less awesome?  I sure hope not!

    Oh hello there!

    Wow a week goes fast! We just got back today from a week with my parents (and visiting other friends) in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.  When I’m on vacation all my sewing goals seem to go right out the window. Which is good, because that means that I’m really vegging out and doing nothing, which is what vacation is supposed to be about. But it’s bad when I want to blog and I realize oh dear I don’t really have anything to blog about.  So, random picture instead. This one is a favorite that I took a couple weeks ago but didn’t seem to really “fit” anywhere on the blog. Clementine had just woken up from her nap and crawled into Elliot’s bed when we went in his room to wake him up.  I love schmoopy babies.  Double bonus: There’s at least five handmade things in this picture. There’s also a hippo washcloth.  Don’t ask.

    Posted in at home