The kid is whale-crazy, and his mother indulges him.

His old swimshirt* was all worn out from multiple years of use so I thought to myself, is a swimshirt something one can make? Then I thought, why ever not, you dum-dum? Plus I’m all about experimenting lately. His other swimshirts have always been raglan style (sleeves go all the way up to the neck) so I used the Tee for Two Pattern by Figgy’s that gets so much use around here and $10 worth of swim material from Fields. You could definitely use another t-shirt pattern and get a similar effect though. I made him a whale swimshirt, because he’s into whales lately:

*Other (normal) people call this a “rashguard,” but the thought of my four-year-old doing anything (surfing? At least I presume that is the origin of that nomenclature?) that would require rash protection has always seemed a bit bizarre to me. So we call it a swimshirt around these parts.

This shirt just as nice if not nicer than one you could buy in a store. Why didn’t I do this before? It’s ridiculously easy. I even had so much extra material that I made another pair of trunks which are still a bit large but are shown below. And I *still* have extra material, so maybe Clementine will get a matching swimsuit. Although matchy-matchy brother sister swimwear is maybe a little much, even for me.

I contemplated making it short-sleeved but really when it’s wet he stays plenty cool. Evaporation causes cooling as anyone who’s ever taken a science class knows. With this he also gets some additional sun protection. I have no idea what the SPF for this material is…I wish I did but it’s a thicker material so I’m willing to bet it’s pretty high. Plus as you can see I don’t usually let much skin see the light of day anyway.
He loves the whale. Though there was a request when it was first unveiled to (I am not even kidding this is exactly what he said) “cut out some pieces of fabric for barnacles and sew them on.” I just ignored that. I mean seriously, barnacles? Why on earth would I want it to look like a *real* whale? Hee.
At the risk of turning this into a tutorial post which I really don’t feel like doing right now, I will quickly show you how I got that whale onto the front. This is exactly how you would do any other applique with fusible interfacing, so it’s not difficult at all. First I sketched the whale onto double-sided fusible interfacing (the “paper” side is easy to draw on, but remember you will get a mirror image of what you draw as your final shape). Then I ironed it to the wrong side of some extra blue swim material and cut it out:

Then I peeled the paper off:

And ironed it, sticky side down, to the shirt. Don’t dither on this step. If it’s not exactly centered no one will notice.

Finally I used a small zigzag stitch to sew around the outside of the whale, just inside the edge.

And then sewed the side seams of the shirt. You can see here what it looks like from the inside. Not as pretty, but this is for educational purposes:

Then I sewed the side seams and hemmed the shirt.

One issue with sewing swimwear or knits is that the stitches must be able to stretch. One must be very careful to sew in such a way that the stitches can be stretched (either by zigzagging or using a knit-friendly stitch of some sort, most machines have an overlock stitch), otherwise they have a tendency to break which is obviously a problem. Not cool to have all your stitching undo itself.

To help with this, I tried something called “wooly nylon thread” in the bobbin for the first time. Wooly nylon thread makes one side of the seam more stretchy, which is nice, but then you wonder about the other side. Plus it costed just as much for the two spools of wooly nylon thread ($5 each, YIKES) as the material itself, which just about killed me. Unwilling to let it go to waste I next tried putting it in my serger, which produced a piece of fabric so hairy it could have been confused for a small furry creature and left me completely convinced I had finally busted my serger for good. After complaining on twitter that my serger was completely bazonk, it somehow magically fixed itself and cooperated (note to self: is serger following me on twitter?? Must investigate further. Also: complain more often, seems to fix problems?). So I’m not sure I have much worthwhile to report on the wooly nylon thread front.

I find the picture above particularly satisfying. It’s the inside of the trunks, seams all serged up. Which gives me a chance to mention that while having a serger is nice for trimming/finishing edges quickly and making it look all pretty, it’s really not necessary for sewing knits or swimwear. I’d like to dispel that myth once and for all. I use my serger because I have one, but I definitely think having a decent sewing machine is way more important than having a serger when it comes to sewing stretchy things. In this case I serged the edges after sewing them on the machine. I don’t actually use the serger to sew the seams themselves, just for finishing them, if that makes sense. Is that true for the rest of you who use sergers?

OK I’m sick of writing. Who else is craving pretzels with chocolate fondue? Oh by the way we are moving again this week (this time finally to our permanent location). So if I don’t post again for awhile, that’s why!

Charlie Dress for Clementine

UPDATE: The Charlie Dress Add-On is available here. Make sure to get the Charlie Tunic pattern if you don’t have it already, or buy them as a bundle here to save a dollar!
Clementine got an awesome package in the mail a couple days ago from Karen. Karen is like our fairy godmother, she’s constantly showering my kids with handmade clothing. This time she made the Charlie tunic for Clementine as a dress!!! I’m calling it “Charlize”…does that work or is it totally cheezy? Anyway, I died at the cuteness. And then put it right on her.
Karen has used this lovely fabric combination before (Anna Maria Horner‘s Drawing Room) on her One Girl Circus Talia Tunic, a tunic of similar design which she sometimes sells in her handmade children’s clothing shop. I’ve made other “Charlies” for Clementine as tops and swim coverups before, but this is the first dress variation I’ve seen. I can’t stop looking at it. The colors are just gorgeous and the sewing (french seams!) is impeccable in typical Karen form. The major “girl” changes here include angling the sides out for more of an A-line shape, lengthening the hem, and narrowing the neck facings just a bit. Then of course there are outside facings on the sleeves and bottom. That at least gives you a place to start if you want to make your own. Thank you Karen!!!
photo via Noodlehead, used with permission
And did you see Anna’s Charlie Apple tunic that she made for her daughter over on Noodlehead? So cute! And oh my goodness, just clicked over to get Anna’s link and found that SHE’S just made a Charlie dress too (shown above)! My goodness, so much Charlie-girl-awesomeness lately!!

{And if you’ve made a Charlie (or a variation) please share it in the Rae Made Me Do It photo pool!}

It’s tough being a toddler

Sometimes when I’m taking pictures of Clementine I end up with a little story (makes me glad we don’t have to develop and pay for every shot like we used on film). You can almost see what’s going on in that little head of hers here:

{At this point both I and Mr Rae noticed she was about to drink it and yelled “No-no Clementine!”}

So the collection of photos of Clementine crying in her handmade clothes grows daily.

Polka-dot top and pintucked capris blogged here.
Chalkboard blogged here. Hard to believe that was less than two months ago! Welcome, summer!!!

My Little Orange in Orange

The other day on a whim I tried the orange sunsuit from last summer on Clementine. Imagine my surprise to find that it (kinda, without a diaper) fit! Did not see that one coming.

Uncrossing the straps in the back added some room at the top. It’s still a bit too short to be worn this way and plus the snaps have pulled through the fabric a little between the legs so my current plan is to trim off the bottom and hem it to make a dress.

It makes me happy to dress her in orange because of her name. My little orange.

These pictures also remind me how much I love this Heather Ross fabric (it’s a Far Far Away double gauze). Double gauze is incredibly soft and really one of the most cooperative fabrics when it comes to shirring with elastic thread. Laura over at Charmstitch and a few other places on Etsy still have a bit of it left, but the unicorn print is long gone as far as I can tell. And of course I have been hoarding what I have left like a maniac.

By the way, yesterday’s project actually looks pretty good on her!  Not a complete fail. Will have to take some pictures. Thanks for all of the suggestions on shirring. I do hand-wind my bobbin, but since it’s a side-loading bobbin I have to manually adjust bobbin tension, which is where I think my problems come from. Tricky. And I’m making good progress re-working the sunsuit tutorial. Yesterday I made one new sunsuit that was too big, and then another one that was too small. So I think the next one will be just right, three-little-bear-style.

Upcycle Project of Questionable Outcome. Bah.

Things don’t always work out around here. This time it started with a lightweight knit shirt of mine that had seen better days.

I took a scissors to it, without any real plan, and cut off the neck binding and the sleeves.

I used my serger around the neck hole and then started shirring (this is the elastic thread sewing technique wildly popular of late, used in my Baby Sunsuit Tutorial* and you can learn how to do it herehere, here, and here). As you can plainly see, the elastic thread was tighter for some of the rows and looser for others. Nobody knows why. I had planned to serge the arm hole-sleeve thingys but now I’m not sure it’s worth the trouble.

I have a love-hate relationship with shirring. For me it’s the unpredictability, the not-knowing. Just how tight or loose will it be today? Will I have to pull the whole thing out three times before it cinches up the way I want it? It seems so be easy for everyone else (Shannon just posted an adorable shirred dress here), and on the days that it DOES work for me, it seems like the most brilliant sewing technique of All Time.

I think this upcycle concept definitely has potential, just not sure this dress is a keeper. I am going to have to try it again with another t-shirt, maybe one with a smaller neck hole (this one had a pretty big v-neck) and fewer rows of shirring. I’d love to know if you try it. The success of this particular garment — which was intended to be a little summer dress for Clementine — has yet to be seen. It may have to become a nighty (code for: not willing to let it be seen in public). We’ll just have to see what it looks like once it’s on her cute little self.

Have you had success or failure with shirring? You may vent if need be. I’m just sayin, I hear you, and I get it.

*Am working on a rehaul of that tutorial right now. There’s some wonkiness with the bottom snap panel that needs to be addressed, STAT. And Clementine needs another one for summer!

Whale Fabric a go-go

Just popping in real quick to say that I figured out how to put the whale fabric up for sale if you’d like to buy some from Spoonflower. If you missed the post with the whale fabric it is right here.

Just so you know, the designer earns 10% of the sale which is nice but my guess is that my total earnings here will probably amount to a couple of coffees at best and Mr Rae already makes awfully good coffee. Besides I will probably just spend it all at Spoonflower and then you would only have yourselves to blame for my deepening, frightening Fabric Habit. Anyway, please don’t feel me asking you to buy this, merely wanted to make it available if you wanted some nifty mod whale fabric (if buying this is more about supporting me then you should just get one of my sewing patterns).

Did you see that you can play around with the layout? (Not sure, can you? Or is that just me who can do that?) When I click on the layout options at the bottom, it moves the positions of the images. AW LOOK NOW THEY ARE KISSING WHALES!!!

Here’s a “half-brick” for whales that are staggered not stacked (hmm must think of better way to say that):

And here’s the “mirror repeat” AW LOOK THEY ARE KISSING AGAIN!!! In fours. Um. Awkward. *looks away* Not judging.

I swear I have not had anything except a bowl of Moosetracks. That perhaps IS problem? Need to go to bed before I write something I will regret. Perhaps have already?

And thanks by the way for the encouragement on the design. I know asking for opinions on my blog pretty much amounts to fishing for compliments, but it’s still nice to hear. Like most everyone else here in Craftblogland I lack a coworker or boss to shove things at and wait for feedback. So you guys are really nice to take the time to say encouraging things.

PS Am still baking this bread almost daily, and it is still fantastic. I think I am ready to start branching out to the other recipes/book. So also need to say a big thank you for all of the comments, encouragement, and suggestions on that as well!

Charlie Tunic in KNIT! with WHALES!

Yesterday when both kids took naps at the same (!) time for a couple hours (!?!?!) I decided it was time to conduct a little knit experiment with the Charlie Tunic Sewing pattern. The whale pajamas I made for Elliot last winter were an early knit version of what would later become the Charlie Tunic, but as I had redrawn the pattern for woven fabrics like quilting cotton and linens I wasn’t sure the NEW pattern would work with knits, you know what I mean? Would it be way too big? Would the knit fabric pucker like crazy when sewn to the quilters cotton?

As you can see, it worked. I had a tiny pucker at the neckline, but I am really happy with the result. It’s worth noting that I did this without my serger or walking foot or any other fancy magical knit equipment, so you can too!


Now I just have to brag a little. This fabric is also a Rae Hoekstra Design Original. I drew those whales myself and ordered this print from Spoonflower. I know it’s nothing special, but I’m really proud of how it turned out. Bet you didn’t know that I’m a closet amateur fabric designer. I’ve been putting together prints for fabric for a few years now actually and occasionally get them printed up at Spoonflower. I had a really cute baby boy collection designed that I wanted to enter in the Spoonflower Project Selvage contest but we were moving so I had to skip it (not that I would have won, the winner’s collection was fantastic). I ordered a full yard but really for just this top I used less than a fat quarter, so I’ve got plenty left for a pair of shorts or something else.



  • Use a knit that is at LEAST as heavy as a t-shirt. Using drapey thin jersey is just not going to work here.  I used a plain white jersey.
  • I trimmed the side of the tunic front and back so that it was straight instead of A-line shaped. You don’t have to do this, but since knit stretches you don’t need really need that extra room on the side.
  • Use a quilter’s cotton or something with less stretch for the facings (I used the whale fabric). Using two knits would be a little loosey goosey, and unless you have a walking foot for your machine I think that might end badly, with lots of swears.
  • Sew the neck facing pieces (the ones with the whales here) together at the shoulders with a smaller seam allowance to account for the fact that the knit will stretch. I used a 3/8″ and that worked just fine.
  • Always sew with the WOVEN fabric on top of the knit fabric, and stretch the woven fabric out a little as you go.
  • Use a longer stitch length (something between the regular 2.5 on most machines and basting length: for me that is a 3.5)
  • Pin the bajonkers out of the facing when you flip it over to sew to the top. If you have double sided stick tape this is the place to use it, but I also found that copious amounts of pinning worked fine too.
  • You will get a better result with the sleeve facings if you sew them to the sleeve before you sew the side seams as shown below. Unfortunately this can only be done if you want the facings INSIDE the sleeve, but you can always fold them to face out and tack them down like I did with this top.
  • And one other thing I changed this time in case you’re interested: I cut the angle lower at the bottom of the front neck facing. I think it looks better this way.

Elliot is very happy with this top, as he is Whale Crazy right now and has been demanding that I sew him whale garments left right and center. All the books we have out from the library are about whales. When we swim at Grandma’s pool he pretends to be a humpback whale, “with barnacles.” Yesterday when we were outside riding bikes he looked into the sky and exclaimed “That cloud is shaped like a SPERM WHALE! See the DORSAL FIN!?” The kid loves whales.

It is raining and he wanted to wear his Super Grover shirt today so I do not have any pictures of it on him yet, but it does fit very nicely. Just to show you that the size came out right, above is a picture of it hiding underneath another t-shirt. A little long perhaps but as I don’t plan to hem it, I should probably cut off the 1″ hem allowance.

Your photos!

I can’t believe it’s the end of the week already! It’s time again to show you my favorites from the Celebrate the BOY photo pool. You guys have been BUSY sewing for your boys! I’m so encouraged by all of the interesting and colorful items I am seeing here. We have come a long way from Boring when it comes to sewing for boys, am I right or am I right? I am always partial to bright colors and interesting prints, and this year I’m falling hard for the whale trend. Here’s a few I’ve picked out, and Dana’s doing the same today on MADE so we can see her favorites too (and how much overlap there is or isn’t between the two of us, haha!).
Check out this little phone top, the ties, the whales! And the little reversible raincoat in the second row is really amazing. The other side is blue and just as cute. I want one of the plai
BOTTOM ROW:  9. bermuda, 10. Broekje, 11. Sock Dog!, 12. Cowboyhemd
More whales, love that little cowboy bib, and lots of sweet shorts:

TOP ROW: 1. DSCN1891, 2. imperfect shorts, 3. Untitled, 4. 2011-06-04 13-18-45_0002wm,
MIDDLE ROW: 5. Toothy Tote image for pattern cover, 6. Untitled, 7. Kid Shorts, 8. Khaki pants,
BOTTOM ROW: 9. duck bucket hat, 10. sailboat top blue stripe, 11. LINED, 12. board shorts

Some great applique embellishments here and fantastic graphic prints:

TOP ROW:1. Haul It! Pants, 2. Elias, 3. slabben, 4. pyjama #2,
MIDDLE ROW: 5. Airplane shirt 1, 6. Untitled, 7. size 128, 8. Untitled,
BOTTOM ROW: 9. Toddler Backpack Vroom, 10. fancy pants, 11. faux bois fox bib, 12. Peuterpak

And beautiful boy quilts! These oranges and blues are really fantastic:

1. Baby quilt, 2. Vintage Winnie the Pooh Quilt, 3. Baby quilt, 4. Thomas’ Fish Quilt

This roundup is part of the Celebrate the SUMMER Boy series! You can go here to see all of the posts from Rae in one place, and here to see all of Dana’s posts.

Raindrop Board Shorts

You didn’t think I would stop at just two pairs, did you? Silly you. Once I find something that works, I just keep going (did you miss the other two? Click to see the Retro Radio Board Shorts and Green Medal Board Shorts).
Fabric: Caroline Gavin’s Cheerful Raindrops from Alewives. I have to say this fabric is absolutely lovely. While it’s a little lighter-weight for shorts, I don’t mind the airier fit and can’t believe how soft this cotton is. Considering how beefy most of the other quilting cottons have become lately (making them not-so-great for children’s clothing), I really need to make some shirts and dresses out of this stuff!
The pattern here again is the Board Shorts pattern by Patterns by Figgy’s. Here’s a little trick I found saved a bit of time. The shorts have three pattern pieces, front, back and the pocket. I cut two pocket pattern pieces (instead of just one) and sewed each one to the front and back pattern pieces using the 5/8″ seam allowance. If you use Swedish Tracing Paper, this works really well because the pattern pieces are really strong.
Then I cut out the pattern pieces with the pockets attached as shown. Then just constructed the shorts as before but omitted the “attach pockets” steps. So easy!
These shorts got paired with another retrofied Tee for Two (took some pictures this time around, maybe a tutorial on how to “retrofy?” We’ll see).
That makes THREE pairs of Board Shorts and THREE new summer outfits for the boy!
What’s your go-to, repeat-over-and-over pattern for summer clothes this year?

This post is part of the Celebrate the SUMMER Boy series! 
You can go here to see all of the posts from Made by Rae in one place, and here to see all of Dana’s posts.