Works in progress

I’ve been thinking about mistakes. One of the many lessons I learned while training to be a teacher was this:

Mistakes are required.

Which is to say many things, one of which is is that the best way to learn a thing is to make the mistakes. Someone else can tell you a thing many times, but the lesson of trying the thing and messing it up is far more effective. Making mistakes, learning from them, trying again. This is how we grow, gain knowledge, become experts, become better humans. This is not so easy, though. Mistakes are uncomfortable. But perhaps it is only when we learn to sit with discomfort that we truly grow.

I don’t tend to love January as the beginning of the year (I’ve talked about this before — September is my preference), and in the past I’ve been not so great with setting intentions and following through. That “one little word” thing that people do hasn’t really resonated for me, for reasons that are becoming more clear to me as time passes. But recently, a message started repeating itself, over and over, louder, stronger, as I have tried to open my eyes and ears and really listen and understand what I need to learn:

Bloom where you are planted.

As I’ve tried to think about what exactly this means, it is becoming more and more apparent to me that this is something I must actively work to do. Accepting the mistakes as part of the process.

In some ways, this sweater is like a plant: it’s growing bigger and bigger, and it’s green. The analogy is imperfect; my plants grow without my direct work, though in my defense I do put in at least a bit of effort, but recently while researching the best way to propagate the monstera plant which is currently attempting to take over my living room, I stumbled across this line in a blog post that stopped me in my tracks:

Plants (like people) grow and grow, but they don’t (like people) always grow the way you want them to.

I can’t stop thinking about that line. In some ways, people are like plants. If there is something about our humanity we can count on, it is that we will continue to grow, even without our direct effort. The mistakes are inevitable. Trying to grow into better humans seems to be the collective challenge.

my unwieldy Monstera

As I grow this sweater, I think about all of the mistakes it contains, some corrected, some not. I think about how even the act of learning how to knit a sweater is changing me, growing me. I am changing, I am learning, and this sweater is a tangible piece of physical evidence that it is happening.

This wasn’t really why I started knitting, but then, when do we truly understand when we start to learn a thing how much we will really end up learning? This is the gift of creating. This is why the color green is really speaking to me right now.

This is why my sweater is like a plant, is like me. We are all creations. We are all works in progress.

Pattern: Nurtured Sweater by Drea Renee Knits / Yarn: Scout by Kelbourne Woolens

My #2018MakeNine Fail

It’s the New Year! I spent a bit of time on Instagram yesterday and my feed is already filling up with everyone’s #MakeNine sewing plans. It’s so exciting to plan new projects for the year, isn’t it? I love seeing the patterns people have picked out. #MakeNine is a great way to make sewing goals because choosing just nine projects for the year is so very manageable and attainable. Or at least it should be. Unless you’re me and you’re looking back at your list from last year, ahem.

Originally was going to just throw this post up on the blog as a “hey look I only made 2 things on my #2018MakeNine!” so those of you who killed your lists last year could feel amazing and superior (hee…but really, that’s great!) and those of you who didn’t manage to make yours could feel better, like a hey let’s be real, it’s OK hashtag life type thing. But after listening to this week’s Love to Sew Podcast with Elise Cripe* about making goals for the new year, I decided to dig in a little bit and see what I can learn from. Considering I only managed to make just TWO of the nine things on my #2018MakeNine, I’m pretty sure I can glean at least one or two takeaways.

For reference, here’s what I had on my list:

2018 make nine / made by rae
my 2018MakeNine list

( I also posted about this list earlier on the blog (#2018MakeNine Plans) if you want a pattern-by-pattern breakdown)

Of those nine, I managed to make this technicolor Wiksten Haori Jacket (previously the “Wiksten Oversized Kimono Jacket,” the pattern name has recently been changed for better accuracy and cultural sensitivity):

wiksten kimono jacket / made by rae

And this Roscoe blouse:

Cue sad trombone? Or not? On its surface it really does seems like kind of a fail. However, I totally love those two garments (that jacket is probably my “most-worn make” of 2018), and life is really too short to beat myself up over a to-do list that doesn’t completely materialize.

It’s also worth noting that it’s not a situation me only making those two things this year and nothing else. I made scads of things, they just weren’t things on that list (and it’s also worth clarifying that for the purposes of this post, I’m talking about things I sew for fun, not the things I have to sew for the business, though admittedly that’s not exactly a clear-cut line). Nine is definitely still a manageable quantity for me; I do not need to create a #MakeFour (hee).

Looking at the disconnect between setting the goals and achieving the goals, I have a few observations that perhaps you too will find helpful.

First, I never would have guessed how much knitting I would end up doing this year. This greatly cut into my leisurely sewing time (Note to self: add knitting projects to this year’s list if you make one). I probably would have made more of these things if I hadn’t gotten so hooked on knitting starting in July after my knitting retreat.

Second, I failed to anticipate how spontaneous and unpredictable my leisurely sewing always is. I love making a to-do list, I just don’t always love to stick to said list. I’m not sure there’s any solution to this issue aside from quitting list-making altogether (nah) or resolving to be OK with whatever happens.

I also forgot how much longer it would take me to sew a brand new pattern than one of my own patterns, which I know will fit (so: no need to make a muslin) and barely need to read the instructions for, and will therefore choose readily when faced with unanticipated time to sew. I actually started almost all of the patterns: all have been purchased and/or printed, most have been traced, and I even managed to get as far as a muslin for the Fringe dress. A few of the projects had unanticipated hiccups that stalled them (never found the “perfect fabric”) or canceled them (unresolved body-love issues, anyone? Bathing suit, I’m looking right at you).

Finally, I didn’t anticipate how much sewing I would do for my kids. I made quite a lot of things for them, most of them not blogged or posted online. These included a bathrobe, tank tops, shorts, and dresses for Clementine, as well as a handful of shirts and pants and shorts for the boys. While this type of sewing isn’t exactly my “dream-sewing,” it’s still deeply satisfying as kid- sewing is quick, easy, and practical.

Anyway, just taking a few minutes to run this brief analysis of the why and how of my “fail” — if you can even call it that — is already helping me see how to simplify my goals for this coming year and create a to-make list that’s a bit more realistic and achievable. Meanwhile, I’m celebrating all of the other things not on my list that I *did* make this year (including a dozen Jade tees and dresses that I wear all. the. time.) and really looking forward to a fun year of making in 2019!!!

Jade Tee Sewing Pattern / made by rae

How about you? Did you make a #MakeNine list last year? How many things on that list did you manage to check off? What’s on your list for next year? Tell me what you’re most excited to make!

*Highly recommend this episode. Here it is again if you want to listen: Love to Sew Podcast with Elise Cripe

Your makes 2018

You’ve sewn a staggering amount of handmade stuff with my patterns this year! I’m seriously blown away by all of the fantastic things you’ve posted online or sent to me directly in my inbox. As a result, we’ve featured so many of your makes this year in my email newsletters, posts on Instagram, and on Facebook.

I thought it would be fun to round them all up into a blog post for those of you who prefer to digest your MBR content via the blog or a blog reader. In no particular order, here are the delightful makes we featured from you this year (please note that not all of these were made in this calendar year, but rather featured this year; also please accept my apologies if we missed anyone — it was a LOT of photos to go through)!

above, top left: Mac @macsmakespace | right: Hannah @heritageninja 
bottom left: Kelly @hellomister | right: Anna @noodlehead531

Let’s start with some delightful Cleo skirts!

above, top left: Katie @cablesancalico | right: Katie @katielewisstudio
bottom left: Sarah @incompletestitches| right: Whitney @whitneyknits

(for more Cleo inspo, check out the hashtag #cleoskirt)

Mac of @sewalteredstyle / these photos posted here

Next up, some fantastic Ruby tops and dresses! We expanded the size range of Ruby — up and down — this year in both PDF and print; a big thank you to our fantastic Ruby testers (some of them featured below) as well!

top left: Megan @joyfulemon  |  right: Carly @carlyrm
bottom left: Julie @juliehoch5 |  right: Ellen @handmade3d
top left: Karie @karie_twokwikquilters  |  right: sparkyjoneshats
bottom left: Cherie @youandmie |  right: Jaclyn @jaclynp
top left: Natalie @sewhungryhippie  |  right: Jaclyn @jaclynp
bottom left: Mary @francesmakes |  right: Joan

Jade Tee & Isla Dress

My new pattern this year was the Jade Tee (the Jade Tees shown below were also featured in the Jade Tee Tester Roundup):

And of course, you wasted no time combining it with it’s sibling pattern, Isla, into some fantastic knit dresses:

above, left: Morgan (via Facebook) | Right: Jade @jadevanluitgaadren
Julie @nursebean82, one of our Jade testers, made a bunch of fantastic Isla dresses with Jade sleeves!
left: Katte @mothertotem| center: Natalie @sewhungryhippie
| right: Claire (via facebook)

Next up, some of your fabulous Beatrix tops:

above, top left: Meg @cookinandcraftin |  right: Mac @macsmakespace
bottom left: Lindsay @momowool | Kim Stonemountain blog 

The toddler backpack is another oldie-but-goodie from the kids’ pattern collection. Some of these cute versions even feature added pockets and extra details not in the pattern — you guys are so creative!!!

above left: Brittany Woiderski | right: Jenny Teo

above, top left: Lindsey @penandpaperpatterns | top right: @casalinga_creativa
bottom left: Brittney @brittneylaidlaw | bottom right: Cherie @youandmie

Two more classic kids’ patterns are the Flashback tee and Parsley pants:

top left: Lindsay @lindsayinstitches| right: Jane @buzzmills
bottom left: Diana @bi.o.ka | right: Kim @helloyouitsme
linen parsley pants / made by rae
above: Sarah @makemoremud

above, top left: Rachel @rachelstitchedtogether | right: Kristin @skirtastop
bottom left: Brittney @brittneylaidlaw | right: Lauren @rhapsodyfiber

Of course, the Geranium Dresses you made this year were incredible. Seeing all of the bows and collars and sleeves and other extras we put out last year with the expansion pack come to life made them that much more magical!

above, top left: Delia @deliacreates | middle: Monica | right: Sarah @whistlingirlknits
bottom left: Marta @martamoosh | middle: Whitney @whitneyknits | right: Kelly @athreadthatbinds
above: Samantha (via Facebook)
above, top left: Delia @deliacreates |right: Anna (via Facebook)
bottom left: Dianna @diannamartin | bottom right: Amanda @winlowoaks

It’s always exciting to see what you do with my fabrics. Here’s a couple of beautiful quilts made with my Fanciful fabric, which released this year:

above, left: Lou @imstudiolou | right: Nicole @modernhandcraft

Check out this pair of adorable baby sunsuits:

left: Linda @sewlindasews | right: Rachel @rachelstitchedtogether

I also couldn’t resist sharing my friend Meg’s awesome handmade Washi dresses and Cleo skirts, styled to perfection:

above: Melissa @clutteredcurator

It’s always fun to see what you do with the Washi pattern, too, from classic Washis to versions you’ve made using the expansion pack.

right: Chase @blacksquirrelberkeley
above, top left: Katie @katiekortmanart | right: Sarah @sarah.a.robinson
bottom left: Marissa @slabtownslubs | right: Lucie @nelliefromthefarm

Katrina Rodabaugh, author of the recently-released book “Mending Matters,” made a particularly special hand-dyed version of the Washi dress this year. The embroidered details, thoughtful process, and modifications she made to the pattern (which she shared over at @katrinarodabaugh) were a great reminder to savor the process of making.

Check out these awesome collars:

left: Shannon @littleluvins | right: Sonia @soniarearose
bottom left: Sarah @sarahgoldenart | bottom right: Allison @allisonehs

And even more Washis I love:

Washi Dresses / made by rae
Left: Grace @beyond_measure_UK | right: Ashley @sassafrasgirl
bottom left: Marissa @slabtownslubs | (See my IG post for tagged sewists)
above, top left: Kjerste @waxandwool  | right: @thequilterstrunk (sewn and modeled by Natasha @housefulofstitches)
bottom left: Mary @seemaryquilt | right: Ali @ali1ali_ 


Here are all of the patterns/tutorials featured in this post.


Cleo Skirt
Washi Dress / Washi Dress Expansion Pack
Beatrix Top
Ruby Top & Dress
Jade Tee
Isla Dress


Geranium Dress / Geranium Expansion Pack
Parsley Pants
Flashback Tee
Toddler Backpack
Baby Sunsuit (free tutorial!)

Thank you to everyone who shared their makes and tagged me — I just love seeing everything you make with the patterns! It’s truly wonderful to have hard evidence that you’re using the patterns to sew clothes for yourselves and your mini humans rather than letting them languish in your download folders. It also helps ease my anxiety re: state of the planet to think that every piece of handmade clothing is potentially one less thing you’re buying from the insidious fast fashion machine that is destroying the environment and enslaving other humans. So well done and thank you, everyone!!

As always, please share your photos and tag me so I can see them (@madebyrae or #madebyrae)!

Here’s to another great year of making, my friends!

Posted in roundup
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Adding a circle skirt to the Flashback Tee

This weekend I made a twirl dress for Clementine to wear to a friend’s Nutcracker performance. I used the Flashback Tee pattern (size 9/10) and added a circle skirt. She was delighted. Both the fact that it’s pink and it’s got major twirl are big selling points for her. I’ve made her a number of Flashback dresses before, most involving two gathered rectangles, but the twirl skirt was such a big win I’m not sure she’ll let me make another gathered one. We’ll see. 

Here’s a quick how-to just in case you want to make one with your Flashback tee pattern! 

You will need: 

*Additional yardage is absolutely necessary in order to make the circle skirt, especially if you want the circle to have no seams. I purchased 3 yards of this pink double brushed poly knit (see my quick guide to knits for more info on the different types of knit and how they differ), and ended up with about 30″ left over after I was finished (this is a size 9/10). However, if you are making a smaller size or want a shorter skirt (this one was 25″ long), you’d definitely need less than that. My best advice is to sketch out your skirt ahead of time (see the diagrams below) and use that to calculate how much additional yardage you’ll need beyond what the tee calls for. 

**Serger. Do ya need one? My head says no but my heart says yes. Check out my Do you need a serger post for more thoughts on this. Could I have made this dress as quickly without my serger? No. Could it have been more mindful and relaxing process if I had used Natalie Chanin’s hand-stitching knit techniques to sew all of the seams? Perhaps. But I wouldn’t be finished with the dress yet. And that smooth waist seam is easier to achieve with a serger than with a sewing machine.

Step 1: Crop the bodice pattern piece

You need to shorten the tee bodice pattern piece if you want the waist seam to land near the waist and not the hip. 

I first folded the Flashback Tee bodice pattern piece in half from hem to armpit, but the skirt was so heavy (it’s super stretchy poly and has quite a bit of weight) so had to crop it higher up for the waist to land where I wanted it to. This ended up being roughly 1/3 of the way down from the armpit. You may want to start by cropping the pattern halfway between armpit and hem, pin the skirt on, and see how it looks before you sew it. 

Step 2: Sew the tee

Cut out the fabric for the tee (bodices, sleeves, neckband) and sew it together. Skip hemming the tee. I added ruffled cuffs rather than hemming the sleeves.

Step 3: Cut out the circle skirt

Here’s where it gets a little tricky but stay with me.

To make a circle skirt, you cut a big circle with a little circle cut out of the center (for the waist). The radius of the big circle minus the radius of the little circle is the length of your circle skirt (I made mine about 25″ long, though I ended up trimming away a bit of length at the sides and mid-way to the center since she wanted a bit of an uneven cascading look when it was hanging down). 

To get the radius of the little circle, first take the width across the bottom of the finished tee, and divide by 3.14 (that’s right: PI, you math nerds!):

width of tee / 3.14 = X

Now take X and subtract 1/2″ to get the radius of the small circle:

X – 1/2″ = R

“R” is the radius of the little circle, and R in my diagrams below. The reason that you subtract 1/2″ from X before cutting this circle is a safety measure: you actually need the circle skirt waist to be a teensy bit smaller than the tee waist, and it’s ALWAYS BETTER TO CUT THAT CIRCLE SMALLER THAN TOO BIG!!!

Now cut your skirt out. Cut this way if you want side and back seams (I did mine this way); you also save on fabric if you do it this way:

Cut out your skirt this way if you want it to be a continuous circle, no seams:

Step 4: Sew and attach the skirt

You’ll need to sew the sides and back seam together if you cut it out the way I did, then pin and sew the skirt to the tee, right sides together. To achieve a nice smooth waist seam, I sewed them together without pulling or stretching the fabric out at all. I tried it first with my sewing machine on a zig zag stitch (to try it on), then ran it through my serger with the differential set to 1.7 once I was happy with the location of the waist seam.

Twirly dress, achieved!

For extra overachiever points, sew a matching one for the doll. Heh heh heh, yeah. I DID. Not the first time, either. 

Doodle Quilt

doodle quilt / made by rae

Another new thing I learned this year was how to make a Doodle Quilt. My friend Annabel Wrigley, whom I first met at a Heather Ross Design workshop in NYC years ago, came to Michigan in September to teach two Doodle Quilt workshops with the Detroit Area Modern Quilt Guild and the Ann Arbor Modern Quilt Guild. I was excited for the chance to learn how to do this from her, as I’ve admired her doodle quilts since she started posting them on Instagram a few years ago (check out #doodlequilt for some serious inspo).

doodle quilt / made by rae

I worked on this gold quilt during the workshop, encouraged by Annabel to really go for it with the bold background color even though my initial feelings were that I should stick to white or grey.

doodle quilt / made by rae

At the end of the day, I went home and immediately made another teal one #obsessed. Clementine was also intrigued watching me do this and together we made one for her. I still haven’t finished the gold one and Clementine’s is still in progress, but the teal one is already hanging up in our front entryway.

doodle quilt / made by rae

As someone who teaches, I find taking classes that aren’t about sewing garments to be incredibly fun. To be the person in the room who knows the least about what’s going on is amusing and interesting. I know you think I’m exaggerating but remember that this was a guild workshop, so these ladies were serious quilters. I didn’t even come with the right kind of thread (not knowing enough about quilting threads), but it ended up not being an issue. When you start knowing very little about something, the feeling of figuring something out (that light-bulb moment!) is really great.

doodle quilt / made by rae

One thing I love about these quilts is that start with this random doodle and end up with something that looks colorful and bold. It’s a great way to use smaller solid pieces of fabric (scrap alert!) and being relatively small, they make great wall hangings, and don’t take as much time as a larger bed-spread-style quilt might. I also love the matchstitck quilting. It’s downright calming to sew back and forth, creating lines that are roughly 1/4″ apart.

doodle quilt / made by rae

If you’re into learning how to do this, I’d encourage you to find a copy of Modblock Magazine 2018 vol 4, as Annabel is no longer teaching this workshop (as of this writing, she has moved on to other — very exciting — projects), but she has written a great article and included a pattern for a doodle quilt in this issue.

I also consulted Elizabeth Hartman’s book, Practical Guide to Patchwork, for tips on how to do the actual quilting of the layers (we didn’t cover much of that in the workshop, as we were mainly working on completing the top).

If you love these doodle quilts as much as I do, put it on your to-sew list — it’s really fun!

Posted in quilting

Tolt River Cowl

This year I picked up knitting with a zeal I’ve not experienced before; it’s normal for me to consider the odd knitting project around September and maybe make a baby sweater or cowl by March. But this past July, I went on a Maker+Stitch hiking and knitting retreat in Colorado that jump-started my annual knitting early. I continued knitting through the summer into fall and am still going strong. At this rate I may manage to make not one but possibly four things with yarn this year. WHO IS THIS PERSON? I don’t know but SHE CAN DO A LONG TAIL CAST ON WITHOUT LOOKING IT UP. Shocking.

tolt river cowl / made by rae

Andrea Rangel was the instructor on the knitting retreat, and the topic was colorwork, which for those of you unfamiliar with knitting really just means knitting with more than one color. In this case we used her soon-to-be-published Tolt River Cowl as a practice piece, and I’m quite thrilled with the boost my knitting skills have seen thanks to her patient instruction as well as how my cowl (above) turned out. Here are the other cowls that were made at the retreat, most still in progress:

tolt river cowl / made by rae

I’d love to tell you more about the retreat…I have so many thoughts about what I learned and why it was such a good choice for me this year, but for now I’m going to just share the reaction of the cowl’s intended recipient with you, for laughs.

tolt river cowl / made by rae

Let’s just zoom in on this a sec.

tolt river cowl / made by rae


tolt river cowl / made by rae

I love that he’ll give me the pointed looks for the camera so I can capture it for posterity. To be fair, he said the wool was “too scratchy” and as a kid who herself spent a portion of her winters breaking out in hives from scratchy hand-knit items, I completely sympathize and was happy to pass it on to a more willing wearer:

tolt river cowl / made by rae

tolt river cowl / made by rae

I’m now currently into my second cowl; I decided to get Andrea’s book, Alterknits, from the library and attempt another pattern (sheep!) on this next one. I love that you can take any number of her patterns in that book and as long as your project has the correct number of stitches, insert her patterns into them as you like. Highly recommend the book (and it’s on my to-buy list, thank you library but I now need a copy of my own). Here’s some of the lovely samples Andrea brought along on the retreat from the book:

My next knitting goal now that Level: Colorwork has been unlocked is to try brioche. My friend Megan promises to show me how, and I’ve been eyeing a number of fun projects online and stalking Andrea Mowry on Instagram ever since setting my sites on brioche. Who are your favorite knitters to follow online?

I know many of you are knitters as well as sewists! Are you working on anything fun? Any new (or not-so-new) skills you’ve picked up that I should know about?

Pattern update: Rose pants!

Just wanted to give you an update on the pants pattern I’ve been working on this fall! The working name for this pattern is currently “Rose” as in the flower (my late grandmother’s favorite), and I love that the name “Rose” is both strong and feminine. Plus it’s consistent with my pattern naming history in that it’s botanical (“Parsley, Geranium”), a female name (“Bianca, Josephine”), and/or a color (“Jade, Ruby”).

After the striped Loominous pants (shown above) I made this summer got such an incredible response on Instagram, I decided to work on a pattern for it. The concept behind these pants is similar to my Cleo skirt design (flat front waistband, elastic back waistband, super comfortable), but in a pant rather than a skirt. I also wanted a super high rise, wide leg, and multiple lengths. After the initial prototype, Karen made pattern pieces in my size and I tested them out with this fun gold floral print from my recent line, Fanciful. I thought these were pretty cute!

Note that this fabric is quilter’s cotton, so it worked nicely as a sample muslin but could also be a fun summer pant. Since there’s very little drape, it behaves similarly to actual muslin fabric and is therefore helpful for finding and fixing fit issues. Here’s the back view so you can see the elastic in back.

Next I tried a much different fabric, and also played around with a longer length, for those of you who would prefer to have a long pant pattern. The inseam length on this brown pair is 32″ which is really a “tall” (I’m 5’8). I’m planning to include a cutting line for the more standard length (30″ inseam), as well as an easy guide so that if you need less or more length on the inseam it will be super easy to get the correct length.

I was really happy with how these turned out — I love this slub linen/rayon blend fabric (posted more info about it here, by the way, if you’re interested in sources). which made these pants incredibly dreamy and comfy.

Last week, I made another pair out of yarn-dyed Manchester cotton. Like quilter’s cotton, this fabric has very little drape and will probably get pretty wrinkly, but I wanted to try and see if a kick-pleat would work as nicely as four separate outward-facing pleats (like the ones above have). What do you think?

Currently we have the pattern graded into all nine sizes (that’s our extended women’s size range) but the pieces need a few more edits before it will be ready for testers. Meanwhile, I’m starting to sketch diagrams and write the instruction steps this week. Fun, fun!!! Tentative launch is set for early next spring.

I’m really excited to bring another fun pant pattern to the sewing pattern market — Luna has been a huge success and I hope you’re excited about Rose, too. Which view is your favorite so far? Do you prefer the separate pleats or the kick-pleats? Any other ideas you want to share? We’re always open to feedback and it’s fun when a great idea gets incorporated into a new pattern.

PS. If you’re interested in reading more about how we make a pattern here at MBR, check out my behind-the-scenes post from last week!

Luna Pants with a triple channel drawstring

These pants are easily my most-worn Luna pants this fall. I was inspired by another pair of dark chambray pants that I saw on Pinterest (they’re #14 on my Luna Inspiration list, if you’re interested), so Jess sewed this pair out of Rustica Chambray from Robert Kaufman Fabrics (59% cotton / 41% linen). They are ridiculously comfortable.

Chambray Rustica Luna pants
Chambray Rustica Luna pants

In order to get the narrow drawstring into the wide waistband facing without it swimming around, we made these with a triple channel drawstring. This is so easy to do. Here’s how!

Luna Pants drawstring


  1. After adding the waistband facing but before you stitch down the bottom edge, add two 1/2″-tall buttonholes to the center front of your pant, centering them vertically so that they’ll land in the middle of the waistband (See my other Luna drawstring tutorial if you need more guidance with this).
  2. Stitch down the bottom edge of the waistband, leaving a couple inches open in the back
  3. Mark two horizontal lines 3/8″ from the top and bottom of the facing for the channels, then stitch down around those lines, leaving a couple inches open at the back of the pant so you can thread the elastic through. This will leave about 5/8″ for the middle channel. Before you stitch, double check that the buttonholes will land in the middle of the center channel!
  4. Cut two pieces of 1/4″ elastic to the length needed for your waist (a chart is included for each size in the Luna sewing pattern). Using a safety pin or bodkin, thread the elastic through the top and bottom channels, starting with the top channel. Overlap the ends and stitch them together.
  5. Cut a strip of fabric for the drawstring, 1″ wide by your waist measurement + 1 yard long. Fold the two long edges of the strip into the center so that they meet, press, then fold in half, and press again. Edgestitch around the outside of the drawstring to finish it.
  6. Using a safety pin or bodkin, thread the drawstring through one buttonhole, around the pant through the center channel, and out the other buttonhole. Tie or knot as desired.
  7. Once you have tried on the pants and are happy with the fit of the waistband, stitch the holes for the elastic shut in back.
chambray rustica how-to / made by rae
chambray rustica how-to / made by rae

Voila! Pants with a triple channel drawstring!! Also: I love the hidden Lotus Pond pockets and waistband.

Chambray Rustica Luna pants

Behind the scenes: making a sewing pattern

In the past, I’ve kept most of the details about my pattern production behind the scenes, but I got such a huge response to the pants prototype I posted a few months ago on Instagram that I thought it would be interesting to try to be more transparent about the progress of this pattern from the beginning (in truth, however, this isn’t really the “beginning,” since I started working on this pattern last spring). In order to do that, I think it makes the most sense to give you a general idea of what exactly goes into making a Made by Rae pattern, who does it (surprise: it’s not all me!), and how long it generally takes.

From sketch to pattern pieces

Normally, the pattern-making process begins more than a year before launch, sometimes just with a sketch, sometimes with a prototype that may or may not end up resembling the final pattern. I then sew any number of samples to try to eliminate as many fit issues as possible before I have Karen produce pattern pieces in my size, which is usually somewhere around a M or L on our size chart, depending on the current size of my body. Karen and I usually go back and forth on the pattern piece edits for a while, and once we’re happy, it gets graded into multiple sizes for testing.

Instructions and other details

Through this entire process, I am also deciding on how many views/lengths we’ll offer with the pattern (if any), coming up with a name for the pattern, sketching diagrams, and writing an overview of the instructions. Once we have the bones in place, Jess works on writing the detailed instructions out in a Google doc, step by step, and Elli works on digitizing the diagrams in Illustrator. Eventually Elli takes the instructions and diagrams and put them together in InDesign to produce a visually beautiful layout. Other details like cover photography, copyshop files, yardage, and cutting diagrams come later. It’s an intricate process that involves juggling many different things at many different times. 

Testing, testing

Testing itself usually takes an addition month or two, depending on how many rounds of testing we do, and how long it takes to incorporate changes we make after testing. Jess manages testing, and that takes a ton of work, from recruiting testers, communicating with them, gathering their feedback into a spreadsheet, evaluating which tester comments will result in adjustments or edits, and compensating testers, just to name a few things that involves.

One thing that tends to save us a bit of time before pattern launch is that we never simultaneously released a print version of a pattern at the same time as it launches in PDF version. This helps eliminate risk (printing costs thousands of dollars, and we like to audition the pattern in PDF before taking the plunge and printing it) but also allows us to concentrate on a single format (digital) instead of having to also work on the print layout, which is completely different than the PDF layout and often involves multiple rounds of physical proofs. One day I think it would be awesome to launch a pattern in both print and digital at the same time (y’all have said you love a print pattern, I hear you), but for now this is what works for us.

How long does it take?

So, how long does all this realistically take? Hypothetically, if all of us involved in production (me, Jess, Karen, Elli) were completely focused on a single pattern, we could probably get it launched in about three months, from the moment we decided to work on it to when it went live. In reality, this is not a super realistic estimate, since we are almost always working on other projects (getting a previous pattern into print, overhauling branding, teaching Creativebug classes, running the pop-up shop) concurrently, so we are almost never putting 100% of our time into one pattern. This is by both by design (it’s easier to have a multi-person team working on more than one project at a time so we don’t get bottlenecks) and by necessity (kids or dogs get sick, one or all of us go on vacation, have a personal crisis, someone (ahem, Rae) gets distracted, etc.). In the case of a pattern like Luna, we took about four months, but Gemma took about six months, so it definitely varies from pattern to pattern.

For the current pants pattern, we recently took about a month off because Making magazine asked us to contribute a pattern to their upcoming summer issue (yay!! and stay tuned for more on that!!), but we’ve also been working on updating our print pattern covers, promoting Fanciful, and other random projects this fall, all things that take time away from pattern production. In the case of the Making pattern, it was an opportunity that I almost said “no” to, because I knew that it would mean putting the pants project on hold, but ultimately decided I really wanted to do. I try to weigh the pros and cons of every project before saying yes to something that might put the brakes on a passion project like the pants, but admittedly it’s not always an easy decision, and also, let’s be honest, I have a problem with saying yes to things I shouldn’t (note: I 100% do not regret saying yes to Making…I just mean in general).

Ok. If you’ve stuck with me this far, you get a medal. I could probably write a whole blog series just on working with a team and what everyone does, but hopefully this still gives you an interesting look at the pattern making process. As usual, I am happy to answer any questions you might have, so leave a comment if I missed anything you were wondering about!

For my next post, I’ll show you some pics of the current pattern-in-the-works samples (pants) I’ve made so far, so stay tuned!!