Ruby Star Wrapalong

April of Sew To Speak (a lovely shop in Columbus Ohio, I MUST visit soon!) is hosting a Ruby Star Wrap-Along at the Sew To Speak blog, and asked if I would like to wrap-along with her (Sukie also has a fantastic Ruby Star Wrap-along going on too, be sure to check it out, both are fabulous, both have prizes and books to be won!!).

I really love the concept of Ruby Star Wrapping (by Melody Miller and Allison Tannery). It’s all about making your own beautiful handmade wrapping and saving paper, waste, good stuff for sure. But on top of that it’s about making packaging for every occasion that is either a gift in and of itself, or can be reused again later. There are so many great ideas and inspiring photos in this book, what better way to get a fire under the proverbial arse and get started on your Christmas presents? Even if it’s only the wrapping?


(this week’s prize package from sew to speak’s giveaway)

This isn’t my first tango with re-usable packaging. A few years ago, my mom began making gift bags out of fabric for our family at Christmas. One drawstring bag she created now functions as a block bag for my kidlings’ blocks. Other packages she made have gotten passed back and forth year after year for our family Christmas gift openings. We’d done that with cheap paper gift bags for years, but I love the idea of slowly introducing nicer, more lovingly-made packages into the mix, ones that will last even longer and are gifts themselves.

I was smitten with the “Plucky-Pantry-Box” idea from this book (you’ll have to check out the “inside-out-box” idea as well, it is equally great!), as I always have nearly empty boxes in the pantry available. I know everyone else has Christmas On The Brain, but a very special baby boy is due to a dear friend of mine any day now, and I needed a box for the present I made him. I’ll show you the actual present inside later. Don’t want to ruin the surprise yet!


I used a pair of Mr Rae’s old pajamas found in the “toss” pile and an empty panko box. Do you like how I cut around the pocket? Am feeling v. smug and clever with that one I tell you.


I also made my own little “boy” version of the Festive Flag Bunting from the book; it’s so easy and later it can be hung somewhere after the present is opened. So fun! And no sewing!



I wrapped the present with the bunting, stuck a card in the pocket, and it’s ready to go. Ready for baby to arrive!!




Here is the entire blog tour; be sure to check out the rest of the posts for awesome ideas! And FYI, you can leave a comment on each and every post on the Sew To Speak blog this week for multiple chances to win the Sew To Speak giveaway (prize package pictured at the top of the post)!

Wrap-along Blog Tour

Tues, Nov. 27 – Mary Dugan of Molly Flanders
Wed. Nov. 28 – Meg McElwee of Sew Liberated
Thurs. Nov. 29 – Kara of Me and Elna
Sat. Dec. 1st – Amanda of Sasikirana Handmade
Sunday Dec. 2nd – April Rhodes
Tues. Dec. 4th – Made by Rae oh that’s me!
Wed. Dec 5 – Ericka of Low Beam Studios
Thurs. Dec. 6 – Emily of The Boy Trifecta
Friday  Dec. 7 – winner announced on Sew To Speak blog!

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With the week I’ve had, I’m just amazed I got something sewn.

It’s been an odd week around here. Some snippets:

– Getting my hand in the way of my sewing machine needle arm while sewing these pants and completely busting it up. The machine, not my hand (why? why? at least my hand would have healed!!!).


– In the Staples parking lot on the way home from dropping off said machine for repair, trying to wrestle a 60″ wide plastic carpet guard (the kind that protects carpet from the rollers on the bottom of desk chairs) to my car in what felt like hurricane-force wind. That thing was surprisingly aerodynamic. For every five steps toward the car, getting blown seven steps back (why do I always find myself in these Charlie Chaplin-type scenarios?).


– Getting in the car turning the key in the ignition, and finding the battery dead.

– Looking totally disgusted and throwing up my hands when the perfectly-coifed Stepford Mom who I ask to help me jump my car looks back at me (in front of her perfectly-coifed high-school daughter) and says, “Um…can’t you call Triple A to do that?” My response (concocted a day too late in my head, of course): “It must be wonderful to live in a world where you think everyone has Triple A.”


– Driving home as the dashboard begins to light up like a Christmas tree with every single stinking warning light on the bridge that’s down to one lane on the busiest street in the city, realizing that I have no transmission, no blinker, no gas pedal. Total Car Failure. I miraculously managed to roll it into a gas station parking lot next to a vegetable stand and walk home. {Turns out the oil valve had been leaking into the engine and the alternator failed, for all you mechanics-turned-sewists who are reading and want to know what happened, hee}

So anyway, repairing the two most important machines in my life seems to have sucked up quite a bit of my time this week. It’s surprising how much, actually. All I can say is, thank goodness for 59,334 miles on the odometer with a 60K warranty on the car. Sheesh. Now if only that sewing machine repair had been covered by warranty.


I had two projects to show you that I had sewn for myself last week that I’m super-excited about but I guess those will just have to wait until next week. I did manage to finish the Treasure Pocket Pants for Elliot and I la-la-love them! Thankfully he does too (and as you can see, has his own unique way of styling them in an outfit). Thanks for all of you who put in your two cents on what I should make, it seemed like a bunch of you liked this Marine print with the navy for the pants, so I went with it and I couldn’t be happier with the combination!


Have a great weekend everyone!

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Growing Up Sew Liberated Book Tour Stop: PJs for Elliot

I nearly had a heart attack yesterday around noon when I suddenly remembered that I was slated for a book review post today for Meg McElwee’s new book Growing Up Sew Liberated. I clicked over to Elsie Marley (the first stop on the tour) and laughed outloud because she had chosen exactly the same thing from the book that I had chosen to make for Elliot! Great minds think alike I guess. And hers are absolutely adorable and lovely by the way!!!

Anyway. I was thrilled to be asked to review Growing Up Sew Liberated because I’ve been looking forward to it for a long, long time. How did they know it was at the top of my book wishlist?! I have been reading Meg’s blog since the first Celebrate the Boy series over two years ago when she guest posted with her Pilot Cap tutorial and was working on the manuscript for this book. One of my favorite things about Meg’s blog (and this book) is that her writing and designs are infused with experience from her years as a Montessori teacher. I love reading about how she has translated that training into parenting: this post about teaching her toddler son Finn to get himself a drink (with a real glass!) and this one about her story from Montesorri teacher to pattern designer are two of my favorites.

In Growing Up Sew Liberated,  Meg presents some really creative sewing projects for learning, home and play…

as well as some great basic clothing patterns in multiple sizes:

These would not only make wonderful gifts but are also great wardrobe staples for those of us who sew frequently for our own children. I made the pajamas shown at the top of this post for Elliot using the Crossover Tee and Sleeping Johns patterns.

Both patterns are beautifully simple and easy to understand. Neither pattern requires a serger, although you could use it to finish the inside edges if you wanted to.

Throughout the book Meg has added wonderful tips and ideas for play, learning, and involving children in household tasks that are really inspiring. I loved the little section on how she and Patrick structure Finn’s bedtime at their house. I always find that sort of thing fascinating, especially when I pick up some new tricks.

One other thing I want to show you is how I traced my patterns from this book. Many of the pattern books that are currently available come with full-sized pattern pages, as this one does. It’s so easy to trace patterns from the sheets, which are almost always two-sided (and therefore need to be traced to be used without destroying the patterns on the other side). I buy Swedish Tracing Paper in 10-yard rolls, a material which resembles a very smooth dryer sheet more than it resembles paper and stands up well over time. You can also use newsprint (which often comes as packing material in packages) or freezer paper or even tissue paper if you’re careful (although this won’t stand up over time like tracing paper will).

I place my pattern sheet on the dining room table and then add “weights” around the pattern so it won’t move while I trace it. As you can see it doesn’t really matter if you have real pattern weights, just something to hold it down. But make sure that you label your pieces and add in all of the pattern markings as you trace so you don’t lose track of what size(s) you have. See? Easy!

I know this book will prove to be a go-to resource for me and I can’t wait to sew more of these projects. Congratulations Meg on the completion of such a fantastic book! You must be so proud!

Guess what? Made by Rae readers can get 20% off any orders from Meg’s website, Sew Liberated from now until June 15th using code MadeByRae. Thanks Meg!

Don’t miss the rest of the Growing Up Sew Liberated book tour:

Growing Up Sew Liberated Blog Tour
6/6       Elsie Marley
6/7       Made By Rae
6/8       Artful Parent
6/9       Rhythm of the Home
6/10     Uncommon Grace
6/14     BurdaStyle
6/15     Maya Made
6/16     Wise Craft
6/17     J*Casa Handmade
6/20     Simple Homeschool
6/21     MADE

Little Things to Sew: Bear Hat for Clementine

We’re nearly settled in our new place, my sewing room is unpacked and I’ve been finding a little time to sew…

This adorable little project came from Liesl Gibson’s new book, Little Things to Sew, which as its name suggests is a lovely collection of small (and rather quick) projects to sew for children. After seeing this behind-the-scenes post on the Oliver+S blog (it’s so fun to see the photoshoot!) I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it, so when my copy arrived a few weeks ago I was super-duper excited! This one was my immediate favorite:

It’s called the “Cosy Winter Hood” and the pattern calls for wool coating or a felted sweater which would be wonderful for winter, but I figured with lighter fabrics it would also work for a spring hat. I made it out of a pale pink baby wale corduroy and some white stretch terry. Because both of these fabrics have a little stretch they were a little trickier to work with (I got a few puckers after pulling out the original bunny-sized ears I tried and replacing them with the bear/chipmunk ears you see here) so I think I’d recommend trying a corduroy that doesn’t have much stretch if you decide to make one like this. The other thing that would be fantastic would be flannel, don’t you think? One other note: the hood sizing is generous, so I went down a size for Clementine and made her an extra small (up to 12M), which as you can see in the pictures is the perfect size for her 20-month-old head right now. But if you want it to have room to grow, definitely stick with the sizing Liesl’s provided.

I die at how cute this is on her. As spring is still quite cool around these parts it’s turning out to be perfect for the weather we’ve been having. She played outside in it all morning yesterday so I got a few pictures:

I love that the Little Things to Sew projects compliment the Oliver+S sewing pattern collection with accessories and toys that are fun and eye-catching and clever.

The photography is fantastic and gives the reader plenty of eye-candy, which in my opinion is half the fun. La-la-love these adorable projects:

What a clever idea for a puppet theater! My kids are just getting into this sort of thing now…

The colors on this tutu are brilliant, so JCrew-chic.

I’ve got this hat pattern traced for Elliot next…I think this would work for a cute boy hat.

love the retro-look of this smock

If you’d like you can see more pictures from the book (and purchase it) right over here. You can also read a review over at the Purl Bee. Do you have a copy yet? What do you want to make?

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.

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On the bookshelf

Since I posted a picture of my sewing library here, I’ve had a few requests for a list of my craft and sewing books, so I put together a shelf on Goodreads. I like the site a ton (it’s amazingly easy to find books and so fun to read everyone’s reviews) but if you see something you like, I hope you’ll support your local bookseller or check it out at the library.

Rae's sewing-and-crafts book recommendations, reviews, favorite quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists

I’d also like to point out that a rating of 3 stars means “I liked it” with a rating of 5 stars meaning “It’s amazing!” so these are all books I’d recommend!

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Rae’s pattern in a Book and other updates

Some randomness today to prove I’m still here, puttering away…

New Book Alert:
The folks responsible for “One Yard Wonders”, a compilation sewing book due out this October, finally released a cover shot and a peek at some projects on their FB page this week so you can hop over and have a look! I submitted a couple of patterns on a whim last fall, and it looks like at least one got in (the summer nighty, below). YAY! I’m extra pumped because it’s got 101 (!) projects in it. SO appealing to the Dutch girl in me. I’m very excited and proud to say I’m going to be “published!”

: : A new pattern by me! In a book! : :

(Image by One Yard Wonders, Storey Publishing)

Paint: Thanks for all the Low/Zero VOC paint suggestions! I decided to go with both Aura from Benjamin Moore and Duration from Sherwin Williams (different colors from each). If I hadn’t been such a last-minute kind of person I would have tried out Mythic Paint; “Endless Summer” (row six, center) is so dreamy. I may have to find another room to transform just to try it out. So far I’ve only used the Aura in the nursery, but I have to say it’s totally amazing to only have to do one coat (plus a little extra brush touchup around edges). ONE COAT!

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