Two more ruffled Gemmas

2 Gemmas with ruffle hems

The ruffled Gemma is clearly now my favorite Gemma Tank mod. I made myself two more with leftover fabric from other projects, and I’m super happy with how well these are going with my cardigans, my favorite winter layering piece, as it’s still quite cold here in Michigan.

Peach Gemma with Ruffle

2 Gemmas with ruffle hems

The first one is a blush tencel rayon twill from IndieSew; the fabric was left over from these Luna Pants. Yes…I see that you Quick Thinkers out there have already realized that I now have the option to wear head-to-toe peach, complete with ruffle in the middle. I am going to resist the urge to do so, for two reasons: 1) that would look ridiculous, as I myself am a light shade of peach and 2) I had a bad faux jumpsuit experience once. Fool me once, as they say…

2 Gemmas with ruffle hems

Second, a ruffled Gemma in a delicious cotton ikat from Stone Mountain and Daughter. I am happy that this one matches just about everything, as it is refreshingly neutral. I could really use a few more neutral wardrobe items to go with all of the colorful stuff I already have, so this one is going to be a great coordinating piece.

Gemma with ruffle hem

2 Gemmas with ruffle hems

If you’ve got the urge to make one of these for yourself, you’re in luck! The How to add a Ruffle to Gemma tutoria will help you make your ruffled Gemma dreams come true.

The Gemma Sewing Pattern is in my shop if you need the pattern:

and be sure to check out the Gemma Page for pattern info and other Gemma-related tutorials.

Super fun facings trick

super fun facings trick

Facings are a great way to finish a neckline or armhole (bias binding is another way — see my 3 bias binding tutorials here!). I like to have beautiful facings without having to fold up and finish the lower edge, which can produce a visible line from the outside of your garment, and I learned this clever trick a few years ago (probably from Karen) and thought I’d share. It uses your interfacing to finish the facing edge, and it’s just as quick and easy as folding and stitching or overlocking your facings like most patterns instruct. It also looks 100% better, as you’ll see in this tutorial.

Step 1. Cut out your facings and interfacings

The front / back neckline facing pattern pieces I used in this example are from my Beatrix pattern. You can see these facings in use in my How to make Beatrix without buttons tutorial. This tutorial would also work with most armhole, hem, or combined armhole-neckline facings as well.

I’m using fusible lightweight interfacing (this is the kind I like), but this tutorial also works with non-fusible interfacing.

Beatrix facings

Step 2. Sew the seams

Most patterns call for you to baste or fuse the interfacing to the facings before sewing anything. Instead, sew the front and back facings together, and then do the same with the interfacings (so, separately). In this example, I sewed the facings together at the shoulders, and then the interfacings together at the shoulders using the 1/2″ seam allowance called for in the pattern.


Press the facing seams apart, but DO NOT PRESS THE INTERFACING SEAM IF YOU ARE USING FUSIBLE INTERFACING. Let’s avoid that sticky glue nightmare on your iron, shall we?

Step 3. Sew the facings to the interfacings along lower edge

Place the facings and interfacings right sides together and pin:


Then sew them together along the lower edge with a 1/4″ seam allowance. This should be the edge where you would normally fold up and stitch, or otherwise finish the edge of the facing before attaching it to the garment. It should not be the edge that will attach to the garment.

Beatrix facings - sew together

Step 4. Turn right side out and press

Now go ahead and turn them right side out, using a point turner to push out the bottom edges.

beatrix facings

And then press them together!!! At this point the fusible interfacing will fuse to the facing, and it creates a beautiful finish…see? Here’s the interfacing side:


And the facing side:


Step 5. Attach to garment

Now the facings are ready to attach to your garment! You can see how I attached these in this post.

Finished facings - Beatrix

Aren’t they beautiful?

This tutorial works great with my Beatrix, Washi, or even Charlie sewing patterns. Have you ever tried this trick?

Best garment interfacings. Evar.

Here’s a tip I end up sharing with other garment sewists all. the. time: I get my interfacings from Pam Erny at Fashion Sewing Supply. These are hands down my very favorite interfacings for garment sewing (and just in case you’re new to sewing, fusible interfacing gets used for everything from waistbands to facings to stabilizing curved seams and button plackets).

Best interfacings. Evar.

There are definitely more readily-available interfacing brands (like Pellon) at big-box craft stores, but I haven’t had the best luck with those when I use them for sewing clothes; the fusible interfacings — even the lightest ones — tend to bubble away from the garment for me after it gets washed.

Pam sells a bunch of different weights, white, black, fusible, non-fusible, shirt-making, she even has stretch interfacings for knits. YES. etc. I’d suggest ordering the sample pack if you want to get a sense for all of the different types (Pam also includes a full-page info sheet with the care and application instructions for each one with every order, so that’s helpful), but you really can’t go wrong with the Pro-Sheer Elegance Light.

Like every other awesome sewing thing I know about, this source comes via my friend Karen, who always has some newfangled tool or tip because she’s basically a walking sewing encyclopedia (Sidenote: Karen just moved to Seattle this summer, so we can’t work together in the studio anymore…waaaaaaah!!! PNW, I’m super jealous you have her now). Karen also claims you can fuse multiple layers on top of each other for a thicker interfacing, but I’ve never tried this out.

PS. This is NOT a sponsored post. Oh! Just realized that Pam did once send me a discount code, so I probably am a bit biased, so there, full disclosure. Seriously though, these are the best garment interfacings I’ve used, and even though you have to order them online I think you’ll like them too. Just wanted to share it with you!

PPS. This site is also where I buy my favorite elastic for kids’ clothes — they’re super soft and stretchy.

How to print and assemble a PDF sewing pattern

how to print and assemble a PDF pattern

It still surprises me sometimes to discover that many people have never used (or even heard of) a PDF sewing pattern. Occasionally I’ll get an email from someone who has purchased one of my patterns and needs some assistance figuring out what on earth to do with it once they’ve bought it.

So here’s a step by step primer to help you get from purchasing to sewing with your PDF sewing pattern! Even if you’ve used a PDF pattern before, you might pick up some pointers in this post.

Step 1. Download and save your pattern file
After you purchase a PDF pattern, you’ll be directed to a download link, you’ll get an email with a download link, or both (this is how it works in my pattern shop). Click on the link to download your pattern file to your computer. Once you’ve downloaded the file, open it from your downloads folder and save it in a private folder where you can find it again later (usually this requires going to “File -> Save As” and selecting a different folder or creating a new folder).

The beauty of a PDF pattern is that you can use it over and over and it never gets worn out. But it is not the responsibility of the pattern maker to hang on to your pattern for you. And…it’s a bit of a hassle to have to email the designer later to ask for a resend, right? SO TAKE A SECOND AND SAVE YOUR FILE!

Once you save your file, you can bring the pattern file to a copy or print shop (drag it over to a USB drive, or upload it to the print shop’s website) to be printed on wide-format paper. If you go the copy shop route, be sure to read my post: how to use a copyshop file. If you are printing at home, continue!

Step 2. Print a test page
First, open your file in a PDF reader such as Adobe Acrobat or Preview for Mac. Do not print directly from the browser window after you download the file; instead, reopen the pattern in a PDF viewer before printing.

Then set your printer to print just the first page at 100% (or “No Scaling” or “None” for scaling). This step is OH SO CRITICAL. If you print the pattern at the wrong scale, your garment will not fit!

Here’s a screenshot of what the print preview (in Preview for Mac) looks like for me:

print-at-home PDF pattern

If the percentage is a number other than 100%, change it to 100%!

Step 3. Check Scale
My newer patterns have scale marks along every pattern piece page borders at 1-inch intervals (a few of the older ones have a scale box with labeled dimensions) so you can check the scale of each page. Place your ruler or use a cutting mat to check these marks. In the photo below, they line up nicely. Another way to check is along the length of the page: the long edge should be exactly 10″ or 254 cm.

Print and check scale

Step 4. Print the rest of the pattern
When you are absolutely sure the scale is right, choose the remaining pages indicated for the size and version of the pattern you’re making, and set the print dialog again to print at 100% (I always forget the second time!) and print the rest of the pattern pages.

Step 5. Trim Edges
Now use scissors or a paper trimmer to remove the print margins on the TOP and LEFT edges of each page.

Beatrixalong Day 1

Step 6. Assemble the pattern
Place the pages together as shown in the pattern assembly diagram so that the circles in the corners (or in some patterns, the black triangles) line up nicely. If you go from left to right and top to bottom, like you’re reading a book, each page you set down will cover up the print margin from the previous page.

Beatrixalong Day 1

Step 7. Tape it together
Finally, tape it all together, making sure the edges stay straight! For very large patterns, I often tape each row together first, then tape the rows together to assemble the entire pattern.

Beatrixalong Day 1

Now your pattern is ready to trace! I always recommend tracing a pattern rather than cutting into it. Take a look at my How to trace a pattern post if you need a quick how-to!

This post is part of my Building a Handmade Wardrobe Series, a set of posts to help you get from start to finish with one of my patterns.

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How to take body measurements

how to take body measurements / made by rae

The very first thing that every single person should do before they sew a piece a piece of clothing for themselves is take out a tape measure and get some good, honest body measurements. In this post I’ll go over how to take the four body measurements that you’ll need to choose the right size to sew with one of my sewing patterns.

The problem with body measurements
Unfortunately, many of us would prefer to skip this step. It seems easier just to pick a size, maybe guess a little bit based on the size chart. We’ve also learned to associate measuring ourselves with negative feelings about our bodies instead of seeing the measuring tape as an empowering tool that can allow us to custom-tailor our clothing to fit and flatter our beautiful bodies. While I can’t instill a sense of love for your body — only you can do that — I hope I can impress upon you the importance of viewing your measurements as the first step to sewing something for yourself that you can be proud of. One of the great things about sewing your own clothing is that you don’t have to put a size tag in the back of something you make. No matter what size pattern piece you use, making yourself a piece of clothing that fits — not too tight, not too loose — feels empowering, no matter what your size or shape.

Can’t I just skip this and use my ready-to-wear size instead?
OK, let’s say you decide to pass on measuring yourself completely. That means you’ll need to guess what size you need using the size labels on the pattern pieces instead of your body measurement and the size chart. This is risky, considering every pattern maker uses their own measurement chart; a size large for one of my patterns might be different from a size large somewhere else, including the ready-to-wear clothes you might have in your closet. Hypothetically now you’re in a sewing no-man’s-land: you’ve jumped into your project completely blind, hoping you’ll accidentally end up with a piece of clothing that fits.

Are you ready to get out your measuring tape and find your body measurements? OK!

A few general guidelines

  • If possible, measure in the morning; by the end of the day, gravity has taken its toll on your body and you are not only shorter, but wider.
  • Wear your best-fitting (and ideally, supportive) undergarments when measuring. This is SO IMPORTANT!
  • If possible, have someone help you take these measurements. When your arms are relaxed at your sides instead of trying to hold up the tape measure, you’ll get a more accurate measurement.
  • Do not pull the tape measure as tight as it will go. The tape measure should fit as loosely around your body as possible without falling down.
  • Wear tight-fitting clothing such as leggings and a tank top, or just your undergarments, rather than loose-fitting or thick clothing.

Start with your upper bust. Place the tape measure around your torso, right under your armpits and over the top of your bust. The tape measure should form a loop that is more or less parallel to the floor, but if it’s angled up a little in the front to clear the top of your bust, that is fine. Write this measurement down.

Now measure your bust. Place the tape measure around the fullest part of your bust. Write this measurement down. 

It is helpful to have both bust and upper bust measurements whenever you are sewing a pattern that includes a bodice, such as a dress or blouse. In my sewing patterns, I include a “Choose your size” section that explains how to use these two numbers to help you choose your size, to decide between the A/B and C/D bodices (such as in Gemma, Josephine, and Beatrix), and to help determine whether a bust adjustment is needed.

how to measure the waist

For your waist, place the tape measure around the smallest part of your waist, and write this measurement down. It’s important to note that this measurement is usually taken WELL ABOVE THE BELLY BUTTON, and that unless you wear high-waisted pants, this is not where the waistband of your pants are. Most pant waistbands sit at the “low waist” which is different than the “natural waist” that you are measuring right now. 

If you’re pear- or hourglass-shaped like my assistant Melissa (shown in these pics), your natural waist should be pretty easy to find. If you’re apple-shaped or banana-shaped (like me) or carry a good deal of your weight around your waist, though, it may be a bit harder to locate, and may actually be larger than your hip measurement. In this case, measure between your lowest rib and the top of your hip bones.

how to measure your hip / made by rae

The hip measurement can also be a bit tricky to find/take, because the location of the hip on the body varies from person to person, making it hard to nail down an exact location for the hip measurement. The other thing that makes everything more confusing is that the hip measurement is usually NOT at your hip bones, which are (again, usually) much higher on the body, closer to your low waist, where you might find the waistband on a pair of low-rise jeans.

The hip measurement should be taken around the widest part of your booty, below your hip bones. Write this measurement down.

Once you have your measurements, write them down in a notebook so you can refer to them later. Remember that if you gain or lose weight, start or stop exercising, or have other changes to your body, you’ll want to take them again!

Now you’re ready to choose your size and make a muslin!

Selecting fabrics for Gemma

Orange Gemma Tank

Gemma tanks are a great summer staple, and we at MBR have been been putting ours into heavy rotation now that the weather’s warming up. Jess has easily made more Gemmas than I have, and I dare say has become a bit of an expert at selecting good fabrics for this pattern, to the point that I might even be a wee bit envious of hers (all I’m saying is she’s lucky she’s a size smaller than me otherwise they might start to disappear).

Orange Gemma Tank

Jess is general manager here at Made By Rae (she is in charge of wholesale, coordinates pattern testing, serves as project manager, and answers a ton of email), and she does a lot of sewing both for work and for fun. Jess made this particular Gemma tank with Robert Kaufman Manchester cotton in Poppy, a looser weave medium-weight cotton that has turned out to be a really comfortable Gemma.

The other day we were discussing this tank, and that led to a discussion about our favorite fabrics for Gemma, because ultimately the ones made with fabrics that are more comfortable will get worn, and the ones that aren’t, won’t. That seemed like a great topic to share on the blog, as I know many of you are also sewing Gemma tanks of your own (check out #gemmatank for some great examples).

Orange Gemma Tank

Fabric choice is one of the most important factors if you want to end up with a comfortable garment, especially when you are working with woven fabrics (knits are, by their nature, usually more comfortable to wear, but Gemma is designed for wovens). Here are a few things to consider when selecting fabric for Gemma:

  • a fabric with a looser weave tends to be more comfortable than tighter weave.
  • a fabric with a lighter weight tends to be more comfortable than heavier weight
  • a fabric with more drape tends to be more comfortable than fabric with less.

Every fabric has some degree of each of these characteristics (weave, weight, drape), as well as other characteristics that have less impact on comfort, but in general, I find these useful when choosing fabrics for Gemma.

Orange Gemma Tank

Here are some more fabrics to consider making your next Gemma out of:

double gauze – while it’s not super drapey, it’s fairly lightweight and has a very loose weave, to the point that you might even need to go down a size. Double gauze frays quite easily (so seam finishing is a must!), but the darts are easy to get to lay smoothly and it’s actually quite manageable to sew with, due to the stabilizing effect of the two layers. Manufacturers include Kokka, Andover, Monaluna, Cloud9, and Cotton and Steel.

shot cotton – also lightweight and with a looser weave but very little drape, this is a nice option if you can find it (as far as I know, Kaffe Fassett is the only one who designs shot cottons). I love the depth of solids due to the different colors in the warp and weft threads. Manufactured by Free Spirit.

cotton lawn / voile – lawn has the advantage of being widely available in many different prints due to an increased number of manufacturers producing it in recent years, and it is light weight. Be careful when using lawn for Gemma, however, as some of the lawns (looking at you, Cotton and Steel) are very tightly woven and less lightweight than others, and even have a bit of a silky sheen to them, making it less comfortable to wear and a more difficult to sew the dart smoothly without a noticeable pucker at the end. Manufacturers include Windham, Andover, Robert Kaufman, Liberty of London, Free Spirit (under “voile”), Cloud9, Monaluna, and Cotton and Steel.

chambray – most chambray is medium-weight, fairly tightly woven, and has very little drape, so in general I would avoid it for Gemma. However, the fabrics under the category “union chambray” produced by Robert Kaufman have become popular in recent years because they are lighter, drapier, and even have a bit of stretch to them. Manufactured by Robert Kaufman

rayon / rayon challis – a synthetic fiber that drapes beautifully, the quality will determine how easy it is to sew with, but one thing to consider (and one that I need to do more research on, frankly) is that rayon production can be pretty horrid for the environment; rayon tencel is the most eco-friendly rayon. Manufacturers include Free Spirit and Cotton and Steel.

batiste – in the past year Cloud9 (the organic fabric company that produces my fabric designs), has begun producing a fabric on a new “batiste” substrate for them; it’s loose-weave and light, so it’s almost a single gauze, but it’s less sheer than gauze. The prints they’ve released so far on batiste are quite lovely; however, it’s best to choose prints with darker backgrounds if you use this fabric for Gemma as they are still pretty sheer.  Manufactured by Cloud9.

Orange Gemma Tank

And now, a note about quilting cotton (dum dum DUMMMMMM): It’s not a great fabric for Gemma (or garments in general, really). I know…there are so many awesome prints, but it’s not going to be as comfortable to wear as the fabrics listed above. Even the quilting cottons that are lighter weight (like the one I made with Alison Glass’ Handcrafted fabric) end up looking great on the hanger but not so great to wear. I’d recommend QC for making a wearable muslin, but that’s pretty much it. Sorry.

Orange Gemma Tank

Do you have a favorite fabric for Gemma? Let us know in comments! You might also want to check out this post: My top five fabrics for clothing.

The Gemma Sewing Pattern is available as a PDF in my shop.

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How to trace a pattern

How to trace a pattern

Recently I received an email from someone who had purchased Beatrix in print from a shop and had accidentally cut her pattern pieces out and then discovered that there were pattern pieces printed on the back side of the sheet. I felt terrible, of course (and we have instructions to trace on the pattern sheets for this very reason), but it reminded me that most people don’t trace their patterns, either because they don’t know how, or don’t think it’s important. And although I talk about tracing quite a bit on this blog (in the Luna Pantsalong, the Beatrixalong, and in one of my most popular posts, Making Clothes for me, lessons learned), I didn’t have a dedicated tracing post until now.

So, this post is for all of you who haven’t yet discovered the beauty of tracing your pattern pieces. I never, ever cut into my pattern pieces anymore, no matter what type of sewing pattern I am using. Here’s why I trace and how I do it!

Why trace your pattern pieces?

It may seem tedious, an additional step of prep before sewing a piece of clothing, so why do it at all? It’s true, it takes extra time to trace your pattern pieces, but here are some of the reasons to trace your pattern rather than cut into it:

  • Tracing allows you to keep the original pattern pieces intact, which is especially nice if they are printed on a delicate paper such as tissue, or if they are printed in such a way that the pattern pieces overlap (this is common in sewing books that include pattern sheets).
  • Tracing allows you to use a pattern multiple times in more than one size.
  • Tracing allows you to blend between sizes if you are more than one size (a smaller bust size than hip size, for example).
  • Tracing is absolutely essential if you need to make a significant adjustment, such as a bust adjustment or adding a dart, to a pattern.
  • Even for a PDF pattern, tracing saves paper and ink, not to mention the extra time it takes to tape it together if you need another size or view.
  • Tracing allows you to roll or fold the (usually very large) pattern pages up and put them away so you have more room to work. The tracings are easy to fold up and store, and are smaller and easier to deal with as you cut and sew (just make sure you’ve transferred all of the markings from the pattern before you put them away).

Cutting into a pattern presumes that you will only ever need one size, ever. While that is possibly true for you, it’s not been the case for me. Each pattern maker has their own unique sizing and I’ve made one size of a pattern only to discover that I’d prefer a size larger or smaller. I’ve also gone up and down through a handful of sizes over the past decade for a number of reasons (OK, mostly having kids), and every time I slide up or down a size, I’m glad I didn’t cut up my original pattern. This is especially true when the pattern I’m working with is a paper (printed) pattern, a tissue pattern, or a large-format copy shop pattern sheet.

In summary, tracing a pattern allows you to keep the printed pattern intact for making different sizes or views in the future or in case you need to make any fit adjustments.

What is Swedish Tracing Paper? 

How to trace a pattern with swedish tracing paper

My tracing paper of choice is Swedish Tracing Paper, shown above, which is 29″ wide and comes in a 10-yard roll. This has become more readily available at shops that sell garment fabric, so check your favorite retailer and support small businesses, please! I’ve also purchased it at WAWAK and Amazon.

A good substitute is Pellon 830 interfacing (shown below) but it’s a little thicker than STP, and usually more expensive if you calculate the price per square inch. I also prefer the 29″ width of STP, which I find easier to work with than the wider Pellon.

How to trace a pattern with swedish tracing paper

The main reason I prefer either of these options over basic (and usually cheaper) tracing paper is that it’s much more sturdy and less likely to tear, making it much more useful long-term. It’s about as strong as a dryer sheet, if that gives you an idea, which means it’s pretty hard to tear. If you’ve ever worked with a tissue paper pattern you know how easily those patterns can tear, so having a tracing that is more sturdy than the pattern you started with to me is a clear advantage.

In addition, swedish tracing paper is lightweight, easy to fold up and store, presses beautifully with an iron if it gets wrinkled, and can even be basted or pinned together if you want to do a quick “tissue fitting” (putting the pattern pieces up to your body to see how the pattern will fit).

How to trace a pattern

Here’s Jess to help me show you how to trace!

How to trace a pattern with swedish tracing paper

You will need:

  • The pattern you want to trace
  • Swedish tracing paper or Pellon 830
  • Straight edge and pencil
  • Pattern weights or other items to weigh down your tracing paper and keep it in place while tracing (we’ll be using coffee mugs in this tutorial. Campy-like.)

Step 1. Lay out your pattern on a large flat surface. We’re using Beatrix here.

How to trace a pattern with swedish tracing paper

Step 2. Place the tracing paper over the pattern piece you want to trace

How to trace a pattern with swedish tracing paper

Step 3. Place pattern weights or other objects over the tracing paper so it won’t move around while you trace.

How to trace a pattern with swedish tracing paper

Step 4. Trace around the outline of the pattern piece. Use a pencil and a straight edge, and choose the size line you need using the key given on the pattern.

How to trace a pattern with swedish tracing paper

Go slowly and trace carefully. You want your lines to be nice and clear.

How to trace a pattern with swedish tracing paper

How to trace a pattern with swedish tracing paper

Add notches or markings along the outer edge. You can add these as you go, or after you’ve finished the outline of the piece.

How to trace a pattern with swedish tracing paper

How to trace a pattern with swedish tracing paper


How to trace a pattern with swedish tracing paper

Step 5. Add additional markings and labels

The grainline arrow is one of the most critical pieces of information on a pattern piece (the vertical portion of a fold arrow functions as a grainline as well). Add fold arrows, cutting lines, hem lines, darts, dots, and any other additional markings such as pocket placement lines that are present on the pattern piece. You don’t want to have to go back to your original pattern sheet once you’ve put it away because you forgot to add an important marking.

How to trace a pattern with swedish tracing paper

Then add the name of the pattern, the size you traced (you would not believe how many times I have forgotten to do this and then wondered later what size a tracing was), and the pattern piece name and cutting indication (like “cut 2 interfacing” or “cut 2 on the fold”). Now your pattern piece is ready to use!

How to trace a pattern with swedish tracing paper

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Staystitching is Important


Attention, everyone, this is a sewing PSA. Staystitching is a garment-sewing technique that is really important. I am sharing this with you because when I started sewing, many years ago, I did not know what staystitching was, but even if I had, I probably would have skipped it. Now that I am older and wiser, I want to share this nugget of wisdom with you.

If you’ve ever sewn one of my women’s patterns (specifically for woven fabrics, such as Ruby, Beatrix, or Gemma), you may have noticed a step that instructs you to staystitch, followed by the words “IMPORTANT: DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP.” I’m guessing most people ignore this, mostly because if I didn’t know better, I probably would.

I’ve mentioned before that my mom taught me how to sew, but knowing how stubborn and headstrong I was as a child,* I doubt once she communicated the fundamentals to me that I spent much time listening to any further details. Details like: be careful about skipping steps that might initially seem unnecessary, because you may regret it.

In addition, my younger sister Elli took a 4-H sewing class from a very strict and anal retentive seamstress, and her experience left a strong impression on me. I remember the jumper she was working on taking her the better part of a year to complete, which seemed like utter torture to me. It made sewing seem so un-fun. As a result, I took an alternate approach with a more carefree sewing attitude: skip all but the most essential steps, and see what happens. In some cases, I discovered it didn’t really matter that much (three rows of gathering stitches vs. two or even in some cases — GASP — ONE.), but in other cases, I’ve discovered that taking a little extra time to add a seam finish or in this case, staystitch, can make a big difference.

*I can picture my mom thinking, “Just as a child…?” as she reads this.

So…what IS staystitching?
Staystitching is a line of stitching added to the edge of a piece of fabric (often along a curved edge such as a neckline or an armhole, but not always) that stabilizes the fabric so that it won’t stretch out while it’s being sewn. Additionally, if you’re making a piece of clothing, staystitching prevents the edges from stretching out if you try it on to check fit. The staystitching lines in the photo below are around the armholes and neckline of my chambray Gemma tank.


How and when do you staystitch?
To staystitch an edge, sew along the edge of the fabric, about 1/8″ away from the edge, using a normal straight stitch. Earlier patterns of mine said “using a regular length or slightly shorter than normal length stitch,” but I’ve since decided that a shorter stitch actually stretches out the fabric too much, so I now recommend a regular length stitch such as 2.5-3 mm.

As for when to staystitch, I think there are two schools of thought. The stricter approach is to staystitch edges after you cut out your fabric pieces, but before you do any sewing. I feel this is only necessary when sewing with a really unstable or slippery fabric. The other approach, which I prefer, is to staystitch any curved edges such as necklines or armholes after shoulder or side seams are sewn, but before facings or bindings or sleeves are attached. I take this more moderate/less strict approach because in most cases, woven fabrics are stable enough to sew some of the seams before staystitching without stretching out the garment significantly. Additionally, staystitching goes much faster when you can do a whole armhole in one go, instead of, say, having to staystitch the front armhole separately from the back armhole due to the shoulder seams having not yet been sewn.

That said, I can appreciate that some sewists would disagree and say that it’s better to be safe than sorry. I almost always favor the quick and easy sew, as long as it doesn’t sacrifice good construction technique.

I’ve probably utterly confused some of you, and if that’s the case, my recommendation would be just to try staystitching the next time you sew a piece of clothing. It definitely make more sense if you’ve got the garment in front of you, to be sure.

So, what say ye? Are you a Die-hard Staystitch-er? Or do you play it fast and loose and skip it? Have I convinced anyone to change your short-cutting ways?

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How to use a copy shop file

how to use a copyshop file

All of my PDF sewing patterns for women’s garments are now available in print-at-home and large-scale format for printing at a copy shop. I haven’t seen much discussion or explanation about copy shop files in the blogosphere, so I thought I’d provide some information about what copy shop files are and why we use them, and I’ll give you some pointers about how to go about getting them printed if you’re new to this! Also, if you’ve purchased a pattern from me in the past and would like a copy shop file, I’ll let you know how to go about getting one.

General copy shop info

My digital patterns have always included pattern pieces that are formatted in “tiles” so that you can print the pattern pieces on a regular household printer, then tape them together to assemble the pattern pieces. A copy shop file, on the other hand, is formatted so that the pattern pieces are all on one giant page. The file must be sent to a print shop to print the pieces at full size, so you end up with a wide-format piece of paper with all the pattern pieces on it, like the one shown above.

Most pattern designers who include copy shop files with their digital patterns include two different copy shop files: one for 36″-wide paper (more common in the US) and one for A0 paper (more common in the rest of the world), which is 84.1 cm by 118.9 cm.

Pros and Cons

There are plenty of advantages to a copy shop file! Most people prefer not having to tape pattern pages together, so a copy shop file is an obvious choice for someone who wants a digital pattern that isn’t available in print. Some people don’t have home printers, and even if you do, with a copy shop file you don’t have to use up your own paper, ink, and tape. Printing at a copy shop can also be quicker than ordering a print pattern and waiting for it to come in the mail. And for pattern designers, it’s nice to be able to offer a large-format option without having to invest thousands of dollars into printing a paper pattern. Finally, I think copy shop files are easier to store: you just fold or roll up the sheet and store it like you would a roll of wrapping paper for future use.

The disadvantages to copy shop files are mostly related to the extra cost and inconvenience. It’s probably going to cost at least $10 (and in some cases, over $20, especially for complex patterns that have many pieces) to get an adult-sized sewing pattern printed at a copy shop, so you have to factor that in when considering how much you will spend on a digital pattern. If you have to add an extra $10 or $15, that definitely bumps up the cost. You also need to factor in the additional time it will take to send your file to the copy shop, and then go pick it up when it’s ready.

Overall, however, I think it’s pretty clear that a copy shop file is nicer and easier to store than a print at home pattern.

How to get it printed

Here’s a screenshot of what my download page looks like:

made by rae copy shop files

Each pattern comes in a “zipped” format — this means that multiple files have been bundled so you only have to download one item. Once you download it, double click on the file and it will “unzip” to reveal a folder that contains a bunch of different files. They’re all labeled clearly, and there’s even a handy “read me” sheet to help you out.

Do a little research first

To get copy shop pattern pieces printed, it pays to do a little research in your area for local print shops. Do a web search, then call around or check their websites to find out what their rates are. You can also usually email them a file and ask for an estimate before you commit to printing it. I go to Kollosos, a locally-owned print shop near my studio in downtown Ann Arbor. Their rates are reasonable, so it costs me about 50% less than the big copy center chain (rhymes with Gingkos) to get a pattern printed there. I would strongly encourage you to search around first for the mom and pop shop rather than the big chains; chances are good you’ll find a much cheaper option.

You’ll probably have a choice about paper and print quality, so be specific: ask them to print it at 100% scale, in black and white (color will cost bunches more) and on the cheapest paper they have. Once they’ve opened the file, they should be able to tell you exactly how much it will cost before you get it printed.

Let me reiterate: look for the locally-owned print shops!! There is a very good chance you’ll get a better price than at a national chain.

Special Note if you choose to print at Staples

Instead of uploading the “US” copy shop file, use the A0 file, and select the “Engineer” printing option, whose dimensions are 36 x 48″.

Ready to print?

Depending on the business, you’ll have an option to email or upload the file to a print shop’s website. Or you can save the file to a flash drive and deliver it in person. Remind them that you need the file printed at 100%.

All my patterns are for personal use only, and are marked with my copyright information.  If a printer tells you they can’t print a file because of my copyright, you can draw their attention to the note on the file where I’ve indicated that it’s ok for them to print a copy of the file for your personal use.

CHECK SCALE: Most importantly, before you take it home, make sure to measure the scale box on the copy shop printout with a ruler to check the scale before you use it; copy shop employees make mistakes too!!!

Printing online with

I’ve recently used for the first time, based on my friend Meg’s rave review. It’s a website where you can upload pattern files to be printed and mailed back to you, and it’s great!! To save on shipping, I’d recommend getting at least 3-4 patterns printed at once. It was a little confusing to place my first order, so here are some pointers:

  • Read the “Description” at the bottom of the order page to learn how to check the dimensions of your files. Choose the printing option that has the smallest dimensions that your pattern pieces will fit.
  • You can only upload one item per paper size, so if you have multiple pages in one pattern, or multiple patterns whose pages fit in the same paper size, you’ll need to upload a “zipped” or compressed file.
  • To zip files, select all the pattern piece files that fall into the same size category, then right-click to select the option “compress files,” and your computer will turn all those pages into a tidy package to upload.
  • There is a section on the website where you can add a note about sizing. Make sure the pattern is printed as is (no scaling, no “fit to page”) so that your files will print out exactly as they are intended.
  • As with all printing, make **sure** to check the scale on your patterns when they arrive.
Trace, don’t cut!
Once you get your pattern printed, use it the same way you would use any pattern. I always just trace the size(s) I need so that I never have to cut into the printout. To store my copy shop printouts, I roll them up like posters, label them and keep them standing up in a box in my studio. An alternative would be to fold them up and file them with your tracings and instructions that go along with the pattern.

Learn more about how I organize my patterns here.

Finally, if you purchased one or more of my women’s (PLEASE NOTE: I only have women’s copy shop files available at this time!) patterns before the copy shop files were available and you would like the large-format files, please use my contact page or email me at rae(dot)made(at)gmail(dot)com with a proof of purchase (this could be the order number, the order confirmation email, or forward your receipt or download email) so we can look it up and send you a fresh download link that includes the copy shop files.

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