A look back at my year in sewing

I’ve been seeing lots of project roundups from last year pop up on other people’s blogs over the past week, and I realized how much I enjoy them. I love seeing a bunch of things from the entire year presented in one place! So satisfying. It just appeals to my visual side. So I started to look through all of my projects from this past year to see if I could sum up my 2012 projects in photos. It turns out that’s a pretty big job, yikes. At the same time, I definitely started to see some general trends. For instance, I sewed a TON of stuff for me this year, especially dresses and tops (YAY!!):


1. scarfonme, 2. Sparkler Top, 3. libertytop1, 4. Wiksten Tank by Rae, 5. green snow white top ., 6. Charcoal striped shirt by Rae, 7. Alabama Chanin Babydoll, 8. teal tee with green skinnies, 9. figuring the eight


1. Washi Dress, 2. Pink washi maxi dress, 3. Summersville Washi top, 4. aqua washi dress, 5. Time for Tea, 6. aquawashi7, 7. Orange Washi, 8. hello pilgrim full length, 9. Ruby Star Washi Dress

I’m super proud of what I accomplished this year when it comes to sewing for myself. Believe it or not, I learned a ton of new techniques and I feel like the things this year I made are more comfortable and wearable than clothing I’ve made for myself in the past. I also made a TON of stuff for Clementine (DOUBLE YAY!!!):


1. Pink Geranium Dress, 2. fauxfurcoat, 3. flutter sleeve linen dress, 4. Princess and the Pea Dress, 5. pomegranate pierrot, 6. yellowjacket, 7. Bubblegum Dress, 8. nursery versery pamama pants, 9. charliegreensnowwhite, 10. geranium fox top 4, 11. whale shirt, 12. pink and gold crochet sweater, 13. Striped flashback tee with puff sleeve, 14. Little folks dress, 15. pierrotwithabow, 16. Charlie Dress

So that’s cool. BUT. For the boy? Not so much.


1. flashback13, 2. awesomepants1, 3. shirtshorts5, 4. short sleeved flashback tee


It makes me really want to sew more for this little guy. The crazy part is, he really likes to wear things I make for him (unlike Clementine who is very hit or miss and usually requires bribery to get photos), so I actually do sew quite a bit of stuff for him, but not much of it ever makes it onto the blog because it’s always a little bit boring. Like two plain brown Flashback tees. A pair of grey linen pants. Yeah. Time to amp it up in the boy department, Rae.

So, my sewing goals for the new year…hmmm. I think we should Celebrate the BOY, don’t you? I’d also like to try more skirts and pants for myself this year. And I know this might seem strange, but I think I need to cut back on the amount of stuff I sew for Clementine. It is really fun to sew for her, but she seriously had more clothing this year than I knew what to do with, it was crazy.

Charlie Tunic in KNIT! with WHALES!

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

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


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



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

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

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

Your photos!

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

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

Some great applique embellishments here and fantastic graphic prints:

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

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

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

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

Raindrop Board Shorts

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

This post is part of the Celebrate the SUMMER Boy series!

You can go here to see all of the posts from Made by Rae in one place, and here to see all of Dana’s posts.

More Board Shorts!

You didn’t think I made just one pair did you??

You know I had to. He just loves this fabric too much. This is a print from Lizzy House’s Red Letter Day collection. Thank goodness I bought so much of it. This pair of shorts brings the total number of items in his wardrobe made with this fabric up to…three (along with the bucket hat and the pants).  The pattern here again is the Board Shorts pattern by Patterns by Figgy’s.

One of the nice things about this pattern is that the instructions include a “smooth finish,” something that might seem time-consuming at first glance but in reality is really important to creating a pair of shorts that will last not only all summer but through multiple hand-me-downs. This is especially important if you are sewing with linen (like the Kokka linen blend which I made that retro radio pair with) or something else that frays easily. It’s definitely a tradeoff. On the one hand I like to sew something really fast, but at the same time want it to last. Sometimes it’s worth the extra couple of steps to insure that you won’t have to go back and make repairs later.
It’s not often I turn stuff inside out for you guys. You must know I really care about you.
Since I’m more a visual person I got a little confused by the instruction book steps and had to rely on some online tutorials to help me get the idea of how to put the pockets on and finish the side seams. I do like how the twill or bias tape both sews the pocket together and finishes the pocket edges in one fell swoop. Smart.
The perfect outfit for making some important calibrations to the new bike (well, new to us. Gotta love Craigslist):

Board Shorts in Retro Radios

While the hat is the most-often-worn item in his summer wardrobe, the shorts and tee comprise the official summer uniform. I fell in love with the retro radio print from Melody Miller’s Ruby Star Rising fabric line and had Elliot pick out the color he liked the best. The boy has great taste, if I do say so myself.

Fabric procured from Nido (I also bought some of the navy radios, pair of pants for fall maybe?)
The pattern I’ve been using for E’s shorts this year is the Board Shorts pattern by Patterns by Figgy’s. The pattern also comes with the Beach Bum hoodie which is also on My List but has yet to be attempted (love this picture of the hoodie).
It’s amazing to me how just one extra line of stitching on a bottom hem makes it look so much more professional.

I made another Tee for Two to go with them. Decided that a few extra strips of jersey and a pocket would “retrofy” it up a little, and I love the result.

me: “Elliot, what are you doing with that broom?”
E: “using it for a horsey.”
Of course.

This is the joy of making handmade clothes for my kids. Especially when I’m making something for Elliot. I mean, where could you find clothing like this in a store? It’s completely unique, completely him. And way more comfortable than store-bought clothes!

Next up…another pair of Board Shorts! And make sure you head over to MADE to see Dana’s striped pajama how-to!

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

The Best Burp Cloths

Warning: Lots of blahdeeblahdeeblah in this post. Anti-readers should go elsewhere. BUT! There’s a tutorial at the end of it all if you can make it that far!

When my sewing career started up again post-college with the purchase of a cheap Singer online (which is now completely worthless, a discussion for another time, another post), I began making baby gifts for friends. That seemed to be the time when everyone around me was beginning to procreate. I myself had just begun to date my high school boyfriend for the second-time-around (who later became Mr Rae) and was nowhere near thinking about procreation or marriage at that point. Nevertheless I found baby gifts to be the perfect sewing project as I started to relearn the sewing skills that had been abandoned in my youth. One of the first things I made was a burp cloth for a friend’s baby which later received rave reviews both for its attractiveness and functionality. Later when I had my own children I made loads of these and found them to be one of the most useful items those first few months. I reached for them before the birdseye diapers because they were cuter, and before the commercial multipack ones because well those are just plain worthless. I’ve seen many types of handmade burp cloths, but I like the way these really show off the fabric you choose.

Last weekend my sister-in-law had a shower for her soon-to-be-expected baby boy, so I put together a stack on the suggestion of my other sister-in-law who had also found them invaluable. Just a couple of hours of sewing and I had a handmade, adorable gift. This is a great beginner project especially if you need to make a baby boy gift which can be harder to come up with at the drop of a hat (and by the way bibs are almost as easy and just as useful too!)

The front sides of the four burp cloths shown above are made with super-soft single layer gauze that I ordered from Spoonflower (a digital fabric print-on-demand website). One of the things I love about Spoonflower is that you can have your fabric printed on many different kinds of fabric. This particular set of designs is from a limited edition collection designed by Heather Ross exclusively for Spoonflower called Macaroni Love Story which is no longer available, but you can order her current Spoonflower collection here which is equally cute. Otherwise, just look around for a few minutes and you’ll be sure to find a design by someone that suits you!

Now a note about this “gauze.” It’s actually not called “gauze” by the Spoonflower folks, it’s called “voile,” and I must freely admit to you that I was downright miffed last winter when it arrived on my doorstep bearing almost no resemblance whatsoever to the material called “voile” that has become popular of late (first by Anna Maria Horner and now by many other fabric designers), meaning I wasn’t going to be able to use it for its original intended purpose. In fact I still feel it is a wee bit deceptive to call it “voile” considering the other voiles on the market, although I’m sure it technically qualifies as a voile by weight. If I were running things over at Spoonflower (which, obviously, I am not) I would call this a “single layer gauze” so that is what I am calling it in this post*.

Regardless of what you want to call it (and whether or not you think it’s worth getting grumpy about, ummmm), it absolutely makes the BEST material for burp clothes. One fat quarter would make two burp clothes, but a full yard would make four (EIGHT! Thanks Susan for that correction. I used to teach math…wow, how did that happen?) at a better price. If you ordered a full yard and hemmed it you’d have a perfect summer baby blanket very similar to the other gauzy muslin ones that seem to be popping up all over the place lately. And if the price tag seems high to you, think about this: you are paying for the ability to print a specific design (including your own) on demand. That’s been unheard of until very recently.

*Please don’t get me wrong: I think Spoonflower is great. Stephen and the gang have been nothing but wonderful since the start and my attempts with other fabric-on-demand websites have proven that they really have a good thing going on here. I would love to talk more about designing fabric prints and ordering digital fabric on demand, but again that’s another post, for another time.

Another material that is more readily available that is great for this project is regular quilting cotton. You might think it wouldn’t be absorbant enough, but you’d be wrong. It’s a little heavier but works just as well, and how many great boy prints are out there right now that would be fantastic here? You can go as crazy as you want, because it’s just a burp cloth, right? The back side of this burp cloth is knit jersey, which I usually cut from an old t-shirt. I also use chenille or minky for the back, but if you’re not quite ready to sew with knits, flannel or terry cloth would work just fine. I think you’ll find though that sewing with knit fabric is really easy for this project.

cutting knit from t-shirts for this is so easy!
just place the top rectangle right over the t-shirt and cut!

While I know that many of you could probably figure out how to put two rectangles of fabric together to make a burp cloth, just in case it helps you to have a picture step-by-step I’ve put together quick tutorial!

Voila! Burp cloths! So easy.

If you’re just joining us, this post is part of the Celebrate the SUMMER Boy series. You can go here to see all of the posts in on place.

And just in case you’ve missed what Dana has been up to this week:

First up on Monday was this fantastic tutorial on upcycling thrifted men’s trunks into kids trunks. Wow, don’t these look great?

And yesterday she talked about fabric selection in a FANTASTIC post about choosing fabric for boys!

And today? Racer Shorts!!!

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

Thanks for Celebrating the Boy with us!

I’ve had a fantastic time this past month making and posting so many things for the boys! I hope you’ve enjoyed our collection of tutorials, roundups and guest posts and that you’ll turn to it continuously in the future for ideas and inspiration.

Dana and I both get pretty tired, but it’s so worth it when I look back and see everything as a whole. I’m so proud of what we’ve got here. It’s been a busy month and we have had so many wonderful contributions. The response from readers has been so positive and enthusiastic. THANK YOU for joining us both as readers and for contributing your fantastic creations and ideas to our photo pool. I hope you’ll keep doing that throughout the coming year.

Here’s a look back at some of our tutorials….

{all of the photos featured here can be found in our Celebrate the Boy Archives}

and a few of our guest posts:

{all of the photos featured here can be found in our Celebrate the Boy Archives}

Would you do something for me please? If you haven’t yet, would you please take a moment to scroll through our archives (and here’s Dana’s BOY archives) and find at least one guest tutorial or post that you especially liked or appreciated and then make sure you GO OVER TO THEIR BLOG AND THANK THAT PERSON for all of the work they put into that project? I’m not sure everyone knows how many hours it takes to put those tutorials together. It would really make my day if you guys would just take a second to do that. Thanks!

I would like to thank:

  • All of our guest contributors for their fantastic posts. I was thrilled with how many guests were readers who had submitted their post ideas when we put out the call for contributions way back in November. You guys made this month what it is and without you I’d just be posting a bunch of stuff for Elliot. 
  • Two other people who deserve thanks are Carolyn who helped me with all of those roundup mosaics and Jess who helped me post updates to the Made By Rae Facebook page and Twitter.  
  • Thanks to our fabric sponsors Nido, Above All Fabric, Fabricworm, and Whipstitch who donated prizes for the awesome Boy Fabric Giveaways and to the shops that made our Boy Giveaway Day a success!
  • And special thanks goes to Dana: I just love hanging out with you for this month every year! What a fantastic teammate to have on this supercool project. I love all of the ideas that are constantly streaming out of your head and that great sense of humor. Your talent for blogging is truly inspiring! I take it as a huge compliment that half the emails I get during Boy Month are from people who think that you and I are the same person….hee.

I can’t end Boy Month without strutting my stuff just a little bit. Here’s one last final hurrah for all the new stuff that I made! Yaaaaaay! *does Kermit arms*

{all of the photos featured here can be found in our Celebrate the Boy Archives}

Alright, that’s a wrap! Now I am going to go take a break.