Jess Makes: Cleo skirt with side zipper

Here’s a modified version of the Cleo Skirt that I’ve been wearing a ton lately. Instead of using elastic, I gathered the back skirt to fit into a flat waistband, and added an invisible side zipper. The great news is that adding a zipper doesn’t even interfere with the View A pocket!

Here’s a  how-to:

  • Cut out Front Skirt, Back skirt, and View A pockets according to pattern.
  • Cut out *two* Front Waistbands out of fabric (no back waistband)
  • Cut two Front Waistbands out of interfacing
  • Press and interface BOTH waistband pieces as directed for the front waistband in Step 1 of pattern
  • Attach and sew View A pockets as directed in Step 2
  • Choose which side you want your zipper on, then only sew the side seam of the *opposite* side.
  • Gather front and back skirts as directed in Step 4
  • Prepare waistband as directed in Step 5, but only sew together at one side. Try it on by putting it around your waist and pinning it together 1/2″ from the ends to make sure it will fit (adjust length if necessary)
  • Attach the skirt to the waistband, matching side seams and adjusting skirt gathers to fit the front and back waistbands. Your skirt should look like this:

  • *TRY YOUR SKIRT ON* at this point, you’ll want to make sure the waistband fits you just right, and that it stays where you want it on your waist. Safety pin the open side of the waistband 1/2″ from the edge. Adjust your seam allowance if necessary!
  • Now you’ll install a zipper. I used an 8″ invisible zipper and just followed the package directions. I placed the top of my zipper at the fold in the waistband, with the 1/2″ of zipper tape extending past the fold. Here’s a good tutorial if you need a little guidance.
  • Once the zipper is installed, you can sew the rest of the side seam.
  • To finish the waistband, follow the directions in Steps 7-8; you can sew the whole waistband down at one time here because you don’t need to add elastic! Hand stitch the waistband for a tidy finish at the zipper.
  • Hem skirt as directed, and you’re done!

This version of Cleo has a couple of other modifications: it’s a mashup of the View B length with View A pockets, and the skirt is a good bit more full than the pattern calls for.

First, I cut out my pockets so that I could use almost all the rest of the fabric for the skirt. Instead of folding the fabric in half and cutting pockets out of two layers, I just cut them out separately, end to end, along one selvage of the fabric.

For the front and back skirt pieces, I followed the View B length of the pattern pieces, but made them each the full width of the fabric that remained after cutting out the pockets. (This rayon is 54″ wide, so the finished width of this skirt is well over 90″!)

I’ve had this Anna Maria Horner rayon stashed away for quite some time now (as evidenced by its total unavailability on the internet), and I’m so glad I finally got around to making a Cleo Skirt with it. Sometimes the simplest design is the best use for a lovely bold print like this; and rayon is simply delicious for a Cleo. Let us know if you try it yourself!

Use the tags #cleoskirt #raemademedoit and #madebyrae to share your creations on Instagram. We’d love to see them!

Posted in Cleo, Jess
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Jess makes: Lawn Washi with a Bow

It’s been a good long while since we shared any Washi Dresses here on the blog! I made this summery Expansion Pack version out of Heather Ross’s collection for Windham Fabrics, Sleeping Porch. Printed on a lawn substrate, this is the perfect fabric for a summer dress because it’s so lightweight and soft.

Washi with a bow / Jess makes

Isn’t this bow magical? Rae had to tie it for me before we took the photos, then I carefully folded up the dress and didn’t touch that perfectly-tied bow until I finally had to give in and wash it. (Bonus: Watch how Rae ties a bow so it won’t tilt HERE!)

Washi with a bow / Jess makes

This dress has all the elements of View A of the Washi Expansion Pack:

  • Large bow at neck
  • Bias-bound armholes
  • Elastic Casing in the back
  • Pleated front skirt

If you’re not a big fan of shirring, it’s nice to remember that you can use a simple elastic casing along the back the way I chose to do here. And of course I never skip the pockets when making any version of the Washi Dress.

Washi with a bow / Jess makes Washi with a bow / Jess makes

Washi with a bow / Jess makes Washi with a bow / Jess makes

Ready to sew your own? Here are the Washi Dress original pattern and the Washi Expansion Pack. If you don’t have either pattern yet, you can purchase them as a bundle!

If you need some inspiration, it’s always fun to take a look at the Washi Page here on the blog. There you’ll find links to every blog post featuring this beloved pattern, along with size charts, yardage charts, and some other helpful resources.

We’d love to see all your Washis! Share them on Instagram with the hashtags: #washidress , #washixp , #raemademedoit and #madebyrae.

Jess makes: Cobalt Isla Dress

Navy wool Isla Dress by Jess

Hi all! Jess sneaking in to send you into the weekend with a little spring inspiration. This wool jersey Isla Dress is perfect for seasonal transitions. It’s light and drapey, and I was surprised to find that the wool is noticeably warmer than cotton jersey of a similar weight. I’ve worn it with a cardigan and tights all winter, and now it feels good on its own with sandals or clogs.

Navy wool Isla Dress by Jess

I got this cobalt wool jersey from Imagine Gnats close to two years ago. Full disclosure: it took this dress awhile to make its way into regular rotation because every time I wore it, I would turn slightly blue from the fabric. Now that I’ve washed it several times, though, it’s stopped letting off dye, and I love wearing this dress. (I think I was supposed to hand wash this, but it washes wonderfully on a cold, gentle cycle, and I hang it to dry).

Navy wool Isla Dress by Jess

Isla was our first knit pattern for women, and we’re currently in testing phase for Jade, a knit boatneck tee whose sleeves will fit into Isla’s armholes! We’re so excited about all the places we’ll go with that combo.

Navy wool Isla Dress by Jess

Ready to sew your own Isla? Pick up the pattern PDF in the shop.

See more Islas under the tag #islapattern and right here on the blog!

Bitmoji Jumpsuit

Rae here: This post is going to take a little bit of explaining, especially if you don’t know what Bitmoji is. The short explanation of Bitmoji is that it’s a keyboard for your phone (like emoji) where you build a cartoon version of yourself (you can customize hair, face, glasses, clothing, etc) so you can then send hilarious Bitmoji-generated images to others in texts and chats. I will also add that it is endlessly entertaining and addictive, and a huge time-suck, so consider yourself warned.

What does Bitmoji have to do with sewing? This is Jess’ story of how she was inspired to sew by her cartoon self’s wardrobe, and her Bitmoji came to life. Jess works as General Manager here at Made By Rae, and loves to sew things for herself. 

Jess' Bitmoji Jumpsuit

Here’s Jess:

I never considered sewing myself a jumpsuit until I put one on my Bitmoji and had an immediate puzzling sensation that I can only characterize as wardrobe envy. She exudes casual, yet put together! She can do all her ridiculous power moves, ride a unicorn, *and* diligently do her homework, all in her comfy and versatile jumpsuit! After discovering this outfit, my Bitmoji never looked back, and I enjoyed living vicariously through her. And that felt like enough.

Bitmoji mosaic

Then one day, I was perusing the knits at Stitch Sew Shop (my local-ish fabric purveyor), and couldn’t figure out why that olive green bamboo jersey in the knits section looked so familiar. I knew I hadn’t sewn with it before. But it kept whispering my name, intoning “Here’s your opportunity to go places you’ve never gone before!” And that’s when I remembered. my. bitmoji. I snatched up a few yards, rode my unicorn (ahem, the DC Metro) back home and pre-washed that stuff with great haste.

By the time my roomie Shonnie — who is well acquainted with my Bitmoji — got home from work that day, the yardage had already tumbled dry and was draped in a sultry cascade over the banister, awaiting, you know…

Shonnie: “Girl. What’re you gonna do with that olivey green fabric?”

Jess: “Jumpsuit.”

Shonnie: [Falls over laughing. Can’t speak for several minutes.]

I used the Sallie Maxi-Dress and Jumpsuit from Closet Case Patterns, which is pure delight. It’s beautifully laid out, well written, and has great instructional diagrams. The pattern has options to mix and match a tie-shoulder tank or a kimono tee on top; and pants or skirt on the bottom. The top is fully lined for both options, which makes for a tidy finish.

Let’s just say this pattern really made some dreams come true for me.

Bitmoji jessica in jumpsuit

Jess' Bitmoji Jumpsuit

Bitmoji jessica in jumpsuit

Jess' Bitmoji Jumpsuit

Bitmoji jessica in jumpsuit

Jess' Bitmoji Jumpsuit

Bitmoji jessica in jumpsuit

Jess Bitmoji Jumpsuit

I can also act like a flesh-and-blood human in my jumpsuit:

Jess jumpsuit

(via Instagram)

I came across Heather Lou’s pattern hack & tutorial to make a shorts version with the kimono tee top, so I think that’ll be my next move with this pattern. I’m always a season off, so I bet I’ll finish them just in time for Thanksgiving or something.


Ciao for now, everyone!
Thanks for letting me crash the blog, Rae.

xo, jess

Posted in Jess

Jess’ Bianca Dress with Contrast Facing

Made By Rae Bianca Dress

Made By Rae Bianca Dress

One of my patterns that never really got its time in the spotlight is Bianca, which launched just months after Hugo was born three years ago. It’s a lovely pattern for summer sewing, and this dress version from Jess that features the facings on the outside and contrast hem has always been one of my favorites.  Bianca also can be made as a top, and is best suited to fabrics with drape or a looser weave, like this Nani Iro double gauze (a collection from a few years back). The contrasting facings and hem bands are Kaffe Fassett shot cottons purchased from Hawthorne Threads.

The Bianca PDF pattern includes tips for how to make the facing visible the way Jess did for this version, and she added the contrast hem bands for a fun variation.

Made By Rae Bianca Dress

Here’s how to add the hem bands:

  • The finished hem band on this dress is 3″ tall. For the same proportions as shown here, remove 2.5″ from the hem of  both the front and back pattern pieces. Bianca has a slightly curved hem, but it’s way easier to add a contrast band if the hem is a straight line, so measure 2.5″ up from the bottom edges of each pattern piece, connect those with a straight edge, and slice along that line.
  • For the hem bands, cut two rectangles out of contrast fabric that are 7″ tall, one as wide as the front and one as wide as the back.
  • For Step 6 in the pattern sewing instructions, choose option B to sew side vents, and sew the seam allowances as directed for a “Clean Finish.”
  • Fold each hem band in half lengthwise with right sides together and sew along the short ends of each hem band with a 1/2″ seam.
  • Trim the corners, turn each band right side out, and use a point turner to push out the corners. Press.
  • Pin hem bands to front and back hems of the dress with raw edges together (two layers of hem band, one layer of dress), and sew together with a 1/2″ seam. Finish these edges with a serger or zigzag stitch.
  • Press seam allowances up (toward dress) and top stitch 1/4″ above the seam you just sewed to hold the seam allowance in place.

Made By Rae Bianca Dress

Alternate instructions: View B of the Beatrix Pattern has detailed instructions to attach hem bands in a slightly different way, so you can refer to those steps if you have Beatrix in your pattern library.

Made By Rae Bianca Dress

Made By Rae Bianca Dress

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.

Bird’s Eye View Gemma + Cleo

Bird's Eye View Gemma + Cleo

I’ve always thought the Cleo skirt would look awesome in a border print, so when Jess and I first laid eyes on the “Viewfinder” print from Sarah Watson’s recent collection, Bird’s Eye View for Cloud9 Fabrics, we knew it would be perfect for Cleo. We asked Cloud 9 for a couple of yards which they graciously sent over (thank you, Cloud 9!) and Jess sewed up this awesome cropped Gemma and Cleo skirt combo for herself. My jaw dropped to the floor when I saw these together. It’s just perfect, so chic, and I love the way that Jess cut these so that the Gemma has the larger-scale portion of the print, and the Cleo has the smaller-scale portion with the cactus.

Bird's Eye View Gemma + Cleo

Jess looks ridiculously adorable in this outfit. I’m pretty jealous, not gonna lie.

Bird's Eye View Gemma + Cleo

Bird's Eye View Gemma + Cleo

Bird's Eye View Gemma + Cleo

Sewing details

  • Both skirt and top were cut on the cross grain (that is, the pattern pieces were laid out on the fabric such that the grainline arrows were perpendicular to the selvage rather than parallel as is standard).
  • The solid orange waistband and back detail are made from Cloud9’s Cirrus Solids in the colorway Clementine
  • The armhole and neckline binding was applied using the french method (I wrote a tutorial for that method) without seam allowance added, resulting in a narrower shoulder.

Bird's Eye view Cleo + Gemma

Want to crop your next Gemma Tank? Follow the easy peasy tutorial here.

Jess’ Boatneck Washi Maxi Dress + how to

Washi Boatneck

When I posted my boatneck maxi version of the Washi Dress a while ago, I promised to share the version that Jess made last summer that inspired me to make mine. This fabric is “Sinister Swarm” rayon from Anna Maria Horner’s Field Study collection of a few years back.

Washi Boatneck Maxi

I just love this dress! It’s stunning and flowy and it looks fantastic on Jess. I definitely recommend using rayon if you want to try a boatneck maxi version of Washi because it definitely makes the long skirt drape nicely in addition to being super comfortable to wear.

Washi Boatneck

If you want to make your own, here’s a quick how-to!

How to make a Boatneck Washi

You will need:
1 yard of extra fabric if you’re also making a maxi version (optional!)
swedish tracing paper
clear ruler + pencil
Washi Dress Pattern

First you’ll need to trace a new Front Bodice Piece with the following modifications:

1. Extend the center front (fold) line up 4″ at the top, then square the corner at the top. This corner needs to be 90 degrees so that it doesn’t create a peak or a dip when it’s cut on the fold.

2. Mark the midpoint of the shoulder edge. This will be the new neck edge of your pattern piece. From this point, measure out 2 1/4″ along the top of the shoulder and mark. The new shoulder line will now extend a little past the previous shoulder edge of the pattern.

3. Draw a new armhole and neckline. For the armhole, draw a smooth line that eventually meets up with the original armhole close to the sleeve notch marking. For the neckline, connect the new neckline shoulder point with a curve to meet the center front at a 90 degree angle.

In this photo, the green lines are the original pattern piece tracings, with mods shown in pink.

Washi Dress with boat neck

Next, use the new Front Bodice as a template to modify the top part of the Back Dress, making sure to change the neckline and armhole in the same manner as shown above. You want to make sure front and back match!

Now you’re ready to cut out your pieces and assemble your dress using the Washi Dress instructions.

To make the boatneck into a maxi, follow my Washi Maxi Dress Tutorial to lengthen and slightly widen the Front Skirt and Back Dress.

To add a lining, follow the Washi Dress Bodice Lining Videos for instructions on how to use my “sausage” lining method for this. If you wish to line the entire dress, the Maxi Dress tutorial linked above has notes about how to do that (we lined just the bodice for this dress and my Observer maxi dress.)

Even with the added width in the skirt, I’ve found that leaving side slits from just below the knee down to the hem makes walking a lot easier in such a long Washi Dress. Here’s a great tutorial to make side slits.

Washi Boatneck

I know that’s a ton of details to apply to one pattern modification. Honestly it’s almost entirely a new dress pattern, so I’d really only recommend this if you really feel comfortable hacking patterns and you’ve made the Washi Dress before! Please leave a comment or send me an email if you have any questions or need clarification. And as always, I love to see what you’re making with my patterns. The #washidress tag on Instagram is full of awesome versions of Washi!

Washi Boatneck Maxi

Jess’ Rayon Gemma Top

jess's tomato rayon gemma

Look!! Jess made this awesome flowy Gemma tank out of Field Study rayon which I would steal but it’s not my size. I am also coveting her hair. Moving on. She used the french binding method (tutorial at that link!) to finish the neckline and armholes without adding an extra seam allowance (more details on that in the tutorial). You can see here how the straps come out narrower as a result.

jess's tomato rayon gemma

This is Jess doing her “Rae” impression, below. Har har.

jess's tomato rayon gemma

I love this view of the back here:

jess's tomato rayon gemma

If this fabric looks familiar, I made a Bianca and a Washi maxi dress out of the same print. Do we love it or what? It really is great, and so comfortable.

Rayon is one of my favorite fabrics for sewing garments because it is super comfortable to wear, and if you buy higher quality rayon (Free Spirit and Cotton and Steel are two manufacturers I like) it’s actually quite easy to cut and sew. The same is not true for cheap rayon though…no fun!!

jess's tomato rayon gemma

The Gemma Tank sewing pattern is available in my pattern shop, and you can access all three binding tutorials from the Gemma Page if you need them for future reference!

Posted in gemma, Jess