My favorite fabrics for Rose pants (and shorts)

fabric for rose pants

Choosing fabric is a fun part of sewing up a new pattern, but fabric can have such a huge impact on fit (see this post for evidence) that if you miss the mark on fabric selection it can really make or break a pattern for you. Two garments made with the exact same pattern pieces but different fabrics can fit so differently (remember Jess’ post?) that it can be hard to know where to start, especially if you’re worried about the pieces fitting correctly in the first place. I know this can be stressful, especially if you’re new to sewing garments, so I wanted to provide some suggestions just in case you didn’t know where to start.

Here are five fabrics we’ve successfully made Rose pants or shorts out of, along with a few notes to help you in your fabric selection process.

1// Silk Noil (100% silk)

rose pants in silk noil

This fabric was an instant fave from the moment I sewed my first Cleo skirt with it last year. Meg got me into this fabric from Stone Mountain and Daughter (a number of other shops sell it as well; see list at bottom of post). It has a slightly nubby texture, is not at all shiny (it seems similar to what we used to call “raw silk”), is super soft, has tons of drape, and best of all, it’s machine washable (and can go in the dryer on low); just be careful as some of the colors may bleed when washed.

2 // Brussels Washer (linen-rayon blend)

rose pants in brussels washer linen

Jacqui was the first of our testers to try this cotton/rayon blend from Robert Kauffman, and Jess’ shorts sealed the deal: this fabric is PERFECT for Rose, plus it’s a fairly affordable option and widely available. Win-win.

3 // Essex (cotton-linen blend)

essex linen rose pants

This fabric has less drape than most of the other options in this post, but it still has a lovely weight for pants or shorts like Rose, as well as a softness that seems to get better with every wash. My light pink cropped Rose pants are made with Essex. I love that Robert Kaufman (the company that manufactures Essex) also offers some prints on the Essex base-cloth (shown above), as well as yarn-dyed options.

4 // Slub viscose-linen (linen-rayon blend)

rose pants in viscose linen

We discussed the pros and cons of this fabric at great length in this post, but it’s still one of our very faves due to its awesome drape, softness, and slub texture. Note that it goes by a number of names; see that post for names/sources.

5 // Loose-weave cottons (ikat, Loominous)

rose pants in loominous

This is a slightly less defined category, but when it comes to summer pants and shorts, you can’t go wrong with a soft, loosely woven cotton. The handwoven ikat cottons from India that have grown super popular in the past couple of years are a great example, so are the Loominous cotton collections from Anna Maria Horner. Both of these have similar behaviors: mid-weight but breathable, 100% cotton, loosely woven (as opposed to poplin, quilting cotton, or lawn), and soft. Avoid cotton gauzes and double gauzes for pants, however; the weave is a bit too loose for pants, and won’t stand up over time like more durable cotton fabrics will.

Where to buy:
You can also find some or all of these fabrics at Fancy Tiger Crafts, Ewe Fibers, Dry Goods Design, Imagine Gnats, Stonemountain and Daughter, and Shop La Mercerie; Blackbird Fabrics and Needlework Hamilton are great Canadian apparel fabric sources.

Finding the right fabric for a project can make the difference between loving something you’ve made and having it end up in the back of your closet. What are your favorite fabrics to sew pants or shorts with?

The Rose sewing pattern can be purchased in my shop. Check out the Rose page for more posts about this pattern!

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?

Sewing with knits

sewing with knits

As I get ready to launch my Isla sewing pattern for knits, I thought it would be nice to point you to some knit sewing resources here on my blog! You can find a list of everything mentioned in this post on my Knits Page.

First, I would highly recommend taking a look at the KNITerviews (that’s a link to the intro post, and a full list of posts can be found here). In those interviews, I asked bloggers about their experiences and tips for sewing with knits. I can’t believe how many people have told me that they learned how to sew with knits using the KNITerviews!

Second, check out the Trace and Make T-Shirt and Leggings class I taught in my Sewing for Little Ones course on Creativebug (affiliate links). If you like learning from videos, I think you’ll love this class. Making clothes for kids is gratifying because they come together so quickly, and it’s great practice to learn skills without using up adult-sized quantities of fabric! The class introduces the following beginner knit skills: sewing a basic seam, different types of knit fabrics, and how to measure the amount of stretch.

I also did a few supplementary blog posts under the category Stretch Yourself: Sewing with Knits in which I dispensed some of my own knit sewing wisdom. There’s a few posts there that you might find helpful, including a tutorial series on Knit Necklines (two binding techniques + adding a neckband), and a post with Tips for Hemming Knits that many people have found useful.

Finally, I wrote a few posts about shopping for knits online and my favorite knit fabrics, though you may find that some of the links in the second one are a bit out of date. I’ll try to post a few more of my favorite knit fabrics soon!!!

PS. Did you get this month’s issue of Seamwork? It has a great article on how to fit knit garments, for those of you who want to advance your knit-fitting skills!!

Aqua Swim Coverup

Aqua Swim Coverup

We bought a city pool pass for the summer and have been to the pool twice already since school got out hurrah!! Unfortunately we had to leave mid-way through the first trip due to a “contamination” at the pool, but…let’s move on. Clementine decided she needed a swim coverup, and had clear ideas about making it, so we got to work.

Aqua Swim Coverup

She’s discovered the joy of having an idea and then sewing it to life, which gives me a great deal of joy, as you can imagine. For me (and I’m sure for many of you), sewing is more than just choosing fabric and a pattern and making something; it’s about realizing a vision, and I’m excited that Clementine is starting to get that. She doesn’t feel restrained by pattern pieces (though it probably would be easier if she did), she just decides what she wants and says “let’s make it!” It’s still my job to figure out how to get from idea to finished thing, but I’m sure over time she’ll begin to understand the fundamentals of clothing-building. She can operate the sewing machine pretty well with minimal supervision (she has her own Hello Kitty Janome), so that’s fun.

Aqua Swim Coverup

This project took all of an hour, since it’s basically just a rectangle of rib knit fabric (purchased here) sewn together at the side to make a tube, with some shirring on the top and straps added (similar to the Beach Goddess Maxi, but shorter and with straps). I didn’t even hem the top and bottom; I just used my serger to finish the edges with the standard serger overlock stitch. I did most of the sewing this time, while Clementine stood by and barked orders. She did find the shirring part to be pretty fascinating.

Aqua Swim Coverup

The coverup shrunk by about 3 inches in length when I threw it in the wash, even though I prewashed the fabric, which reminds me to mention that when you are sewing with knits, you really should prewash and dry your fabric two or even three times if you’re worried about shrinkage. It wasn’t a big deal her since it started out a little long (and now, perfect!), but if this had happened after I had made her a tee, I would have been frustrated. Takeaway lesson: PREWASH KNITS MULTIPLE TIMES!

Aqua Swim Coverup

Aqua Swim Coverup

As you can see, she’s still a character. But she’s grown so much bigger this year…waaaah!!! Aqua Swim Coverup

shirring infographic

Here are some more shirring posts from the blog:

Tutorial: Shirring with Elastic Thread (how to shirr!)

1. Aqua Swim Coverup
2. Beach Goddess Maxi tutorial
3. Baby Sunsuit Tutorial (free!)
4. Pomegranate Pierrot with Shirring
5. Princess and the Pea sundress
6. Yellow Birthday Dress with Bows
7. hello pilgrim!
8. Rainbow Dress Tutorial (free!)
9. Summersville Washi Tunic




Luna Fabric Inspiration

Over the course of the Luna Pantsalong, a bunch sponsors gave us suggestions for what fabrics they would recommend for a pair of Luna Pants. Now that the giveaway contests are all over, I’ve gathered them all into one post here. There are so, so many options; I’m sure these ideas will help you on your way to your next several pairs of Lunas!!

Andrea from Fabricworm recommended some gorgeous organic double gauze fabrics:

fw 4 fabric recs

top left: Wildland double gauze / right: Flight double gauze
bottom left: Wink double gauze / right: Elk Family double gauze

Emily at Jones and Vandermeer weighed in with these great ideas for Luna Pants:
jones and vandermeer

top left: Nani Iro Ori-some double gauze/ right: Liberty Bourton tana lawn
bottom left: Robert Kaufman Rayon Chambray / right: Cosmo Denim Effect double gauze

Cloud9 Fabrics doesn’t have a retail shop, but you can find their certified organic fabrics in a lot of fabric shops; they have a handy “Where to Buy” right on their website so you can see which stores carry your favorite prints. Here’s what the folks at Cloud9 recommend for Lunas:

Cloud9 Fabrics Inspirationtop left: Moody Blues voile / right: Desert Rose double gauze
bottom left: Threads double gauze / right: Yucca voile

Fat Quarter Shop suggested these soft, lightweight Denim Studio denims from Art Gallery Fabrics. I love the simple prints!

FQS 4 fabric recstop left: Ragged Daisies / right: Distressed Triangles
bottom left: Casted Loops / right: Pointelle Rings

Chelsea at Bobbie Lou’sFabric Factory recommended some lawns, double gauze, and voile — all great choices for a pair of lightweight summer Lunas:
bobbie lou's

top left: Flight double gauze / right: Limestone Fee voile
bottom left: Sunrise cotton lawn/ right: Mystery Food cotton lawn

Perusing Robert Kaufman Fabrics‘ amazing Instagram feed, I fell in love with a lot of the solids/semi-solids and yarn dyes. These would all sew up into lovely basic garments that you can wear with just about anything. I especially like all the neutral options they offer. Here are some of my picks for Luna Pants from their countless fabric collections:

Robert Kaufman fabrics for Luna

top left: Double Gauze Chambray Dobby / right: Manchester (new colors this season)
bottom left: Manchester Metallic / right: Essex Yarn Dyed linen-cotton

luna inspiration

top left: Textured Cotton in peacock / right: Cotton Silk Radiance in gold
bottom left: Wool Flannel in gray heather / right: Cherries rayon

For today’s fabric inspiration, Karen at Honey Be Good recommends these lovely fabrics for Luna Pants:


top left: Scattered Floral knit / right: Threads double gauze
bottom left: Wink poplin / right: Threads double gauze

As I’ve mentioned before, I love the idea of using knits for Luna and showed my knit pair here! I can’t say enough wonderful things about the Cloud 9 knits (though, obviously, I am biased); they are so soft and are a great medium weight interlock. Double gauze is a favorite pick of mine for these pants, and poplin would work perfectly for a slightly more structured look.

My all time favorite knit fabrics

UPDATED (October 2018): It’s been a while since I wrote this post! Check out my more recent post, “Rae’s Quick Guide to Knit Fabric” if you’re looking for great knits!

I’ve had more than a few people ask me for resources when it comes to shopping for knits, so I wanted to share a few of my absolute favorite knit fabrics of all time and a few places where you can find them. I’m also adding this post to the “KNITS: Stretch Yourself” series, which is a set of posts that contains tips and tricks for knit sewing and such.


One thing I want to say first is that you might notice that most of these knits retail for over $12/yard. I just don’t find many $6/yd knits that I love. Some are OK, but not great. Most get pilly after a few washes. Think about it though: most knits come in 60″ widths, so if you do the math, that’s roughly 50% more fabric per yard than you would get with a 44″ width woven fabric. So why on earth — when high-quality wovens cost $10-$12 yard — do we expect to get the same quality for 50% LESS, cost-wise, when it comes to knits? This baffles me, but I’m guessing most people never even think about it, they just see the higher $ and balk. Personally I’m happy to pay 50% more to know that my knits are well-made, high-quality, so that I won’t have to throw away something I’ve spent precious time sewing up. But this all goes back to my general philosophy on fabrics, which you can find more of in this post, if you haven’t had enough of my blathering yet.


Many of the knits below come from current or past sponsors of this blog, but some do not. I love fabric, so while I like to shop with my sponsors to support them, I never hesitate to purchase good fabric from other sources. You will see this reflected in these choices; these are the BEST knits I have personally had experience sewing with; however, there are a ton of other great knit fabrics that I haven’t yet had a chance to try out, including many that are currently available from the shops that sponsor this blog (for instance, the very popular knit-source Girl Charlee just started sponsoring this blog and I got their substrate samples last week, so I don’t really feel qualified to give you an opinion there, but I’m excited to give some of their fabrics a try!). Feel free to weigh in with your favorites in comments as well.

Pickering International
Pickering knits are a fantastic quality, and come in a number of different weights. I purchased some heathered jersey last summer from Sew to Speak (they take phone orders so I just watch their IG feed and call when I want something) that is a bit thicker, but the grey Pickering jersey I made the hoodie below from (purchased at Dry Goods Design in Ballard) is super thin and stretchy and has also held up REALLY well without pilling.

Hilco and Lillestof
These knits come from Europe, and are pricey but TOTALLY WORTH EVERY PENNY. The blue striped Campan knit that I made that henley for Elliot out of (below) may quite possibly be the best knit I have ever had the pleasure of sewing with. I’ve only been able to find Hilco at Banberry Place and Kitchy Coo, but maybe you know of other sources and can share them in comments.

Another Euro-knit brand with super-awesome prints is Lillestoff. If you like the Scandenavian look for your kid’s knit garments, you definitely need to check these out. You can find them at Banberry Place, Kitchy Coo, and this Etsy shop. (UPDATE: All of these links are now gone; does anyone know where to find these fabrics? Let me know!)

Robert Kaufman Laguna Knits
This jersey has a higher lycra content, giving it a wonderful recovery (it doesn’t get stretched out), and comes in awesome solid shades. I’ve made a ton of stuff with it, including tees for myself and my kids (see the pink tee for Clementine, below. I purchased that knit from Pink Castle, who currently carries a number of other great colors as well). Because it’s jersey, the edges curl up when you wash it, so I often skip the hemming and just leave the rolled edge much of the time.


Spoonflower Organic Knits
This substrate from Spoonflower (though I can’t speak for the other two substrates, the Performance Knit or their new Modern Jersey which is thinner and drapier) is one of my favorites. UPDATE: This substrate has been discontinued WAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!! I love the natural background color on this interlock, and it’s thick enough and has enough stretch to make for excellent tees. I don’t love the fading that happens (due to the digital printing process) when you wash it, but I’ve found you can reduce fading significantly by washing garments inside-out on a more delicate setting.

If you don’t want to purchase digital fabric on-demand, two similar organic knits are the Birch and Monaluna knits (that link is to the “knits” category at Fabricworm, where you can find both brands); while I don’t have as much experience sewing with these two brands (yet!), they feel very similar to the Spoonflower organic knit in both weight and stretch, and are equally as soft.

Windham knits
This year, four of the Briar Rose prints by Heather Ross were printed on a jersey substrate from Windham fabrics that was really soft and nice. I sewed a couple of things with it that have held up really nicely with wash and wear, so I’m adding it to this list because I’m hoping they will release more prints on knits this year! You can still find these knits a few places online if you just search for “Briar Rose Jersey Knits.”

And finally, this company is closed right now because they’re moving their facilities, but I’m really really hoping that they’ll open soon, because it’s one of my favorite sources for knits:

Near Sea Naturals  (update: now Organic Cotton Plus)
These organic cotton knits are manufactured in the USA and are super-high quality. Order swatches first to make sure you get the weight you want. My favorite fabric from them so far has been this charcoal and cream striped knit that I used both for a knit top for me (below) and one for Elliot. It’s a nice medium-weight rib knit that has a good deal of stretch and has a nice thickness. The cream jersey shown in the Alabama Chanin babydoll top shown below was also from Near Sea Naturals. As far as I know, they are only available from the Near Sea Naturals website.

If you found this post helpful, you may also enjoy this post:

fabric top five

My top five fabrics for clothing

I think about fabric a lot–probably more than is healthy or normal. I love how nice fabric looks and feels, and I love sewing clothes with it that I can wear over and over. I like looking at fabric just sitting on my shelf. It’s true, I am a hopeless FABRIC NERD.

fabric top five

When it comes to sewing clothing, I’ve tried just about every kind of fabric you can imagine; silk, rayon, knits, chambray, tulle, corduroy, you name it, I’ve tried it. The fabric I have the most experience with (hands down) is definitely quilting cotton, which I have tried on many occasions to beat into submission to produce clothing, with some successes and some failures (more on that later). But like many, I find myself drifting towards a special few types of fabric when it comes to sewing for myself. The following five types are my personal favorites, the ones I buy over and over, for things like the Washi Dress, clothes for Clementine, and blouses/top-type things. I’m ignoring the ginormous fabric category known as “quilting cottons” for now, partly because I think they really deserve a post of their own, and also because, though they do sew up nicely into certain kinds of garments, I still find myself, well, preferring these five instead when it comes to sewing tops and dresses.

You may notice that these fabrics aren’t necessarily the most traditional garment fabrics, but most of them are pretty widely available. I think the reason for this is that, like many of yours, most of my fabric purchases come mainly from the same online shops that typically sell quilting fabrics. I’ve also noticed that many of the garment fabrics that I grew up sewing with became pretty scarce when sewing went out for a spell (the Dark Years, when it was NOT COOL to sew your own clothing, so the only people who were sewing garments were the ladies making patchwork vests? Remember that? *shudders*). Obviously garment fabrics are still widely used by the ready-to-wear clothing industry, but they’re much harder to find by the yard in great variety unless you’re pretty savvy online or have access to shops like Mood or Britex in the bigger cities.

1. Double Gauze

This fabric is a double layer of gauze stitched together with tiny stitches to hold it in place and keep the two layers from sliding around. It has a loose weave and breathes well, making it really nice for summer dresses. And did I mention how soft it is? SO SOFT. My Aqua Washi is what I wear on days when I want to feel like I’m in my pajamas all day. No joke. One small downside: the loose weave can make it slightly more difficult to sew.

double gauze quad
Top: aqua WASHI dress, far far away top
Bottom: shirred sunsuit, princess and the pea dress

2. Voile / Lawn

I’m grouping these two types together because they are so similar in weight and behavior. Also: I understand that the “voiles” on the market now from Anna Maria Horner and Free Spirit and soon from Cloud 9 (KOI by Rashida Coleman-Hale will be the first collection to include voiles) are actually not true voiles, which are more loosely woven and sheer, but are indeed lawns passing for the fancier French-sounding substrate. (But since this is The Internet, as LeVar Burton would say–don’t take my word for it.) Why do I love these so much? Lawn/voile is really easy to sew as it is quite stable and doesn’t wobble around a ton like, say, silks or knits, but is still soft and floaty and lightweight enough to feel really comfortable. One small downside: it can be sheer, especially in lighter colors, so lining is often a must.

lawn voile quad
Top: green pleated top, pink maxi WASHI dress
Bottom: Liberty tie neck top, yellow voile top with white ric rac

3. Knits

It should come as no surprise to you that knits are high on the list of my favorites, since I’ve now posted two series of posts about knits (see them here). It just makes sense: if you are the type of person who loves to throw on a t-shirt every day (I am), why wouldn’t you sew with the fabric you wear the most? For kids, this is a no-brainer. My kids wear Flashback Tees almost every day.

knits quad
Top: Nani Iro knit top, whale tee for C
Bottom:teal knit top, fox tee for E

4. Rayon Challis

Rayon is what we were all sewing with back in the nineties. Now it’s baaaack, but it’s even better. This year, the highly-anticipated cotton rayon challis fabrics designed by Anna Maria Horner hit the market, and they are TO DIE FOR. If you haven’t already read Anna Maria’s fantastic posts about rayon challis, please read this onethis one and this one right now. I’ve sewn one top with it so far (not yet blogged), and I’m hooked. Drapey, silky, easy to sew, doesn’t fray a ton, washes like cotton…is this my Dream Fabric?? Maybe. My biggest problem with rayons currently is that the print selection is really pretty small. I also get the feeling that fabric shops that sell mainly quilting cotton as their bread and butter are hesitant to carry it, making it trickier to find online and in person. And so far, most of the prints on rayon recently have been — though lovely — a bit large for clothing; I think the smaller prints lend themselves better to garment sewing. Hello, manufacturers? Let’s see some more (small-scale) prints on rayon challis!!!

5. Cotton-linen sheeting

Finally, the lightweight cotton-linen blend fabrics called “sheetings” from Kokka of Japan are another of my favorite fabrics; they have a similar weight to quilting cottons, but I find them to be nicer and a bit drapier (is that even a word? I don’t know). Not quite as soft as the double gauzes or voiles, but I’ve really enjoyed wearing the clothes I’ve made with them, and you can’t beat the amazing prints from Melody Miller and Heather Ross printed on them in the past couple of years.

sheeting quad
Top: Charlie Dress for C, Green Snow White top
Bottom: Arrow Dress for Quilt Market, Ruby Star Washi Dress

Note: You can find most, if not all, of these fabrics in online fabric shops, including those that sponsor this blog; for those who are unfamiliar with shopping for fabric online, check out this post I wrote about shopping for knits online or this one: Rae’s Big List of Fabric Shops).

Keeping my patterns organized

organizing your patterns
This post was originally part of Pink Castle’s Spring Cleaning series. I’m bringing it home today — thought you might enjoy seeing how I organize my patterns!

When you’ve spent as much time using sewing patterns as I do, you realize that if you don’t figure out a decent pattern-organization system quick, you’re going to have a problem on your hands (in the form of a very messy pile of pattern pieces). Today I’m here to share my “system” with you. Maybe you’ll find it as handy as I do!

file cabinet

My system is pretty simple: I use file folders and a file cabinet. I label each folder with a sharpie (I used to use a label maker, as you might be able to see from the picture, but that ended up being tedious), and it goes in the file cabinet. I have two file drawers, one for my children’s patterns and one for my women’s patterns, which includes purses and bags. All the patterns are alphabetized by name, so they’re easy to find.

patterns on top

I also keep a few hanging file folders on the top of the cabinet for the patterns that are currently in use. It’s necessary to “weed” this one out occasionally and put the files back in the cabinet, but overall, it works great. Let me give you a few examples of how this works for me. All of the patterns I own fall into three main groups:

1. First there are the digital, or PDF patterns. I’m a pattern designer, and most of the patterns I sell fall into this category. PDFs get stored in a folder on my computer, but to be useful, they have to be printed out and taped together.

pdf patterns 1
When I’m done using it, I just fold up the PDF pattern, still taped together, and put it in a folder, and store it in the cabinet.

pdf patterns 2

2. The second type of patterns I own is traditional print patterns in their envelopes. I’ve been buying these kinds of patterns all my life, so I’ve got a bunch. These get stored in a plastic tub, but the file folder system works for these, too, as I’ll explain shortly.



3. Finally, there are patterns from books and magazines. These have big pattern pages in the back with all the pieces nested or overlapping each other. I use the file folder system for these types of patterns, too.


The thing all of these patterns have in common is that when I want to use them, instead of cutting them apart, I trace them. Whenever I want to sew something from a pattern, I first make a tracing of the pattern pieces so that I don’t have to cut into the original pattern sheets or print-outs. Not only does this save me a huge amount of paper and ink with PDFs; it also keeps my pattern sheets from books or envelopes in great shape.  Whenever I need a pattern piece, I take it out and trace the size I need. Where do the tracings go? You guessed it: into folders in the file cabinet!

tracing paper

I make all of my tracings from Swedish tracing paper, which is sort of like a non-fusible lightweight interfacing in that you can cut it, you can sew on it (think tissue fittings without the danger of ripping), AND you can press it! It’s transparent, so it’s really easy to trace a pattern outline in the size you need. Swedish tracing paper makes really nice lightweight pattern pieces that are easy to fold and store in my file folders, and if they get wrinkled, I can just press them flat again with my iron in a split second. (Three places you can find it: WAWAK, Organic Cotton Plus, and Amazon).

Big butt tracing

Whenever I need a pattern piece from ANY of my patterns, I trace the size I need from the original pattern with Swedish tracing paper. It’s really important to label the traced pattern with the size and name, because after a while those tracings all start to look the same. The tracings get put in a file folder, labeled with the name of the pattern, and put in the cabinet.

sew lib 2

When I want to use a pattern from a pattern book? I trace the size I want from the pattern sheet, then fold up the tracings and put them in a folder in my cabinet. I store the pattern sheet in the back of the book it belongs to on a bookshelf.

sew lib tracing

And when I use my traditional print patterns, I trace them, too (why destroy those nice tissue sheets when they can be reused for other sizes?). Those tracings? You guessed it, they go in the file folders, too.

print pattern tracing

And that’s really it! Questions? I’d be happy to answer them in comments.

How I take photos of myself

Came across this photo and thought some of you might find it interesting. Someone asked me the other day who took my photos and I said “ME!”  Mr Rae is usually at work when I want to take pictures, and he doesn’t really know how to use the camera in manual mode anyway.


So here’s what I do: I have a wired shutter remote from B&H, and attach it to an even longer cable so that I have about 12 feet of cord between me and the camera, which is on a tripod. Then I stand in the entryway to our house — the only place in my house with a white-ish wall that has enough light for photos — and press the shutter button on the remote to snap the picture. I have a 2-second timer delay set on my camera so I can drop the remote before the photo is taken. That’s it. Campy? Probably. I keep feeling like there’s a better way to do this but it works for me. Sometimes I put a munchkin up on a stool behind the camera and let them push the remote button instead. The photo you see above is just one of a couple “test” photos I take before I get started to check exposure and so on. For the maxi dress photos I was going for a slightly out-of-focus, ethereal/airy effect, so I overexposed them a bit.

Most of my photos then need to be cropped so that you don’t see my door, my rug, etc, because I try to use the largest aperture I can for the lens so that I get as much light as possible. Even in that entryway there’s not a ton of light.


So that’s pretty much my one photography secret revealed. Oh wait, there was this post a couple years ago about using white posterboard for photos. OK, two photography secrets. I feel like I’m gradually getting better at it, but I’m always learning new things. The internet is pretty amazing that way. Any tips you want to share?