Some thoughts for the new year

I’ve been slowly easing into 2018 rather than hitting the ground running, as you might have noticed from my lack of posts this past two months. Taking a break, evaluating new ideas and last year’s accomplishments, spending some time to collect myself. Considering that many people post their end-of-year roundups in December, it’s easy to feel like you’re already behind by the time the new year rolls around if you do this.

Studio clipboards

However, I recently stumbled across this post, which contains some good writing about pacing your life to match the rhythm of the season. I wholeheartedly endorse the idea that winter should be more about cozying up and relaxing than galloping off to execute a million new plans, especially when you live in a cold place like Michigan. It also reaffirms my long-held suspicion that Labor Day is a more appropriate New Year’s Day, something I’ve privately been observing for the past few years. I’m happy to report that it works rather nicely, especially considering seasonal rhythms. Who’s with me?

Last month I intentionally took a break from posting or starting new projects, since I was filming with Creativebug the first week in December, and then we were traveling as a family to Seattle for Christmas, where I also taught a class at Dry Goods. I intended to return to posting in after the new year but I have to admit, it’s been tough to get my momentum back. Nevertheless, taking a step back is good. It forces me to think carefully about why I do what I’m doing, rather than just barreling forward because that’s what I’ve always done, and to reflect on the past year’s accomplishments.

There’s something quite pleasing about writing down your accomplishments, and once I’d made a list, I thought perhaps you might like to see it too. Understandably not all of you stay glued to your screens waiting for my latest post (and good thing too…imagine the wait!), so here is a rundown of some of the things we did here at MBR last year:

Gingham Cleo skirt

The Cleo skirt pattern was our first new pattern launch, which we followed in summer with the Cleo showcase (aka blog/IG) tour, a Cleo sewalong and the Cleo print pattern launch. Spending that much time on Cleo throughout the year meant we didn’t develop any summer or fall patterns, but I still think it was a good decision. It really helped focus attention on Cleo, which took a little while to gain momentum, as some patterns do. The effort paid off; Cleo grew more popular as the year went on, and it was really fun to see so many people making and rocking their own versions of it and including it on their #2018makenine lists.

Cleo in print

Putting Cleo into print also gave me an opportunity to give the print pattern covers a little facelift. I replaced the teal border with white, and for Cleo we introduced a stapled instruction booklet rather than the fold-out sheet. I think both formats have their advantages and disadvantages (the main disadvantage of the stapled booklet being cost), but I really like it and will definitely consider using it on future print patterns.

Big geranium in print

We also used the new cover design for a print launch of Geranium in bigger sizes (kids’ 6-12) and for a reprint of the Geranium in baby/toddler sizes (0-5).

The Geranium Expansion pack was our other new pattern launch for 2017, and I had fun working with Rachel Kovac, who did the sample sewing and photography for that shoot. I had been feeling dissatisfied with my own product photography and felt it was time to hire it out to a professional. Having had admired Rachel’s photos and blog for many years, I asked if she’d be interested in working with us. Gratefully she said yes, and I’m so happy that she made time for this project. The dresses turned out so beautifully, and the photos were fantastic.

Geranium Expansion Pack sewing pattern

We also had a lovely showcase tour for Geranium Expansion Pack in the fall. I’m grateful to the talented women who participated for their lovely contributions to the tour.

GXP tour roundup

Interestingly, the release of the expansion pack also fueled a rise in sales for the original Geranium pattern, which ended up being our top pattern seller for 2017, making it the first year in quite a while that a children’s pattern has been beat out a women’s pattern for shop sales (though Cleo was a close second).

GXP samples

Other projects from this year include:

….the Starry Sky Skirt in Making magazine (a basic gathered skirt in both children and women’s sizes which I am considering selling in the shop),

…the Sidewalk knit showcase (many of these knits are still available, by the way — I just saw the flamingos in Annie’s shop yesterday),

…a reboot of the Buttercup Bag pattern, which is now available in two sizes for free when you sign up for my newsletter,

Pop up shop

…we had a quick pop-up pattern shop through my shop website (usually we don’t ship patterns direct-to-customer from my studio) in September,

…I traveled to San Francisco for a week to shoot three of my women’s patterns with Creativebug in December. I’m excited to reveal those to you when they launch this spring; I think it’s going to be awesome for those of you who enjoy having video tutorials as a resource to help you sew!!

…I posted two Beatrix’s for the fall Stylemaker tour,

…and I went to Squam for the first time.

That’s not all; there are still a number of projects we started but haven’t finished. I’m excited to share those with you, too.

Looking back on a full, productive year, I feel an immense gratitude to all of you for your encouragement and support. Thank you for showing up and sewing my patterns and sharing what you make with the rest of us. It inspires others, encourages me more than you can know, and it propels me forward. Without your energy and enthusiasm for making, my work would not exist, and I feel very lucky to be able to do something I love so much and grateful for the opportunity to help you sew things you love.

Thank you, friends! May your 2018 be even better than you hope for.

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While She Naps podcast

Hey friends! Just a little note to let you know that I’m sponsoring this week’s While She Naps podcast. I listened to the episode yesterday while I was running/walking (I’m getting back into shape using a Couch to 5K workout schedule, so I’m taking it sloooow), and I really enjoyed Abby’s interview with guest Jennifer Judd-McGee. Have you ever heard of her? She’s an amazing artist and I loved hearing her story. It’s a good one!!

While-She-Naps-Podcast-Logo

I’ve also got a special discount set up for While She Naps listeners, so head over to While She naps, listen to the podcast, and get the discount code for my shop. Many of you know that I rarely do sales or discounts, so take advantage of this one while it lasts!!

You can subscribe to Abby’s podcast on iTunes or Stitcher. I listen to all my podcasts with my Podcast app (for iPhone). I also recommend subscribing to Abby’s newsletter if you are a creative entrepreneur; she always has the scoop on the latest stories and tools for handmade business owners.

 

CRAFT-ish podcast guest

Hi hi!! Happy Friday! I just wanted to let you know that I’m a guest today on Vickie Howell’s CRAFT-ish podcast. Vickie has had a successful career as an author, teacher, and blogger (among other things) in the DIY and knitting world, and her podcast explores many aspects of the creative industry with guests who are artists, entertainers, and authors, so I was honored when she asked me to be a guest. Our conversation focused on my journey from physics teacher to blogger and pattern designer, with topics such as the role of feminism in my career choices, working with a team, and how the internet is still the “Wild West” when it comes to sewing patterns, free stuff, and etiquette. I had so much fun talking with Vickie that we kept talking after the show was finished recording — she just had so many interesting questions and issues that she kept bringing up! Like many of you (and me), Vickie has been working as a creative entrepreneur online for a long time, and it’s so interesting to reflect on how things have changed over the years in the online craft space. I hope you’ll listen to the episode and let me know if you have any additional thoughts or questions. Thanks for having me, Vickie!

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It’s also my birthday today, woot woot big thirty NIIIINE! Usually Mr Rae and I go out for dinner on my birthday and this year I want Elliot and Clementine to come along too. I’ve always enjoyed my kids, but now that they’re getting older, it’s fun that they’re getting old enough to hang out and talk, so I think it will be fun; we don’t normally take them to nice restaurants. Steak and Shake is their favorite place on earth, so an elevated gastronomic experience is usually not worth it. Hugo is staying home with a babysitter (he’s kindof a nightmare at restaurants right now), but someday I’m sure he’ll be invited along too!

Have a great weekend!!

Helloooo!

I love Mondays so much!!! Monday is a fresh start, with a brand new set of days stretched out before you that are going to be really awesome. I don’t get the “I hate Mondays” thing. Personally, I like Mondays even more than weekends. Isn’t that crazy? Yay for crazy! UPDATE: Now it’s Tuesday because I didn’t get this posted yesterday because I got distracted, big surprise there (I like Tuesdays slightly less than Mondays..by Tuesday, Monday has usually disappointed me a bit).

Jess in studio

Last week was really busy and fun because Jess (there she is, above!) came to Ann Arbor to work with me at the studio, so I worked more than usual. 2.5 days is about my usual. Jess and I did lots of sewing, worked on a new pattern, and took lots of photos. We had a sewing night on Wednesday at the studio that was jam packed and totally fun. Mr. Rae ended up being out of town again so I was also pretty exhausted from also keeping three children fed and clothed, so I didn’t really find any time to post on the blog (oops…still need to figure out that whole “editorial calendar” concept…or not…whatever), but I’m really excited to show you all of the things we worked on!

And then, the weekend…Jess flew home on Friday. We dropped Elliot off at camp for a WEEK (ack!! we miss him!). We drove to West Michigan to hang out with my in-laws. We went to the Downtown Market in Grand Rapids for lunch one day. We swam in the pool (except for Hugo, who still won’t get more than his feet wet). Mr Rae and I had a date night. We went out to the lake to see a sunset. We went to a birthday party for my niece. And then we drove home. I probably need to relax a little or something. Sometimes I feel like life is pretty crazy. But at least it’s not boring, right?

Here’s some other random stuff and linkadoos for you to enjoy today:

Thank you to everyone who has purchased my newest pattern, Gemma!! I’m thrilled so many of you love it! I’m excited to post some tutorials for Gemma techniques, tips for fitting Gemma, and some ideas for variations soon.

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lately

lately : made by rae

Life has been crazy and busy lately. Mr Rae and I have both been traveling a lot since the year began, and Hugo was super-sick (again) this week with an ear infection, cough, and hives (that was so. not. fun), so I’ll be really happy when (if?) things settle down a little bit. Our anniversary was Sunday and we have yet to celebrate it, but that’s OK. We’re both a little meh about our Valentine’s Day anniversary anyway, since we can never get a reservation or a babysitter without thinking at least month in advance (not my style, big surprise there haha), but I’m sure we’ll figure out a great way to celebrate. We’re both currently dreaming of a European vacation (he was in Germany last week, and loved Munich, so I think a trip through Paris, Munich, and Venice would be spectacular, don’t you think?). Here are a few other things on my Rae-dar:

last week…Jess came and worked at the studio (see pic, above, we look like twins, don’t we?) and it was a real treat to have her here in Ann Arbor for a few days. She usually works for me remote from Missouri, which works out great, but it was really nice to be face to face instead of communicating over email and skype all the time. We worked on a new skirt pattern (see bottom left pic, above), among other things.

this weekend…I’m heading to Columbus, Ohio to attend Midwest Craft Con tomorrow and Sunday. Super excited to meet some new crafty people and learn new things!

upcoming class at Dry Goods: I’ll be teaching a Luna Pants class at Dry Goods Design in Seattle on April 1st, and there are still spots available if you want to join us! Super excited to see their new space in Pioneer Square, and of course, spend some time with my parents. Somewhat late-to-the-game but related: Did you read that terrifying PNW-earthquake article last summer in the New Yorker? Ack.

finally finished…knitting a Latte Coat for Hugo (top right), just in time for the sub-freezing temps to end, of course. Knitting is my side-hobby. Apparently I’m not the only one feeling the knit-bug; at our Sew Ann Arbor sewing night last week (bottom right pic), nearly everyone was knitting or crocheting. It was great! (PS join us sometime if you’re local!)

fabric lust: really really excited about the Yucca (voile!) and Lore fabric lines by Leah Duncan for Cloud9, due out next month. Envisioning Luna Pants and dresses and skirts galore.

want to make…Carolyn Pajamas by Closet Case Files pattern, Roscoe Blouse by True Bias, Sylvie Dress by Christine Haynes. These would all be so great for spring!

want to knock off…this Tea Collection dress for little girls (and this one) with a quilted bodice is SO adorable. Could make something similar with some solids (maybe these?) and the Geranium pattern?

washi dress sewalong…is currently in progress over on Instagram, hosted by @trulymyrtle (find all posts under the #washidressSAL tag) Who’s sewing along? It’s never too late to join in! (Pattern here, by the way)

new favorite recipe: I made this Curry Squash Soup last week (yes, I surprise even myself sometimes and cook a meal) and it was so yummy. Perfect thing for the cold days we’ve been having here in Michigan.

want to up your garment-sewing game? My friend Deborah of Whipstitch is putting together an monthly sewing club for people who want to learn new techniques called The League of Adventurous Dressmakers that looks like a ton of fun. Registration is open until the end of the month and Deborah asked me to help spread the word before registration ends (soon!); definitely check it out if you’re interested!

more eye candy: Amy Butler released Issue 3 of Blossom Magazine last month and it’s stunning. Now I want to go to Morocco.

That’s enough for now…wishing you all a wonderful, relaxing weekend!!

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this week

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halloween: How much do I love that Clementine’s Elsa costume has been finished since last Christmas? Or that Hugo fits into the Cow Costume this year? Or that Elliot decided against being Minecraft Steve (which was likely going to end up with me last-minute-papier mache-ing a box for that big block head and then E blindly tripping around all night because he has a box on his head) and instead decided on “Mad Scientist?” Anytime I can Prime a miniature lab coat, a pair of welding goggles, and some hair gel and have a Halloween costume, I am a happy lady. I don’t love to make Halloween costumes, although I do love to look at them once I’m done slaving over them, for example, this one.

pants: I’ve named the new pants pattern “Luna Pants” as a nod to the fact that they’re a bit like a lady’s Moon Pant. They’re graded, the first draft of the instructions are finished, and we’ve gone through the first round of testing, so I’m happy with how this one’s coming along. I’m also really excited because I think they’re going to be AWESOME in knit…more testing needed, but I’ll report back. I’m hoping to show you some of the fun versions I’ve been making here on the blog soon (one of them shown above). Hoping it will be ready in a couple of weeks!

travel plans: as it cools off even more here in Michigan, I’m really excited about two trips I’m planning to warmer places. In a couple of weeks, I’m taking Clementine and Elliot to Disneyworld. It’ll be their first time going to Disney, and it’s also first time I’ve taken them on a plane without Mr Rae so I’m a little nervous. Honestly though flying anywhere without Hugo sounds like a piece of cake.

I’m not gonna lie, the whole Disney vacation thing is a little insane. I feel like I’ve been taking a bizarre crash course trying to plan this trip. FastPasses, MagicBands, trying to get groceries delivered to our hotel, figuring out the dinner reservation system, the whole place seems to operate on a totally different set of rules and it’s a little weird…I don’t know. Jury’s out on this one, guys.

You want to know what the craziest thing is though? I haven’t told my kids we’re going yet. I have it in my head to completely surprise them. Right now my plan is to tell them the night before that they’ll need to get up early and get on a plane for a surprise trip, but let them figure out where we’re going as we travel. I haven’t worked out the exact surprise-reveal details yet, but they still don’t suspect anything as far as I can tell, SO SHHHH DON’T TELL THEM!!!

I’m also VERY EXCITED because I signed up for for Heather Ross’ Sewing and Craft Weekend at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs next January and MY MOM is coming too!! It’s been a long time since I took a “me” trip so I’m looking forward to just sitting back, relaxing, and sewing with mom and a bunch of other fun people. Weaving and Fabric Dying with Heather and Anna Maria and Annabel Wrigley? Yes Please. By the way I think there are still some spots open if you’re interested…it’s gonna be super fun!!

Best thing about traveling to warm places? I can still sew myself some summer clothes.

listening: I added London Grammar and Wet to my Mellow Sewing Playlist on Spotify and I totally recommend looking them up if you’re looking for some new music. Both groups feature amazing female lead singers, remind me of Feist, and have a beautiful, haunting sound that seem perfect for fall. Maybe if I could actually figure out how to post my playlist here you could listen to it…geez Rae you are such an old lady sometimes *facepalm*

watching: this week Mr Rae had to work every evening (yeah, bummer. it happens sometimes), so I watched Grey Gardens and The Theory of Everything. Both movies have been on my to-watch list, but not on his, so that worked out nicely. Both are based on true stories and sent me straight to Wikipedia to read more. I love it when that happens. Of course, as a former physics teacher I knew plenty about Stephen Hawking’s work and that he had ALS, but the movie is much more about his relationship with his first wife. Highly recommend that one!! Grey Gardens was really fascinating (and good) too.

Have a happy weekend, and a safe Halloween to those of you who will be trick-or-treating!

PS. Can you believe how big my kids look in that photo above?? I took that picture last weekend when we were playing at a nearby school playground. They are growing tooooooo faaaaaaast!!!

Lately

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Happy Friday, friends!! Here’s what I’m up to lately:

For the past…hmmm quite a long time, actually, I have been slowly working on drafting and then sewing pants. I’m on a mission to make myself some pants that are comfortable and cute for fall. I put together a Pants board on Pinterest so you can see some of my inspiration. You can see a little sneak peek above, I’ll try to post more pics of my progress soon! Also shown in that pic: I got some new Danskos for fall (they’re called “Thea” just in case you’re interested)! I love that tealy-green color.

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I also bought myself a sleeve board for pressing. It makes pressing kid pant legs, sleeves, and other narrow tubular stuff so much easier. I’m looking forward to finding even more uses for it. That’s kind of a silly thing to post about, I guess, but maybe some of you who sew clothing might find it handy!

I also joined Periscope last week. Periscope is a new social media app that allows you to do live broadcasts from your phone; viewers can comment and add hearts so it’s very interactive, but the videos disappear after 24 hours so it also feels a bit Snapchatesque because it’s very impromptu, unedited, and temporary. This week I got up the courage to do two broadcasts (one from home, talking about my current work/home situation, and one from my studio, doing a little tour) and so far I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I feel brave for doing something that was really hard, and so many people responded positively to it and that was very encouraging. On the other hand, I felt frustrated that Periscope didn’t have a better way to deal with annoying commenters; there were a few people who joined the broadcast who posted annoying comments (and in one case, a really offensive word), and I wasn’t really prepared for that so I didn’t block them soon enough…anyway, that part was a bit of a bummer and a lot of people who were watching felt bad. But you know what wasn’t a bummer? Seeing how many people joined, gave me hearts, and said nice things and that they enjoyed it. So that was really fun. (Oh! I’m @madebyrae if you want to find me on Periscope!)

Some linkadoos:

I was really flattered that IndieSew asked if they could include my Beatrix sewing pattern as part of their fall collection. They just finished hosting a fun blog tour to feature the patterns and there was some mighty cute stuff in the mix. I really love what IndieSew is doing; rather than just selling third-party (other peoples’) PDF patterns, Allie makes an effort to actively promote the work of the designers, as well as produce awesome blog content like tutorials and information on different types of fabric to support those of us who want to sew clothing. I also love her story about how she got started.

My friend Anna just posted about the arrival of Knitting Season, and I feel like I’m getting the knitting bug too. Maybe this is the year I will knit myself a sweater???

Loved this post from Colette about supporting small/indie business.

Oop! Hugo just woke up so I’ve gotta go! He has a new tooth (#5) as of this week and has been a wee bit out of sorts as a result. Here’s a pic of him from the orchard we visited after school on Wednesday; the kids love sticking their heads through the big wooden shapes so I can take their pictures…it’s become an annual September tradition!

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Have a great weekend!

this week

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We’re in West Michigan this weekend for a cousin’s wedding. Left Ann Arbor just in time to avoid Graduation Weekend Chaos, and then realized it is Tulip Time Insanity here in Holland. Next year: somewhere else.

beatrix: my newest pattern, Beatrix (you can see a version I’m working on, upper right), is in the works. We’re working very hard to get it done and get it done right. We’re finished with our second round of testing as of this week. You can see some great photos over at Cherie’s blog and more under the #beatrixpattern tag.

mmm15: I’m going to try to wear handmade this month as many days in a row as I can for me made may ’15. Never participated before, we’ll see how it goes. I certainly have enough handmade clothing to go for a month straight; the challenge seems more to be about getting a decent selfie more than anything else. Logging my ensembles over on The Gram.

baby update: dropped Hugo’s crib down to lowest setting and pulled up the rail now that he can reliably pull himself up, second tooth has appeared. Discovered he CAN crawl, but he’ll only crawl on our bed, not on the hardwood floors.

haircut: am feeling v. springy with a newly coifed head of hair, some teal extensions. This is my second time with color extensions (the first set was pink and much more subtle). I really like how you can just have them taken out when you’re sick of them. Cut off about 8″ of hair; it was nearly long enough to donate, but not quite.

watching: The Good Wife (very good), just finished Daredevil (enjoyed this quite a bit), the latest season of Girls (i love this show, but this season was a little meh), and some of The Americans (SO GOOD). I used to sew at night, now I watch TV. Must be the three kids thing.

pants: am reading Pants for Real People. I don’t have much to show for it yet, but I’ve decided that sewing pants for myself is on the agenda for this year (and FYI “pants” does not mean “knickers” here in the US; it means trousers).

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