Tolt River Cowl

This year I picked up knitting with a zeal I’ve not experienced before; it’s normal for me to consider the odd knitting project around September and maybe make a baby sweater or cowl by March. But this past July, I went on a Maker+Stitch hiking and knitting retreat in Colorado that jump-started my annual knitting early. I continued knitting through the summer into fall and am still going strong. At this rate I may manage to make not one but possibly four things with yarn this year. WHO IS THIS PERSON? I don’t know but SHE CAN DO A LONG TAIL CAST ON WITHOUT LOOKING IT UP. Shocking.

tolt river cowl / made by rae

Andrea Rangel was the instructor on the knitting retreat, and the topic was colorwork, which for those of you unfamiliar with knitting really just means knitting with more than one color. In this case we used her soon-to-be-published Tolt River Cowl as a practice piece, and I’m quite thrilled with the boost my knitting skills have seen thanks to her patient instruction as well as how my cowl (above) turned out. Here are the other cowls that were made at the retreat, most still in progress:

tolt river cowl / made by rae

I’d love to tell you more about the retreat…I have so many thoughts about what I learned and why it was such a good choice for me this year, but for now I’m going to just share the reaction of the cowl’s intended recipient with you, for laughs.

tolt river cowl / made by rae

Let’s just zoom in on this a sec.

tolt river cowl / made by rae

Heee.

tolt river cowl / made by rae

I love that he’ll give me the pointed looks for the camera so I can capture it for posterity. To be fair, he said the wool was “too scratchy” and as a kid who herself spent a portion of her winters breaking out in hives from scratchy hand-knit items, I completely sympathize and was happy to pass it on to a more willing wearer:

tolt river cowl / made by rae

tolt river cowl / made by rae

I’m now currently into my second cowl; I decided to get Andrea’s book, Alterknits, from the library and attempt another pattern (sheep!) on this next one. I love that you can take any number of her patterns in that book and as long as your project has the correct number of stitches, insert her patterns into them as you like. Highly recommend the book (and it’s on my to-buy list, thank you library but I now need a copy of my own). Here’s some of the lovely samples Andrea brought along on the retreat from the book:

My next knitting goal now that Level: Colorwork has been unlocked is to try brioche. My friend Megan promises to show me how, and I’ve been eyeing a number of fun projects online and stalking Andrea Mowry on Instagram ever since setting my sites on brioche. Who are your favorite knitters to follow online?

I know many of you are knitters as well as sewists! Are you working on anything fun? Any new (or not-so-new) skills you’ve picked up that I should know about?

Pattern update: Rose pants!

Just wanted to give you an update on the pants pattern I’ve been working on this fall! The working name for this pattern is currently “Rose” as in the flower (my late grandmother’s favorite), and I love that the name “Rose” is both strong and feminine. Plus it’s consistent with my pattern naming history in that it’s botanical (“Parsley, Geranium”), a female name (“Bianca, Josephine”), and/or a color (“Jade, Ruby”).

After the striped Loominous pants (shown above) I made this summer got such an incredible response on Instagram, I decided to work on a pattern for it. The concept behind these pants is similar to my Cleo skirt design (flat front waistband, elastic back waistband, super comfortable), but in a pant rather than a skirt. I also wanted a super high rise, wide leg, and multiple lengths. After the initial prototype, Karen made pattern pieces in my size and I tested them out with this fun gold floral print from my recent line, Fanciful. I thought these were pretty cute!

Note that this fabric is quilter’s cotton, so it worked nicely as a sample muslin but could also be a fun summer pant. Since there’s very little drape, it behaves similarly to actual muslin fabric and is therefore helpful for finding and fixing fit issues. Here’s the back view so you can see the elastic in back.

Next I tried a much different fabric, and also played around with a longer length, for those of you who would prefer to have a long pant pattern. The inseam length on this brown pair is 32″ which is really a “tall” (I’m 5’8). I’m planning to include a cutting line for the more standard length (30″ inseam), as well as an easy guide so that if you need less or more length on the inseam it will be super easy to get the correct length.

I was really happy with how these turned out — I love this slub linen/rayon blend fabric (posted more info about it here, by the way, if you’re interested in sources). which made these pants incredibly dreamy and comfy.

Last week, I made another pair out of yarn-dyed Manchester cotton. Like quilter’s cotton, this fabric has very little drape and will probably get pretty wrinkly, but I wanted to try and see if a kick-pleat would work as nicely as four separate outward-facing pleats (like the ones above have). What do you think?

Currently we have the pattern graded into all nine sizes (that’s our extended women’s size range) but the pieces need a few more edits before it will be ready for testers. Meanwhile, I’m starting to sketch diagrams and write the instruction steps this week. Fun, fun!!! Tentative launch is set for early next spring.

I’m really excited to bring another fun pant pattern to the sewing pattern market — Luna has been a huge success and I hope you’re excited about Rose, too. Which view is your favorite so far? Do you prefer the separate pleats or the kick-pleats? Any other ideas you want to share? We’re always open to feedback and it’s fun when a great idea gets incorporated into a new pattern.

PS. If you’re interested in reading more about how we make a pattern here at MBR, check out my behind-the-scenes post from last week!

Luna Pants with a triple channel drawstring

These pants are easily my most-worn Luna pants this fall. I was inspired by another pair of dark chambray pants that I saw on Pinterest (they’re #14 on my Luna Inspiration list, if you’re interested), so Jess sewed this pair out of Rustica Chambray from Robert Kaufman Fabrics (59% cotton / 41% linen). They are ridiculously comfortable.

Chambray Rustica Luna pants
Chambray Rustica Luna pants

In order to get the narrow drawstring into the wide waistband facing without it swimming around, we made these with a triple channel drawstring. This is so easy to do. Here’s how!

Luna Pants drawstring

HOW TO SEW A TRIPLE CHANNEL DRAWSTRING

  1. After adding the waistband facing but before you stitch down the bottom edge, add two 1/2″-tall buttonholes to the center front of your pant, centering them vertically so that they’ll land in the middle of the waistband (See my other Luna drawstring tutorial if you need more guidance with this).
  2. Stitch down the bottom edge of the waistband, leaving a couple inches open in the back
  3. Mark two horizontal lines 3/8″ from the top and bottom of the facing for the channels, then stitch down around those lines, leaving a couple inches open at the back of the pant so you can thread the elastic through. This will leave about 5/8″ for the middle channel. Before you stitch, double check that the buttonholes will land in the middle of the center channel!
  4. Cut two pieces of 1/4″ elastic to the length needed for your waist (a chart is included for each size in the Luna sewing pattern). Using a safety pin or bodkin, thread the elastic through the top and bottom channels, starting with the top channel. Overlap the ends and stitch them together.
  5. Cut a strip of fabric for the drawstring, 1″ wide by your waist measurement + 1 yard long. Fold the two long edges of the strip into the center so that they meet, press, then fold in half, and press again. Edgestitch around the outside of the drawstring to finish it.
  6. Using a safety pin or bodkin, thread the drawstring through one buttonhole, around the pant through the center channel, and out the other buttonhole. Tie or knot as desired.
  7. Once you have tried on the pants and are happy with the fit of the waistband, stitch the holes for the elastic shut in back.
chambray rustica how-to / made by rae
chambray rustica how-to / made by rae

Voila! Pants with a triple channel drawstring!! Also: I love the hidden Lotus Pond pockets and waistband.

Chambray Rustica Luna pants

Behind the scenes: making a sewing pattern

In the past, I’ve kept most of the details about my pattern production behind the scenes, but I got such a huge response to the pants prototype I posted a few months ago on Instagram that I thought it would be interesting to try to be more transparent about the progress of this pattern from the beginning (in truth, however, this isn’t really the “beginning,” since I started working on this pattern last spring). In order to do that, I think it makes the most sense to give you a general idea of what exactly goes into making a Made by Rae pattern, who does it (surprise: it’s not all me!), and how long it generally takes.

From sketch to pattern pieces

Normally, the pattern-making process begins more than a year before launch, sometimes just with a sketch, sometimes with a prototype that may or may not end up resembling the final pattern. I then sew any number of samples to try to eliminate as many fit issues as possible before I have Karen produce pattern pieces in my size, which is usually somewhere around a M or L on our size chart, depending on the current size of my body. Karen and I usually go back and forth on the pattern piece edits for a while, and once we’re happy, it gets graded into multiple sizes for testing.

Instructions and other details

Through this entire process, I am also deciding on how many views/lengths we’ll offer with the pattern (if any), coming up with a name for the pattern, sketching diagrams, and writing an overview of the instructions. Once we have the bones in place, Jess works on writing the detailed instructions out in a Google doc, step by step, and Elli works on digitizing the diagrams in Illustrator. Eventually Elli takes the instructions and diagrams and put them together in InDesign to produce a visually beautiful layout. Other details like cover photography, copyshop files, yardage, and cutting diagrams come later. It’s an intricate process that involves juggling many different things at many different times. 

Testing, testing

Testing itself usually takes an addition month or two, depending on how many rounds of testing we do, and how long it takes to incorporate changes we make after testing. Jess manages testing, and that takes a ton of work, from recruiting testers, communicating with them, gathering their feedback into a spreadsheet, evaluating which tester comments will result in adjustments or edits, and compensating testers, just to name a few things that involves.

One thing that tends to save us a bit of time before pattern launch is that we never simultaneously released a print version of a pattern at the same time as it launches in PDF version. This helps eliminate risk (printing costs thousands of dollars, and we like to audition the pattern in PDF before taking the plunge and printing it) but also allows us to concentrate on a single format (digital) instead of having to also work on the print layout, which is completely different than the PDF layout and often involves multiple rounds of physical proofs. One day I think it would be awesome to launch a pattern in both print and digital at the same time (y’all have said you love a print pattern, I hear you), but for now this is what works for us.

How long does it take?

So, how long does all this realistically take? Hypothetically, if all of us involved in production (me, Jess, Karen, Elli) were completely focused on a single pattern, we could probably get it launched in about three months, from the moment we decided to work on it to when it went live. In reality, this is not a super realistic estimate, since we are almost always working on other projects (getting a previous pattern into print, overhauling branding, teaching Creativebug classes, running the pop-up shop) concurrently, so we are almost never putting 100% of our time into one pattern. This is by both by design (it’s easier to have a multi-person team working on more than one project at a time so we don’t get bottlenecks) and by necessity (kids or dogs get sick, one or all of us go on vacation, have a personal crisis, someone (ahem, Rae) gets distracted, etc.). In the case of a pattern like Luna, we took about four months, but Gemma took about six months, so it definitely varies from pattern to pattern.

For the current pants pattern, we recently took about a month off because Making magazine asked us to contribute a pattern to their upcoming summer issue (yay!! and stay tuned for more on that!!), but we’ve also been working on updating our print pattern covers, promoting Fanciful, and other random projects this fall, all things that take time away from pattern production. In the case of the Making pattern, it was an opportunity that I almost said “no” to, because I knew that it would mean putting the pants project on hold, but ultimately decided I really wanted to do. I try to weigh the pros and cons of every project before saying yes to something that might put the brakes on a passion project like the pants, but admittedly it’s not always an easy decision, and also, let’s be honest, I have a problem with saying yes to things I shouldn’t (note: I 100% do not regret saying yes to Making…I just mean in general).

Ok. If you’ve stuck with me this far, you get a medal. I could probably write a whole blog series just on working with a team and what everyone does, but hopefully this still gives you an interesting look at the pattern making process. As usual, I am happy to answer any questions you might have, so leave a comment if I missed anything you were wondering about!

For my next post, I’ll show you some pics of the current pattern-in-the-works samples (pants) I’ve made so far, so stay tuned!!

Roscoe Blouse

Yet another item from the “things I made this summer and am just now putting on the blog” list, this Roscoe blouse is definitely a favorite new top for me. I frequently wear it with jeans now that the weather is cooler, but I also wore it quite a bit this summer with the off-white silk noil Cleo skirt shown in this post.

 

The pattern is the Roscoe Blouse by True Bias, and I used a semi-sheer rayon that I purchased from IndieSew. I often nail-bite about buying rayon fabric because of the questionable environmental impact of rayon production, but I never hesitate to buy it from IndieSew because the fabrics are overstock (learn more about the sustainability of overstocks in this super informative post by IndieSew). And also, can we get a “hell YEAH!” for Cloud9 who is now producing environmentally-friendly rayons? The new Business Class line from Jessica Jones is great — it has “Boden Work-wear” written all over it.

Roscoe blouse / made by rae

I’ve seen quite a bit of discussion online about sizing for this pattern. Kelli designed this blouse to be super roomy, and recommends you select super flowy fabrics to make it. I think whether you decide to size down to something a bit less roomy is up to you, but I really like it like this and if I could do it again, I’d choose the same size (which, by the way, I chose based on measurements as instructed). I can’t remember now off the top of my head which size this was but I think it was either the 10 or 12, but as you can see from these photos, it’s very roomy (and I like it that way!).

Roscoe Blouse / made by Rae

I really love this boho style — it reminds me of a more-flowy, less-fitted version of my gathered Josephine with tassel ties. Unlike that top, this pattern has a raglan style sleeve and no center front seam, but I can see making many more of this style. I really love the solid copper version Meg just made and posted on her Instagram last week, so maybe I’ll try something solid next time!

You can purchase the Roscoe blouse in print or PDF version from the True Bias shop.