Helen's Closet Patterns, Liberty Fabric, Sewing

Seersucker York Pinafore

This has been the summer of the York Pinafore. It has been really hot in the Northeast and when I made my first versions of the York, I realized that it would work well with many hand-sewn tank tops in my wardrobe and be a cool, loose work uniform. I also love that it can be made with 2 yards of fabric and that so many fabrics I already owned worked well for the pattern. So a couple of weeks ago, I cut out three more versions: one practically a duplicate of my much-worn linen-cotton version seen here using scraps left over from this Gemma:

When I originally bought this linen-cotton fabric 3 years ago, I bought a large piece and had many plans for it. I used it to make this Pearl shift which I love but never used the rest of it so had quite a bit in my stash. It turns out it was just waiting all this time to become a York or two. I also cut  one in a lightweight navy linen that I bought this year when I decided that I needed more linen in my life and a third in a cotton seersucker that I bought on sale this spring (and can no longer find where I bought it) which I hoped, but wasn’t sure, would work well in terms of drape. It is so lightweight, that if it did work, I knew it would be great for the 90 degree days we have been having. Turns out it worked great and I love it.

For all of my Yorks, I have lined the pockets. It occurred to me early on that it would be quicker to do that than to turn all the edges under and would simultaneously enclose and finish all of the pocket edges. I am really happy with how this has worked. Here are the pockets of my newest Yorks, all lined up with the top edge topstitched and ready to be sewn onto the front of the pinafores, along with a Ruby blouse bodice that will likely work well with all three. I like the challenge of making pocket linings and bias binding from fabric scraps from prior projects. I am not sure I am really saving a ton of money with the large amount of fabric I purchase but it at least gives me the illusion of thrift and I like the challenge of finding scraps that will work. I have used cotton lawn and voile as linings because I didn’t want to add a lot of bulk to the pockets and change the drape of the garment.

Here are the pocket pieces from my seersucker York ready to be sewn. I cut out the pocket piece from the main fabric and then use that as my template to cut the lining. I generally make the lining a bit larger and then trim once everything is sewn together.

Here are the pocket pieces sewn together and then turned right sides out prior to topstitching.

When I sew the pockets, I cut two of each of the pocket pattern pieces-one from the regular fabric and one of the lining fabric- and sew them together except for the seam that will eventually be sewed into the side seam, I then turn the pockets inside out and press and then sew to the front piece of the pinafore. Then I sew the side seams with wrong sides together and then again with right sides creating a French seam. Lots of trimming of fringe and stray threads happens in between sewing the two seams. I wasn’t sure how French seams would work with the pockets but I am here to say, 6 Yorks later,  that it has worked great. Here is a close-up of the edge of the pocket turned up so you can see the lining. I used a floral cotton lawn by Liberty of London left over from this blouse.

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And here are some pictures of the finished garment.

Front:

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Back:

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Inside view so you can see the trim:

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And as worn.

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I love that little partially hidden pop of floral liberty fabric. I am wearing my Seersucker York with my white double gauze Gemma Tank. I will be making another or these (or two) this winter as it is my go-to top. Goes with everything.

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I used leftover solid cotton lawn when I sewed a York in a cotton-linen canvas print: navy for pocket linings and bias binding and yellow for the hem facing. 

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The canvas was so crisp it was a pleasure to sew with.

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And here are the finished views:

Inside so you can see the bias binding and hem facing:img_2634

Finished front:

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And finished back view:

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And as worn:

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Most of my cotton lawn scraps come from the many Gemma Tanks that I made over the last few years, many of which work with my Yorks, creating endless mix and match outfits. Is it any wonder I keep making York after York? I have some pink linen fabric that I bought earlier this year planning to make a top but now I can’t get a pink York out of my head. Stay tuned!

 

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Reading and Books

Favorite Books So Far: Summer 2018

I have read 75 books so far this year and these are my favorites. I continue to get such good reading recommendations from my three favorite reading podcasts: What Should I Read Next? From the From Porch and The Librarian is In. Many of my favorites were Shelf Subscription Books, a monthly gift I give myself. Highly recommend! Linking up to book whisperer Anne Bogel aka Modern Mrs. Darcy. If you don’t follow her, you should. 😊

My current read is this new book about a road trip written by a fellow sewist. I am only a couple of chapters in but am loving it. Zoom in to see who recommended it! I loved The Mothers and if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. What are you reading and loving this summer?

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Bias Binding, Helen's Closet Patterns, Sewing

Ojos Flame Challis York Pinafore

img_3226Ever since I saw this beautiful version of the Helen’s Closet York Pinafore, I knew I wanted to make one for myself. One of my goals this year has been to use some of nicer fabrics in my fabric stash (the ones I have been saving and afraid to cut into) to sew garments. This is a very sheer, float-y rayon and I have wanted to sew something but hadn’t been able to decide which pattern to try.

This weekend the temperature in Connecticut finally dipped below 80 degrees and I decided to take the plunge.

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Helen’s version of this longer pinafore used a facing and spaghetti straps instead of bias binding. I originally thought I would do that too but the more I thought about it, the more I thought I could achieve a similar effect by tapering the straps. I ended up piecing the front strap because I decided on this approach after I cut everything out (I had originally thought I would do the spaghetti straps but then changed my mind) but I don’t think the piecing is noticeable and it actually enabled me to get more length out of the relatively small piece of fabric.

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I tapered the straps so that they would be 1.5 inches at the top of the shoulder and used a navy cotton lawn for my bias binding. I feel as though the lawn gives a bit of structure to the strap and is less slippery so that the straps don’t slide off my shoulders. It is total heresy, I know, but I didn’t stay-stitch or under-stitch when I sewed the bias binding. I generally don’t. I try to handle the neck and arm holes very little and I don’t pin the binding on, I just hold it gently in place and sew.  When I iron the folded binding before top-stitching it in place, I just iron the fold into the lawn, not the rayon. Then I fold by hand and use wonder clips to hold it in place before I sew the top seam. You can see pictures of how I do this in my Gemma Tank posts. I spent a lot of time sewing bias binding when I made many Gemmas two summers ago and this approach is pretty quick and gives me good results.

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All in all this was a very quick sew. I like how swishy it is (you can see it in action on my Instagram post) and I like it with my white double gauze Gemma

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and also with my chambray Gemma, and I actually have a navy lawn Gemma that is almost finished (the source of the scraps I used for the navy lawn bias binding) which I think will also work well.

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I may also make or buy an inexpensive navy slip dress to layer under the pinafore which I think would be a nice casual look. I like that this garment works with dressier sandals but also with flip flops, as all the best summer dresses do.

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I feel as though I achieved a similar feel to Helen’s floral longer York but preserved the nice armhole shape which is one of my favorite design elements (and good motivation to keep swimming those laps at the pool!)

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I cut the back piece a bit longer than the front, not on purpose-it just worked out that way- but I ended up leaving it a bit longer in back because I liked how it turned out.

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This is my fourth York Pinafore. I have three more cut out. What can I say? When I love a pattern, I love a pattern and this is such a good one. It is all I have been wearing this summer (with my many Gemma tanks). You can see some of the many outfits I have been able to make by searching the hashtag #wearyouryorkday.

Here is a version in Cloud 9 Linen-Cotton canvas print:

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And this incredibly versatile version in Essex Linen which I blogged here:

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It goes with everything I own, literally.

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And my original lightweight linen muslin which I love so much:

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If you haven’t tried this pattern yet, what are you waiting for? Go forth and sew a linen or cotton or rayon York! You won’t regret it.

 

 

 

 

 

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Reading and Books

Nursebean Reads: Summer 2018

This summer has been a season of reading. Despite an entire month (May) when I did not read one book and instead sewed all the things (see exhibits A and B) and a weekend during which I sewed multiple versions of my new favorite pattern (exhibit C), I still managed to read a lot of books, most of them really excellent. I have especially enjoyed reading on my front porch. And I was so lucky to have a vacation in a cabin in Maine in early June. Really is there anything better than hiking during the day and reading in front of a fire in a cabin in Maine?Here are the books.

The Nix was my book club’s choice for July. It was published in 2016 and I had seen it in the library forever but didn’t have a clue as to what it was about. It is over 600 pages so a bit of a commitment but I was so drawn into the story that I couldn’t put it down. So good! If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it. I borrowed it as a e-book from my library but there were so many passages that I wanted to underline and couldn’t. I will be buying this to have my own copy. That is very rare for me. The only other time I have gone out and bought the book after reading it during the last year was this book which if you haven’t read it, why haven’t you?

After finishing The Nix, I didn’t think I could read another book as wonderful but then I read A Place For Us. This is a debut novel and the author is 26. The writing is beautiful. The characters are beautifully written and I cried my way though many sections. I read it in a weekend. Once I got caught up in this family’s story, I couldn’t put it down. I knew it would be good because both Anne and Annie recommended it but I still couldn’t believe that someone in her twenties could so accurately capture what it feels like to be a parent, a child, a sibling, but she really gets it. Do yourself a favor and get on your library’s wait list because this is going to be a top 10 book of the year. Of this I am sure. One of the themes in this book is substance abuse so if this would be hard for you to read about, would skip this one although it is not the central theme which is family.

I also really loved the next book which I heard about on the What Should I Read Next podcast. It is quite short and almost fable-like. Translated from the Japanese, it tells the story of one woman but made me think about so many aspects of what it means to be an individual in a culture that is not always accepting of differences-not the Japanese culture per se but the culture of being any individual in any society. I think it would make a great book group book. So many things to discuss.

I read this next book about being a woman, being a parent, being a mother, being an adoptive mother, written, amazingly by a man. I loved how it depicted the central character who is very human and who makes decisions that you might or might not agree with. Similar in some ways to A Place For Us, it speaks to the ways that all of us make decisions from the place of our own limited understanding of a situation, usually with the best of intentions but sometimes with ramifications that we don’t anticipate. This would also make a great book club read.

I discovered Kelly Corrigan this year and the Middle Place is the third book of hers that I have read and I loved it best. The way that she writes about her father is just beautiful. More tears. Just read it. She does talk about her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment so if those topics would be challenging for you to read about, would wait on this one.

I discovered The Throwback Special because it was recommended on From the Front Porch which along with What Should I Read Next, is a must-listen every week. These two podcasts are my major sources of great reads. I recently discovered a third reading podcast which I am also loving, the New York Public Library’s podcast, The Librarian is In. What I love is that each of these three podcasts (I discovered the second two when their hosts were guests on WSIRN) is that I get different reading recommendations from each of the three. I feel as though each of the three channels different types of books and aspects of my reading personality. I highly recommend all three. Fun to listen to and great sources of great books.

Anyway, back to The Throwback Special, I really loved the writing and the way the author captured the way men relate to each other and to sports. The rituals, the trivia. And I remember actually watching the football game that inspires this group’s annual outing in real time so it felt like reliving a part of my own history. I read a lot of books about families and couples and women but not so many about men and how they relate to each other and their roles. This does an excellent job. I highly recommend it.

Tangerine is a very atmospheric read that has a noir feel. I enjoyed the description of Morocco where the story takes place and the suspenseful feel of the book. I didn’t love the characters so much. I have a hard time with books where the characters are people whose lives I can’t really relate to. I have seen mixed reviews by people I follow. Some have really liked it, others not so much. If you like suspense and mystery and don’t need to love your protagonists, give it a try.

I was late to the party on this next book but I found it to be a very enjoyable light read. Perfect for my summer cabin reading. And the books on the cover glow in the dark! So definitely worth reading the paperback rather than the e-book. 

I was also the last person on the planet to read this next book which if you are the other person who hasn’t read it, I highly recommend it. Another perfect summer read. A couple of tears, mine (this month’s theme, maybe.)

The Heart’s Invisible Furies was recommended me by Catherine whose blog is a must-read for me. I have loved all of the books that she has written and all of the books she recommends. She also posts amazing recipes.

Anyway, this book. Beautifully written, wonderful characters, heartbreaking at times and a really interesting look into what it was like to live in Ireland the last 75 or so years. Since one branch of my family was originally from County Cork, I was really shocked by much of what I learned about the religious and political institutions and their impact on peoples’ lives. It is one thing to have a general idea of the beliefs and the institutions and another to read in such specific detail of the lengths that fellow human beings had to go to and probably still have to go to to just to live quiet lives loving who they love. Highly recommended.

I loved the new Anne Tyler book. She writes characters who I fall in love with and I really enjoyed the relationship between her 61 year old protagonist Willa and a young girl she befriends. Now I want to go back and read the rest of her books that I have missed. I have read about 15 of them but I think that leaves at least 5 that I haven’t yet read. She is so prolific. Lucky for us! This was my July Shelf Subscription pick, a gift I give to myself each month and the way I make sure not to miss great books. Many of the books on this list were sent to me from the Bookshelf as Shelf picks.

I finally read An American Marriage after being on the library waiting list for months. Worth the wait. A really powerful story. I was drawn into the characters’ lives and couldn’t put it down.

On a lighter note, I read this delightful middle grade book that reminded me of one of my favorite childhood series, The Melendy Family books by Elizabeth Enright. I loved it and it made me miss living in a brownstone in Brooklyn when my kids were little.

Also in the New York vein, I also read this short book by Roz Chast about living in New York. Loved it and highly recommend. I heard about it on this episode of The Librarian is In. So fun!

And for a total guilty pleasure I read the first two books of the Crazy Rich Asians series. I definitely enjoyed the first more that the second but they were both fun and I have the 3rd saved for an upcoming plane trip.

So many good books! What have you been reading and loving this summer?

I have written so many posts about books that I have loved, all of which you can link to here.

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Helen's Closet Patterns, Made By Rae Patterns, Sewing, Washi Dress Pattern

Star Washi and Mustard Blackwood

img_6990There are some dresses that just make you feel happy when you wear them and this Made By Rae Washi dress fits the bill. I made this last summer with Cotton and Steel quilting cotton that I bought at The Cloth Pocket on a trip to Austin. There is quilting cotton and there is quilting cotton. This fabric is really soft with a bit more heft than typical quilting cotton and it makes a nice summer dress.  I lined the bodice using Rae’s sausage technique. She has great video tutorials on her blog but I have done it so many times that I don’t need the video anymore. It is nice to know it is there though! I used one of my all-time favorite cotton lawns by Melody Miller.img_6977 I love The Cloth Pocket and had the opportunity to visit in person and actually take a class there last year. Highly recommend! Great teachers, fabric and vibe. I buy most of my quilting fabrics from them online and they have a wonderful selection of chambrays.

I finished hems with a hem facing as I always do. I find it gives me much nicer results and it is fun!img_6998Since I was in the middle of sewing all the Cleo’s and spent a lot of last summer gathering skirts,  I decided on the spur of the moment to gather the skirt instead of using the pleats that are in the original Washi pattern. It was really quick and I love the swingy feel of the gathered skirt and the bright colors and pattern just feel like summer to me. I love pulling out my summer clothes after the long winter. It is like meeting up again with good friends. img_2390

img_2391I made this in a hurry and used fewer lines of shirring than I normally do spaced a bit farther apart. I like it this way!img_2403And a nice surprise was how well my new Blackwood Cardigan goes with this dress. I pulled it off the shelf this morning because it was cool and I love the colors together. Just like a bunch of summer flowers!img_2422If you haven’t made the Washi or the Blackwood, what are you waiting for? They are both flattering, comfortable, cute and relatively easy to sew. And as it turns out, they are great together!

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Gemma Tank, Helen's Closet Patterns, Made By Rae Patterns, Sewing

Helen’s Closet York Pinafore in Linen X 2

When I first spied a tester version of the Helen’s Closet York Pinafore during Me Made May before its official release, I knew it was going to be hugely popular. I guessed that this was Helen’s new pattern because I am a Patreon Supporter of the fantastic Love to Sew podcast hosted by Helen and Caroline and in one of the subscriber-only extra LTS podcasts, Helen mentioned that her to-be-launched new pattern was a modern take on a pinafore. Since I am from Connecticut, I didn’t know what she meant by pinafore-here in the US, we call this particular garment a jumper- but when the tester posted a picture during Me Made May and referred to the garment she was wearing as a pinafore, I knew it must be the pattern.

Since the pattern release, it has been popping up all over the place and for good reason. It is a cute modern design, a relatively easy sew and it is fun to customize. I was thrilled because now I have  a pattern to use to sew all the slightly heavier fabrics in my stash (I have a number of linen blends and heavier cottons I purchased for various reasons and have not yet used). And it only takes 2 yards of fabric. So the day it was launched, I purchased the pdf and printed it out.

I had some issues with my printer-it cut off parts of the pattern- but I connected the lines and it looked ok and I cut out the front and back from this linen and started playing with the fit. I cut my first version by cutting between the medium and large cutting lines which usually works for me. I basted the shoulder and side seams and then started trying on the jumper and playing around, taking it in a bit in here and there, sewing more rows of basting stitches, and pretty soon my seam allowances were all over the place but I liked the shape. I was actually afraid that if unpicked the basting seams to sew French seams or add pockets, I wouldn’t be able to replicate the shape, especially since the fabric I used was a lightweight, rumpled linen blend.  So, I sewed a line of stitching along the innermost line of basting stitches, trimmed off the rest of the wonky seam allowances and called it done.

Here are some pictures of the finished garment:

and as worn with my much loved Gemma Tank in white double gauze. It is a little wonky and sack-like but I love it.

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img_2143I had altered this Floral Voile Ruby Dress to make it into a blouse during Me Made May since I hadn’t worn it much in the year since I sewed it. I happened to have it in my sewing room and tried on the York over the blouse and realized it was a perfect match for the linen so I used the extra fabric to make bias binding and a hem binding since the length was a bit short  and I finished it in time to wear to my stepdaughters’ graduation.

Since I raced to finish this wearable muslin before going on vacation, I didn’t actually read the meticulous fitting instructions that Helen included in this pattern.

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After vacation, I printed out another set of pattern pieces and decided that this time I would read and follow the instructions. I was also excited for pockets!

Based on the instructions, my measurements put me in a size Large and given my 5’9” height, Helen’s directions suggest adding 1.5 inches to the pattern by adding 1/2 an inch in three separate places. But when I lined up the version I had already made, it was much smaller than the new pattern that I had printed out and pieced together and in particular, the straps were shorter in my first version and I was pretty happy with where the upper part of the skirt hit my torso on version one. I actually think with my long torso it is sometimes more flattering to have the waist of the garment hit a little higher than my natural waist. So despite the really wonderful, logical instructions, I did not add any length to the straps of the pattern and just cut the pattern out between the M and L lines except for the straps which I cut on the M line at the top and the L lines along the armholes to add a bit of width to the straps. Since the new printed pattern was so much longer than the version I had already sewn, I just cut along the L hem line and decided to sew it up and see what happened. As I did with version 1, I drew a new curve for the neckline about half-way between the two versions of the pattern.

I decided to go for broke and sew French seams even though they always take more than 5/8 inch when I sew them (I have a hard time enclosing all the fraying edges with the 1/4 and 3/8 seams used to create French seams as Helen instructs in the pattern. I ended up sewing a 3/8 seam with wrong sides together and then a 1/2 inch seam with right sides together since it seemed as though I would have lot of extra width. The finished version was longer than version one as planned but even with my 7/8 inch French seams, it was also more roomy. It did not completely make sense but I figured I must have made more adjustments than I realized with my first version- it was such a blur. I tried on version 2 and took pictures. I liked it but did not love it because the linen-cotton blend I used for version 2 was more stiff than the linen I used for version 1 and I felt that overall, the finished garment was less flattering. Here it is with another favorite Gemma tank. I used quilting cotton for the top-stitching to accent the design features and this version had pockets but I didn’t like it as much because it was bigger and didn’t drape as nicely and felt a bit more dowdy.

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I had even lined the pockets using beautiful fabric given to me by a friend (leftover from a Gemma tank that I sewed during Me Made May.)

img_2239I was a bit disappointed but I chalked it up to a learning experience and figured I would try washing it and see if the fabric would soften up a bit.

And YAY! it not only softened up but it shrunk as well and now I love it! Go figure! Here are more pictures with more Gemmas. It is just a bit shorter, just a bit more fitted and much drapier. It is like a whole new garment.

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img_2244So maybe the fabric I cut out hadn’t been pre-washed (although I am almost positive I had washed it before I put it away last year) or maybe this linen-cotton blend really shrinks a lot? Either way, I am thrilled because after taking the time to line the pockets

and sew French seams and do all the things,

I am really happy with it. Now the only challenge is to figure out what to do about version 3. I am thinking that I will need to make more adjustments to my paper pattern. Such is the life a sewist.

In any event, I plan to wear this all summer. It goes with everything in my closet, especially my huge collection of Gemma Tanks.

Several years back I made many versions of the Made By Rae Gemma tank and I plan to wear my York every week this summer with a different Gemma. I think I have enough that I can wear a different combination every week. Want to join me? I will post every Tuesday with the hashtag #wearyouryorkday I actually have a couple of Gemmas cut out that I have been wanting to finish and this is just the incentive I need.

Congratulations to Helen on such a wonderful new pattern. I made four versions of the her Blackwood Cardigan this May and have more planned. She is on a roll!

 

 

 

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Made By Rae Patterns, Sewing

Me Made May 2018 Makes part 2

Me Made May 2018 is coming to a close and I am running out of steam but it was a very productive month. You can read my first #mmmay18 blog post here. I will be wrapping up the month with this post.

As of May 28th, I have completed 14 projects, one every other day. This is not a sustainable pace, clearly, but I had been out of my sewing groove for a while and the energy of the sewing community during this month is contagious. It has been great to try some new patterns and I love everything I made. They will all be things I wear and enjoy. I have one more work in process that I will probably complete by the end of the month (a York Pinafore in a linen blend) but today I am putting away the piles of fabric and pattern pieces that are scattered about the house and getting ready to go on vacation. Here is the final tally:

1 Made By Rae Jade knit shirt (the first of many). I was a pattern tester for this shirt. It fits beautifully and I love the striped fabric, an organic cotton knit by Cloud 9 Fabrics, that I was given to use in the testing. I went out and bought more to make a Blackwood cardigan (seen below) and also bought some of the same fabric in navy and black with a thin white stripe which will become Jades. The Jade pattern was just released. You can see more versions on Rae’s blog here.img_0088-1

6 Isla Dresses: a tried and true pattern, also by Made By Rae, now with sleeve options using the Jade pattern. I made 3 using the traditional sleeveless pattern and added sleeves to three including a maxi-dress version. This is the dress I most often turn to in the morning. Comfortable and cute.img_1902-1

I bought this fabric planning to make a Jade top to go with the striped Blackwood cardigan but it just called out to become a Maxi Dress. What could I do but listen?img_1903-1

I love this version of the Isla in Mystery Food cotton knit by Sarah Watts. It makes me smile. Worn with my second most made pattern this month, the Blackwood cardigan.img_0445-1

I made 4 Blackwood cardigans this  month and I wore one of them pretty much every day. This is a pattern I had been meaning to make for a long time and it was worth the wait! I experimented with the length and decided that 3 inches shorter than the long version of the pattern as drafted was best for me. The mustard and grey sweater knit versions are that length. The black and grey version is the length as drafted. I didn’t add pockets but I plan to add them to the striped versions.img_1901I finished sewing a boho blouse using the Made By Rae Josephine pattern and Loominous fabric by Anna Maria Horner-I love how this turned out! I am thinking a white double gauze version will be up next-I think it would be great with the York pinafore.img_0773-1

Here is it as worn.img_0786-1

I also finished a tunic length Gemma Tank using beautiful wax print fabric given to me by a friend. I am going to wear this all summer.img_1787-1

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My mustard cotton Blackwood works perfectly with it.

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You can see the sweater length I ended up liking best on this back view below.

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Last but not least, I made a Grainline Tamarack Jacket start to finish this month. I had been wanting a spring weight jacket and didn’t want to buy one. In previous years, I would layer a jeans jacket over a cardigan but I really wanted a nice jacket to bridge the seasons from winter to sweltering and I am so pleased with this jacket!

I am definitely going to be wearing this so much. I love the soft chambray I ended up using from one of my favorite fabric stores. It just gets softer with washing. I know this is just going to get better with age. And the lining makes me smile.

Finally, here is a picture with all 12 of the versions of the Isla that I have worn so far this month (I actually have made more than these-closer to 20.) All the versions I have made are still in frequent rotation. I can’t recommend this pattern more highly on its own and especially now with the addition of the Jade pattern sleeves.

If you have questions about any of the patterns or fabrics, feel free to comment. More pictures and details on my instagram: @nursebean82.

Also, if you are reading this and are inspired to sew for yourself, my friend Natalie is hosting a series of monthlong dress sewalongs in June and July. She has chosen two beginner-friendly, beautiful summer dress patterns. Natalie’s enthusiasm and creativity are contagious and she is a wonderful teacher. Check out her blog http://www.hungryhippiesews.com to learn more.

Happy summer everyone!

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