It is almost Easter and in that spirit I did a bit of sewing last week.I made a teeny tiny dress.A friend at work had a baby last week, a little girl. This gave me a great excuse to sew something tiny and cute. The pattern is a free pattern literally called the Itty Bitty Baby Dress from Rae Hoekstra available for download from her site. It is really small and I even sized it up a bit. It is designed to fit a 3 month old as sewn. My children are all grown. One forgets how small new babies are!I love the little birds. This fabric is cute but not cutesy which I love. My sewing wasn’t perfect but it really didn’t matter in the end.I made this little dress from fabric left over from a Ruby dress that I made and love. The fabric is Tokyo Trees from Cloud 9 fabrics. I bought it online at HoneyBeGood which has a great selection of organic fabrics. The lining fabric was a fat quarter I had purchased from The Cloth Pocket. It is still available at various stores. The fabric is from a collection called Boardwalk Delight by Art Gallery Fabrics. I couldn’t resist the sprinkles. (below before I hand sewed the bodice lining) I love the rabbit ear shape the ties make. The curves are very small by the way which is a bit of a challenge-sew slowly 🙂In preparation for grandparenting which I hope to not be too far off-maybe 2 or 3 years?- I had already purchased the Geranium and Flashback Tee patterns when Rae had a pattern sale earlier this year. I love the many variations of those patterns (especially this one which reminds me of outfits my girls wore when they were little) and look forward to sewing them in the future. But this little pattern has no buttons or zippers so I thought I would try it as I was sewing last minute the day before the shower-as I do. It didn’t disappoint. I simplified it a bit, eliminating the piping in the interest of time and I created a hem facing the same way I always do, only smaller.It is pretty foolproof and quick.One challenge was not having a small enough hanger to properly show off the finished product. I tried to improvise. I am not sure I am doing it justice in this photo.I sewed everything by machine except for the last seam where I hand sewed the bodice lining. You could probably do that by machine as well but I don’t trust myself with the tiny gathers. It doesn’t take long.I enjoy hand sewing and it is quicker to hand sew once than to machine sew and have to redo it.Some more construction pictures below. Hem facing. Attaching bodice.Such quick little seams to sew.One lesson learned, it you want to topstitch around the neck and armholes, wait until after you attach the front and back bodice pieces together. Ask me how I know that? I got a little ahead of myself. But it all worked out in the end.
It is hard to believe that it was only two years ago that I sewed my first me-made garment, a Made By Rae Washi dress. Since that time I have sewn so many Washi dresses for myself, my daughter, my sister and my mom as well as many other dresses, tops, pants and now skirts.
This week we had a storm in the Northeast. It wasn’t enough to cause a huge disruption in our lives-we didn’t lose power or have trees down and because we knew the storm was coming I planned ahead to stay home and take a vacation day from work since clinic was closed and our patients were rescheduled. It was the perfect snow day.
I took advantage of the day to do a little sewing. I have had two plaid flannel Pearl shifts cut out since before Christmas, one for my daughter and one for me. The only tricky part of this pattern is inserting the zipper so inserted the zipper on the purple Pearl destined for my daughter (I only had to unpick it once) and then, since I had already loaded the machine with a deep teal thread, I decided to sew a up the teal double gauze Ruby blouse that I cut out last July (!)I tend to cut projects out way before I actually sew them, often because I want to use the fabric for more than one project. It works best for me if I lay out the pattern pieces for both projects at the same time so I can be sure to cut the pattern pieces in such a way as to have enough for both projects. In this case, I had used the teal for the pockets and waist facing for my Fringe Luna Pants so I cut the Ruby pieces at the same time. I had originally thought I would sew it last summer but then Rae released the Gemma Tank pattern and Gemma Madness ensued.
I made my first double gauze Ruby last summer, a plum version. I have been wearing that blouse more now in the winter than I did last summer-it is one of my most-worn me-made garments. See below after many washes and wears. I made it using Rae’s sausage technique for lining the bodice. See this post about a favorite Ruby Dress for a detailed illustration with links. Both the bodice lining (a floral lawn that is one of my favorite fabrics) and the pink double gauze fabrics are from Cotton and Steel. It is the perfect layering piece under a cardigan and I tend to wear it with an olive green or grey cardigan with dark jeans. Add a necklace and it is a comfortable, flattering look for winter on those work days when I don’t see patients and am just catching up on paperwork. I have probably worn my pink Ruby over 20 times since I made it last summer. It just gets softer and softer and I can wear it right out of the dryer-no need to iron. I originally purchased the teal fabric online on sale from Fabric.com. It is also Cotton and Steel double gauze and it is called Indigo. I actually thought it was going to be navy which I thought would be a great basic and when it came in the mail, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like the teal as much as the navy but then I thought of how great it would be with my mustard cardigan. So when I had an unexpected snow day this week, I decided sewing up this Ruby would be the perfect way to spend it.
The Ruby Blouse by Made by Rae is a relatively simple sewing project but lining the bodice elevates it to a more polished garment and makes it more fun because you can choose a fun fabric to use for the lining which only requires a fat quarter of fabric. I looked through my ever-growing stash and found a fat quarter of a beautiful floral quilting cotton from the Cotton and Steel Cat Lady collection. No cats in sight on this fabric, at least that I could see, but I love the colors and how it works with the teal. I have used the sausage technique so many times on my many Washi dresses and Ruby dresses and blouses that I didn’t need to refer to the videos but they are awesome.I did look back at the videos briefly to remind me how to do the bias binding on the lower armholes. I use a 1.5 inch strip rather than 1.25 inches. I do find that part a bit tricky with double gauze but a couple of hand stitches on the inside of the blouse fixed the areas that my machine stitching missed. Before sewing the sausage I generally topstitch around the neck. I used matching thread. I machine wash my garments and it seems as though that extra stitching gives the neckline a bit more stability and strength. The sausage technique leaves two seams on the inside of the blouse that require hand stitching. I actually enjoy hand stitching so I enjoyed this part of the project. I was able to sew the entire blouse in an afternoon and wear it to work the next day without rushing or cutting corners. It is sometimes very relaxing to just enjoy the process and make something beautiful without worrying about how long it takes. I even had time to make home-made soup for dinner after I finished sewing. I often make what I call “refrigerator soup” where I look in the refrigerator and see what I have and make it into soup. A couple of weeks ago, I had half a butternut squash, a sweet potato and some carrots and I ended up making soup with some sautéed onions, chicken broth, fresh ginger and a little curry for seasoning. It was fantastic so today I made it on purpose. “Vitamin A Soup” below. I think the bright orange and yellow color speaks to me in the dark days of winter. I have been drawn to oranges and yellows all winter. I have made several Isla Dresses in these colors and am very partial to this one below which I recently wore to NYC for a birthday celebration with my mother with whom I share a birthday. What are the odds of that?I am also loving this book which coincidentally has an orange cover and have this fabric on order from my favorite fabric shop with plans to make this skirt. So many things to look forward to on this snow day! Winter has its consolations. Finished Ruby blouse below. I know it will be worn and worn. I highly recommend this pattern in double gauze. It is worth the bit of extra effort.
I sewed a lot of garments in 2016, close to 40-I have lost track of the actual total. Most of them were for me, some were for others. When I looked back over the year, I found that although I sewed many garments, I actually made several versions each of seven favorite patterns: the Pearl Shift pattern from Green Bee Patterns and six patterns from Made by Rae: the Washi Dress, the Beatrix Blouse, and the Ruby Blouse which I had made before and the Luna Pants pattern , the Isla knit dress pattern and the Gemma Tank which were new to me in 2016. The newer patterns are from a line that Rae calls Presto patterns. They are less expensive and simpler to sew, which is probably why I was able to sew so many! Here are a couple of pictures of some of my makes with links to the patterns and my blog posts about things I learned while making them. I tend to make things in multiples because it is not much more work to cut out two versions than to cut out one.
The Washi Dress by Made By Rae, which I made for myself three times: two versions had sleeves and two versions were in double gauze. I also made a version with polka dots for my sister and a paisley version for my mother. The double gauze, while a bit tricky to work with, makes a wonderful winter version of the Washi. I have my eye out for another double gauze to make another long sleeved version of the Washi. I wear my charm version all the time.I have two more Washi dresses cut out that I plan to finish soon. One is the Washi XP with a bow. I cut them out last summer before Gemma Madness took over my sewing life. Finishing my WIPs will be a priority for me this winter.I am excited to see how the XP version turns out. I think it will be perfect with a sweater and tights and boots for winter. I cut this out way back in the spring when I made a baby quilt for a friend and used this for the binding.
I also sewed several new versions of the Beatrix blouse and modified a shift dress pattern by adding Beatrix sleeves.I lengthened the Beatrix to a tunic length using the Pearl Shift pattern as my guide and made this Cookie Book version with a curved hem and this Alison Glass version with an exposed zipper and a straight hem. I wear them all the time with leggings and jeans.
I made the Pearl Shift four times: two in heavy cotton flannel and one each in a cotton-linen blend and in a black and white checked fabric. I have two more cut out and ready to sew, one for my daughter and another plaid flannel version for me. The original plaid Pearl that I made a year ago in the fall is probably my most worn garment ever.
I surprised myself this year by making pants! I highly recommend the Luna Pants pattern from Made By Rae. I made this clay colored version and this Fringe version, both with fabric by April Rhodes. I lived in them all summer. I was surprised at how flattering they ended up being and they are incredibly comfortable.
I made three versions of the Ruby Pattern this summer, a plum colored double gauze blouse for me, a double gauze blouse with a yoke made of quilting cotton for a friend and a dress which I love in April Rhodes fabric. I just love her designs for garments.I have several other versions of the Ruby blouse cut out and ready to sew. Sew all the WIPs is going to be my resolution for 2017!
I learned a bit about how to sew knits on a regular sewing machine and made one each of the dress and top versions of the Isla Pattern. I have several more cut out and ready for an afternoon when I can sew them up. I highly recommend this pattern for those of you who are new to sewing knits.
The pattern I sewed the most though turned out to be the Gemma Tank. Rae launched this pattern over the summer and once she did, all my other WIPs went by the wayside. I literally have things I cut out to sew back in July that never got sewn because I was too busy sewing so many versions of the Gemma. I lined it, I lengthened it, I sewed it for my kids, I sewed many versions for myself. I sewed it out of thrifted men’s shirts and I learned a lot about bias binding. It was a lot of fun, a bit crazy but a great way to experiment with different fabrics. I am wearing them all the time. It has become a great layering piece for me. These are actually not even all of the Gemmas I made. Craziness!Other non-garment items I sewed this year were this quilt for a much awaited new baby boy-so much fun! and an afghan for my mother in law made from thrift shop sweaters. I also was privileged to be a pattern tester for the first time for this great skirt pattern which will be launched in the new year. I have fabric picked out and ready to go. It is going to be a great new basic to add to my rotation.
Highlights of my sewing year included Me Made May-which is always fun and which brings so much inspiration from other sewers and a couple of mini-breaks (long weekends,) one in Maine and one at home and a micro-mini break (afternoon) that I spent exploring my old neighborhood. I also read a lot this year and tried very hard to stick to my 2016 New Year’s resolution to commit one day a week to being unplugged. That worked for about half the year and then life got busy and I ended up having to spend time each Sunday in the office. But I tried to spend at least some of each Sunday unplugged from media, reading, taking walks,, going to church regularly and doing yoga. These are things I hope to find more time for in the New Year.
With best wishes to all for a happy and healthy New Year and time and energy to finish the sewing projects (I know that I can’t cut out one more thing until I sew through the pile I have accumulated of cut out projects, ) and thanks to all for following along with my sewing adventures!
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I can’t talk about creating a Handmade Wardrobe without talking about the Washi Dress pattern by Made By Rae. I have made nine for myself and have also made one for my daughter, one for my sister and one for my mom. And I have two more cut out and another planned now that Rae has posted a how-to on make a boat neck version. Below going counter clockwise from the top right: my first me-made garment: a floral Washi, a favorite Washi made with Brooklyn Bridge fabric, a Washi with sleeves made in double gauze, another version with sleeves made with April Rhodes beautiful fabric, a black and polka dot Washi for my sister and a Washi I made for myself out of beautiful Nani Iro fabric. I also love the Bianca and have made five Bianca dresses that I wear all the time.For me a handmade wardrobe starts with a great pattern such as the Washi, the Bianca, the Beatrix, the Gemma or the Pearl. I love choosing fabrics to suit the patterns and have had great luck with Cotton and Steel and Art Gallery cottons. Then I add a bit of fun: a contrasting facing, a cute label, a fun print. Some examples below: top row are all Gemma Tanks, fabrics by Cotton and Steel and Art Gallery. Second row: Gemma tank refashioned from a thrift store oxford shirt, Luna Pants in fabric from Art Gallery by April Rhodes, the Pearl Shift by Green Bee Patterns in a cotton-linen blend from Robert Kaufman fabrics and a Gemma blouse in Woodcut from the Mesa line from Cotton and Steel.Third row down from the left, wearing a Plaid Flannel Pearl Shift with my two sweeties, jumping for joy in a lined Gemma Tank, another Gemma Tank in Macrame Fabric from Cotton and Steel and a self-drafted Shift Dress based on a New Look pattern with Beatrix sleeves in fabric by Cotton and Steel.
Bottom row: something I love to do is to add contrasting trim: a re-fashioned plaid men’s dress shirt to bind a chambray Gemma Tank, a navy Cotton and Steel print to face a Mesa Beatrix Blouse, fun pink fabric given to me by a friend to face the button placket of a Beatrix tunic, and a contrasting hem facing for a Beatrix-Pearl hybrid shift made out of Alison Glass fabric.
Getting ready to sew on day 1 of my mini-break.Summer can sometimes be a challenging time for me. Social media is flooded with vacation photos of beaches and mountains and faraway places (the pictures of Norway and Sweden are amazing) but probably the hardest pictures to see are pictures of cabins in the woods on beautiful clean lakes. It makes me want to just jump into the picture. This one is from a real estate listing is exactly the kind that gives me pangs.But it turns out that being at home can also be wonderful. I used to spend summers in Maine. I was incredibly lucky and I will always treasure those summers. But that is just not my life right now. I work two jobs and I don’t have the money or time off to travel. But one benefit to not having a lot of time off is that when you finally do take a break, you appreciate it so much. I recently had 5 days off in a row. I didn’t go anywhere and I didn’t really do anything fancy or extravagant but I had a great time. Here is what I did.
I read several books-all of which were engaging summer reads that did not require much from me. The stories drew me in and carried me along. I got most of the book suggestions from Anne Bogel. The graphic novel was a book club read. Sort of Roz Chast on steroids. Weird but funny. I particularly enjoyed reading in early morning. Here’s what I read:
I spent a lot of time on my front porch-reading and eating simple meals both alone and with some of my kids who were home for part of the weekend. Lunch on the porch below:I made a nice breakfast with home made berry muffins for my family, most of whom were with us. It was great to have a big group around the table. I used the pretty china and picked wild flowers from the garden. I love big family gatherings centered around a nice meal and my kids live far away so this was a treat for me. We also had a taco night with part of the group the night before and a dinner out at a favorite restaurant with my two daughters and son in law. It is a place we had gone to many times when they were younger so that was a special evening.
Staying on the topic of food, I ate a lot of tomato and fried egg sandwiches-both separately and together. If I had to pick one favorite food it would probably be fresh summer tomatoes. I remember reading this book as a child and not really getting why the main character ate tomato sandwiches every day for lunch but I get it now. I could be perfectly happy doing that. Or alternating with a fried egg sandwich with avocado on good bread. These are my new favorite meals. Quick, inexpensive, delicious. My husband bought this mayonnaise by mistake one day and it turns out to be the secret ingredient.
I sewed, sewed, sewed. But I didn’t treat the sewing as a chore. I did a couple of hours of sewing every day. I listened to music while I sewed. When it started to feel like a chore, I switched gears and read or did yoga. I completed three garments: a Ruby Dress for myself and a Ruby Blouse for a friend:
and a new pair of Luna pants for me in a fun print.and I started work on a baby quilt for a friend. I decided to make a whole cloth quilt and hand quilt it. It was fun to make and not having to piece the top ended up making it less stressful. It also made the hand quilting much easier since there were no seam allowances. While I quilted, I listened to this audio book which is really terrific. Each of the sewing projects were things I had made before and which weren’t super complicated. This meant that I was able to complete a new garment in a day which was really fun. While I love trying new patterns, there is nothing like the tried and true pattern that you know by heart and which fits you well. Cut, sew, wear, repeat. Boom!
I went to a great yoga class with my daughter and I did yoga on the porch the rest of the days. I am loving 30 days of yoga with Adrienne. I had a diner breakfast with my daughter and son in law and then my daughter and I got our toenails painted in summer colors before they flew back home to the mid-west. I miss her already. New Luna pants in the wild below. And then it was back to reality.At least I had a new dress to wear my first day back.
Days off are a rare thing in my life and I am so thrilled to have five days off in a row when I don’t have to go to work. My daughter is visiting so there will be some family meals so that’s a bonus. Otherwise, I have no plans. Bliss!
I have not had a lot of time to sew in the last couple of months but I made a double gauze Ruby blouse last week and that helped me get back into my sewing groove. I wrote a pretty detailed post last week about the Ruby pattern with links to all of the tutorials that Rae has for that pattern. I can’t recommend Rae’s tutorials more highly. Excellent. And I previously blogged about several other Ruby dresses I have made here. So today’s post will just be to add some details.
I originally bought this April Rhodes fabric with a second pair of Luna Pants in mind. But when I got the fabric in the mail, it just screamed “dress”. It is quilting cotton but it is very lightweight and has a bit of stretch in it. It is a dream to work with unlike double gauze which I love to wear but which can be tricky to sew with. So this dress sewed up fast-like dress in a day fast. I like to line my bodices and I had bought this yellow patterned fabric in order to make a sleeveless Josephine blouse, another Made By Rae pattern that I haven’t yet tried. I think the diamond pattern will work well with the pleats in the Josephine. I bought two yards of it on mega-sale (less than $5/yard) at Fabric.com where it is sadly sold out. But you may be able to find it elsewhere. I didn’t plan to use the yellow originally, but when I saw them together, I thought that the yellow would work well to line the yoke. I cut out the Josephine first to make sure I would have enough fabric left over and I did. I will be hopefully sewing that this weekend as well.
The Ruby Pattern is a pretty simple pattern. If you line the bodice, you still only cut out six pieces: 2 each for the front and back bodice and a front and a back for the dress. I usually make the Made By Rae patterns in a size M and add at least 2 inches to the torso or length. The Ruby has relatively small arm openings and while I don’t mind them on the dresses/blouse I have already made, I added some extra length to the front and back main pieces which has the effect of making the arm hole bigger. Interestingly the pictures of Rae modeling the shirt on the pattern site show plenty of room in the armhole but for me, the pattern cut out as is was pretty tight (must be all that yoga-ha!). I added about half an inch to the top and a bit to the side. Since I generally make changes and then completely forget what I changed when I go back to make the pattern again, I took pictures this time. You can see how much I added below. It ended up being just enough.Here are more work-in-process pictures. I top stitched around the neck and also the upper part of the armhole. I use my presser foot to determine the size of my seam allowance so that everything lines up. I also cut my bias binding strips for the bottom part of the armhole 1.5 inches instead of 1.25 as suggested by Rae. I find I need a bit more to totally catch the binding on the other side. I don’t sew in the ditch. I have more luck sewing just next to it. Yoke lining in process:Sewing the bias binding to the bottom half of the armhole:
Lined yoke with top stitching around the neckline:After sewing the yoke to the dress front and back and hand-sewing the lining as Rae instructs in her videos, I top stitched the top of the armhole. Since I had used my presser foot as my seam allowance guide when I sewed the bias binding, I used the same approach to top stitch the top of the armhole. I ends up looking as though you sewed all the way around.I leave the threads long and then use a needle to bring them to the inside of the dress and then knot them off. You end up with a really nice clean finish that is durable. I had some questions on instagram about the top stitching. I don’t always do it and I think it actually looks cleaner without it but I feel as though my dresses are very durable and I love that I can machine wash everything and not spend money on dry cleaning. The Ruby dresses below have been worn and washed more than ten times and they have held up great. You can see these Rubies in more detail here and here.
I thought about using the yellow to make a contrasting hem as I do, but in the end I just folded the hem up and ironed the heck out of it and sewed two rows of stitches. It turned out fine.
It is quite hot here today and part of my unplugged day was to do yoga on the porch and I am a sweaty mess so I have not taken pictures of me wearing it but I know this dress will be in frequent rotation. I am so happy with how it turned out. Great pattern and great fabric. Perfect combination!
The Ruby Blouse by Made By Rae is a pattern I have made before. It is a loose fitting sleeveless top that provides good coverage and is a great basic for layering. When I saw this double gauze version by Rae, it planted the seed for trying this pattern in double gauze for summer. When I spied this plum colored Bespoke Double Gauze by Cotton and Steel on sale at Alewives Fabric, I decided to give it a try. I have sewn two Washi dresses in double gauze and I love the softness of the fabric but it is a bit tricky to work with and it is generally more expensive than the cottons I usually use so I save it for special projects.
I sewed quite a bit during Me Made May but have been very busy with work since then. A couple of weeks ago, I decided to plan some projects that would work together and I gathered some neutral grey and sage fabrics for skirts and some greens and this plum for tops. When I saw the floral lawn fabric next to the plum double gauze, I realized that it would be just the thing to line the bodice. I also noticed that the plum would be a perfect lining for a planned Washi in green with pink stars. These garments are hopefully going to be a mini Summer capsule wardrobe one day. I have a sleeveless Beatrix top planned for the floral so I cut those pattern pieces out first to make sure that there would be enough to line the Ruby. The lawn is such nice lightweight fabric, it is the perfect weight to go with the double gauze and I have loved this fabric from afar for quite a while. I am happy that it will find its way into at least three garments (I have enough left over to face the waistband of at least one of the skirts.) Rae has great video tutorials for lining the Ruby bodice. It involves something she calls the sausage technique. I have used it for most of my Ruby and Washi garments. It works like a charm. Some steps pictured below.
I get great results every time following Rae’s instructions. Sometimes I top stitch the neckline and sometimes I don’t. I am always nervous doing it because I don’t want to ruin the nice clean finish. Luckily I found perfectly matching thread (Gutermann CA02776 btw). Since I am always worried about double gauze fraying, I decided to stitch it so that the seam would be stronger. I was really happy with how it turned out.
I sewed french seams for the side seams. Your iron is your friend when you are sewing french seams with double gauze. Also a rotary cutter to trim the fringe after sewing the first seam. I use pins to mark the right side of the fabric since it is sometimes hard to tell which is which.
I reinforced the seam with a second row of stitches. The Ruby uses a bias binding for the bottom half of the armhole. The instructions are very clear. One of the trickier parts is sewing the gathers. I hand basted with a contrasting thread before sewing. Unfortunately after sewing them, I decided I wasn’t happy with where I had gathered the fullness. The Ruby is most flattering when the front gathers are mostly on the side. So I spent a bit of time unpicking the nicely sewn seams which was made more tricky because my thread was such a perfect match for the fabric that it was hard to see.
The finished blouse below. I contemplated using the floral fabric to face the hem as I usually do but I decided to save the extra fabric for other projects.
I know this blouse will get a lot of wear. It is comfortable, cute, great for warm weather and for layering under a sweater in the fall. You can dress it up or wear it with jeans. I have another planned in navy and recently bought some white double gauze to finish some Ruby bodices I made last year and never finished. Side view below shows that the armhole is comfortable but not overly revealing.Up next, I have my floral lawn Beatrix blouse planned and a navy Ruby dress cut out and ready to go in this beautiful fabric by April Rhodes. I bought the fabric with a second pair of Luna Pants in mind but then when it came in the mail, it felt more like a Ruby Dress. Does that happen to you too where you buy fabric for one project but then use it for a different one altogether? I have some fabrics I haven’t cut into because I have a hard time committing. They would be great for so many things. I recently found this beautiful fabric in voile on sale and snatched up enough to make one nice project but I haven’t decided what it will be. I am leaning toward a Washi XP like this version by Rae. Time will tell.
I highly recommend this pattern. It is simple enough that even with taking the time on the little details, it is a project that can be finished in a week by doing a little each night. This is how I broke it down: 1) washed and ironed fabric 2) cut out pattern pieces 3) sewed yoke including the sausage and the neckline 4) gathered the front and back panels, sewed the side seams-french seams- and applied the bias binding to the arm holes 5) attached the front and back panels to the yoke 6) hand-sewed the yoke lining to the front and back panel seams 7) sewed the hem and wore it to work!