Gemma Tank, Made By Rae Patterns, Pearl Shift, Ruby Dress Pattern, Sewing, Washi Dress Pattern

Me Made May 2017

This is my third year of participating in Me Made May, in which home sewers/sewists from all over the world pledge to wear me-made garments all month long and most post them on social media. This year I decided to try to not only wear a garment that I had sewn each day but to try to wear something different each day-no repeats. I mostly succeeded. I did have one day when I didn’t post-although I had worn a handmade tunic that day, my mother in law was in the hospital, and a picture on social media was the furthest thing from my mind. I ended up with more than 31 posts because there were several days when  I wore a second outfit in the evening. I did have a couple of repeats and those were instructive. I wore my blue linen-cotton Gemma Tank, my newly made white double gauze Gemma Tank and my khaki Cali Faye Pocket Skirt more than once. They are the solid colored basics that I need to sew to fill in the gaps among all the patterns. Those will be things that I will sew this summer.

I wore what I normally wear but I did think more about planning something new for each day whereas I normally repeat easy to wear garments over and over again (such as my Isla dresses which I wore all winter.) It was actually fun to wear something new each day and to realize how many things I have sewn that I love to wear. This is really amazing considering that I only started sewing my own clothes a little over two years ago. I actually could probably go another 2 weeks without repeats. I have many beautiful summer dresses that I didn’t wear because May was really cold where I live in Connecticut. I will look forward to wearing them this summer when I warm up.

A blogger friend commented on my instagram that it looked as though I was doing an all Made By Rae Me Made May and it is true that hers are the patterns I use the most. I did though wear three Green Bee Pearl shifts that I have made and loved and my Pocket Skirt. I do think about sewing pattern from other pattern designers and even tried sewing a pattern for a knit shirt that I was really excited to wear-the Piper top by Christine Haynes-but then after sewing it (I didn’t make a muslin) the fit was way off. So I end up going back to the tried and true. It is amazing how a pattern can be made so many different ways that it doesn’t seem like the same dress. Just look at all the Washi’s in the pictures below. For more thoughts on sewing a handmade wardrobe using a couple of tried and true patterns, you can link to a post on that topic here.

I sewed several new garments this month: a Ruby dress, four Cleo skirts, several Gemma Tanks and a pair of Luna pants. I will blog about them later this month. My biggest project this month was finishing a hand quilted queen size quilt which is a gift. It took hours over many years and particularly this month but as of this writing, it is done except for a label which seems like a miracle. I decided not to spend time doing any blogging or reading of books this month in order to get it done and it is huge relief to have finished it and I look forward to sharing details after I give it to the recipients.

Here are my daily pictures basically grouped by week. I have included links to posts with details where possible. For people new to sewing, I would highly recommend the Made By Rae Beatrix Sewalong which is a series of blog posts that Rae Hoekstra created when she launched the Beatrix Blouse. I learned so much by sewing each step and following the instructions in her blog. My very first posts on this blog are from that sewalong and you can see my progress from there. The things I learned from that experience have stayed with me. I also highly recommend her tutorials and videos which I link to in my individual posts for each garment.

I am not sure if going forward I will post daily during Me Made May to the extent that I did this year. It did require a big commitment from my family members who got up early to take pictures. The first two days, I tried using a selfie stick and it really didn’t work. I just couldn’t smile and get a good picture without someone on the other side of the camera. I am really grateful to my daughter and my sweet husband who really got in the spirit and made 7 am photo sessions fun. He has been my champion, so supportive along this sewing journey. Couldn’t have done it without him!

Here are the outfits. I recommend all of the patterns you see here. They are terrific and any one would be a good place to start sewing.

Week 1 clockwise from the lower left hand corner: Washi XP , (that picture on day 1 was really dark. To get a better sense of this dress, just click on the Washi XP link to see better pictures in the blog post), a Gemma Tank and Cleo Skirt, Ruby Dress, Isla Dress, Pearl Shift, double gauze Ruby Blouse, Beatrix-Pearl Tunic and in the center: a new Gemma-Pearl Tunic which I just love. I have two more cut out and ready to sew. 

Week 2: Isla Dress, linen Pearl Shift, Cali Faye Pocket Skirt with a new Gemma Tank (Alison Glass fabric, to be blogged), Plaid Gemma Tank refashioned from a Goodwill men’s shirt, Gemma Tank, Washi Dress, Cleo Skirt and white double gauze Gemma Tank . In the center, one of my favorite pictures from the month: a Beatrix Tunic (picture on the beach in New London where I spent a couple of really nice days with my husband mid-month).

Week 3: Cleo Skirt (to be blogged), Washi Dress, Isla Dress, Washi Dress, Pearl Shift, Ruby Dress along with some bonus sewing room shots. 

Week 4: Gemma Tank, double gauze Washi Dress, Beatrix Tunic, Bianca Dress, Isla Dress, another Bianca Dress, a Gemma Tank and in the center, my new Luna Pants and double gauze Gemma Tank . You can link to another Luna Pants post here.

Week 5:  from the bottom left: Gemma Tank, double gauze Washi Dress, double gauze Ruby Blouse, Loominous Bianca dress, me with my photographer and a picture of some of my Cleo Skirts.

Bonus Pictures:  close up of my new Alison Glass Gemma Tank, some pictures of my new double gauze Gemma Tank which may be the most useful thing I made this month and some pictures I took on the days when I wore my Luna pants which are great sewing clothes. Two other Luna posts here and here.At about day 10, I almost stopped posting. I started to get a feeling of being a little overexposed. But I have been so inspired by other friends on instagram who post beautiful garments and who inspire me to try new things that I persevered and I am glad I did. It is wonderful to have this record of all of the beautiful clothes I have sewn and enjoy wearing and I heard from many people on instagram that my posts inspired them to try sewing these patterns and that really made it worth it.

Happy Sewing everyone and thanks for reading!

Standard
Made By Rae Patterns, Sewing

Pearl Necklace Isla Top

I have just completed a month of sewing knits and I am feeling much more confident in my ability to sew a knit garment successfully. I love the Isla Pattern from Made By Rae as evidenced by all the Isla dresses I have sewn. I was not as happy about the fit with the tops because of my long torso or as my Dad used to say, it just didn’t seem to suit my style of beauty, at least when I made it with the same adjustments I made to my Isla dresses. But after giving it some thought,  I felt I owed it to the pattern to give it another chance adjusting the bodice to have it hit at my natural waist and see if I liked that version better.

I am 5’9″ and all my height is in my torso. I wear  inseam 31-32 for my jeans.  I took a picture with a measuring tape for anyone out there with this body type planning to make this pattern (wearing another Isla dress I recently sewed). From the bottom of my neck to my natural waist is 16 inches. I had previously had my daughter take pictures of me wearing my Isla dresses with my hands at my waist and using that as a guide, I added 4 inches in length to the Medium bodice which I had already added an inch to so 5 inches in total.img_5008I also added a bit of width and smoothed out the curve on the side to see if it would help with the riding up of the top that I had with the others I have made.  Here is the front.img_4999Here is the bodice as sewn.img_5003I cut the ruffle using the regular medium cutting line because I had added so much to the length of the bodice that I didn’t want it to end up as a tunic but I wasn’t sure if I would like the top with such a disparity between the bodice and the ruffle. I think it is cutest when they are more in balance size-wise but I figured the only way to find out was to try it. Luckily, this fabric was easy to work with, gathered easily and the whole project took only a couple of hours start to finish. I took pictures of the finished bodice prior to attaching the ruffle with the measuring tape to show the length.img_5005And a second picture to remind me that I took a picture of the back not the front of the bodice. I use these pictures as a reference when I make a pattern a second time. It is easier for me to remember adjustments I made than writing them down.img_5007And here are the photos of the finished garment. as worn. Somewhat forced smile because my daughter is saying: Smile, Stand up Straight, Shoulders back, Belly in. I thought I had lined up my pearl necklaces when I cut the ruffle but as you can see, I have a bit of a diagonal thing going on here which was not intentional. It is a little more tricky to line up the circles with the knit than the woven which I used to make a Washi dress that I love and wear all the time in Spring and Summer.img_5022I also had an issue with the hem rolling up which I don’t seem to have with the dress version-thinking maybe it is the lighter weight of the fabric piece. Side view.img_5029Backimg_5033So overall I would say that for my body, I am happier with the Isla as a dress. In fact I may end up cutting off the ruffle and adding the dress length skirt to this and make it into a dress for myself or my daughter at some point.  The top is so cute on many people but I don’t think that it works for me well enough to continue to make it. I love the dresses and will wear them all the time I am sure. As for tops, I have so many to choose from after my summer of Gemma Madness. In fact, today, I wore this beauty in Macrame fabric which you can learn more about here.img_5016Now it is back to woven fabric and on to the Cleo skirt pattern which was released today. Can you believe how beautiful this one is?

Standard
Sewing

Sewing with Knits 102: An Isla Capsule Wardrobe

I have been sewing many versions of the Isla Pattern by Made By Rae since it was released. This is my first real success with sewing knits, partly because the pattern is pretty easy to follow and incorporates pretty foolproof techniques and partly because I gathered up the collective wisdom of the sewing community and put their tips to work. Link here to my first post which contains the aforementioned wisdom and links.

I tend to make multiples of the same pattern. It usually takes a couple of tries to get it right.  Then, once I master the pattern, it is much easier to sew the second and third versions-I have all the pattern pieces, supplies and machine settings all ready to go, so it seems like the efficient thing to do. In the case of the Isla Pattern, I knew that I wanted to sew a couple more versions after being very happy with my first one. I planned to make  two dresses and two tops, one each in yellow and blue.img_4685I ordered the fabric and efficiently I thought, cut out the pattern pieces in an evening.img_4692 I used the adjustments that I made to my first version which added an inch to the bodice length.  img_4684I chose 2 yellow/mustard fabrics, one for a top and one for a dress and a second two blue fabrics with the same plan.img_4695 I also wanted a neutral top so I decided to sew one in a cream color. I like patterns that evoke stripes without being completely traditional and I loved this fabric from Art Gallery Knits which I thought would be perfect, so I sewed it first.  img_4451It is a really soft nice feeling knit and it sewed up beautifully. I added an inch to the length of the ruffle as well. Here is the finished top. Cute, right? I was happy with how nicely the stripes worked with the neck and arm bands.img_4944Then I tried it on and I was not thrilled. I have a very long torso and so even after adding the extra inch, this hit me way above my natural waist. It didn’t bother me with the dress because it draped nicely but the top didn’t work as well for my shape. Here are some pictures. It’s not terrible but not great and when I wear it, it feels as though it keeps riding up which doesn’t happen with my dress versions. I just didn’t think about the fact that the torso adjustment might be different for the top vs the dress. So for those of you with long torsos, take heed!

If you had told me years ago that I would willingly post less than flattering pictures of myself, I wouldn’t have believed it. For a long time, I stayed out of most pictures, often because I was taking the pictures but also because I was way too worried about taking an unflattering picture. I have to say that being over 50 and being a nurse really changed my point of view. Just having a healthy body feels like a gift. And I so appreciate other sewing pals posting real-life pictures that help me decide if a pattern is right for me. I also love what Allison writes here. It is a must read for all moms. Anyway back to the pictures. Not terrible but not great. img_4985The side view  shows that I probably could have used another 2 or 3 inches. img_4990Backimg_4981Sometimes being too efficient ends up being a problem because I now had already cut out all my pattern pieces and I knew that those that had been destined for tops would not end up being garments I loved. So I ended up buying another yard each of the two fabrics I had intended for tops. I used the bodice pieces I had already cut and cut the dress length skirt pieces out of the extra yard and have saved the top length skirt pieces for another project. So now I have 2 blue dresses and 2 mustard dresses. With leggings, boots and a cardigan, I am all set for the week. Just to show you how long my waist is, I had my daughter take pictures of my first Isla, which has one inch added to the bodice length and one of the second batch of Islas that has 2 inches added to the bodice length with me putting my hands at my natural waist.img_4960Yes that is really where my waist is. Here is version two with 2 inches added to the bodice.img_4954I can’t actually say I like one better than the other. I think that they are both fine. Word to the wise, make sure whatever you add to the bodice, you subtract from the skirt so you end up with the right length. I think the Isla is most flattering above the knee. I actually am not sure that adding the extra length to the bodice really makes a difference for the dress. I know that some people don’t like the high waist style but I find it skims right over my midsection which I like. I think if I try the top again, I will add enough to the bodice to actually have it hit my waist. That would be a lot of inches.

Here is another top version that I made from fabric in my stash. This is a slightly heavier weight cotton and I think it drapes well.  This isn’t long enough either but its cute! img_4549I haven’t hemmed it and I am not sure if I will because I need the length. Here it is on. I love the fun print. I think the top would be fine a bit longer.img_4606Sewing this many versions gave me the chance to figure out which techniques I prefer for the arm and neck bands. I ended up following Rae’s directions for the arm bands but stretched a bit more as I sewed. I don’t pin. img_4613I ended up using about 1 inch less than the band as cut. This gave me a nice fit. I sewed a narrow zig zag along the seam.img_4615This gives it a nice finish. I used a double needle for one of my tops and I don’t think I love it that much more than the zig zag, which is so much quicker. img_4616For the neckband, I tried the technique in the pattern which has you sew just one shoulder and then add the neck band and then join the second shoulder and neck band as a unit. I found for me that I ended up with a bit of bulk so I used Erin’s approach but started with the neck band cut the length specified in the pattern and then stretched a bit more than the pattern would have you do because I had gaping with my first Isla and I generally have to do a hollow chest adjustment with my other MBR tops. I ended up using about 1-1.5 inches less than the neckband length specified in the pattern but it worked for me. Here are the finished dresses. All the fabric is from Hawthorne Threads which has a great selection of knits. img_4940

img_4942

img_4551

img_4697-1And as worn and in action (whirlwind photo sessions with my husband was more like dress as modern art.)img_4727The wrinkles in the shoulders above are due to my poor posture, not the pattern. Growing up my dad used to tell me to put my shoulders back and now my daughter does. img_4933This one might be my favorite. It was supposed to be a top with jeans because I thought the bunnies might be too childlike but it makes a great dress. img_4970Just be careful when you cut out the neck band to not cut the bunnies in half as I did at first. I cut a new neckband when I noticed my mistake.img_4611This pattern is a quick sew that makes a flattering, comfortable, cute dress that doesn’t need ironing and looks great under a labcoat. What could be better?img_4558I think I have now gotten sewing with knits out of my system for a while and am ready to take the walking foot off the machine, switch the needles and get ready to sew with wovens again. There is a great new skirt pattern that is just about to be released and I can’t wait. Here is the version I sewed when I tested the pattern. img_4234 I have some beautiful fabrics lined up to sew a couple of versions, just in time for spring. But in the meantime, my Isla capsule wardrobe will be just the thing to get me through the winter.

 

 

Standard
Made By Rae Patterns, Sewing

Sewing with Knits 101: The Isla Dress by MadebyRae

I attempted to sew some knit garments last year. My results were mixed. This Lady Skater dress was a reasonable success and is currently being worn by my step-daughter (fabric purchased at Girl Charlee).img_3846-1But I wasn’t thrilled with the results I got using my regular sewing machine. When Rae launched the Isla Pattern, I decided to give knits another try but first I did research. And I got some great tips from Instagram friends and from Rae herself (check the comments on Rae’s instagram posts on this pattern-a wealth of info!)  So this weekend when I had a bit of time, I decided to try making an Isla dress using some of these tips. I started this project after lunch and had the dress version finished before dinner. Based on my measurements I cut a Medium and added an inch both to the the bodice length and to the skirt. I am 5’9″ and I generally wear a Medium in Rae’s patterns and add 2 inches to most dresses so I thought I would try that and see how the fit was. The fabric is a jersey knit blend from Girl Charlee purchased on sale last year. I bought 3 yards for $6.60 each. This dress takes 2 yards.  I will likely also make the top with this fabric-only takes 1 yard- and may try lengthening the bodice further to see which fit I prefer. I have found that it is worth it to make a wearable muslin and then actually wear it for a day to be sure you have the right fit. This fabric, while inexpensive, is actually something I will wear and it feels amazing to have a new dress and top for less than $20.

I didn’t iron the fabric before cutting it out, I just lay it as flat as I could straight out of the dryer.img_4058-1 I tried a stretch stitch on my machine based on this post by Susan. It took a minute for me to get used to the stitch because the stitching process is much slower. The machine goes back over certain areas so I am not able to zip the fabric through the machine as I would with a straight stitch but once I got used to it,  it worked really well. I used hand-wound stretch thread in the bobbin only, a stretch needle and polyester thread in the needle. And since I had issues with the fabric feeding in an uneven way with my regular foot, I took the plunge and bought a walking foot for my sewing machine. I found a simple tutorial online that showed me how to change the foot to the walking foot. There are many on You Tube. I cut my notches as triangles to make them easier to see. img_4059This is what the test sample of the stretch stitch looked like on a scrap.img_4061These are the settings I used for the stretch stitch which I used for all my seams. img_4066And here are the settings I used for the zig zag stitch that I used around the arms and neck to tack down the seam allowances after attaching the binding.img_4065Here is a close up of the arm binding with the zig zag sewn about 1/8th inch from the seam. The walking foot worked really well feeding the fabric in evenly and helped the machine handle the bulk where seams were joined.img_4113I used the same tension I always use for all of the stitching, even the gathering stitch with elastic thread, and it worked fine.img_4120 The gathering technique is magical. Using elastic thread in the bobbin and a zig zag stitch, the skirt was gathered exactly the right amount. I have learned after sewing many MBR patterns to just trust Rae. She knows. Her instructions are straightforward and work great when followed.

I ended up making a mistake and sewed both shoulder seams and then realized that you aren’t supposed to do that until you add the neck binding. Oops! Luckily, I had recently read this tutorial by Erin which saved me. I don’t think I stretched the neck binding enough while sewing because it did start to gape a bit as the day wore on as seen below:img_4115

img_4118but that may also be because I am very small busted. I will try to make the neckline binding a bit smaller next time ( I find that it usually takes me 2-3 tries to get a pattern down,) but I am overall really  happy with my first version.

Although Rae doesn’t include it in the pattern, I zig-zagged a narrow ribbon to the shoulder seam allowances after sewing the seams for stability.img_4063I used a twin needle with stretch thread in the bobbin to sew the hem. I ironed the hem before sewing. img_4069I used wonder clips to hold the hem in place for sewing.img_4071Test fabric showing the twin needle hem.img_4070I used the presser foot edge as a seam guide and got really good results with the twin needle.img_4072Hem as stitched below.img_4111Hem seam as seen on the inside. It lies pretty flat but I think I will have even better results with a slightly heavier knit. This is pretty thin fabric. img_4112Twin needle settings below. (I take pictures so I remember for the next time.)img_4068Finished dress below. The bodice looks a little wonky on the hanger but it seems less so as worn. I think the next time I make this, I will sew my elastic gathering seam a bit farther away from the edge because my machine was chewing up the edge. It is actually amazing how well it ended up considering. I did not take out the stitches or redo the gathering or the seam where I joined the bodice to the skirt and it looks relatively even.img_4110And as worn. I am not sure if I want to keep the bodice this length or shorten it or lengthen it. This is with an added inch so you can see that it is pretty short as drafted. I have a really long torso and I haven’t decided which would be the most flattering.img_4079I am very happy with the fit around the arms and the neck.img_4075Back view.img_4095And with a cardigan which is how I will be wearing it this winter.img_4096This pattern is a quick sew. What I loved about it: gathering the skirt with elastic thread. Brilliant! I used a zig zag stitch, not a stretch stitch for gathering and sewing the bodice to the skirt with elastic thread in the bobbin. I highly recommend this pattern and the little knit tricks I learned above which enabled me to have a really nice result with a regular, inexpensive, sewing machine. Next time I will use the twin needle instead of the zig zag around the neck and arms, but otherwise, I am really happy with the results. This pattern is a keeper!

Standard