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.
I don’t have all of April Rhodes’ fabrics but I have many and have used them to make some garments I really love such as a Washi dress with sleeves, this Ruby dress, two pairs of Luna Pants, a Gemma Tank and a Cleo skirt. I am so happy with the green Washi with sleeves that I made with the beautiful fabric below and this navy Ruby dress and Gemma tank made in the other colorway of the green fabric, both of which I made and wore last summer.
I actually bought extra yardage of the green and navy fabrics as back-up for when I wear the dresses out which I consider good planning. Although the fabric is quilting cotton and relatively inexpensive, it is easy to work with and the feel of the fabric is very soft and lends itself to garments you want to wear. I first bought the fabric below from the Arizona line because I liked the geometric design and I thought it would make a good Beatrix blouse but when Rae came out with the Cleo Pattern, I thought it would be fun to see how the pattern worked with gathers. I think it is great as a skirt.I sewed this at the same time that I sewed my Fringe Cleo as I have found it is not a lot more work to make two of a garment than one. I sewed the hem with my machine using a hem facing, as I do. I used a lightweight white cotton batiste to face the hem because I thought the black lines might show through the white of the fabric if I just turned the hem up using the patterned fabric.I used three inch strips. Details of this hemming method in my prior Cleo posts. It is my go-to, quick method and it works well for me.I sewed the back of the waistband on the machine as directed but sewed the last bit of the front waistband by hand. I get nervous sewing in the ditch when the fabric is gathered and prefer to finish that last bit by hand. I used the batiste for the pocket as well. There is something so satisfying about a crisply ironed finished pocket. Rae’s instructions are very clear and the skirt is relatively easy to construct but is very polished looking when sewn. It makes me want to sew all the skirts!Here in Connecticut it is technically spring but not quite the weather for this skirt but soon! I have some white double gauze and I am thinking that a sleeveless Josephine blouse would be great with this skirt. It is on my (very long and growing) to be sewn list.
My blog is not monetized and I derive no benefit if you click on the links. I provide links to resources that I find helpful and I hope you do too. Happy sewing!
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).But 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. 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. This is what the test sample of the stretch stitch looked like on a scrap.These are the settings I used for the stretch stitch which I used for all my seams. And 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.Here 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.I used the same tension I always use for all of the stitching, even the gathering stitch with elastic thread, and it worked fine. 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:
but 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.I used a twin needle with stretch thread in the bobbin to sew the hem. I ironed the hem before sewing. I used wonder clips to hold the hem in place for sewing.Test fabric showing the twin needle hem.I used the presser foot edge as a seam guide and got really good results with the twin needle.Hem as stitched below.Hem 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. Twin needle settings below. (I take pictures so I remember for the next time.)Finished 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.And 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.I am very happy with the fit around the arms and the neck.Back view.And with a cardigan which is how I will be wearing it this winter.This 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!
Most of the Made By Rae Gemma Tanks I have been making over the last several weeks have been from fabrics in my stash. I have had a great time trying this pattern with many different types of fabrics as you can see in my previous posts. This fabric, however, I purchased with this pattern and the Pearl Shift in mind. I cut both out last week and today, I had time to finish binding the Gemma in this black and white Checkers fabric by Cotton and Steel. It is a woven, medium weight cotton. I decided to use the large check print since I thought it would be a great basic to layer with different colored sweaters. I cut between the medium and small lines on the pattern and added an inch in length.I did add a bit of extra seam allowance because I planned to finish the edges using my variation of the french binding technique.I used scraps of the white cotton batiste fabric that I used for the lining of my Gemma dress to bind this tank. The armhole binding below.I bound the seam of the hem the same way.The inside of the hem binding.Finished tank on the front door.Back of blouse.Porch pictures courtesy of my daughter. Front.Side.Back.Ready for Halloween with a cardigan.Side. view. Great pattern + great fabric! This is going to get a lot of wear.
I have written several posts about the Gemma Tank so this will just be pictures with details/links at the end of the post. Once again, when you have fabric this beautiful and a pattern you love, the rest is easy.
Garment Fabric: Macrame by Rashida Coleman-Hale for Cotton and Steel in cotton lawn in color Midnight purchased at Fabric.com
Binding Fabric: Cotton and Steel Lawn in Petal purchased at Hawthorne Threads
Size: I cut between the M and S lines and added an inch to the length
Binding width: 1.25 inches
Binding Method: see here
Previous Gemma posts: many
Gemma WIPs: many
Total number of Gemmas completed and in-process: I’m not telling but we will have a celebration when I #finishallthegemmas
This fabric + this pattern = totally awesome.I bought this beautiful woven fabric from the Loominous line by Anna Maria Horner last year to make something for my daughter. She has always loved pink and I knew she would love it and so when the line first came out I bought a couple of yards. It is called Big Love, obviously. (insert heart shaped emoji)I originally planned to make a dress for her but when Rae came out with the Gemma pattern, I knew this fabric would be perfect. This is the higher neck version of the Gemma in a size Medium without any modifications. I had sent Sarah a couple of muslins prior to cutting into the fabric to be sure of the fit. My front door is my new favorite place for pictures.I started this project earlier in the summer (along with several other Gemmas) when I had a couple of days off from work. The thing about this pattern is that the initial sewing goes very quickly and then there is the bias binding which is not terrible but somewhat of a challenge for me. So now I am finishing these projects one by one and today I had time to finish this.I used the method I describe in this post. It worked relatively well although the woven fabric has a bit of give to it and I wasn’t as successful in getting an even binding as I was when I used the quilting cotton. But I wanted the contrast of the visible binding and I thought Sarah would prefer to have a bit more width in the shoulder since she is a teacher and has to wear clothes that aren’t overly revealing.When I uploaded the photos from my phone, I did them in the reverse order that I intended so you are sort of getting a backward looking glance at the binding process, but you get the idea. Back of the finished tank on my front door below. It gets the best light for pictures.In addition to the details of the other binding method that I use explained in this post and which I used for the hem of this Gemma below, Rae has three fabulous binding tutorials that clearly illustrate several different approaches to the right way to do it here. I highly recommend them. #beforethebinding picture below.I have several other Gemmas with pink either in the main fabric or as the planned binding and will be sharing them over the next few weeks as I find time to #finishallthegemmas.So this one will be in the mail tomorrow on its way to the Midwest. Hopefully it is still warm enough for it to get wear this season. Who needs Stitchfix when you have Stitchmom? (just kidding, Stitchfix is awesome too!) You can link to my previous posts about the Gemma Tank here, here and here.
Last winter my husband and I spent a bit of time in our local Goodwill Thrift stores buying old sweaters for an afghan project for my stepdaughters which you can see in this post and I came across a plaid men’s oxford shirt in great shape. I liked the colors and thought it would be good for binding or facings and then it sat on my shelf until about a month ago when I discovered the Gemma Tank pattern by Made By Rae and embarked on a month-long tank-making frenzy that continues to this day. When I saw this linen version by Rae’s cousin Jess, I thought I would use some leftover woven cotton that has a linen-y look to it (previously purchased at Joanne’s for a Bianca dress that I wear all the time) and use the plaid for the bias binding. But then I realized that I probably had enough of the plaid to make it into its own Gemma, so that is what I did (before binding below).Simultaneously, almost, I cut out the blue woven material to make that version of the Gemma. Although I had planned to use the plaid shirt above to bind the blue Gemma below and some of the blue scraps to bind the plaid, I ended up with another plaid shirt in the mix.
My husband saw how much fun I was having repurposing the Goodwill plaid shirt and gave me one of his from his closet that didn’t fit him. And I liked how it went with the blue as you can see below. I ended up using a lighter blue chambray to bind shirt number one (are you confused yet?) only because I had it leftover from binding my Wood Cut Gemma seen in this post and the extra was on my sewing table and I happened to notice how nicely it went with the plaid-serendipity.My husband’s shirt below (this is the before picture.) Who knew he had such a treasure hidden among the white and blue oxford shirts? Great quality and a perfect match.I had both these tanks sewn up and had started the binding several weeks ago but then I set them aside to make some birthday tanks for my stepdaughters (twins) which I will blog about some day. (so cute-both the girls and the shirts)
So in the process of making these shirts, and although I still have quite a few that still need binding, I have had some successes and some not-so-successful results. I previously blogged about my version of the traditional binding that ends up looking like a topstitched binding. But the binding I like best is the version I used for these plaid/chambray Gemmas and for my Wood Cut Gemma and the girls’ Octopus Gemmas seen below.
It resembles the french binding technique that Rae explains (all three of her binding tutorials are terrific) but since I just made it up as I went along, I found that I am doing something different than she teaches (I made these Gemmas before the binding tutorials were available) so I am sharing my approach in case it is helpful to others. First, I usually cut my binding strips 1.5 inches wide, although I believe the light blue chambray below is 1.25. I sew it with right sides together (a mistake I have made repeatedly as I make the Gemmas is to sew the binding to the inside instead of the outside). I don’t pin. I use the presser foot as a guide and I end up with a seam allowance that is between 1/4 and 3/8 of an inch. I initially tried the method of overlapping the ends that Rae describes in her pattern but I was not happy with the results so I leave a tail when I start sewing so I can stop a couple inches before the end and sew the ends together. Rae shows how to do this in her french binding tutorial. By the way, when I make binding tape, I just join the pieces using straight edges, I don’t cut the 45 degree angles that the tutorials recommend. I don’t find that there is enough bulk to bother me and it is quicker. Sacrilege I know.As you can see above, I don’t iron the fold into the binding tape prior to sewing it to the garment, which is different than the tutorials. After sewing the seam, I gently press the seam and then press from the wrong side of the garment and fold the binding tape inward so the edge meets the stitching line. I will show more pictures of this below. Then I iron and then I fold again using the seam where the shirt edge meets the binding and so I have a sort of tri-fold sandwich. Then I use wonder clips to hold it in place. I try to make the width of the folded fabric even.Then I flip the garment right side out and check to make sure that the fold is even and sometimes I iron a bit but I don’t go crazy ironing if it is a neckline or arm hole so as not to stretch the curve out. Then I sew from the right side, which is the opposite of the french technique Rae explains where she sews from the inside. I do this because I like the look of the stitches and I want them to be as pretty as possible and I find that my stitches are not as pretty on the underside. I also do it because I usually like to shift the fabric fold just enough to create a bit of a an edge that ends up looking like piping. I learned to do this by mistake when I made a black lined washi dress for myself. I then did it on purpose when I made a similar dress for my sister. It is an easy thing to do and I am really happy with the little extra zing it gives the garment. This is what it looks like below. I basically hold the fabric fold and feed it into the machine so I have a sense of where the thickness is to be able to catch the whole fold and have a relatively even width between the stitching line and the edge of the garment. I don’t always have exactly the same amount of contrasting material-fake piping showing but I think it ends up looking fine.In terms of my approach to upcycling, I did the opposite from my approach to my upcycled Beatrix shirt where I used the back for the front and the front for the back. In this case, I pieced the front from the two sides of the front of the oxford shirt and cut the Gemma back from the shirt back. I had to do this because of the size of the back pattern piece and the logo which was on the front of the shirt, seen below. Luckily there was no pocket to contend with but there was the polo player who ended up in just about the right spot. I really like the contrasting blue edge around the neck and arms.Back of shirt below. I cut the back from the back of the shirt. I needed the big piece because the Gemma tank neckline in back goes up high. I wouldn’t have had enough to piece it. Also the polo player.I did the binding for the chambray-like tank the same way. I cut 1.5 inch strips and followed exactly the steps as above except that I didn’t shift the fabric as much. In this case, I was ok with some of the plaid poking out but I wasn’t going for the look of an edge all the way around the seams since I wanted the tank to be a neutral piece I could layer with many colors. I felt a little bad about cutting into such a nice shirt but it wasn’t being worn. It is a really thin, fine dress shirt cotton poplin and was really easy to work with. I have plenty left over for more projects.Same steps.After sewing the first seam with the binding ironed up (this is the outside of the shirt) before turning garment inside out to make the fabric sandwich.Finished neckline below with binding sewn in place.Both versions.Another view so you can see the blue edging.Applying binding to the hem. You can see how the front seam doesn’t line up exactly in terms of plaid matching but it is pretty close.Another view of how I line up the edge with the seam when making the binding sandwich.So many pictures (I went a little crazy).I ended up sewing a couple of lines of stitching when I joined the front pieces in an attempt to better match the plaid. Not the neatest but this is going to be a hang out on the weekend Gemma so I wasn’t a perfectionist.More pictures showing the front seam (wonder clips are a good investment btw.)More binding close ups.Front door pictures of finished shirts.Sadly I cut a small bit of the fabric with my rotary cutter by mistake in my haste when I cut out the front. You can see a little repair I did under the arm hole with some interfacing and some zigzagging. It isn’t really noticeable when being worn.And as worn. Thanks to my daughter the photographer. Front view. Both of these are cut between the medium and small line on the pattern using the scoop neck. Perfect with jeans.Side view and back view.And version 2. Pretty good for upcycling right? Run, do not walk, to your local Goodwill.Side view.Back view.Love these shirts and love this pattern!