It snowed in Connecticut this week and the highways were closed. A perfect day to finish some sewing projects! I finished a Washi XP and a Cleo Skirt.The Washi XP is an expansion pack that enables you to make more versions of the Made By Rae Washi Pattern. It gives you many options for customizing your dress. I made the sleeveless version with a big bow. I had cut this dress out last summer when I wanted to use the fabric to bind this baby quilt and had to cut the dress out first to make sure I had enough left for the binding. And then it sat as WIPs tend to do. The Cleo Skirt below was planned from the minute Rae announced that she would be releasing a skirt pattern. I bought this Fringe fabric when I saw the great skirts that April made in both a child and adult version. But while I waited for the skirt pattern to be released (and it was worth the wait) I thought about how great this fabric would be for a pair of Luna Pants (which I sewed last summer) and I ended up buying more for the skirt. I am not sorry.Because this is quilting cotton, it is a bit poofier than say, voile or double gauze. But I have decided to embrace the poof. I love this skirt!It is great right now with boots and tights and it is going to be great this summer with a black tank top. Or this blue Gemma I made last summer that goes with everything. I used another fabric from April Rhodes as a hem facing.I used 3 inch strips. I find this is easier and gives me a nicer finish than a traditional hem. It is also more fun.Dress hanging on the front door before hemming and before I sewed the waistband down on the inside of the front waist. I hand sewed the front part because stitching in the ditch with all those gathers made me a bit nervous. Hand sewing was fast and I was happy with the results.This was a quick sew and the quilting cotton was really easy to work with. Next up, I have versions planned in voile. Pocket in process below. Rae’s instructions are really clear.Next up was the WashiXP. This is not much more work than the regular Washi. I love this fabric from Cotton and Steel. It is quilting cotton but a bit heavier in feel and it drapes really nicely. I have made several dresses with Cotton and Steel quilting cotton that I wear all winter with leggings and a sweater. In this version, the front bodice is in two pieces that are then sewn together to enable you to attach the ties for the bow.This fabric was also really easy to work with, a great thing for the first time you sew a pattern. I also have some Cotton and Steel rayon that I have planned for this pattern but I wanted to sew it first using a fabric that would cooperate.Again the step by step directions are easy to follow.This version of the Washi uses elastic with a casing instead of shirring with elastic thread although you could do either. I ended up machine basting the casing from the wrong side so I could be sure to line it up correctly and then used the basting stitches to guide me when I sewed it in place from the right side. This worked really well for me and was pretty quick.I hand basted the last part of the collar sewing where you sew in the ditch from the right side of the fabric. This kept the collar in place and enabled me to iron it well before sewing so I got a nice result.Here is the dress before I sewed the bias binding on to the armholes. The fit is spot on and I love the bow. Selfie arms below.I decided to use some of the last of my Cotton and Steel floral lawn for the armholes. I love this fabric. One of my favorites. I have a sleeveless Beatrix Blouse cut out of this ready to sew for summer. I need another snowday!It makes the binding so much more enjoyable when you love the fabric. I love the pops of color.Especially the mustard and olive green.I like to turn my binding under so just a hint of the binding fabric shows. I spent a lot of time sewing bias binding last summer when I sewed many Gemma tanks and this is my favorite binding method.Inside of dress below with collar.Finished dress in hallway picture (front door pictures don’t work in blizzards.)Inside view. I didn’t have enough of the floral for the hem so I used a Cotton and Steel lawn in a pink color that harmonizes with the floral.And as worn. Yes it was cold but worth it for the photo. These are both great patterns and I have many more versions planned for spring which is supposed to be here in just five days!
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!
The first Gemma Tank I made was this one. Pictures of it as worn by me here. I cut a Medium with the higher neck option, although I shaved a small bit off the front of the neck. You can see approximately how much I took off below although the picture below is a different Gemma (made the same way). I just slid the pattern down and cut a bit lower using the same curve so that the edge would be below the collarbones.I also lengthened it by approximately two inches. I mostly followed the directions for the bias binding using the traditional method with two changes: I cut my bias strips 1.5 inches instead of 1.25 since I sometimes find I don’t catch the whole edge with the narrower strip and I sewed from the front side on the edge of the binding rather than in the ditch. I find I can line things up better that way and I like the look of the stitching. You can see the position of the needle below. When I initially sew the binding to the edge, I use my presser foot as a visual seam guide and it is about 3/8 inch so my whole binding ends up being a bit wider. I used this beautiful cream colored Art Gallery quilting cotton by April Rhodes. I love this line and had previously made a Washi Dress with the same fabric in the green colorway, seen below.I was so happy with the feel of the fabric-it is soft and works beautifully for sewing garments. It is more like a lawn than quilting cotton. In fact, I bought another 3 yards of the green as a back up plan. I have done that only a few times but I was so happy with my Washi that I wanted to have extra to be able to make it again when I wear it out which I will since I wear it all the time. I often make little changes as I sew and then forget what I changed (I do the same thing when I cook) so I have learned to take pictures. I actually had to look at my picture below to remember that my bias strips were 1.5 inches. I don’t pin before I sew, I just hold the edges together and it generally works pretty well. Then I iron the stitching line and press the edge to the other side and use wonder clips to hold the bias binding in place before I sew the second seam which, as seen below in the finished version, is just to the inside of the ditch. It actually looks like it was sewn on the inside and flipped to the front using the topstitch method, the way Rae shows you here in this great tutorial. Fellow blogger Teri used this method beautifully when she made this great checked Gemma. I am not sure if I would find the topstitch method easier than what I currently do because I have never tried it but I am really happy with this sort of fake topstitch method I developed by mistake. I actually started doing it this way because I couldn’t sew as straight a seam in the ditch as I liked and had better results sewing just over a bit on the side of the seam. I am really happy with how it turns out when everything cooperates. The picture below was taken after several washings and I am still very happy with how this shirt turned out.I like using the wonder clips because I turn the blouse inside out and iron the binding to the wrong side and whereas I used to pin it in place on the wrong side and then flip it and have to move all the pins to the outside before sewing, the side doesn’t matter with the wonder clips and it saves a step. This is what the outside looks like before sewing the second seam.I also sewed a facing onto the hem of this Gemma using more of the binding tape. For some reason, I get a much neater hem doing this than just turning up the fabric. Although it might seem like more work, the seam line gives a visual place to turn up the edge, I iron like crazy and everything just turns out neater. I also like a slightly wider hem than the pattern calls for because I find it lies flatter and doesn’t curl up.I do a lot of ironing when I make the hems this way. I have described this in several previous blogs. I often use contrasting fabric for fun. You can see other examples here, here, here and here. Pictures of the hem facing process below.
As those of you who follow me on instagram know, I have been in the midst of sewing quite a few Gemmas. One might even call it Gemma madness. I have another binding method that I like even better that I will post about soon (also non-traditional.) Stay tuned!
Screenshot of my phone on Me Made May day 24. I looked at my instagram account and wondered why I had so many notifications. I scrolled down and this is what I saw. Pretty amazing.
Last year I participated in Me Made May but I had just started sewing clothes for myself. I posted maybe 8 or 10 times with many repeats. It was so fun though to see so many different versions of great patterns. I was totally inspired and went on to sew many projects inspired by those posts. This year I was ready. Me Made May is not really different for me than any other month because except for the days I work as a bedside RN when it is all scrubs all day until I come home and fall into the shower, (after 12 + hours, I can’t imagine taking a selfie or changing into anything other than sweats,) I wear me made clothes every day. The posting and selfies though are not my normal routine. But once again inspired by the community, I tried to post most days. Here are some of the posts.
All in all, it was a great month, though cold. Note all the cardigans. Those were not for show folks!
Until next year, #nursebeansews over and out (with Sadie the photobomber!)
This is the before picture.When I made my first Washi Dress last winter, I didn’t have enough fabric and ended up adding a strip of a different fabric as a border. I was really happy with the result. I was new to this sewing business and if you look closely you can see that I didn’t match up the seams on the main part of the dress and the border but to be honest, it doesn’t even matter. It is cute. I wear it all the time and I get lots of compliments. It is a tribute to Rae that even my first attempts at her patterns have turned out to be wearable and cute.I wanted to make the pattern again and decided to use some black quilting cotton from my stash to make a black Washi. I realized that I had enough black cotton to make almost two dresses but not quite so I decided to use a second fabric to make a contrasting band at the bottom of each skirt. I ended up making two versions: one for my daughter with polka dots and for myself, I used fabric leftover from my younger daughter’s grade school Invention Convention project, which was a “puppymobile”. Details of the two dresses can be seen here in my original post.I was really happy with the effect this little change made to a basic black dress and I was happy to be able to make two dresses using fabric I already had. My sister saw the polka dot version I made for Sarah and said she really liked it. I happened to have the polka dot fabric in a different colorway so I offered to make her one.When I made my own black washi with the puppy fabric lining, I must have cut the lining a bit bigger than the bodice pieces for the dress dress and when I went to topstitch the neckline, it shifted a bit. I ended up doing it on purpose to create the effect of piping without actually having to make piping. I did that for Madeleine’s dress as well. It is such an easy thing to do and I love the effect.Once again, I used the wonderfully clear Made By Rae videos to walk me through the sausage technique to get a clean finish for the lined bodice-finished dress inside out above. Sausage in process below.I used the cutting lines for the Washi tunic and added several inches to create my seam line for the main part of the dress. I sewed all the side seams and added the contrasting border at the end lining up the seam in the border with the side seams of the dress.After sewing on the border, I ironed the seam and then topstitched for a more finished look and for durability, something that is important to me as I machine wash everything. Dry cleaning costs are just not in my budget.I am really happy with the way it turned out. The polka dots add just enough cute to be fun. And here is the finished dress which was mailed out to Michigan for the birthday girl.The puppy version (slightly rumped) below. I wear it often.
I decided to make a dress for my mother for Mother’s Day with one of my favorite patterns, the Made-by-Rae Washi dress. With so many amazing fabrics out there, I wasn’t sure what to use until I remembered that I had this beautiful paisley-like lightweight cotton that I bought years ago at the wonderful fabric store in Brooklyn where I learned to sew. I love the deep navy with the contrasts of yellow, green and red. It feels very French.This felt like the perfect fabric for my mother because she is a Professor of French Literature and has studied and lived in France. I made a medium and lengthened it by 2 inches because we are pretty much the same size. The fabric was a dream to work with.I lined the bodice using the sausage technique that Rae teaches in her videos.I shirred the back. Rae has a great shirring tutorial here. The nice thing about dark fabric is that you can use a chalk liner to mark your shirring lines. The top of the back is folded up out of the way with wonder clips.It is always a good idea to pin or clip the top part of the back before starting to sew the shirring so you don’t catch the top of the back in the shirring seams. (I learned this the hard way.)I lined the bodice with a pale yellow cotton that I had in my stash. The contrast is so pretty.Picture of the inside of the dress. I love the clean finish that you get when you line the bodice. I added loops of ribbon for bra straps, a little touch that makes a huge difference for those of us with sloped shoulders. (inside back view below)I used the navy fabric and made a hem facing. I generally use hem facings to get a cleaner finish as I wrote about here and here. I didn’t have enough of the yellow or I would have used it to make a contrasting hem facing as I usually do.I am really happy with the final product and hope that she will enjoy wearing it all summer. She actually has already worn it to the theater in New York. Check it out! Beautiful, am I right? I may have to make one just like it for myself! I will have to check and see how much of this fabric I have left. 🙂The Washi-such an awesome pattern! Next up, a polka dot Washi for my sister. 😉
I bought this beautiful Nani Iro double gauze fabric at The Cloth Pocket back in October when I visited my son in Austin. I had originally planned to make a blouse but I was inspired by this beautiful dress that Cherie made for her little girl. It is just perfect. I finally got brave enough to cut into the fabric and decided to make another made-by-rae Washi which is a tried and true pattern for me. I cut the sides a little wider to allow for french seams since double gauze frays. I had good luck with this approach when I made my Charm double gauze washi dress. I realized as I lay the pattern pieces out that I hadn’t allowed for enough fabric to match the stripes. It is actually a tricky thing to line up stripes on a Washi because the front of the dress is made of two separate pieces and the back of the dress has shirring which affects how things line up. Realizing that there was no way to do this easily with less than three yards of fabric, I decided to just line the pieces up with the darker stripes around the waist and hope for the best. I used chalk to mark the shirring lines but I usually end up just using one chalked line and then using the first sewing line to guide the rest of my seams. Shirring using elastic thread is actually amazingly easy. Rae’s tutorial here.I used organic natural colored cotton batiste to line the bodice using Rae’s helpful videos. The lining is understitched, a technique I learned from the Beatrix Sewalong.I added a ribbon with snaps for bra strap holders as I sewed the fabric sausage.A fabric sausage pinned and ready to be sewn.Finished shirring visible as I sew the bodice lining.Once again I used a lightweight quilting cotton in a neutral light pink for hem facing. I have used it for several garments. I have almost run out!Hem pinned and ready to be sewn.Hem.Finished dress back view. The stripes don’t line up on the side but I am happy with the way the back stripes ended up. The photo bomber is my sweet dog Sadie.Close up of the beautiful nani iro fabric.Shades of grey can be beautiful!