Made By Rae Patterns, Sewing

Spring Isla Dress With Jade Sleeves

I have made the Made by Rae Isla Dress so many times I have lost count but they have all been in prints. I decided to use this grey heather cotton Lycra knit from my stash to make a slightly longer grey version with long sleeves borrowed from the Jade Top pattern for cooler spring days. I cut this out ages ago and finally sewed it up in a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon.

I didn’t even hem it.

I know it will be worn a zillion times dressed up and dressed down.

Now to buy some new necklaces to go with it. It is the perfect backdrop. For the many other Islas and some tips on sewing knits with a regular sewing machine, check out Sewing with Knits 101, Sewing with Knits102 and my Me Made May wrap-up posts here, here and here.

Yay spring! The bees are back-seen in my flowers today!

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

Fall Sewing: York Pinafore and Jade Tops

I have been trying to fill in my cold weather wardrobe with handmade basics and the York Pinafore and the Jade top are the perfect combination. This past holiday weekend, I finished a second fall version of the York and two more Jade tops, all of which will mix and match with my other fall York. With tights it is the perfect cold weather outfit. img_4778-1I sewed my second fall York using a light brown wide-wale corduroy that I bought for a song at FabScrap – a wonderful non-profit based in Brooklyn that is working to keep fabric out of landfills by recycling and reusing fabric that would otherwise be discarded. img_4679I lined the pockets with blue linen left over from a summer version of the York. You can see how nice the fabric is in this close-up. It is really soft and drapes so well-really surprising in a corduroy as they are often stiff.
img_4718I had heard about FabScrap but had never visited their operation and then the Love to Sew ladies came to NYC and hosted a meet-up of local sewists there and I was lucky enough to be able to go.  I am a big fan of the Love to Sew podcast and Helen and Caroline were so warm and friendly in person and it was really fun to spend time with other sewing friends. It was such a fun evening!
img_4151At FabScrap, volunteers sort donated fabric and what can’t be sold as yardage is recycled and made into industrial felt. They even have recycled buttons and zippers and sometimes sell fabric online. They recently had a flash sale of corduroy for $5 a yard that I jumped on. I bought four colors thinking that it would be a great basic to have for clothing for myself but also for little jumpers and pants for future grandchildren and I am so glad I took the plunge. It will make great garments (I have plans for Lander pants and this amazing Charlie Caftan hack ) and the scraps will end up in some patchwork quilts I am making out of leftover heavyweight plaid flannel scraps. Altogether a great purchase. This summer I wore my Yorks with Gemma Tanks and now that the weather is colder, the Jade knit top is the perfect shirt to go under the pinafore. I made two this weekend including the navy and white striped version img_4677-1as worn here:
img_4785and have several more cut out. I discovered Cloud 9 organic cotton knits this spring when I was a tester for the Jade and made this version:img_0088This fabric is a dream to sew with and is incredibly soft and comfortable to wear. I stocked up on several different colors and stripes this summer and I am sewing a wardrobe of shirts. It spoils you for any other knit. I highly recommend it. It would make great children’s tops as well.img_4723I also sewed a dark grey version of the Jade from lovely soft cotton knit fabric bought long ago from Peekaboo pattern company. I know this will get a lot of wear. It goes with everything.
And there you have it. Two great patterns that are quick to sew, don’t use a lot of fabric and mix and match with many possibilities. More versions to come!  Perfect for walking all over the city, something I have been lucky to do this fall. I really enjoyed walking through Central Park img_4522 and going to the Guggenheim img_4552where I saw this amazing exhibit which is totally worth a visit. img_4544I will definitely be going back.  img_4540This past Sunday it was so warm (50 degrees in November!) and my husband and I spent the day exploring Clinton Hill in Brooklynimg_4850 where we got to see the inside of the beautiful library at the Pratt Institute (yes I am wearing my Tamarack Jacket here-this was a selfie in the distance-the mirror was on the opposite wall and I couldn’t resist.)
img_4836We also went to a favorite bookstore where I bought this book (so good so far) and
img_4878 ended the day with ice cream eaten on the waterfront. It felt like spring-a perfect fall day.  (this is not us-just another lucky couple enjoying a beautiful NYC night.) Happy Fall!img_4865-1

Made By Rae Patterns, Sewing

Summer Islas

img_5563A little more than two years ago, I started sewing my own clothes and last fall, I took the plunge into knits. I lived all winter long in my Isla Capsule Wardrobe and this summer, I decided to sew some more versions in some floral fabrics in a slightly longer length in light of bare legs vs leggings. I had picked out a beautiful purple floral by Pat Bravo, the beautiful green floral from Rae Hoekstra’s Sidewalk Fabric line and the blue-green colorway of Amy Butler’s Glow knit which I scooped up when it was on sale, having been really happy with the fabric when I sewed the grey colorway as one of my first Isla tops. img_4549-1And as worn here: img_4585This would seem to be plenty: 3 summer dresses. And then, April Rhodes’ amazing new fabric line was released and I was inspired to make one more. I alternate my sewing methods. Sometimes I sew my clothes in batches of the same pattern in different versions. This was one of those times, especially since I switch not only the needle and thread type when sewing knits but also the sewing machine foot (I always use a walking foot).img_5555 Other than adding an inch to the length of the skirt (which I neglected to do for the Glow version, I am not sure why) I followed exactly the same methods I used for my first batch of Isla’s which was to use all the tricks that my Instagram friends shared with me and which can be found in this post, This is the first time I have sewn contrasting neck and arm binding and I am really happy with this combination. img_5558And as worn: img_5614Next up I made the Sidewalk fabric version. I knew it would be good because I had seen Rae’s version which inspired me. img_5884This fabric is really nice to work with and I am so happy with how this version turned out.img_5906And as worn:img_6318Next I sewed the Indie Boheme version. This fabric feels very summery to me. I almost bought it in voile to make Rae’s Josephine blouse with gathers. That pattern has been on my To-Be-Sewn list for quite some time and I love her new Loominous II version. img_5675And as worn:img_5873The Amy Butler version is a bit shorter which came in handy when we recently had a heatwave. I didn’t think I cut it differently but I must have.img_5908 This fabric is a bit heavier than the others. It is really easy to sew with and would be great for someone new to knits.img_6369And that would have been it, except that Erin made two beautiful maxi versions of the Isla and I saw another version of a knit maxi dress on Instagram that was not the Isla but which used a blue and white shibori-inspired print. That is when it clicked for me and I decided to take the plunge. I found this bamboo-rayon knit and ordered it on a Monday. It arrived on a Friday. I  literally got home from work, washed the fabric, cut the fabric, sewed the fabric. I added about 20 inches to the length of the skirt. I added about 6 inches to the width of the back skirt and none to the front. The fabric was a bit slippery and a bit tricky to cut. I was in a bit of a panic for a minute because I had some trouble lining it up correctly to cut the skirt pieces out after having cut out the bodice but it all worked out in the end. I wore it to a family wedding that next day and I plan to wear it until I wear it out.img_6391 It is amazingly comfortable, flattering and doesn’t wrinkle.img_6386Perfect for a trip to someplace amazing. Now all I need are airplane tickets. Mr. NB, take note! And it is even better with my mustard cardigan, as most of my dresses are.img_6403One of my favorite winter Islas did get some wear time this summer on one of our cooler days. Here it is with leggings and sneakers. I can’t recommend this pattern more highly!img_5938



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_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.



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!