The Allure of the Hummingbird

Along with so many others out there in Blog Land, I too have succumbed to the allure of the Hummingbird Dress by Rabbit Rabbit Creations.

Hummingbird Dress, Rabbit Rabbit Creations, Vintage Sheet

I mean, what do my girls need more that another summer dress???  Haha.  But . . . with a perfect pattern like this, how could I resist?

Hummingbird Dress, Rabbit Rabbit Creations, Vintage Sheet

After reading in a blog post about sewing little girl dresses out of vintage sheets, whenever I have a little extra time before picking the girls up from school, I’ll stop by the local thrift shore and check out what’s on the racks.  I’ve been amazed by what I find in there for about $3 a pop.  If you really look, you can find the cutest prints on the softest stuff that’s been washed jillions of times.  And one sheet is enough to make at least two dresses.

These particular sheets had been sitting in my stash for a while, waiting for the right dress to come along.  I can’t get over these strawberries — don’t they take you right back to 1976?

Hummingbird Dress, Rabbit Rabbit Creations, Vintage Sheet

One advantage to a print like this, aside of ultimate cuteness, is it’s ability to hide ketchup stains.  Bet you can’t find ’em!

Both of the sheets I used probably have a little bit of polyester in there, which gives them this gorgeous, flowy drape.

Hummingbird Dress, Rabbit Rabbit Creations, Vintage Sheet

This pattern offers three different skirt fullness options.  For Lulu (in the strawberries), I opted for ultimate fullness.  Kiki prefers less drama, so for her I opted for medium fullness.

Hummingbird Dress, Rabbit Rabbit Creations, Vintage Sheet

I couldn’t believe that I happened to have a piece of broadcloth the perfect compliment color for Kiki’s straps, as well as the same color as her hair.  Sometimes, dresses are just meant to be.

Hummingbird Dress, Rabbit Rabbit Creations, Vintage Sheet

I came into a bit of trouble when it was time to attach the skirt to the bodice.  The method given in the instructions seemed pretty much impossible to achieve.  So, I googled to see if anyone else had run into the same problem.  Wouldn’t you know, I was not alone.

There’s an amazing tute on Glitter + Wit that will show you how to easily achieve a lovely enclosed seam!!!  But, do yourself a favor and read through this tutorial before you sew, so that you don’t have to grab your seam ripper and backtrack like I did — because in this alternate method, you need to attach the skirt before inserting the elastic.  Thanks, Tasha!

Hummingbird Dress, Rabbit Rabbit Creations, Vintage Sheet

Erin from Hungie Gungie also mentions that  1/2″ needs to be added to the height of the bodice piece (and lining), as it doesn’t quite match up with the front bodice.  Quite right!

Hummingbird Dress, Rabbit Rabbit Creations, Vintage Sheet

When I sew this dress up again, I’ll follow Rachel’s advice and will raise the neckline up a bit and will add 2 inches to the back bodice, as it sits a little bit tight.  I wonder if she also added 2 inches to the elastic as well — probably so?

Hummingbird Dress, Rabbit Rabbit Creations, Vintage Sheet

Also, be sure to choose your size according to chest measurement.  For the six year old Kiki’s bodice, I cut a size 4 width and size 6 length.  Lulu (4) got a straight up size 4.

Hummingbird Dress, Rabbit Rabbit Creations, Vintage Sheet

On a sticky summer afternoon with the cicadas singing, when the fish are jumping and the cotton is high, you can’t do better than fall for the allure of the Hummingbird!

Hummingbird Dress, Rabbit Rabbit Creations, Vintage Sheet



The Sailor and the Octopus

Sailor Top, Fancy Tiger CraftsI’ve been seeing quite a few versions of the Sailor Top from Fancy Tiger Crafts around the web lately, so I thought I’d show you the one I made.

Before we get into the pattern details, I’d like to take a moment to appreciate the awesomeness of these octopi.  What an amazing print!  You may already know that it’s Tokyo Train Ride Mystery Meal lawn in pink from Cotton + Steel.  It’s a very nicely weighted lawn, so it works really well for garments, and it comes in two other colorways.

Sailor Top, Fancy Tiger CraftsI’d been thinking and thinking about what I’d make with this when I eventually got my hands on it.  I finally found it on sale (can’t remember where, alas), and decided it was time to take the plunge.

By the way, I happened to see the sneak peak video that Cotton + Steel just put out previewing the new fall fabrics for 2015, and I was giddy to see that this print is making a return in indigo 🙂  It’s quilting cotton, though, so we’ll need to get creative in how we wear it.  I feel certain that we’ll be up to the challenge.

Sailor Top, Fancy Tiger CraftsBack to the Sailor top — it’s a great, easy to fit and easy to sew top that I wore pretty much all summer.

Sailor Top, Fancy Tiger CraftsI sewed up a medium, and it is a little bit tighter under the arms that I’m used to, but I think it’s supposed to be like that — and it didn’t take long to get used to it.  However . . . I have to say that looking at this photo makes me think that the arms may need some tweaking next time around.  Ah well.

Sailor Top, Fancy Tiger CraftsThe sewing is simple — raglan sleeves, a gathered yoke and sleeve facings.  Plenty of ease. You should try it!

Beatrix X 2

Despite the absence of grown-up sewing on this blog for a long while, I have been sewing for myself quite a bit over the past few months.  But somehow, asking my (very obliging) husband to take photos of me and then posting them on the internet is not always on the top of my list of favorite things to do, so I’ve been holding out.

Now, it’s time to come clean and show you what I’ve been up to.

Made By Rae, Beatrix TopHere are two versions of the Beatrix Top from Made By Rae, which came out this past summer.

My fabrics are Aloe Vera Voile in lime from Anna Maria Horner and gorgeous Nani Iro double gauze.

Made By Rae, Beatrix TopI think this is a great pattern — very similar to the Scout Tee by Grainline Studios, but less boxy with the addition of darts.

Made By Rae, Beatrix TopDon’t you love the shape of the shirttail hem?

The button placket on the back adds a lot of interest, and can be made in a contrast fabric. It’s also surprisingly simple to put together.

Made By Rae, Beatrix TopFor the double gauze version, I used little hand painted wooden buttons that my (crazily thoughtful) husband gave me for my birthday.  They’re just perfect, don’t you think?

The fit is very forgiving for those of us who have a thicker post baby mid-section, which is always a relief 🙂

Made By Rae, Beatrix TopAnother nice thing about this pattern is that you don’t need to unbutton it to pull it on and off over your head.  I’m thinking of making one with the back in one piece, much like the Scout Tee, but with a better fit.

Made By Rae, Beatrix TopI was a good citizen and made a muslin.  I ended up with a medium, without any adjustments.  The voile version behaved just as the muslin did, and I left the sizing as is.

But the double gauze Beatrix turned out to be wildly larger than the voile in the width. It’s crazy how different fabrics behave!  I took that one in quite a bit on the sides, and could probably stand to take in a bit more.

Another thing I noticed with the double gauze is that, despite diligent use of interfacing, the placket very quickly looks a bit pulled at the buttons — even though it’s not tight at all. A possible solution might be to sew the placket pieces together down the center back together so the buttons are actually not functional.  What do you think?

Made By Rae, Beatrix TopOk, that wasn’t too painful.  I’ll be back soon with more of me!!!

The Washi Revisited

Made by Rae Washi Dress Sewing for yourself is hard.  Don’t you think?  Measuring yourself, trying to get the right fit, trial and error — it’s a whole different kettle of fish from making things for your kids.  And then there’s taking the photos for your blog.  Ouch.

My very first try at sewing for myself was a couple of years ago, soon after I started sewing for my kids on a regular basis.  I took a look around the internet for ideas, and came across Made by Rae’s Washi Dress (of course).  Probably just about everybody involved in the sewing world has made at least one of these babies.  And since everyone raves about the flattering fit, I figured this would be a good place to start.

I sort of measured myself and settled on a medium.  I chose quilting cotton with a rather bold print from Joann.  (This was way before I knew that quilting cotton isn’t a very good choice for garments for a wide variety of reasons.)  I dove into sewing with the confidence of someone who doesn’t know any better.  When I finished the dress and tried it on in front of the mirror expecting to be dazzled by my own talent and awesomeness, I was pretty much horrified by what I saw.  It looked just awful.  How could this be?  This dress looks great on everyone in the world except for me!  Without skipping a beat, I took it off and stuck it as far back into the the depths of my closet as I could and tried my best to forget about the whole thing.  I was mostly pissed that I had spent so much time on something the turned out to be such a complete and total failure.  Sound familiar?

A year or so later, I saw that Rae was hosting a workshop with April Rhodes in her studio in Ann Arbor all about sewing garments for yourself.  A light bulb went on, and I decided see if I might be able to get a spot.  Wouldn’t you know that I got in!  I bought a pile of fabric, tossed my machine into the back of my car, kissed the kids goodbye and set off on a road trip to Michigan.

Before I knew it, I was talking with the one and only Rae about her patterns and how to make them look good on me!  That weekend, I sewed my first Josephine top (I’ve since made two more and have another in mind for fall) and it actually looked good.  It really changed my attitude about sewing for myself and gave me the confidence to look at my own body not as the enemy, but something that can look great when treated the right way.  Thanks, Rae!

Anyway . . . now it’s almost time for our annual family photo, and I’d been looking around for something to make for myself that would look good alongside the dresses I’ve made for the girls and the Negroni Shirt that’s in the works for my husband.  I tried making muslins from a couple of different patterns and was striking out.  Then I had a brainwave.  I donned my spelunking gear, tunneled to the back of the closet and excavated that old Washi Dress failure — just to see.  I sheepishly put it on  . . . blinked a time or two . . . wait a minute . . . this dress looks pretty good on me!!  What???

Made by Rae Washi DressI took a dose of courage and showed my husband.  He actually said “Wow, that looks great on you!  Much better than the other things you’ve been trying — don’t you think?”  Yes, I agreed!

Made by Rae Washi Dress

How could this be?  Has my body morphed into something much more acceptable over the past two years (um, no), or have I changed my outlook?

Mostly for the sake of my two daughters, I’ve been making a real effort to nip my own body shame in the bud and to start seeing myself to the beautiful fox that I am — rather than the loser who really should shed that last ten pounds of baby weight in order to be deserving of happiness.  I need to set a way better example for my girls.  And, do you know what?  It actually worked!

Washi a1

So I grabbed the double gauze I bought on sale from Imagine Gnats and got to work.  I skipped making a muslin since I’d already made a Washi that fit pretty darn well.

I looked around on Rae’s blog for tips (always a good idea), and settled on using a partial lining, rather than the facings included in the pattern.  She made a series of videos that walk you though the lining process that make this process a total breeze.

Made by Rae Washi DressIn the end, it turned out to be a little bit tight in the bodice.  Maybe it’s the difference in the fabric from my original . . . who knows?  Next time, I’ll add a little bit to the bodice width.  But it’s not fatal, and I’m wearing it anyway!  In fact, this dress is a bit wrinkly in these photos because I’d worn it to a dinner party the night before.

Made by Rae Washi DressIsn’t shirring fun?  This is my new favorite thing to do.  It makes anything fit like a glove with very little effort (and no math!).

I debated about whether to include the notch on the neckline, but I decided to go for it in the end.  For me, it makes this dress a bit PG-13, but I’m cool with that 🙂

Made by Rae Washi DressLet us be courageous!  Let us sew for ourselves with abandon!  Because sometimes, it turns out pretty well!

Made By Rae Washi Dress

Deer & Doe Plantain Tunic

Due to the craziness of life, I missed the boat on Selfish Sewing Week, hosted by Imagine Gnats.  But, since I have a moment now, I thought I’d let you in on a project I whipped up a few weeks ago for myself.

Deer and Doe Plantain

Once I decided to go back to work part time, I knew that a bunch of old cardigans from Target and jeans caked with whatever was on the kitchen floor this morning would not make the most suitable wardrobe for facing a room full of undergrads.  I took a look around me to see what adults are wearing these days and headed to the mall.  I ended up with mostly sweaters and sweater dresses that hit just above the knee and leggings, paired with boots.  I really like this look — it’s stylish, easy to wear and pretty low maintenance.  It’s also ok to wear while jumping on the trampoline with toddlers at gymnastics before heading to work in the afternoon.

When it looked like I’d have a little time for sewing again, I decided to try and sew up something like it for myself to add to my new spiffy wardrobe.

Deer and Doe Plantain

I immediately turned to my favorite t-shirt pattern, the Plantain from Deer & Doe (it’s a free pattern, people!).  I’ve made several versions that I wear all the time, but have never blogged about for some reason, so this seemed like a good place to start.  The nice thing about this particular t-shirt is that it flares out a bit in the mid section, which is a plus for those of us who’ve given birth a time or two and are not, shall we say, as “pulled together” as we once were 😉

All I did to transform this shirt into a tunic was to decide how long I wanted it to be and extend the line of the pattern, following the curve.  That’s it.  I really like the result and will surely try it again.

Deer and Doe PlantainThe knit fabric here is Teagan White’s Peonies in mint from the Acorn Trail line.  I sewed up a size 42.

After making this with several different kinds of knit, I have run into problems with the neckline when using interlock, which is thicker and less stretchy than jersey.  For some reason, the neckline turns out a little bit too low for me with interlock.  Maybe the absence of any kind of spandex or other really stretchy stuff causes the neck to stretch out more — who knows?

This happened with my last version in Anna Maria Horner’s gorgeous Mary Thistle Knit in saffron, and I thought it was a fluke.

Deer and Doe Plantain

Nope, it happened again here.

Deer and Doe Plantain

It’s really only a problem when I lean over.  But still.

I really do prefer interlock for this pattern, as it doesn’t cling as much as knit with spandex.  So, I’ll just try cutting the neckline about 1″ higher next time.

Deer and Doe Plantain

My solution with this tunic and my Anna Maria Horner top is to pair it with a scarf.  Here, you see the infinity scarf I crocheted for myself last winter while I had the flu.  Normally, I am not a knitter or crocheter in any way, but Delia’s pattern that showed up on her blog a year or so ago was too tempting to pass over.  It was actually very easy and very fast to make.  I wear it all the time, and it was definitely worth the effort.

Deer and Doe Plantain

Now that the snow is just about melted around here, it’s nice to have some new clothes to take me in to spring.  I have a couple of other things on the sewing table that I hope to have to show you soon . . .

Life with Laurel

In honor of Selfish Sewing Week, I bring to you not just one, but two incarnations of the Laurel by Colette.  One is the Laurel in dress form in Anna Maria Horner Pretty Potent Echinacea in rayon challis.  The other is a blouse version in Nani Iro double gauze.  (Full Disclosure:  I made the top a couple of weeks ago — but the dress is a 100% Selfish Sewing Weeker, cut out on Monday and finished on Friday.)


(Yes, it’s weird to see two photos of yourself side by side.  One is awkward enough, but this is just over the top.)

I’d like to start by saying that this pattern is the bomb.  All three times I’ve made this (there was another top made last spring), I’ve cut out a size 8, and the fit has been spot on with no futzing at all.  There are horizontal darts at the bust and vertical darts in the back that give just enough fit to be flattering, but is forgiving enough to be easy to wear.

If you’re thinking of making your own Laurel, I highly recommend getting yourself a 1/2 inch Clover bias tape maker.  To make the keyhole neckline version, you need about 4 yards of the stuff, so don’t fool around.


I had several of these in various sizes before starting my first Laurel, but somehow none of them were 1/2″.  Crap.  Instead of waiting until I could get my hands on the right tool (which would have been the right thing to do, but I’m incapable of waiting once I’m ready to start something), I decided to make the bias tape the old fashioned way — folding the whole thing in half, pressing, folding one edge in toward the center, pressing, folding the other edge in toward the center, pressing, then folding the whole thing in half and pressing again.

After singeing my fingers numerous times in the steam and contemplating killing myself a time or two before getting through the several yards of bias tape required, I vowed never to do that again.  So, I ordered the bias tape maker in the proper size this time, and voila — in no time I had a huge amount of perfectly folded and pressed bias tape without any burns or thoughts of suicide.


As soon as I saw this echinacea print in rayon, I knew I was destined to make a Laurel Dress with it.  Rayon challis has a fab drape, totally perfect for dresses and tops.  It’s a little on the slippery side, so you have to be on your toes when cutting and pinning.  But otherwise it’s a no brainer — throw it in the washing machine on delicate, dry it on low, and it looks spiffy as soon as you pull it out of the drier — my kind of fabric.  When the Pretty Potent line came out this summer, I was so happy to see some rayon in the mix. These echinachea blooms are so gorgeous — they make me think of the sound of cicadas in the last evenings of summer.

Another cool thing about Laurel is that the folks at Colette provide a free e-book of full of fantastic variations with photos and complete instructions.  I decided on the keyhole neckline variation on both the top and dress.  (The original pattern has a plain neckline finished in bias tape.)  For the dress, I did cut the keyhole about an inch shorter than the pattern piece included in the e-book.  As you will soon see, the original size of the pattern piece produces a rather plunging view through the keyhole on me 🙂


Another plus with the keyhole neckline is that you have a great excuse to finish all that bias tape with your machine, rather than hand stitching it, which is what Colette recommends for the plain neckline.  I mean, you could machine finish the plain neckline too and no one would be the wiser —  but it’s nice to not feel like you’re cheating.

Here’s the tricky part . . . I knew I wanted to be sure to match the print in the back center seam, so as not to have hacked-up flowers all the way down the back.  I was pretty nervous about it.  Between the slipperiness and the invisible zipper, I wasn’t sure I’d be up to the job.  But, I gathered up my courage, re-read this cool tutorial, and went for it.

I spent about ten times longer cutting those back pieces than I have for any other project. I could literally feel the sweat coming down as the rotary cutter met the fabric.  I was so relieved when it came out pretty well — not perfect, but good enough for me.


And, it must be said that invisible zippers are nothing to fear, as long as you have a handy invisible zipper foot (which is not the same as a regular zipper foot).  The pattern instructions send you to a a great tutorial on the Colette site, complete with photos, written instructions and a super video that really take the mystery out of the whole thing.

One more thing I’ll tell you about this dress is that I used a blind hem for the first time. The instructions advise you to do it by hand.  But I happen to have a brand new blind hem foot, so I thought I’d give it a go.  I also checked out this tutorial for moral support. Turns out that it’s easy and pretty darn cool.

So, with the mostly matched up print in the back and the fact the husband says I rock this dress, I’m pretty happy.


Now for the top . . .


I, like everyone else in sewing world, think that double gauze is dreamy.  This is a very nice way to use it.  However, I would not recommend using it for that famous bias tape.  I did it here, because I couldn’t find a solid that was just the right color, and I didn’t want to take away from the awesomeness and subtle coloration of those dots.  Maybe things would have gone better if I had used spray starch — but  folding it, pressing it and sewing it was pretty much a thready nightmare.  And, truthfully, my new bias tape maker hadn’t been ordered yet, so you know what that means.  I prefer to forget the whole experience.

But, once I got passed all that, it was lots of fun to put together.  No patterns to match, no zippers to install, no loss of sleep.


Oh, and here’s what happens when I use the full length of the keyhole cutout pattern piece . . .


The ties obscure things a bit, but suffice it to say that I will avoid standing next to any very tall persons while wearing this top.


So that’s my story about Laurel.  I hope you had fun sewing something fabulous for yourself this week!




A Poppy in Koi

To celebrate the start of Selfish Sewing Week hosted by Imagine Gnats, I thought I’d show you one last summer dress I made for me.

Poppy Tunic Make It PerfectThis is, perhaps, the final expression of my somewhat unhealthy obsession with koi fabric, only because my stash is just about spent.  I’m not sure what it is about these fish, but I just can’t get enough.

Once Kiki decided that she would never again wear the koi top/skirt combo I made for her (right after I took the photos for the blog post, uhem), I realized that sometimes good fabric is wasted on the young.  It’s my turn to wear koi!

Koi Poppy 4

This is my second Poppy Tunic by Make It Perfect.  My first chambray version has been worn at least once a week all summer long, so I figured that a second one was in order — not just because I love this pattern, but also because I have a feeling my family is ready for me to wear something else!

Koi Poppy 2

In case you need more details on the fabric, the contrast yoke and band at the hem are the fabulous Eiko Playing Koi in cream from Birch Organics, which seems to be unavailable just about everywhere now — and the main is the coordinating Eiko Stamp Stripe in pool, which is still up for grabs at Fabricworm.

Koi Poppy 3

The first time around, I sewed up a medium and ended up taking it in a bunch on the sides.  This time, I took a chance and cut a small.  I am very rarely a small these days (after two kids, you know) — but believe it or not, the fit is much better!  I still took it in a bit where the bottom of the yoke meets the bodice in the front and lowered the arm holes a tad, but that’s it.  How nice when fitting becomes easier instead of harder.

Koi Poppy 5While questioning the wisdom of making another summer dress so close to cooler weather, I’m happy to say that I have a cardigan in just the right shade of sage-y green that will be perfect for layering with this tunic in the fall, along with a pair of leggings.  I’m also thinking of another chambray version with maybe a corduroy contrast for fall and winter.

Are you taking some time to sew for yourself this week?  I’m just about to cut out a Laurel Dress in Pretty Potent Echinacea rayon.  Exciting!

A Painted Portrait for Me

As I was getting outfits ready for our family photo shoot a couple of weeks ago, of course I needed something for myself as well — so as not to be completely overshadowed my the fabulousness of the girls’ outfits 🙂  I decided on a summery version of Anna Maria Horner’s Painted Portrait Dress.

I’d seen this dress pop up online lots of places, and was especially inspired by Ivy Arch’s version to try it out for myself.  The pattern is pretty great — with blouse and dress options, with and without sleeves and pockets.  I went with the pockets and without the sleeves here for my end of summer dress.  The instructions were clear, and the whole thing was fairly simple to put together.


I sewed up a medium, and the fit was pretty good.  I did end up taking it in a little bit at the bottom of where the yoke meets the bodice — but alas, I think I overdid it a tad, causing a little bit of puckering on the sides.  You know what they say . . . once you go too far, it’s hard to go back.

For fabric, I used Art Gallery’s Emmy Grace  — Knotty in Rain for the main and Gillie Wishes in Cool for the yoke.  I really love these prints and feel like they made a beautiful dress.  But next time, I’ll resist the urge to use quilting cotton, despite the draw of all those fabulous prints out there.  I know, I know — we’ve all heard this warning a million times.  I thought I’d get away with it here, and I almost did.  The problem is that the drape below the gathers isn’t quite right in both the front and back.  I can see how this would be a knock out dress in a fabric with the right drape.  But this one is a little lumpy looking, let’s just admit it.

20140907_144736But despite these issues, I love this pattern.  I can’t seem to get enough of yokes, and this one really delivers in that department.  Check out the back . . .


So, with a few lessons learned, I’m ready to give this dress a second chance.  There’s already a beautiful piece of Anna Maria’s Sinister Swarm in rayon challis on the shelf to make a long sleeved dress version for fall.  I think this will be a winning combo.



Poppies . . . Poppies . . .

Meet my new favorite summer dress . . . the Poppy Tunic from Make it Perfect.

Poppy1I had my eye on this pattern for a while — and when it turned up in the Perfect Pattern Parcel a couple of months ago, I knew it was destiny.

This dress has cool and unique style, fits great, and is extremely comfortable.  In my book, that’s a win-win-win.  It’s also a great way to use up that leftover cotton print from another project that’s been sitting in your stash.

Poppy Tunic 1

How about that yoke detail on the front and back?

Poppy Tunic 2

Poppy 3

Poppy Tunic 6I made a size medium with Robert Kaufman chambray and a quilting cotton print I got on sale at Hawthorne Threads back in January.  I did have to adjust the bodice a little bit to accommodate my smallish shoulders — but otherwise, the fit is spot on.


Believe it or not, this exact fabric combination has made a previous appearance in my household . . .

Oliver & SThis is Kiki’s Hide & Seek Dress by Oliver & S, made for Kids Clothes Week this past spring — a dress that came out very well and that has been worn very little.  If only I had known that Kiki would be establishing and vigilantly implementing her new “Skirts & Shirts Only” policy right when this one came off the sewing machine, I might have made her something else with these spiffy fabrics :).  So, I was so glad to have enough left of both to pull off something for me.  And only now do I realize how similar these dresses really are.  Crazy!

Make it Perfect also has a kid size Mini Poppy — I wonder if there’s enough of this fabric left to make one of those for Lulu, or would that be overdoing it??