(Mis)Adventures in Sewing: The Ruby Dress

A continuation in my (mis)adventures in sewing, today I want to start by taking a moment to give my highest praise to Made by Rae patterns. As someone who is admittedly not a great sewist, these patterns are the easiest I’ve found while not sacrificing style. Written so clearly that even I understand them (and that’s seriously saying something!), I especially love that there are lots of tutorials and support available, too. I’ve used the video tutorials for the lined yoke each time I’ve made the Ruby Dress that I’m sharing with you today. I don’t know what I’d do without them!

That said, I used the Ruby pattern last year to make myself some tops.all 3I really do love them and have worn the heck out of them the past year.

Then this spring I made myself this lovely yellow frock…

IMG_8647I meant for this to be a dress, but I hemmed it just enough to make it really not… ahem… decent as a dress. It’s made a lovely tunic over shorts and jeans instead.

This summer/fall I wanted to really attempt to make a couple dresses that I could actually wear as dresses. Putting the dresses together was pretty easy since I’ve become very practiced at this pattern, even the lined yoke, but I took extra time to try to make sure the hem was in my dress comfort zone.

both They turned out so cute! I just adore them!

blue detI made this blue one from a quilting cotton from Cotton + Steel from Alewives Fabrics. I’ve read a lot of reviews that quilting cotton doesn’t drape enough for this pattern, but personally I love it. It’s substantial without being heavy and I find it a really nice addition to my wardrobe.

ruby blue det2I even did the hem and attached the bias binding at the underarm in hot pink. Partly just for fun, partly because I was feeling confidant about sewing a straight line for once, and partly because it let me sew this dress and the second dress assembly-line style.

Speaking of the second dress…

pink detThis is also a Cotton + Steel print, but this time in a lawn also from Alewives Fabrics. It’s definitely lighter wear and drapes beautifully. The print, however, takes the cake. It’s just so funky and fun.

I gave myself a generous enough hemline that I’ll have some options for styling. I can wear either dress as-is or with tights or leggings and a sweater to layer. I can even add a belt if I want to dress the look up a bit. However I end up wearing them, I’m sure I’ll be wearing them a lot as they are just so comfortable and they turned out so cute. I’m making a dent in that fabric pile I’m trying to work through, but I think it’s time to try a new pattern. Perhaps Made by Rae’s Washi Dress or maybe her Bianca Dress or maybe the very simple Maya from Marilla Walker. Whatever the case, I’m sure me + sewing a new pattern will be a story to tell!

Teasing Spring Out of Hiding

Earlier this week, the family & I decided to take advantage of what might be one of the last true wintry days and go for a hike in the snow.

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We ventured to Indian Lake and made the journey up a hill through about 6inches of fresh snow to this idyllic little spot. The thing about hiking in 6inches of fresh snow is that usually you get to do so alone as was the case this day and, really, there aren’t many places quite as special to enjoy such a peaceful walk.

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Built in 1857, the St Mary of the Oaks Shrine sits upon a hill that overlooks the hilly ‘driftless area’ (the area not scraped flat by glaciers) of Southwestern Wisconsin. To this day, it is maintained and contains a few idols of Mary, a notebook to jot a thought or prayer, and a candle which you can light.

If you carry on a bit further down the trail, you are rewarded with a beautiful view of Indian Lake and the surrounding hills.

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I don’t have photographic proof, but from this spot we hiked back down to the car and proceeded to have what might possibly be the coldest cookout in the history of cookouts (ok, probably not, but the wind was extremely cold). We ate our burgers in haste and made our way to coffee and a bookstore. It was a beautiful morning, but it was definitely colder than it looked.

And this is pretty much what this week was like here: Colder than it looked. We are all antsy to get outside and play in spring-like weather and as soon as the sun is shining we are like moths to the flame. We bound out the door — to playgrounds with the kids, playing catch in the yard, taking the dog for his walk — and inevitably within 15 or 20minutes my fingers are icicles and I’m attempting to make a quick retreat for the warmth of the house.

I’ve been combating the cabin fever with the likes of this…

IMG_8648My utterly crazy batt project. It’s been a while since I mentioned, so I will re-share that this consists of three drum carded batts from Spun Right Round. It is the most wild hodge-podge of colors, fibers, and sparkles I’ve ever worked with and I for one am getting pretty darn excited to see how this 10oz of madness turns out. The bright colors are definitely welcome on these cold days.

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I also turned the heel on the second sock of my Petty Harbours. I wrapped up the gusset decreases this morning and I’m in the home-stretch now. The weather report is definitely promising for me to get the opportunity to wear these a few times before the summer arrives.

And then today, I awoke to it raining ice outside and I decided the only way to deal with that was to sew up a yellow summer dress.

IMG_8647It’s not the best sewing job I’ve ever done, but it fits great and… well, how do you not love a yellow dress on a grey March day?! This is the Ruby Dress by Made by Rae, the same pattern which I used to make a few tops last summer. I ordered the fabric — a basic cotton from a Cotton + Steel — from Alewives Fabrics in Maine (which I LOVE. So much!) and luckily I remembered to order a little extra fabric on each cut to do the lined yoke. Rae did a series of incredibly clear tutorial videos for this very finished look. I did try a few new things this time including a flat felled seam and a little short-cut on the yoke to avoid having to handsew the lining at the end.  The hem looks a little funny in the photos, but I swear it lays flat. That is an final ironing fail, not a sewing fail. All in all, I’m ecstatic with my new mini-dress.  It will be perfect when summer arrives.

I had planned to be a bit more ambitious on the sewing front today, but instead I opted to take it slow. I have another three or four dresses I hope to sew up as well as a couple tank tops, but as the wind howls and the ice flies outside I don’t have a lot of worry that I have plenty of time to get them done before summer. Perhaps our little hike to up the hill in the fresh snow won’t be our last wintry adventure before spring finds us. Indeed, a glance out the window confirms that thought. Thankfully I’m flexible. I’ll just get back to my woolen adventures for the evening. I’ll tease spring out of hiding one summer dress at a time.

Embracing the chaos

After a very all-over-the-place July, it has been a bit trying getting settled back into the routine here. It just hasn’t been happening. This weekend, I just decided to go with it. Embrace the chaos and do something fun amid the crazy. So I set my knitting needles aside for a few hours & got out my sewing machine.

Now I grew up in a house where my mom sewed a lot. She did (and still does) quilt and she even made fair bit of my clothing all the way through high school, so sewing is something for which I have a decent understanding. You can say things like bias tape & stitch-in-the-ditch to me and I’ll know what you’re talking about. I actually brought my sewing machine – a Pfaff that was about 5years older than me that weighed roughly 45lbs — with me to college, but didn’t really use it much, but like knitting it was high on my list of things I pursued after graduation . I even worked at the retail store Nancy’s Notions — the companion to the catalog/shop created by the esteemed Nancy Zieman of Sewing with Nancy — for a few years when we first moved into our house. My knowledge grew a bit, I experimented a lot, and I splurged on a decent sewing machine and serger. Although I tried a lot of new things, generally speaking I didn’t get very far. I made a attempts at clothes for myself, a few little tops and pants, and blankets for my kids when they were born, but for the most part I switched almost exclusively to knitting for the portability of it once I had my babies. Life was far to on-the-go to be tied to a machine.

After a  L O N G  hiatus, a few months or a year ago I learned about Made by Rae patterns from reading a blog — I think it was Jane Richmond’s, but I’m not sure. I instantly loved the modern style of the patterns. The pattern I liked at the time though – the Washi Dress — involved smocking and I was just not in a place where I had the confidence or patience to deal with smocking. When the Ruby Dress & Top came out this spring & showed up in SouleMama’s blog, I jumped at it. It was mid-March after the longest, coldest winter in recent memory and I had been looking at spring & summer tops not really finding what I wanted. This pattern was four pieces and the hardest part would be the gathers (I failed to notice the bias tape aspect before purchasing the pattern). What really sold me though was the fabric SouleMama used… my favorite was the dress made with  Nani Iro fabrics which I discovered in stock at Alewives Fabrics thanks to the handy link in the post. I selected that fabric along with some plain white muslin and a couple others (I was pretty ambitious back in mid-March) and I was convinced I could make my spring & summer wardrobe really awesome for less money & better quality than my ready-made options. I figured I’d have these sewn up before the school year ended.

Well, on August 2nd, I got everything out & re-ironed my (thankfully) already pre-washed fabrics.

20140804-131124-47484301.jpgI even found my nice sewing scissors — no small miracle in the disaster/dumping ground that is my sewing area.

20140804-131125-47485382.jpgFor the first Ruby top, I used plain white muslin. I like muslin partly because it is cheap, but also because I honestly really love crisp, white muslin. Every spring I buy one or two white tops which inevitably get trashed with coffee spills, dirt, and all the other disasters that befall truly worn & loved clothes. Every year the tops I buy are not quite perfect. I hoped to change that this year…

20140804-131126-47486422.jpgAnd within a couple hours I had hit my mark. It. Is. Perfect. The fit, the feel of the muslin, everything. It is 100% fab. I did follow the super amazing Ruby Dress Yoke Lining Video Tutuorials to make a fully lined yoke. Honestly, for someone just trying to get back into sewing, I highly recommend this route. While the fully lined yoke is labeled as slightly more advanced, I think having the tutorials there to hold my hand made it a million times easier than if I had tried to go it alone even with an unlined yoke. The pattern is extremely well written, but the tutorials really take you step-by-step.

I had such a great experience sewing this top — and my kids were so impressed that I managed the feat — that the following day I whipped up two more.

20140804-131127-47487589.jpgThis time I was a little more brave and busted out my super cool prints from Alewives Fabrics. I was so determined to do a good job that I even ripped out one of the hand sewn finishing seams after realizing I had botched it a little.

20140804-131128-47488827.jpgIt took longer than expected, but it was worth it. This morning I was ready for a little photo shoot…

muslinMy beautiful muslin.

turquoise flowersMy lovely Sarah Jane Studios Wee Wander Meandering Petals. This one reminds me prints from the 1950s. I love it.

tulipsAnd my beloved  Nani Iro print. There are so many things I love about how this one turned out. From the tulips, to the swath of blue on the right side of the yoke to the underarm bias tapes that are different colors. I love all three, but this one makes me feel like getting back to sewing was worth it.

I have a few more fabrics left from my overly-optimistic order this spring. I may whip them up this fall yet — I can see wearing these over long-sleeved tops or paired with sweaters this fall. I may also wait for next spring. Whatever the case, my eyes are starting to sneak peaks at the Bianca Dress & Top. I have a simple black dress that’s a very similar style that I picked up on super discount at Target 4 or 5 years ago and it needs to be replaced since I wear it a couple times a week with heavy tights & boots in winter. There is some shirring/elastic at the waist on the Bianca Dress which is kind of scary for me, but there’s a tutorial for that shirring… You know what, I can probably handle it. The overly-optimistic seems to be working for me… as does embracing the chaos.  With results like this…

all 3I think I’m just going to keep going with it.