A Summer Staple – The Gemma Tank

If I was a poet and was gifted with rhyme and song, I would call this post ‘Ode to a tank top’ or ‘Ode to Gemma’.  Alas,  I am not, but you’re still welcome to sing this post in your head as it’s my love song to this simple summer pattern.  (FYI – I’m singing as I type.)

If you read along at all, I have made a couple of the Gemma Tank tops here and here.  The pattern is by Rae Hoekstra of the Made by Rae blog.  In the past, I hadn’t quite perfected the fit.  Having previously cut a straight medium, based on bust measurements, the bust fit great but everything lower was too big.  This spring, after unloading my summer bin of clothes (Does everyone else use bins for off-season clothing?  We do.  Big plastic bin family here.) I realized basics were needed.  Badly.  While being a big fan of skirts and dresses, tanks and shorts are required when you are chasing your 5 yr old around or going for bike rides.  I’ve tried a few other woven tank top patterns but haven’t had a lot of luck as they tended to run boxy.  Boxy = maternity-looking if you are short and curvy, which I am.  I want something to accentuate my curves not hide them.  Which brings me back to this great basic summer tank top, the Gemma.  It’s easy and quick to sew, comes in different cup sizes (yay!!) and is very easy to adjust the right sizing for the perfect fit.  I’ve made quite a few!

The yellow floral tank top (above) was my muslin.  The fabric for the yellow floral is a very lightweight quilting cotton and I have yards and yards in my stash.  I’m not sure where I bought it.  I planned on using it to perfect the pattern but actually liked it after it was sewed up.  My perfect fit for this pattern is/was a medium for the bust in a C/D cup and then tapered down to an X-small at the waist and back out to a small for the bottom.  Based on the finished garment measurements, this would fit me perfectly, and it did.  I didn’t want it too loose.

Next up, I made two tanks from the Luminous Yarn Dye collection by Anna Maria Horner. The color way on the left is ‘Metallic Plum’ and the right is ‘Metallic Sea Foam’.  Both fabrics are listed as quilting cottons, but they don’t have the same thickness and are pretty lightweight.  If you click on the picture above, you may be able to see the metallic graph fabric.  These have already had plenty of wear and are in constant rotation.  Both fabrics were purchased at Hawthorne Threads, online.

Everyone needs a white tank top, right?  For this one I used Brussels Washer Linen-Rayon blend, also from Hawthorne Threads.  Do you like my new clothing labels?

Last, I made two more Gemma tanks in Alison Glass Handcrafted Jersey Knit fabric; again purchased at Hawthorne threads.  The colors are Taupe and Navy.  I really love this knit fabric.  It is very wide (67″!!) and is 100% cotton.  It feels like T-shirt weight and its very good quality.  Because it is 100% cotton (no lycra or elasticity), there is no stretch. Therefore I didn’t need to modify the pattern at all (like cutting a smaller size due to the stretch factor). I’m surprised that more people haven’t written about this fabric online.  I do hope Alison Glass continues making it and adds more colors.  For the bias around the neck and arms, I didn’t fold it under to hide the edges.  I wanted the edges to show and perhaps give the tank a little texture.

This ends my love song for the perfect summer tank top.  If you are still singing along as you read, I’m impressed.  Perhaps you will try this pattern as a warm weather piece?  I’m giving it two thumbs up!




Posted in Sewing, Women's Clothing | 4 Comments

Womens Tunic / Dress from Handmade Style #2

It’s May…Hooray!  I love this month.  The trees and flowers are budding and it also happens to be the first day of the Me Made May challenge. I’ve just taken the pledge myself, and you might want to if it interests you, no matter how many handmade clothing pieces you own.  This month makes me proud to be able to sew my own wardrobe.

Speaking of sewing, last summer I made the Women’s Tunic, from Anna Graham’s book “Handmade Style”.  I lengthened it from tunic to dress and it fast became a favorite.  I have been wanting to make another one and bought this beautiful rayon back in February, knowing it would need to become another of these tunic/dresses.

The rayon challis is from the Fruit Dots collection for Cotton & Steel.  It’s rather retro and I really like it.  For the tunic, I lengthened it about four inches to make a dress.  I was googling it for other pictures of these dresses (tunics) and only saw a few.  This surprises me because it’s so flattering on and such a great pattern.  It has dolman sleeves and the drawstring waist nips in to create a very shapely look; the fabric is so soft and the best part is that the dress is super comfortable!

It was pretty dreary and cold out today so I paired my new dress with a cropped cardigan , leggings and my boots.  Please excuse the wrinkles!  I was wrangling two wild kids at the same time a friend was trying to snap pictures of me.

I’ve got to ask because it’s on my mind and if you read this little blog at all, you know I have a penchant for WWII books…..and now a great TV show that takes place during the same time.  And the clothes are great!  🙂  Have you seen Home Fires on PBS?  This is season two, and sadly the last season, but oh, what a great show!  Sunday night’s episode was so great.  So so great!  Happy May 1st to you!

Posted in Sewing, Women's Clothing | 6 Comments

Summer Tops

It seems kind of funny to title this blog post ‘Summer Tops’, a few days after a crazy snowstorm!  Snow storm ‘Stella’ just ripped through here on Tuesday leaving a snowy, icy mess.  The kids and I were housebound and cozy and it was exciting for them when we lost power for a few hours (maybe not so exciting as I kept reminding them not to open the refrigerator or flush the toilet).  The wind was crazy and our home is surrounded by a tall pine forest so there was a lot of tree watching going on; and boy did those trees bend and sway in the wind (yikes)!

But summer isn’t far off, right?  I needed a few things for our past warm weather trip and had just visited the lovely Pintuck & Purl, so let me show you what I whipped up.

The first top I made is the Gemma tank by Rae Hoekstra.  The fabric is ‘Lasformas Voile’ by Leah Duncan from the Yucca collection.  I have made this tank before (here) and really like it.  I like the jewel neck (higher neckline) and cut a size medium C/D cup and then tapered down to a small under the bust.  I hand sewed the hem as I was watching a movie and it’s always so relaxing to have handiwork in my lap.  It was a quick sew, very versatile and I love that it’s a pattern for woven fabric.

I also fell in love with some gorgeous Nani Iro ‘Colorful Pocho’ double gauze and NEEDED to make something with it.  I wanted to make a simple scoop neck woven top and thought I would try the Beatrix top (also by Rae Hoekstra), minus the buttons down the back.  I have made several Beatrix tops (here’s one and another) and really like this pattern.  For this top, I just cut the back piece on the fold,  making a size medium C/D cup.  Under the bust I tapered down to a size small.  I sewed french seams for a very clean look inside.  I love this pattern without the buttons too so there may be more buttonless Beatrix’s in my future.

Have you read anything great lately?  I’m looking for a great book and welcome suggestions…feel free to send them my way.  Have you seen anything great lately?  I can’t tell you how many times Captain Fantastic has played after the kids are in bed (it’s embarrassing).  Viggo Mortensen stars in this great film about someone that is just an exceptional Dad (minus a few choice parenting blunders).  This is a great movie!  Last thing I wanted to tell you is that Making magazine is now offering subscriptions.  If you are a knitter, sewer or crafter this magazine is bliss.

Happy weekending folks!


Posted in Sewing, Women's Clothing | 6 Comments


Happy February first to you!  I can’t believe this month is here already.  Time flies!  Often I don’t smile upon this month, as it can seem like the longest of the year (at least in snowy, cold New England).  This year I am excited for it as there hasn’t been much snow in these parts and a warm weather trip is planned for this family.  I even have a stack of shorts cut out to sew for the littles.  I’m on the hunt for a great book to bring with me on said warm weather trip.

Have you read anything great lately?

We visited one of our favorite places on Monday; the public library.  I can spend a ton of time there and luckily, so can my children.  We came back with an enormous haul of books, and I thought I’d share some of what we are reading with you.  I just finished ‘The Paris Architect’ by Charles Belfoure.  It was a quick read about a conflicted architect that takes place during WWII.  I couldn’t put it down.  I’ve also checked out ‘The Blasphemer’ by Nigel Farndale and ‘A Lady Cyclists’s Guide to Kashgar’ by Suzanne Joinson.  Both are historical fiction and I’m excited to read them.  The last book I picked up was ‘Raising Human Beings…Creating a Collaborative Partnership with Your Child’ by Ross W. Greene, PhD.

I don’t know about you, but I have quite a stack of parenting books that haven’t been read. I’ve a few that have been read maybe a quarter of the way, and then I just couldn’t get through them anymore.  Or I fell asleep.  I love the parenting books where you can look things up, like ‘Aren’t tantrums supposed to stop before the age of 5?’  and ‘Why is my eight year old sassing me?’ but sadly those books are few and far between.  I will say that I am already through Chapter THREE of this here book and still going strong.  It’s wonderful and all about listening to who your child is and what they are telling you (which is kind of easy, if you think about it).  I saw this book on the instagram feed of @mamaliberated, who is someone I follow.  She is a sewing, crafty mom (and so much more) and I greatly admire her parenting principals.  I think I will be purchasing this one and have just convinced the hubs to read it too.

‘How full is your bucket? for Kids’ by Tom Rath is a concept that my son’s preschool often talks about.  The book opens up with two siblings fighting (sound familiar?) and the concept behind why.  It also shows how you can lift others up (and yourself) with kind acts.  See folks?  Kindness does matter!  🙂  This is going to be on my permanent bookshelf soon.

At the library there was a whole area of children’s books about refugees.  Those librarians are unfailingly on target and always putting out wonderful things to grow young (and old) minds.  This book, ‘The Journey’ by Francesca Sanna is powerful.  So powerful, that I am going to buy them as gifts for young and old to add to their library.  The pictures are amazing and the story gave us a lot to talk about.  Especially with what is going on today in America and with small people who have questions.

This last book, ‘Du Iz Tak?’ by Carson Ellis was a Christmas present from Santa.  He really hit the mark because it has been read almost every day since Christmas!  The book is written in ‘bug-speak’ but very easy to figure out and gives us all a new appreciation for the lovely gladdenboot.  It is fun and goes through the seasons with beautiful illustrations.  It has become a family favorite here.

I’d love to hear what you and your family are reading!  Do tell….

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Wool + Wax Tote

In December I was lucky to get my hands on the second Making magazine, called “Fauna”. Have you seen this magazine before?  It usually sells out pretty quickly (although it looks like some copies are still available on the website).  The magazine is full of wonderful things; many beautiful knitting, embroidery, and sewing patterns as well as cooking and slow living articles.  In this edition was a lovely pattern for the ‘Wool + Wax Tote’ by Anna Graham of Noodlehead.  As you can tell by some of my past posts (herehere and here are just a few), I’m a big fan of her patterns.

After I received this magazine the hunt began for waxed canvas fabric.  Having never sewn with waxed canvas before, I wanted to touch it and check it out first instead of buying it online.  I happened to be in Portland and got to check out Z Fabrics.  Luckily they had many colors to choose from and what a great selection of jersey fabrics too!  I may have come home with quite a few things…..

I’m very excited to show you my bag as I completely LOVE it!  It was inspired by a bag seen on Pinterest.  I used dark green ticking for the body and had off white muslin in my stash for the outer and inner pockets and the lining.  The leather straps I bought on Etsy.  The brown waxed canvas is from Z Fabrics.  Although this is a pretty basic tote pattern, Anna always seems to know how to push you a little out of your comfort zone to try new things.  A basic tote bag is much more polished with a waxed canvas bottom and leather straps!  The front has two outside pockets and also there are two inner, smaller pockets.









This has been on my shoulder constantly.  It’s great to throw my knitting in, a pair of karate pants for the kids when we’re running around (or late to karate-ha!), my wallet, calendar and a magazine.  I think many more of these bags will be made.  What great presents they will make!

Posted in Bags, books, Sewing | 6 Comments

A Pink Hat

My heart is so full as I write this blog post….

What a wonderful weekend!  This past Saturday, January 21st,  I joined 6 friends and so many other brave souls as we marched in the Boston Women’s March for America.  We were all there to march in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington.  I am not one who loves large crowds in Boston (Boston Marathon Bombing anyone?) and several friends felt the same way but we went regardless.  I am so very proud of us.  I went with some AMAZING women and one great gentleman.  One woman was so powerful, she had just had a walking boot cast taken off after a foot surgery; her foot was still swollen!  So she bought a larger size shoe and walked anyway.  So very inspiring, this woman.  Speaking of women, there were young girls holding signs, elderly women (I saw a few marching with walkers) and every age in between.  There were fathers and husbands and boyfriends and brothers walking as well.  I felt very privileged to walk with all of these people.

I had no idea that this march would be so far reaching!  700+ marches happened around the WORLD over the weekend; in places like Australia, Zambia, Mexico, Kenya, Ecuador, Canada and England…and more.  This makes me laugh joyfully and also cry with sentimentality at the fact that so many people everywhere are thinking of us and lifting us up.  We were there for many different reasons but we all marched for equality, democracy and justice.

As for my handmade makes (you knew there were some, right?), well first I made seven fleece pussy hats.  I used the pattern on the website by Celia, called Celia’s fleece hat.  I did make the hats wider by about 2 inches and I sewed an actual triangle for the ears.  My pink fleece was from Joann fabrics.  I gave them out to the five friends above (and myself) and gave the last to one of our local librarians, who happened to be at the train station as we were heading in to Boston.  Since we weren’t supposed to bring backpacks to the march, I scoured the local TJ Maxx to find a small crossover bag to bring my essentials in.  The only one I found was $100 and well, that wasn’t happening.  Instead I bought a pack of clear polyurethane makeup storage bags and used the large one to make my own crossover bag.  Also found at TJ Maxx was a long rainbow-ish colored luggage strap.  I cut off the hardware and slightly burned the end of the straps with a lighter, so they wouldn’t fray.  Then I sewed each end of the strap to each side of the bag.  I also cut off a little of the strapping for the inside of the bag to reinforce when I sewed the strapping on.  The total cost was $14.   Viola, the bag was made and I could carry my essentials, and the Boston Police would be happy as they could see into the bag and know that I wasn’t concealing anything.

As for the march, I will let the signs tell the story:






































































Posted in Bags, Life | 8 Comments

The New Year and another Esme

Happy New Year to you!  I hope your holidays were merry and peaceful.

I’ve been missing this space but have had my head down this fall, getting through four birthdays in my immediate family, three in my extended family and four holidays, all in only eight weeks.  It’s kind of crazy for my calm, simple-loving head.  Pretty much anything non-essential doesn’t get done from Halloween through the New Year.  One thing that I always relearn during this time is the art of saying “No”.  I say no a lot during November and December and it feels good.  The January ‘Real Simple Magazine’ featured a great article called “Say Yes to Saying No”.  It came at a perfect time (mid-December).  I love that magazine!

Although I have been saying No (a lot) and not blogging much, there has certainly been a lot of crafting going on in this house.  There have been many long walks in the woods too.  I’m getting to know the forest that borders our property and we’ve been getting out for walks to the amazing beaver dams nearby.

We have spent much time playing on the ice, looking for beavers and exploring.  During the busyness of the holidays, I found myself pulling the family and dog outside for several beaver visits.  There was one walk where certain children fought the whole way (and I was very close to losing it) but when we got to our destination, everything melted away and we enjoyed ourselves.  Nature has this great habit of pulling us out of a funk and giving us a new perspective.

As for the crafting, my children were very excited about giving gifts to others this holiday season.  Each child got to pick out a gift for their sibling and they both made Christmas gifts for their special friends  (a stuffed lion named Lioney and Kit Kitterdge, an American girl doll).  They both worked hard on making each friend a small book.  My son’s had pictures and letters written inside (he is starting to write letters now) and my daughter cut hers out of a magazine.  Each were wrapped and put under the tree.  I think I will keep these little books forever!

We’ve also worked on sewing a pair of pj’s for Lioney and my son just finished a little book on all of the different types of boats. My daughter got a sewing machine for Christmas and we’ve made a couple of beds for various stuffed critters.  Kit Kitteredge also got herself a little sewing machine which I think is extremely cute!

During all this crafting, I’ve been doing a bit of sewing and cutting out lots of patterns.  I even had time to complete another Esme dress.  The first one I sewed is here.


The material is a dark purple cotton with orange plaid.  I can’t remember where I got the fabric, it might have been Marden’s in Maine.  I sewed the pockets with the plaid horizontal to give it a little bit of contrast.  I cut a size medium and this time trimmed the dress down to a small on the sides from right below the bust down to the bottom.  I love the fit.  I’ve been wearing it a lot with leggings and although this seems to be a quilting weight cotton, the fabric doesn’t bunch up with leggings underneath.

It seems we are settling into winter, going sledding when there’s snow and enjoying some post-holiday quiet time.  I wish you a wonderful weekend!

Posted in Home, Life, Ramblings, Sewing, Women's Clothing | 8 Comments


I love fair isle sweaters.  I think about them a lot.  Is that weird?  Perhaps.  I have always wanted to knit one.  Many years ago my mother in law gave me the most beautiful lavender fair-isle sweater with gorgeous colors in the yoke (from LL Bean) and it was worn every winter.  You could say it was lived in.  Then my frugal self decided to hand wash it (in the washing machine—NOT smart) and of course it felted.  I tried wearing it once after that and felt like I was wearing elf clothing.  Then I thought I would cut it and sew a beautiful hat from it but I couldn’t bear to cut into such beauty.  So I passed it on.  And I have missed it.  I thought I would try to make a sweater but being very cautious (after a very wild youth-I am now cautious in all things including knitting- isn’t that funny?  🙂 ) I found the Beck Sweater by Dani Sunshine and thought it would be a gentle way for me to learn to add a different color into what I was knitting.  I started this sweater last January and although it took some serious time, it’s done!!

The yarn I used is Humdrum by Dream in Color.  For the darker color in the yoke, I used Madeline Tosh DK in the color Amber Trinket.  I bought these yarns at a wonderful shop called Yarns In the Farms.  They have a great selection of yarns.  The women that work there are so incredibly helpful as I often have lots of questions for them.  I wasn’t sure what size to knit but they helped me figure it out.

The sweater did sit for quite a while with one arm mostly knit and the other arm left to do. After being cold and needing a cozy sweater, I jumped in and started knitting again.  On the couch at night, sometimes in bed, in the parent pick-up line at school, at Karate lessons–in the car in front of the YMCA (why work out when you can just knit in the parking lot?)…the knitting took over.  Then there was blocking, which I have honestly never done before.  After ordering some knitting wires from Pintuck and Purl and lots of google, I am happy to say that it is DONE and I do love it.  It’s very cozy.  I love the rusty fall colors!

It’s a good thing it’s done too, because I saw this gorgeousness at Pintuck and Purl and I’m pretty sure you can guess what’s next on my knitting list….

Posted in Knitting, Women's Clothing | 2 Comments



Monday after school we made a mad dash for the beach.  It is unseasonably warm this week and although everyone was tired it was unanimously voted that a beach run was in order.  I feel very blessed to live in an ocean town and may be a bit biased, but this is one of the prettiest beaches around.


We had another reason for going to the beach and that was to walk our dog.  Last week there was a shelter visit and we came home with a sweet 4 month old puppy named Millie. It was love at first sight for us but the clincher was her name.  That was my grandmothers name too.  We took care of the paperwork and brought her home and although it’s been less than a week, it feels like she’s been with us a lot longer.


Speaking of Millie (the Grandmother) she used to tell me when I was disappointed about something, to make lemonade out of my lemons.  I remember hearing this as a teen and I’m sure an eye roll ensued.  Although, this saying has stayed with me.  I’m sure there are much worse lemons than this one but I had a SEWING FAIL recently.  Back in May I started working on the fitted dress from the Alabama Studio + Design book (see here).  This dress didn’t get completely finished; it went in the bottomless pit of ‘projects to work on’.  It recently resurfaced and I thought it would be great to add sleeves and wear it this fall and winter.  When I added the sleeves I realized that the front and back neck lines were far to low and the shoulder pieces were thin and nothing was going to hold those sleeves up.  After I tried it on a few times, I realized that I looked like Elsa from Frozen, you know…when she transforms into the shoulder dress wearing ‘sexy’ Elsa.  Yeah, not a look for me.  Basically there was nothing holding the shoulders up where they should be on this dress.  I decided to cut the whole thing down to the skirt pattern from the book.  I bought 1″ fold over black elastic on Etsy, for the waist.  Then I pulled out my embroidery stitches and re-embroidered used black embroidery floss, to match the elastic.  It’s a simple and basic skirt now and I’ve worn it a ton.  There’s my lemonade.





Posted in Sewing, Women's Clothing | 2 Comments

A feminist top?


Simplicity Pattern S0918

A couple of weeks ago, I bought this lovely rayon fabric at Pintuck and Pearl (a local-ish shop in NH…see here).  I had seen it before at this store and kept thinking about it, so I went back to buy it.  I decided to make Simplicity S0918, with long sleeves and a wide bow.  A Pussy-bow, to be exact.  A while back on a shopping excursion with a friend, I mentioned loving big bows on women’s tops and she told me that was in fact called a ‘Pussy Bow’.  I kind of think that’s hilarious, so I decided to do a little research before writing this post.

Wikipedia mentions that in the 1940’s the Gibson Girl look was popular (a curvy athletic type of woman) and that style inspired the bow (see here).  Also, apparently Margaret Thatcher was a big fan.  In the PBS documentary: Makers, Women who make America, it is mentioned that in the 1970’s and 1980’s, when more women were entering the workforce, they wanted to fit into a male-dominated world and this was their version of the neck tie (see here).  In another article I found, titled: ‘The Female History Behind Your Floppy Bow Blouse’ on the Jezebel website,  it is the author’s opinion that these bows are named after female genitalia (see here).  Hmm.  Should I be wearing this with pride?  Is it some sort of feminist top?  Maybe.  I don’t know.  But I still like big bows.  I love to hear where names and various fashions emerge, so I hope you enjoyed this brief history lesson.  Getting back to the top…..


After washing the fabric, I got to cutting and sewing.  The fabric is ‘Snack Time rayon in blue’ by Sarah Watts for Cotton & Steel.  It was wonderful fabric to work with.  I have enough leftover that a certain girl in my house might be getting a top too.  The pattern, Simplicity S0918, was very straight forward and the fit was spot on.  I cut a size 16 and needed to make no adjustments.  The shirt is boxy but I like it.  I think I could take the sides in a bit but am going to sit with it for a while.  The husband gave it two thumbs up and my daughter (and photographer) thought it was great too.  There is light ruching on the front where the shoulder seams are (they are lowered a bit to right below the collarbone) and a tiny bit of ruching on the sleeves.




In other news, my almost 8-year-old daughter made these delicious pumpkin muffins (and bread) last night.  She is loving baking.  The only thing I did last night to help her, was to put it in the oven.  I’m finding it a nice way for us to connect and what a great way to introduce fractions!  We couldn’t find my teaspoon and only had a 1/2 teaspoon available and my girl figured it out on her own that she needed to double many of the spices.  Proud Mama!


Pumpkin Muffins & Bread–fresh from the oven and two were already gobbled up.

Posted in Sewing, Women's Clothing | 2 Comments