let's all say hi to rae from one of my all time favorite blogs "made by rae"! rae's blog was one of the first blogs i started reading regularly when i started blogging. i fell in love with her sewing, her tutorials, patterns and her sweet family. the icing on the cake - she's hilarious, and i mean funny! this girl cracks me up. she's a temporarily retired physics teacher that can make you smile while at the same time long to have a complete day to sew up a storm.
rae is a multi-tasking momma to a little boy and a girl. she calls herself a professional home executive - yep, we can give ourselves a title ladies! now if we only we could get a salary..haha. she's a sewing machine (not literally of course) who's patterns are to die for, her tutorials easy to follow and more importantly - fun to make! she's provided me with tons of inspiration and that extra little oomph that i needed to even begin sewing and believe me it wasn't easy to convince myself to put down the knitting needles and dust off my sewing machine, but she helped do it. so pop on over and say hi to rae and don't blame me when you add at least 5 new patterns to your "must make list". that's how she does it folks :)
so let's all welcome this fun loving momma to the mommyhood, feel free to share your thoughts and questions in the comments below. come sit on down and join us for a cup of coffee, put the kids down for a nap, take a breather and let's chat!
if you are new to the mommyhood, our "moms in the mommyhood" features a new mom monthly who currently has their own business (doesn't matter what kind). we try to sit down and have a virtual cup of coffee and ask them all the fun, little questions that we are dying to know. we also try to get a glimpse into their lives and what it's like to have your own business and be the boss of your kids at the same time. we are always on the lookout for new moms to feature. if you know someone or you would like to be featured in this spot, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. don't be shy - we can't wait to meet you!
now, let's get sipping our coffee, heck grab a yummy treat if you so desire, pull up a chair and join in on the fun with me, have a few laughs and get to know rae:
I love that you call yourself a professional home executive, now if only we could all get a salary worth the time and effort we put in..hahaha. How do you as a mother to Elliot (3) and baby Clementine, wife to hubby Nate, blogger, shop owner and crafter fit all of this in?
Truthfully I often feel like I'm overwhelmed with everything and so really I'm the last person I would ask about balance. I try really hard to constantly remind myself that my real job is taking care of my kids. I have to push the other stuff (blog, patterns, sewing for fun) off to the side and do that stuff when I have free time during naps and after bedtime.
But...in the interest of full disclosure, as a "professional home executive" I do outsource a lot of the work around here. I have a cleaning service do the housecleaning and my babysitter comes over at least once a week for a couple hours before dinner to play with the kids while I frantically sew or design or blog. Mr Rae does the grocery shopping on Saturday mornings and cooks a lot of our meals. So those things that stay-at-home-moms spend MOST of their time doing? I'm not doing all of them. That gives me time to go to the park or pool or library with my kids, and more time later to sew.
I would like to say though that I'm not a TOTAL slacker. I'm not a great cook but I do occasionally make a couple meals a week, and I like to bake, especially desserts. I make almost all of Clementine's baby food from vegetable purees and do lots and lots of laundry. But Mr Rae helps with so much, he's such a great partner. I feel really fortunate to have a mate who doesn't plunk down in front of the TV when he gets home from work. Of course, if you know me, you know that I would never stand for that in a million years...
You're also a temporarily retired high school physics teacher. I wish I had teachers like you when I was in high school. How do you find that you incorporate your science background into your sewing?
It definitely has made me more meticulous in my pattern design. I try to think like a beginner and imagine every possible mistake that could happen and then try to write my instructions clearly to help people avoid them. That's a skill that all good teachers should have. Being a science teacher I also really prefer the metric system, so I actually measure most things in centimeters.
Spring Top Week is in it’s 2nd year. I love this competition and find it so inspiring and fun! What led you to start Spring Top Week?
Last year I started STW simply as a challenge for myself; I was pregnant and had no spring tops and thought if I say it out loud on my blog I'll HAVE to do it. I had done a week of tops the summer before and people had voted on which of mine they liked the best. I thought it would be better if people joined in and voted on everyone else's tops instead. I had no idea it would be such a popular idea...it just sort of took off.
You began your blog in 2007, what prompted you to start blogging and how have you found the process?
Like so many new moms out there, the transition from working professional to stay-at-home mom was really rocky for me. I didn't know many other moms with kids Elliot's age. I felt like I had all this time sitting and staring at the baby, who wasn't really doing a whole lot besides smiling and drooling. Mentally I was in a weird place with all the hormones and nursing and trying to figure out how I suddenly went from household earner to freeloader (yes I was a Crazy Woman to even think that, I know) and someone with oodles of personal time to only small chunks dictated by naps. So I started a baby blog where I posted pictures of Elliot for the family and then my sewing blog, Made By Rae. The sewing blog gave me a place where I could log my crafty achievements, something I could look at and say, see, I made THAT! And at first no one besides me and my sisters read it. But it's grown over the past three years and now, well good grief it scares me sometimes to think about just how many people are reading the stupid stuff I write.
I love blogging and I hate it at the same time. I love how many people I get to meet and hear from on a daily basis, and I love sharing new ideas and patterns. But sometimes I feel like I can't stop composing posts in my head or find I'm choosing sewing projects for the blog rather than because I really want to do them. It's work, definitely, which means it's not always glamorous and exciting.
Your patterns are, let me just say, lovely and addictive. I have made the Itty Bitty Dress like 3 times now. I also have a Buttercup Bag. When did you decide to start selling items and why? How have you found the process so far?
When I started my blog, I sat down and made a list of my goals. One of those goals was to open an Etsy shop. I just wanted to see what would happen, see if I could sell the stuff I made. I was originally thinking I would sell Itty Bitty Baby Dresses and Buttercup Bags. Turns out it was far time-efficient for me to make patterns (huge time commitment up front, smaller time commitment once they launched) and sell those rather than make and sell each of the items themselves. Some people thrive on finding efficient ways to pump out massive quantities of one thing. That's not me, I just get bored if I have to make the same thing over and over. I have more fun designing the patterns. So that's what the shop evolved into, a pattern shop.
What are your plans for the shop? The blog?
I have a list of about 20 new patterns I want to make, but who knows if half of them will ever make it to the shop. The blog, well, that just follows me around like a puppy dog, it's always just about what I'm sewing at the time. Not much of an agenda there. One great thing I learned from working with Dana for Celebrate the Boy month was that she plans ahead months in advance for what she's going to put on her blog. I think that shows really solid organization and I would love to do that more.
What’s next on your sewing agenda?
After these spring tops are finished I'm going to sew more for Elliot and Mr Rae. And some baby girl clothes, especially dresses. Clementine is going to have more outfits than days to wear them this summer.
What’s your fave pattern that you have designed?
Right now it's the Pierrot Baby Dress, I've made a couple for Clementine and I'm in love with the cuteness. The ruffles. The sleeves. If I had to pick one that is already available on my blog, it would be the Buttercup Bag.
I love that you sell the "license to sell" to some of your patterns. Not a lot of people do that and I think it's fabulous. What made you decide to offer this?
I decided to offer the license option because so many people asked for it after the Buttercup Bag became available on my blog. People would write saying, "can I pay you $3 for every bag I make and sell?" and I thought trying to keep track of all that would be Sheer Craziness. So I decided just to offer an all-you-can-make license and bundle it with the pattern and that's what I've done with the other patterns I've sold as well. It's really a bargain if you think about it that way, and it seems fairer if I can receive some compensation when other people are profiting from the work that I am giving away for free or selling for, in the words of one reader, "mere pittance". I have tried to keep the actual cost of the license really low so that even if someone never sells anything it's still worth the purchase of the pattern.
Ok, I love asking this one, how and when did you learn to sew?
My mom taught me to sew when I was young, I think I was probably about eight. Maybe 10? She made all kinds of outfits for me and my sisters when we were little. She grew up in a house of seven where ALL of the clothes were handmade so her skills were born more out of necessity than hobby but I'm so glad she passed that on to me.
What machine do you whip out all your creative goodies on? Do you use a serger? If so, which one?
I do most of my sewing on a Bernina Activa 220 (one of Bernina's most basic machines, it's a little pricey but worth every penny!) and I serge with a Brother 1034D. I do all my elastic-thread sewing on a Singer Featherweight II, which is also my travel machine.
What/who is your favourite fabric or fabric designer at the moment?
Heather Ross. Every time she puts something new out there it blows me away.
If you could have an unlimited time/budget to make one project what would it be? And yes, no kids around to interrupt!
I would make a wedding dress. I think that would be so challenging and fun.
Celebrate the Boy Month was so much fun, thanks for letting me be part of it. Do you and Dana (Made) plan on doing it again next year?
Oh I hope so! We'll see where we both are next year, right? Dana will probably be on her book tour. That girl is amazing!!!
What is the one thing you find yourself sewing over and over again?
Do you ever do any sewing for the hubs? If so what? I find it hard to find great men’s tutorials. It seems like we all stick to women and kids.
My favorite thing to sew for Mr Rae is shirts. Unfortunately they take so much fabric! But he's always really thrilled with the stuff I make him and wears them all the time. I usually just use commercial (Simplicity, Butterick) patterns for him, but last year someone sent me a bunch of vintage men's patterns and I hope to make a few of those for him when I can find more time.
But you're right, there is a sad lack of sewing tutorials for men and even boys. It annoys me that our society has almost completely killed the use of color and embellishment in men's garments. I think homophobia and narrowing ideas about what is masculine are probably at fault. As a result we've veered into extreme blandness with menswear. Nowhere does that stand out to me as much as when I walk into a children's store and compare the boy's side to the girl's side. Little boys used to wear dresses and lace collars, but now if you put a little boy in anything other than mini-menswear he'll be mistaken for a girl. And then there's the baby boys wearing camoflauge and shirts that say "Little Slugger?" I mean, come on, the kid can't even hold up his own head yet. I guess what I'm trying to say is I'd like to see the number of acceptable styles, prints and colors for men and boys expand, especially beyond the prevalent sports themes. It would certainly make it easier to sew unique stuff for men and boys.
Does your hubby play any roles behind the scenes of the blog?
He helps me with HTML stuff; he's a programmer and when I can't get something to work on my sidebar he'll write the code for me. He helped me find E-junkie, which is the site I use for my instant downloads (so that my PDF patterns get delivered as soon as they are purchased). The biggest thing though is the moral support. He's encouraging to me and is always very positive about my ideas and new projects, always pushing me to do what I want to and say no to what I don't. Also, I found out a few months ago that he was actually READING my blog. I thought it would be too boring, you know, with all the sewing stuff. So I have to be careful what I say about him, haha.
Is there something in the big wide world of sewing you have always wanted to learn but haven’t had the chance to yet?
Smocking. My grandmother used to make dresses for us that were smocked (not with elastic thread, I'm talking real smocking with the embroidery over top) and they were so cute and a real treasure. I'd love to learn how to do that.
This question is always tricky to answer, but I’m dying to know where do you get your inspiration from?
A large part of my inspiration comes from fashion magazines and catalogs. I flip through the pages and dog-ear the things I like the best, cut them out and paste them into a book or stick them on my wall. A second source of major inspiration of course is design blogs and websites. A picture of a living room with good color can get me thinking about color combinations I want to use in a garment or bag. Your blog is great for that too, Shannon! I love the pictures and links you post, so inspiring! And I have to mention just one more source of inspiration: Small Magazine. Every issue is so inspiring.
I think your blog was one of the first that I subscribed to and started oohing/ahhhing over. I don’t know many bloggers who don’t know who you are. Do you have any tips for other bloggers looking to start a blog?
Aww shucks, that's really sweet. It's hard for me to see my blog that way. I often feel like I'm plunking away on the campiest blog in the world and it still kind of amazes me that people actually read it. I guess the advice that I would give to new bloggers is to work on taking good photos. If you think about all the really great blogs, that's the one thing they all have in common. It's hard to get excited about blurry or poorly-lit photos. To effectively show people what you're doing they need to be able to SEE it!
What’s the one sewing tip you wish someone had taught you when you were first starting to sew?
I JUST (as in this year) learned to gather fabric by putting the tension on my machine on high with a long stitch length. What a huge timesaver!
We all have a bit of nosiness in us and I am dying to know where in your home you do your crafting? Are you lucky enough to have a crafting/sewing room? Can we have a peek?
I have a sewing room that is also a guest bedroom, which means that most of the time the bed is covered with fabric. It works out so that I have a cutting table, a sewing table, and an ironing board, and the closets have been completely taken over by fabric and notions and it's right next to Clementine's room so if she wakes up I can hear her. Unfortunately that also means my serger sometimes wakes her up.
thanks so much for being part of the mommyhood rae, it's been so fun getting to know you! i'll be in touch soon for some caillou bashing, survival tips on having 2 kids and still finding time to sew and just for some good ol' chuckles. thanks for all the inspiration!
you can find more about rae on her blog, her shop and also a few fun photo flickr pools for her patterns on her sidebar!
(click here to see what rae had to say about the interview)
*all images © copyright made by rae