Earlier this summer Katy of No Big Dill hosted the third installment in her Once Upon a Thread series and invited me to participate, and I was thrilled because hers is one of the blogs I type directly into my browser. It's always so inspiring--on multiple levels.
I also particularly love her Once Upon a Thread series because I love the challenge of sewing an outfit based on a children's book, especially since part of the challenge for me ends up picking just one book! This time I decided on a relatively new read: Me...Jane by Patrick McDonnell. I'm not the only one who thinks this book is fabulous--it received the American Library Association's 2012 Caldecott Honor for most distinguished American picture book for children. If you crack open the cover you will quickly see why. But not only is the art inspiring, the story is too. I'm going to share it with you here today.
Me...Jane is about a little girl named Jane who had a stuffed toy chimpanzee, named Jubilee. Though Jane is pictured in the book wearing a sweet and traditional little girl's outfit (maybe a schoolgirl uniform?) of blue checked skirt and cardigan sweater, her interests aren't necessarily traditional.
She takes Jubilee on adventures, exlporing the natural world around them.
She is a curious little girl and loves studying animals and plants she finds in her backyard.
And she loves reading books about Tarzan of the Apes, which tell the story of a girl named Jane who lives in the jungles of Africa.
Though Jane is a girl, and girls in her time did not typically pursue such adventures, Jane dreams of going to Africa herself. With her mother's encouragement Jane grows up to become...
...Jane Goodall, primatologist, environmentalist, humanitarian, and United Nations messenger of Peace.
What an inspiring story to read to girls! At the young age of 26 Jane went to Africa and studied chimpanzees in Tanzania. And that was just the start of so many amazing things! A factual dream-come-true. Whether their dreams are big or small I hope my girls, Audrey, Scarlett and Tess, will be confident enough to pursue them.
Me...Jane inspired me to make my most animal-loving girl a set of safari shorts and shirt.
The shirt is styled like a henley, the casual shirt that was first worn by English rowers, because Jane is from England and because it seems the shirt has been worn casually on many a British expedition (even if was only a cinema costume).
The shorts are a traditional Bermuda cut, another British tradition, which suits summer and our own backyard adventures. They include pleated patchwork pockets on the back for collecting specimens.
I chose this linen and cotton "Quiet Ground" Echino for Kokka fabric (it was actually a gift from Dana) because of its beautiful collage of African animals and plant illustrations. Its a bit similar to Jane's own illustrations and the ornamental engravings included in Me...Jane.
This fabric is so beautiful with no other decoration, but since the print is a larger scale and gets a bit cut up on the shorts, I decided to add more "cuts" to increase the mix of patterns with belt loops...
...and pockets constructed from three separate pieces with a pleat to give them more definition.
I added plenty of contrasting top stitching too.
The shirt is a modification of a simple Target t-shirt to which I addeed a faux placket (Katy has been known to use these fabulously, and she inspired my first take on a contrasting placket with this dress) and burnt orange buttons.
I also bound the short sleeves in more of the Echino fabric.
I had a bit more than a half-yard to start with and only a few scraps left when I finished!
Need a Me...Jane set for your little explorer? I've got a pocket tutorial to add to your favorite shorts or pants pattern and a few explanations about the t-shirt. Click to read more...
ME...JANE SAFARI SHORTS AND SHIRT TUTORIAL
To make the pocket, start with three pieces of fabric, two 1.5"x4.5" and one 3"x4.5" (or adjust the size and maintain the proportions for a larger pocket). Please note that you'll need to stitch the pockets onto the back pieces of your shorts before sewing them together).
You will stitch these three pieces together down their long sides using a .25" seam allowance. Lay them with the larger piece in the middle and seam them right sides together.
...and press the seams to one side.
Now form the pleats by bringing the seams towards the center. I created .25" folds. Pin.
Baste the pleats in place using a .25" seam allowance.
Now cut a piece of lining the size of your pocket.
Pin the pocket ot the lining right sides together leaving a 3" opening at the bottom for turning.
Stitch using a .25" seam allowance (don't forget to leave the opening at the bottom).
Clip your corners and turn right sides out.
Press, tucking in the raw edges of the opening so they bottom of the pocket is straight.
Now place the pocket on the back piece of your shorts. (These shorts have a self waistband so I made certain the pocket wasn't too high--you may want to use a finished pair of pants with back pockets as a guide.)
Pin in place and then top stitch around the sides and bottom very close to the edge of the pocket.
To bind the sleeves, I made seam binding out of my shorts fabric. I started with two strips (one for each sleeve) about 1.25" wide and the length of my sleeve width less 1" so I could create a little gather on the top of the sleeve. I folded the strips in half lengthwise and pressed.
Then folded each half in towards the original crease...
...to create a double fold binding.
Then I unfolded the ends and stitched them right sides together to form a loop.
After pressing and folding them back into shape I used a bit of basting to gather the top of my sleeves...
And tucked them into the binding, pinning generously.
I then top stitched on the outside (right side) of the sleeve very close to the edge of the binding being careful to catch the binding on the inside. This took a couple tries!
There you have it. Me...Jane Safari Shorts and Shirt.