Like A Tiger {Colette Hawthorn Dress}

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I still have some holiday sewing to blog, but that will happen later when I’ve processed the eleventy billion images I have of our trip. For now, here’s a quick post about the Hawthorn I sewed up yesterday.

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I won’t go into a heap of detail because it’s an older pattern that has been made many, many times by sewing bloggers all over the world.

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It all started in the usual way for me – see cool fabric (in this case, voile from Spotlight), buy 2m with no idea what I’m going to make with it, remember pattern in stash I haven’t used for a while, tetris it all together because I should have bought more fabric and sew that baby up.

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The voile is perfect for our summer. Light as a feather and 100% cotton. It’s probably on the verge of needing a lining but that sort of defeats the light as a feather thing. I’d forgotten how much I love this pattern. What happened Colette? You used to be so cool. Please go back to your roots.

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Often with shirt dresses I will cheat a bit and add a zip to the side seam. Why? So I can stitch the button placket shut and avoid potential button malfunctions. This way I’m not forever looking down to check that  I’m all buttoned up throughout the day, especially when I’m moving around heaps while working. I also find that even if I add a hook and eye to the button at the waist seam, I still get a bit of pulling at that point. And yes, this is on dresses that fit well. Maybe it’s my body type. I don’t stitch the whole way down though – I generally start at the button at the bust and sew down to mid thigh. That way there’s still that nice movement at the bottom of the dress. Purely personal preference.

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I used cute little coconut buttons I picked up from an op shop (a whole bag of them, there’d be 100s of them in there). I think they match really well. And hot tip for the facings on this one – stitch them down in the ditch at the shoulder seams. I don’t know what it is about this pattern, but they always want to flip up on me, no matter how much understitching I do.

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Here’s a romantically out of focus shot of how well the bust fits on this pattern with no FBA. I’m not sure what sort of magic that is, but I like it.

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Hello new summer staple!

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Slip, Slop, Slap…. Iced Vovo. {Megan Nielsen Rowan x Spoonflower}

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Recently, the legends at Spoonflower got in contact and asked if I’d like to take part in a little blog hop they’re organising to show how makers around the world are celebrating the holiday season. They suggested that perhaps I’d like to make an Australian themed swimsuit or similar from their sport lycra (which is the tits and I’ve used many times). WOULD I? Of course! This time of year is alllllll about the water based activities for us. While half the world is freezing their butts off and singing about letting it snow, we are sweating and eating mangoes in the pool.

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Now, if you are Australian you’ll totally get the references in the title. If you’re not, let me explain the Australian summer to you (at least in my neck of the woods, we’re a big country, it varies a lot), our sun will burn you in minutes. The whole ‘slip, slop, slap’ thing was a campaign launched by the Cancer Council in 1981 (the year I was born!) and refers to slipping on a shirt, slopping on some sunscreen and slapping on a hat. Apparently it’s one of the most successful health campaigns in Australian history. There you go. No wonder the jingle has been stuck in my head for 36 years.

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And iced vovos are a pretty iconic biscuit made by Arnott’s (which is no longer an Australian company, but lets ignore that). I have very fond childhood memories of iced vovos with tea.

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I was browsing through Australian designer’s stores on Spoonflower, looking for a print that would fit the brief, when I stumbled across Natalie’s amazing iced vovo design. YAS. This was it. I knew what it had to be – a rashie that I could easily create from Megan Nielsen’s (another Aussie, can you see how loyal I’m being here?) Rowan pattern.

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So while Rowan isn’t technically a rashie pattern, I have made swimmers from it quite successfully before. This time was even more simple – I used the t shirt version of the pattern, added a seam allowance to the front pieces for the zip and cut it in two pieces instead of cutting it on the fold. Easy.

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I sewed most of it up in about 15 minutes on my overlocker, finishing the centre front edges, hem and sleeves – which isn’t even necessary because the lycra won’t fray, it just looks nice.

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While you can sew the band on folded, I decided not to. I wanted to encase the scratchy edges of the top of the zip in the neck band – even though when I checked my RTW rashie I found out it wasn’t done this way.

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Just a warning, attaching the zip might make you cry a little bit. To make it less painful, you can add some fusible tape to the edge of the fabric, but if you find that’s not enough (like I did), heavier interfacing is better. Basting helps too but I found that it’s not enough on its own to stop the fabric stretching.

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After that I just pinned the rest of the neck band in place and zig zagged it above the neckline seam. I finished the hem and and sleeve hems with a zig zag too, you need lots of stretch for this baby.

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I managed to piece together my scraps to get a matching pair of bikini bottoms. I didn’t have enough fabric for my usual high waisted pair (pattern cloned from my favourite pair of RTW knickers), so they are lower than usual and I didn’t have enough for the top band either. Still, they aren’t bad and I do like making the most of my fabric scraps. Ooh and the bottoms are lined for obvious reasons. The rashie isn’t because I’ll always wear a bikini top under it for support. Or it will go over something else in a fantastic clash of prints.

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Spying on my neighbours.

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Submerged.

Yes there’s a dolphin in our pool, his name is Dave. He was there when we bought the house although we didn’t know it at the time because the whole thing was pond green.

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If you ever need a reminder that you are not a graceful mermaid, just get some photos of yourself underwater. YOU’RE WELCOME.

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If you made it this far through my incessant chatter, I have a reward for you – use the code katie17 to get 10% off your Spoonflower purchases until the 31st of December. Happy Dance!

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Girt By Sea {Butterick 6453}

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I’m not sure I ever shared my Girt Squad collaboration here on the blog, but if you follow me on Instagram you would have seen that it was a bunch of Australian designers and makers working together to create a cohesive collection of bits and pieces (clothing, home wares and accessories). All the rad prints were designed by Ellie Whittaker and have a distinct retro sporty vibe. I chose three prints for my pieces (and it was a tough decision!), but when I saw Eclectic Bambino’s pinnies in this blue racquet print, I fell in love and ordered some just for me.

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And I apologise for being that guy, but you can’t purchase it anywhere because it was created just for Girt Squad. You can buy some of Ellie’s other designs through Next State Print (in Australia) and Spoonflower.

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I decided to make another version of Gertie’s B6453, this time with a circle skirt instead of the gathered version.  It’s such a lovely pattern but does run big, so check out the finished measurements before you go cutting. I sized down on my first version but unfortunately it was still a bit too big so I ended up giving it to a friend. For this one, I cut my pattern down slightly but managed to make it a touch too small. Ugh. Perhaps because the first one was a cotton linen blend and had a touch of give whereas this poplin has absolutely none. Anyway, I can still get it on and zipped up but it’s a bit too firm. Hopefully I’ll be able to wear some foundation garments underneath to fix it.

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How good is it with red gingham? So good that I found this jersey at Spotlight and made a matching wrap top.

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I’ve made a couple of these wraps now, but I’m yet to photograph them properly for the blog. I cloned it from a RTW top and I’m so glad I did because they are perfect for when I want to cover my arms but it’s too hot for a cardie. Which in our climate is often. Expect one in every colour.

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I just have a wee bit more sewing to do and then we’re off to Samoa. I’ll be drinking out of a coconut very soon.

 

That 60s Dress With The Metal Zip {Vintage McCalls 9083}

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Have I told you before that my mum is a legend? My mum is a legend. Last week I received a very excited phone call from her because she found a few things at an op shop that she knew I’d love. Two of them were these barkcloth (I think) table cloths. Both in excellent nick and around 1m x 1m. One looked like it had never been used, one slightly used. Not a huge difference in colour between them both though.

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My ma knows me well, so of course they became mine. I had planned on making a full gathered skirt with them, but decided to see if I could stretch it to a dress instead. It was time to make something a bit different. I dug through that lovely vintage stash that was given to me a while back and came up with McCalls 9083, a dress pattern from 1967.

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I did make some pretty significant changes to the pattern. First and foremost, my bust is nowhere in the vicinity of 34 inches, so some grading up had to happen. Then a 2 inch full bust adjustment on top of that. I am so glad I did too, because it fits like a glove. FBAs are magic, 10/10 do recommend. I use this tutorial to do mine. I lowered the neckline slightly too, because that sucker is high.

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I slashed and spread the skirt, eliminating the darts and making it more A line in shape. It’s a bit of a weird feeling for me because I am so used to wearing very full skirts. I feel a little bit naked, which is ridiculous.

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I decided on patch pockets because I had a feeling side seam pockets might stick out a bit on this style of skirt.

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I had planned to use an invisible zip, but it turned out I didn’t have one long enough in my stash. Then I remembered I had a pretty long thrifted metal one hiding somewhere, so I dug it out. I think the metal is way cooler and gives all that floral a little bit of an edge.

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The bodice is lined in black lawn and yeah, I probably should have used black thread but I wasn’t sure whether to match the lining or the zip. So the zip it was.

Peace, love and tablecloth dresses.

Making Swimmers Out Of Underwear {Ohhh Lulu Romy Bra}

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More swimmers, I know. This could totally be lingerie though, almost. I even used lingerie patterns for both. Just take out that lining and add a gusset and you’re got yourself a fancy pants bra and knickers set.

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Did you notice the trim? Eeeeeeee. It’s the kind of thing I associate with expensive lingerie. I love how it looks. It’s called ladder or fagoted trim. This particular version is stretch and intended for swimwear. Both the fabric and the trim came from Pitt Trading. Bra cups from Booby Traps and lining from The Remnant Warehouse.

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I know what you’re thinking. What human on the planet could possibly need as many pairs of swimmers as you? I get it. I do. Some of my new ones are for sensible lap swimming at the local pool. Some are for our upcoming holiday. This set is definitely a holiday set, although I could totally do laps in these comfortably without anything escaping.

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My problem is, I see lovely fabric and then I have to have it. I often don’t have a project in mind, but I know that it will get used eventually. When I saw this spandex at Pitt Trading, I thought it would make the perfect Romy bra, with the stripes running in different directions to make it all interesting and stuff. Then of course, the trim came up and I knew it would be a match made in heaven. The final straw was that I already had black thread in my overlocker that I’m about to change to cream. So I ran these babies up before having undertake that chore.

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I wasn’t completely sure how the trim should be sewn in and I think I did in wrong on the upper cups, but thought it would look better with the seams enclosed. On the bottoms, I sewed it directly over the top of the fabric and I think that looks better.

Once again I added foam cups, which isn’t part of the original Romy instructions but I keep muddling my way through it. It just makes such a difference to the fit for me. I mean, it’s fine without, but next level supportive with the cups.

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Just for a quick comparison, this one is lined with power mesh:

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And this has the cups:

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It feels far more secure and there’s much less bounce. Good for beach swimming. For my latest version, I lengthened all the pieces so it’s more long line style. It also provided a bit of extra space for the cups. Once again I eliminated the back closure by cutting the back band piece on the fold. It does mean you have to pull it over your head but I find it much more comfortable to wear.

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The cups don’t look perfect from the inside – the can be a bit tricky to get  perfectly smooth. They are pretty good from the outside though. I’ve come to let it go that my lingerie and swimmers won’t look as finished as RTW from the inside, but they look totally fine when they are on and that’s ok with me.

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Is it holiday time yet?

Reinventing Ready To Wear Again {Using Megan Nielsen’s Rowan As A Base}

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I know it seems like I’ve been sewing a lot of swimmers lately and that’s because I have. Ha. There is a real gap in the market for one piece swimsuits for women that aren’t keen on the whole backless, flimsy, high and cheeky cut or the full bottomed, ruched and paneled offerings. Like a huge gap. I’m 36 and struggle. My mum is 60 and struggles. Bikinis seem to offer a little more variety, but one pieces? Nup. Your choices decrease even further if you can’t deal with halternecks. I can’t and incidentally neither can my mum. Instant headaches for both of us. Plus there’s the whole ‘go into the shop and try on at least 10 pairs under ugly lights and try not to cry’. NO.

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So what’s a girl to do? Well, you know the answer to that. You sew your own. Minimal melt downs and swimmers that fit just how you want them to. For me, that means lower legs, thicker straps that run over the shoulder and nice bust support. But no ruching – no matter how ‘flattering’ everyone likes to tell me it is. Plus, this way you get to have nerdy Nintendo swimmers. And match your husband if you want to. Even though he might not be so keen.

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Fabric is Spoonflower’s sport lycra and it’s a ripper for swimmers, it’s a polyester lycra blend with 75% stretch across and 50% stretch up and down. It’s colourfast in saltwater and chlorine and therefore ideal for swimwear. I’ve lined mine with swim lining from The Remnant Warehouse.

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See this top? I bought it. GASP. I love this high neck style, the wide back band without a clasp and this is one of the first I’ve found with thicker straps that run over the back instead of around the neck. It’s a bit low for me around the armholes, which is a common problem for me with this style  (hello side boob) and I hate how those bra cups float free and move around. Incidentally, the one on the right looks like it’s turned sideways. Annoying. I bought it specifically to make a pattern from.

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So I clipped that sucker down flat with wonderclips and I cloned it – adding seam allowance and also raising those arm holes.

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I compared my new pattern pieces to the Megan Nielsen Rowan pieces and look at that, they matched up really well. The Rowan pieces are folded down because I’ve been too lazy to trace and cut new ones for my swimmers.

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I added swim cups for support again, these ones came out of an old pair of swimmers and really, they are too small for me. But they work well enough with the tension in the fabric when they’re on. I recently watched Beverly Johnson’s class on sewing swimsuits and used her starburst method for adding the cups, which basically entails zig zagging them onto the lining and then cutting into the lining over the cups which then makes the lining and fabric sit better over the bust. As long as those cups don’t move around, I’m happy.

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I decided that I’d attempt to finish the neck and armholes the same way as the RTW top – sew the lining and outer together right sides together so no raw edges show and then add elastic to that seam for support. At least, I assumed that was how I did it but I’ve made a mistake somewhere there because my lining wants to roll over at the edges a bit. I have to think about it a bit more for next time. It’s not such a big deal because it’s black and tends up blend in pretty well. It’s worth noting that RTW uses pretty specialised machines for their construction, so it’s not always something that’s easy to replicate on the home sewing machine.

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Other than that though, I’m pretty pleased. Once again I finished the legs with this method of binding and used this method for my straps. Learning both of these methods has been a game changer for me, I think it makes handmade swimmers look pretty damn professional.

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I’ve been swimming laps at my local pool almost every day recently, so a good solid one piece really is a wardrobe staple for me at the moment.

Over and Over and Over {sewing a gathered skirt}

webDSC_5950I sew gathered skirts all the time, pretty much always following the same basic steps. If you’re new to sewing, let me tell you a little secret – they are pretty damn easy to make. And you don’t even need a pattern. Not really.

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Gathered skirts are made up of a few parts:

  • The front skirt panel. I make mine the width of my fabric, cut on the fold.
  • Two back panels. As above, but cut down the fold (this is where we add a zip). The best part about gathering is that you can make it fit into your waistband without any maths. WIN.
  • Waistband. Mine is curved and in three pieces (one for the front, two for the back. Again, for the zip). It’s from a vintage pattern and I use it so often because I know it fits me well. You can do one big long strip if you prefer. I like curved waistbands because I have a big difference between my hip and waist. Flat waistbands tend to gape in weird places on me.
  • Pockets if you want them (you want them). You can hide them in the side seams or sew them on as patch pockets.

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Once you have the basic shape down, you can change things up a bit. Like adding buttons down the front and omitting the zip at the back.

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But howwwwwwwwwww? Well, there are a pile of excellent tutorials online, so I won’t make another.

Here’s one from By Hand London.

And this one is for kids but the process is the same. I like to sew my zips in this way.

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I made no effort to pattern match this one, but hey – look at my cool metal zip.

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After you have the basics sorted, you can move onto sewing with really cool fabric, like this Alice McCall embroidered mesh. I lined the whole thing with black cotton lawn, which sounds intimidating, but really all I did was make another skirt. Then they both get gathered into the waistband. Not hard at all.

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This is my latest, she’s pretty right? The fabric makes it next level fancy. I know you probably want to know where everything is from, so I’ll start from the top.

Rad galah fabric by Mount Vic and Me via Spoonflower.

Tulip and bunny fabric by Sarah Jane for Michael Miller (possibly out of print).

The Twits fabric is furnishing fabric found on ebay.

Alice McCall mesh from The Remnant Warehouse.

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Now go on, make some skirts.

 

 

Don’t Say It {Jalie 3242 + Ohhh Lulu Romy Bra + Megan Nielsen Rowan Bodysuit}

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I hate the term ‘mummy and me’. It makes me shudder. There, I said it. I don’t hate the idea, just the cutesy term. Blergh. I prefer to call this ‘being economical with fabric’. I managed to get these two out of less than a yard, which was a surprise. I was sure it would have taken more.

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Yes, I made the same pair of swimmers as yesterday (this time sans zip and with the addition of foam cups). So I’m not going to talk about them again. You can check here if you missed yesterday’s post.

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Apparently he’s not embarrassed by me or handmade clothes. Yet.

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It’s still raining. Our feet are webbed and check out what it’s doing to my hair. At least everyone has water again and the garden is happy.

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Mashing It Up {Jalie 3242, Megan Nielsen Rowan and Ohhh Lulu Romy}.

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I’ve mentioned before how I’m happiest when submerged, like some kind of sunglasses-wearing dugong. As a family we spend a lot of time in the water. Kids have a habit of growing too, so I knew I needed to replace last year’s swimmers. Locally, there wasn’t a lot of lycra available that the boys would like, so I was browsing Spoonflower and pretty soon I had a cartful of their sport lycra. Ahem. Including those amazing Andrea Lauren moths for myself. You might have noticed I have a thing for moths. I have one tattooed on my arm and there’s a moth in my KMAD logo. It stems from a love of Silence of the Lambs, which I realise is creepy. I read the book when I was about 12 years old and have just loved that moth image ever since. I really like the old biology illustrations too, which is what the print reminded me of.

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The two little guys and the big guy got theirs made from Jalie 3242. Yes, it’s an underwear pattern, no I don’t care. They generally just wear them underneath boardies anyway, so it’s not like they are flashing them all over the beach. Though they could if they wanted to really. Look how cool those prints are! I must add, that when my husband tried his on, he pretended to announce his swim race for the olympics over a megaphone and ran around the house shaking his arms and legs about for a bit. Warming up for his pretend swim.

For theirs I replaced the underwear elastic band with a fabric band. Easy.

Bits for mine:
Sport Lycra from Spoonflower
Lining from The Remnant Warehouse
Chunky zip from East Coast Fabric
Elastic from Pitt Trading
Yellow rings and sliders harvested from an old pair of swimmers.

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I was keen to make a one piece for myself. My old favourite is getting a bit saggy and the Ohhh Lulu Cindy I made for myself a while back is too big now. I’m joining to local pool so will be doing a bit of lap swimming and figured a well fitting one piece is a good idea. I wanted to see if I could create a slightly different style using two of my faves – Megan Nielsen’s Rowan bodysuit and Ohhh Lulu’s Romy bra. Here’s a refresher on what they look like:

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I love how the bottom half of the bodysuit fits and Romy provides decent shaping and coverage without wire. I pulled out my pattern pieces, marked off where I wanted the bodysuit to end (by comparing it to my favourite black one piece) and lined up the Romy on top to see how they’d fit together. It was pretty much perfect. I took some width out of the Romy back piece and straightened it out, but that was it.

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I added the zip because I assumed I would need it to get the swimmers on and off (turns out I don’t, but nevermind). It was by far the most painful part of the whole process, but not as difficult as last time. I had to shorten it and add a tab to the end again, then I basted that sucker in by hand first and that definitely helped. Actually, I basted heaps with these (leg holes, bodice top edge, bra pieces, raw edges where the zip goes) – it really helps when you have to sew the binding etc on and you’re not struggling to keep multiple layers together.

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For the first time ever, I made my own straps using this tutorial and my own binding using this one. I prefer wider straps than RTW offers on most of their swimmers, so turning these wasn’t hard at all. Making my own straps and finishing with binding always seemed so scary in the past, I have no idea why. I’d always just finish necklines with elastic and legs with bands (or elastic). Probably because I started sewing lingerie before swimmers and that’s just what I knew. Anyway, the binding finish isn’t as neat as RTW and I know zig zag looks super ‘homemade’ but it’s not really obvious unless you’re too close.

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I’m really happy with the fit and I don’t think there’s anything I would change. I might try adding foam cups next time for a bit of extra lift, but it’s honestly fine without them. And adding the cups means I’d lose the enclosed seams of the bra lining because of the way the cup is split into two. I’d have to stitch them to the lining so they don’t move around and drive me nuts.

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We’ve just had about 6 months of rain over 4 days, so I’m not really sure why I’ve been sewing swimmers, but I’m glad they are all done. Bring on the beach! Bring on the pool! Bring on our trip to Samoa!

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Taking The Theme and Running With It {Butterick 6483}

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This fabric. It makes me sigh. I love that whole vintage beach vibe. It’s too good. I’d seen a couple of my favourite sewing bloggers (Roisin and A Million Dresses) use it and then I spotted Sew Positivity had also scored some. I made a cheeky comment about how jealous I was and do you know what sweet, sweet Elle did? She bloody went and found some for me and had it shipped here from the UK. What a legend.

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And one night while that delicious fabric was winging its way down under, I sat down for a solo Netflix viewing of the girliest movie I could tolerate. I settled on ‘You Before Me’. It was actually quite enjoyable. I admired Lou’s (Emilia Clarke) wardrobe through the whole thing (if you’ve seen it, you’ll understand) but my heart skipped a little beat when this scene graced my screen in full colour.

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OMG, that’s my bloody fabric!

Heck yes it is. Turns out, the outfit is Ralph Lauren and was sourced from the chain store TK Maxx. You can read about that here.

It’s actually a top and a skirt.

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The universe wanted me to own this fabric, I know it.

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The day it arrived on my doorstep, it was washed, dried and in pieces within a couple of hours. No mucking around here. I had my future sister in laws hens day coming up and the theme was ‘island princess’. This fabric was perfect for it.

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I’d already toiled Butterick 6483 so there were no hold ups in getting this baby done. The biggest change was a 2 inch full bust adjustment. You might have seen my otter version of this dress, which is actually my second version. This is the first but I was waiting on my red frog closures for a really long time so I’ve only just got around to photographing it. Big props to Tea Dust and Stitches who scored me the frogs, I am still waiting on a pair from China some 6 weeks later. This dress has taken a village.

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So. The whole thing sewed up like a dream. No issues whatsoever. The linen is superb to sew with and is lovely to wear. I popped a pocket in the right side seam and there is a zip in the left.

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A mandatory requirement of the hens party was a flower crown. I searched the shops up here but we really don’t have that much variety. Plus I was really keen on having some native flowers in mine. Preferably yellow or red to match my dress. I hit Spotlight and found this wattle. It was perfect. I grabbed some ivy to fill it out and also wire from the millinery section. I measured out some wire against my head and went to work, winding everything around it. Then I secured some parts down with green thread so it sat a bit flatter. A hack job because I had no idea what I was doing, but it ended up working quite well.

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You should have seen us in all our flower crowned glory last night, downing espresso martinis and generally just being fabulous. It was a sight to behold.

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