True Blues {Ellie Whittaker Swim Fabric + McCalls 7168}

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A while back, my lovely friend Ellie was in the super exciting phase of bringing out with her own line of fabric. She’s been a successful textile designer for a long time, but getting it manufactured herself was the next big step. She kindly sent me a few metres of fabric for feedback, in both swim (one metre of each in True Blues and Gone Coastal) and cotton sateen (two metres of the Sydney to Hobart print).

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I used the sateen first to make one of my self drafted Joan dresses. Don’t let the name fool you – it’s soft and drapes beautifully, absolutely nothing like the medium weight sateen you can buy at Spotlight. And the best part? It’s 145cms wide. SO WIDE. I cut my skirt the full width of the fabric and it’s so delightfully swishy.

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In my earlier days of sewing, print was king (and I guess it still is really), but you know what’s queen? Bloody wide fabric. Such a treat. Full skirts, circle skirts, mega bell sleeves. All the fun stuff that won’t fit on quilting cotton at 112cms. And that drape? Did I mention the drape? Ha. It’s on par with rayon.

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Next I used the 80s-esque, Aussie inspired Gone Coastal swim. What’s not to love? The colours are saturated, the fabric base itself is a nice weight – suitable for swimmers, but probably not heavy enough for leggings.

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Pattern is a bit of a mash up that I’ve made many times before. Here and here.

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These have had a lot of use so far this season and are holding up very well, the fabric still looks new and I know Ellie has done a lot of wash tests too. You definitely don’t get that kind of dedication from most suppliers!

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Which brings me to yesterday. Swimmers aren’t a new thing for me, but I’ve never actually sewn with a dedicated swimwear pattern. Weird, right? I tend to just adjust lingerie patterns most of the time, swapping picot for swim elastic and gussets for lining. I have had McCalls 7168 in my stash for quite sometime now though and I fully admit I’ve opened that sucker multiple times, looked at it and put it away for another day. It’s a sort of choose your own adventure thing, which is fine but there’s just SO MANY PIECES. Plus I read that it runs big and some of the construction stuff is quite WTF. It was just so much easier to use the patterns that I know and love.

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Well yesterday I decided to face that challenge head on. I figured it would be nice to have a different silhouette for a change. Ellie favours nice big prints, so unless I did yet another one piece, I had to face the fact that these lovely octos were going to get cut up. But I didn’t want to cut into them more than I absolutely had to, so figured the bandeau top from M7168 might be a good idea.

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I decided to go the whole way out of my comfort zone and went with the ruched bottoms. I have a negative association with ruching in general, not the look but how it’s consistently marketed as ‘tummy flattering/disguising’. Blerk. I do think it looks cute though and in this pattern it’s on the hips anyway, so decided to give it a whirl. I love the vintage vibes it has, I did not enjoy the process. Ha. Probably because I ignored the directions all together. The pattern has you cut those ruched side panels 3 times (well six if you count that you cut each one twice) – one big long one that gets gathered to fit (fine), one lining piece that’s smaller and ungathered (also fine) and another in the main fabric the same piece as the lining. WHAT?! WHY? More bulk at the leg holes to fold over and add elastic? Ugh. Seems unnecessary. Turns out though, it is necessary really, because it gives your ruched panels a size guide and extra support. Ooops. In the end I just measured the lining pieces and gathered the panels to that size. I stand by the fact that it would make for super bulky seams though.

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Still, I got there in the end (even if I did sew my waistband with the centre seam at the front instead of the back. See? I’m not immune to silly mistakes even after all this time). My measurements put me across a couple of sizes (40/31/42 – that’s an 18 for bust and hip and a 14-16 for waist) but I made the straight 14 because of the Big 4 pattern companies love of ease, even for things that are supposed to stretch. I also compared some of the pattern pieces to my tried and tested swimwear patterns, just to check the size was in the same ballpark. In the end, the bottoms are a smidge tight and the top had to be taken in, but nothing major.

I knew I wanted foam cups in the top for extra support, but adding those to the lining has really changed the construction process. There is supposed to be gathers under the bust, but of course, that couldn’t happen once the cups were in. Not a big deal though and I’m glad I added the cups because there’s no way I would feel secure without them. I used these cups and this lining from The Remnant Warehouse.

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I really need some kind of FBA for this top, which would really just involve adding height, I think. Also for the busty among us – the instructions tell you to just use fabric for the straps, but past experience has taught me I definitely need the additional strength of elastic in my straps, so keep that in mind. I think next time I might make the flounce wider too. And speaking of the flounce, the instructions want you to hem it, which I definitely did not do. This fabric won’t fray so I really couldn’t see the point of mucking around with the narrow hem on knit fabric.

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All in all, not a bad pattern, but I think there are definitely parts of the construction that could be improved for a cleaner finish. And one that does need adjustments if you are a bit bigger in the bust. Fabric is wonderful, of course. I’ve been a big fan of Ellie’s for a long time and this new range is super exciting. Can’t wait to see what’s next.

 

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