Fries Before Guys {Sewing Swimwear + Megan Nielsen Tania Culottes}

webDSCF1193Look, I’m a bit of a fraud because my body tends to reject chips (fries, chips to us here in Australia), even though I love their crispy, carby, salty goodness. Most of the time my skin is like ‘nah, we aren’t about those anymore. Have some acne for your attempt, though’. Who could resist this print though? It’s a bloody winner.

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I know you want to know where the fabric is from and what the pattern is, but you’re going to hate me for it. The fabric (which is swim) was a pre order from Indie Skye fabrics and I don’t tend to go for pre orders because I’m damn impatient and hate waiting longer for my fabric than is entirely necessary. But I decided this fabric was worth waiting for. The lining is lightweight swim spandex from The Remnant Warehouse because it has a bit more body than regular old swim lining. And it’s nicer to sew.

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What else? Well there’s some foam (complete with my markings still, please ignore. But it is good to mark all the points on your cups so you don’t sew them around the wrong way, they look very similar) from Sew Squirrel, underwire casing, underwires, swim elastic (all from The Remnant Warehouse also, from memory) and some sheer cup lining for the upper cups and bridge (pretty much because I wanted those pieces to stay stable and maintain their shape). Also there’s some boning in the side seams of the bra portion, which is just cable ties cut down.

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Pattern, well bear with me for that one. The lower portion is Megan Nielsen’s Rowan bodysuit. If you’ve read posts on my one pieces before, you’ll know I’ve used this many, many times. I like the fit. Obviously I line it, eliminate the crotch snap part of it and bind or band the legs, but you could use swim elastic and fold over too. I have big legs, I don’t really need the elastic to pull everything in. I just use good old zig zag because I don’t have a coverstitch machine, I hate twin needling and even though it’s very Becky Home Ecky, if someone on the beach is judging my zig zag, that’s their problem. Because they’d have to be in my lap to see it and that would be weird. You know they aren’t though, just as they aren’t judging my body. But more on that later.

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So, the bra part. I know, it’s a bit of sorcery and I wasn’t even sure that it would work. In fact, I was almost positive that it wouldn’t and I’d try it on and have cups folding over and boobs heading towards their old friend, my belly button. I figured I could add straps at the end if I wanted to, but I also wanted to just see if it would work. FOR SCIENCE. You know I love bra sewing though. I love the challenge of it, I love the precision, I’ve even grown to love the little 1/4″ seams. I love watching cups go from flat to boob shaped with foam and wire, I love making the finish really lovely and enclosing the seams. It’s just my happy place. You know?

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If you’ve been following along lately, you’ll recall my strapless bra journey. The new guy is the same pattern, shortened, with a bit taken off the upper cup (because it was too high and also to compensate for not folding over with the picot) and boning left out of everywhere except the side seams. On that note, I think the boning is part of the engineering magic. It stops it from wanting to roll down with the weight of my bust. Also, those extra long wires help for the same reason. The keep it tacked to my chest and in place under the arms.

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Here are some technical construction and fit notes you can scroll past if you want:

– Stabilising the bridge with bra lining (which is strong but super light) stops it from stretching out and distorting the cups shape. But it also makes the whole thing a bit harder to get into. Next time it might be wiser to add some sort of closure – either a zipper down the front or some kind of clip at the back. I do like the comfort of not having any closures though.

– To make sure the bra part would fit on the body part, I just lined up the pattern pieces. They were super close and I didn’t need to change a thing. I cut the back band piece of the fold and there’s no hook and eye like on the bra versions. This made it a bit smaller across the back, but the fabric has a bit more stretch than the traditional power mesh band of the bra version, so they sort of cancelled each other out.

– I was very close to cutting the upper cup pieces out of swim lining, but realised my bra versions have no stretch there, which is really important – it needs to hug in close. If it stretched out, there might be some gaping and more risk of a wardrobe malfunction. So I used the very stable bra lining there too.

– Contrary to popular opinion (I see this all the time in sewing groups!), the foam is for support, not to enhance bust size. If the foam wasn’t there, the whole cup portion would drop. Same for sports bras, especially if there’s no wire. I often see people request sports bra patterns without wire OR foam, stating that they are already big and don’t need extra padding. But foam is great for support and is often necessary for bigger bust especially. Don’t fear the foam. I’ve used straight stitch to top stitch the cups (instead of zig zag) because they don’t really stretch and I don’t want them to. The foam has a tiny bit of give, but not much else. But you can totally use zig zag if you prefer the look.

– The only other part that made me stop and think was how to finish the top of the cups. In my bra versions, I’ve used picot because I like the look and the finish. It’s a bit too ‘I’m a bra’ for swimmers for me though and using binding in matching fabric is usually the way I finish raw edges. Obviously in strapless swimmers, the top part really needs to stay put, so rather than just using strips of fabric as binding (which doesn’t need to be cut on the bias like woven, FYI), I used swim elastic in there too. Same method as usual, which is putting a bit of tension on it all the way around so it hugs towards the body. There’s a little mention of that method in my video here, but in relation to finishing the leg openings.

– I decided to run the binding all the way around the top edge, as opposed to finishing the bridge first without binding (ie sewing lining and outer fabric right sides together and flipping, which is how I generally do my bras) and finishing the upper cups before adding them into the frame for a couple of reasons. Firstly to minimise bulk. The binding plus elastic adds a fair bit of bulk, which in turn makes it harder to sew down the underwire casing at the underarm and bridge. Much easier to sew over everything at the end. Plus, I would have had to fiddle around with seam allowances at the upper cup – cut them down to counteract the fabric lost when folding over picot to make sure it lines up with the finished bridge. God I hope that makes sense. It’s really hard to explain. Anyway, much easier to cut the upper cups down as needed to line up with the bridge once they’re already sewn into the frame. Then bind the whole thing in one hit.

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As usual, I’ve used far more words than I had planned. If you have any technical questions, just comment and I’ll try to answer. I’ve never had any proper bra training, but have learned so much from trial and error. And what is that sensible black skirt I’m wearing? Is it a skirt?

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No! It’s the Tania culottes in linen from Potter and Co! Trickery! This is the updated version, which Megan so kindly sent me. Its now got pockets and extended sizes. Truly one of the most wearable things I own, especially for work. Photography work, that is. I’m often getting down on the floor and these make it much easier. The only change here is that I’ve used my own curved waistband, because as I’ve mentioned many times in the past – rectangle waistbands don’t work on this short waisted, curvy body. There’s too much of a difference between my hip and waist measurement and I get gaping in the front and back. Imagine pinching a dart out of the top of the front and back waistband pieces – that’s the shape I need.

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So, back to the swimmers. I’ve tested these babies in the pool and they passed with flying colours. The real test will be in the surf. But I can still add straps if required, probably removable ones so I have options. I really like how these have turned out.

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If you’re anything like me, you might have some of those pesky voices in your head – you know the ones, they like to say mean things and make you feel crappy about putting on your swimmers and enjoying yourself at the beach or the pool. Mostly I can shut them up, but there were a couple of persistent ones when making these. The first being that strapless things are for smaller bodies, particularly slender arms and backs. The other one was the fabric. Weirdly, I have had issues about wearing food prints before. I know it’s ridiculous, but I felt like I was saying ‘hey! look at me wearing food that contributes to this fat body!’. So with this fabric screaming its fries-positive message, all I could think of was people would look at me and think, ‘well, obviously true for her’. I know how crazy that sounds. And I’m wearing them anyway, because I made them and I’m proud and I love how fun the print is. So there, voices. You can shut up now.

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Knocking Off Ready To Wear Again {Patterns For Pirates Peg Legs}

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I apologise in advance, because this is one of the most boring blog posts you’ll ever get from me. It’s about black leggings. I’m not really selling it, am I?

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(From left to right: Cotton On leggings, Clio plush leggings, cheapy ebay Pegs made by me and wool blend Pegs made by me).

I read something recently where someone described sewing basics as ‘less icing, more cake’. That really resonated. When I started, all I wanted to sew were all the pretty dresses (and I still do), but there’s a lot to be said for owning damn comfortable basics.

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Winter in my part of the world is pretty mild, so I can get away with wearing dresses and skirts as long as I wear tights, boots and a cardi. Fleece lined leggings are my favourites and get a lot of wear (look at that pair second from the left!). I’ve noticed them start appearing in shops in the form of active wear too and what can I say? It’s love. And since my resolution this year was to avoid buying things I can sew, I went on a mission to find fleece back spandex. Which means I asked a sewing FB group. And they delivered.

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(Spenno wool blend).

The first recommended was an insanely cheap ($5/m!) nylon blend from ebay. I must admit, I had my doubts. When it arrived, it looked much the same as the fabric the Clio leggings are made from. Plush back with a definite nylon looking outer, with a bit of a sheen. Not bad though, especially for the price. I was pleasantly surprised.

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(Cheapy fabric).

I figured this pair would be worn mostly under dresses and skirts, so I used the plain Peg Legs pattern with the low rise waist and contour waistband. They are comfy as hell, but that’s exactly what I expected, I love the Pegs pattern. These poop all over the RTW versions I own.

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(And cheapy fabric).

High waisted, forever โค

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(Spenno wool blend).

The second fabric recommended was a pricier wool blend for $40/m from Homecraft Textiles in WA. It wasn’t on their website, so I emailed and arranged to purchase. They were very helpful. When it arrived, I was underwhelmed. The outside has a slight rib through it and the fleece is more of a reddy brown than black (not that it matters to me at all), but other than that, it looks and feels a lot like the ebay fabric. I thought it would have more of a matte outer. I guess time will tell with how they wash and wear. This fabric got sewn into a pair of Pegs with the add ons – side panel and pockets, with the same old low rise waist and contour waistband, because we already know how I feel about that combo. I figured this pair could be more for dog walking on chilly mornings. Or just hanging at home doing nothing, whatever.

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Same high waist that does not require constant pulling up.

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And there ends the boring black leggings chatter. I also made my t shirt. It was a bit of a Jalie men’s t shirt hack experiment out of lightweight cotton jersey. A bit too lightweight judging my my hems. But again, comfort is king.

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This Is Australia {Next State Print Active vs Spoonflower Sport Lycra}

You know what’s cool? Being able to print your own designs onto the fabric of your choice. Now, I’m not clever enough to be able to design my own fabric, but I know what I like. Sometimes you’ll find the right fabric in a print that blows your mind, sometimes you won’t. Especially when it comes to fabric that is suitable for swimwear. It needs to be a magical combination of either polyester or nylon and spandex (or lycra, which is just the brand name for spandex).

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I mean, where else could you find Iced Vovo fabric but Spoonflower?

The more I sew swimwear, the more I crave those unique prints that tickle my fancy.

Like these moths from Andrea Lauren on Spoonflower:

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And these little babies from Ellie Whittaker on Next State Print:

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That’s right, Australians. Next State Print (based in Melbourne and possibly the most helpful company around) now offer their own version of activewear and swimwear fabric. So of course I had to order a metre and test it out as I really wanted to see how it compared to the Spoonflower Sport Lycra. Because: (a) I’m nerdy like that and (b) I really like to support Australian businesses when I can. Also, I reallllly like the Spoonflower lycra, so could another product compare? Let’s see.

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Here are the stats (I told you I was a nerd):

Content:

SF: Polyester (88%) and lycra (12%)

NS: Polyester (80%) and spandex (20%)

Width:

SF: 142cm

NS: 140cm

Price:

SF: $32USD/yard (approx $41AUD per 91cm, if we’re getting picky)

NS: $37/metre

Stretch:

Now, if you’ve seen my last post, you’ll know this is a tricky number to nail down.

SF: Claim 75% in one direction and 50% in the other. I honestly find this hard to believe. It’s much firmer than that.

NS: No stretch listed but it’s stretchier than the Spoonflower version.

Sorry it’s not a more exact science than that.

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General feel? They both feel good. Both are a decent thickness and nice quality. If you haven’t used digitally printed fabric before, know that they have their limitations and are different to their screen printed cousins – it’s the nature of the beast. But what I have found is the colour and quality is much more vibrant on synthetic fibres (like spandex) than natural fibres (like cotton).

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The Next State Print Active is definitely lighter and stretchier than the Spoonflower Sport Lycra. But it’s also silkier and softer. It does work out a bit cheaper but of course, they don’t have as much variety in their prints as Spoonflower. My Spoonflower swimmers have been washed and worn many times now and are holding up well, I will update what happens with the Next State version as I’ve only just made them and worn them in the pool today.

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Oh and if you’re wondering about this swimsuit, it’s a hacked version of Megan Nielsen’s Rowan pattern, which I’ve also made here and here. It’s a good one and I love it.

 

Let’s Talk About Stretch, Baby {Patterns For Pirates Peg Legs}

I apologise in advance, this post is going to be all over the place.

So hey, how confusing is stretch stuff? Pretty bloody confusing. There’s all those different combinations of compositions – poly/spandex, nylon spandex, cotton lycra….

Then there’s percentages of stretch. Wat?

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Oh yes, not all stretch is created equal. Especially when you don’t have a fabric shop nearby and you’re just going by website descriptions. Let me explain…

When I made my very first pair of Patterns 4 Pirates Peg Legs, I used Spoonflower Sport Lycra. The pattern calls for at least 50% stretch in both directions, the sport lycra claims to have 50% in one direction and 75% in the other. I made those babies according to my measurements and could not get them beyond my thighs. WTF, man?!

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If you’ve felt the Spoonflower Sport Lycra, you’ll know it’s pretty heavy and firm. Don’t get me wrong, I love the stuff and have used it for many pairs of swimmers. But 75% stretch? Nah. I even emailed them to double check and was assured the website is correct. So I’m not sure what I’m missing or what sort of sorcery this is, but it’s puzzling.

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So moving right along in my peg journey, I ordered this rad printed poly/spandex blend from fabric.com. It’s described as an athletic knit with 10% stretch. Wait, what?! 10% STRETCH. FOR ATHLETIC USES. NO.

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By this stage I’d lost my faith in the accuracy of any stretch percentages on websites. Whatever, I like the print let’s give it a whirl. When it arrived, it felt exactly like the Spoonflower lycra – not hugely stretchy and also quite thick. Definitely more than 10% though, for sure. Anyway, I sized up to an XL in my pegs pattern to compensate for less stretch and here we are – leggings that fit.

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Interestingly, I ordered this awesome scale print spandex at the same time and fabric.com lists this one as 30% stretch. It honestly feels the same as the one above to me. Same legging size cut, fit is the same. So this description is possibly accurate.

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PS I love them.

PPS I’m bad at yoga. Actually my physio banned me from yoga because I’m too bendy.

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Can do a handstand though.

Making your own leggings is amazing. These ones fit properly, they don’t creep down and they are squat proof – no transparency in the butt region at all. Eleventy billion times better than RTW. But yes, stretch percentages and buying online is quite the mine field. Sometimes you just have to take a gamble.

 

 

How To Sew A Rashie and Matching Bikini Bottoms {Megan Nielsen Rowan and Acacia}

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What I’m using:

Megan Nielsen’s Rowan and Acacia patterns.

A stretch needleย  in my sewing machine, but not in my overlocker.

Swim fabric (spandex/nylon blend) from Pitt Trading.

Swim lining (bottoms only) from The Remnant Warehouse.

A chunky plastic open ended zipper (51cm) from Spotlight.

A couple of strips of light to medium weight iron-on interfacing.

 

I’ve used the turtle neck t shirt pattern pieces from Rowan, but instead of cutting the front pieces on the fold, they’ve been cut into two pieces with a bit of seam allowance added for the zipper. I’ve added the same allowance to the neckband piece. The first video covers the basic construction of the rashie – sewing the front pieces to the back and sewing in the sleeves.

The second video shows how I add sleeve bands instead of hemming the sleeves and also adding the neck band.

The third and final video shows how to interface the front edges to stabilise them before adding the zip. Then I finish off the neck band and hem.

 

Super awesome bonus round:

Making matching, fully lined bikini bottoms from the free Acacia pattern!

I make swimmers from underwear patterns quite often and this is something I get asked about all the time. What takes something from knickers to swimwear? Let me show you. Spoilers: Fabric choice, lack of gusset, including a lining and leg and waistbands instead of picot.

I also added some height to these are they are quite low.

welcome

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A Month of Sundays {Ohhh Lulu Romy Bra}

I had to google that title. I thought it was an Australian saying and that it might not translate. Turns out it isn’t, but it was one of my mum’s favourite to yell at us when we were kids. ‘Hurry up, you’re taking a month of Sundays!’. Good times.

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Anyway, we haven’t quite had a month of Sundays, we’ve had two weeks of them. Or what feels like them. And it hasn’t dragged, it’s flown. So so fast. My husband went back to work today, so some form of reality is setting back in, but between Christmas day and yesterday, we did very little. We went to the beach, we slothed into the pool and back again. I don’t love sitting around in wet swimmers but I also didn’t feel like getting properly dressed on those days, so bralettes it was. And which ones did I keep wearing? My Romy bras. I only have two that fit me now and one fits me better than the other. I would get annoyed when they were in the wash, so knew I should make more.

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This is the same pattern, three times (the red/print knickers are slightly different to the other two pairs, but they’re all self drafted so I’m just concentrating on the bras in this post). I’ve rated them in a Goldilocks-like fashion.

This set? Too stretchy.

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Fabric: Tactel Strata (? I know. Says suitable for activewear, but I have thoughts on that) from The Remnant Warehouse.

Printed swim spandex from Pitt Trading (now sold out as far as I can tell).

Strapping, picot and fold over elastic all from Booby Traps.

This set, while I am a pretty big fan of the look, is the least supportive of the three. Totally fine for days at home or under big jumpers in winter, but the red fabric is super stretchy so it’s giving me a gentle pat rather than a tight hug. Such is life when buying fabric online. Generally I’m pretty lucky and I do get some great stuff from The Remnant Warehouse.

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I bought the red fabric with leggings in mind, but it’s so light and stretchy that it’s almost transparent, so that’s a no go. Unless you were to line them or something. But that seems like extra sweat that I don’t really need. You could line and use for swimmers, although I’m pretty sure it’s not rated for swim wear. Underwear is fine, bras need a bit of extra help (for me at least). The entire bra is lined with the red fabric, including the back band – but in hindsight, I should have used some powermesh in the back band too. Even as I was cutting it out these thoughts crossed my mind, but I figured I’d give it a go anyway. You don’t know if you don’t try, right? It’s not a fail by any means and would be fine for someone smaller than me (or with self supporting breasts). SUPER comfortable though.

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Next set? Not stretchy enough. The lace is lovely and stretches quite well across the grain but not as much the other way. Meaning the height is reduced when I’ve got it on. It’s Alice McCall though, so that’s a bit fancy and the quality is lovely.

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Lace and grey lining (swim lining): The Remnant Warehouse

Picot: Booby Traps

Strapping: Leftover from a kit from Measure Twice Cut Once

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More supportive than the first set but I just need the smidge more height that’s I’d get from more stretch vertically. Again, still wearble and I will wear them. Funny how you can get such completely different results even from using different stretch fabrics for the same pattern. Always learning, you guys.

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Iced Vovo set? Just right, baby!

Perfect stretch, perfect coverage. The only problem is I’m really shit with whites and washing. I’m so sorry you’ll end up grey, my beauties.

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Vovo fabric: Spoonflower Sports Lycra scraps (which you might remember from my rashie)

White spotty mesh: Pitt Trading

White powermesh lining: The Remnant Warehouse

Fold over elastic, strapping and picot: Booby Traps

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You might have noticed a bit of my past enemy, fold over elastic, appearing on these bras and you’d be correct. We’ve sorted out our differences and are actually quite friendly now. Who knew that a bit of practice would help? Ha. Some of the white FOE I even sewed on in one pass. OMG. It was quite easy to handle and I’m not sure if that’s because it’s plush on both sides, but I like it.

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And as if this post wasn’t long enough, here’s some other bits I’ve been sewing. Swimmers for my mum (no single pattern, more info about that here). No photos of her in them yet either, because the ding dong went and soberly broke her ankle on New Years Eve.

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Plus, I figured out a great way to use up the little spandex scraps I’ve been hoarding – swimmers for my little niece! Hooray! And she loves them, because she is a tiny legend.

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In other news, 2018 might be the year I start video tutorials. Maybe. Stay tuned to see if I can figure out the scary world of video.

 

 

 

Active Wear, Active Wear, Putting All The Pockets In My Active Wear… {Patterns For Pirates Peg Legs}

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I am not a big exerciser by any stretch of the imagination, but I can appreciate a decent pair of leggings as much as the next girl. Perhaps because I have multiple pairs that I don’t wear because the fit isn’t quite right – waistband too low, saggy butt, fall down as I walk… Is it my pancake butt? My generous thighs? A combination of both? Who knows, but I doubt I’m ever going to have that problem again.

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I’ve found my new best buddies. They are the Pattern For Pirates Peg Legs and the pattern is free, baby. You heard me, freeeeeeeeee. I didn’t even make any changes. Zero. None. And they fit like a dream. My first pair (not pictured because they are super boring) were a full length pair out of plain black double brushed poly. They feel like clouds on, seriously.

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For this pair I used the add ons – side panel, contoured waistband (a must for my body, it seems) and POCKETS. We all know how I feel about pockets and having them in your active wear is such a bonus. Phone, coffee money, dog poo bags – all necessities. I do have a couple of RTW pairs with a pocket in the waistband (and also a Sewaholic pair that I made), but I find it a bit awkward and squishy. In the side panel is much easier and more accessible.

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If you’re not into high waists, look away now. Because this one is hiiiiiiigh. I didn’t even use the high rise, I used the low rise with the contoured waistband and it’s way up on my waist. So comfortable. Black spandex and mesh are from The Remnant Warehouse. Quality is top notch and there’s lots of stretch in the spandex without it being semi transparent. It’s super soft and silky to touch. Bob’s Burgers print is sport lycra scraps from Spoonflower. The design mysteriously disappeared from their website after I bought it, I assume for copyright reasons. Glad I managed to snag some though.

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Even Sid appreciates that butt fit. Thanks mate.