From The Sea {Megan Nielsen Cottesloe}

I was given this pattern in exchange for a review. Just in case that’s not clear below.

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You lot know how I am about swimmers, right? The same way I am about sewing underwear. I love it. It’s hard to explain, but there’s something very satisfying about those little seam allowances and stretching that elastic so it’s juuuuust right. Or maybe it’s because I don’t have to try them on my size 14  dimpled and pale body in little change rooms under fluro lights anymore. Or maybe it’s because they are not traditionally ‘home-sewn’ things and when people ask where you got your rad swimmers and you say you made them, their minds get a little bit blown. Plus they are fast to sew.

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Now, for the most part my swimmers are based on underwear patterns because there aren’t a heap around that tickled my fancy. In fact, some of my faves are based on Megan Nielsen’s Rowan bodysuit pattern. So when lovely Anita from Megan Nielsen got in contact and asked if I’d like to review one of the new patterns, I was keen. Super keen. But I had a lot on my plate, so I tried to be a responsible adult and decline the offer. Anita told me that was totally cool, gave me a later deadline and flicked me the Cottesloe pattern anyway, just in case I could make it work.

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WELL. Curiosity got the better of me and I opened the files to have a look. One thing lead to another and here we are. I couldn’t resist. It was the simple swimwear pattern I’d been looking for. I knew it wouldn’t take long to make and I was super keen to give it ago. In fact, I managed to bash out two pairs in one afternoon.

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This floral version was my toile. I made the straight size 14, from the standard 0-20 pattern (my measurements put me in between the 14-16). The fabric was given to me quite some time ago, but is quite possibly from Boo Spandex and I’ve lined it with lightweight black swim spandex (as opposed to lining, it’s nicer to work with and a bit more supportive). That’s it. No changes, all very simple and the fit is pretty close to spot on. It’s got a surprising amount of support (no foam cups in this version) and the fit is better than I expected – especially since there are no bust seams for shape. For reference, I’m somewhere in the vicinity of a 38DD.

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With my very wearable toile complete, I moved on to my good fabric. Spoonflower sport lycra in a Beetlejuice themed print I designed. I’d been holding out for the right project and this was it – no seams to cut into those sandworms. Here I’ve got my lining (again, lightweight swim fabric) underneath and my fabric on top so I can cut them out together. Did I mention I love that nothing is cut on the fold? More accurate when working with knits like this, for sure. Plus, you can check how the print is placed.

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One slight change I wanted to make was to move the back straps more toward the centre back. This is a common adjustment for me. I literally chopped the straps off the pattern piece just above the armpit curve, moved them about 2cms in towards the centre back and then redrew the curves. I’m not sure if that’s technically correct, but it worked well. You can barely see a difference in the images above, but I can definitely feel the difference when they are on.

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I added foam cups to my second version to see if there was much of a difference in support. There is a  little bit of a difference, but not a huge amount. I didn’t find my first version unsupportive though. The foam does give you slightly less stretch across the front too. Not enough for it to be a problem for me, but maybe something to keep in mind.

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I ran out of wider swim elastic for my second version, so lined the band with powermesh instead. It worked very well.

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You can see the scoop of the back is more pronounced since I moved the straps across.

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This is a simple, fast sew and a great introduction to sewing swimwear. As always, Megan Nielsen’s patterns are well drafted with excellent instructions. She’s recently extended her sizing, so these go up to a size 30, which is bloody brilliant.

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I love the high waisted bottoms and am impressed with the amount of support I get from the top. A top in this style is always going to provide more compression than shape, but I think it’s one that will suit a variety of sizes. When summer comes around again, I’ll definitely give the one piece a go too.

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Wattle It Bee {Megan Nielsen Wattle Skirt}

My titles are getting worse, I know.

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A while back, lovely Megan asked if she could send me one of her new patterns and said she thought I’d like her new Wattle skirt. She thought correctly. It has the same waistband options as her Flint pants, which I also love.

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I made view D, which is a bias cut skirt with tie closure. I used this lovely Art Gallery Bee print and even though it’s quilting cotton, Art Gallery has this magically soft drape about it, which makes it not bad at all for a skirt like this. Although, apparently my ironing skills could use some improvement – no surprise there.

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Like the Flints, the skirt has an opening in the left pocket, which is how you get into it. There is a button and tie to secure it. It all came together very quickly and simply for me, but I have made similar in the past so there was nothing new to learn.

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I did eliminate the centre front seam because I was reluctant to cut through the bees. Next time, I’ll take a dart out of the top of the front and back waistbands, which I should have done from the beginning. Flat rectangle waistbands just don’t work on a short waisted, curvy chick like me. Curved waistbands sit much smoother.

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My top is a bit of a hack of a dress pattern (Sew Over It Ultimate Wrap dress), which I made a few changes to so it works as a top, including changing the sleeves to bell sleeves. This is my second version, it just needs a couple of more changes to get it right. It’s slightly big for me all over, particularly in the shoulders and armscye (more so on my wonky left shoulder). I do love this red and pink striped rib from The Remnant Warehouse though, it’s got retro 70s vibes.

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I do feel slightly Christmas themed in this outfit and I’m excited about starting to get into the spirit of things.

 

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 ❤

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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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Sweater Weather {Made By Jacks Mum Hot Coffee Top}

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Pattern: MBJM Hot Coffee Top

Fabric: Mostly from Spotlight, although it doesn’t seem to be on their website.

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Except we say jumper, not sweater. Although more accurately, these would be hoodies. And I know this is mostly kid sewing, so sorry. Here’s the thing though, finding patterns for older boys is hard. Much like shopping for clothes for them. Seriously, look at the boys sizes 10-16 in a shop some time, they have about three racks worth and the girls equivalent is at least triple that.

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Luckily, these two still want me to sew for them. And when I saw this french terry in Spotlight, I couldn’t resist it. It ticked all the boxes – print not too young, suitably modern and really lovely quality. The right side is almost like a heavy cotton lycra, with a lovely soft brushed fleece underside. The grey ribbing is also from Spotlight, the grey fleece is the wrong side of another sweater knit off cut and the olive and white striped fabric is cotton lycra picked up from The Remnant Warehouse.

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As for the pattern itself, there is an adult version (used here) and a kids version (Hot Chocolate). I bought the adult sized one for myself and was pretty happy to see the boys would fit into the XXS from the adult version, which is about a size 12 in the kids. I even broke my ‘no PDFs if there’s no A0’ rule and bought it. The sticky tape fest wasn’t too harrowing for this one.

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The pattern has the option of a hood, a round neck or a cowl neck and can be made with or without the kanga pocket. I chose to leave the bottom band off these as I don’t love the look. Both boys could do with a little bit more length to combat that next time.

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I even made a basic round neck version for myself, which happens to be my second version but the first is a special collaboration and is under wraps for a while yet.

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My measurements put me into the XL, but I sized up to the 3XL because I wanted something quite oversized and the fleece didn’t have as much stretch as the pattern asked for. The ribbing however, had too much stretch. I ended up cutting off the cuffs and making them smaller. I really should have done it for the neckline too but I didn’t have quite enough ribbing left. It’s still very wearable and one of the softest jumpers I own.

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Sorry for the photo overload, it was just such a magic afternoon down at the beach. I should really shoot down there more often.

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Here’s To You, Mrs Robinson {Sew Over It Ultimate Wrap Dress}

Pattern: Sew Over It Ultimate Wrap Dress (designed for knits)

Fabric: Stretch Velvet from Spotlight

(I’ve decided to start putting the pattern and fabric info at the beginning of the posts so they’re easier to find. Let’s see if I remember to do it on future posts…).

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I’m not quite sure why this dress gives me Mrs Robinson vibes, maybe there’s something about the combination of a wrap dress and velvet that’s a bit old Hollywood for me. Who knows? I’m rolling with it anyway.

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I’ve had this pattern for ages. Possibly years. What has stopped me from sewing it? Reviews. Whenever I’m about to sew something, I google the pattern and see if anyone has had issues with it. It’s a generally very helpful process and I do recommend it. This one repeatedly comes up as too short, too wide at the neck, too low cut and with a flippy facing.

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Right. Too many things to consider, until now. Because really, they aren’t things that are too enormous to fix. And you know, we’re all unique snowflakes and what is a problem on one body, might work on another. Plus I’ve seen a bit of this getting around and I wanted in:

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From here.

But I decided that to make it more wearable, I’d prefer it shorter. I mean, I have a tendency to overdress for most occasions anyway, but even I wouldn’t get much wear out of a longer length, deeeeeeep necked velvet wrap dress. Besides that, there’s probably not enough tape in the world to keep my top half contained. It does remind me a bit of the most made and blogged dress ever, Vogue 9253. Or this one, if you like the mullety hemline.

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Into my patterns I launched and came up with the Ultimate Dress pattern that I’d never made. Ooh why? Googling again reminded me. Right. This can be fixed though. I held the pattern pieces up to my body in the most accurate and scientific fashion.

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The back of the neck didn’t look too wide for me, so I left it as is. I added 8cm to the hem to combat the short length (It’s so short. I could have added more length – I’m only 165cm and really used to shortening everything) and took a wedge out of the front neckline at about the midpoint. This is a really standard wrap adjustment for me. I’m short waisted, so they are always too long at the actual wrap part. This increases the coverage too.

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My measurements (40/32/40) put me in a 16 for the bust and 14 for the waist, but I cut the 16 as knits and wraps tend to be pretty forgiving and I wanted to make sure I had enough coverage. As it turns out, I’ve tied it as tight as it allows, so I might grade it down to the 14 at the waist next time.

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So that just left the facing. I knew I didn’t want it, not only because it was said to flip to the wrong side (annoying) but also because I knew you’d be able to see the edge of it through this fabric. Stretch velvet is a bit unforgiving like that. So I decided to band it. I cut a length of the fabric in the direction of the stretch (this only has stretch in one direction, which is good, because otherwise the dress would grow in length), after measuring the length of the neckline all the way around.

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I cut it at 80% of that measurement and stretched it slightly as I went to make sure it sat snugly against my body. As it turns out, it was too long but that’s fine because I could just cut the excess off when I was done. The only problem with this method is there’s not a nice, neat way to add the ties (they’d normally go under the facing for a clean finish. I think that’s the only real issue with banding this dress. I lined the stitching of my ties up with the stitching of the hem so it’s not noticeable from the outside and honestly, they are wrapped over themselves anyway.

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I constructed most of the dress on my overlocker, so it’s a really quick sew. It doesn’t have a waist seam either, making the cutting part quick too. I finished all the raw edges (hems, sleeve hems) with the overlocker too, then used that stitching as a guide to fold it over twice so the hems are narrow but nice and even. Stretch velvet doesn’t really press, so this is an easy way to keep it under control without pulling your hair out and throwing things. I only really used my normal machine to hem, attach the ties and finish the edges of the little gap in the waist for the ties. I just used straight stitch too because those parts don’t need to stretch so there’s no danger of popping stitches.
Hot tip: Don’t cut your ties along the stretch! Cut them so they have as little stretch as possible. I’ve made this mistake in the past and they just keep growing.

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The only other thing I changed was the sleeves and I just stole them from another pattern and adjusted the sleeve cap to fit. And I put them in flat instead of set in, because it’s about 1000 times easier. I think changing the sleeves has brought it dangerously close to dressing gown territory, but with shoes and face I think we’re good.

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All in all, quite a successful sew considering I’ve avoided this pattern for so long! I like the curved hem and how quickly it all came together (bless knits). The fit ended up pretty spot on and I’ll definitely make more because it’s really comfortable. I love a wrap dress but wovens are far less forgiving fit-wise, knits make it easy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wiggle It, Just A Little Bit {Patterns For Pirates Wiggle Dress}

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Ah the Wiggle dress. You might not be part of many sewing groups online, but I am. And for a while, you couldn’t innocently scroll through your feed without someone extolling the virtues of the Wiggle Dress pattern. It got recommended any time anyone asked a question.

‘I need a dress pattern for date night!’

‘Wiggle Dress!’

‘I need a dress pattern for a ball!’

‘Wiggle Dress!’

‘I need a relaxed casual dress for a BBQ!’

‘Wiggle Dress!’

‘I need a pattern for my husband’s work shirts!’

‘Wiggle Dress!’

‘I need a cure for bed wetting!’

‘Wiggle Dress!’

You get the idea. It’s basically the sewing pattern equivalent of coconut oil. It got a bit weird and culty.

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For me, it was my introduction to Patterns For Pirates. I saw one of the pattern testers post the dress somewhere (see? online sewing groups aplenty) and impulse bought it. Not really considering the fact that I’ve never worn anything so fitted ever – let alone sewn something like it. But it looked so cool, you know?

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Still, I wasn’t really sure it was for me and in a weird way, the crazed fans sort of put me off it a bit. So it got shoved to the back of the pattern stash for a while.

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Recently I bought 3m of this cotton lycra from Spotlight with the intention of making a Kielo dress, but my toile ended up being a disaster and to be honest, I don’t even want to look at the Kielo again for a while. I was digging through my patterns and wondering what I could do with the fabric when I found the Wiggle dress again. Enough time had passed that I decided to give it a go.

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It has a variety of length, sleeve and neckline options but I kept it simple with below knee length, half sleeves and the boat neck with scooped back. It’s so straight forward that I didn’t bother with the instructions and added a neckband because it’s my favourite way of finishing knit tops. My only pattern adjustment was to shorten the front and back pieces above the waist point, which is a pretty standard adjustment for my short waisted self.

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I like it more than I thought I would, although I do feel quite out of my comfort zone wearing something so fitted all over. Cute fabric though and I’m pretty damn pleased with my stripe matching effort.

 

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 needle  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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How To Sew Swimmers {Lots of video tutorials}

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I did it you guys. I made a stack (seven, to be exact) little video tutorials on how to sew swimmers. I’m pretty tired. Please excuse the way I bumbled through it. Hot damn, I learned a lot of new stuff. I do hope this helps if you’ve been looking for a few hints on sewing your own swimwear.

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