Bra-Bra-Bra, Bra-Bra-Bra-Anne {Orange Lingerie Marlborough Bra}

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Over the weekend I had a craving for some rock solid bra sewing. Can you have sewing cravings? I do. I love bra sewing for the same reason I love swimwear sewing. It’s very different to sewing a dress, it’s a bit challenging and it’s one of those things that really throws people when you tell them you made it. I always feel very accomplished when I have a bra that fits.

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Of course, the extra level in bras is the fit. Especially wired bras. I always say that sewing them isn’t the hard part – it’s the fit that can drive you nuts. Once you have that down though, you’re golden.

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Even though these aren’t my first Marlborough bras, I went the extra fitting mile this time and compared wire sizes to my breast root. This basically involves standing topless in front of a mirror and holding up a variety of wire sizes along the underside of your breast to check which size fits best. Then you make the bra to fit the wire, rather than buying wire to fit the bra you made. The theory is the fit is more accurate and I totally agree.

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So, turns out I had been making the correct Marlborough size all along (a 40D, although my measurements put me in a 40B according to the pattern), but using a slightly different wire size has really elevated the fit. They are so comfortable. I used to scoff when people would say that you don’t feel the wires in a correctly fitting bra, but it’s definitely true in this case.

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The floral print in the first bra is Cotton and Steel cotton spandex jersey. Not recommended for this particular pattern because it stretches, but I’ve lined it with bra lining to counteract that. The fabric for the second is a rigid lace from The Remnant Warehouse and the fabric for the third is some sort of mesh with velvety stripes (also from The Remnant Warehouse). I wasn’t even sure that fabric would work for a bra because it’s quite heavy, but it turned out really well. All are lined with bra lining and the seams are enclosed.

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All the side panels in the knickers are non stretch, which meant I compensated by cutting the front and back panels a bit bigger. The top pair use that lovely cotton lycra for the main part and I’ve used nice stretchy black spandex for the other two pairs. Bra hardware, strapping and elastic is all from Booby Traps.

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Is there anything that boosts your self esteem like well-fitting, comfortable lingerie?

 

 

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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 kewpies 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.

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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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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.

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.

 

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.