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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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 styleΒ  (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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Holiday Wardrobe Preparation {Megan Nielsen Flint and Rowan}

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Ah, Flint and Rowan. They go together like peas and carrots, don’t they? I’ve made both before – Flint pants here and Flint shorts here. Rowan was more recent and a stretched a bit further than the original pattern into a swimsuit.

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I love my past Flints but unfortunately they’re a bit big now. And an upcoming holiday is the perfect reason to sew another pair right? This time from sweet drapey tencel that I picked up at Spotlight. The Rowan body suit is lovely soft Timeless Treasure cotton jersey from fabric.com.

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I went for the tie version on the Flints and couldn’t help but to brighten the inside a touch with a vintage fabric covered button (I pick these upΒ  from op shops, but they are often just singles, which is perfect for this use) and some rayon off cuts. The rayon is the right weight for lining the tencel. I think quilting cotton would have been too heavy.

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The closure on the Flints is pretty magic. It does your head in a little bit while you’re sewing them, but the instructions are really great and you just have to trust the process. There isn’t a zip, you just get into these bad boys by opening the pocket. Superb.

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The Rowan bodysuit has nice details at the closure too. There’s not a fancy way to say it, but at the crotch. But who doesn’t love a fancy crotch? The facing pieces can be cut from just about anything. I used some soft lawn scraps I had. It’s a nice detail. Oh and I used those old metal snaps because I don’t have a snap press, which would obviously look much more professional. Still, they do the job and I can’t feel them at all when I’m wearing it.

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So size wise the Rowan is perfect (straight large) but the Flints aren’t. To be honest, my body has changed a fair bit over the past few months and I’m still getting used to it. It seems it doesn’t matter if it’s weight loss or gain – it can still feel like your body isn’t quite yours when it changes. I made the straight medium in the Flints because I went by my waist measurement. I thought there would be enough ease in the hips and thighs but I really should have graded out to the large. My waist seems to be about a size different to the rest of me at the moment and I’m not really used to my new proportions yet.

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They’re not as swingy as I’d like, but they’re still wearable. And who knows, my hips could catch up to my waist eventually. One can only hope. But even if they don’t, that’s fine too.

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I know there’s a few sewists who’ve eliminated those front pleats, but I actually quite like them. They bring out my inner 80s mum chic.

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First Swim of the Season {Megan Nielsen Rowan}

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It gets hot here. We spend a lot of time in the water from about September through to May. And even though we wear sunscreen and hats, as well as staying out of the sun between 10am and 3pm, sometimes that’s just not enough.

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So we wear rashies (I think they’re called rash guards in the US). They’re easy enough to buy for the kids but generally they are falling apart after one season. Not a big deal really because they’ve grown out of them anyway. But there’s not a lot of variety available for women. Maybe there’s not a huge market for them. They’re not exactly the height of beach fashion. But still, skin cancer is worse.

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So mine is a couple of seasons old and is looking worse for wear. All stretched out and baggy. They don’t seem to be made out of quality fabric anymore. Time for an upgrade. I quite like the all in one situations, like a one piece with sleeves, but I’m yet to find one that’s the right shape for me. They all seem to have what I like to call ‘Baywatch Butt’, you know – that really high cut skimpy back? Which is fine, but not all that practical when I’m in the water photographing clients, because I do that occasionally. I want to make sure I can tackle the surf without getting distracted by a wedgie.

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Enter Megan Nielsen’s Rowan. Oh yes. Yeah, I know it’s not a swimsuit pattern, but since when have I followed the rules? My tropical print spandex and swim elastic is from Pitt Trading and the spandex I used for the lining (which isn’t really lining) as well as the plain black is from The Remnant Warehouse. Both these stores are superb sources of swimmy stuff in Australia.

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My original plan was to make a top from the Rowan pattern first, but that all went out the window when today decided to reach 31 degrees. DEFINITELY TIME TO START ON THE SWIMMERS. Risky really, but it all turned out pretty ok in the end. I’ve taken some work in progress shots this time, because the construction is a bit different to the normal bodysuit as it has to be fully lined, a zipper added and no crotch snaps. As mentioned above, my lining isn’t really lining, but spandex because I didn’t have enough black swim lining left. Both have a really similar amount of stretch so it works quite well and feels more supportive.

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I pretty much made two of the bodysuits and then basted everything wrong sides together, which gives a pretty clean finish on the inside. The front is cut for the zipper (otherwise you wouldn’t be able to get into it, obviously). I attached the neckband while it was still open rather than stitching it into a loop first, so the zipper had somewhere to go. I overlocked the raw edges. Not that they need it – the spandex won’t fray. I just find it easier to work with.

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I could only get open end plastic zips, so I put a tack across it by hand and literally smashed off the end teeth with a hammer. Satisfying and effective. Then I added a bit of spandex across the end for comfort. Not my prettiest effort but no biggy.

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And you know, I knew inserting this zip would be the biggest challenge of the entire thing. I went in all zen, even used interfacing on the edge of the swimmers because I totally knew that spandex would want to pucker and go wavy and be a bastard. It still did anyway. Probably not as much as it would have without stabilising the edges. But it was still a bugger and took longer than the rest of the construction put together. The end of it looked so horrendous that I ended up covering it with a little tab of fabric. Which in the end wasn’t the worst idea because I think it adds a bit of strength to a weak point.

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The sleeves couldn’t go in flat (as per the instructions) because the side seams were already done, so they just went in the normal way. In the round? Set in? You know what I mean. Easy enough. Although make sure your overlocker doesn’t want to inhale everything around the sleeves. Mine does. I won this time though, I was bloody careful. Then elastic for the legs and you’re golden. I don’t love elastic in swimmers done this way. I prefer the look of bands. But that’s just nitpicking and also because I have delightfully thunderous thighs that elastic tends to cut into.

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And she is done! It just occurred to me that I should have framed these better and actually got some water in the shot. So you’ll just have to believe that I am standing on the edge of the pool.

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My absolute favoutire part of this pattern is the butt coverage. It’s perfect for my shape (which is mostly pancake butt). I find that most underwear patterns bag out between the back of my hip and leg and I usually have to take a dart out of the pattern piece. But not these babies! Nice and secure. I love the fit so much I think I might use it to draft some more knickers.

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Fit wise, they are a smidge too small. I’m getting a bit of pulling at the zipper. My measurements put me between the M and the L. I made the M because I didn’t want to risk them being too big. I have converted underwear patterns into swimmers before and while the fit is ok when they’re dry, they get baggy and want to wash away once they hit the surf. This one is snugggggg and not going anywhere. If I wasn’t being lazy, I would have added a bit extra to allow for the zip because it’s seam allowance that the original pattern doesn’t have built in. I’ll definitely do that next time.

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So the thing about using orange lining is that when you actually get wet, it will show through. But you know what? Nothing else shows through, so that’s a win. And there is my first official dip of the season. There will be more – Rowans and swims.

 

 

 

Say Mesh to the Dress {Megan Nielsen Sudley Dress}

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I had a function to go to on Friday night. On Thursday I found out it was cocktail, rather than casual. Incidentally, when I was in Brisbane last weekend, I spotted (LOL) a pretty lady wearing a gorgeous polka dot mesh dress. I was going to be a creeper and ask where she got it, but I figured it was something I could probably make myself. I’ve seen a number of mesh RTW dresses around lately (without a lining) and I love the look.

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Then the remnant table at Spotlight provided, in the form of $8/m. Challenge accepted. So on Thursday when I found out I needed a dressier dress, I wracked my brain to think of a pattern I could use. I wanted a floaty, relaxed fit – that way I wouldn’t have to bother with a zip in fine fabric. I wanted those McCalls 7542 sleeves again because FASHUN. And then it hit me, my darling Sudley. I have made it many times before, but usually it’s a summery, beachy choice. Not today, Sudley. Today we are going AFTER DARK. And we did.

The first thing I did was replace my needle with a sparkly fresh fine sharp one.

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First hurdle: I should do french seams because they are visible through the dress. Did I have time for french seams? Not really. So I just ended up using my overlocker. Quick and neat. Not as neat as french seams, but to be honest it’s not super noticeable.

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Second hurdle: Neck closure. Megan suggests ties or a hook and eye. I wasn’t thrilled about either for this dress. Ties seemed to casual and I thought I could do better than hook and eye. Instead I used a black fabric covered button from my stash and fine black elastic for the loop. Looks cool, not that you can see it. Sorry.

Third Hurdle: That collar. This one caused me the biggest brain strain. Usually, you’d use iron on interfacing to give the collar a bit of structure, but that can’t happen in this case because you’d see it through the mesh. I turned to my FB sewing group for this one and a clever lady suggested organza, which is brilliant – light but still structured. That led me to remember the black bra lining in my stash, which is a lot like organza, it’s very light but very strong as it has to prevent stretch in bra cups and bridges. Perfect. It worked really well. For consistency I used the overlocker for the collar pieces too.

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Fourth Hurdle: Not really a hurdle, but I wasn’t keen on attempting my first rolled hem and I knew a standard hem wouldn’t look right, so I used black bias binding to finish the dress and sleeve hems. I also used it in place of the facing on the neckline and keyhole.

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All that I needed was a slinky black slip (not made by me), shoes and a clutch and I was event ready, baby. Oh and you know, hair and make up and all that stuff.

Will definitely wear this one again.

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Fancy Pants {Megan Nielsen Flint Pants}

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So after making the shorts version of these pants as a practice run to test fit (and realising that I actually loved them), I got around to grabbing some black rayon and making the pants version.

Yes black is a nightmare to photograph and I’m sorry.

This time I made the tie version, using a black and white cotton printed with birds for the pocket lining and tie contrast. There’s also a little button inside the waistband to make everything more secure (which I accidentally sewed a bit close to the edge. Oops).

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In hindsight, the rayon I used might be a bit too light. They are slightly transparent in the light. Also the band tends to fold over on itself when I sit. Still wearable though. These ended up being full length instead of the 3/4 they are supposed to be, because I’m short. I only did a narrow hem to keep them full length.

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There’s not much else to say really! They’ll be great for work – it’s always a bit tough to dress for photography work. You need to be relatively dressy, but still have room to squat and move without flashing anyone. It’s a fine line.

I love them, they fit well, they sew up really quickly and I already have plans for my next pair. I’m thinking the 3/4 length in something quite structured, like sateen. Maybe even wool, if I can find the right one. Totally impractical for our climate, but they’d be awesome anyway.

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Shorts Denial {Megan Nielsen Flint Shorts}

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Here’s the thing about shorts. I don’t wear them. At least since I’ve had kids anyway. My thighs are something I’ve always felt compelled to disguise, so shorts have been off the menu. However, when I saw Megan’s Flint pattern for the first time, I knew I had to have it. The shorts didn’t blip on my radar, but those pants, holy hell – I needed those pants on my body STAT.

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So when my pattern arrived yesterday from the lovely Stitch 56, I opened it to have a look and decided that I’d trace it out then and there, but buy some fabric for the pants when I had a chance. Except then I got a bit nervous. I’d not really made pants before (only Megan’s Tania culottes) and even though I rarely make toiles, I figured it was probably a good idea for these – especially since the pants require about 3 metres of fabric and I didn’t want to waste that. So off I toddled to my sewing room and went over my stash, looking for enough fabric suitable for a toile. I remembered I had this big denim off cut picked up from our local op shop last week. Weird for me, since I don’t really sew with denim, but it was cheap and heavy duty and I figured it would come in handy for something. Not enough for pants, but hey – I could make shorts right? This was just for fitting purposes, I don’t actually have to wear them, do I?

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Except yes I do have to wear them because they’re bloody awesome! Waaaaaaahhhhhh! They fit my fat thighs, with room! They have fun pocket lining! They have cute buttons! They wrap in the coolest way! The fit is pretty great too. I don’t need to change anything. Although a bonus of my measurements (42/34/44) is that I fit exactly into a lot of patterns without any changes. In MN patterns I’m an XL.

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(I took my pics in my sewing room because there’s the remnants of a tropical cyclone raging outside. School has been cancelled, husband is supposed to be home from work. It’s quite a day. Sewing room was the only place that had a sliver of light. Sorry that they’re a bit crap. And yeah, I could have waited for pics but I’m wearing them today, sooooo….).

I used a scrap of anchor chambray for the pocket lining, because of course nautical. I even used little silver anchor buttons that I’d been hoarding forever on the waistband. Because nautical. But then, they didn’t look quite right. Maybe a bit toooo yacht club. So I changed them for little bunny and moon fabric covered ones instead. Also from an op shop. Fabric is Luna Sol.

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Which brings the total cost of these shorts to approximately $6.50. That’s without my labor costs, obviously – but let’s conveniently ignore that. Jokes aside, they only took me just over an hour and a half to sew, which isn’t bad.

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So besides going together really well, feeling somewhat high end and generally just being really cool, you know what else I love about Megan’s patterns? (and I know this is a soppy love fest, but I swear I’m not being paid and I paid for my own patterns, I just really like her stuff) – there’s always suggestions in the instructions for tweaks to make them your own. One of the suggestions was to add buttons to the other side of the waistband too. So I did. Now I have cool shorts. Pant to come when I find something suitably swishy and drapey and delightful.

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