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.

 

All Aboard The Linen Bandwagon {Megan Nielsen Sudley Dress}

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You’ve seen it around, haven’t you? Linen dresses, linen pants, awesome linen overalls (jumpers for my US friends, I think?) – usually worn by women with long, tangled, sun bleached hair dreamily looking off into the distance. Maybe on a beach, maybe wearing a big hat.

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I decided I might like a piece of that. Not that I look like the models, but since when has that stopped me? I ordered my olive linen from The Remnant Warehouse (it’s nice quality too, not too thin or stiff) recently and knew I’d pair it with the most simple of Sudley dresses. I scooped the neckline slightly and made it the same front and back. I used the 3/4 sleeves and have rolled them up and put a stitch in them so they stay put. The neckline is finished with bias facing and yes it has pockets, of course. The pattern itself has about eleventy billion combinations of sleeve length, waist length, neckline shape and skirt length variations.

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Oh yes. I was going to pare it right back. Simple as heck. That’s me, isn’t it? Just super minimalist. I can hear you laughing. No surprise that I’m not really digging this on me. I think it’s a grower. I love the dress pattern and have made it many times (please don’t mention the F word, every time someone says something about a garment being ‘flattering’, my internal feminist ranting starts up – why the hell I need to make my body look better for everyone elses viewing?). Rant aside, I think it’s the block colour and the actual colour. It’s very different for me.

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Will I wear it though? YES. It will be so nice to hang out in during summer and I might even add some tights and boots for winter. That might make it less high school art teacher chic for me (sorry art teachers, I know you’re out there and I love you).

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My kids were trying to photo bomb me by this stage, hence the crinkly nose laughing. Never a dull moment.

 

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.

 

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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Miaow {Megan Nielsen Flint Shorts + Gertie Sweetheart Top}

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More tigers! It’s a thing for me right now. These Flint shorts were my first make from my brand new Janome 3018W. She’s quite dreamy, but I was weirdly paralysed for over 24 hours when she first arrived. Strange right? You’d think I’d be all over her. But I couldn’t find the brain space to learn a new machine and I think I was still mourning the loss of the old one.

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But I snapped out of that ridiculousness, of course. It took me a couple of minutes to glance through the instructions, figure out how to thread the new girl and then move on from there. But what would I make? Conveniently, a large box of fabric had just arrived. All of it was lovely, but the tigers are just so cool. And I already had black thread in my overlocker. So what pattern? I’ve made a few dresses lately and thought the tiger linen was really keen to be made into shorts.

webDSC_0322Yes, shorts. Even though I don’t wear them often. In fact, it’s only been over the last 12 months that I’ve started wearing them again. I reckon shorts didn’t touch my body for around 8 years at least. But no more. I’ve come to realise cellulite and chunky thighs are normal and shorts are perfect for our climate.

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What are these beauties, then? They are Megan Nielsen’s Flints! Hoorah! I have made both the pants and shorts before and I love the cool way they close via the pocket.

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This time though, I adjusted the pattern to eliminate the tucks and make them flat fronted. Megan has a tutorial for that here. I think the print looks better without the tucks. And if I’m going to make the same pattern again, I do like to change it up a bit.

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A girl obviously needs a black top to go with her tiger shorts, right? But a cooooool top. Something she hasn’t made before. Cue the Sweetheart Top from Gertie’s Vintage Casual book.

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Yes please. I used some lovely rib knit I bought from The Remnant Warehouse recently. It’s Bec and Bridge, beautiful quality and super soft. With heaps of stretch. Which meant I probably should have sized the pattern down, but I went as per my measurements. It was a bit big so I did take it in at the side seams afterwards. I also took off around two inches from the hem as I will wear this tucked into my high waisted skirts and shorts.

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Like so.

I used the less textured side of the rib. I’m not even sure which is the right side and which is the wrong side. Softer side is facing out, anyway.

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Ok so I was a bit paranoid that printed shorts would look like PJs, so I turned the hem up to create cuffs and stitched them in place at the side seam and inseam.

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Linen shorts. Like a grown up. I’m so fashun.

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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 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.

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 up  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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