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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Sewing For Samoa {Sew House Seven Tea House Dress}

webDSC_6875It occurred to me recently as I was lovingly admiring this dress in my cupboard, that I had actually never blogged it. It’s a really special dress for me and holds a little memory in every one of those sequins, I think.

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Created from one of my favourite patterns in the world, Sew House Seven’s Tea House Dress and sewn in a luxurious sequined silk chiffon from the Remnant Warehouse for my husband’s brother’s wedding in Samoa last November.

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Samoa in November (and really most of the year) is hot and humid. As Queenslanders, we are used to a bit of heat and humidity, but this is next level stuff. I knew I wanted a dress from a natural fibre, with beautiful drape and fabric that just offered something a tiny bit extra. Enter The Remnant Warehouse. They stock a huge variety of designer remnants so it’s the place I stalk online when I want something extra special.

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I cut my pieces very carefully and following some info I’d read online, started painstakingly removing sequins from the seam allowances. THIS. WAS. THE. WORST. It would have taken a year of unpicking in front of the tv each night. Further research online showed a few rebels that just sewed over the suckers. I held my breath and gave that a go and… nothing. Totally fine. No causalities (eyes or needles). These sequins were quite small and soft, as well as not too close together, so sewing over them was completely fine. Phew. Life saver. The cut ones are scratchy though, so I did french seams wherever possible and trimmed any rogue sequins out of the way.

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I stitched the hem of the dress and sleeves by hand because I didn’t want any stitching showing from the outside. It was totally worth taking the extra time and care. I did the same with the front and back facing pieces, after removing all the sequins from those so they weren’t rubbing against my skin. After initially thinking all those sequins were individually knotted, with trial and error I found the magic unraveling thread in each bunch. It was heaps of fun to pull it and watch gold sparkles fly around my lounge room (side note: what they say is true, 8 months on I’m still vacuuming those buggers up).

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I didn’t want to line the dress so I made a slip out of cream silk voile which worked really well. The sequins make the dress heavy though and you can see it’s a fair bit longer than my others in the sleeves and the actual length. I don’t mind at all though.

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I photographed the wedding, so it was important I was comfortable and could move around easily – hence the sandals too. But let’s be clear – if you ever see me wearing heels, chase me down and tackle me because I can guarantee it’s an imposter. I never put myself through that kind of torture.

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One of my husband’s lovely cousins grabbed the camera off me a few times through the day to make sure I was photographed too. It was very sweet and I’m so grateful to have these images. Note to self: phone does not belong in the pocket of this dress!

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In other news, my sister in law (to be, at that stage) asked if I’d make her a dress to wear to her reception. She pretty much had the same pre requisites as me, but wanted a sleeveless dress and something with a lot of skirt.

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She came over and we sat together in my sewing room, digging through my patterns. We settled on Simplicity 8013, which is a reissue of a 70s faux wrap dress. There is a massive 8 metres of rayon in this dress, it’s a huge fabric hog. The skirt is made up of big panels all gathered together and it’s so delightfully swishy and full. I fully lined the bodice to eliminate the facings and provide a bit more coverage because the fabric is so light.

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It was very nerve wracking sewing for someone else, especially someone with a body shape so different to mine, but it all worked out ok in the end. She looked so beautiful moving around the reception.

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PS I made the flower girl dresses too.

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And if you’ve made it this far, well done. Here’s a gratuitous selection of images from our stay. Yes, I made the boys’ shirts too. Ok, enough words.

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

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

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

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

Like these moths from Andrea Lauren on Spoonflower:

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

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

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

Content:

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

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

Width:

SF: 142cm

NS: 140cm

Price:

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

NS: $37/metre

Stretch:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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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.

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.

 

 

 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Swimming Jocks {Jalie 3242}.

In our house, there are shirts and swimming shirts, shorts and swimming shorts and of course, jocks and swimming jocks. Because when your youngest has a severe speech delay, communicating is done in the easiest, simplest way and sometimes those words stick. Swimming jocks are here to stay. At least 9 months of the year, we are around some body of water or another – be it river, ocean or pool, so the differentiation between regular jocks and swimming jocks becomes important. No one wants to hang out in damp jersey.

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Jalie 3242 is a pretty kick arse pattern. It has a variety of styles for the whole family on the one pattern. Perfect. I’ve made the knickers for me, the briefs for the men of the house but by far the favourite are the boys’ trunks. They are such a quick sew, the only elastic is the waistband and there is no butt seam – that has to be comfy, right? Regardless, they are loved. I’m sure in a few years homemade jocks will be unacceptable, but for now they’re awesome.

Last summer, I decided the Jalie trunks would be alright as swimmers. And if they looked too much like underwear, the boys could just wear them under boardshorts (aka swimming shorts), so no biggy. I grabbed the only spandex I had at the time, which was sourced from a local Op Shop so I had no idea if it was even chlorine resistant. But I figured we are barely in chlorine anyway (our pool is salt) and it wasn’t a big deal if they fell apart. So I made these cool little red and white striped trunks for the boys and they wore them all summer and they held up really well. They are still tucked away in a drawer actually, although they’ve probably grown out of them by now. So I decided to make more for this summer, but this time I decided to do it all proper like and bought Sports Lycra from Spoonflower in the coolest ever Harry Potter print. I also bought legit swim elastic. Today I dragged out my old faithful Jalie pattern and had those suckers made within an hour. So satisfying.

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There’s only one piece for the body of the trunks and four little pouch pieces. It’s a bit of a different sew, and this tutorial is the bees knees because to be honest, the Jalie instructions are a little lacking. But once you’ve done that bit, it’s all really straight forward.

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The pattern uses an exposed elastic waistband, which obviously isn’t ideal for swimmers, so I just added a bit more height to the pattern to compensate for the folding of the waist with swim elastic. I finished the raw edges, marked the elastic and waist of the trunks at quarters and attached with a zig zag stitch. Then folded it over and zig zagged again.

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