True Blues {Ellie Whittaker Swim Fabric + McCalls 7168}

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A while back, my lovely friend Ellie was in the super exciting phase of bringing out with her own line of fabric. She’s been a successful textile designer for a long time, but getting it manufactured herself was the next big step. She kindly sent me a few metres of fabric for feedback, in both swim (one metre of each in True Blues and Gone Coastal) and cotton sateen (two metres of the Sydney to Hobart print).

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I used the sateen first to make one of my self drafted Joan dresses. Don’t let the name fool you – it’s soft and drapes beautifully, absolutely nothing like the medium weight sateen you can buy at Spotlight. And the best part? It’s 145cms wide. SO WIDE. I cut my skirt the full width of the fabric and it’s so delightfully swishy.

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In my earlier days of sewing, print was king (and I guess it still is really), but you know what’s queen? Bloody wide fabric. Such a treat. Full skirts, circle skirts, mega bell sleeves. All the fun stuff that won’t fit on quilting cotton at 112cms. And that drape? Did I mention the drape? Ha. It’s on par with rayon.

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Next I used the 80s-esque, Aussie inspired Gone Coastal swim. What’s not to love? The colours are saturated, the fabric base itself is a nice weight – suitable for swimmers, but probably not heavy enough for leggings.

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Pattern is a bit of a mash up that I’ve made many times before. Here and here.

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These have had a lot of use so far this season and are holding up very well, the fabric still looks new and I know Ellie has done a lot of wash tests too. You definitely don’t get that kind of dedication from most suppliers!

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Which brings me to yesterday. Swimmers aren’t a new thing for me, but I’ve never actually sewn with a dedicated swimwear pattern. Weird, right? I tend to just adjust lingerie patterns most of the time, swapping picot for swim elastic and gussets for lining. I have had McCalls 7168 in my stash for quite sometime now though and I fully admit I’ve opened that sucker multiple times, looked at it and put it away for another day. It’s a sort of choose your own adventure thing, which is fine but there’s just SO MANY PIECES. Plus I read that it runs big and some of the construction stuff is quite WTF. It was just so much easier to use the patterns that I know and love.

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Well yesterday I decided to face that challenge head on. I figured it would be nice to have a different silhouette for a change. Ellie favours nice big prints, so unless I did yet another one piece, I had to face the fact that these lovely octos were going to get cut up. But I didn’t want to cut into them more than I absolutely had to, so figured the bandeau top from M7168 might be a good idea.

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I decided to go the whole way out of my comfort zone and went with the ruched bottoms. I have a negative association with ruching in general, not the look but how it’s consistently marketed as ‘tummy flattering/disguising’. Blerk. I do think it looks cute though and in this pattern it’s on the hips anyway, so decided to give it a whirl. I love the vintage vibes it has, I did not enjoy the process. Ha. Probably because I ignored the directions all together. The pattern has you cut those ruched side panels 3 times (well six if you count that you cut each one twice) – one big long one that gets gathered to fit (fine), one lining piece that’s smaller and ungathered (also fine) and another in the main fabric the same piece as the lining. WHAT?! WHY? More bulk at the leg holes to fold over and add elastic? Ugh. Seems unnecessary. Turns out though, it is necessary really, because it gives your ruched panels a size guide and extra support. Ooops. In the end I just measured the lining pieces and gathered the panels to that size. I stand by the fact that it would make for super bulky seams though.

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Still, I got there in the end (even if I did sew my waistband with the centre seam at the front instead of the back. See? I’m not immune to silly mistakes even after all this time). My measurements put me across a couple of sizes (40/31/42 – that’s an 18 for bust and hip and a 14-16 for waist) but I made the straight 14 because of the Big 4 pattern companies love of ease, even for things that are supposed to stretch. I also compared some of the pattern pieces to my tried and tested swimwear patterns, just to check the size was in the same ballpark. In the end, the bottoms are a smidge tight and the top had to be taken in, but nothing major.

I knew I wanted foam cups in the top for extra support, but adding those to the lining has really changed the construction process. There is supposed to be gathers under the bust, but of course, that couldn’t happen once the cups were in. Not a big deal though and I’m glad I added the cups because there’s no way I would feel secure without them. I used these cups and this lining from The Remnant Warehouse.

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I really need some kind of FBA for this top, which would really just involve adding height, I think. Also for the busty among us – the instructions tell you to just use fabric for the straps, but past experience has taught me I definitely need the additional strength of elastic in my straps, so keep that in mind. I think next time I might make the flounce wider too. And speaking of the flounce, the instructions want you to hem it, which I definitely did not do. This fabric won’t fray so I really couldn’t see the point of mucking around with the narrow hem on knit fabric.

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All in all, not a bad pattern, but I think there are definitely parts of the construction that could be improved for a cleaner finish. And one that does need adjustments if you are a bit bigger in the bust. Fabric is wonderful, of course. I’ve been a big fan of Ellie’s for a long time and this new range is super exciting. Can’t wait to see what’s next.

 

Fries Before Guys {Sewing Swimwear + Megan Nielsen Tania Culottes}

webDSCF1193Look, I’m a bit of a fraud because my body tends to reject chips (fries, chips to us here in Australia), even though I love their crispy, carby, salty goodness. Most of the time my skin is like ‘nah, we aren’t about those anymore. Have some acne for your attempt, though’. Who could resist this print though? It’s a bloody winner.

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I know you want to know where the fabric is from and what the pattern is, but you’re going to hate me for it. The fabric (which is swim) was a pre order from Indie Skye fabrics and I don’t tend to go for pre orders because I’m damn impatient and hate waiting longer for my fabric than is entirely necessary. But I decided this fabric was worth waiting for. The lining is lightweight swim spandex from The Remnant Warehouse because it has a bit more body than regular old swim lining. And it’s nicer to sew.

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What else? Well there’s some foam (complete with my markings still, please ignore. But it is good to mark all the points on your cups so you don’t sew them around the wrong way, they look very similar) from Sew Squirrel, underwire casing, underwires, swim elastic (all from The Remnant Warehouse also, from memory) and some sheer cup lining for the upper cups and bridge (pretty much because I wanted those pieces to stay stable and maintain their shape). Also there’s some boning in the side seams of the bra portion, which is just cable ties cut down.

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Pattern, well bear with me for that one. The lower portion is Megan Nielsen’s Rowan bodysuit. If you’ve read posts on my one pieces before, you’ll know I’ve used this many, many times. I like the fit. Obviously I line it, eliminate the crotch snap part of it and bind or band the legs, but you could use swim elastic and fold over too. I have big legs, I don’t really need the elastic to pull everything in. I just use good old zig zag because I don’t have a coverstitch machine, I hate twin needling and even though it’s very Becky Home Ecky, if someone on the beach is judging my zig zag, that’s their problem. Because they’d have to be in my lap to see it and that would be weird. You know they aren’t though, just as they aren’t judging my body. But more on that later.

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So, the bra part. I know, it’s a bit of sorcery and I wasn’t even sure that it would work. In fact, I was almost positive that it wouldn’t and I’d try it on and have cups folding over and boobs heading towards their old friend, my belly button. I figured I could add straps at the end if I wanted to, but I also wanted to just see if it would work. FOR SCIENCE. You know I love bra sewing though. I love the challenge of it, I love the precision, I’ve even grown to love the little 1/4″ seams. I love watching cups go from flat to boob shaped with foam and wire, I love making the finish really lovely and enclosing the seams. It’s just my happy place. You know?

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If you’ve been following along lately, you’ll recall my strapless bra journey. The new guy is the same pattern, shortened, with a bit taken off the upper cup (because it was too high and also to compensate for not folding over with the picot) and boning left out of everywhere except the side seams. On that note, I think the boning is part of the engineering magic. It stops it from wanting to roll down with the weight of my bust. Also, those extra long wires help for the same reason. The keep it tacked to my chest and in place under the arms.

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Here are some technical construction and fit notes you can scroll past if you want:

– Stabilising the bridge with bra lining (which is strong but super light) stops it from stretching out and distorting the cups shape. But it also makes the whole thing a bit harder to get into. Next time it might be wiser to add some sort of closure – either a zipper down the front or some kind of clip at the back. I do like the comfort of not having any closures though.

– To make sure the bra part would fit on the body part, I just lined up the pattern pieces. They were super close and I didn’t need to change a thing. I cut the back band piece of the fold and there’s no hook and eye like on the bra versions. This made it a bit smaller across the back, but the fabric has a bit more stretch than the traditional power mesh band of the bra version, so they sort of cancelled each other out.

– I was very close to cutting the upper cup pieces out of swim lining, but realised my bra versions have no stretch there, which is really important – it needs to hug in close. If it stretched out, there might be some gaping and more risk of a wardrobe malfunction. So I used the very stable bra lining there too.

– Contrary to popular opinion (I see this all the time in sewing groups!), the foam is for support, not to enhance bust size. If the foam wasn’t there, the whole cup portion would drop. Same for sports bras, especially if there’s no wire. I often see people request sports bra patterns without wire OR foam, stating that they are already big and don’t need extra padding. But foam is great for support and is often necessary for bigger bust especially. Don’t fear the foam. I’ve used straight stitch to top stitch the cups (instead of zig zag) because they don’t really stretch and I don’t want them to. The foam has a tiny bit of give, but not much else. But you can totally use zig zag if you prefer the look.

– The only other part that made me stop and think was how to finish the top of the cups. In my bra versions, I’ve used picot because I like the look and the finish. It’s a bit too ‘I’m a bra’ for swimmers for me though and using binding in matching fabric is usually the way I finish raw edges. Obviously in strapless swimmers, the top part really needs to stay put, so rather than just using strips of fabric as binding (which doesn’t need to be cut on the bias like woven, FYI), I used swim elastic in there too. Same method as usual, which is putting a bit of tension on it all the way around so it hugs towards the body. There’s a little mention of that method in my video here, but in relation to finishing the leg openings.

– I decided to run the binding all the way around the top edge, as opposed to finishing the bridge first without binding (ie sewing lining and outer fabric right sides together and flipping, which is how I generally do my bras) and finishing the upper cups before adding them into the frame for a couple of reasons. Firstly to minimise bulk. The binding plus elastic adds a fair bit of bulk, which in turn makes it harder to sew down the underwire casing at the underarm and bridge. Much easier to sew over everything at the end. Plus, I would have had to fiddle around with seam allowances at the upper cup – cut them down to counteract the fabric lost when folding over picot to make sure it lines up with the finished bridge. God I hope that makes sense. It’s really hard to explain. Anyway, much easier to cut the upper cups down as needed to line up with the bridge once they’re already sewn into the frame. Then bind the whole thing in one hit.

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As usual, I’ve used far more words than I had planned. If you have any technical questions, just comment and I’ll try to answer. I’ve never had any proper bra training, but have learned so much from trial and error. And what is that sensible black skirt I’m wearing? Is it a skirt?

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No! It’s the Tania culottes in linen from Potter and Co! Trickery! This is the updated version, which Megan so kindly sent me. Its now got pockets and extended sizes. Truly one of the most wearable things I own, especially for work. Photography work, that is. I’m often getting down on the floor and these make it much easier. The only change here is that I’ve used my own curved waistband, because as I’ve mentioned many times in the past – rectangle waistbands don’t work on this short waisted, curvy body. There’s too much of a difference between my hip and waist measurement and I get gaping in the front and back. Imagine pinching a dart out of the top of the front and back waistband pieces – that’s the shape I need.

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So, back to the swimmers. I’ve tested these babies in the pool and they passed with flying colours. The real test will be in the surf. But I can still add straps if required, probably removable ones so I have options. I really like how these have turned out.

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If you’re anything like me, you might have some of those pesky voices in your head – you know the ones, they like to say mean things and make you feel crappy about putting on your swimmers and enjoying yourself at the beach or the pool. Mostly I can shut them up, but there were a couple of persistent ones when making these. The first being that strapless things are for smaller bodies, particularly slender arms and backs. The other one was the fabric. Weirdly, I have had issues about wearing food prints before. I know it’s ridiculous, but I felt like I was saying ‘hey! look at me wearing food that contributes to this fat body!’. So with this fabric screaming its fries-positive message, all I could think of was people would look at me and think, ‘well, obviously true for her’. I know how crazy that sounds. And I’m wearing them anyway, because I made them and I’m proud and I love how fun the print is. So there, voices. You can shut up now.

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Crocodile Rock {Simplicity 8342 hack}

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The way I see it, there are two types of sewists (I’m not typing sewers, that’s where the ninja turtles live – damn English language), those who carefully plan each sew, keep lists, make sure they have everything they need, make a toile or two, hand baste zips, hand sew hems, follow instructions and generally just win at life through being patient and organised. Then there’s me. I would really like to be the former, but I fall into the ‘just do it’ category. Or as my mother likes to say, ‘you’re like a bull at a gate!’. It’s true. Sometimes this is a good thing, sometimes it bites me on the butt.

(This whole paragraph is particularly relevant to me this morning, as I’ve just asked for fitting advice in a FB group for something unrelated to this post and received the old ‘you must make a toile from unbleached muslin and make one change at a time!’. So sorry, Karen. I’d like to try harder but I won’t. Pretend this cool print is my unbleached muslin, just use your imagination).

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But I digress. Have you seen Simplicity 8342 i n your travels? Same. I actually bought it as soon as it came out because I loved the top so much and then ignored it for a while because even though I love the style, I don’t usually show so much arm and chest. I know. It’s a bit weird, but I’m working on it. But when does one show more arm and chest? At the beach! And you know I do love making swimmers. Could that top portion be used on my regular swimmers pattern? I think so!

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Here is a reminder of the swimmers I have made many times. The top portion was traced from a RTW bikini top, the bottom portion is Megan Nielsen’s Rowan bodysuit because the fit is ideal for me. I love them. I wore this style a lot last summer.

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So what happened next? OMG you guys, I made a toile (cop it, Brenda). Although not from unbleached muslin, but from some crappy old green jersey I’ve had stashed away for ages. My measurements put me into the 18, but knowing the Big 4s approach to ease (even with knits), I cut the 14. It’s a really quick sew and because of the way it’s pieced, you can use larger scrap pieces. Surprise, surprise, it was too big. Definitely too big for swimmers anyway, those things need to stay close to the body. I ended up comparing my Rowan pattern pieces to the S8342 upper bodice pieces and they lined up at the size 10 line. So that’s what I cut.

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I used this spandex panel from Pitt Trading, which I love – but I’ve ended up with that line down the centre front because of the way it’s printed. Not a big deal. I went with fabric I liked (in case it worked out) but wasn’t too attached to (in case it didn’t). That is my approach to muslins in a nutshell.

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The top part is self lined because the wrong side of the ties show when it’s worn, but I also added a layer of power mesh in between for extra support and tie strength. The construction method was a bit different to enclose everything, but the way it’s done on S8342 is a bit home ecky for me. There’s elastic in the seam allowance under the arms, as well as in the straps. I figured two layers of spandex plus power mesh would be enough for the neckline, but I think next time I’ll add the elastic so I’m not stretching the fabric out so much. The rest of the body is lined with white swim lining and I finished the legs with bands.

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Easy.

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I didn’t use rings and sliders on these straps because I didn’t have any wide enough. I found when taking these photos that they felt kind of long, so I’ve taken them up since.

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The ties ended up quite bulky, so I think I’ll make them a bit narrower next time.

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All in all, not a bad wearable toile though! Now I’m wondering if I can add a band to the bottom and wear it as a bikini top too. So many options…

 

 

You’re So Last Summer {Ohhh Lulu Cindy Bra}

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There’s a little fabric shop about half an hour from here called Johno’s. Now Johno’s has been around for quite some time, but I’d never manged to get to it until recently. I mean, I could have – but to be honest it’s not that appealing from the street. I know. I really should know better than to judge a book by its cover. I’ve since been there twice in the last month. It’s only a small shop, but packed to the ceiling with bolts of fabric in that organised chaos kind of way that old school fabric shops are. Plus the staff are lovely.

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Anyway, the second time I was there, this spandex jumped out at me from its spot (LOL) on the bottom shelf. Something about it pinged in my lizard brain, but I couldn’t quite place it. I loved the colour and those uneven splotches, so I grabbed a metre for future swimwear plans. As I was scrolling through instagram later that week, I spotted (LOL) my fabric. A local swimwear company had been using it for their previous season. Oh well, now I was going to use it too.

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I decided to revisit Ohhh Lulu’s Cindy bra, which I hadn’t made in ages. It was actually the first wired bra I ever sewn, but the cup shape wasn’t quite right on me, so it was pushed aside in favour of other patterns as my bra making skills improved. My body has changed a bit since my first Cindy attempts (as they do, those non static little vessels), so I checked my measurements against the pattern and cut another size. I am so used to making bras now with stable bridges and cups, that making one from stretch threw me a little. Would it be stable enough? Would I wiggle and jiggle like jelly on a plate? Would the cups stretch out beyond all repair and leave me with belly button boobs?

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Not really, as it turns out. I mean, I wouldn’t go jogging in it but if you ever see me jogging, there’s something terribly wrong and you should probably run too. I lined the cups and side band in lightish white swim spandex (could have used lining also, but this provides a bit more support), with powernet for the back band and stable bra lining for the bridge. The pattern calls for powernet at the bridge, but past bra making experience made me decide that I wanted a more stable bridge. Well, as always, I probably should have followed directions, because now I’ve got a bit of excess spandex at the bridge forming a bit of wrinkling. Not a big deal, but I know for next time.

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The width of these cups is spot on for me, although they do flatten me out so I need a tiny bit more projection. Next time I might narrow the bridge slightly too. If you are a bra sewer, try and forget your sizing in other patterns. I’m mostly a 40D in bra patterns, but this one is a 36DD and I could even go down another band size (I ended up taking a bit out of this one). That’s unusual for me because I am pretty broad across the back.

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As always, I made a few changes to take this from bra to bikini:

  • I eliminated the back clasp by cutting the back piece on the fold. I like a firm band and am much more comfortable without a closure digging into my back. You could change it for a strappy back with hooks or a couple of those swimwear clasps. the width makes it a bit more challenging though.
  • The bottom of the band has regular swim elastic instead of picot.
  • The top edges have binding (instead of fold over elastic) created from the spandex, as well as narrow swim elastic enclosed within the binding. I think it creates a nice clean finish, while also keeping everything hugged against my chest and back. I’ve used zig zag because I don’t mind it, but if you want a more professional looking finish, you could use a twin needle.
  • I made fabric straps, again with elastic in them for extra support, instead of using normal bra straps.

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A couple of people have asked why I didn’t add foam. I have used it in swimmers before, but I don’t mind either way. I was keen to see how this would look without and also, I was being lazy and didn’t want to have to cut down pattern pieces for foam (otherwise, I’d have foam in seam allowances, which would be quite bulky). We all have nipples, so I’m not really concerned about concealing mine with foam, but I know some people prefer to. I also don’t mind boob shaped boobs, even though the modern trend is toward foam domes. Foam has the added advantage of providing a bit of extra support too, but honestly – it’s really not a problem for me with this one.

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I forgot to mention the bottoms are my same old self drafted ones I wear constantly. I just sized down for these so they don’t fall off in the surf. I might have sized down a touch too much, but at least they aren’t going anywhere.

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Gotta admit, the whole time I was taking these photos, I was slightly concerned about being joined by this not so little friend who has been hanging around recently. The shrub behind me is its hideout.

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Lucky for me it remained tucked away wherever it is. I definitely would have ended up in the pool if it decided to make itself known. And that water is still really cold.

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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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A Month of Sundays {Ohhh Lulu Romy Bra}

I had to google that title. I thought it was an Australian saying and that it might not translate. Turns out it isn’t, but it was one of my mum’s favourite to yell at us when we were kids. ‘Hurry up, you’re taking a month of Sundays!’. Good times.

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Anyway, we haven’t quite had a month of Sundays, we’ve had two weeks of them. Or what feels like them. And it hasn’t dragged, it’s flown. So so fast. My husband went back to work today, so some form of reality is setting back in, but between Christmas day and yesterday, we did very little. We went to the beach, we slothed into the pool and back again. I don’t love sitting around in wet swimmers but I also didn’t feel like getting properly dressed on those days, so bralettes it was. And which ones did I keep wearing? My Romy bras. I only have two that fit me now and one fits me better than the other. I would get annoyed when they were in the wash, so knew I should make more.

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This is the same pattern, three times (the red/print knickers are slightly different to the other two pairs, but they’re all self drafted so I’m just concentrating on the bras in this post). I’ve rated them in a Goldilocks-like fashion.

This set? Too stretchy.

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Fabric: Tactel Strata (? I know. Says suitable for activewear, but I have thoughts on that) from The Remnant Warehouse.

Printed swim spandex from Pitt Trading (now sold out as far as I can tell).

Strapping, picot and fold over elastic all from Booby Traps.

This set, while I am a pretty big fan of the look, is the least supportive of the three. Totally fine for days at home or under big jumpers in winter, but the red fabric is super stretchy so it’s giving me a gentle pat rather than a tight hug. Such is life when buying fabric online. Generally I’m pretty lucky and I do get some great stuff from The Remnant Warehouse.

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I bought the red fabric with leggings in mind, but it’s so light and stretchy that it’s almost transparent, so that’s a no go. Unless you were to line them or something. But that seems like extra sweat that I don’t really need. You could line and use for swimmers, although I’m pretty sure it’s not rated for swim wear. Underwear is fine, bras need a bit of extra help (for me at least). The entire bra is lined with the red fabric, including the back band – but in hindsight, I should have used some powermesh in the back band too. Even as I was cutting it out these thoughts crossed my mind, but I figured I’d give it a go anyway. You don’t know if you don’t try, right? It’s not a fail by any means and would be fine for someone smaller than me (or with self supporting breasts). SUPER comfortable though.

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Next set? Not stretchy enough. The lace is lovely and stretches quite well across the grain but not as much the other way. Meaning the height is reduced when I’ve got it on. It’s Alice McCall though, so that’s a bit fancy and the quality is lovely.

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Lace and grey lining (swim lining): The Remnant Warehouse

Picot: Booby Traps

Strapping: Leftover from a kit from Measure Twice Cut Once

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More supportive than the first set but I just need the smidge more height that’s I’d get from more stretch vertically. Again, still wearble and I will wear them. Funny how you can get such completely different results even from using different stretch fabrics for the same pattern. Always learning, you guys.

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Iced Vovo set? Just right, baby!

Perfect stretch, perfect coverage. The only problem is I’m really shit with whites and washing. I’m so sorry you’ll end up grey, my beauties.

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Vovo fabric: Spoonflower Sports Lycra scraps (which you might remember from my rashie)

White spotty mesh: Pitt Trading

White powermesh lining: The Remnant Warehouse

Fold over elastic, strapping and picot: Booby Traps

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You might have noticed a bit of my past enemy, fold over elastic, appearing on these bras and you’d be correct. We’ve sorted out our differences and are actually quite friendly now. Who knew that a bit of practice would help? Ha. Some of the white FOE I even sewed on in one pass. OMG. It was quite easy to handle and I’m not sure if that’s because it’s plush on both sides, but I like it.

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And as if this post wasn’t long enough, here’s some other bits I’ve been sewing. Swimmers for my mum (no single pattern, more info about that here). No photos of her in them yet either, because the ding dong went and soberly broke her ankle on New Years Eve.

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Plus, I figured out a great way to use up the little spandex scraps I’ve been hoarding – swimmers for my little niece! Hooray! And she loves them, because she is a tiny legend.

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In other news, 2018 might be the year I start video tutorials. Maybe. Stay tuned to see if I can figure out the scary world of video.

 

 

 

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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Making Swimmers Out Of Underwear {Ohhh Lulu Romy Bra}

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More swimmers, I know. This could totally be lingerie though, almost. I even used lingerie patterns for both. Just take out that lining and add a gusset and you’re got yourself a fancy pants bra and knickers set.

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Did you notice the trim? Eeeeeeee. It’s the kind of thing I associate with expensive lingerie. I love how it looks. It’s called ladder or fagoted trim. This particular version is stretch and intended for swimwear. Both the fabric and the trim came from Pitt Trading. Bra cups from Booby Traps and lining from The Remnant Warehouse.

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I know what you’re thinking. What human on the planet could possibly need as many pairs of swimmers as you? I get it. I do. Some of my new ones are for sensible lap swimming at the local pool. Some are for our upcoming holiday. This set is definitely a holiday set, although I could totally do laps in these comfortably without anything escaping.

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My problem is, I see lovely fabric and then I have to have it. I often don’t have a project in mind, but I know that it will get used eventually. When I saw this spandex at Pitt Trading, I thought it would make the perfect Romy bra, with the stripes running in different directions to make it all interesting and stuff. Then of course, the trim came up and I knew it would be a match made in heaven. The final straw was that I already had black thread in my overlocker that I’m about to change to cream. So I ran these babies up before having undertake that chore.

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I wasn’t completely sure how the trim should be sewn in and I think I did in wrong on the upper cups, but thought it would look better with the seams enclosed. On the bottoms, I sewed it directly over the top of the fabric and I think that looks better.

Once again I added foam cups, which isn’t part of the original Romy instructions but I keep muddling my way through it. It just makes such a difference to the fit for me. I mean, it’s fine without, but next level supportive with the cups.

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Just for a quick comparison, this one is lined with power mesh:

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And this has the cups:

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It feels far more secure and there’s much less bounce. Good for beach swimming. For my latest version, I lengthened all the pieces so it’s more long line style. It also provided a bit of extra space for the cups. Once again I eliminated the back closure by cutting the back band piece on the fold. It does mean you have to pull it over your head but I find it much more comfortable to wear.

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The cups don’t look perfect from the inside – the can be a bit tricky to get  perfectly smooth. They are pretty good from the outside though. I’ve come to let it go that my lingerie and swimmers won’t look as finished as RTW from the inside, but they look totally fine when they are on and that’s ok with me.

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Is it holiday time yet?

Reinventing Ready To Wear Again {Using Megan Nielsen’s Rowan As A Base}

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I know it seems like I’ve been sewing a lot of swimmers lately and that’s because I have. Ha. There is a real gap in the market for one piece swimsuits for women that aren’t keen on the whole backless, flimsy, high and cheeky cut or the full bottomed, ruched and paneled offerings. Like a huge gap. I’m 36 and struggle. My mum is 60 and struggles. Bikinis seem to offer a little more variety, but one pieces? Nup. Your choices decrease even further if you can’t deal with halternecks. I can’t and incidentally neither can my mum. Instant headaches for both of us. Plus there’s the whole ‘go into the shop and try on at least 10 pairs under ugly lights and try not to cry’. NO.

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So what’s a girl to do? Well, you know the answer to that. You sew your own. Minimal melt downs and swimmers that fit just how you want them to. For me, that means lower legs, thicker straps that run over the shoulder and nice bust support. But no ruching – no matter how ‘flattering’ everyone likes to tell me it is. Plus, this way you get to have nerdy Nintendo swimmers. And match your husband if you want to. Even though he might not be so keen.

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Fabric is Spoonflower’s sport lycra and it’s a ripper for swimmers, it’s a polyester lycra blend with 75% stretch across and 50% stretch up and down. It’s colourfast in saltwater and chlorine and therefore ideal for swimwear. I’ve lined mine with swim lining from The Remnant Warehouse.

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See this top? I bought it. GASP. I love this high neck style, the wide back band without a clasp and this is one of the first I’ve found with thicker straps that run over the back instead of around the neck. It’s a bit low for me around the armholes, which is a common problem for me with this style  (hello side boob) and I hate how those bra cups float free and move around. Incidentally, the one on the right looks like it’s turned sideways. Annoying. I bought it specifically to make a pattern from.

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So I clipped that sucker down flat with wonderclips and I cloned it – adding seam allowance and also raising those arm holes.

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I compared my new pattern pieces to the Megan Nielsen Rowan pieces and look at that, they matched up really well. The Rowan pieces are folded down because I’ve been too lazy to trace and cut new ones for my swimmers.

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I added swim cups for support again, these ones came out of an old pair of swimmers and really, they are too small for me. But they work well enough with the tension in the fabric when they’re on. I recently watched Beverly Johnson’s class on sewing swimsuits and used her starburst method for adding the cups, which basically entails zig zagging them onto the lining and then cutting into the lining over the cups which then makes the lining and fabric sit better over the bust. As long as those cups don’t move around, I’m happy.

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I decided that I’d attempt to finish the neck and armholes the same way as the RTW top – sew the lining and outer together right sides together so no raw edges show and then add elastic to that seam for support. At least, I assumed that was how I did it but I’ve made a mistake somewhere there because my lining wants to roll over at the edges a bit. I have to think about it a bit more for next time. It’s not such a big deal because it’s black and tends up blend in pretty well. It’s worth noting that RTW uses pretty specialised machines for their construction, so it’s not always something that’s easy to replicate on the home sewing machine.

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Other than that though, I’m pretty pleased. Once again I finished the legs with this method of binding and used this method for my straps. Learning both of these methods has been a game changer for me, I think it makes handmade swimmers look pretty damn professional.

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I’ve been swimming laps at my local pool almost every day recently, so a good solid one piece really is a wardrobe staple for me at the moment.

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.