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 getย  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 styleย  (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.