Fashion

One-piece Floral Swimsuit Part 2

As I write this, the temperature has climbed above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.  Shorts and swimsuit weather is finally here so I couldn’t wait to finish my suit!

suitback_on
Maillot back – sweet and simple

The suit is a simple scoop neck one-piece, fully lined with sewn-in foam cups.  This project really exemplifies why to learn to sew for yourself.  If a suit that fit this well existed in the retail market (which it doesn’t – trust me), it would probably be in the $100-$200 price range. That is the going rate for a suit that has lining in the back and uses high quality materials.  After taking the craftsy class, I have a pattern that I can use again, and the skills to branch out into different styles.  When you think about how little fabric you need, you can really splurge on something great that’s exactly what you want and still come in a lot cheaper than $100.

suitside_on
Maillot side – everything fits!

Putting the pieces together was pretty fun.  I am so glad to have my duct-tape friend to help me with fitting.  It made putting in the bra cups so easy.  Using the class instructions, I pinned the foam bra cups directly to the mannequin.  Then I pulled the basted-together suit lining over it. After carefully pinning around the foam edges, I cut starbursts into the lycra over the cups until the fabric around the armholes lay flat against the body.  After carefully removing and unbasting the lining, I measured to make sure there was enough fabric around the cups to put in the elastic.  There wasn’t, so I shaved a bit off the upper edge of each cup.

Using my everyday sewing machine, a size 75 stretch needle, the walking foot, and regular polyester thread, I zigzagged the cups to the lining.  Once I cut the extra fabric away from the seams, I was pleased to see how professional it looked.

The next step was to cut the fashion fabric pieces and pin them to their lining counterparts. You could also put them together with a spray adhesive, but I didn’t want to deal with overspray mess.  I would seriously consider doing it that way if I was making a bunch at once though.

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Assembly was pretty straightforward until I got to the elastic casing.  This was my first time using “plastic elastic,” also known as clear elastic or Mobilon.  While it was very simple to zigzag into place, I did have some tension problems.  The underside is pretty messy.  Good thing it doesn’t show!

Although I really like my suit just as it is, I think it could be improved with a few more tweaks.  I wanted to raise the neckline a bit and smooth out the leg curve, so I re-re-modified the pattern pieces.  Then I made a good copy on Swedish pattern paper, so the next one should be super easy (with a lot fewer mistakes!).

Something tells me there will be a spandex stash in my sewing area’s future!

Missed Part 1?  Find it here.

 

Fashion

One-piece Floral Swimsuit Part 1

I recently signed up for Sewing Swimsuits: The Supportive One-Piece on Craftsy.  For those of you that are unfamiliar, craftsy.com offers interactive online courses for many subjects, including sewing, knitting, art, photography, and cooking.  I have taken a few of these in the past and always found them to be worth the time and expense.

Sewing Swimsuits is taught by Beverly Johnson, a Canadian lingerie and swimwear designer.  I love her.  Her teaching style strikes a nice balance between just-the-facts and friendly chat.  She also offers classes on sewing shapewear, bras, and panties.

I have been wearing two piece swimwear for at least 20 years.  One-pieces are always too short or too high-cut or too something.  Making my own one-piece has been on my sewing bucket-list for years.

Beverly’s class teaches how to make a simple maillot that fits.  The idea is that once you know how to do that, you will be able to apply your swimwear skills to other styles. Craftsy rates it appropriate for the intermediate student: “For those who are already comfortable with the sewing machine and have made at least a few projects successfully.”  I would say that’s about right.

Gathering the supplies took way longer than actually making the suit.  I ordered a variety of foam bra cups to find out which size and shape worked best.  I needed swimwear elastic, which is designed to withstand chlorinated water.  Of course, I needed lycra fabric that I liked, but also nylon swim lining.  The class does not include a pattern, so I had to get that also.

B4526_04
Art from B5426 pattern envelope, view B

I started with Butterick B4526 which contains a pattern for a simple, scoop-neck one-piece.  But after re-watching the class, I put it back in the envelope.  Why?  In the first lesson, Beverly advises against patterns with a back piece that is cut on a fold-line.  The reason is that you need to have a curved seam in the center back to accommodate the shape of the wearer’s lower back.  I already have to make adjustments there when I sew pants, so the two-piece back was a must-have. Aha. That’s one fit problem identified.

I hunted online, and other than the instructor’s own patterns, there are none currently in print that have a two piece back and a plain scoop neck. I didn’t want to use the instructor’s patterns just because there was no download option and I was too impatient to wait on the mail.

Sometimes being impatient leads to a lot more work.  I took my Butterick pattern and extra pattern paper and started marking it up.  I made modifications to the back pattern piece to make it look more or less like the shape of the one in the video.  Finally, I added seam allowance to the side that used to be placed on the foldline.

orange_muslin_leg
Spandex muslin marked with new leg curve

I had some plain orange lycra that faded like crazy when I washed it.  Since I no longer wanted to use it, it made good “muslin” for testing the pattern.  I cut out a set of pieces then basted it together and tried it on (with a bra, to simulate having foam cups).

Okay….  the bust darts were too low and the leg openings were way too low.  Seriously unflattering!  This kind of thing happens when I try on ready-to-wear suits, so it’s not surprising. No problems with the center back though, so the two-piece modification worked.  Standing in front of a mirror, I took a fabric marker and sketched in the changes I wanted to make.  I marked the true bust point so I could place the dart correctly.  I also drew lines (a little wobbly, but that’s okay) around my leg opening showing where I wanted the new leg opening to be.

duct_tape_swim_fitting_1
Lining test fit on duct-tape double. Much better!

With a little math, the marked-up muslin, and some rulers and markers, I made more changes to the pattern.  At this point, it doesn’t look very much like the original at all.

I was fairly confident in my pattern, so I cut muslin 2 from my good lining fabric. I basted it and tried it on for fit.

In Part 2, read about putting it all together.  Until then, happy sewing!

 

Fashion

Easy Pull-On Cuffed Pants Part 3

If you have been following along, you know that I just made cuffed pants that I can’t get my feet through.  Sigh.

If I had gone right back in and tried to fix it, it might have been a real mess.  I needed to sleep on it for a few days.  So here we are, a week later, and have I arrived at a solution I am happy with.

newcuffoldcuff
Problem on the bottom.  Solution on the top.

I didn’t have very much scrap, but I had enough to make a little bit of bias tape.  I cut the leg at the inside seam, going from the bottom to just above the cuff. Carefully, I pinned and sewed double-folded bias around the cut area. Once again, working in this area was pretty fiddly, since it was small, multi-layered and the other side of the cuff kept slipping under the needle.  I powered through though.  The next step was a lot easier.

I cut short lengths of the waistband elastic and pinned them horizontally one on top of the other on the inside of the new opening.  I sewed one side down, but left the other pinned.  Before sewing the other side, I tested for fit.  (See, I learned something!) It fit, I sewed the other side down and repeated the process with the other pant leg.

Finally, my “easy” pants were done!

burdapant3
That’s what I call high-waisted!

For the most part, I like these pants.  They are very high waisted. Even when worn at the natural waist, the crotch is on the low side.  Still, since I’m probably only ever going to wear them with an untucked shirt, they should be fine.  The legs and cuffs look good and that’s what the world will see.

I always like to think of what else I could do with my patterns after trying them out. Assuming I plan the cuffs better, this really is an easy, versatile pattern. Burda Style shows them in dressy, luxe fabrics – even sequins.  They even have a little article on how to put together outfits with sequined pants, which is something I never would have considered before. Any drapable fabric thin enough to stand up to a 2 to 1 gather at the waist would work. So, I would consider anything from silks and sequins to jerseys and french terry fair game.

burdapant2
Proof I can put my feet through the cuff

Thanks for reading all about my casual clothing reboot.  Coming soon: sewing with spandex, using the serger for something other than seams and more!

Home Dec · Whimsy

Rooster Pillow (Nap-a-doodle-doo?)

roosterplan
Original drawing with pillow supplies

Did you know that the Rhode Island Red is the state bird or Rhode Island?

When I am not sewing, I enjoy drawing.  Some of my favorite subjects are animals, such as this handsome rooster.  I really liked how his portrait turned out.  It occurred to me that it might make the focal point of a really neat throw pillow, if I could figure out how to go from a piece of paper to a piece of fabric.

Spoonflower is a company that specializes in custom textile printing for the independent designer.  People can upload their own designs or choose from an immense collection submitted by others.  Designs can be printed on over 20 different types of fabric, wrapping paper, and wallpaper.  I have shopped the spoonflower website in the past, but had never tried making my own design.

The spoonflower website has a lot of helpful tutorials, so I won’t go into the nuts and bolts, but they have made the process fairly simple.  I scanned my drawing, made a few edits, then uploaded it to my spoonflower account.  I used their editing tools to center and scale the image.  At this point, I could have my design printed or even publish it for others to use (and get a small royalty for sales).  I chose to get a fat quarter of plain quilting cotton as the base, and clicked the Order button.  Easy!

trim_pinning_rooster
It doesn’t have to match to go

It took about 2 weeks to get my order.  Everything arrived looking just like the digital preview.  The only fault I could find was that the part of the fabric that was not printed was pretty thin.  Any color placed behind it showed through.  To make it opaque and give it a little more stability, I fused lightweight interfacing to the reverse.

I went through my scrap heap to find a nice coordinating fabric for the pillow back.  The material left over from my vintage apron was perfect.  Other supplies included a zipper, some bright yellow pom-pom trim, and a 14×14 pillow form.

I love how my pillow turned out.  Now that I know how easy it is, I know I will be printing my own designs again.

 

rooster_unfilled
With interfacing, the background is much brighter
pillowbackrooster
Reds and browns look good with the drawing

 

 

 

Fashion

Easy Pull-On Cuffed Pants Part 2

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Line drawing from Burda Style for pattern 114A/B

I had enough soft gray fabric left from a different pair of pants to use for these.  I knew it draped well and was machine washable. The only thing I had to buy was wide black elastic (1 1/4″) for the waistband.

Part of the pockets show on the front, so they have to be in the main pants fabric.  But the inside doesn’t show, so I cut those pieces from a scrap of cute cotton voile from my leftovers pile.  Using a lightweight fabric decreases the pockets’ bulk and gives whoever does the laundry (me) a little surprise pop of color.

One of this design’s unusual features is a raw, uncased elastic waistband. I have seen the exact same elastic used in ready-to-wear cinch belts, so it makes sense that it would look good exposed.

I was really hoping I could figure out how to use the serger to apply the elastic and do the gathering in one step. Try as I might, I couldn’t figure out a way.  When I really thought about it, I realized that it would have to be done in multiple steps, if at all. I did make a nice test swatch attaching the elastic to the fabric with right sides together.  That would be a great treatment for a full, puffy skirt. Unfortunately, I was trying to apply the elastic on top, overlapping the fabric, not turned to the inside.  Trying to stretch the elastic the necessary 2×1 ratio was just too difficult for something that should have been simple.

closed_pocket
Closed side pocket
pocket_lining
Pop of pink in pocket lining

I ended up just sewing it on using a zig-zag stitch on my regular machine, stretching as I went.  Then I cleaned up the messy bulk on the inside with a three thread overlock.

I went back to my regular sewing machine to do the gathering on the cuffs.  Applying the cuffs was a fussy process, since the circumference was smaller than my free arm and the fabric had no stretch.  I sewed the cuff to itself no less than three times!  While it was many more steps than I had hoped, the results looked good.

Then I tried to put them on.

Aaaargh!

I couldn’t get my feet through the cuffs!

After a few deep breaths, I checked my work.  I did indeed follow the directions as written in the magazine.  The cuff pieces were the right size.  I don’t know if this is a known problem with the pattern, or whether I missed something.  Either way, the pants needed work if they were going to be wearable.

It looks like this is going to be a three part post.  Oh, well.  It happens to everyone, right?

See Part 1 Here.

 

Home Dec

Mid-Century Modern Pillows

mohawk_rug
This rug really pulls the room together

I have a kind of unusual color scheme in my living room.  I have a dark orange sofa, grayish-green armchairs, and walnut mid-century style tables.  The whole thing is pulled together by a crazy rug which has splotches of all of those colors and more.  I wanted some throw pillows for the couch, but finding something commercially that works with my colors has been difficult.  Time to DIY!

When I was on the spoonflower website working on my own design, I took some time to look for throw pillow fabric.  Even limiting my search to mid-century and orange, I was kind of amazed to find that there were pages and pages of choices.  This design was absolutely perfect.  It had all of the colors I wanted, kept the mid-century theme, but was simple enough to harmonize with my chaotic rug. (If you love this pillow and don’t want to make it yourself, Spoonflower’s Roostery business will make it for you.  They charge between $35 and $41 per pillow depending on fabric choice.)

pillow_pile_on_chair
All 3 pillows piled on a recliner.  I love how the pattern harmonizes with all of the colors!

I figured a yard would give me enough material to make covers for two 16×16 throw pillows.  I considered the fabric options and chose the Cotton Sateen Ultra.  The tight weave and slight sheen lend it a high-end feel.  Cotton Sateen comes a little wider than I thought (yes, the website does say how wide it is… I just didn’t look), so I was delighted to find that I could cut three pillow covers, not just 2.

I purposely sewed them a little small, taking one inch off the pillow measurement (so 15×15 for a 16×16 pillow form).  I like having my pillows a little overstuffed. I used invisible zippers because that’s what I had laying around.  I think the hidden zipper works well with the smooth fabric, but it’s one of those things that only the person doing the sewing really notices.

There are plenty of tutorials out there on how to sew pillow covers with zip closures, so I’ll get straight to the results.  Ta-da!  Quick and simple: three new mid-century style throw pillows! Don’t you just love those instant gratification projects?

mod_pillow_zipper
Putting in a zipper makes it possible to quickly change covers or just take the cover off to launder.

Cost to Make:

$11.01 Pillow Forms

$24.30 + $3 shipping Fabric

$1.50 Zippers

priceless My time and energy

$39.81 TOTAL or about $11.30 each

mod_pillow_with_dog
Dog approved!
Fashion · General

Easy Pull-On Cuffed Pants Part 1

114B-magazinepic
This could be me!

This is the last project for a while in a series of upgraded casual wear.  Over the past several weeks, I have made myself a sophisticated hoodie, a long-sleeved pullover and a versatile sleeveless knit top.  What I really needed most was a pair of pants to wear instead of my increasingly ratty jeans.  I came across a neat pants idea while leafing through some magazines.  They were a pair of jogger-style pants, but made with dressy woven fabric.  With pockets and an elastic waistband, they would be as easy to wear as sweatpants, but look much better.

The magazines I perused where back issues of Burda Style.  They were a neat magazine because each issue included a pull-out with something like 50 multi-size full-scale patterns.  The glossy pages showed all of the clothes styled different ways and the instructions for making them.  Even though I loved reading it, I never made any of the designs.  I had heard that Burda patterns were especially tricky, and I guess that might have kept me away.  These pants really called to me and they had an “Easy” rating, so I went ahead and dived in.

Side note – Burda no longer offers a US-only version of the Burda Style magazine.  They still produce an international English language version.  They also have an excellent website, where you can choose from a large selection of PDF patterns.  The pants pattern from my magazine is there, and can be downloaded for $5.99.

I have so much to say about the Burda Style magazine process that I am splitting this project into two posts.  Part 2 will feature the pants and my thoughts on construction.

There is quite a difference between Burda and what I am used to.  Here are the steps you go through to get from magazine to finished product.

burdapaper - 1
This might take a while.
  1. Determine your European pattern size by comparing your measurements to the table in the instructions section.
  2. Find your pattern in the instructions section.  Be careful: there are going to be several garments that share pattern pieces, so make sure you are looking at the right one.  The pant front and back pieces were used in at least 3 other sets of instructions.
  3. Read the instructions carefully.  Here you will find fabric layouts, fabric suggestions, and notion lists.  You will also find a list of pattern piece numbers and the letter (A,B,C,D) corresponding to their page in the pull-out.
  4. The pull-out consists of 2 large sheets printed front and back.  Like most multi-size patterns, each size has its own line style.  Unlike most patterns, groups of pieces that go together are printed in one color.  Other groupings are printed on the same page in their own color.  There is so much going on in the sheets, you may find it helpful to use a highlighter to trace just the lines you need.
  5. Once you located your pieces, trace them onto your own paper.  Transfer all of the grainline arrows, notches, etc.  Leave some extra room.
  6. Add your desired seam allowance around the edge of the traced pieces.
  7. If there are rectangular pieces in the garment, they will not have printed pattern outlines.  You will have to measure and cut them or make a pattern piece. Strangely, the measurements given for the rectangles include a 5/8 seam allowance.
  8. Cut out the pieces and start assembly. Again, read carefully.  There are no illustrations in the pattern instructions.

From here, it actually was easy to sew.

So, would I do another pattern like this?  Sure.  It was a good value and I really like the style. But this time I would be going in with my eyes open. A similar pattern with step by step illustrated instructions would obviously be easier and faster.  Still, Burda has a lot of styles that can’t be found anywhere else.  If I keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone, maybe one day I will be brave enough to try Marfy.

Continue to Part 2