My first swimsuit pattern was a vintage one + the choices we make

Confession: I am deeply affected by aesthetics.  I struggle with this concept, because I don't like to think of myself as a superficial person.  But I am emotionally and physically moved by beautiful things.  You know when something is so good it hurts?  So while I aim to be a person of greater substance, I'm aware of how visual appeal influences my choices.  In terms of sewing, I've observed this when it comes to pattern selection.  I find myself scrolling past designs that don't appeal to my personal style without giving them a second thought.  Later I'll see a stunning project using the very pattern I disregarded and am floored by how much vision the maker had.  It's a huge source of inspiration, but at the same time leaves me feeling a bit narrow-minded.  A true creative can look past styling or fabric choices that are different from their own and I really admire that.  So I'd like to say that today I'm sharing with you the progress I've made in this area, but I’m afraid not.  With the intent of self-reflection, today I’m taking you with me down a different path.

I've been subscribing to the "no fear" philosophy in sewing for a while now, so it was only a matter of time before I tackled my most recent challenge: swimwear!  Plans started to take shape during a routine trip to Joann's when I found what looked to me like swimsuit fabric.  It was stretchy and shiny in a really sleek dolphin grey, had a Nicole Miller label and was priced for clearance.  I was sold.  (An uninformed choice, based solely on appearance. I didn’t even check the exact content or percentage of stretch.  Bet you can guess how that went.). I picked up lining & elastic and started searching for a pattern.  My inspiration was the one-pieces in this year’s J. Crew collection but I hadn't seen too many pattern options.  I had just about settled on Laminaria by Tuesday Stitches (Seamstress Erin) when I decided to check out vintage patterns on Etsy.  I was completely swept away by the styling of the late 70’s & early 80's.  Some of my earliest memories are of my mom in a super shiny one-piece, glammed up in full hair and makeup (rouge + perm, natch) for a day at the pool.  So when I came across the gorgeous ladies illustrated on the envelope of Stretch & Sew's V-swimsuit from 1979, I wanted to be one of them.  Laminaria is similar in so many ways, it probably would have been the smarter choice.  It's hard to beat the detail of indie pattern instructions, plus it has a sew-along.  But I had fallen so in love with the image of those ladies so I clicked through to purchase.  Here's the rundown:

Pattern: Stretch & Sew V-swimsuit; version A

Fabric: Nicole Miller nylon/spandex from JoAnn, exact content & percentage of stretch unknown; nude power mesh also from JoAnn

Size: Graded between 34 at the bust to 38 at the hip (my measurements put me just under 36 and 40, so I went with the smaller size)

Changes: I followed the version A construction method for the most part.  Instead of soft halter ties I wrapped my ties in elastic and attached them to the back, straight down on either side.  I also chose to fully line the suit with power mesh and added a shelf bra because I’m not fancy-free like they were back then, if you know what I mean (wink, wink).

Verdict: This was my first attempt, so I consider the fact that it actually came together and fits as major wins.  It isn’t the most beautiful thing to look at when it’s just laying there, but once it’s on you really don’t notice the imperfections.  My biggest regret is the fabric.  My impulsive choice based on color was not the wisest.  The wrong side of the fabric is a lighter grey, so it shows through at the stress points-  most notably at the side seams. The questionable percentage of stretch must factor in here as well, or maybe I should have sized up.  For my next attempt I will 100% choose a fabric marketed for swimwear.  I can’t say with certainty if the power mesh as lining was a smart choice.  But I don’t think it was a bad one.  Regarding the pattern itself, I know it’s unlikely that you’ll try the same one.  Even so, I think it's a good one and the instructions were very clear and helpful.  I’d say vintage swimwear patterns are a viable option.

I admit the takeaway here is a bit feeble.  I chose a pattern because the illustrations were pretty and it worked out alright. Will I do that again? Probably.  But I hope my future self will remember this reflection and not limit her options solely based on aesthetics.  It can be a really positive thing to question why we make the choices that we do.

There are a ton of photos of this project.  So  even though this isn’t a tutorial, I hope they help other first-timers visualize the process.

mee-yow =^_^=

mee-yow =^_^=

3 front layers held together with wonder clips: main fabric, lining and shelf bra.  I used elastic the length of the front width minus 2 inches to create tension.

3 front layers held together with wonder clips: main fabric, lining and shelf bra.  I used elastic the length of the front width minus 2 inches to create tension.

All sides serged together for handling.  Thanks to  Allie at Indie Sew  for the tips!

All sides serged together for handling.  Thanks to Allie at Indie Sew for the tips!

The front ready to go.

The front ready to go.

One side of the back, curved to go around the bum.  3D pattern pieces kind of blow my mind.

One side of the back, curved to go around the bum.  3D pattern pieces kind of blow my mind.

The back ready to go.

The back ready to go.

Crotch seam.

Crotch seam.

Crotch lining is attached only to one side- at the crotch seam.  The sides are caught in the leg elastic and the other end stays open.

Crotch lining is attached only to one side- at the crotch seam.  The sides are caught in the leg elastic and the other end stays open.

I love wonder clips.

I love wonder clips.

Side seams serged together.

Side seams serged together.

Elastic stabilizes the V-neck, the same measurement as the fabric.

Elastic stabilizes the V-neck, the same measurement as the fabric.

Elastic add to the scoop back, 2/3 the measurement of the fabric.  I didn't get a photo of the leg elastic insertion, but it was cut the length of the leg circumference opening minus 2 inches.  On the front of the leg opening, the elastic was inserted at a 1:1 ratio, meaning no gathering.  The back of the leg opening is where those 2 inches were gathered, to create a tight fit around the bum.

Elastic add to the scoop back, 2/3 the measurement of the fabric.  I didn't get a photo of the leg elastic insertion, but it was cut the length of the leg circumference opening minus 2 inches.  On the front of the leg opening, the elastic was inserted at a 1:1 ratio, meaning no gathering.  The back of the leg opening is where those 2 inches were gathered, to create a tight fit around the bum.

This resulted in some pretty extreme gathering around the back scoop, only slightly less so when the elastic is turned in.  I found this strange, but it does smooth out completely when worn.

This resulted in some pretty extreme gathering around the back scoop, only slightly less so when the elastic is turned in.  I found this strange, but it does smooth out completely when worn.

The V-neck finish reminded me a lot of the continuous sleeve placket construction on the  Grainline Archer

The V-neck finish reminded me a lot of the continuous sleeve placket construction on the Grainline Archer

The V-neck before turned under.

The V-neck before turned under.

The V-neck turned under.

The V-neck turned under.

Straps attached & all elastic turned under and top-stitched with a zig-zag.  Shelf bras really pull at the sides under the arm.  To remedy this I stitched the end of the strap to the shelf bra elastic on each side.  it's not pretty, but it looks 10x better from the outside.  

Straps attached & all elastic turned under and top-stitched with a zig-zag.  Shelf bras really pull at the sides under the arm.  To remedy this I stitched the end of the strap to the shelf bra elastic on each side.  it's not pretty, but it looks 10x better from the outside.  

Ta-dah!  

Ta-dah!  

Hard to get a flat lay of the back, what with the shelf bra pulling and all the elastic gathering.  But then again, my body is anything but flat!

Hard to get a flat lay of the back, what with the shelf bra pulling and all the elastic gathering.  But then again, my body is anything but flat!

If you’re still reading at this point you may be wondering where the photos of me actually wearing the swimsuit are.  Spoiler: there aren’t any.  Rest assured, my body image is fairly heathy and I’ll wear this swimsuit with pride.  It’s nothing more than a personal choice to limit how much of myself I share on the internet.  To see this one in action you’ll have to catch me on the sand or at the pool...if you can!  I’m usually hiding under an umbrella or in a caftan.  Stay protected, friends.  And if you make your own swimwear, tag it #nofearnewswimsuit so I can see!

xo

Photo Jun 07, 8 09 41 PM.jpg

Questioning limiting beliefs + a pair of wide legged trousers

If there’s one topic buzzing around social media the past few days it’s the verdict on Me Made May.  Did you stay true to your pledge or fall off the wagon?  What gaps did you identify in your wardrobe? How about the burnout from daily selfies?  For me, the challenge went quite smoothly, actually.  The unusually varied temps allowed for me to wear the gammit of my handmade wardrobe comfortably; 61 pieces of it it be exact!  Only problem was that a few days into it, I realized that I didn’t exactly feel stylish in the photos I was taking.  (p.s. you can read my quote about this in the June issue of Seamwork Magazine

I realized that for the fear of never making anything I don’t love to wear, I’ve been seriously limiting myself in the styles I choose to sew.  I tend to be stubborn and fiercely loyal to my ideas.  So with practicality standing guard, I shun most trends from the get-go and stick to a few basic (safe) styles I feel suit me best.  If I’m honest it has become just plain silly.  Recently on the Happier podcast with Gretchen Rubin, they discussed the idea of questioning the sometimes irrational beliefs that limit us, and it really rang true with me.  

That said, my sewing goal for the rest of the year is to step outside of my comfort zone and see how I can play around with new trends and adapt them to my current style.  I love a good hack, and since I didn’t even need to buy a new pattern to do it, I started off with a pair of wide legged Ultimate Trousers.  I loved the first pair so much, I decided to make a second and share them with you here. 

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Pattern: Ultimate Trousers by Sew Over It

Fabric: medium-heavyweight linen (blend?)  remnant from Michael Levine DTLA; 1 1/2 yards x56” wide

Size: I used my trusty altered pattern pieces that have seen my through 7 iterations of these trousers.  From what I recall, they are a 10 at the waist graded to a 12 at the hips. I also changed the crotch curve to a J shape at some point on the advice of Lauren’s post

For reference I am 5’5”; bust 35.5”; waist 28.5“; hip 39.5”

Changes:  For the wide leg hack I added 10 inches each to the width of the front and back leg hems and graded out to meet those lines starting just below the hip curve. I think I ended up chopping off 2 inches from the hem for a cropped look.  I also used the waist facings to make a narrow waistband and button tab.

Verdict: I love them! The combination of a lighter color + linen fabric does result in some inevitable afternoon bagginess in the bum, but because they’re quite fitted at the waist and hip I dont think it makes them unflattering.  Overall I feel super chic in these trousers and picture myself sailing around the Mediterranean in them.

Late to the party, and how I got here

Hello there and welcome!  Sure, I may be a decade late but I've never minded being slightly out of fashion.  In this space you can expect to find pretty pictures of my handmade wardrobe and helpful anecdotes about the process.

The short story:  In late 2013 I received a secondhand sewing machine and was eager to fulfill a lifelong dream of making my own clothes.  The only problem was that I had exactly zero training and some very grand plans.  I turned to the interwebs for guidance and was elated to come across tutorials from veterans like Tasia at Sewaholic and Lauren at Lladybird.  From them I learned so many things, like how to add inseam pockets or a lapped zipper.  They were young, relatable and funny with some serious sewing chops and such a willingness to share and teach.  I was inspired, and just...grateful.  Honestly, I'm certain I would never have achieved what I have so far without them and so many others.  

So why the blog?  Why now?  A couple of reasons, really.  First, I hope that I may in some small way help a new group of intrepid sewists along on their journey.  You, know pay it forward and keep that free exchange of information going.  And second, I think I could benefit from the mindful consideration it takes to catalog each project.  To take a break before rushing on to the next thing and reflect.  My plan is to blog each new make and share anything that you might find helpful and inspiring.

Sewing is empowering and with the right resources, you can absolutely make ANYTHING you want.  Subscribe! Comment! Question!  I'm so glad to have you around.

Until next time...

April

wearing: Grainline Studio Archer in striped chambray from Joann Stores

wearing: Grainline Studio Archer in striped chambray from Joann Stores