Wednesday, 13 August 2014

New Swimmers: Inspiration

Getting ready to go to the beach several months back (summer - I MISS you!) I realised that I had only one weary old one-piece to wear. A very nice cossie in its day, but as it still had sand in it from the last beach visit, I had to resort to a mismatched bikini, and that made me feel like very self-conscious of my lingering mummy tummy. I chucked a t-shirt on top (I didn't have my rash top back then), and the t-shirt got cold and heavy in the surf but I couldn't take it off because I was wearing a bikini, and the whole experience was just irritating.

Blah, blah, blah, and what happened next? Well, sewing inspiration, of course!

I went looking at swimmers in one of the local department stores, and I found this swimsuit from Seafolly that I loved. It comes with a halter strap too, not shown in these photos:

source: Seafolly
source: Seafolly
Amazing print, isn't it! There's an unhemmed, deep ruffle on the bust, and the bodice has cups as well as boning at the sides (!!). There are gathers on one side of the front, and the whole thing is lined. But - $250. Woah! 

I've sewn swimmers before for my daughter (this swimsuit and an earlier one, unblogged) so I know the sewing part of making a swimsuit isn't hard and doesn't require perfection:

My daughter wore this swimsuit till it disintegrated :).

I've had a stab at sewing one for myself before, so I also know the fitting part is a challenge, as is the turn-this-mummy-tummy-into-something-flat illusion (please share if you have sewing tips on that topic!):


To save $250 I am definitely prepared to make another effort at fitting though. I searched for similar fabric online - and hooray! found these two close cousins over in the printed lycra section at Spandex House:

I'm currently close to finishing a swimsuit for my daughter from that upper fabric (yes, I bought some of both) but there will be enough left for me too. Time is short though (ah, we love a sleep deprivation challenge, don't we?) as I'm heading off on a big trip soon, so I'm not likely to make a swimsuit with boning channels, though I'd love to make something with a bust ruffle! And I'm hopeful the crazy print will be tummy camo, even if it makes me stand out like a galah. So the big question: what pattern(s)?

Any suggestions gratefully received :).

Thank you,  and see you soon

- Gabrielle x  

Monday, 4 August 2014

Simple Shapes

If you sew, do you shop? For clothes, that is? Or do you just "inspiration shop"?  I have to admit to rather enjoying shopping for clothes: I enjoy stumbling across interesting shapes and fabrics, and seeing how those shapes and fabrics change when they move from hanger to body. These days I make a big effort to restrain my impulses though, and I try to treat much of what I find as research for future makes - though it's probably extremely annoying for sales staff :).

So where is this heading? Well a few months back I went inspiration shopping, and I found an amazing top. A heavy brocade top, just longer than waist length, with an unnaturally sloping shoulder line and tapered kimono sleeves that were constrained by those strange sloping shoulders. I wish I had a photo of it! I absolutely loved it. I tried it on, loved it even more. I resisted - "I can make that!", I thought, though I couldn't pin it to a pattern.

That evening I drew some sketches of the shape I'd tried on. I'd tried to get a rough idea of the angle of the shoulder line that day in the changing room by using hand lengths and finger lengths to work out how much it dropped off and how quickly, and I'd tried to keep my own basic measurements in mind for waist, bust, shoulders and neck-waist length. My first muslin (in a metallic polyester) was unwearable - I couldn't even get it over my head! - but what about number 2 (in a stretch terry)?

Well I quite like number 2, and it fits me, but stretch terry is not brocade. This top is approximately the right shape but smaller and milder than my inspiration. It's kind of cute, but a question struck me once the top was made:

                  just who needs a cropped short-sleeved sweatshirt? 


The below photo shows the top inside out, with the camera held directly above the top (ie the angles aren't distorted). You can see that the shoulder line really is quite angled - and if you look in the topmost photo above you should also be able to see it in the way the horizontal stripes get cut off.

You can also see what a shoddy, quick piece of sewing work this was - but it is just a muslin!

Moving right along to the third version. Still not in brocade...

Before working on getting my sketch closer to the inspiration shape (ie more exaggerated!), I decided to make up another stretch version, this time with a bit more commitment. So this time I used a prized piece of jersey from Tessuti fabrics - prized because it's such a terrific colour PLUS it has stripes!

You can see that the top looks quite different made up in a fabric that drapes... and you can hardly tell that the shoulder line is angled!

Regular stripes weren't enough; I wanted the stripes to make angles, and to make my shoulders look bigger. I roughly drew the shape I wanted, then folded my pattern piece down the centre back and at angles that would encompass shoulders and sleeves:

I was concerned that the fabric might stretch out along all those seam lines, so I went nuts with the clear elastic and stabilised everything - the shoulder seams, the short vertical seam in the upper back, and the angled shoulder seams.

You may notice I didn't overlock my edges (no need), and that the seam lines where I didn't want any stretching were sewn with a straight stitch before having the clear elastic sewn in. No apologies; that's what works for me :).

And here's how that looks on:

The hems were just pressed in place with steam-a-seam as I didn't want the look of stitches. We'll see how well that lasts!

I like this top more than the terry version, but I think it needs taking in at the waist and hips so as not to pool. And I have to admit I haven't been wearing it - though perhaps I will when we hit summer? 

And what about version 4, in brocade? Great question! To be honest, the original photos I took of these tops a couple of months ago were so dire (I was bone tired, I hadn't ironed them properly, the weather was appalling, and there was a LOT of mess in the photo backgrounds) that I had this idea pegged as a bit of a failure, and lost interest. Then someone on twitter recently was asking why more sewists didn't post their sewing failures, so I retook the photos intending to do a roundup blog post of these tops along with a couple of other recent disappointing sewing projects, and whaddayaknow, I actually like them.  So I guess the brocade top project is still a possibility... Has that ever happened to you? 

See you soon
Gabrielle x

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