Self-drafted swimsuit

Self-drafted swimsuit

This is how I feel having made a swimsuit – a self-drafted one that I am this happy to be photographed in, no less. However, I do seem to have lost all of the process photos I took while drafting and making it, so that will have to wait for another time. Sorry!

Self-drafted swimsuit

Having reviewed the swimwear pattern options out there and not feeling any of them, I decided to go the self-drafted route. This honestly isn’t as scary or reckless as it sounds; in fact I think it makes perfect sense for swimwear as you can feel more free to tailor it exactly to your specs.

Self-drafted swimsuit

I designed this costume to suit my body type, ie to draw attention upwards with the strap detailing and minimise the lower half by keeping it less fussy and higher coverage. It’s honestly the most flattering and comfortable suit I’ve ever owned. I based it off an old Topshop suit that I took apart to use as a basic block, but made tons of amends and four toiles to get to this point.

Self-drafted swimsuit

I will share more about the construction in the future, but basically it’s four pieces – front, back and separate cups. It’s fully lined and all the raw edges are encased in fold-over elastic which also forms the straps. The bust cups have deep open-legged darts to create shape, and the elastic does a nice job of keeping everything firmly in place. I know bust support is an issue for lots of sewists planning swimwear – my bust is kind of average sized but I think this style of darted cup works great for it, giving good shape and support without the need for foam cups or underwires.

Self-drafted swimsuit
Self-drafted swimsuit

The FOE strapping crosses over in the back and joins the underbust line in a continuous loop. I’m really glad this came together exactly as it did in my head and feels very supportive without cutting into the shoulders.

Self-drafted swimsuit

I cut the bottoms quite low with plenty of seat coverage. Again the FOE keeps everything snug and I’m sure it’ll stand up to serious swimming just fine. I know there are concerns about FOE degrading in chlorine and salt water over time so I’m interested to see how it fares. Unfortunately there are no beach trips on my horizon for a few months yet so the acid use test will have to wait a bit.

Self-drafted swimsuit

In terms of supplies: the main fabric is from Funki Fabrics, who kindly sent me the fabric for free to try. I’m really pleased with it – it was very easy to work with, the print is sharp and vibrant, and though I haven’t used it in water yet I hope it holds up well. They have a million choices of prints and plain swim lycras so it’s a great choice for UK sewists looking to get into swimwear. The lining is from Fabricland (eye-searing website trigger alert – find it in the Swim/Dance section, it’s called ‘Lining Skin Thin Jersey’) and FOE from Plush Addict.

I’m so happy with how this suit came out that I’m thinking of digitising the pattern and instructions, would anyone be interested? Either way, when I make the next one I’ll at least be sure to take some photos and share some of things I learned along the way.

Inspired by… A trip to Manchester

I had a lovely weekend just gone visiting my parents in (an unusually) sunny Manchester. We hit one of my favourite fabric shops, checked out the high street then popped to a fashion exhibition at the Art Gallery.

Abakhan, Manchester

Obviously the first port of call was a trip to remnant superstore Abakhan. It looks pretty unassuming from outside, but I think it’d be impossible to come away from here empty handed: a rummage always turns up some goodies. I think surprisingly it’s actually pretty much the only fabric store in central Manchester, so luckily it’s a goodun.

Abakhan, Manchester

In case you haven’t been, one half of the store has racks with fabrics organised by type. It’s especially good for craft cottons (with some especially brilliant/bananas Americana prints), soft spandex jersey prints, viscose dress prints, swim lycra, plain georgettes and coatings. The pieces are generally 1-3 metres, and the staff will usually cut them down for you if you want less. You pay by the weight, which range from £8-12 per kilo. That works out at roughly £2-5 a metre depending on the fabric type.

Abakhan, Manchester
Abakhan, Manchester

The other half has fabrics by the roll – I usually only skim these, they aren’t that exciting – plus there’s an upstairs with notions/haberdashery. AND there are grab bags of zips, elastic and buttons for super cheap (25 zips for 2 quid), great for stash building. Heaven, in other words, and pretty much worth the trip to Mancs alone for the dedicated sewist. They do sell online as well, but not nearly as much range and you miss out on the joy of the rummage.

This time I was pretty focused in my buying (like with Shaukat, it’s good to go in with a plan) and I came away with a very cohesive little set of black/beige/brown prints. These are mostly nice drapey viscose prints with a couple of spandex blend knits. I’m going to have to be careful to not just make a billion camisoles which will only be seasonally appropriate for another month, so perhaps some sleeved tees and dresses are in order. I can’t wait to get sewing. Oh and my bill for this lot, about 8m of fabric – under 25 quid. My mum and my sister also bought fabrics for me to make things for them. Eek!

Afterwards, I was quite inspired by a nose in Urban Outfitters on Market Street. I hardly ever go into high street stores these days (though I still browse for sewspiration online) but it was nice to go and soak up some ideas for how to use my new fabrics. Here are some things that caught my eye.

uo1

I’m still into playsuits in a big way, and the neckline cut outs here remind me of the Deer and Doe Datura. *plots pattern mashup*

uo2

A slightly grungy button up skirt with lace trim. I did actually buy a dress with trim like this recently because I had some store credit, and I want to make a ton of copies. I think little details like buttons and lace trims help to make me-mades look a bit more rtw, and they don’t take long to do.

uo6

A few variations on the cami/babydoll dress. I’m going to self-draft my own dream version – so much scope for fun strap placements and skirt options.

uo7

Oversize roll-back sleeve Scout? Yup please.

Manchester art gallery

Finally, we popped to the Manchester Art Gallery, where coincidentally there was a temporary show called Cotton Couture, displaying a range of 1950s garments commissioned by the Cotton Board to promote the area’s cotton production and show its versatility as a fibre.

Manchester art gallery
Manchester art gallery
Manchester art gallery

The aim was to show that cotton can be used for everything from suits to ballgowns, not just the traditional workwear and undergarments. All these samples have an 18″ waist by the way, to fit the models of the time – JEEZ. All in all a lovely trip with plenty of sewing inspiration fuel.

Sew Bossy: McCalls 6960

SEW+BOSSY+BADGE

I’ve been bossed! I’m sure you’ve heard of the Sew Bossy initiative started by Heather, but if not, the idea is you team up with another sewing blogger and swap a secret package in the post containing everything they need to make a garment. They HAVE to make the project just as you ask, then both projects are blogged! I was really excited to be challenged to a Sew Bossy swap by Emily of Seymour, after she saw my comment on Morgan and Sally‘s swap saying how fun it looked. I love Emily’s laid-back, crisp and minimal style so it seemed like a good match. I had fun picking out her kit and nervously sent it off, hoping she’d like it, while awaiting my own from over the pond.

Sew bossy: McCalls 6960

I didn’t have long to wait, and the package was definitely a surprise! Firstly there were some lovely local Washington coffee beans – I’m a big home coffee drinker so that was an awesome gift. The pattern Emily chose for me is McCalls 6960, a summery cami with a swingy shape and some very cool strap options. I was really pleased with this as I rarely buy top patterns in favour of dresses, but definitely need more of them in my wardrobe and am on a summer top kick at the moment. The fabric is a breezy rayon challis in a colour and print very out of my usual comfort zone – I don’t typically do stripes, brights or white, eek! But it felt delicious, and she also thoughtfully included some cotton voile to use as lining/underlining, plus matching interfacing and thread. Challenge accepted!

Sew bossy: McCalls 6960

Here’s my bossed make! I went for view C of the pattern which has a very cool T-shaped chunky back strap. I considered the the stripe placement across the body as I cut the fabric, placing the wider strips of colour across the top and bottom, with narrower stripes in the midsection.

Sew bossy: McCalls 6960

You’ll notice a bit of enforced pattern deviation. My first baste-together showed it was way too big all over (even though I sized down to account for oversizedness) with some pretty epic gaping around the neckline. I pleated out about 2″ of excess fabric at the front, topstitching it all the way down to form a faux button band. I actually think this detail really makes the top now, especially as I picked out some jaunty little anchor buttons from my stash to tie into the nautical stripes. I love a happy accidental ‘design decision’.

Sew bossy: McCalls 6960

I like the flash of shoulder blade in the back and it was surprisingly easy to fit – no adjustments needed, even for my weird shoulders and back. I thought the stripes might look odd across the curved top strap so cut it out of one of the wide solid red stripes in the fabric.

Sew bossy: McCalls 6960

Sew bossy: McCalls 6960

I gave myself some extra fun by following my own bad advice and completely discarding the pattern instructions. I’m always turned off when a pattern has lots of stop-and-starting of seams, ie for the back straps there was lots of ‘stitch to the marked dot, turn right sides out, press in the seam allowance and finish the seam from the outside’. Way too fiddly, so I attempted to bag out as much of it as possible. I came unstuck a bit at one point when I sewed a giant Möbius strip which wouldn’t turn right sides out again, but unpicking one shoulder seam and handsewing it shut again sorted it out. I ended up with a nice clean finish on the inside so it was worth a bit of extra brainpower. The cotton voile is a dreamy lining fabric, pressed beautifully and feels really good to wear.

Sew bossy: McCalls 6960

As I was making this I had guilty thoughts about overdyeing the finished garment black or navy to make it more wearable for me, but actually the cheery colours and stripes are growing on me, especially for summer and holidays. What do you guys think? – I feel like you sometimes know my taste better than I do! Either way I’m really glad to have done Sew Bossy and been pushed to try things I wouldn’t normally pick for myself, and I’ll certainly be using the pattern again. Thanks for being a great swap partner, Emily! Be sure to head over to her blog to see what I bossed her into making – it’s gorgeous, if I say so myself :)

Ikat Everyday Skirt

Ikat Everyday Skirt

Yikes, three blue printed makes in quick succession? At least this is a different kind of garment! You might have noticed a distinct lack of skirts from me until now. I’m not really sure why that is, as I wear skirts pretty often and have a few RTW ones in regular rotation. I suppose maybe it’s because I don’t see many skirt patterns that particularly inspire me, and I’m quite particular about waistband level and flare amount on my skirts. It’s something I’m keen to put right now though, and this awesome little pattern is a good kick-start to some skirty sewing.

Ikat Everyday Skirt

This is the Liesl & Co Everyday Skirt. I was tempted to go the self-draft route for my dream skirt, but this pattern is basically it: flat side panels for hip-skimming effect, pockets tucked into in a front-shifted seam and a flat-fronted waist with just the back elasticated. There are some very cute versions of it in the blogosphere which sealed the deal: Kelly, youandmie, Fa Sew La. The PDF pattern is really good – unusually, you cut the pieces out first, before sticking together. This saves both paper and tape – the printout is only 20 pages. Top marks for that, Liesl!

Ikat Everyday Skirt

I didn’t bother with a toile as it’s elasticated at the waist, and cut straight into my lovely Michael Miller ikat print, which I bought a while ago on Fabric.com. It’s a quilting cotton, but good quality and with a little stretch/give which makes it very comfy to wear.

Ikat Everyday Skirt

Making the skirt up was really fun and the instructions are great. It’s got a particularly good way to add the faced front waistband – you sew it to the wrong side of the skirt first, then fold it over to the right side with the seam allowance tucked under and topstitch. This is the opposite way to how waistbands usually go on, but it makes way more sense, giving a cleaner and more accurate finish since you don’t need to stitch ‘blind’ from the RS to catch the loose folded edge underneath. I’ll be adding it to my list of go-to techniques.

Ikat Everyday Skirt

I got a little bit confused about how to finish the last side seam with the elastic enclosed, but just ended up catching it in the side seam which seems fine. The pattern recommends sewing two channels and using thinner elastic, but I just went for one piece of wide elastic (as I recently bought a whole reel in bulk), topstitched down the middle so it doesn’t twist.

Ikat Everyday Skirt

Even though I sized down to a small, the skirt ended up a bit too big so I had to pull the elastic quite tightly at the back. This gives me a bit of bunching at the back and also pulls the side seams backward, but it’s not toooo noticeable because I matched up the pattern pretty well. Next time I’ll reduce the width of both the front and back pieces by an inch or so. I also probably cut it a shade too short since I like it near my natural waist, oops.

Ikat Everyday Skirt

GRATUITOUS POCKET CLOSE UP. It’s a good pocket, perfect size and position.

Ikat Everyday Skirt

Tidy guts, all allowances overlocked, except I just missed catching all the pocket tops in the waistband. I’m really happy with this pattern: I need more skirts in both prints and solids so once I’ve tweaked the fit I think this’ll be a TNT for me. I can imagine it’d be great in loads of fabrics, from chambray to floppy viscose – even a ponte knit perhaps – and will transition well into cooler weather with tights. Truly an everyday skirt!

Minerva network: Tessuti Pia dress

Quick thanks first for all the lovely comments on my Anna! I’m so proud of it and reading your encouraging comments only make me want to continue doing better and better with my sewing :)

Tessuti Pia dress

Here’s my Minerva make for this month. It’s a (slightly modified) Tessuti Pia sundress, using this luscious batik print cotton lawn. I actually made this quite a while ago and even wore it to the Minerva meetup day back in June! It’s a bit different in style to what I usually go for (I mean apart from all my obvious usual hallmarks: abstract print, blue/black colours, pockets…) but I’ve been wearing it a lot in this sunny London weather.

Tessuti Pia dress

It’s the first Tessuti pattern I’ve made and I’m afraid it gave me a bit of grief, mostly down to the PDF itself. It is SIXTY NINE pages long (!) so very intensive on paper and ink. I literally had to print it out in chunks over a few days to make it seem less daunting, then felt like apologising to some trees. The main reason is that the pieces aren’t nested, ie the XS/S are laid out separately to M/L/XL, which would be fine if that was noted somewhere so you could selectively print only the size you wanted, but all but impossible to deduce before printing them all out. I ended up recycling at least twenty unused sheets which is pretty unacceptable. There are also a bunch of pieces which have to be cut out of something called Vilene Shield (used to temporarily stabilise the arm and neck edges for finishing, I think). I’ve never heard of it so didn’t use any of those pieces either.

Tessuti Pia dress

Luckily after the nightmare of printing and assembly the dress was simple to put together. The instructions are good and each step is clearly photographed. I especially liked how the instructions show where and how to finish raw edges with an overlocker as you go – so often that is missed out. The front pockets are constructed so the inner pocket is smaller than the outer, causing them to droop open in quite a pleasing way. I think this would be even more effective in a slightly drapier fabric than this crisp lawn.

Tessuti Pia dress

As I mentioned, I didn’t use the Vilene method to finish the neckline and armsyces but instead drafted a simple all-in-one facing which was burrito’d and topstitched. Another example of deviating from instructions and swapping out finishes and techniques to suit my own preferences.

Tessuti Pia dress

I cut the smallest size because it’s designed oversized, and made quite a lot of fitting adjustments directly to the paper pattern. I took about 4″ off the bodice length and at least 10″ off the skirt because looking at other versions of this dress I figured a higher waistline and shorter length would be better on me. Halfway through making it I was still convinced it would look awful on me, but actually I really like it – it’s different to my usual silhouette but very easy to wear and nice and breezy for hot days.

Tessuti Pia dress

Once constructed I felt it was still a bit too straight-up-and-down, so added a little smocking detail into the front and back to add a touch more waist shaping. Really pleased with how this worked out: it’s just small pieces of thin elastic stretched and sewn onto the inside. This lawn was really scrummy to work with and feels great to wear – perfect for a loose summer sundress. I think it’s got a nicer handle than Liberty lawn, which I find can be a bit clingy and crease-prone, especially unlined. This one resists wrinkles much better but still has the characteristic fine weave which makes it delightful to sew and to wear. You can find the fabric here, and the Tessuti Pia pattern here.

Celebration Anna

Anna dress

This dress is a double celebratory one for me. Firstly, I think it shows how much I’ve progressed in my sewing, even since March when I made my last Anna (which I cringe when I look at now!). Secondly, I got round to re-making the Anna in order to wear to By Hand London’s Kickstarter celebration party on Friday!

Anna dress

This time round my Anna fits like a glove, and a few little tweaks here and there have got it just to my liking. I used Ginger’s tutorial to take out some back-neck excess (quite a lot in my case) and lowered the front neckline a little.

Anna dress

I moved the zip to the underarm side seam – I’ve grown to dislike centre-back zips a lot, both from an aesthetic and practical point of view. The zip is even hand-picked! I’m a changed sewist, man.

Anna dress

The bodice is lined in my beloved stretch mesh instead of using facings. I burrito’ed the lining to attach it to the sleeve edges with all raw edges enclosed, but found that I needed to both understitch and edgestitch the neckline and sleeves to keep it tucked inside. Like with my Centaurée, I didn’t make a duplicate bodice for the lining but traced the constructed bodice, leaving the bust pleats off. I like this technique with a stretch lining as it lies very smoothly with no additional bulk from two sets of pleats.

Anna dress

I swapped out the gored skirt for one of my all-time favourites, Simplicity 1610 – same as my kitty dress (which has recently undergone surgery to make it fit better). I maintain that it has the quickest and cutest yoked pockets ever. I had a feeling it would be a successful match for the Anna bodice and love how it turned out.

Anna dress

The pocket edges match up nearly exactly with the first set of bodice pleats, and I pleated the centre of the skirt by eye to match the other line of pleats. Looking at this makes me happy.

Anna dress

The back is just gathered between the darts and the skirt hem is a deep machine blind. Look at the perfectly fitting back! Don’t think I’ve ever had a non-stretch bodice fit so well.

Anna dress

The fabric is part of my Quito haul. I wish I’d bought more of this one as it’s totally dreamy: it’s a fairly heavy poly crepe so hangs really beautifully, sews easily and doesn’t require lining. The subdued but fun (Pacman, anyone?) print and colours make it suitable for day and evening occasions: a real wardrobe workhorse but still a bit special. It reminds me of something that my ultimate brand crush Sessun might make. Luckily I think I have enough fabric left for a little cami or something as well.

BHL Party
BHL Party
BHL Party

As I said, I wore this frock on Friday to the By Hand girls’ party to celebrate reaching their Kickstarter goal to fund their foray into fabric printing. Naturally there was a bunch of beautiful By Hand dresses on show, including no less than ten Annas. It was an amazing night, which culminated in a circle-dance lovefest to ‘Let’s Get It On’ before a sprint down the road to catch the last train home. Congrats, girls!