A couple of nights ago we had the most beautiful sunset. It was raining lightly, but the sky to the west had cleared and the sun came through under the clouds, turning the rainy city gold. I wish I were the sort of photographer who could capture that beauty for you, but my photos never come out very well without people in them. I tried anyway.
Monthly Archives: May 2011
Saturday morning was sunny and blue. I put on my summer skirt and set to work on the huge pile of unsewn swimsuits on my sewing table. By the time I decided to take a break, it was gray and rainy. No good for going out in, but rather nice light for a few pictures by the kitchen door.
If you are considering making a very full pleated skirt like this one, do yourself a favor and hem it on the machine. I must have spent three hours hemming this, and while it looks quite nice, it’s just not worth it. I do like the look of a high waisted yoke and a full skirt, but this one is not going in the shop. Maybe a machine hemmed version.
There are endless different ways to vary the pattern for high waisted bikini bottoms, and most of the fun of making your own clothes is coming up with your own variations. But to get you started, here are some of the versions I’ve made.
In pink above and immediately bellow, a version with gathered side panels. To do this, cut a three inch wide strip off the side of the pattern for the swimsuit front. Extend this piece upwards by several inches and add seam allowance. Gather these side strips on each side, and sew to the front and back pieces.
Bellow are a few pictures of a boy short bikini bottom with gathered sides. To make this swimsuit, cut an inch or two off the top of the bikini bottom pattern (not much, since the gathering will also shorten it). Gather along the side seams in front and in back. The edges of this swimsuit are finished without elastic, just rolled and sewn, so they ride up a bit. Personally I don’t like this look as much, but perhaps you do.
The swimsuit used to illustrate this pattern and sewing instructions has a waistband that ties at one side. To add ties to your waistband, cut the waistband 10-14 inches longer than your swimsuit waist. Fold the waistband width-wise with the right sides facing in. Sew up each end of the waistband along the short end and 5-7 inches along the edge (depending on how long you made it). Turn right side out and sew the unfinished middle portion of the waistband to the waist of the swimsuit. Tie the ends.
Next week: bikini tops.
Reminder: You will need less than 1 yard swimsuit fabric, a very small piece of lining fabric (can be replaced with more of the main fabric or left out entirely), 3 yards 1/8 inch elastic, and matching thread.
Cut out the front and back from the swimsuit fabric and the liner from lining fabric.
Pin the front and back pieces together, with the right sides facing in. Sew up both sides and along the crotch, using a slight zigzag stitch. Pin the liner to the inside of the crotch. I used to sew it in place separately, but Prima who did this part on 5 swimsuits this weekend reports that there’s really no need – you can sew it in with the elastic.
Sew the elastic to the wrong side of the fabric at the edge of the leg hole, using an 1/8 inch zigzag and beginning at the crotch seam. Hold the elastic tight, but don’t stretch it. When you reach the end, cut off the extra elastic. Fold the edge of the leg hole over so the fabric wraps over the elastic. Fold again. Sew down this folded edge, stretching the fabric and elastic slightly as you sew.
The simplest way to finish the top is to put in elastic, just like you did for the leg holes. It’s easier to sew this seam, since it’s straighter.
Alternatively, you can sew on a waistband. To do this, cut a strip of fabric as long as the waist of your swimsuit and 3″ wide. Fold this piece in half lengthwise with the right sides facing in, and sew up the short end. Fold the loop you’ve just created so that the right side of the fabric shows on both sides. Sew the raw edge of the loop to the top of your swimsuit using a slight zigzag stitch.
We interrupt our ongoing swimsuit tutorial to admire my mother’s roses again. I’ve been wanting to take these photos for weeks. I tried to do it as a self portrait with tripod and remote, and I’m fairly happy with how that came out. But these are closer to what I imagined. It’s much easier to take pictures of someone else, where you can see the picture through the view finder and not just in your imagination.
Prima’s wearing the under dress for a regency costume she made. It is available in her shop.
These are the pieces of my pattern for high waisted bikini bottoms:
The pattern comes in two sizes: “small” (24-30″ waist, 33-38″ bottom) and “large” (28-36″ waist, 36-46″ bottom). I don’t think these sizes correspond very well to standard sizes, they’re just the two sizes I have my pattern in. Use the measurements above, or the more detailed measurements bellow to figure out which size is better for you. To use the pattern just click on each of these pictures and keep clicking until you get the full size image. Print it out, check that the 1″ mark really is 1″, tape the pieces together at the stars and dots, and cut out your swimsuit.
Swimsuits are stretchy, and these two standard sizes will fit a range of people pretty well, but I always adjust them to more closely fit the person they’re for. To do this you will need these measurements.
1. Waist. Measure where you want the top of the swimsuit to be. For this high waisted style that will be your natural waist, somewhere near your belly button.
2. Bottom. Measure around the largest part of your lower body.
3. Thigh. Measure around the top of your thigh.
4. Side height. The length you want the side to be, from the edge of the leg opening to the waist.
5. Front length. From the waist in front to crotch center.
6. Back length. From the waist in back to crotch center.
Next, scale those numbers for swimsuit fabric. Swimsuit fabric is stretchy, and you want the swimsuit to stretch a bit when you wear it. This will help it stay on and keep it from sagging in an unflattering way. Your swimsuit should be at 10% – 30% smaller than you. All of the swimsuits shown here are on the 10% end, because we’re not fans of the skin-tight slightly squished look a smaller swimsuit gives, but we’re also not serious swimmers. A tighter swimsuit is more secure. For a splashing around in the ocean swimsuit, multiply all your measurements by 0.9; for a looking-cute-while-swimming suit, multiply by 0.8; for a bikini you can dive in, multiply by 0.7 and take the elastic option whenever there’s a choice of how to finish an edge.
Using your adjusted measurements, make sure that the pattern measurements match your measurements. Modify the pattern as needed, keeping in mind that it will stretch more over your bottom, while the elastic or waist band can bring it in slightly at the waist (my measurements are waist 25″, bottom 38″ and the size small fits me perfectly).
The pattern measurements for the size small are approximately:
For the large:
I spent all day Sunday making swimsuits, with help from Rosalie and Prima (and will probably be spending most of my time making swimsuits for the next couple of weeks). Making swimsuits is not as hard as it sounds, and very rewarding – you get the swimsuit you want. One that fits well and covers what you want to cover and shows what you want to show. It’s no more work than a dress and a fun thing to add to your repertoire.
There are several steps that might be confusing to a new sewer, and I’d like to go over them in more detail than I sometimes do, so I’m going to break this into a few posts. To begin with, lets talk about the fabric. You really want spandex. It holds its shape when wet, is easy to move in when you’re swimming, and holds up pretty well in chlorine. If you’re just going to be lounging on the beach you can use whatever fabric you want, but if you want to swim in your suit, it’s worth getting material designed for that purpose.
One lucky day I found a bolt of swimsuit fabric at one of my local fabric stores, and I hope that you will also be so lucky. When I’m not I order it online. There are a few Etsy sellers who carry it, although the only one I’ve ever purchased from has closed. Mostly I buy from Spandex World, which has a $20 minimum order, but a huge selection of swimsuit fabric. I like the milliskin matte fabric, which is somewhat less shiny than ordinary spandex. If you’re trying to fill up a $20 order, it’s nice to have mesh lining fabric, but if you’re buying from your local fabric store and they don’t have any don’t worry about it – you can always line with your main fabric.
When your fabric arrives be sure to wash and dry it the way your usually launder your swimsuits.
You will also need matching thread, 3 yards of 1/8 inch elastic (more for larger sizes), and may want some of those molded bust pads that many swimsuits have.
Next: A pattern for bikini bottoms.
Thursday was my birthday, and my boyfriend gave me a flash for my camera. I spent Saturday morning playing with it and the different sort of light it makes.
In the afternoon we went to see Balenciaga and Spain, an exhibition at the De Young museum. It was wonderful! If you’re in the San Francisco area, I highly recommend it. Now I want to put bows on everything.
My dress is a variation on my picnic dress (tutorial here), in solid cotton with a decorative waistband and ties. Since the fabric is only patterned on one side I made the ties a bit differently. I cut four pieces instead of two, paired them with the right sides facing in, sewed along both long sides and one short, turned them right side out, and sewed the unfinished end into the side seam. You might want to top stitch along the edges, although I just ironed them flat.
Isabel’s skirt and shoes are thrifted, my shoes are from this lovely Etsy store, and I made Isabel’s hair clip by sticking a bunch of feathers to black electrical tape and gluing that to a clip. Very fancy.
Marigold over at Hideous! Dreadful! Stinky! is organizing a summer sewing challenge: make a skirt (or dress) a week for the month leading up to summer. To help those of you participating in this Summer of No Pants, I have a tutorial for an easy a-line skirt.
My least favorite part of making a skirt is hemming. You’re nearly done with a skirt – you can try it on and see how beautiful it will look – but you can’t wear it out just yet. It still needs a hem. You can hem it by hand, folding up the edge half an inch and then three more inches and taking tiny stitches along this edge. Your skirt will hang nicely, with a clean edge ready for twirling. But this beautiful hem will take hours, postponing that exciting moment when you leave the house in your new skirt. You could take the easy way out, folding up half an inch, then half an inch again and stitching it down on the machine. But it’s hard to make the curved edge of a skirt lie flat like this, and even when you get it right it gives the fabric a stiff edge that doesn’t move as well as a wider hem. The solution? A contrast band sewn around the edge. It can be sewn on a machine, there’s nothing to keep flat, it doesn’t stiffen the bottom edge, and the contrasting color is a nice detail.
You will need
1 1/4 yards main fabric
1/2 yard contrast fabric
A 9″ zipper (or a 7″ zipper and a button)
To make the pattern:
Making a pattern for an a-line skirt is pretty straight forward. I made half a pattern piece and cut two pieces on the fold. Measure around your waist (where you want the skirt to sit). Draw a slightly curved line 1/4 this length at the top of a large piece of paper (newspapers work well). Next, measure from your waist down to the point where you want the skirt to end. Subtract 3” from this measurement to get the length of the skirt (you’ll add the extra length back in with the contrast band at the hem). Measure out the skirt length straight down from the inner edge of the waist curve and draw along this line. When you cut your fabric pieces, you will fold the fabric in half lengthwise and put this line along the fold. Measure the skirt length from the outer edge of the curve, angling the measuring tape out somewhat to give the a-line shape, and draw along this line. Measure out several other points along the waist curve and mark where the end of the skirt will be. Draw a curve connecting these points. Cut out your pattern piece, fold your fabric lengthwise, and cut two identical pieces. This will be the front and back of your skirt (for this skirt the front and back are identical). Measure the bottom edge of your skirt and cut out a 6” wide strip of contrast fabric 1″ longer than your skirt edge. You may need to sew together two or more pieces of fabric to get a long enough strip. For the waist band, cut out a strip of fabric 3” wide and 1 1/2” longer than your waist measurement.
Putting together the skirt:
To assemble the skirt, sew the front and back together along one side. Fold the waistband in half and sew it to the top of the skirt. Put in the zipper at the open side and sew up the rest of the that side. Fold the contrast band in half lengthwise with the right side of the fabric facing in. Sew up the end of the band, making a loop. Fold together the remaining edges of the band so that only the right side of the fabric shows. Sew the contrast band to the edge of the skirt.
To put in the zipper:
Putting in zippers is my worst sewing skill. I don’t have a zipper foot (I don’t know why not – I used to have two. They didn’t break and I don’t know how I lost something that never left the sewing machine table, but somehow I did), I pull too much on the fabric so the zipper buckles, and I’ve never figured out what to do at the end of the zipper where the seam starts. But this skirt needs a zipper, so here’s my best explanation of how to put one in.
First, sew down the bit of the zipper that extends past the teeth. Next, place your zipper at the edge of the fabric with the front of the zipper facing the front of the fabric. Sew the fabric and zipper together along the very edge. Do not pull on the fabric while you do this, or your zipper won’t lie flat. Repeat on other side. The bit of the zipper you pull on will get in your way at some point. When this happens turn the needle all the way down into the fabric, lift up the presser foot, and pull the zipper out of the way. On the outside of the skirt, turn over a small flap of fabric to cover the zipper. Sew down this flap from the top of the zipper to the bottom. Put the needle into the fabric, lift the presser foot, and turn the corner. Fold over a flap along the other side of the zipper and sew down the bottom of both flaps. Turn the corner again and sew up the other side of the zipper. Your zipper is in! Time to sew up the seam. I don’t know what other people do (maybe sew up the seam before they put in the zipper), but I have trouble sewing right next to the zipper, so I do the first couple of inches by hand, then switch to the machine.
To add a button (optional):
The Summer of No Pants crept up on me unexpectedly – one weekend I thought I had all the time in the world, the next I realized that between my sister’s graduation, my best friend’s dance show, and a big wholesale order coming in, all that time was filled. So I rushed to make this skirt right away from supplies I had lying around the house. On the whole this worked out well, but I didn’t have a long enough zipper in a remotely appropriate color. So I was stuck with a 5″ pants zipper. To fill up the extra space I needed to get into the skirt I added a button. If you’ve never made buttonholes before and are trying to turn out a skirt a week, I don’t recommend it, but if you just love the way it looks on my skirt and want a button of your own, here’s what you do.
Cut your waistband with an extra inch of length. Before you iron it down, fold it in half with the right sides facing in, sew up each side, and sew an inch along the bottom of one side. Turn it right side out, iron, and sew in as normal. Put in the zipper so it comes up to the bottom of the waistband. Cut a slit large enough to put your button through in the extra flap of waistband. Sew around this slit with blanket or buttonhole stitch (see picture). Sew the button to the other side.