Liberty of London SWIMSUITS

Did you know Liberty of London makes swimsuit fabric? I sure didn’t! But I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to sew some up recently, courtesty of The Fabric Store. The special occasion is because they are now stocking it in their online store. Given the amount of swimsuits I’ve been sewing lately, I’m super excited to have another source of beautiful swimsuit fabrics at my online fingertips.

It’s no secret that swimming has become a family affair for us. All three of my daughters enjoy the sport, and my two eldest girls currently identify as mermaids. In fact, it’s because of them that I found myself back in the water. Over the past year, I’ve been gradually increasing my swim volume and boosting my fitness with as much cross training as possible (within the time constraints of adulthood!). At some point along the way, I agreed to join the Missouri Valley team at the US Masters Swimming Summer Nationals. The key relay organiser obviously saw more potential in me than the confidence I had in myself at the time.

Anyway, to cut a long story short (so I can get back to raving about Liberty of London swimsuit fabric!), I recently got back from competing in Minneapolis. It was amazing!!! The nerves, the pain, the competition. I don’t quite know where it came from, but I raced like I’d never left the sport, and came home with golds in the 50m, 100m, and 200m backstroke, as well as three additional relay golds. My times were a lot slower than what I was doing 20 years ago (as expected!), but I was extremely happy with myself, and I can see a lot of room for improvement yet (before old age does me in!). I’ve posted a couple of photos and a race video on IG for anyone interested.

Meanwhile, my girls and I have all had a nice, little break from the pool, and we are all about to jump back in for the new season. There’ll be plenty more bathers sewn over the coming year, but I actually have bigger plans afoot than outfitting the family. At the moment, I’m busy perfecting a couple of sample blocks (both for myself (size 34) and my girls (size 26)). I’m investigating having them professionally graded. It’s anyone’s guess what will happen after that, but at the very least, it will be nice for me to have more than a single size to sew for my three girls!

I’ve already sewn up two suits from my Liberty of London fabric, and I have a few more raring to go on the cutting table. I’m not quite on top of my photos, but there are plenty of sneak peeks on my IG accounts.

This particular suit was sewn up for Miss Seven in Mistral/B. Miss Nine is wearing it in the photos for a sample size study because she fits the measurements more closely (and she’s much less fidgetty!). She’s on the upper end of the size range for this suit. It fits her perfectly and it would be great for racing, but she could stand to go up a size for practice.

It looks like a pretty simple suit, but it’s taken me about ten versions to get to this point. There is more to a practice suit than meets the eye, and it’s no different for a kid than an adult. You need to consider the height of the neckline, whether it will slip down with swimming, pressure of the straps on the shoulders, no scratchy elastic edges on the back, a secure fit through the chest and hips (that FEELS secure to the swimmer too), a bottom that doesn’t balloon with water each time you flip-turn, non-restictive leg openings, and of course the elimination of seams that rub under the arms and at the neck with repeated arm motion. I think we got it covered with this suit… finally! I don’t tell this girl which suits to wear for practice, but I can see that she prefers my design now over her multitude of others.

But back to the fabric. It really is very lovely. It’s a quality, mid-weight swimsuit fabric, with great stretch recovery and a beautiful smooth feel to the hand. I know I should expect nothing less from Liberty of London. The fabric composition is 72% Polymide, 28% Elastane, so I’m guessing it will perform well in the pool, and last even better if lined. I fully line all my suits because the lining significantly prolongs the life of the suit. It creates a barrier between a hot, sweaty body to slow down the degradation of the lycra. It also protects modesty as the chlorine and sun fades the fabric over time.

Stay tuned for more as I finish sewing up the rest of my swimsuit fabric stash. And in the meantime, I encourage you to check out the new range of Liberty of London swimsuit fabrics on offer in The Fabric Store’s online shop.

 

 

 

I whipped up a matching top

The thing I love about sewing is that I really can just whip up anything at a moment’s notice. This top took all of ten minutes to make. It’s not perfect. The construction is basic. But I only had a few spare minutes and I desperately wanted to finish this up before I had to pack away my machine.

In hindsight, I really should have spent more time on it. I didn’t expect it to turn out quite so well though!

The striped fabric skirt is something you’ve seen before. I created it by sewing together strips of scrap fabric (in velvet, wool, and ponte). I ended up with a tiny bit spare that I used up in this top. There was not an ounce of wastage.

This is very fun outfit. I love the idea of perfectly matching separates as I think they produce an overall dressier look. However, when mixed and matched with jeans and other tops, these separates also dress down for a great casual feel.

Burdastyle paper bag waist shorts

These are my new favourite shorts. I need more of them. In linen. A pants version. A whole closet full would be nice.

The pattern is Burdastyle 111A shorts style. I made a few small modifications.

  • I omitted the front fly (might have been a faux fly…)
  • I also ommitted the belt carriers
  • I stitched down the facing and created an elastic casing as I did this. The shorts do not include an elastic waistband, but I wanted a pair of easy, comfy shorts that could be pulled on (as well as tied up with a big bow!).

I love my new shorts. The linen is from the Fabric Store; a most divine shade of Military Green. I love the exagerated paper bag waist of the design. I’ve been wearing them with a silk tank I made ages ago. The very pretty charmeuse is an oldie from Tessuti Fabrics. I can also see myself wearing these shorts with a billowy, white linen top in Fall.

 

Swimsuit sewing update

Swimsuit sewing is ongoing here. I basically just sew the same suits over and over again, so it hasn’t occured to me to blog about the new suits. However, I will share a couple of new pictures and my ongoing analysis of the suits and fabric.

Summer Swim League for my girls (all three of them this year!) is nearly ready to wrap up. Miss Nine has a few more bigger swim meets over the next fortnight before her season winds up, and I have national titles in Early August. After that, we’ll take a break from laps and spend the remaining weeks of Summer playing and splashing at the Kansas City pools. Our swimsuits have a LOT more Summer to get through yet!

I’m still perfecting the design of my own swimsuit. It takes a while because swimsuit fabrics can vary slightly in the way they stretch.  Also, I like to line my practice suits for longevity and the lining affects the fit too. I’ve purchased the same lining twice from the same vendor over the past year, and each time it’s been slightly different in terms of stretch and feel. I’m now making very minor adjustments to my pattern so that it will still work well across all these slight variances.

I’ve sewn more than a few suits since my last swimwear post. I tweaked the design on my last suit for a more secure back and a little more coverage, as you see in the photo below.

This has been my favourite suit so far. I thought it was perfect at the time, and it possibly was. I forget to take into account that my chest has grown a bit over the past few months, which may also be affecting swimsuit fit.

The fabric was from Tessuti Fabrics and I used black lining from The Fabric Fairy. I line ALL my suits with black as it means I never have to worry about the pale coloured fabrics fading. I thought I was being clever, but I recently purchased a RTW bikini from Jolyn (a label that all the cool and serious squad swimmers wear here in the Midwest). Jolyn lines all their coloured suits with dark grey too.

But back to my suit. I literally wore this suit to death, and it lasted very well. The green in the fabric faded from the chlorine before the fabric wore out. The lining held the suit together for a bit longer until I eventually had to retire it. The saggy butt look was not very attractive in the end.

Foolishly, I then started sewing another suit using the same pattern, but in a beautiful, (but completely inappropriate) fabric. The blue is fused lycra, so essentially two layers of swimsuit fabric fused together. It meant I could skip the lining, but the fabric also had less stretch than regular swimsuit fabric. The fit in this suit looks ok, but it’s like swimming in scuba gear (without stretch!). It’s amazing fabric for a bikini or recreational suit, but no good for practice at all. I wore it once.

I made a similar suit for Miss Nine using Jalie 3134. She rarely wears it, and I won’t make her as I know it isn’t very pleasant to swim in. The pattern design is good. I made a few tweaks to fit her better, but the fabric is unsuitable. Turns out, these are the only photos I have of her actually wearing it. Miss Seven is wearing one of my favourite little handmade suits, made to my own design.

Next up for me was a silver foil print version. It’s ok, but I feel like I need to increase the bust coverage a bit. I also made this version a little more high cut in the leg, but with the same back coverage (I just moved everything up a little higher). I love the higher cut leg. It definitely feels better in the water, and is more comfortable with leg motion. The back also fits a little closer over my bottom/lower back in this design.

I’m currently working on another suit for me, with a few pattern tweaks around the bust area.

Meanwhile, this leopard print suit nearly needs to be retired but I don’t have the heart to take it off her. The buzzy bee one  is also on its last legs (from love!). I actually made a second copy of the buzzy bees for another swim buddy. But I do LOVE the animal print fabric, and it held up beautifully in the chlorine and sun. I wish I had enough for myself, but I’m not sure I do.

My most recent make was a return to Jalie 3135 for Miss Five, using fabrics from The Fabric Fairy. She’s super cute in it. The design worked beautifully for here. I find the crotch in this pattern a little wide in the larger sizes, but the fit on my little one is not bad. Here are my three little mermaids in their favourite suits!

 

BHL Orsola dress in mustard linen

I’m excited to finally get to share my Orsola dress. It’s By Hand London‘s latest pattern release.

The Orsola dress is a true wrap dress. I sewed mine up in a beautiful linen from The Fabric Store.

I made a few small modification to my Orsola dress. I graded between sizes, sewing one size larger through the bust and blending to a smaller size through the waist and hips. I lengthened the bodice by 1/2 inch and the hem by 4 inches.

The bodice in the dress pattern has bust darts and waist darts. I’m an A-cup bust on a good day so I removed the bust darts, just keeping the waist darts for shape. It worked perfectly.

After toiling the skirt, I also removed the front darts. My body is angular rather than curvy and I didn’t need the extra fullness through the hips that the front darts provided. I also skimmed a few mm off the upper hip curve, just to reflect my shape better.

The result is a super comfortable and elegant dress that I’ve been wearing a great deal. It fills the ‘smart casual’ gap in my wardrobe perfectly. If I had more linen in my stash, I’d be inclined to sew up another!

 

BHL Poppy dress

The much anticipated release of the Poppy dress by By Hand London was today. I’m so glad I can finally share it because it’s become a big favourite in my wardrobe. I actually found #memademay a little difficult this year because I was reaching for my Poppy dress every second day, and yet I couldn’t really share it!

I made my first version in a truly lovely, Liberty of London cotton jersey from The Fabric Store. I wasn’t sure about the floral to begin with (I don’t really wear Liberty!). But now I love it SO much. The fabric is glorious to wear. It launders beautifully and has been wearing well.

The design is a simple, raglan knit dress with a twist. The shoulder pleats are the winning detail for me. They probably aren’t as pronounced in my make, but they give that little bit of extra room through the shoulders which makes this dress so good for me. I’d definitely recommend it for the #sewstrong #sewingstrong ladies out there.

It’s a very quick dress to make. I didn’t hem my dress because jersey doesn’t fray. After several wears, the hem and sleeves now have a really pretty rolled look to them and look about 1/2 inch shorter than in these photos (see today’s Instastory).

I loved my Liberty version of the Poppy dress so much that I made another last week, in a beautiful neutral viscose from Tessuti Fabrics. I love viscose jersey so much but a light coloured solid is probably not the most forgiving fabric to sew. At least you can see the great style lines of this dress better.

Refashioned into a LBD

A few years ago, I was playing around with a top design that had slightly dropped shoulders and statement sleeves. One of my early versions of this top was more of a tunic, and I had a little fun with it by adding a front cut out and big bow. This top was eventually refined into a more (daily) wearable Branson Top.

I always intendeded to make a short sleeved, dress version of the top but never got around to it. I guess this refashion is the next best thing!

All the ruffles

It all started with a Sachin & Babi dress that I fell instantly in love with. At that point, I wasn’t truly intending on making a dress, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how I would do it, if I ever decided to go ahead with it. I actually had the most perfect fabric in my stash already, which is rare, because I keep my stash pretty small. Every now and again, I purchase something on whim. It was how I ended up with several yards of the most beautiful sheer silk in shades of green. It will be a special occasion when I finally use it, and hopefully for my eldest daughter, as it was her hair and skin colouring that inspired me to buy it in the first place!

So, using my special fabric was out of the question. But I still couldn’t stop thinking about it. I started toying with the idea of refashioning another Archer in my wardrobe (my other ruffle refashion was an absolute winner!). But then I realised that I had enough of the vintage sheeting to simply start a dress from scratch.

I’d love to say that I had a pattern for this dress, but I made up a lotof it as I went along. It wouldn’t be hard to replicate though. All you need to know is how to make a flounce. You could use any princess seamed sundress pattern.

I started with a self-drafted, princess seamed dress bodice that I often use as a sloper. However, I’ve been doing a lot of swimming over the past year and I’m finding that a lot of my old memades aren’t fitting me so well anymore. My bust measurement has grown by a whole inch, unfortunately not my actual bust, but rather through my side back (the old latissimus dorsi). I ended up letting out the side seams under the arms but keeping the waist measurement the same. It worked perfectly. I also raised the neckline a little and brought the shoulder seams in towards the neck.

As to the ruffles, they are simply flounces that were measured and inserted into the princess seams. It was a little fiddly but perserverence paid off. I love the black insets on the front and back of the bodice, but I have to confess that these design features were the direct result of freestyling my sewing (forgetting a seam allowance) and having to fix the problems. The same happened with the skirt. I ended up recutting several panels more than once. First, I cut the skirt as one, but it didn’t look right without any flounces.  So, I seamed it down the front and back but followed the grainline for those seams. As soon as I inserted the first flounce I could see that it wasn’t going to work. I recut the skirt pieces with the seams parallel to the side seams. This makes the flounces fall in a nice bell shape with is prettier than straight lines down the front and back.

This dress is very ruffly! It has a lot of volume through the front bodice and the skirt. I’m fully aware that this is a style that wouldn’t work for everybody. It works well for me. I’m small busted, so the front ruffles add interest and size to the top. My body is somewhat triangular in shape, moreso as I get fitter and stronger. I don’t like emphasizing this shape, so having a bit of added body through the skirt creates the illusion of a more hourglass figure. Sewing is great because you can really play around with design to flatter and create illlusions!

And before I sign off on this dress, I just want to mention a couple of hashtags that I’ve started to use on instagram: #sewingstrong #sewstrong

All body types out there have their own sewing challenges. I can immediately think of patterns that are drafted for bigger busts, for pear shapes, and for petites. I’m not saying one is more challenging than the other, but simply that I have a harder time thinking of patterns that are drafted for tall ladies, small busted ladies, or very athletic shaped ladies. If you know of any, let me know! I would particularly love to know what patterns are working for ladies with broader backs, or strong shoulders. I know that I’ve occasionally turned to men’s shirt patterns, and Thread Theory’s Henley is an awesome fit on me. I’ve also been paying more attention to what Sallie sews lately, because I know if a shirt pattern fits her, it will probably work for me too. I’m hoping that this hashtag will be an easy way to pull up ideas for sewing patterns and flattering designs that work well on a strong female body. If you’re someone who struggles with fitting tops and dresses to a broader than average back, or strong shoulders, jump in and tag along.

 

Vogue 1027: a faux wrap dress

At some point, I must have decided that I needed more Summer neutrals in my closet. What better than a DKNY jersey dress in the most beautiful, weighty viscose. I’ve used several different shades of this viscose jersey over the years. It always sews up really nicely.

I’m also quite fond of Vogue patterns. I find they fit me very consistantly. I can make my standard adjustments and sew up the pattern right off the bat, without a muslin. My standard adjustments are 1/4 inch extra width through each shoulder seam, and lengthening a 1/2 inch through the bodice (#sewingtall). I usually also lengthen the hem length.

I didn’t bother with lengthening the skirt because I wasn’t planning on hemming the fabric. I prefer to leave a weighty viscose in a skirt like this with a raw hem. I feel like it looks a lot cleaner than a hem. However, having said that, I did follow the rest of the pattern instructions properly, which involved facings on the sleeves and a hemmed neckline. They worked out beautifully.

The measurements on the pattern envelope correspond very well to my actual size. I believe my dress reflects what I see on the pattern cover. I did make a few observations on the design, mostly relating to my fabric choice.

1. The waistline is supposed to be higher. Mine does technically sit in the right spot, but the weight of the fabric in the circle skirt pulls the dress and stretches the bodice down. Furthermore, I’ve folded the fabric belt half down to cover my elastic seaming below the waistline. I believe the belt is supposed to be folded up completely, again shortening the look of the bodice. It’s a catch-22. I adore the drape of a weighty viscose, but it does make for a heavier dress.

2. The instructions say to create casing for elastic with an extra seam below the bodice seam, using the seam allowances from inside the dress. Looking at the pattern cover, I’m not convinced that they did this step. I don’t like the look of this seam line on the finished dress, so I’ve tried to hide it with the belt. Also, measure your own waist to determine the elastic length required. Their measurements here are completely off. My elastic probably isn’t tight enough to hold the heavy skirt up adequately, but I was wary of too-tight elastic being uncomfortable and creating too much “gathering” through the waist seam.

3. Considering the 4-way stretch of my jersey, I probably could have sized down through the waist and skirt to achieve a more snug fit (which I feel would suit the style of jersey I used). I also wonder what the crossover bodice would look like if I ditched the pleats (I certainly don’t need the space with my bust size!). I’m not unhappy with the way this dress turned out. The bodice fit is good, and the shoulders are comfortable. And the dress even has pockets!

I will definitely sew this pattern again, maybe in a bit more colour next time. Meanwhile, I can see myself wearing this dress quite a bit over the next few months.

 

Grainline Archer refashioned

Unless my memory fails me, this was the second Grainline Archer I ever made. I think I ended up getting the fit right on my third try. I still wore the original version of this shirt, but it’s become way too tight across my shoulders since my return to the pool.

It was time to put this shirt to better use. I was lucky enough to have a decent sized remnant of the original fabric in my stash which meant I could go to town with my flounces. As beautiful as they are, flounces are very big fabric hogs!

I wish I took photos of my refashion during the process. I didn’t. However, I’ve drawn a few diagrams to help. It wasn’t a complicated refashion. I started by cutting off the sleeves of the shirt. Then I pencilled my intended seam on the remainder of the shirt. The diagram below shows the new seam I created. The front seam is red (on the front shirt pieces) and the back seam is green (imagine it on the back shirt pieces). Both are connected at the shoulder seam. I wanted the diagonal seam to be wider at the shoulder yoke seams and more medially placed towards the shirt hem. I brought the seam closest to the CF in the front of the shirt. The scariest bit was cutting along this seam and keeping both sides exactly even! After cutting, I then had three shirt pieces that I needed to stitch back together, taking into account the new seam allowances that would be eating into my shirt size!

For the flounce, I simply measured the entire length of the new seam and used that as a reference for the curved edge of a flounce. A flounce pattern piece is basically a big circle. I made mine a bit wider at the centre point (the area covering the shoulders). I also added an extra four inches (approx.) to the length of my flounce as I knew I wanted to add a couple of pleats over the shoulder region. The diagram below is an approximate representation of my flounce piece. Imagine it trued and smooth in real life!

I faced the flounce with self-bias-binding before I sandwiched it between the pieces of shirt. And once the flounce was attached and the shirt was in one piece again, I tried it on. I used 1cm seam allowances with my new seam so I knew that I lost exactly 8cm in shirt girth by inserting the flounce (2cm on each front and back seam). To compensate this, I decided to add contrast white panels down the sides of the shirt. This alteration in turn, would eat up another 2cm on each side of the shirt. So, I measured 8cm wide panel pieces to attach to the sides. The panel width is 6cm (incl. 2cm of seam allowances). These side panels returned the shirt to the same shirt-fit as before. I then bound the armscye and hemmed the bottom a little straighter and shorter than before.

I’m not joking when I say that this is my new favourite skirt. I’ve already worn it a lot. It pairs beautifully with skirts for an elegant evening look. But I also love it with jeans when I’m aiming for polished casual.