Swimsuit fabric round up

If you follow  me on Instagram or Snapchat, you’d know that I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time at the pool this Summer. And trust me, as an ex-swimmer, I do not use the word “inordinate” lightly.

I never intended for my girls to love swimming. I just wanted them to be able to swim. But perhaps my standard for what constitutes proper swimming is slightly higher than the average Joe. And it’s also possible that my passion for the sport has rubbed off a little despite my best intentions. In any case, Miss Eight is obsessed. It’s also been stinking hot in Kansas City, so in addition to the practice and the meets, we’re at one of the local pools most evenings for a dip after dinner. Our bathers are getting a serious workout.

Finding the best swimsuit fabrics has been a big learning experience for me and not one that can be evaluated overnight. Feeling the fabrics and sewing with them is one thing, but it’s not until you immerse them in chlorine, salt, UV light, and sweat twice daily that you really get a good idea of what works the best. In order of preference (the top three tie), here are my honest evaluations.

Tessuti Fabrics:

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Tessuti Fabrics (floral)

Oh, you all know that I have a fondness for Tessuti Fabrics, but it’s not without good reason. I don’t think they’re really known for their swimsuit fabrics, but they do seem to get in a few nice prints each year. I’m pretty sure the owner hand picks their fabrics personally on their annual buying trips, but I’m not really sure where their swimsuit fabrics come from. I’ve used at least five different swimsuit fabrics of theirs (paisley, red cherries, green cherries, floral, rainbow scales) and they’ve outlasted all of the other swimsuit fabrics so far.

I should also note that leotards in our house are not just used for gymnastics. They’re rotated in as swimwear for play (not practice) because they offer a better cover up from the sun (and sometimes we can’t be bothered to get changed!). Yes, the prints have faded, but that happens with all swimsuit fabric exposed to chlorine and UV light. Yes, their fabrics may be a little more pricey than other places (but they’re a great bargain as a remnant) and the fabrics last.

Spoonflower:

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Tiger fabric: Spoonflower / Blue fabric: Hancocks

This was my biggest wild card. All I wanted was a tiger print and I would have bought the fabric from anywhere. I couldn’t find what I wanted so I had to make my own. I can’t comment on other Spoonflower fabrics but I really do love their sports lycra. Like Funki Fabrics, the print is placed on white fabric, but the fabric is quite thick as far as swimsuit fabrics go. It may have a tiny bit less stretch that comes with the thickness, but the weight lends itself to a flattering fit, no sagging, or losing shape when wet. And it looks great without lining.

So far, the integrity of all my Spoonflower sports lycra is exactly as it was when it was sewn. This is most apparent when it’s been paired with other fabrics (like the blue of the swimsuit above) that has fared a lot less well. I will definitely buy Spoonflower sports lycra again. It’s not cheap, but the quality is good (which means it lasts longer). And I save on not having to fully line it. I’m very keen to check out some other prints. I feel like this will become my “novelty” swimsuit fabric favourite for my girls.

The Fabric Store:

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Left: Tessuti Fabrics (paisley) / Right: The Fabric Store

I’ve only bought a few swimsuit fabrics from here, mostly designer brands. They were also awesome. The fabric faded over the years, but it generally retained it’s original elasticity and is lasting extremely well. And the key word you should note in that sentence was ‘years’. If a swimsuit fabric is lasting years over weeks, then there’s something good going on there.

The quality of the fabric was really high which I suspect is due to the fact that they were designer labels, like Anna & Boy and Zimmerman. I keep meaning to investigate their new online presence. I used to love visiting the Fabric Store when I lived in Sydney but they fell off the radar for me when I moved overseas.

The Fabric Fairy:

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I’ve only sewn with their Limited Edition Solids and swimsuit linings. I love their swimsuit linings. They have good colour choices in the linings and they work beautifully under swimsuit fabrics. The linings are also a pretty awesome price which will keep me going back.

I have a slightly different view of the solids, which is not to say that I won’t use them again. The Solids come in an amazing array of colours, which will tempt me back when I’m after something specific. They are also one of the smoothest and most luxurious swimsuit fabrics I have ever felt. However, even the colours that appear opaque really need to be lined if they are going to get wet. I’ve sewn with a blue, green and a grey. They all feel fabulous dry, but they just look too thin against the body when wet. When fully lined, it is an entirely different matter. I love my Splash Swimsuit, but without the lining I think it would be unwearable for an adult.

I’d be interested to see how their prints work, since I know a print can disguise a fabric’s shortcomings somewhat. I’ll also continue to use their solids for dancewear for my girls, as well as smaller contrast sections in swimwear.

Funki Fabrics:

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I was given these fabrics for free a while back, but like I said in that earlier post, it’s very difficult to make a proper assessment of swimsuit fabric without actually swimming. I’ll stand by what I said about their variety of prints.

Their printed swimsuit fabrics are probably the lightest weight I’ve dealt with, but only slightly so. They are also white-backed with a digitally printed front. I chose light-coloured prints which really needed to be lined (but this would be expected with any light-coloured print swimsuit fabric).

These fabrics did not last very long compared to my girls’ other swimsuits. They were actually the first swimsuits I had to throw away from having worn out, rather then been passed down to a smaller sister first. I’ll admit that we’re all pretty rough on our swimsuits here. I don’t rinse out the chlorine… ever! But I was still a little disappointed at how quickly these fabrics began to disintegrate.

However, it’s also important to note that Funki Fabrics do sell more robust swimwear fabrics, but just not in the prints that we’re used to seeing from them. Unfortunately, their Perform range only comes in black or white.

Hancocks:

My experience here is extremely limited and not likely to improve anytime soon since they’re closing their doors. But I’d place their business in the same category as Joann or Spotlight when it comes to fabric. I picked up a shiny blue swimsuit remnant there for just a few dollars. It worked ok unlined (for kids bathers), but a lining would have significantly improved its appearance. This fabric also deteriorated very, very quickly.

I wonder if the age of the fabric plays a part in this. How do you know how old the fabric roll is that you’re buying from? It’s the elastic within the fabric that seems to dissolve/rot away and we all know that elastic is decayed by age, light and heat. I remember going through thousands of pairs of Speedos as a teenager (during my competitive swimming years). I’d generally get two months out of a pair of bathers before I had to wear two pairs together. And every now and again I’d strike out with a pair that would literally begin to deterioriate within a few weeks. Now I wonder if they were just made using an old or bad fabric batch.


So this has been my experience with swimsuit fabrics to date. I’ve been sewing swimsuits and leotards now for about three years. I’ve probably made over two dozen pairs, half of which remained in my ownership (3 girls, every year, Summer + Winter leotards + swimsuit = easy math). Of these, I’ve only thrown away about five (worn out) suits. The first two pairs I biffed were leotards where the metallic fabric (Mood) bit the dust. Next went the first swimsuit I ever made (the Tessuti Fabrics (paisley) which lasted through two children over 2.5 years, including being worn over clothes in Winter when swimming was not an option). The last two pairs I threw away were the Funki Fabrics duo, which sadly only lasted one season. Every other suit has been passed on to the next child or stored away.

Now, I’m not an expert when it comes to swimsuit fabrics. I’ve only shopped at five vendors and I haven’t tried all that they have to offer, but I still wanted to share my experience. I know there must be other places out there and I’m always open to new ideas. If your experience was different or if I should have tried a different product, speak up! I’d love to hear from you as my swimsuit sewing shows no sign of subsiding any time soon. Where do you buy your swimsuit fabrics from?

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage McCall’s 6497 // A shirt for Miss Seven

My original plan was to make Miss Seven a pair of pink cigarette pants to go with her new coat. However, I fell in love with every view on the front of this pattern cover and I thought I’d try out the shirt first.

I used more of my vintage sheet set to make this shirt. The print looks so lovely in a shirt that I’m planning to make myself one now too.

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The pattern went together beautifully. My only complaint was to do with the sleeve cap ease, but I find excessive sleeve cap ease a fairly common feature of old patterns. Next time I’ll shave some height of the sleeve cap so it can be set in a lot easier.

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I made this pattern up in a size 8, which corresponded quite well with Miss Seven and a half’s chest measurement. I expected it to be a little bigger on her than it is though. However, it would stand to reason that she has lovely broad shoulders like her mother. The torso fit is lovely and it looks comfortable. I suspect the pants and skirt in the pattern will swim on her tiny hips so I may have to grade them down first.

And before I sign off on this post, I just want to share a quick peek of the best leotard ever. It’s a birthday present for Miss Five. My beautiful, gentle Miss Seven is modelling it. The tiger poses will come later with the fierce Miss Five. I even added tiger eyes to the back of the suit so she could terrorise people behind her too. The pattern is Jalie 3136, which I’ve now made more times than I can remember.

I made the fabric myself on Spoonflower. I used the sport lycra, which is a nice weight and completely opaque.  In fact, this fabric generated so much interest that I ended up purchasing the license for the photo so the design could be made available to others. It will only be available on Spoonflower for a limited time though.

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NEW // Splash Swimsuit 07 // PDF Sewing Pattern

Firstly, thank you for all the lovely comments on my last blog post and apologies for not responding in person. It’s been a crazy, but wonderful month here with my parents visiting from Australia. I’ve spent a lot of time sightseeing Kansas and very little time on the computer (or sewing) for that matter.

However, I would like to present you with a little something that I prepared earlier. Introducing the much anticipated Splash Swimsuit! It comes in two options; as a one-piece and a high waisted bikini. You’ve already seen a few of my versions on this blog. I’ve posted others on Instagram.

Both views are fully lined. Top and bottom sizes can be mixed and matched. The design is comfortable, practical, and I’ve had lots of good reports back as to how they stand up to the surf test. Check out some of my gorgeous tester versions here.

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For more details, be sure to check out the pattern here.

And if you want a little RTW inspiration, I stumbled upon this Free People design  last week. It will only set you back a mere $234.

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Kwik Sew 1615: Tutu togs for the cousin

I made this little swimsuit for my niece, who is very close in age to my Miss Five, but a bit more petite in size.

I used my daughter as a sizing estimate and these photos were supposed to help me adjust the straps to suit her slightly smaller cousin. It wasn’t the easiest process, because wearing these bathers instilled a sudden sense of silliness in Miss Five which rendered it impossible for her to stand still.

These bathers were made to a size 7. I think I may have lengthened them by 1/4 to 1/2 inch but I can’t quite remember. I used a previously traced copy of the pattern that I’d sewn last season for Miss Seven.

The length is perfect on my exceptionally tall Miss Five, but they are just a bit too wide. You can see how the underarm gapes when her arms are down. The front neck is also a little wide so the binding doesn’t sit flat and there are some wrinkles at her waist. However, these fit issues are hugely amplified by the straps being too long. I always err on the conservative side with strap length to begin with and only baste them in place initially. The gape and neckline fit improved a lot after I shortened the back straps, but two photo shoots were not an option.

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These tutu togs are going to be a bit big for the recipient too. In retrospect, a size 6 would have been a better match, but since it’s currently Winter in Australia anyway, too big is probably better than too small.

The fabric I used was leftover after sewing another pair of bathers for her mother. I like inflicting a little bit of matchy-matchy on unsuspecting victims. I wasn’t able to make the main fabric stretch the whole way for these little tutu togs, which is why you see the green contrast fabric for the straps.

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Swimsuit for Mama

Again, this post starts with a disclaimer: I was given some of these fabrics for free by Funki Fabrics in exchange for making something and blogging about it. The fabrics I used from the Fabric Store and the Fabric Fairy were purchased by yours truly.

I honestly can’t remember the last time I wore a bikini or anything other than a hardy old pair of chlorine resistant Speedos. Actually, it was probably about ten years ago, when I was still trying to impress the husband (before he was the husband). I also used to pretend I liked camping and watching rugby back then….bwahaha, entrapment!

In any case, now that I’m all about honesty….um, no that has nothing to do with it. I’m not actually sure why I suddenly decided I needed to make myself some swimmers. Perhaps it was FOMO because I completely restocked the swimwear department of the other Iles girls. Perhaps it was seeing Sophie’s awesome two-piece a little while back. Perhaps it was just that someone gave me free fabric and I thought it would be fun to challenge myself with something a little new. Who knows.

In the end, I made myself TWO pairs. The first pair was more of a muslin to test a design and use up some scraps. The neon fish are from Funki Fabrics and the gorgeous lemons are from the Fabric Store (some Anna and Boy spandex I picked up over a year ago in Sydney).

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The bottoms worked beautifully but the leg elastic could be a smidgen less tight. I modelled their design on a favourite pair of hipster undies I own. It’s remarkably simple to turn a pair of undies into high waist bathers. Just measure your circumference where the undies end and again where you want the high waist to end. Subtract 1.5″ off those measurements (because of negative ease) and draw a diagonal line between them. I added some clear elastic and a waistband to the top of mine. Note: If using clear elastic around the legs, you want it A LOT looser than undie elastic. About 2″ looser worked for me, or pretty much the same as the circumference of your leg. There are two reasons for this: a) clear elastic is firmer and less stretchy than  lingerie elastic and b) aesthetically, you don’t really want the elastic to be cutting deep into your curves.

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The top, for this first version, was a fail. I started with Kwik Sew 3153 and modified it into a top. The fit is too wide, unflattering, and offers no support. It might work better on a busty gal, but not so much on me. Those busy little neon fishies actually disguise a lot of the issues in the photos, but in real life, they are more apparent. I could see that the top was failing early on so I just wacked it together so I could experiment a little with construction, and to see if I would even like the look of a two piece.

My second effort was much better. It’s a one-piece from the front and a bikini from the back; the best of both worlds! Those of you on Instagram may have seen my red ponte muslin in this design. I tweaked the length and fit a bit, and muddled my way through much of the construction. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. It’s fully lined, front and back (which is how I like my bathers). I feel quite secure in it and I like the way the busy floral and gathers in the bodice help to disguise the fact that there’s not much going on under there. I’m not keen on padding in my bathers.  The construction is not quite perfect, but I think if I can find a way to remove the centre front seam, it might help.

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The pretty floral in the bodice is from Funki Fabrics. I was originally going to use some Funki Fabrics stripes for the contrast too, but I changed my mind in the eleventh hour. And that’s how I discovered The Fabric Fairy. Their seriously amazing blue swimsuit fabric and the my-colour nude lining  came from them. I thought it would be interesting to order some swimsuit lycra off somebody else new-to-me to make a more objective comparison of the different swimsuit fabrics available online.

So I stand by my original observations in my last post on Funki Fabrics. For a great choice on prints, their selection is unparalleled. They also have pretty quick postage, which can sometimes be a deal changer for me. But for solids in swimsuit fabric, I am SO impressed with what the The Fabric Fairy has to offer. The Bermuda blue swimsuit fabric I purchased from them is insanely smooth and it has the most beautiful robust feel to it. It’s also slightly thicker, with fantastic stretch and recovery. It’s probably the most luxurious swimsuit fabric I’ve ever worked with. I suspect I’ll be checking out their other knits and stretch fabrics in the future now.

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Kwik Sew 2422 and 1615: swimsuits for my big girls

I’m going to start this post with a disclaimer: I was given this fabric for free by Funki Fabrics in exchange for making something and blogging about it. How could I say no to free fabric, particularly with swimsuit season upon us.

We all know it’s hard to be completely objective about something if you’ve been given it for free, but I’ve tried my best. For a little more information, it’s also worthwhile checking out Gillian from Crafting a Rainbow’s review here.

I made two little swimsuits with my fabric, and I have a little bit more to go yet. My first make was for Miss Five, using Kwik Sew 2422 (complete with a big raspberry drip of melted icy pole on her leg). She was quite specific about the exact style she wanted (down to the actual pattern and strap design). She also chose her own fabric; digitally printed neon tetras. She wanted to be in camouflage for her swim lessons. Obviously.

My only modification to this pattern (from last time) was to raise the neckline by 1.25 inches. Then I just measured the old neckline curve, compared it to the new, and adjusted the length of neckline elastic by the difference. I should have also narrowed the neckline a little as I raised it. Next time.

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The second pair was for Miss Seven, using Kwik Sew 1615, with the same (added seam) modification I’ve used in the past. I think she looks very chic! I only lined the front of the swimsuit bottoms, but due to the light colours, I realise now that I should have probably lined it all. At the moment, they aren’t see-through when wet, but I will have to wait and see how that goes as the print fades.

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I’m pretty fussy about most fabrics, and swimwear is no exception. I was pleasantly surprised with this haul. The prints on the fabric were spot on and exactly as I expected (I could have ordered swatches but I didn’t bother as I was mainly sewing for kids. Yes, double standards abound in this house.). For me, the enormous variety of printed lycra and foiled dancewear fabric are the best thing about Funki Fabrics. I will say though, that their website is a bit awkward, and it does take a bit of time to navigate.

Quality wise, I think the swimsuit fabric is good. In comparison to a RTW surf rashie I own, the fabric is better. But it’s not the best I’ve ever had. I think this may come from the fact that Funki Fabric is all about variety and fabric design. It appears to me that they have the same white, base fabric that they apply all their prints to. It’s a little bit thinner than some other swimsuit fabric I have in my stash, so if using it for myself, lining will be a must. For my kids though, this fabric is more than adequate on it’s own.

Overall, I’m actually very happy with this product. The fabric has a lovely, smooth hand, good stretch and recovery, and the printing is beautifully done. The lighter print (black hearts on cream) feels a little painted on, but not terribly so, and I suspect this is intended to improve the opacity of such a light colour.

We’ve already taken the new swimsuits for a few test runs (which I was waiting to report back on) and they’ve performed very well.  I can’t confirm that they helped the “big arms” actually make it out of the water, nor did I lose sight of my child amongst all the other neon fish at our local pool, but I am happy to say that there have been no saggy, baggy bottoms or immodest see-through togs.

Two little Jalie 3136 leotards

These leotards are such a quick and easy make. I love the opportunity to use contrast fabric, and I’m very happy with the overall fit on my tall, slim girls. I’ve made a few pairs already (here and here) so I knew what to expect. For Miss Seven, I stuck with a size 6, the same as last time. They fit her very well through the torso. The leg elastic is borderline too tight, but I think she’ll be ok with it. That’s the only thing I’d say about this pattern, is check the fit of the leg elastic before sewing it on.

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Miss Three LOVES gymnastics, more than anything else in this world right now. Three year olds really don’t need gymnastics leotards but I couldn’t resist making her one, just so I could watch her impossible cuteness in it. She wakes up everyday, puts on her leotard, and asks if its her ‘nastics day.

Her suit was made up in a size 3 and it’s a perfect fit all over. She is on the 50th centile from head to toe, the true “baby” of this family. Despite, LOVING this suit, and actually being a very happy child all day, she decided to practice her grumpy, angry person poses for the photos. I did my best, but there really isn’t any point negotiating with a three year old.

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