Harper Fly Suit #11002

The (slang) definition of Fly is: very good; excellent; cool; awesome. Also, as any swimmer will know, the stroke of butterfly is commonly referred to as Fly.

Therefore, it made perfect sense to name this suit after the other little swim champ in the family. Miss Eight loves swimming about as much as her ten year old sister. She is also “fly” in every sense of the word. I can see her following the same path as Miss Ten, in terms of the satisfaction she derives from achieving in the sport, and her commitment to succeed. She tries about as hard in practice and racing as I’ve ever seen anyone do. I can also see her trying to identify with a component of swimming that is her own, a niche that she excels in, above and beyond, or simply different to what her big sister can do.

Big sister’s best stroke is freestyle, and she not only has a beautiful, natural stroke, she is also fiercely competitive (as a first born often is). Big sister also does reasonably well at backstroke. She wants to be great at backstroke (probably because of her mama) but I’m not sure it comes as naturally to her as it does to Harper. Harper is very good at backstroke and is strong at freestyle, but lately, she has been doing really well in butterfly, a stroke that has not come very easily to her big sister. While she still has a very long way to go with her fly, she has pretty good timing and position in the water, and a good sense of how to pull her body forward strongly.

She won a few ribbons in fly during the short course season, and now I can see that this has changed her perspective on the stroke. She takes a lot of pride in leading the lane during butterfly sets and it obviously makes her feel good. Miss Eight may or may not become a butterfly specialist in the future. She’s only little. It doesn’t really matter, as long as it is giving her enjoyment now.

I called her Madame Butterfly recently after I saw her doing some particularly great fly in practice. And then we went home to watch some videos of the original Madame Butterfly (Susie O’Neill). She loved this. And I loved seeing my little middle child find someone or something to identify with as her own.

And speaking of sisters. Cate and Bronte Campbell are the other great Australian swim stars we follow closely in this household, for very obvious reasons. It’s a challenge finding a way to compete with and cheer for your sister at the same time. But it’s also a great life lesson that I believe we are (so far) doing well at practicing. It helps to have others to look up to who also fight that same battle. Whilst watching the recent Commonwealth Games, as you can imagine, one of the most common questions I kept getting was, “who is older…?”.

And back to this suit, you can find it in my Etsy shop. The actual suit is not the one you see in the above photo from last Summer, but the smile on Miss Eight’s face is the true representation of the joy I see in this mermaid. I am yet to make Miss Eight her own (recent) version, which will no doubt be in an animal print. The actual Harper Fly Suit can be seen in action¬†here. But I couldn’t very well name the suit after this little six year old mischief. She tolerates swimming, and goes to practice as rarely as she can, because it keeps her water safe, and because she can have a great old belly laugh with anyone she can corrupt in her lane.

This suit is very similar in fit to the Coco Racer. My girls love this style of suit. It’s what the big (National) girls were wearing all last season, so naturally all the little kids want to wear the same.

 

Liberty of London suit in yellow

This is my little Chickmunk. Yes, you read correct. We don’t have chipmunks around these parts. We have Chickmunks. No matter how many times I correct the child, it still always comes out as chickmunk. I personally think that she’s a bit of a chickmunk herself.

This bright, summery suit is a new girl’s pattern that I’ve been working on. It’s a copy of the tie-back suit all the big girls wear at swim practice. The fabric is the most delicious Liberty of London swimsuit fabric from The Fabric Store.

It’s been a while now since I’ve sewn up my first Liberty of London suit. I can now attest to the fact that the fabric lasts well with constant use. It feels beautiful and smooth to the hand and it performs nicely in the pool. It definitely outlasts any of the cheaper swimsuit fabric I’ve picked up from Joann or Hancocks over the years. I’ve learnt the hard way that you get what you pay for.

 

Miss Six claimed this suit before it was even finished. It’s actually a size too big for her. She should be wearing a 24. This is size 26. It looks ok when it’s dry, but if you look at the photos, you can see some gathering/wrinkling around the leg and through the waist area. There is also more tie than there should be.

The fit becomes more apparent when in the water. A good fitting suit SHOULD actually stetch a little over the curves of the body. There should be negative ease; a little bit of negative ease in a practice suit, a LOT of negative ease in race suit. The back tie allows a bit of flexibility with fit. You can tighten or loosen the straps as you please. And I know that I see plenty of kids in poorly fitting swimsuits. However, when you are swimming laps, it feels awful wearing a suit that doesn’t fit. I’ve always made sure my girls have suits that fit correctly. I’ve possibly spoilt them…

Anyway, this little chickmunk still gives the suit a big thumbs up!

Swimsuits and Liberty prints

I made quite a few swimsuits over Winter, testing out various styles, fabrics, and tweaking designs. I’ve just been a bit slow about posting them. You may have seen glimpses of them on IG. Here are a few more details.

This Liberty of London suit is probably one of my favourites. The fabric is from The Fabric Store and it’s beautiful. I actually made it for myself after I saw how my daughter’s version was holding up in the pool. I was initially wary of using such a pale swimsuit fabric (see-through factor) but my worries have been totally unfounded. I lined the suit in black, which I now do for all my suits. The black lining means I can be more free to choose light coloured prints without worrying about modesty when they fade over time.

This design is close to the Blazer Racer (ladies suit) pattern that I’ve been working on, but varies a little in the rise of the leg, and size of the side seams. It’s a pattern that I may have graded in the future too.

The actual sewing pattern that I am working on is the one you see below. It has a high cut leg, cheeky or fuller bottom option, and is brief through the sides. I’ll hope to have it ready in a few weeks.

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

Coco Racer #11001

There’ll be no prizes for guessing who this swimsuit pattern is named after. She was instrumental in testing the first samples for me…over…and…over…again, during the past 18 months. This design has taken time, but in the end we nailed it. No underarm or neck chaffe, no pulling on the shoulders, no constricting the shoulder blades, no wedgies, no catching water in the bottom or through the neck.

We like it best made fully lined, as the design instructs. However, I have made a “racing” version of the suit by just lining the crotch and omitting the front and back lining. It’s a nice suit that looks good and performs well.

I have several more swimsuit designs in the pipeline, both for kids and adults. I’m also considering putting together some kits since I have a stash of the most beautiful Italian swimsuit fabric on hand (chlorine resist, UP50, recycled). As soon as I finish juggling some of life’s curveballs, I might get on with it! ūüėČ

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.

 

 

 

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!

 

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!

Cut out lace dress 2

I never intended to make two dresses with this fabric.¬†I had less than a full panel remaining after finishing my main entry. I toyed with turning the leftover bits of lace into a top for one of my girls, but my sewjo just couldn’t get behind that idea. It seems that I needed another white lace dress in my closet.

lla5

I spent way too much time mulling over the positioning of the lace, perhaps even more so with this one because my options were limited. To achieve symmetry with the scraps I had on hand, the bodice had to be seamed down the CF in addition to the princess seams. I didn’t have much choice with the lace placement for the skirt. I like the way I was able to place the lace in the front and whilst I also like the back, it’s perhaps not as cohesive through the sides as I would like. The dot-lace hem is seamed on.

IMG_1235

Design-wise, this dress is very similar to my previous entry. The princess-seamed bodice is almost the same, but with a slightly more scooped out neckline and skinny, self-fabric straps. The skirt portion was modified from one of my TNT pencil skirt patterns. I slashed and spread the pattern slightly into a subtle A-line shape for a more casual fit. I absorbed the back darts through the flare and back waist seam.

lla4

The bodice is unlined, but the skirt is lined. I faced the neckline raw edges with bias binding. The skirt is lined with a beige coloured acetate. I kept the skirt lining as short as possible so as not to be seen through the bottom panel of the hem. I won’t be bending over in this dress!

lla11

lla14

lla10

Like my other dress, this dress is also designed to be worn with a very specific bra (the one I wore in the last lace dress post). You can see that the bodice fits a lot better when I wear that bra here (and I will be wearing it in real life). It is mostly unseen behind the straps, but for a cleaner look in some of these photos (since I didn’t have a wardrobe assistant on hand to check for strap visibility), I decided to wear a strapless bra. The fit is just not as good across the bust when I have to resort to a strapless bra. It’s a very good reminder of how undergarments affect the outer fit.

Also, try to ignore the big smear of white paint across my calf… maybe we should start a game called, “Spot the Paint on Her”, in all my blog photos for the next six months….

lla6

lla7

 

A little Target knock-off for Miss Eight

Even though I sew a lot of clothes for my daughters, I’m not averse to shopping the Target clearance racks. I often find little gems there that I generally couldn’t make for the price on the tag (and this always takes a bit of pressure off my sewing to-do list).

The other day, I picked up a very simple, loose fitting top for Miss Six that Miss Eight immediately fell in love with also. My eight year old and six year old are very similar in size now and the top easily fit them both. All I had to do was rub off an exact copy for the older child.

coco1

coco6

The top is kind of a peasant style, but with little flutter sleeves and a front bodice with shoulder seams that swing around towards the back. The trickiest bit was navigating the angle of the shoulder seam and trying to determine the shape and depth of the armscye because in stretching out the elastic neckline to do so, I was also pulling the top out of shape. I came close to getting it right but I will have to angle the shoulder seam down more next time and raise the armscye. Otherwise, we’re all delighted with how the little top turned out.

coco5

I used my leftover vintage voile (from this dress). It’s very sheer, so she’ll wear a nude cami under the top. On the topic of kid undergarments, I bought her a few of these camisoles the other day (no affiliate link, I just think they are a great product). They are beautifully smooth and fitted, with little adjustable spaghetti straps; an exact, mini version of something I would wear. They are a more elegant option than the traditional singlet for an eight year old and I think this “grown up” appeal is why they may actually get worn. I bought them mainly to be worn as an extra layer during Winter. They’d be easy to sew, but y’all know how much I love sewing staples…

coco2

The shorts are a little version of my Cartwheel Shorts pattern that I made without the front pleats for a little less volume. I used my leftover vintage linen/lace tablecloth (seen also here). I think these shorts look adorable on her. If you follow me on IG, you may have seen the matching pair that I made for Miss Six too. She’s very proud of her artwork!

 

A Mini Chloe production line and pretty new labels

It all started when my daughter’s little friend pulled me aside one day and whispered, “I really, REALLY love Harper’s dress”. And that was just the icky poly tester version I made her. The poor child was suffering though the heat and weight of it that day, but she still refused to take it off.

minic3

Also about this time, the Dutch Label Shop contacted me to see if I’d like to try out some of their labels ¬†. I was given the labels for free. It was such a busy time for me that I very nearly didn’t take them up on their offer, but I’m glad I did.

I uploaded my own design to be made into a Woven Logo Label and¬†I absolutely love how they turned out. I didn’t expect the lines to be so defined and clear. They really do look great. The service was also excellent.¬†They have a representative on hand to check the designs to make sure they suit the label and they contact you if needed. These labels are a little larger than what I’d normally put on a kid’s dress, but in real life, I’m much more likely to put a nice label on a coat or jacket and these will suit that perfectly. I also¬†rarely sew for anyone outside of my direct family and I don’t make a habit of labeling everything I make. However, there is something very nice about the finishing touch that a label gives the garment.

label3

But back to my production line of Mini Chloe’s, which include some of those dresses in the picture above. The first off the rack was made in¬†pink fabric ¬†as requested by the little admirer. It’s the only dress I didn’t get around to having modeled (P.S. my models charge me actual money for photo shoots these days!). It’s also not my best work sewing-wise, but the fabric is divine. It’s a vintage cotton or mixed natural fibre, but it feels like washed silk. I was in a big rush to get this dress done to surprise the little girl.

Then, I made her two sisters each a version. I used some Art Gallery voile for the little sister.

mmag3

And a beautiful mix of silks for the eldest girl. These ones are a special gift so I took care with the making of them.

cchjuly3

cchjuly5

Then, I felt guilty about my middle child only having that horrid (but spritely yellow) polyester version. So I scrounged through all my scraps to discover that I had enough fabric left to whip up a rayon and silk version in her size. This one will be lovely to wear. She already has a matching skirt in this fabric, so she immediately fell in love with the dress.

cchjuly2

But that’s not all. I was sorting through my small remnants of silk and rayon for middle child’s dress, my daughters were taking delight in recalling the clothes I’d sewn with all the different fabrics. They came up with the idea of “friendship dresses” for their closest friends (who also happen to be sisters). The plan was to incorporate fabrics in the friends’ dresses that I’d already used for theirs (so they could match). I had to use a bit of creativity to find enough fabric, but adding panels to the dress design made it easy. The second one will be on Instagram soon.

ccjuly2

I love this little dress pattern and I love my new labels. The dress is so quick and easy to sew that it makes gift-sewing a breeze and the labels add the perfect final touch. I have no doubt that those cold-shoulder sleeves will be out of fashion at some point, but the dress is still a simple, classic shape. I might try sewing it sans-sleeves next summer.