Category Archives: spandex

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!

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If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that I’m on a mission of sorts. I’m determined to perfect a couple of swimsuit designs, both for myself and my daughters.

Swimming is slowly becoming a big part of our lives, so it makes perfect sense that my sewing table would reflect this. We’re at the pool most days. I’m like a yoyo, driving the kids to the pool in the afternoon, and then back again on my own as often as I can. After nearly a year of talking about it, I’ve finally joined the Masters and I LOVE it. Swimming in a squad is nothing like swimming on your own (I’ve been kidding myself for months). During each session my hypoxic lungs and burning arms body remind me just how out of swim-condition I am, but also, just how good it is for me.

I’m currently working on three styles of swimsuits. One is a kid-style. I don’t like seeing kids in swimsuits that are too skimpy through the bottom and sides (like my suit design in this post!), but I also don’t like the racerback to be too wide. Whilst I would still recommend Jalie 3134 for kid swimsuits (and at this point, I can’t actually think of a better sewing pattern out there for the specific purpose of squad swimming), it just wasn’t the perfect swimsuit pattern for this very picky swim-mum. I’ll still sew Jalie 3134 again, but I’ll probably reserve it for when I have smaller fabric scraps to use up. There’s some great panelling on that pattern.

In terms of the issues, I found the crotch of Jalie 3134 pattern a little too wide and the fit around the bum and lower back less than ideal. If you look at the woman’s back view picture on the pattern cover, you can see the gathering/wrinkles I’m talking about. It’s really no big deal, but I know a better fit is possible. I also don’t like the side seams on this pattern. I feel like you can get a better fit through the lower back/sides with a slanted side/hip seam that is positioned more towards the back of the suit, as opposed to a straight side seam connecting the front and back. A straight side seam also adds bulk to the underarm zone, which can cause pretty horrific chaffing if you don’t nail it during construction. But even then, you really don’t want an underarm seam in bathers if you are doing serious swimming. Again, I’m nitpicking here, but I’ve had a lot of hands-on, personal experience with swimsuits over the years.

The other two designs are just for myself. I’ve photographed the skimpier style for this post. I’m quite pleased with how it turned out but it’s still a little short in the body. I just need to add a little extra length/width to the upper bust area and then I think I can file this pattern away as done. I have another suit design on the cutting table that will provide a bit more coverage through the sides and back, with a back that looks more like the kid version.

Like the Jalie design I discussed earlier, my first two swimsuits (here and here) also had a straight side seam. Why? Because it’s easy to draft. Removing that straight side seam hurt my brain a lot, but it worked. Compare the seams in the photos below. The top (green cherry) suit is Jalie 3134. It has all the fun seaming. The bottom (buzzy bee) suit is my design. My accidental pattern-matching makes the seam a little hard to see in the buzzy bee suit, but you can see it better here.

I tried it out first on Miss nearly-Nine’s suit. Then I used the same principles to create similar designs for me.

I’m getting closer with the kid-suit. I messed up the neckline in this first draft, so I had to cut off the top binding and add pleats just to make it wearable (there’s no way I was going to waste a swimsuit with Summer on the way!). The fit through the back is pretty spot on though.

My next version also worked out really well. It was actually intended for my biggest girl, but we realised that Miss Seven needed it more. And since she’s chomping at the bit to join her big sister in the swim team, we all thought the buzzy bees should belong to her. Miss Seven is almost as tall as her big sister, but just a smidgin narrower through the waist and hips. I wasn’t able to catch her to photograph the swimsuit dry, but it was rigorously tested in the water yesterday. In fact, I was lucky to catch this one for a photo, full stop.

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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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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A Jalie leotard for Miss Five

I’m quite fond of Jalie patterns for active wear. I’ve only ever sewn the smaller child sizes, but I generally find the fit to be very good on my girls. I made this leotard up in a size 7 (years) for my nearly-Miss Seven. However, because it is destined to be a birthday gift, Miss Five agreed to model it for the photos.

The length of this leotard is a little long for my five year old (as would be expected), but not by much. The width fits nicely and the leg elastic is a little on the snug side, but not overly so. Miss Five disagrees. She’s actually stopped wearing her last pair of Size 5 leotards in this pattern specifically because of the tight leg elastic.
 

Initially, I wasn’t sure if the tight leg elastic was just a mistake on my part with the first pair, but now I realise it is a feature of the pattern, and so probably worth considering if you are planning to sew these. As a reference point, Miss Five is tall, but apart from her height, she’s on the 50th centile for BMI and a perfectly standard size 5 on all her other body measurements (which has been very useful for me in my recent patternmaking!).  

  

Kwik Sew 2724: Just another little leotard

I have some big, exciting dreams on the burner right now, which means that my mind is not really on creating wardrobe staples. This particular staple for little Miss Five, is a gym leotard for the Summer months. I’d been promising it for a while, mainly because her Winter suit is a little small around the legs (and I’m too lazy to make the comfort modification given she has a smaller sister following behind her).

 
The pattern I used was Kwik Sew 2724. Despite the fact that I’ve had such a rotten run of poor fit with this pattern, I still really like it for what it is, and that is, a quick and easy sew. I cut this version in a Size 6. I took a gamble with the size because my heart wasn’t in customising it for her. The length fits her quite well (as I predicted), but there is just too much room in the width (as I also predicted). You can see all those horrible wrinkles and excess fabric in the crotch and bum. I should have simply lengthened the smaller size.
 
In any case, this child barely stands still for more than a second at the best of times, let alone when she’s doing gymnastics. So in all her jumping, skipping, tripping, and tumbling, I think it’s highly unlikely that anybody will ever notice how poorly her leotard fits. Phew!
 

 
 




Jalie 3136: winter leotards

There is something to be said about quality fabric. I made two little gym leotards not too long ago. They are already in a very sorry state. I probably should have been handwashing them, but I’ll freely admit that I’m not a handwashing type of person.


I spent the entire duration of my teenage years training 5hrs a day in heavily chlorinated swimming pools, so I think I have a discerning eye for good swimsuit lycra. Bathers never used to last long in my swimmer’s world. The elastic deteriorated within the fabric itself, the colours faded and the swimmers stretched out, turning see-through, until I had to wear two pairs together. It isn’t just chlorine that kills the fabric. UV light and sweat also contribute.

I’ve been so impressed with the swimsuit fabric I’ve purchased from both Tessuti Fabrics and the Fabric Store in Sydney. I’ve made several pairs of small people bathers (here, here and here) in the last few years. The oldest pair is faded and a little abraded on the bottom, but there is still no sign of the fabric deteriorating.

The same can’t be said for the metallic spandex I used for my big girls’ gym leotards (here and here). They’ve only been worn for a few months and the metallic coating has nearly all been washed off, somewhat unevenly. The actual fabric has also stretched out and lost a bit of it’s recovery in places. But those side panels of swimsuit lycra are still in perfect condition. I wonder if metallic coated fabrics are a just a little less hardy than what I’m used to.


This time round, I made the main body of both leotards up in swimsuit fabric and just used the metallic spandex for contrast on one arm. What can I say? I don’t like to throw away stash and my girls like shiny things. If one arm loses a bit of it’s sparkle, it won’t affect the rest of the suit.

The pattern I used was Jalie 3136. Miss Four’s suit was made up in rainbow fish scale mermaid lycra (new stock from Tessuti), cut to a size 5. I added 1.5cm to the torso length for her because she is a very long mermaid and I wasn’t quite sure about Jalie’s length sizing. As it turned out, I probably could have skipped this modification.

 
 

 

I’m going to call these leotards a win. Miss Four loves them and I can’t help but smile when I see those fabulous rainbow fish scales. The great thing about sewing little leotards is that they use up such a tiny amount of fabric. I still have enough leftover for Mummy gear next summer.

Miss Six’s leotards turned out just as well. I made absolutely no modifications to her version.

 
 

 
 
 
 
Aren’t those flowers just the prettiest? Gnome thinks so.

 

 


Jalie rashie top for Miss Four

I had a lot of trouble finding a simple rashie pattern for my girls. There’s lots of long sleeve tops and leotard patterns out there, but they are all quite loose fitting. A swim top like this needs to be close fitting and worn tight, designed with spandex in mind. In the end, I settled on Jalie 3135, which is a neck to toe skinsuit pattern with a zipper front. I modified it a little.

 

I started with a size 6 for Miss Four and made the following changes:

  • cut the leg portion off the pattern and marked where I would like the top to end. I tried to estimate the waist point and then I used other tops belonging to Miss Four to guess the length.
  • removed the zipper closure and removed the CF seam to make one front bodice piece to cut on the fold
  • The centre back had a curved seam to allow for close fitting to a natural back curve in a one-piece suit. I straightened up this seam and added the lost ease to the side seams instead. I did this so I could then remove the CB seam and cut it as one piece on the fold too.
  • skimmed a few cm off the neckline and drew up a new neckband.
  • Shortened the arms by 2cm.

I’m actually really pleased with the way it turned out. I found this Jalie pattern to be quite spot on with its recommendation for age and size. Because I’d never sewn a Jalie pattern before, I erred on the side of safety and sewed a few sizes up just to be safe. It still fits Miss Four, but could do with being a little tighter. Miss Six tried it on and if fits her perfectly. But the ownership of this top was non-negotiable, because it was made to match a certain pair of tutu-togs. In any case, I’m happy enough to know that Miss Four is comfortable in it now, and it will fit her next year too. Summertime swimming here we come!


Of course there had to be TWO: Kwik Sew 2724

This is my Supergirl!
 


Otherwise, it’s also basically a replication of a very recent post. The pattern is Kwik Sew 2724, gym leotards again, but in a smaller size for Miss Four. This time, I learnt from my past mistake and didn’t make the tall timber adjustment (that I would normally do for this child). I sewed her a straight size 5 in the leotards, and a straight size 4 in the bike shorts.

For a cheap and cheerful stitch up, the fitting is near enough to good enough for me, although I still feel it is a tad too long in the back (sway back adjustment required?). I could probably also narrow the hips and bum a fraction next time to get rid of some of that excess crack fabric.

 So for others planning to use this pattern, the sizing is definitely long in the body.

Don’t you love the way kids have that ‘special’ smile they reserve for use in front of the camera! I’m pretty sure she is trying to cross her eyes too.

 
But she does have some swagger!
 

The fabric I used was the most gorgeous swimsuit lycra from Tessuti. Unfortunately it was the last of my stash. I’d previously used it here. The slick metallic silver spandex was from MOOD.