Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Arms, knees and feets - sewing cycling gear

It was Flipper's birthday recently and as I have done twice before (but only documented once here) I made him some lycra cycle shoe covers.

Why cover your cycle shoes with lycra booties? Well, they keep your toes slightly warmer, make you go ever so slightly faster, but mostly they make you look way more pro!



But this year I went a bit further and made him some arm and knee warmers too.

For the blog readers who don't cycle, or rather who don't cycle in lycra, I'll explain. Good quality lycra cycle gear is expensive, and to have long sleeve, short sleeve, long legs, short legs etc , and multiples of each 'cause you ride every day and can't keep up with the laundry, well it would get crazy pricey.*

*At this point I must mention out good friends and clothing sponsors who run THE best cycle holidays IN THE WORLD. Topbike Tours - check 'em out

Also, when you set off in the cold early morning and then it heats up later on, it's nice to be able to peel off your arm or knee warmers and not suffer in the boiler suit of a full length cycle kit.


Add in that the fella had taken a slide recently and put holes in his kit as well as his legs, he was sorely (ha!) in need of new cycle gear.

When I put in my order for the amazing eco-friendly VITA swimsuit lycra, I also ordered a few metres of Carvico Vuelta. It's a brushed back, fleece lycra with amazingly soft feel. Nice and thick but plenty stretchy enough. These arm and knee warmers feel every bit as good as that super expensive Swiss brand but I bought 3 metres of fabric for the cost of one pair of their arm warmers.


Of course it's hard to photograph black fabric and you'll just have to imagine the soft, snuggliness of the brushed face of the lycra.

As far as patterns go, I just traced around some existing kit - minus the road rash holes of course. I have all the pieces on pattern trace interfacing and could easily upload them if anyone has a desire for one size fits most cycling gear. These fit me just fine as well. Ping me an email if you're interested (sounds of crickets...)


The critical part of getting the "totally pro" feel is in the elastic. I've used silicone grip elastic to finish both upper and lower hems of the knee warmers, and the upper hem of the arm warmers. The wrist hem of the arm warmers was turned under and twin needle hemmed. The elastic needs to be firm but not overly tight. Here's where custom made really rocks, as it's easy for the less than super lean amongst us to get that awful sausage casing effect if the elastic is too tight. Yet nobody likes kneewarmers that keep falling down while you pedal. Happily, just going off his existing kit I got it exactly right.


Determined to make these to an acceptable standard I decided to fake flatlocked seams throughout. I've sewn the seams on the overlocker with wrong sides together, then folded the seam allowance to one side and stitched it down with the twin needle.

Most fortuitously I had just been gifted some silver, reflective bias tape from a sewing friend I went mountain biking with (thanks Nicki). I tucked little lengths under the seam allowances before stitching them down, so all three items; knees, arms and booties, have reflective tape on the back edges.


I'm very pleased with these and more than a bit jealous. I think I need to make some for me now.

Details:
Pattern: Self drafted from existing TopBike booties, Adidas kneewarmers and Assos Armwarmers
Fabric: Carvico Vuelta fleece lycra - heavenly!
Notions: Silicone elastic from Jimmy's Buttons. Reflective bias tape gifted.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Cut, Sew, Cartwheel, Blog: Jalie 3136

One of the things about sewing for kids is that their enthusiasm can be catching. Everything gets set aside to whip up the outfit of the moment. Right now it's all about gymnastics.



On Sunday, she was bugging me to buy a second hand leotard from her gymastics club that she's just recently joined. It was too small and the full priced ones that might come in her size just seemed crazy expensive to me. Do you do this too? It's not that I couldn't afford to buy the regular leotard but it just irks me to know that I could do it cheaper, probably just as well, and have more fun in the process.

So I convinced her I'd do a trial run and then we'd go fabric shopping together next weekend...

Sunday night became cutting night:

 

Whenever I've been at the sewing machine repair shop (Nick Ciancio - he's good) the kids rummage in the scrap fabric basket and dress themselves in outlandish outfits of tied on scraps. Last time, A had found a remnant that almost looked like it might be big enough for something. Nick always lets the kids take whatever bits they like, so we kept it.

It was big enough, but only just. The tiny bits above are all the leftovers after cutting the leotard. Design choices were made based solely on the fabric allowance.

Long sleeves were out (boo), but then that left enough to add the skirt (yay). The requested cross over bodice was possible (yay) but only on the front (boo).


I thought it would be as simple as cutting the View B bodice for the front and the View A bodice for the back, but I hadn't looked at the shoulder width. The round neck version has a considerably narrower shoulder than the cross over one. I had to scoop a good 3/4" off the front shoulder to make them fit together.


Monday was sewing day and to say she was excited to wear it to her gymnastics class on Tuesday is just a bit of an understatment!

The neck binding looked a bit wavy and stretched out when it was straight off the machine, but happily when she's wearing it, it is fine.The size is the same J width and L length I'd done for swimemrs. Fit wise: I think the leg elastic might need to be bigger, or maybe cut the leg openings a bit lower at the back. I suspect there was some wedgy action going on under the skirt. The upper sleeves are a tiny bit tight. Otherwise it seems perfect.

She was positively prancing around in her class and her teachers did comment that she was easy to spot! :)


Details:
Pattern: Jalie 3136
Size: J width l length
Fabric: Scrounged lycra with crazy print and metallic gold highlights from Nick Ciancio Sewing Machine Repairs.
 (go watch that video link, it's great!)

* crappy photography virtue of flash battery being dead and us being in a hurry to get to gymnastics.
Notions: 1cm elastic

Monday, 24 April 2017

Vogue 8813 - Fishy Fishy

Ages ago I promised my mum a dress by way of talking her out of buying an overpriced dress that didn't fit her. Almost a year later that dress is nearing completion....

But, while she was visiting for the day to go fabric shopping for said dress, I got her to try on my Big Puppy Pockets Dress and, as I suspected she might, she loved it. So, of course, we had to find some fabric for a version of Vogue 8813 for her too.


We found this fabulous fish printed lightweight linen at Darn Cheap Fabric's Heidelberg shop and since she was about to head to the beach for a holiday, a fishy linen dress seemed perfect.

I missed getting any photos of her in the fish dress on the beach, but after their return she kindly posed in the garden at their house. Flipper took the pictures while I was busy decorating my dad's Renault 4CV for the annual Easter Monday parade (bunnycar!). Mum has given me permission, or an order perhaps, to crop her head out in any photo in which she's squinting into the sun, so please excuse the whole lot of headless dress photos which follow...


Putting the other promised dress aside, I jumped straight into this one. It was easy as I already had the pattern traced off in the size I'd used and was making no alterations at all. I guess that's the beauty of an easy-wearing outsized dress.


The lightweight linen behaved perfectly for this dress. In fact it was easier to keep the pocket edges crisp and neat with linen compared to the washed cotton version I made for myself. It's an awful lot of fabric to wear, so you wouldn't want a heavier linen - this one is quite lightweight and semitransparent if held up to the light. However, with all the gathering at the front and the big pockets, there are almost no areas where the fabric is single layer. So, while back lighting might give a bit of a leg silhouette it's certainly not a see through problem dress. This same fabric in a simple shift shape dress would definitely need a lining.


The buttons are more of the same carved wooden ones I used for my dress. The pattern which is slightly reminiscent of a starfish, or sea anemone was just perfect for this dress.


As you can see, I made no attempt whatsoever to pattern match the fish across any seams. You could say it was laziness, but since the pattern pieces are so enormous, to pattern match would require an insane amount of yardage. From memory, we bought about 5m of this fabric and I maybe used about 2.8m. I'm trying to convince Flipper that this is the perfect shirt fabric for a non-Hawaiian tropical shirt.


I think it makes pretty great fabric for a cool, loose, easy-wearing mum-at-the-beach dress too!

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Summer Swimwear Part 4: Lisette for Butterick B6360

Oh, it was always destined to come to this at some point wasn't it?...

You set yourself the challenge to make everything for the kids, start dabbling in making stuff for yourself and eventually decide you'll give swimwear a try.....

Maybe even swimwear for yourself?.....

Meanwhile, the over-riding golden rule is that everything that gets made, gets documented on the blog....

Yep.... I'm blogging about swimwear for me. Let's consider this for what it is, a pattern review and wearable muslin and certainly no swimwear fashion shoot! :) Ok, here goes nothing...



I thought it would be fun to give the Lisette for Butterick B6360 pattern a try and use up the rest of the patterned fabric I'd used for A's swimsuit. Add in that they both have side gathers and drawstrings and there was going to be some very funny matchy-matchy action.


My measurements were an exact match for the size 18W (what the W means I have no idea, but only the sizes in the second size range packet get a W, lucky us, huh)

Fit notes: Firstly for the top - I ended up shortening the straps a lot. I like the higher hitch of the shorter straps. I'd had to piece the straps together due to a shortage of fabric, but then finally shortened them by about 5" and so cut off the additional piecing I'd done after all.


This is the "dress' view with the gathering released. I would never walk around in a swimsuit anyway, so having a lengthened version for sauntering up the boardwalk is kind of redundant for me.

However, I much prefer the look of the top without the gathering.  I think the gathering and ruching is meant to be a tummy-hiding or flattering thing but I actually think it gives me more of a belly than I have. If I made it again I would cut the body of the top straight and shorter and leave off the drawstrings.

While I don't like the drawstrings, I do like the way they're sewn. The Jalie pattern of A's has you attach a strip of fabric as a casing then stitch over the side seam as well as down each side of the casing. Here, the side seam allowances (must be stitched and left open, not overlocked) are stitched down to create the casings. Easier and much neater.

The front has a built in shelf bra constructed from lining and finished with 2cm wide elastic. I could have made that elastic about 2cm shorter to give the shelf bra a bit more of a secure underbust feel.


I like the fit across the back. The upper elastic finish could be a tiny bit longer on me, and the lower back elastic a tiny bit shorter. Again, it sits much better across the back when it's not gathered up.

As for construction of the top, it's all easy and great except for one step. When the crossed under bust straps are attached; if you follow the instructions and diagram exactly, they end up with an additional 180 degree twist. There's a nice diagram on Pattern Review.com in this review for a different way to sew it.

I had already read that review and was aware it may be a pitfall but wanted to try it as per the pattern to see if my interpretation was any different. Nope. I ended up with the extra twist too. The straps, which are attached to the side seams of the bodice, are stitched together (instructions correct) then basted to the skirt part before the two are stitched together.

As soon as I started pinning the skirt to the bodice it was clear how the straps would sit wrongly. While I hadn't been able to envisage how to attach them initially, once they were wrong it was really clear the flip that had to be done to get them right. My advice would be to pin, not baste, and then check the position once you start pinning the skirt to the bodice.


Actually there's one other change I'd make to the construction of the top: The seam allowances change from 5/8" where sections of the top are joined, to 3/8" where edges are finished by elastic. I mucked that up a bit on the lower part of the back band. I'm not sure if I just needed to pay more attention, or if it would be better to alter the seam allowance somehow. I suspect the former...

Now to the bottoms.... These babies are BIG. If you like a bikini bottom with a lot of secure coverage then this is your pattern! I definitely had the right size as they are snug and well fitted, but when you hang them up to dry they cover half the towel rail! :0

I should have worn these swimmers when we went to the water slide theme park as there's no risk of a wedgie or accidental flashing when wearing these puppies.


Fit wise: I'd shorten the rise and bring the waist down from my true waist to about belly button level. I'd raise the outer leg opening by about an inch and the gusset is too wide for me. It needs to be at least 1/2" narrower on each side. The pants are lined front and back and the lining stayed put nicely (the swimsuit that went to the water slide theme park did not behave so well.)

The waistband is topstitched with a straight stitch, but in taking the pants off and on, I've heard that ominous thread popping sound. I'd topstitch with a zig zag next time.

In trying to show you the fit of the pants my modelling was really taking off....


You might say awkward and cheesy, but I say that there is a textbook move....

Which modelling textbook is that you ask?


Why, it's the posing chapter (page 570 to be exact), of the Encylopaedia of Modern BodyBuilding of course.
If only I'd thought to flex.
Rookie mistake.
Arnie would say "always be flexing".

Details:
Pattern: Lisette for Butterick B6360
Size 18W - no mods, but notes made above for next time.
Fabric: Patterned fabric from Rathdowne Fabrics. Orange contrast is Carvico VITA
Notions: 2cm and 1cm elastic. Swimwear lining from GJ's.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Summer Swimwear Part 3 : Jalie 3134

The girl whose torso just keeps getting longer (her dad's genes at work there) was in need of a new version of my favourite swimsuit: Jalie 3134


I've made it twice before (first and second versions) and I really like the shape and cut of this one. It sits quite high and close at the front so it's nice and stable for sporty swimming, but the back has a lovely cutaway so there 's no confusing it with a leotard type pattern.


As the straps don't cross over at all, there's also no confused kid trying to work out where to put their head or arms.

As with her other swimsuits of this season I traced the "j" width and "l" length. It was a bit confusing working out where would be best to lengthen and I ended up tracing my pattern width lines at about the height lines of the size 2 sizes up and filling in the blanks in the middle as best I could. I didn't end up with the side seams of the panels lining up as neatly as they would if I'd traced a single size. Annoying once it's pointed out, but hardly worth getting uptight about.


This was the first time I'd tried the "piping" effect on the front. A thin strip (about 1/4") of lycra fabric is cut and then, under some tension, it rolls itself into a tube. It's then stitched down with a zig zag stitch that goes side to side over the top of the tube and holds it in place. It took a little bit of practice and the trick seems to be starting well in the seam allowance so that's it's rolling in properly by the time you get to where it will be visible on the swimsuit. Getting both sides to match was also tricky as none of my fabrics pencils/chalk would mark the lycra convincingly. I freestitched one side, then folded the swimsuit vertically down the centre line and used pins to mark the stitching line from one side to the other.


Now, can I talk about the fabric please? The two shades of pink were A's choice when I put in a big order last year (everyone in the family got to pick a few colours and maybe I chose quite a few extras) for this extraordinary Lycra.

Through the Fashion Revolution hashtag on Instagram I found this image:

Image Source
I was immediately taken by the idea that discarded fishing nets were being collected off beaches and made into 100% recycled nylon filament. The other main source is discarded nylon carpets. To take ugly, hazardous waste out of the landscape and reuse it is delightful, and that cheery Slovenian guy had me determined to find myself some recycled swimwear fabric.

There are a few companies that are using the fabric to make commercially available swimwear, but I wanted it by the metre...  My research told me that the Slovenian company make Econyl, which is the recycled Nylon filament. Then I found Carvico, an Italian company who weave and dye it into various fabrics. The one I wanted was called VITA: It's a chlorine resistant, UV proof, 100% recycled Nylon lycra fabric with a beautiful feel and a spectacular range of colours. I was going to make swimwear, save whales, support an innovative industry.... Heck, I even had some new Lisette sewing patterns....


I contacted Eclipse Textiles who are listed as an importer of Carvico fabrics into Australia. They were extremely helpful, their minimum order is as little as 1m, but they only sell wholesale to fabric retailers. However, the lady at Eclipse was happy to post me the big fold out Italian swatch book with all the colours (and the luxurious feel) of the VITA range as well as the Australian importers copy sheet (some missing and a few renamed, but mostly the same).

I hit up a friendly fabric retail business (thanks, you're the best!) and she agreed to do a side order on my behalf. A few other Melbourne fabric hounds joined in and we picked our colours while poring over the swatches at a local wine bar. Then we ordered...


The fabric is fabulous. It's smooth, pleasantly thick but not "heavy". It has great compression and shape while still being very stretchy. The colours are beautiful and since it's yarn dyed, there's no loss of colour with stretch. Seriously, it's really, really good stuff.


Flipper and the kids chose some colours for themselves and I picked half a dozen too. The cuts, when they arrived were quite generous and it's a good 150cm wide. You can see I used a bit of my burgundy to do the piping on the swimsuit with A's two tone pink choice.


Normally with a pale pink lycra I would have lined the back panel of this swimsuit (although the pattern doesn't indicate it), but as you can see from the modelled shots it's not thin or see through at all. The big test will be to see how it stands up to a year of swimming lessons in a chlorinated pool. All of my previous kid's swimsuits have faded or become very thin over the course of a year. I guess they grow fast enough that it hardly matters, but I hate to think of them as that disposable.


Printed fabrics are all well and good but I'll happy mix and match my solids and eschew the prints 'cause this stuff is just too nice not to use. The orange in A's previous suit is one of the Carvico VITA fabrics and the feel of it and the sewing of it couldn't have been more different to the rest of that suit. Ok, just get yourself some somehow. Enough said.


Details:
Pattern: Jalie 3134
Size: "j" width, "l" length
Fabric: Carvico VITA recycled Nylon/elastane.
Swimsuit lining from GJ's, 1cm elastic from Vo-Le






Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Summer Swimwear Part 2 : Jalie 3135

I bought this Jalie skinsuit pattern a while ago thinking it would make a good basis for rashie tops for the beach. However, once P saw the skinsuit he wanted one - not just a top, but the whole onesie for the water!


Furthermore he was insistent that it should be navy blue with no contrast colour, no bright stitching, no highly visible bits...  Nothing in fact to make it possible to spot him amongst the waves, or for the sharks to know that he wasn't for eating. At least it would be sun smart. Sigh.


So, it's a plain navy, lycra skinsuit and perhaps not much to write about. The fabric is some of that seemingly endless supply of cheap, navy lycra I bought about 3 years ago. You're probably thinking this is one example of me writing a blog post just because that's what I do every. single. time. I sew something.

But you know, I am insanely delighted with this skinsuit. I couldn't help myself but think how awesome it was whenever he put it on. The fit is superb ("l" width and "n" length - exactly as per his measurements) and it just worked as a beach-y swimsuit.


The front has an invisible zip which I was worried might not handle sand, but has held up just fine. There's a zipper shield that runs the length of the zipper and he was very happy with how it felt when riding his boogie board. I don't think it would be too tricky to move the zipper to the back and put in a chunkier zipper with a pull tab almost like a wetsuit.


Of course then he spotted that lady in the blue suit with a hood - A HOOD MUM!, and now he has his heart set on a full length, hooded skinsuit. I have no idea why, it's not like he's a pro speed skater or even a CatWoman fan, but his fashion sense always cracks me up and I like to say yes probably more often than I should!


While a white-boy version of a burkini may not be on the sewing list, one thing is certain. I'll be using some of the good lycra and making this swimsuit again for next summer. I just can't get over how much I love it. :)

Details:
Pattern: Jalie 3135 Skin Suit, View B
Size: "l" width and "n" length
Fabric: Rathdowne fabrics - navy lycra
Notions: navy invisible zip



Sunday, 9 April 2017

Summer swimwear: Part 1 Jalie 3023

We've just come home from a week's holiday at the beach and the weather is so amazingly bleak and cold at home I instantly wanted to look at my beach photos.

So here I am getting my last minute holiday swimwear sewing onto the blog straight away


I'd been so impressed with the drafting of the previous Jalie swimsuit patterns I'd tried, that I splurged on a few more. This was my first go at Jalie 3023, a "tankini". She's been wanting a two piece swimsuit for so long, and I'll admit that the idea of a swimsuit that she wouldn't grow out of lengthwise in only one season was pretty appealing.


In my head this was going to be a simple sew, but I was defeating myself by not using a new stretch needle and just making do with whatever jersey or ball point needle I had. Also, I was wanting to do all my top-stitching with the perfect bright orange colour matched thread that was that nasty, cheap overlocker stuff. Needless to say I was getting lots of skipped stitches and broken threads and it was not a fun ride.

As soon as I admitted defeat and waited to buy some new stretch needles things started to get better. But for one bit: The pattern suggests topstitching the yoke of the top at both the neck edge and the bottom of the yoke where it attaches to the top. Even with a walking foot it got so awfully stretched out that it was ruined. I had to cut the yoke off and make another and start over. No topstitching on the final version.


Going by her measurements I made size "j" for width and "l" for length - last year's swimsuits were straight size "i", meaning I've gained one size in width and three sizes in length for this year.

The pants are a great fit - not too low, not too high cut. Plenty of coverage and don't ride up but are pretty "sporty" looking. I'd be tempted to try these pants for me (yes the Jalie size range is extraordinary!)


I think I could have shortened the binding/strap pieces a bit as they are a touch loose once wet. Not so much that they fall off her shoulders though, so therefore not enough for me to bother fixing them.

The main fabric is a remnant that I picked up at Rathdowne fabrics and I think it's a known designer fabric, but for all that, the contrast with the orange fabric couldn't be greater. I'll talk more about what the orange stuff is in another blog post, but suffice to say here that it is firm, smooth, elastic, perfectly coloured and an absolute delight to sew with. It makes the fancy, designer stuff feel flimsy and cheap in comparison.


The pattern has another view where the bottom half has a little built in skirt. I knew that A would flip for a bikini-with-a-skirt so I cut another one straight away.


This was the last of a remnant that had cost $4.50 (the price was scribbled in a corner that remained) and from which I'd already made another swimsuit (ill fitting Cosi).

The navy is a fairly thin, cheap lycra that was in the stash. Again, the comparison with the good orange stuff was evident. The straps, cut to the same length, were really floppy and hopeless in this fabric. I unpicked them where they were attached and crossed them at the back before sewing them back on.


The little skirt is seriously cute. The pants underneath are the same as the other view, just with the skirt attached before sewing on the waistband.

On this view I lined only the front pants piece (as per the pattern), but on the pants view I did line both front and back. I used some of that cotton-y feeling, self striped swimwear lining fabric (the real deal) from GJs and I much prefer that to using double layer of lycra which is what I'd done previously.


She is delighted too, that the swimmers both have a  built in "bra". That is, there is a small section of the top that is lined and finished with an elastic edge. Of course it is entirely unnecessary for a six year old, but did prove to be a great place to collect vast amounts of sand.

Details:
Pattern: Jalie 3023, views A and B
Size: "j" width, "l" length
Fabrics: patterned and navy fabrics are remnants form Rathdowne fabrics. Orange is Carvico Vita, Swimsuit lining from GJ's

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

B6182 On Repeat

I sew the same patterns for the kids over and over because they grow. But for me? Well I never thought I would want more than one of anything in my wardrobe, and I'm trying very hard not to grow. Yet B6182 just keeps adding itself to my list of things to sew.


This one was whipped up in the week before we went on our January holiday and has been in high rotation ever since.

I realised I'd posted my copy of the pattern off to Ute in a fit of Sewbossy-ness (and I'm still waiting to see her version - drumming fingers impatiently). But since this is my third dress (dresses 1& 2 and top/skirt) I used my previously traced pattern and didn't need the instructions after all.


Who knows what the fabric is, but it has a soft, slightly brushed feel, drapes like a tencel, and has a fine diagonal weave like a twill. Can we call it a brushed Tencel twill? Oh, and it was crazy cheap. I bought two metres for $7 from Clearit, so this is about a $5 dress! It's also just about my favourite colour.

I decided since this version was a solid colour I'd throw on some big patch pockets. Only they didn't turn out quite as big and statement-y as I'd imagined. I used the pocket pattern piece for the skirt, but of course, the skirt has a big inverted box pleat down the middle and so the pockets seem to take up most of the sides of the skirt. The dress, with nothing happening in the middle below the waist, could have done with the pockets being at least an inch wider.


I had just dropped the kids off at school by bike on a crazy humid, muggy morning, and I can't think of anything better to wear on such a day. But when it gets cooler, I'm thinking a denim or wool version of the skirt to wear with tights will be good.

See what I mean? B6182 has put itself back on the sewing list again!