Monday, August 1, 2016

The Monday Motivation Volume 3: Summer Sewing is in High Season!

Is your summer flying by as fast as mine? I can't believe it is August already!

There is all sorts of amazing-ness in the sewing world this summer. You would think sewing would would slow down in the summer-- but I think people get motivated to sew the perfect wardrobe for their destinations. I'm certainly guilty of this, I can't count how many late nights I've had sewing up a new wardrobe item right before a trip. So rather than a theme, this Motivation will be more of a high summer round-up!


Heather has a way of making things that you never knew you really needed until she made them. Her Caftan is a case in point. It just looks so cool and comfortable.

I'm soooo excited that the By Hand London Charlie Dress is finally accessible to us overseas admirers!

Cloth habit made a video on seam taping bras... what a lovely finish for your handmade lingerie!

Sara's Helga Shirt is casual and elegant, and soaks up the gorgeous sunlight in her photos. I was so inspired that I made my own Helga... details in a future blog post.

It was so bold and generous of Megan to share how she manages full-time mom-hood and a small business. If only my juggling of mom-hood and work was half as sane!

Sew Anemone's Bird Print Bailen Top is so well fitted, and such a playful print.

I love A Colorful Canvas's thoughts on making the Sophie Swimsuit into a tankini and her tutorial for adding a back band to the full suit.


Some fabric that I've been admiring for summer makes...

I ordered linen from the The Fabric-Store for the first time this summer, and I was impressed at the quality for the price. Such a gorgeous selection of colors. I decided on the 5.3 oz and it substantial without being heavy, and very soft.

I am so in love with the digital print linens at Emmaonesock. They are pricey, but oh so lovely.

Also at the top of my stash is chambray and double gauze from Imagine Gnats. Beautiful quality, and they were on my doorstep before I knew it.


Blueberry maple jam is one of my favorite things to make during blueberry season. So amazingly delicious, and very simple.

Did you know that you can make your own Hot Cocoa Mix? I just made up a batch for our camping trip this week!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

My first me-made bra! Makebra DL03 in black and white cotton with removable straps

Shopping for underwire bras is sooooo frustrating... don't you agree? It's up there with jeans and bathing suits. Unfortunately, bras are also up there with jeans and bathings suits in terms of the most intimidating things to sew. There's a bit of a hump to get over, both with the specialized notions and project-specific sewing know-how.

Well, guess what... I made a bra! How cool is that?

The catalyst that finally made the chemistry of bra-making come together was making my Sophie swimsuit. Making the Sophie with full support is basically like making a foam cup, underwire bra, and it gave me courage to go ahead and make a full-on bra. In fact, I entertained the notion of just making the Sophie bikini as a bra-- and I may just do that sometime in the future. Why not-- it's basically a bra, and the shape of the cup fits me really well.

However, in the spirit of embracing bra-making whole-heartedly, I chose a bra pattern that looks strikingly like the Sophie... Makebra 03. It's a foam cup balconette bra with a full band. I've been weighing bra patterns for years, and some of my favorite bloggers have made gorgeous bras with this pattern, in particular Tasia's floral one and Carolyn's Film Noir set. (Makebra 03 is very, very similar to the discontinued Makebra 2610).

For anyone reading this because you are thinking about making Makebra 03... let me summarize a few things for you that I will go into (excruciating?) detail about below. While this pattern is beautifully drafted and there are reasonable instructions on their website as well as a video, there are several things that were not at all clear to me when starting this project. Also, take this with a grain of salt, since I am (obviously) not a bra-making expert:

--Get the multisize pattern.
--Don't bother trying to figure out what underwire to use with your chosen size. Instead, find an underwire that fits your breast "root" and choose the size you make based on the underwire you want to use. Hopefully this size will be one of the 3 you received with the "multisize" pattern. Adjust the band and volume of the cup accordingly (either by fitting or grading between sizes).
--The bra band is drafted to be made in a stretch fabric. The cup cover can be any fabric, since the foam lining controls the stretch. A small piece of bra lining or "15 dernier" bra-making fabric (or any lightweight, non-stretch fabric) is ideal for the bridge.
--The bottom band requires 1/2 inch plush elastic. The top of the bra is finished with foldover elastic (although see Tasia's version for how she used non-foldover plush elastic, or study Carolyn's for possible ideas on a clean non-elastic finish to the top of the cup).

Okay, so onto the details!

Makebra patterns are not multi-size. Instead, you have a choice of buying one size, or buying a "multi-size" pattern which means you three sizes-- one that you choose, then the cup size larger and smaller. I measured about 5 times before choosing the 85B based on my measurements and their charts. Their pattern delivery is not instantaneous, either... I ordered on Saturday night, and got my pattern on Monday morning. They clearly state this on their website and it makes sense since this method of distribution is probably difficult to automate, but I thought I'd mention it, since instant gratification is something we've come to expect of PDF patterns.

I was really tempted to buy the single size, since my measurements clearly fit the 85B. But in retrospect, I'm really glad I chose the multi size, because I ended up making quite a few alterations. In the end, I basically ended up using the size 85C band with the volume of the 85A cup. Keep reading to see how I got there...

I don't even want to admit how much time I spent agonizing over underwires-- as far as I can tell, there is no clear standardization-- the best you can do is make a good guess based on the dimensions posted by sellers, then buy the size above and below the size you think you are. Frustratingly, the Makebra patterns specify underwire sizes only for their proprietary underwires, and they don't seem to post the dimensions of their underwires. However, in ordering the supplies for my Sophie, I had also collected several samples of different underwires, in different sizes, so I ended up figuring out what underwire to use based on which one lined up with the pattern.

Actually, I decided to flip this equation... I chose the size that I wanted to make based on the underwire that fit best. I can't say that I fully understand the making of underwire bras, but in my reading about them, it seemed like finding an underwire that was a good fit was key to a good fit on the bra. If I think about all of the failed underwire bras I've worn in the past, it is quite clear that an underwire that is too small will pinch and cut into the breast, and an underwire that is too large cuts into the underarm. The size of a band is easy to adjust if you are sewing your own bras... and even the volume of the cup is a pretty simple adjustment.

The underwires I used for my Sophie, size 38 from Bra-Makers-Supply or Tailor Made Shop, were a good fit... I had bought a 36 and a 40 and the 38 clearly seemed to be the best fit. I had also bought the UW-920 38 at Sew Sassy (as well as larger and smaller wires), which was a very similar fit to the Bra-Makers Supply wires, but more of a "U" shape. The "Flexlite" UW927-12 from Sew Sassy was also a good fit for me, but the arms of the "U" are longer, and I'd almost certainly have to cut the wire to fit it into a bra. Which is a possibility to try in the future... these wires might be nice, they are thinner and lighter than the other wires. In addition, I also bought the UW-42 from Sew Sassy, and they are, as they say, quite similar to the UW-920, but a bit thicker and heavier.

I guess that this would be obvious to anyone that really understands bra sizing, but the 85 A, B, and C require different underwires. This was dramatically clear when I printed them out and compared them. So, based on the underwires that seemed to fit best, I decided to make size 85C. I made a muslin following Cloth Habit's suggestions on making a muslin for a bra. I even inserted the underwires and the basted the hook and eyes into place, and skipped the elastic, as suggested. All seemed good, so I proceeded, full-steam ahead!

Unfortunately, when I was nearly done and had the elastic in place, it became clear to me that the fit of the cups wasn't going to work. The band and the underwires seemed just about right, but the cups just had far too much volume at the top of the cup-- there was massive gaping up there.At this point, I had the choice of bagging the project and starting over, or unpicking and trying to make this one work. I went with the latter choice, unpicking the foldover elastic at the top of the cup, then unpicking the seams of the cups, both the foam and the covers. I then pared away quite a bit... I took out about 2 inches at the top of the cup! I sewed the cup together, replaced the foldover elastic, tried it on again-- better, but still not enough! So I took it apart AGAIN and pared more away from the top and center of the cups.

Before sewing the cups together for the final time, I traced the shape of my new foam cup pieces onto my pattern. The center and tops of the new cup pieces were similar in size to the A cup. It occurs to me that "grading" the bra cup might be an option with future bra patterns.

In fitting this bra, it also occurs to me that this might be the key to my lack of success with shopping for underwire bras... perhaps I have a larger chest and breast "root" but less breast volume? Therefore I would tend to either buy bras that fit the volume of my breasts but had underwires that pinched, or bought underwires that fit and had baggy cups. It's been years since I even tried to buy an underwire bra, but this seems to fit my memory of failed bras in years past.

The other problem I had to solve was a more straightforward one... I had failed to note that the pattern required 1/2 inch plush band elastic. I had 3/4 inch and 1 inch band elastic. When it came time to apply the band elastic, it became quite clear that anything larger than 1/2 inch just was not going to fit under the underwires. I promptly placed an order for 1/2 inch band elastic, but was too impatient to wait for it to arrive, so I came up with a solution... use 3/4 inch ugly white band elastic and allow it to hang off the edge. Cover the unsightly edge with 3/8 inch stretch lace from my stash. Problem solved! Not so pretty from the inside though. It would have been less unsightly if I had thought to use white thread in my bobbin.

Another change I made to the pattern was to make the front of the band from a non-stretch woven-- the same medium weight cotton woven fabric I used to cover my cups. I'm sure you recognize it, I've used it on several other projects. Since the back side of my fabric was not so pretty, I also lined this part of the band in the same fabric. Just past the cups, I added a seam so that I could add a band in a stretch fabric. Since I had a double-layered front, it was easy to hide the seam allowance of the added seam.

I made the stretch part of the band from a single layer of a mesh that was in my stash which had stretch but was rather firm-- it was labeled "corset mesh" when I bought it. I have another mesh in my stash that is labeled "powernet" but seems VERY stretchy and not very durable to me. I might try using a double layer of this in the future.

Since this was turning out to be a very "stable" bra, I decided to make the straps removable so that I could use the bra strapless! The strapless possibilities of this bra are something that remain to be tested... I think that it would be easy to draft a "longline" band, and the extra support of this band might make this pattern into a very functional strapless bra.

The true test of any bra is in the wearing! I can't tell you how many bras I've bought that have felt great in the store but have never been worn again after the first full day of wear. After having worn it for a total of about 3 days (not consecutively), I can say that fortunately, this one does not fall into that dismal category. I also can't say it is the most comfortable bra I've ever worn. It fits well, but the band is tolerable but not super comfortable for a full-day's wear.

Uncomfortable bra bands are a common problem for me in bras, and "tolerable" is doing pretty well. I have some ideas on things that might improve the comfort for me in future bras. First-- I could follow the instructions and actually make the full band of the bra out of a soft, stretchy jersey fabric with a high-quality 1/2 inch plush elastic. Another idea comes from some of my favorite RTW (non underwire) bras-- I could enclose the band elastic in the band. I actually think this might be pretty awesome in terms of comfort, and quite doable. Also on my list of things to try is one of the lighter weight underwires... these might remove some of the pressure against the band.

It also occurs to me that perhaps I should try one of the tempting non-underwire bras that are out there. I really think that my chest can use the support of true underwire cups, but I might be able to get away with a non underwire, at least sometimes.

Overall, I think it is a very successful first bra. I feel amazing wearing it, it is much more supportive than anything I currently own, and I can totally see how making lingerie could be addictive! There is definitely room for improvement, which has me scheming about future bras!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Shibori Underwire Swimsuit: a pattern review of the Closet Case Files Sophie Swimsuit

This is the hottest summer I can remember! When I'm home with the kids, we swim every day... and all of our vacation plans this summer involve beaches. When Heather at Closet Case Files announced her new Sophie Swimsuit Pattern earlier this summer, I knew I had to sew it up in a hurry!

A swimsuit with built in support... sign me up for that. I don't have a huge bust, but my post-baby chest definitely needs extra support and shaping. The Closet Case Files Bombshell swimsuit is the suit that I reach for most often in my swimming wardrobe, in part because I hacked it and created support by sewing an old bra into the front of the suit. This works pretty well, but it's not nearly as elegant as having a built in foam cup and underwire bra. That's top notch support! Of course, this means you basically are learning to make a bra... which is something I was intending to do in the near future anyway. 

I also love the lines of the Sophie... totally ideal for fun combinations of color and patterns, and perfect for creating figure enhancing illusions.

After measuring and re-measuring, I decided to make a size 10 bust, with a number 4 cup. I graded out to a 12 at the hips, but kept the length of the 10. I didn't make a muslin, although I did follow the suggestion to sew the foam cups first and try them on before cutting the rest of the pattern out. 

I looked all over the place for the perfect fabric, and finally settled on a black and white shibori-look print from Spandex World. The black fabric is their black milliskin. The lining is basic white swimsuit lining from my stash, I can't remember where I originally got it from. White lining makes the colors of the spandex more intense when the suit is wet. 

Once I had collected all of the notions and fabrics (more on that later!), the swimsuit came together quickly. I've sewn many swimsuits before, so I didn't need much hand-holding, and the instructions that came with the pattern were excellent. I didn't purchase the video tutorial, although I'm sure it is great. I'd really like to see it, just for fun, but I did fine without it. If you are new to swimsuit making, the sew-along for the Bombshell is also a great resource for basic techniques. 

I found making the foam bra to be surprisingly easy and satisfying. At first I wasn't careful about which piece needed to go where, and I ended up sewing the wrong pieces together and having to seam rip it and start over. But once I got things in the right order, they came together nicely. I used strips of bra lining folded in thirds to hide and reinforce the seams on the foam cups, as shown in Cloth Habits tutorial on making foam bra cups

I didn't have trouble sewing in the underwire casing until it came to the second line of top stitching, which is supposed to be a scant 1/4 inch from your first line of stitching so that you catch the edge of the casing, which you can't see since you need to top stitch from the outside. On one cup, I ended up having to redo a small section, and on the other, I hand stitched a small section that didn't get properly caught. 

I sewed most seams on my serger with wooly nylon in the loopers. I did quite a bit of switching back and forth between white and black thread, since I didn't want white to show through the seams of the black panels, and my lining was white. 

When sewing the elastic to the leg holes and back of the swimsuit, I serged the elastic into place with the serger knife retracted, then after folding the elastic to the inside, I used the twin needle for a nice finish. I also like the way the twin needle stitching echoes the double line of stitching for the underwire casing.

The strap loop on the back of the swimsuit, made with white plush bra strapping elastic.

The fussiest part of the whole swimsuit was the straps! My biggest problem was with the little fabric loops that you are supposed to sew in for the strap hooks. The first time I made the fabric loops with the specified 3/8 inch seam allowance, they were too narrow (1/4 inch rather than 3/8) and too fat, and they were really hard to get onto the hooks and slid around annoyingly when I did get them on. 

You can see the loop that I made for the hook with black plush bra strapping elastic.

So I tried again, sewing with a 1/4 inch seam allowance, and the loops were the right width but still really hard to get onto my hooks, which have a really narrow opening. I had visions of myself at the beach, struggling with the stupid hooks... not how I want to spend my beach time! I nearly just did away with them altogether since they are sort of unnecessary, but then I had the brilliant idea to use a little piece of 3/8" bra strapping. Problem solved! They hooks are made to be used for bra strapping, anyway. 

Adjustable swimsuit straps... the front is a lycra and swimsuit elastic strap, the adjustable part is plush bra strap elastic. They are joined with a ring, and the adjustable part has a slider.

I also was worried that the straps would stretch out during wear, so I added an adjustable section using bra strapping and a slider in the back, attached to the main strap with a ring. 

I love the method of making elasticized straps shown in the pattern-- I'm totally using this technique on other swimsuits and camis. But the straps turned out too bulky to fit through the hook hardware easily. Having no other option (other than abandoning the hooks) I just worked at it until I was able to force the fat strap through the narrow hole. 

These problems are probably due to the hooks I ended up finding and using. They are Sew Sassy's nylon-coated metal 3/8 inch hooks, and they were the only ones I found in stock anywhere. Another possible cause is the thickness of my lycra (the black milliskin is the thickest swimsuit lycra I've found) or my elastic (Sew Sassy's natural swimsuit elastic). I wonder if using rubber elastic might help with the thickness problem?

If I make another Sophie, I'm probably not going to go through all this rigamarole with the straps. The fact is, I NEVER remove my straps... I don't care in the least if I get tan lines or anything like that. You might think, why how nice it is to be able to cross or uncross the straps, but I will ALWAYS wear they crossed-- I have the world's most sloped shoulders, and straps never stay up for me unless they are crossed. Even so, I still think it is super cool to have adjustable, removable straps... go figure. 

The fit is... pretty darn spot on. I might add a bit of length on the outer thigh... I think it would be a touch more flattering just a bit lower there. I also see what Heather says about the full body suit as being less supportive than the bikini top-- the underwires ride a little away from my chest wall without the support of a full bra band.

Overall though, I couldn't be more pleased. The suit feels supportive, comfortable, and looks great!

So, a bit about the materials and cost. Since you are basically engaging in bra-making, the Sophie (with the underwired cup option) requires quite a few specialty notions. Closet Case Files thoughtfully provides kits (which are sold out!), but I was hoping to make mine a little more cheaply and was interested in adding to my bra-making stash, so I decided to forego the easy option. 

I really wanted to use the right underwires, so I went to Bra-Makers Supply, as instructed, which sends their US customers to Sweet Cups Bra Supply. I plugged in my order there, then freaked out at the shipping cost and went in search of other options. I actually just revisited their site and read their shipping policy... and they say that shipping calculations are often high and they will refund shipping if it can be sent more cheaply. They also will send orders under $30 via First Class if possible, if you put that in a comment. This info is even on a banner on their site right now... maybe I'm not the only one that missed that info. Well, that would have been nice to know, I'll keep them in mind for next time!

But, the shipping cost freak out happened, so I did a little more research and landed at the Tailor Made online shop. I did a quick check-- and yes, shipping costs were quite reasonable. In addition, they sell underwires that look just like the ones at Bra-Makers Supply, so I ended up purchasing my wires here. I also bought bra lining fabric to use to line the bridge and to finish the cup seams. But they didn't have any 3/8 inch hooks of the sort required for the removable straps, so I ended up having to place a second order to Sew Sassy. Since I was interested in gearing up for more bra making, I used the opportunity to stock up on some different underwires, elastics, and notions.

If you're interested, here's what I calculate my approximate costs were:

2 yards swimwear-appropriate spandex (Spandex World): $20 
Underwires (Tailor Made): $2
Bra lining (Tailor Made): $6
Foam (Sew Sassy): $9
Hooks (Sew Sassy): $1.40 (for 12!)
Underwire channeling (Sew Sassy): $1.25
Swimwear Elastic (Sew Sassy): $2.25 (5 yards)

(the following were not called for in the pattern, but I added them:)
Bra strapping (Sew Sassy): $.75
Rings (Sew Sassy): $1.40 (12)
Slides (Sew Sassy: $1.40 (12)

Swimsuit Lining (stash)

Total: $45.45

Shipping: Tailor Made, $6; Sew Sassy $10, Spandex World, $10

Overall, not cheap, but probably cheaper than buying a quality swimsuit, which would be anywhere from $70-$200. Also, probably a bit cheaper than buying a kit, but the kits come out to a pretty good deal, especially if you aren't interested in shopping in multiple online stores to get what you need! But I am also happy to have lots left over of just about everything... which will equal more swimsuits and bras sewn just from stashed items. 

In fact, while I was waiting for things to arrive, I made a muslin for a bra-- my first ever. It just so happens to be a foam cup balconette bra, just like the Sophie (the Makebra DL03) If the Sophie gets me past the bra-making hump, then that is a truly incredible outcome. 

I have a bit of Sophie-fever-- now I really want to make the bikini version! I'm not sure about midriff-baring post-baby, but perhaps I might be able to get away with high-cut briefs...

Monday, June 27, 2016

Winslow Culottes by Helen's Closet in Hand Printed Aqua Linen: A Pattern Review

I've broken out of my usual style to sew up the Winslow Culottes by Helen's Closet!

When Helen put out the call for pattern testers for her very first garment pattern, I just couldn't pass up the opportunity. I've really enjoyed reading her blog and seeing her style and sewing evolve, and it was a pleasure to be able to join her for the very special event of testing her pattern.

Culottes are everywhere this year! Quite honestly, I've been watching the trend with some trepidation. I generally avoid anything that highlights my waistline, which isn't my favorite part of me, and I generally avoid extra volume at the hip, since I feel that my hips are quite voluminous on their own. These break all of my style rules, but they looked so fantastic on Helen that I thought I should at least give them a try.

The pattern is a joy to work with. It is thoughtfully and beautifully designed. The shapes in the pattern are surprisingly simple, which I really love... it is an elegant idea to take a rectangle and shape it to the body with pleats.

I made them in 100% linen, European Washed Linen from The fabric washed up beautifully, but shrunk considerably, and I was glad I had an extra .5 yard. It is a medium weight linen, a bit heavier than I probably would have preferred, but I also didn't want anything too lightweight for pants. After shrinkage, it took nearly the full three yards to make View D (full length). I actually had a bit of wiggle room since I made the pockets out of a different fabric, but if I had made them out of the linen, I would have just squeezed it all in.

I jazzed up my plain linen fabric by stamp printing on the fabric with fabric ink. While I've been thinking about doing this for awhile, there was also a Seamwork article that helped me to further work out the details of this. I used white Speedball screen printing ink and my stamp was the ring from a canning jar. I did my printing after I cut out the pieces, but before I sewed them together.

I didn't use any special tools-- I just put some ink onto a paper plate, spread it out a little, and dipped my stamp into it. After the ink dried, I heat set it with my iron. I was going for an asymmetric design, so I only printed one side of the pants, the front and back pieces, in a sort of random but not overlapping pattern.

The pockets on these are fantastic, very roomy and a joy to sew. I chose to make these in a contrast fabric both for a bit of fun, and also to reduce bulk a little bit. I actually haven't made very many side seam pockets, so I mostly followed the directions word for word, and it worked out beautifully. For a bit of extra strength, I finished the pockets by serging the two pocket pieces together.

Perhaps the trickiest bit is the invisible zipper at the center back. It went in easily for me, but I have done quite a few of these. There are lots of tutorials online for invisible zips, but my favorite tips are from Lladybird, who taught me to sew both sides from the top down, and By Hand London's tutorial which uses pins to mark the waistband-- simple but effective. I also find it key to stabilize both sides of the zipper opening with strips of fusible interfacing-- I'm far more likely to get it right on the first try if I take this simple step. Above all, practice practice (from Grainline)!

I weighed a lot of options when choosing interfacing for the waistband. I generally prefer waistbands with a bit of stretch, but still firm enough to maintain their shape. I have a wonderful pair of linen pants that I made 4 or so years ago where I used weft interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply, which has a bit of give in one direction. I also love the waistband on my Ginger Jeans, where I used quilting cotton cut on the cross grain, so that it has a bit of give. I opted for the latter in these pants, using a bit of the same quilting cotton I used for the pocket bags.

I did a muslin for these pants, using one of the shorter views and standard muslin fabric. The fit seemed spot on, but when I actually sewed view D in my medium weight linen, the weight of the pants pulled them down to my hips. Not a good look in these pants, and very hard to walk in!

I took a good look at my mid-section, aided by a measuring tape, and decided that the narrowest part of me is probably up higher than my true waist, sort of at the bottom of my rib cage above my belly. This point on my body is 4 inches narrower than my actual waist, so I took 4 inches off of the waistband. Since I had the pants totally made at this point, I couldn't take the extra width off of the side seams... in addition, taking that much off of the side seams would have thrown the proportions off. So I distributed the extra into the pleats, which worked out nicely. If I were to make these again, I should probably sew a size several sizes smaller... although I sort of like the extra volume!

After redoing the waistband and the top of the zipper, I had a pair of pants that was made for walking!

These are such fun to walk in! I think they would be great to attend a festival, or a summer party with lots of mingling. The drawbacks for me are that they aren't so great for sitting since the waistband has to be very snug to hold up the weight of the fabric, and I'm not so tolerant of firm waistbands for any length of time. So I probably won't be wearing these for work, or for sitting on the ground playing with my kids.

In any case, they were a lot of fun to make, and the end result is a garment that is quite unique! I'm even thinking that I might make another pair, perhaps in the midi length in a rayon or silk-- it might be a very fun look for tango dancing.

The pattern was just released today, and it's on sale. You can get it here!

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Monday Motivation Volume 2 from Unlikelynest

The Monday Motivation
Volume 2


It's swimsuit season! Have you made a swimsuit yet this summer? I've made one, and have plans for several more. I'm writing this from a family vacation at the beach, so I definitely have swimwear on my mind!

Amazing swimsuits are everywhere on sewing blogs right now! Here are some of my favorite patterns to help you plan your summers sewing...

The Closet Case files Bombshell looks amazing on so many figures. It's also a great first swimsuit, largely because of Heather's amazing sew along. Jenny's at Cashmerette is one of my all time favorites, for the suit and the story. Mine is here.

Closet Case Files released the Sophie Swimsuit today ... made for all of us that have requested SUPPORT in a swimsuit. It is a swimsuit with underwire cup support with one piece and two piece options. I just bought mine, can't wait to try it!

The Papercut Soma is a super stylish pattern. This one by Medi on Sew in Progress is amazing, and she is generous with details on how she made it. I've made two versions of this suit, converting the bikini into a tankini, here and here.

Jalie is generally a solid choice, especially for styles that are functional and tend towards sporty. I recently sewed the 3134, which is a one piece racerback, and it fit my daughter beautifully-- I have yet to write a proper blog post about it yet though. Meg at the Curvy Sewing Collective recently reviewed 3350, and the fit looks fantastic.

The Seamwork Reno is a great choice for a bikini top, and Helen's Closet has a sew along to make the process even easier.

Another pattern I've been admiring is the Maison Fleur 8101. I've never sewn one of their patterns, but I'm tempted by the vintage style and the option to have a one piece or a bikini, and the cute ties at the hip. This one by Sally at Capital Chic is lovely and Meg blogged a gorgeous one at Cookin and Craftin.


I previously wrote about my favorite sources for swimwear fabrics. Currently I'm loving these machines from Peekaboo Pattern Shop for kids swimwear and skulls for any age, and I'm scheming about designing my own print at Spoonflower.


Abby at While She Naps has a new pattern that is just adorable... a popsicle! Endless fun choosing the flavors.

Did anyone see that fabric necklace in the International edition of the Great British Sewing Bee? I immediately was trawling the internet for tutorials. I love how polished this one looks from A Beautiful Mess, and this one from Image Gnats for the fabric scrap potential.

Etruscan bronze statues show women wrestling as early as 330 BC. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, wrestling gained popularity as a popular spectacle. While some matches were staged, others were competitive. France is often credited with the birth of modern wrestling when the sport was introduced in experimental schools and international sports camps in the 1960s. The first world championships were held in 1987, and today women’s wrestling is recognized as an Olympic sport with over 100 countries participating.
Sources: Wrestling Science, The Evolution of Women’s Wrestling; Female Single Combat Club: They Made History

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Monday Motivation from Unlikelynest

The Monday Motivation at Unlikelynest

I've been mulling over starting a bi-weekly feature here at Unlikelynest, and this is what I've come up with. A bit of something to greet you on Monday morning. Nothing too heavy, but a touch of musing about our favorite hobbies and topics that inspire us. Let me know what you think, or what you want to see in future editions, in the comments. 

As a metaphor for mental motivation, I'm also digging up examples of some amazing physically strong females from history. You can read about Luisita Leers down at the bottom of the post.


I'm overjoyed that the wide leg pant is IN this summer. Not that I ever really quit wearing them... I just feel like I'm in good company this year.

I can't wait for the release of Helen's new pattern, the Winslow Culottes. She is just killing us with all her awesome pre-release versions on her blog, Helen's Closet. (In fact, I will get mine soon, since I'm a pattern tester!)

In the mean time, I love this yoked palazzo pant by Amanda's Adventures in sewing.

Elisalex at By Hand London read my mind... I totally need a kimono. She's pulled together a post that includes some of the top contenders. There's also this one, in German... I'm sure I could figure it out with a little help from Google Translate, and I love the fabric choice.


Dawn at Two On Two Off is has wicking merino jersey for sale in her Etsy store. If you haven't tried merino wool for exercise top, you are missing out, it is the best stuff out there. The fabric she is carrying is a polyester/merino blend, which seems to be the stuff that all the best technical gear is made of these days. I love making cozy winter tees and cardigans in wool jersey, it really helps take the chill off. It is totally the wrong season, but I ordered some anyway since it is soooo hard to get this stuff.

I've been drooling over all of the african wax print fabric garments in the blogosphere, and I've been secretly window shopping. I love the ones Sonja Gingerichs has at Hell Gate Fabrics. Actually all of her fabrics are gorgeous... and she works hard to source fabrics made in the most environmentally responsible way possible.


Make your own ice cream cones! I made the ones from this tutorial from America's test kitchen and they were awesome. No special equipment required. Admittedly the majority were less than perfect cones, but they were yummy anyway.


Loving Elusive Targets in the May issue of Seamwork, about the way standards for the female form have changed over the years.


A special thanks to Sallie from Sallieoh for sharing the passing of her furred companion of 10 years, Lucille. Our hearts are with you.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Best sources for Swimwear and Sun Protective UV UPF fabrics for kids and adults: A guide to swim and sun fabrics

Every year when summer sewing comes around, I spend a ton of time looking for great fabrics. So I thought I'd share my knowledge with you, in case you are doing some summer sewing too! Rather than give you an exhaustive list, I am presenting a curated list of places that I have personal experience with, or have researched as possible sources.

Swimwear Fabrics

You could probably sew swimwear with any lycra-spandex fabric that has lots of stretch. Polyester is probably better for chlorine resistance and lack of water retentiveness. I generally tend to stick to fabrics that are labeled for swimwear though, so there are no surprises!

Peekaboo Fabric Shop

This year the winner in my book for kids swimwear fabrics was clearly Peekaboo Fabric Shop. They have a curated collection of exclusive fabrics that are both specifically designed for swimwear AND labeled with a UV protectiveness rating. I also loooove that they have coordinating prints, stripes, dots, and solids, which makes putting together a cute outfit so easy. So far I've made sunshade hoodies from the prints I purchased from Peekaboo, although I also have a kids swimsuit planned also.

Spandex World

My all-round favorite for swimwear fabrics is Spandex House. They have a huge selection which can be hard to sort through, but then again... lots of choice can be a good thing too! I've ordered mostly solids, dots and stripes from them and all of the fabrics I've ordered from them and sewn up so far have held up really well to exposure to chlorine, salt water and sun. Their Milliskin Matte is a great all round fabric, very high quality and great for basic adult swimsuits. My striped Soma tankini and my polka dot bombshell are both made with fabrics from Spandex House.

The Fabric Fairy

I have not ordered swimwear fabrics from the Fabric Fairy... but I've been tempted. Some wonderful prints that would be appropriate for both kids and adults, including fireworks, gingham, and ikats!

Zenith and Quasar

They have a small selection of swimwear fabrics in exclusive prints. I haven't ordered swimwear from them, but I've gotten swatches of their athletic fabrics and they were really nice quality fabrics.

Girl Charlee

There are so many great reviews of Girl Charlee out there, and a few mediocre or even bad reviews. They are never going to live down sending a defective print to Jenny Rushmore, who blogs at Cashmerette, but so many other people report fine experiences. The fact is, if you are looking for on-trend, adult oriented prints, they have a selection that you might want to consider. They don't have a swimwear section, but they have Lycra Spandex fabrics that suggest that they would be appropriate for swimwear in their product descriptions.

There are other sources out there, and if you know some more great sources, please post them in the comments with your experiences! Some of my best swimwear fabrics have been designer remnants from Emmaonesock (for example this Peter Max-esque print that I used for my Soma tankini) but she doesn't seem to have any right now, and when she does have them they sell out in a flash!

Board Short Fabric

Board short fabric is typically a polyester microfiber. It usually has a brushed matte finish and often has a water repellent surface. The key factor is that it doesn't absorb water! You could probably use other nylon-supplex type fabrics, but I tend to stick to things labeled as board short fabrics.

Peekaboo Pattern Shop Fabric Shop

Peekaboo has board short fabrics that coordinate with their swimwear fabrics. I ordered two different shades and they have sewn up beautifully. Last I checked they just had solids, but this was fine since I had maxed out on cute prints with their swimwear line, and the solids they carried matched the prints beautifully.

The Fabric Fairy

They have the best selection of prints I've seen in Boardshort fabrics, including plaids and classic hibiscus prints! Also lots of solids.

Zenith and Quasar

Their selection changes, but this year they have awesome galaxy print boardshort fabric, as well as some classic hibiscus and a great dragon tattoo print.


They have lots of solids and a few prints, including cute camo prints. I ordered one print last year and the quality was excellent.

Sun Protective UV protective fabrics (UPF-rated fabrics)

It is highly likely that many fabrics that are not labeled UV protective are, in fact, UV protective. Basically, if you are putting something between yourself and the sun, then you are probably blocking some UV rays. Darker fabrics and closer weaves are more likely to block more UV.

However, without a rating, it is really hard to tell exactly how long you (or your kids) can be out in the sun without turning into a lobster! Also, I often want to wear light colored fabrics in the sun, and these are the least likely to be protective. UV protective fabrics are treated with UV inhibiting factors during manufacturing, so you can have light colored fabrics that are just as protective as dark fabrics.

If you are shopping for UV protection in fabrics, look for a UPF rating, which is like an SPF for clothing. Here is an explanation of what a UPF rating means from Wikipedia:

For example, a fabric rated UPF 30 means that, if 30 units of UV fall on the fabric, only 1 unit will pass through to the skin. A UPF 30 fabric that blocks 29 out of 30 units of UV is therefore blocking 96.7%.

Okay, so where do you buy these fabrics? Here are my favorite sources:

Peekaboo Pattern Shop Fabric Shop

UV 50 rated board short and swimwear fabrics in super cute kid-oriented prints! I've said a bunch about these fabrics already, and you can check out the sunshade hoodies I made for the kids here.


They have a great selection of UPF rated fabrics, both knits and wovens. Mostly solids, but this year it looks like they have added some very cute prints too! Their pictures and descriptions weren't super helpful in terms of distinguishing between the fabrics, so ordering swatches is probably necessary here. Last year I ordered a bunch of swatches then chose a few fabrics to buy yardage of. In terms of knits, I especially liked the heather jersey, it is super soft and stretchy, and for wovens, I chose this supplex nylon. I actually didn't get around to making anything with these fabrics... but one of these might get sewn up this weekend, so I will keep you posted!

Sunshade Hoodies for the Beach and Play!

We are ready for the beach! And none too soon because vacation with the family is coming right up in another week.

These are what I call Sunshade Hoodies... modeled, shamelessly, after the Patagonia product of this name. Back when Lilly was a baby I snagged a Patagonia one on sale, and it was the best darn thing for keeping the sun off of a little kid. I still run after them with sunblock, but I feel less bad about the inevitable spots that I'll miss, and late reapplications. So much of summer play involves the kids sitting or squatting over big piles of sand, and the hoodie is just perfect for that since it covers their back and head. I also find that a hood is easier to keep track of than sun hats, and it is so light that I can flip it up over their heads and they often don't notice, while a hat can be a fight.

Other than the Patagonia product, the only other thing around seems to be the ubiquitous rash guard. Those are okay, but the kids ones are often not labeled with their UV protectiveness rating so I just don't know how protective they are, and the cut leaves the back of the neck and sometimes the arms exposed.

Anyhow, I decided to make my own this year. The fabric is from Peekaboo Pattern Shop which has the cutest line of coordinating swim fabrics, all labeled UV 50. They also have pirates, ice cream cones, and mermaids... but I just couldn't resist these sharks!

The pattern is from Hey June Handmade, and is the Hatteras Hoodie pattern for kids. I LOOOOVE this pattern, it is everything I could hope for in a pattern. The size range is HUGE, from 2 to 14 years! Kids grow so fast that I'm grateful for the range, and it means I could use the same pattern for both kids.

This pattern is also fantastic in other ways. I love the 3/8 inch seam allowance, it is perfect for serging seams-- not too much waste, but a nice little 1/8 of an inch to chop off and give a clean finish. The construction is clean and clever, and gives a professional look. And the sizing has been spot on so far, for both kids-- I risked it with no toiles, just going by the measurements, and the fit is perfect.

I mostly followed the pattern exactly, but I added just a bit of interest by finishing the curved edge of the pocket with a contrast strip.

The trickiest part was getting the hood to match perfectly with the edge of the front slit. It really helps to sew a line of basting holding the hood and front edge in place before you sew the neck seam.

And of course, stripes meant I had to take extra care in matching the side seams! Tons of pins seemed to do the job nicely. I only chopped one with my serger, doh! I can't help thinking, every chopped pin is taking me closer to the inevitable replacement of that blade.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Vienna Tank by Itch to Stitch

I have a new summer top... the Vienna Tank by Itch to Stitch!

I was a pattern tester for this top, so I've gotten to wear mine a couple of times already, even though the pattern was just released today! I love how it is an elegant design, but also super comfy since it is a relaxed fit and just skims the body.

It is an unusual design in that the yoke is made with a woven fabric, and the body of the top is made with a knit. This means that fitting is a breeze... with the knit on the body of the tank (and over the bust) you don't have to be too exact about fitting.

I used a silk charmeuse on the yoke and a rayon jersey for the body of the tank. I pre-washed the silk, and it dulled the shine on the charmeuse to a beautiful matte that I just love.

The biggest problem that people encountered was the depth of the armhole, so you might want to pay attention to this area on the pattern, and possibly tissue fit or muslin before you cut your fabric. Kennis deepened the armhole slightly since pattern testing, mostly in the smaller sizes... in my size she lowered it about .3 inches... just so you know, if you like where the armhole is hitting in these photos. I found the armhole to be just right in the testing version.

I made no other fitting changes when sewing my top. I did leave a bit of extra length, just in case, but ended up just incorporating it into the hem and using the original length specified by the pattern.

My favorite thing about the pattern is how clever the construction is. All of the seams are enclosed in the double layer of the yoke, and the front seam is a clever design that takes very little effort. Encasing the top edges of the top with bias is probably the fussiest part of the design, but it isn't yards and yards of bias tape like some tops require.

Since my knit was pretty lightweight and not so well behaved, I was careful to stabilize areas that I knew would be a problem. For both the armholes and the front "facing," I interfaced with lightweight knit interfacing to give the fabric a bit of body and assure that my stitching would be even. (I tried sewing the front facing without any stabilization, and it was a disaster-- I had to pick it all out and try again!). Other testers used spray starch, spray stabilizers, or wash away wonder tape.

I'm already planning my next versions! First to go is the tie... cute, but I think it would look great just cleanly finished at the slit. And I really want to try a woven version. I'd like more volume if I do this, so I'll slash and spread both the front and back pieces to add width. If I do this it will be very much like this Simplicity top I've made in the past, but hopefully a lot less fussy.

As Kennis says on her introduction of the top... it is a great top for using up small pieces, or in my case, all of those remnants I've snatched up from Emmaonesock in the past! The yoke takes only 1/4 yard, and the body of the top 3/4 yard.

Oh, and the tank is on sale now for 20% off if you want the pattern. Kennis is also having another sale of 15% off of any two or more patterns with code summerfun.