Saturday, 11 January 2014

Completed: A Bombshell Swimsuit... in January

Yep, I just finished a bathing suit in the middle of winter. A watermelon print bathing suit no less.

But you know what? I don't even care that it's the middle of winter. I MADE A BATHING SUIT. You have no idea how happy I was when I tried this thing on and it fit. (And yes, I'm posting pictures of myself in it on the internet. Yikes.)

Practically speaking, I actually wear a bathing suit more often in the winter than in the summer because I'm not really a water person. I prefer my feet on solid ground. But... we do have a hot tub, which I use quite a bit during the winter. So perfect timing, really.

The pattern is, of course, the Bombshell Swimsuit by Heather Lou of Closet Case Files. I won't say all that much about the pattern itself because I feel like it's all been said already, but it's a great pattern and was EXACTLY what I was looking for when I wanted to sew a bathing suit last summer.

This was my first time working with a PDF pattern, but my dad has access to a large-scale printer, so I didn't have to assemble a million sheets of paper, which was great. I also actually cut the pattern pieces for once (usually I trace everything) but I figured since I have the file I can always print it again if I change size. Of course, I lost the files when my computer's hard drive failed (mentioned here), so I guess I can't change size now. 

I made a size 4, grading to a size 6 at the hips. I took pictures of the process but lost them too. If you're interested in what I did to grade it, I remembered after the fact that Tasia did a post on grading it here. I checked it out and realized we did the exact same thing!

The fabric is from The Fabric Fairy - it was my first time ordering fabric online, but I'm really happy with it. It was a great price (although I had it shipped to a mailbox in the States because shipping to Canada was $20 more...), and the quality seems good. If you like knits, they have a great selection of novelty print knits. The lining I bought locally.

Speaking of knits, have I ever mentioned how much I hate sewing with them? This was no exception. Admittedly, the fabric wasn't as bad to work with as a jersey knit, but this bathing suit is a bit of a mess on the inside.

Everything went smoothly enough (lost most of my construction photos, sorry), until I tried it on after putting the elastic in and realized that it had some serious fitting issues. The whole crotch area (I don't know a politer way to say it) was waaaay too big. I guess I'm a size 6 at the hips by my measurements, but not by my shape. The elastic openings  around the legs were way too big, and it rode up quite a bit. Looking back, I probably should have actually tested to see if the elastic was actually the right size for my legs.

I also decided not to stretch the elastic at the bust (which is optional), because I always have a problem with bathing suits (and bras) being too tight along the top of the bust. The only problem is that the fabric stretched as I sewed it. I just snapped a picture on my phone but you get the idea:

Um, yeah. That wasn't really the look I was going for. I really didn't want to rip out all that stitching, so I improvised. This sewing was done after my computer died, so be prepared for a photo overload.

I decided to tackle to bust first. I tried it on, and then pinned the excess out of the sides. I measured the amount I needed to take out and then drew a line from that point to the dart in chalk.

Obviously, the front part had a lot more fabric than the back part, so I sewed some gathering stitches along the line.

I gathered it up, matched the edges, and tried to pin it in place. An experienced seamstress would probably cringe at this because it twisted awkwardly and was really a mess.

I basted it by hand, then by machine. I tried it on, and it seemed to fit, so I went ahead and serged it off.

It's definitely not ideal because the lining is gathered and the serging doesn't lie very flat at the top, although it's better since I stitched it down by hand. 

I went ahead and did the same thing for the other side, and...

Oops. I don't really know how this happened - I could have sworn that they matched up when I basted it. There was nothing to do but rip out the serging. Then, I stitched the lining and outer layers together.

I gathered it, but I couldn't gather it enough for it to match. 

I ended up just basting it in by hand, and gathering it even more as I went. It worked out, but looked pretty ugly on the inside after serging it.

I did the same thing on the bottom as a quick fix, rather than ripping it all out and shortening the elastic. Without all the annoying gathering, it was much more straightforward.

I went and tried it on, and after realizing that IT FIT, I did a little happy dance around my room for few minutes.

Incidentally, after I had been jumping around for five minutes (or so...), it was still in place so I figure I could have totally left it strapless. However, I wanted it to be a little more practical so I sewed the straps on anyways.

I don't know what I'm looking at here... 
In these photos, the elastic flips forward a bit, but since taking them, I stitched them by hand to the straps so they don't anymore. (Also, I hadn't taken out all my visible basting stitches when I took these photos. Not going to lie, I still haven't.)

Another little construction detail: I did sew in some bra cups, but they weren't ones meant for bathing suits, or even for sewing in at all. My mom had a pair from the fabric store in her stash, but they were completely the wrong shape. The ones I ended up using were from a sports bra, but I usually don't wear cups in sports bras and I have a bunch more pairs anyways. The support in the suit is decent - I wouldn't want to run a marathon in it, but for using in my hot tub and the couple other times a year when I'll wear a bathing suit, it's fine.

If I made this again, I'd do a few things differently:

1. Increase the seam allowance. I found working with a 1/4" seam allowance really difficult, especially with swimsuit fabric. Pretty much all my basting stitches are showing. I actually thought of this beforehand, but forgot when I cut it out.

2. Grade back down to a size 4 after the widest part of the hips. I think this would probably solve most of the problems with it being too big there.

3. Use a smaller length of elastic around the leg openings. This would probably solve the rest of those problems.

4. Stretch the elastic at the bust. There's no way I'm going through all that again.

5. Shorten it. I'm shorter than average but I haven't had to shorten anything I've made recently, so I figured I could probably get away without shortening it. It ended up a little too long, but it's not noticeable because of all the ruching.

6. Sew a line of elastic under the bust. I was going to do this, but then I realized that you'd probably get much better support from it if it were sewn into the side seams and I'd already sewn them up. Next time though, I'll add it.

Overall, I LOVE this swimsuit. It's cute and flattering without being skimpy like so many bathing suits are. I feel like I could actually go to the beach confidently with this on. Sure, it's not super pretty inside, but I forgive myself because a) it's made with a knit and b) I MADE A SWIMSUIT. 

I was laughing in this photo because I had been trying to come up with things to do with my hands and they were becoming more and more silly and random.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year! (Plus 2013 In Review)

Happy New Year! I won't lie and say that I'm a big fan of New Year's or New Year's resolutions, but I think it's good to reflect on and review the past year. It's been an exciting one!

It's been a while (over a month) since I last posted, so I'll quickly sum up the past month (or so) before moving on to summing up the past year.

I haven't been posting or sewing at all much because I've had tendinitis from my right hand up to my elbow. Being right handed, it makes it pretty difficult to do pretty much everything that I do a lot: writing, typing, sewing, playing the saxophone, dancing, yoga... you get the idea.

Unfortunately, the only way for it to really get better is rest. Honestly, though, how am I supposed to not use my right arm for a few weeks? Um, not going to happen.

Anyways, the project that I was working on got pushed aside for a while, and my plans for Knit for Victory were thrown out the window, which was a bummer because I have a 1940's knitting magazine and I was really looking forward to it.

On the bright side, since I couldn't sew, I reverted to planning for my grad dress (or prom dress, for my American readers). I'll post about that soon!

Oh, my computer also had a meltdown. It froze all of a sudden, which is pretty normal, so I shut it off. When I turned it back on, it told me it didn't have a hard drive. I'll skip the details, but none of my files could be recovered, and now it's sitting in the corner of my room, dead and useless. I really have no idea what to do with it. I also lost pretty much all the photos I've taken since starting this blog, since I last backed up around the end of August.

This also explains why this is a little late... I meant to get it out in 2013. I'm using my dad's old laptop, which is about nine years old, but is surprisingly still faster than mine that just crashed. Its only weakness, I discovered yesterday, is photo editing. I don't know if it just doesn't have the RAM or what, but the Gimp kept crashing whenever I would try to do very basic things... like moving a toolbar to better see the picture I was editing. Anyways, I didn't get the photos ready on time so here's the post now.

It's been a pretty busy year - I turned 17, started grade 12, and got my driver's license (a big highlight)! I'm in the process of applying for universities and scholarships, and it's really starting to sink in that I'll have a lot more independence after June. It's a bit scary, thinking that I'll be on my own pretty soon, but it's exciting too!

Anyways, enough about my personal life. Here's a list I've compiled of some of my sewing/crafty/thrifty highlights of 2013:

Sewing/Crafty Projects:

This doesn't include all of them, just the most notable ones, including some that were never blogged. You can see all of my blogged projects on my Sewn page.

Most-worn: Sewaholic Alma blouse

I practically lived in this blouse all summer because I burn like crazy, so shirts with a little more coverage than the average tank top are great (note to self: make more cotton blouses with sleeves for next summer). It's flattering, comfortable, and overall a great blouse. I'll definitely make another!

Least-worn: Simplicity 7148 Culottes

I really love these culottes, but I still have yet to wear them since I finished them right at the end of the summer. There were some days in the fall when it was hot enough that I could have worn them, but since they're linen, I wanted to save them for days when I would be standing more than sitting to avoid too much wrinkling. Lesson learned: next year, I won't wait until the end of summer to make shorts.

Most challenging: Bombshell swimsuit

Yes, you read that right - I finished a bombshell swimsuit! Here's a sneak peak - the full post will be out soon.

Biggest mistake: My second Pendrell blouse (pre-blog)

Ignore the bright blue tape on my arm. It was the only colour my physiotherapist had in stock when I needed some.
I like how this blouse, the Sewaholic Pendrell, turned out, but I seriously regret the fabric choice. It's 100% polyester and feels plastic-y and awful to wear. Since I was only just getting back into sewing when I made this, I didn't really know much about different fabrics and picked it because I liked the print. Looking back, it's amazing how much I've learned in a few months about sewing and fabric. Overall though, I don't regret making this blouse. We all make mistakes, and I learned from this one. Hey, if I hadn't learned to dislike polyester with this blouse, I might be planning to make my grad dress out of polyester! *shudder*.

Most likely to make again: Sewaholic Hollyburn skirt (pre-blog)

You may recognize this from my post about my knit Pendrell blouse (and from above). It's the Hollyburn Skirt from Sewaholic, made in a cheap rayon-poly-nylon blend. I wear it quite a bit, so I kind of regret not buying something a little nicer (again, this was before I knew all that much about fabric). I was stupid and didn't pay any attention to the finished measurements, thinking "I'm short, so if it says it hits just above the knee then it probably hits somewhere below the knee on me", and made view C, the shortest one (but with the button tabs from view B). It ended up too short even before hemming, so I added some wide lace hem binding so that I could turn up as little of the fabric as possible. I also put in an invisible zipper (my first ever) which broke after two wearings, so I replaced it with my first ever hand-picked zipper. I keep meaning to redo it because it wasn't actually very well done, but haven't bothered.

Anyways, there's my mini-post about that particular skirt. I seriously love the pattern, though, and really want to make more in cute quilting cottons in the spring (I love it when a pattern will work with quilting fabric). It's fast and easy to make, and it doesn't require any fitting, yet it's really flattering. I only wish mine were a little longer!

Took the longest: Pseudo Shibori Scarf

I worked on this for over a year... which is insane. My next knitting project will be more manageable (once my hand is better). Still, I love this scarf and I've worn it a lot! It's really cozy but still very delicate-looking, and it goes really well with my new favourite hat that I bought at the Circle Craft Fair (a huge craft fair in Vancouver) this fall.

Farthest out of my comfort zone: Nuno felted scarf

I have a post half-finished about this scarf that I will post someday, so I won't post too many details here - just a sneak peak!

Best thrift store find: My cashmere cardigan

I think I need to come up with a new pose...
I bought this 100% cashmere cardigan at a thrift store for $6.99, can you believe it? It had a strange fake leather buckle on the front but I unpicked it and then blocked where it had been because it had stretched a little, and it was as good as new! This cardigan is so soft and so warm that I practically live in it. Although you can't really see it in the pictures, it has a subtle diamond lace design. I used to wear it open, but more recently I've been pinning it shut with a cute pin that used to be my mom's, or tucking it in like in the photo.

Second place would probably go to the I'm wearing above. They're vintage pumps and made of red suede with black trim. I bought them at a thrift store for $7 or $8.

Favourite overall: The duvet dress (my second Sewaholic Cambie dress)

Hands-down, this is my favourite piece I've ever made. True, the fit isn't perfect but nothing I sew ever fits perfectly. Still, I absolutely love this dress and can't wait for the spring so that I can wear it again. (This was also the post with the most hits on my blog.)

A Few Highlights:

1. I started my blog!

I know, duh. But this was really exciting for me, and I'm so very thankful to everyone who reads it. I wanted to be able to share my passion with people who would appreciate all the work I put into it. At the moment, I have 6375 pageviews - I know, that's barely anything on the scale of the internet, but it's definitely a start. The fact that people care about what I have to say enough to visit 6375 times is wonderful! 

2. I won a prize

I entered in the Super Online Sewing Match Community Match just for fun, but actually won something! I entered my duvet dress and won a $50 gift card to Pink Castle Fabrics. I had been blogging for less than a month when I won, so this was really exciting for me!

3. I joined The Monthly Stitch

For those of you that don't know, The Monthly Stich is a community blog that began in August this year and has a different challenge every month. So far, I've only participated in one - the Frocktober challenge - but I really like the idea and the sense of community. January's challenge is New Year = New Skill which I'll try to contribute to (even if I don't have a finished product yet) because I'm starting on my grad dress soon, and there's lots of new skills I'll be learning with it.

4. I participated in "Concours d'art oratoire" talking about sweatshops and cheap clothing

This is an annual competition run by CPF, the Canadian Parents for French, where kids and teens (grades 6 to 12) prepare their own short speech in French and perform it in front of judges. They can really be about anything, but many students write them about something about which they hold a strong opinion. I wrote mine about sweatshops, the environmental cost of cheap clothing, and alternatives to fast fashion. I only made it to the district level, but it was a really great opportunity to learn more about something that I was interested in, and re-kindled my interest in sewing - it was right around then that I picked it up again.

5. I became much more independent while sewing

I used to be so unsure of myself with everything I was doing when I was sewing, and relied entirely on my mom's help. Since starting to blog, and reading other people's blogs, I've become much more independent and able to problem-solve while sewing. For instance, I did the fitting on my Ceylon dress entirely on my own, whereas with my Cambie dresses (here and here), I made the muslin, but my mom did all the fitting for me.

Overall, this has been a great year for me in terms of sewing, thrifting, and other crafty pursuits. I don't really do New Year's resolutions, so I won't formally make any to do with sewing. My most important project this year will be my grad dress, and I think that's enough of a goal for me.

Happy New Year!