My arch nemesis the bathing suit


Guys...guys... I have to talk about my troubled relationship bathing suits today and it might result in some binge chocolate eating.  But we're gonna get through this because it's helpful confess when projects don't go smoothly.  Or maybe I just need some absolution over the dumb shit I did while trying to appropriately cover my body for our trip to the coast.

OK, so let's unpack some childhood trauma to give you some context first.  I did not have a lithe, toned teenager phase. The body I have now is the body I had then minus some additional abdominal padding and a bunch of blown out veins in my legs. (Thanks pregnancy!) Had I been born in the Renaissance my pear shape with saggy bewbs would have made me tres sexy. Just add a gauzy robe plus hair flowers and the studs come a running. Not sure about that wind guy though, he looks a little sketchy.
Of course our current beauty standards are pretty much the exact opposite of this and teenage me was painfully aware of how short I fell from them. We women tend to beat ourselves up anyway, but I also had the additional "help" of series of asshats who regularly told me that I was fat and ugly. So to say I had low self esteem as a teenager might be putting it mildly.  

What does a teenager with body issues really not want to do?  Strip down to a clingy piece of swimwear and stand around with a bunch of strangers in a public place. Guess what my father's favorite activity is? Ten points if you guessed going to the beach. So I spent a fair amount of my teenage age summer's awkwardly sitting on the beach hoping the Dude Bros would just ignore me instead of giving me derisive looks. Or even worse in "That's one's a dog bro!" (This did happen more than once.) In short, the beach was akin to a low level circle of hell for me. The moment I moved out of my parents house and realized I never had to go to the beach again it was like winning the mother clucking jackpot!
But wait, what's this Heather? You appear to have gone back to the beach despite that fact that you hear the "Psycho" RRRRKKK, RRRRKKK, RRRRKKK noise while looking at this picture. Well people, I did it for the kid and for the grandparents.  My father now lives down at Ocean City MD, when he isn't living somewhere in the Philippines.  Every summer he starts calling/emailing, "When are you coming to the beach? When are you coming to the beach?" for....the....entire.....summer. We did go once before when Des was almost 1 years old. I remember two things about that trip, A: I bought a black one piece with ruching knowing no one was going to pay attention to me with an adorable baby in my arms. (100% true, adorable babies always pull focus.) B: Desmond ate sand and by a stroke of luck I got this picture. It still makes me laugh really hard. 
The next couple summers I declined visiting because.....well I hate the beach. This year Desmond started asking me when were we going to the beach about the same time my father did. You dirty rats, I smell a conspiracy!!! Being double teamed by the two of them I sucked it up and agreed to come for a visit this year. Now what the heck was I going to wear? The previously mentioned black bathing suit had been donated with my other plus sized clothing last year. I could either endure the hellscape that is trying on bathing suits in grimly lit dressing rooms or try something new and sew my own. Since we're talking about bathing suits you probably figured out that I decided to make my own. This is when I started making mistakes.

Mistake number #1 - Procrastinated away time needed for the project.
Despite being in a much better place about my body, I'm still not that keen on swimsuits.  With other garments I can camouflage areas that are not my favorite and end up feeling good about what I'm wearing. With swimwear that's just not going to happen. I knew that looking at myself in a swimsuit would be depressing and put it off as long as possible. Then I was on a sewing deadline and had to skip some important steps.

Mistake number #2 - Not muslining.
Due to the previous mistake I was in a time crunch and did not muslin anything but the bra portion of the Nautilus swimsuit.  I should know better! It was silly to think that swimsuits wouldn't need any fitting adjustments when everything else I make does.  Also my brain really could have used a trial run on how a suit goes together since it was my first try at this sort of sewing. It would have saved a lot of grumpy seam ripping later.

Mistake number #3 - Not knowing what I really wanted in a swimsuit. 
OK I "thought" I knew what I wanted, a one piece with minimal bust support. This was based on that black bathingsuit from the previous beach trip. However when wearing the suits on the beach I found that my girls were in desperate need of more support. So much so that I felt uncomfortable.  If you are the sort of person who doesn't understand why people hate underwire, then Do Not assume a swim cup is enough support. My heavy as shit breast tissue was like, "Haa haa floating foam, how amusing, let's flop around now. Who can reach her belly button first?!"  I also also wrong about wanting a one piece. I have a tiny bladder so having to completely undress myself for every bathroom break was super annoying.  I also felt a little dumpy/matronly in a one piece because it just exacerbated my pear shape. If I'd muslined and tried on the patterns ahead of time, then the problems mentioned above would have been apparent then.  Both of these patterns have two piece options and links in their sew-a-longs about how to add more supportive cups. It would have been possible to adjust both of them to some sort of bra top with a high waisted bikini bottom had I not made all the mistakes above.

OK, now we're done with my extremely long intro about personal human frailty and we can get into the patterns themselves.  I even put up unflattering photos! I'm a little small in them, but considering it was my husband's first spin with the Canon camera he did a good job. At least that's what I'm telling myself to avoid taking more pictures of these on my back porch.

Bombshell from Closet Case Files
I chose to sew view A with the small alteration of crossing the straps at the back instead of doing a halter. My heavy breast tissue and halters don't mix unless I'm really in the mood for some neck pain. Let's face it, no one's ever in the mood for that.  My fabric choice was a red nylon spandex tricot from The Fabric Fairy. I took a gamble buying this bright red color without swatching it and lost.  It was not the bright red tone I like, more of an orange red and therefore slightly irks me everytime I look at it.  Yet another reason to leave plenty of time for projects don't you think? (A comedy of errors I tell you!) This superficial problem aside, was good quality and was pretty easy to work with.  I used the more matte side as my right side for the suit. 
Despite following along with the sew-a-long blog posts I managed to do just about everything wrong on this suit the first time.  Probably because I'm a complete asshole about reading directions and sometimes my brain is like, "Nope, not learning new stuff. I'm sleeping now. Zzzzzzz."  It would be fair to say that I did not gracefully climb the learning curve of sewing swimsuits. Instead my deadline drug me kicking and screaming up the hill. You can teach me new tricks, but it's going to involve a lot of seam ripping and feeling like idiot. Most of the mistakes were fixable with the ripper, but I did end up putting my lining in backward and only realizing it until most of the elastic was in.  I wasn't crazy enough to rip that out on a deadline.
My suit is a combo 10/12 size which was almost perfect out of the envelope.  The suit could use the torso shortened about 3/8", but the ruching does help to hide this.  At the center front the ruching line had to be extended further down into the suit body several inches so that it matched up to where my bewbs actually were.  I made the bust tab longer to accommodate the new position and the increased volume of gathers. This was done on the fly so I'd guesstimate that it was about 1/2" longer.
I really liked the ruching and the leg/butt coverage on this suit. In fact the whole bottom half gets a perfect score in my book.  The upper half didn't work for me because I hadn't put in the kind of bust support I need. As I when on and on about earlier, swim cups did little and the addition of elastic under them did not help, My breast tissue just make the elastic buckle away from my body so that it offered zero support. It's possible that stretching the elastic would have helped, but I thinking nothing short of underwires is really going to do the job.

Nautilus from Seamstress Erin
I went with view A on this one as well, with straps that connect to the back band. The starfish print fabric is also from The Fabric Fairy and I'm going to have to gush about it for a minute.  This is one of those fabrics where you touch it and think "Ooooo yeah, that's some nice quality here." It's just a tad thicker than the solid red fabric used for the bombshell.  The face is matte and the colors are clear and bright. It's still in stock and I might have to snag a bit more.
Since I'd muslined the top part and gotten a little experience sewing the bombshell, the Nautilus went together a lot quicker. My suit is a 10 with a C/D cup.  Based on the measurement chart I muslined the DD cups but they were too big on the bottom.  The C/D's fit perfect even though I were a DD bra, so that's one area where it was good that I'd bothered to muslin. With the bra like straps and a underbust seam Nautilus has a bit more bewb support built in.  I still need more since my girls are pushing down into the seam and puckering up into the little keyhole window under the twist.  The Nautilus top seems like a design that would lend itself to being converted to more of a standard bra. I "think" it would be easy overlay the twist over a bra base.....if I knew how to sew a bra base. Guess that's a goal that should be added to the sewing list.
I should have muslined the bottom half as well because there were a few minor fitting problems that would have been easy to fix. The torso length needs to be shortened on this pattern. You can see it wrinkling up where the body joins to the bra portion. I also wasn't happy with the amount of butt coverage. In these pictures the it looks fine, but while wearing the suit the bottoms felt a tad too small.  It didn't help that the elastic on the back of the leg was a little loose, adding to the feeling that my butt was not covered. The elastic on the top edge of the back also needs to be shortened up to really lay flat on my body.  Erin gives you suggested elastic lengths per size in those areas, but I should have known that some fine tuning to the fit might be needed.  Good news is that sort of thing can be fixed if I feel like getting out the seam ripper and re-attaching the elastic with a shorter length.
On this suit I like the top a lot more than the bottom.  It's not bad from the back but from the front I don't like the look of the one piece on my body.  Again, musling would have solved this whole problem and I could have easily modified one of the bikini bottoms to cover my belly.  

Shewwww! That was a big info dump so how about a summary?
- I hate swimsuits. Duh. However sewing one seemed like a better idea then unsuccessfully searching for a decent RTW one.

- For the most part sewing one was better, even if it was a very aggravating process of learning new skills. I can confirm that it gets easier after the first suit.

- I made some stupid mistakes from the get go that caused me not to be 100% happy with my finished suits.

- My personal opinion is that both of these swimsuit patterns are nicely drafted and have helpful sew-a-long blog posts.  If we could pull out a time turner I'd still use these patterns, just chose different views than the one's shown here.

- Some of this shit is all in my head because my husband was thrilled with both suits and had nothing but good things to say about them.

- And finally if you can get yourself a 4 year old to take to the beach I'd recommend it. First you're too busy making sure they don't drown to worry about your appearance. Secondly their pure happiness at being at the beach rubs is contagious and soon you find yourself laughing and holding hands while slapping waves. Take that wave, SMASH!!!!

The Return of the McCalls Shirtdress


Two sewing repeats back to back? Tsk, tsk. Someone needs to plan my life better so this sort of thing doesn't happen. In fact let me just get a ghost blogger so I can focus all my attention on my real loves, cake and toy frogs. :)  But not toy frog cake because that would be weird.
Anyway, let's just blame Roisin for pattern repeat number 2 and move on.  She's been cranking out McCall's 6696 like clockwork and with every post my desire to sew another has increased. There was even a moment where I thought, "My wardrobe really needs a M6696 sewn in Liberty Carline," forgetting that I'd already sewn one. Derp. To be honest though two Carline shirtdresses would not be a bad thing.

Not having any other colors of Carline in the stash, I did the next best thing and chose a Liberty Lawn in a different print.  It's name did not lodge itself in my head, but it's the one with all the different colored pears. When purchasing this fabric I thought, "OOOOHHH FRUIT PRINT ON SALE!" and grabbed 3 yards. This probably would have been more than enough fabric for most garments if a. The print wasn't directional and b. The pears are set up in stripes so you have to stripe match if you don't want the garment to look like a pile of dog poop. I did luck out was able to fussy cut most of the garment correctly  One button band had to be squeezed out without any regard to pattern placement, the inside waist facing is pieced and my skirt side seams aren't perfectly aligned. But the center front looks pretty great which is what's really important...right...right? *twitches slightly when looking at sideways pictures*
This dress was cut out at the end of May, a few days before we took a trip to my in-laws.  The plan was to get most of the machine sewing parts done and then do all that tedious hand sewing at their house. No machine no problem, I'm still making garments!!!  Well the fly in the ointment is that my hand sewing is slow and even with the assistance of audiobooks,  incredibly boring. At the end of that weekend only half of the sewing was done. The stash busting contest started in June and this poor dress sat around in a tote bag for most of that time.  I finally picked it back up during/after? our long term power outage and finished up all the fiddly handiwork. 

There are a few minor pattern alterations to this version. After pulling last year's dress out of storage and putting it on, the bodice length felt too short.  I went back and removed my bodice length alteration of 1/2" and sewed this one as drafted.  The waist hits where I want it now, but it seems like this change makes the back puffer.  That's my current theory anyway since the fabrics are exactly the same.
My preference for skirt length as also changed in a year, so I added 3 3/4" to the pattern to make it 27" long. This change was also made to the button band because you want all those pieces to fit together. ;)  On this dress I gathered the edge to ease in the extra fullness and catch stitched a 1 3/4" hem.

In any future versions I'd tweak the back gathers a bit. They may just need to be distributed over a larger area since I do like the feel of that much ease across my broad upper back. I'd also make the pockets bigger, a change that had to be skipped on this is dress due to fabric yardage concerns.
All in all it was a good stash busting project to crank out since I didn't need to buy a thing to sew this dress. Isn't it nice when all your hoarding pays off in the future. There was even a pear brooch already lurking in my collection. (Somehow not surprising thanks to my brooch addiction.) Though I'd like to go back in time and tell past Heather to buy these sandals in navy too. Still kicking myself about that years later.

In parting I'll leave you with a picture from a different location in the park.  The house in the background is an office space for some of the local government employees, but hasn't lost any of it charm....if we ignore the AC units. It might also amuse you to know that a family found my photo taking entertaining enough to stand around watching for about 10 minutes.  In truth watching me try to climb up this wall before the camera stopped responding to the remote probably was hilarious. Climb overly dressed women, climb!

Advance 9441 Take Two - Summer Lemon Dress


Oh look, Advance 9441 is back and in a lemon print just like past Heather had promised. Wow for once she didn't lie to us about sewing plans. (It's all her fault when posts about sewing plans don't come to fruition. She should know that I get distracted by shiny new things.)
Does this version of the pattern really need it's own blog post? Not really. But sometimes a fabric/pattern combo works out great and you want to post a gazillion pictures of it. So please bear with me and in return you can all have lemon bars at the end of the post.  I sure Froggie won't dust them all off while you're reading.

Let's talk about this beautiful lemon cotton lawn for a minute, because it's only gracing my body thanks to the kindness of another sewer.  I saw this beautiful fabric on Handmade Jane's blog last year when she sewed up  a Mortmain Dress. That dress instantaneously filled me with a bad case of fabric lust. The colors, the painterly quality of the print, the sheer size of those lemons. It Was Perfection!  I quickly clicked on the link to Abakhan fabric with my credit card in hand.  Well my friends it was then that I found out that Abakhan does not deliver to the US.  NOOOOOOOO!!!!
Having been foiled in my attempt to purchase this fabric I went over to Twitter to whine about it. "Booo Hoo Hoo, poor me. Why can I not relieve my fabric lust by rubbing this fabric all over my face?"  (I might have left that last part out of my tweet.) Then Elena tweeted me,  "I can order some and mail it to your house." SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! YES, YES, YES!!!  So Elena awesomely enabled my fruit print fabric addiction and personally shipped 4 yards of lemon lawn to me.  I am forever indebted to her because this fabric is the bomb.
Fitting/style wise this version is the same as the one made in March, other than using the shorter sleeve length. I was actually surprised at how long the "shorter" kimono sleeves are. Guess I'm used to the length of gussetless kimono sleeves that just cover the shoulder.
Finally some sewing notes.  Cotton lawn is a lovely light weight thing, but it's semi-transparentness can cause problems in the underwear department.  I decided to underline/line this dress with some Siri interfacing from EOS.  I haven't been able to find anyone stocking true Siri poly/cotton lining like Gertie used to have in her online shop that one glorious summer. The lightweight rayon/cotton interface is the same weight and the hand is almost the same. It works great for underlining if you don't feel like shelling out $$ for cotton batiste.
The bodice portion is underlined and the skirt portion is a separate lining.  If I had to go back and do it again then the dress would have a proper full lining.  At the time I couldn't stomach the thought of sewing extra gussets and took the "easy" way out.  (The easy, easy way out would be picking a pattern that didn't have sleeve gussets.)  In the end my combo underlining/lining doesn't look any different from the right side of the garment and that's OK by me.

In closing I'll leave you with some theoretical tall glass of lemon aid and a good petticoat twirl picture. Ahhh summer, you're the best.

Sundress Sew-a-long - Pattern picks


Happy July 1st everyone, sundress sew-a-long is officially underway!! I'd say that Froggie and I are celebrating with mimosas, but in truth we are just eating chocolate chips straight out of the bag. Sometimes you have to spend your champagne money on car repairs. C'est la vie.  But we're not going to let that get us down because sewing plans are free! Should any of you be looking around for sewing inspiration we've compiled a list of our favorite new dress patterns.

1. Butterick 6167  - The newish bust shelf pattern from Gertie. This is the pattern I'll be making if I can finally stop waffling around about fabric selection.  Flora, tropical, polka dots, they all seem to be choices that will work equally well. I might just have to blindfold myself and throw a dart at some swatches to decide.

2. Butterick 6164 - I really like the classic design of the pattern and the sample fabric used doesn't hurt either. Interesting use of darts at the neckline.

3. For causal maxi dress lovers there are the pattern options of the Southport dress for wovens and the Sallie for knits. Both seem like great wardrobe building patterns.

4. Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress -  They've given me a bunch of antibiotics but I've still got shirt dress fever.  The new pattern by sew over it makes me want to scratch that shirt dress itch some more.

5. Vogue 1446 - If anyone is looking for a challenge then this Rebecca Taylor design has one eye catching back.

Those are a couple of lovelies I've had my eyes on recently. If you're in the mood for more pattern ideas then check out last year's pattern posts for modern or retro picks. Those of you with plans already, I can't wait to see what you sew up!
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