Friday, July 25, 2008

The Curaçao Swimsuit (review and step-by-step tutorial)

Curaçao Swimsuit
(Burdastyle Alison Vintage Style Swimsuit)

This is my version of the wonderful Burdastyle swimsuit that came out a few weeks ago (pattern is downloadable here). I've been meaning to try my hand at a swimsuit for some time... Hoping that in the near future, my work and various papers will be all finished-finished, and some time, maybe, I'll take a much-needed break at the beach! This pattern came in very handy as it looked better than any swimsuit pattern I've seen.
I made this last weekend, just before Seb, the kitty and I left for Amsterdam for a fortnight (where I am now busy writing a paper and finishing my dissertation).

This is my entry for PatternReview's knit contest.

~Pattern review~
Pattern Description: Vintage style bathing suit Pattern
Sizing: S-M-L, but Burdastyle forgot to add a size chart. Duh. I cut an S and the body of the suit turned out a bit loose on me, so this pattern does run a bit large.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
No, not at all. In fact, it's as if the instructions were nonexistent.
Some steps are entirely omitted. They don't even tell you how to finish the swimsuit.
The few instructions the writers did see fit to offer were not satisfying anyway: there was much neater ways of making this swimsuit, so I went along my own rules. Honestly, people, who wants seam allowances in a swimsuit crotch?
Oh, and as was noted by Cidell and commenters on the Burdastyle website, the pattern lacks some essential information: the crotch piece and back strap should be cut on the fold; notches are missing to create gathers at the bust. The rectangle piece that gathers the insert in the middle is not labelled on the pattern sheet.
ETA: Burdastyle have just updated the pattern with the relevant information.
Except one pair of notches is still missing to make the gathers at the bust - those at the top of the insert (?); the corresponding notches are also still missing on the strap, methinks.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I fell in love with the swimsuit as soon as I saw it.
Now... I've read several times on a sewing board (that I otherwise appreciate tremendously) about this cliché of French women all lying on the beach au naturel. Well, like most clichés, it's a wrong generalization that can feel a little insulting to some. ;)
Personally, I hate feeling like I have to wear the equivalent of underwear in public just because I'm at the beach. Don't misunderstand me - I have absolutely nothing against women who do feel at ease this way (I strongly believe that everyone should do as they please, as long as no one else is hurt) - it's just that I can't. This suit seems to achieve the impossible: it will make me feel at ease while being super cute and a little glamorous.

Fabric Used: Poly-lycra jersey knit with a four-way stretch. I got it from a year ago- it kind of jumped into my cart as I was buying some batiste for my dupioni gown. It cost me ridiculously little (less than 2 dollars, i.e 1.3 euro) and I needed less than a yard for this project (yes, I can still make a tank top out of the remnants). Since the pattern is free, the only significant cost for this swimsuit was the bra cups - 4 euros. Do you have any idea how much a swimsuit costs in Paris? He he.

(Miss Cutie claims she made it all)
Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:
- I inserted bra cups between the shell and the lining to add some support.

- I cut the back strap on the fold and added a bit of length to make ties, as per the model's pictures (I can't see how they managed to make these ties with the pattern such as we got it)
Back of the suit
- I wanted the legs to be a bit longer (the shorty style was really not quite there after hemming), so I unpicked the hem (ack) and cut strips to create a binding. I cut the pieces slightly (1 cm) narrower than the bodice binding.

- I made the most of my striped fabric by cutting the body vertically, the insert (bust) horizontally, the center tab vertically, and the leg's binding and bodice binding/straps horizontally. Fun!

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I don't need another glamorous swimsuit; I recommend it to intermediate to advanced seamsters that are up for a challenge.

This was such a gratifying project. Apart from underwear and a couple of jeans, I haven't bought any clothes in over two years. My dream is to make absolutely everything I wear (apart from jeans, but including underwear), and this showed me I really could!
I'm happy that I have now reached a level of skill (and of confidence) that allows me to tackle a pretty technical project with no real instructions and some significant pattern faults, and to actually manage something that doesn't look wonky (I hope!).

It may sound that I'm bashing Burdastyle, but I don't really mean to. I'd been wanting to be trying one of their online patterns for a long time, and while the instructions and markings on the pattern were sometimes seriously lacking, the pattern itself was very well drafted. Plus, this style is truly unique. And, hey, the pattern is free! Merci, Burdastyle!
I took notes while assembling the swimsuit in case it might be useful for others, so here's my
~Step by step tutorial to construct the swimsuit~
1. Swimsuit's Body
Assemble swimsuit's body back to front right sides together at side seams.

2. Crotch
Assemble crotch lining to front and back of the swimsuit's body, with lining's right side against the swimsuit body's wrong side.
Try the suit on, make alterations to fit if and where needed. You can now serge the side seams.
For a neater finish, you'll now have to sandwich the body's seam allowance (front and back) between the crotch and crotch lining. To do this, stitch crotch outer piece to back right sides together. Then to stitch the crotch to the body's front, right sides together, you'll just need to scrunch the crotch lining out of the way. There should still be enough room to do the seam on the machine.
(If you're having a Bree tendency, like I did, make sure you match the stripes at the crotch. Not that anyone will look that close at that particular spot, but it'll make you feel better).
Trim the crotch seam allowances. Turn them to the inside.

3. Preparing the Front Insert
Fold the "front insert" in half.
note: since the front insert folds in half, what I'm calling the lining is the half that folds to the inside of the swimsuit
Make 2 rows of gathering stitches, on each side, for *both* the insert and insert lining (you'll need to make them separately as we don't want to attach the insert and it's lining at this point, for a neater finish). Start about 1 cm after the insert's curve at the bottom, and stop about an inch from the top (i. e., the fold).

4. Adding Bra Cups
If you're adding bra cups:
Stitch the insert's lining to the swimsuit's body, lining's right side against body's wrong side. *do not attach the insert's outer side to the swimsuit now.*
Try the suit on and pin the cups to the lining's inside, where you need them to be (careful with those pins, ladies!).
You'll be sewing the cups onto the inside of the lining (not directly against your skin). The cups will be hidden between the lining and the shell.
Adjust the gathers so that they are spread evenly over the cups. Stitch the cups to the lining's inside, using a narrow zigzag stitch.

5. Attaching the Insert to the Body
Stitch the insert to the swimsuit, right sides together. As in step 2, the bodice will thus be sandwiched between the insert's shell and lining, and no seam will be visible on the inside or on the outside. This is made possible because we haven't assembled the insert's shell and lining at the side seams yet, thus leaving an opening allowing to do this seam on the sewing machine.

6. Center Tab:
If desired (though this can be left out - Cidell's sans tab version is also very cute), add the center tab to gather the insert in the middle. Fold the piece lengthwise right sides together, sew the long side, turn right sides out. Fold under one of the short ends, attach to the bottom of the insert's lining. Fold the other short end under, attach to the bottom of the insert's shell.

7. Binding the Swimsuit's Body
Baste the insert's and lining's sides together.
Fold the long strap piece wrong sides together. Mark its center, and mark the back of the swimsuit's center. Pin the folded strap's center to the swimsuit's center. Stitch the strap to the swimsuit, pulling on the strap as you sew. This will make the strap stay snugly against your body as you wear the swimsuit.
Stop one each before you reach the insert's top. Make a 1-cm notch perpendicular to the strap's raw side, right at the top of the insert. Turn the straps to the wrong side, and sew the remaining long sides as well as the short end closed. Turn the straps inside out through the 1-inch opening on top of the inlay. Sew the opening at the inlay closed.
Serge/finish the binding and body's raw edges together.

8 a. Back Straps (tied version)
Fold the back straps right sides together and stitch the long side and one short side closed. Turn inside out, pin where you want them to be (I pinned mine at the bottom of the bra cups). Stitch them to the seam allowance only, being careful not to catch the body or the binding into the seam. I recommend making a double seam for added strength (you're going to be pulling on these each time you tie your swimsuit in the back).
8. b. Back straps (single strap version)
Stitch the long side closed. Turn inside out. Stitch either end of the strap onto the seam allowances of the swimuit's sides.

9. Optional leg band (my idea, not in original pattern):
Measure the legs' opening's perimeter, and cut 2 straps in this length, plus seam allowance. Width: I cut mine 1 cm narrower than the body's binding. Again, you may want to cut them just a bit shorter, to make them sit snuggly at the legs - but not too snuggly, or your legs will look like stuffed sausages. I pulled just a tiny bit on the band while attaching it to my leg opening.
Sew the bands closed on the short side.
Attach to the legs same as you did for the body's binding.
Serge/finish bands' and leg' raw edges together.

And you're all done!
I hope this all made sense. If not, give me a shout and I'll try and be clearer!

Here's a tiny pic to show how it fits - but I won't be showing any other picture on this blog.
As you can see, I made a hair band to match.

Now Seb had better take me to the beach as soon as I've written the final word to my thesis! Which should be some time next week, provided I retain the same level of energy and focus (which means, very scarce blog and email reading, and of course, no sewing... yeah, I wrote the tutorial as a "break" between rereading two chapters).

I'll catch up with you all friends afterwards!
In the meanwhile, take care.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Knit Knot Top

Simplicity 4076 - view F
Bonjour bonjour, friends!
I hope you're not tired of seeing my easy tops yet...
They're just the thing I need in these days of intense work and growing exhaustion... They take little time to do, and only require minimal involvement from a tired brain. ;) I will tackle more ambitious projects when life goes back to normal in a month or so.

The fabric choice is all thanks to you friends... You were many to comment on my Cyclamen top and to remark that this colour suited my complexion.
Now you guys deserve to know a little secret... I'm not sure I would have ever willingly bought such a colour... I got it online and it was a much more subdued and dark (purple) shade on the website. When I received it, my first impression was "Ack! I wanted a classy purple top, not a flashy pink one!" But the shade grew on me. I decided it to first give it a go with a simplistic pattern (New Look 6470), and have been astounded at how many compliments I've received (in real life as well, but especially on this blog and on PatternReview) about the colour!

You guys really encouraged me to use up the fabric's remnants to make this top. This Knit Knot Top is therefore dedicated to you all!

(no, I wasn't mad, or sad, or anything. Seb simply caught me unawares as we came out of the Quai Branly museum yesterday ;) )

Pattern Review for Simplicity 4076 - view F:
ETA: I wrote a more thorough review on PR.]

Probably everyone who uses sewing patterns knows about Simplicity 4076... It has almost 100 reviews on PatternReview. This is the ultimate knit top pattern, with a variety of cute styles that sew up quickly.
The only reason why I hadn't gotten it until last month, is that it starts at a size 8. I am bummed that this blockbuster, super versatile and helpful pattern starts at a size 8. Why not start at a size 4 to make everybody happy? Please, dear Simplicity staff? I finally caved in, though. Seeing those lovely tops cropping up on PatternReview and on my favourite sewing blogs proved too frustrating.

A tip about the neckline:
Many reviews on PR mention that the twist top's neckline is low, but a bit of tweaking cancelled out the potential indecency: I made the neckline's hem a bit narrower to gain a bit of fabric there; more importantly, I had the center seam go a centimeter or so higher up than the dot marked in the pattern. This pushed the knot, and consequently the neckline, higher up. Easy and efficient. :)


Thank you for the lovely comments you keep leaving here. They have meant a lot to me. This home stretch is taking a toll on my nerves, as the pressure is now releasing and I can feel more and more the effect of the months of fatigue that have been piling up. Any form of encouragement or kindness that you have been showering on me, has felt wonderfully comforting.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Another easy top...

... Another Vogue 2980.
After my Moka version, I wanted to make a pastel, short-sleeved version for summer. You know how much I love this shade of blue... Heck, it even matches my blog's colour scheme. Now wait - you don't have to dress in your blog's colour?
The fabric is a slinky knit, by the way.

I haven't got much to say about this pattern -I just love the design, and this top comes together beautifully. This was also made during my sewing binge a couple of weeks ago. I haven't been able to do any sewing since (apart from a few gifts I've finally started on...).

Sorry to hit and run like that. Things have been good, but (surprise, surprise) busy. I'm on the home stretch of my dissertation, and I want it to be as impeccable acceptable as I can make it... I have also been preparing a paper for a conference, and have to send out another long one before the end of the month. But - I'm enjoying all this, and things are good!

Hoping this finds you all fine and happy! Happy sewing, friends.