Friday, April 16, 2021

Sewing Bee Round 4 - Goodbye Pandemic Outift

 the 4th and final round of the Pattern Review Sewing Bee - this time they asked us to create an outfit that you would wear to an event or activity that you were looking forward to once the world opens up again.  Here is a cut and paste of my review.

The Event
In many ways I am lucky - the pandemic did not have a huge impact on how I live my life….(you know - apart from never leaving the house part) About 13 years ago my husband, 6 month old daughter and I moved our little family to the other side of the world. In order to keep in contact with all my family and friends back in Australia we started talking regularly on Skype and keeping in contact remotely - I used to joke that I talked to my parents more in the years after we moved than we did in the years before we moved when we lived on opposite sides of the same city! Over the years we’ve found ways to celebrate birthdays’ and Christmas’ and other family orientated events virtually and so when the pandemic hit we already had these routines in place and we just carried on - business as usual.

But whilst catching up virtually is a sad necessity for everyone this year there is nothing like seeing family and friends in person - especially as the kids grow up - its hard to keep up with them virtually. We normally try to get back to Australia for an in person visit every two years or so and thankfully 2019 was a visit year. This means that our next visit is due in June/July 2021. Unfortunately I don’t think that that is going to happen, but hopefully sometime soon we will be able to fly back to Australia…..hopefully….

This leads me to the event that I am looking forward to the most…...a A family reunion weekend at our beach house. Back in the 1950’s when my Dad was a young boy his parents bought some land in Burrill Lake and started building themselves a house - it was a little fibro shack built mostly by my Grandpa and his father with help from my Dad, his brothers and his Uncles - it was a real family affair. Growing up we often went, along with my Grandparents, to this house for long weekends or holidays and I have so many fond memories of this place. The old 1950’s refrigerator, and even older ice chest - now used to store blankets. The old chipped plates and glasses and the toaster that opens from the sides - this house has so many memories stored in it - memories of my great grandparents, grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, my cousins kids, my cousins kids kids..... they've all left a little of themselves in this house. This is where we have had big family reunions with family members from all over the country coming together to celebrate our joined heritage. It is definitely one of my happy places.

And for me, one of the best things is the short walk across the road to the beach. A beautiful stretch of white sand that squeaks when you walk on it. It’s not the best beach for swimming - too many rips, but it’s a nice walk down the beach to the lake entrance for a quick swim, then back through the caravan park to the road, stop for an ice cream at the little corner store then back home. How many times have I done that route?

Most of my trips back to Australia include a family trip down to our “Holiday House”. I love these times, when we can get my little family, my parents, my sister and her family all crowded into this five room house (with maybe a tent or two on the front lawn as the kids grow up). This is the scenario for which I have created my outfit.

[I played around with photoshop and managed to get photos of my outfits superimposed on pictures of the house at Burrill and the Beach]

For this scenario I needed a bikini and rash vest for our daily trip to the beach, a cover up dress for when we want to pop into town, a hat to keep off the sun whilst we feed the lorikeets at the caravan park and cook dinner on the fire out front and sandals with just enough coverage to protect the soles of the feet, but cool and comfortable enough to wear all day.

As usual I knew that my outfit had to be brightly coloured - colour is what I do best and the world needs more colour at the moment. The colour palette for this outfit started with the fabric for my dress - It’s a cotton double gauze in a white, blue, green and pink plaid. It's a beautiful summer feeling colour scheme plus being double gauze cotton should be nicely absorbent as a beach coverup dress. Next I needed swimsuit fabric to match - I managed to find a poly lycra with a painted design in bright orange and yellows, with pops of blue, green and burgundy, and black “Cheetah like” spots on it. I also bought some plain blue and green poly lycra swimsuit fabric to use as accents.

Swim Suit:
Since when I’m at Burrill I spend most of the day in my swimsuit - underneath my clothes when not actually swimming - it has to be easy to wear (and easy to use the bathroom in), supportive and comfortable - to me this means a bikini. Now I don’t have what is usually called a bikini body. I’m 40 odd years old, with two kids and all the stretch marks, flab and wrinkles that comes with that - but I refuse to worry what other people think. I believe that anyone can wear anything they want and this is something that I really want to pass onto my kids. A two piece bikini is easy and comfortable and so I will wear it!

But I knew that I wanted to make this bikini special. I’ve always loved the look of strappy, skimpy, string bikini bottoms but whenever I’ve tried to make them in the past I just end up with rolls of fat squidging out between the straps - not the best look - but then I had an idea - why don’t I put the straps over the top of a lining which holds in all the wiggly bits - It worked. I chose to use the blue as the lining material and waistband, green for the straps at the sides and around the leg holes and my main swimsuit fabric front and back.

For the bikini top I wanted to continue with the strappy look so I used my standard bra pattern (to give me the support and comfort I need) but used rouleau loops to make a lattice design to replace the back and also for the straps to make it more bikini less bra. I used the main swimsuit fabric for the outside and fully lined it in the blue fabric. The underbust elastic was encased in a contrasting green swimsuit fabric and two matching snaps were used to close the band at the back.

Rash Vest:
Growing up in Australia I have a healthy respect for the sun. I know way too many people who have had to had skin cancers or potential skin cancers removed for me to be blase about sun safety - so whilst my new bikini is super pretty and will be great for indoor swimming - it’s not sun safe for swimming outside and so I knew I needed to add a rash vest to my outfit. I’ve tried long sleeve rash vests but find them uncomfortable, and I’m happy enough to sun screen up my arms and legs, what I don’t want to have to worry about is my shoulders and back so I wanted a short sleeve, fitted rash vest. A zipper down the front for easy on and off is necessary. I wanted to bring the strap detail from the bikini in and thought about splitting the sleeve in half and adding the strap detail there. I originally dismissed this idea - a rash vest with an open sleeve that doesn’t cover the shoulder is pretty useless - but then I realised I can do the same as the pants, add the blue lining underneath the strap detail.

Obviously I can’t stand around in my swimsuit all day - so I needed an easy wearing dress to throw on over the top. In keeping with the sun sense theme I wanted to be able to cover my shoulders so I went for a dropped shoulder design with drawstrings in the shoulder that can be pulled tight or loosened depending on how much of my shoulders I want exposed at the time. There is just enough ease (about 1”) added to the bodice and waistband to allow me to slip the dress on and off over my head without any openings or fastenings. I used the blue swimsuit fabric to make shoulder ties and the green swimsuit fabric to make a plaited detail which is hand sewed around the neckline to tie the dress in with the rest of the outfit.

I wanted something with a really wide brim for maximum sun protection, but I wanted it to also be something that can get wet as well. Last summer my kids and I put up an outdoor pool in the backyard and spent just about every day in there. I was very good and wore my hat every day, but the problem was I ruined my hat getting it wet every day. This time I wanted a hat that could withstand the constant dunkings, so I made most of the crown out of my blue swimsuit fabric. The top of the crown I used a small amount of the plaid gauze fabric to make it breathable. The brim is made out of two different types of plaid double gauze. The original plaid on the top and a second plaid in the same colour way on the underside. To make the brim stiff enough each layer was stiffened with a heavy weight iron on interfacing, and then two layers of buckram were sandwiched between the layers and super long spiral of stitching was added. To tie the hat into the rest of the outfit I used the green swimsuit fabric to make a plait that is hand sewn around the crown of the hat.

I knew I wanted something strappy to go with the rest of the outfit and so I used rouleau straps made out of the green and blue swimsuit fabric for the vamp. I spent quite some time playing around with different arrangements of straps until I found the one that I was happy with. I used some white leather scraps to make the insole of the sandal and attached my straps to these. The bottom of the sandal is finished with my soft sole fabric and 6mm foam was sandwiched between the two layers to provide structure and support.

Pattern Details
All of these garments were made from self drafted patterns.

Bikini Bottom:
To make the bikini bottoms I used my basic underwear pattern with a few modifications. I added an extra wide waistband (to cover up the worst of the stretch marks) and lowered the waistline at the back and made it a V for a more bikini look. I also added bands around the legs and used these to thread my elastic through.

Bikini Top:
To make the bikini top I used my self drafted bra pattern with a few modifications. This pattern has a two piece cup, bridge, back and strap. I modified the back piece to allow for the addition of the rouleaux loop lattice and replaced the straps with more Rouleau loops.

Rash Vest:
The pattern I used for this was one I drafted a number of years ago - it has raglan sleeves and princess seams and is designed with negative ease for a snug fit. The sleeves, bottom and neckline are all finished with bands for a nice clean finish.

The pattern for this dress was drafted during this competition. I started with my sloper, and modified it to include princess seam on a bodice that stops just under the bust, a contrasting waistband and big box pleated knee length skirt (with pockets of course). The bodice is designed with a dropped shoulder that can be worn either down, or gathered up into a strap.

For the hat I used my previously drafted pattern that I copied from a ready to wear hat. During construction I tried to change the shape of the crown slightly but none of the other shapes that I tried worked so I ended up right back at the original design. The only modification that I kept in the end was to increase the height of the crown at the back by about an inch, this allows the hat to sit nice and low around my neck. I also added about 1.5" all around the outside of the brim for an ultra wide brimmed sun hat.

To make the sandals I used my basic shoe pattern with the point flattened to a gentle curve at the front. I replaced the vamp with my strap design but otherwise used the pattern as is.

Sewing and Finishing Details:
My outfit features a lot of rouleau loops. These were made by cutting full width strips of fabric about 1.25” wide, using the overlocker to sew the strip into a tube and turning it inside right, these tubes were then cut to the lengths required. These were used on the bikini bra straps and back, the bikini bottom side details, rash vest shoulder details, dress shoulder gathering, to make the plaits around the dress neckline and hat brim and for the straps on my sandals.

Swim Suit and Rash Vest:
One of the biggest challenges making the swim suit and rash vest was pattern placement on my main swim suit fabric. To tie in with my blue and green strap details I wanted a more of the blue green details from the main fabric, but they were few and far apart. Add to that the fact that the pattern was not symmetrical or entirely repeatable and pattern placement was a real struggle. After much trial and error I managed to get the colour flowing fairly evenly across each seam - my main focus was on getting the front panel to flow nicely across the zipper and I think I managed that.

The bikini and rash vest feature a lot of finishing bands; waist band, underbust band, leg and arm bands, neckband etc. these were all sewn on one edge with the overlocker/serger then double turned to enclose all raw edges and top stitched using a twin needle with matching thread to provide the stretch required.

All other seams in the swimsuit and rash vest were sewn as either simple overlocked seams (rash vest) or french seamed. All top stitching was done with the twin needle.

Just as neat inside as out

To install the zipper in the rash vest I used some non woven iron on interfacing along the front edges to deal with the fabric stretch before stitching on the zipper.

The bodice princess seams were finished with french seams. The side seams and armholes were finished in one go with bias binding before the bodice was sewn together. The side seams were then sewn and the bias binding was turned to the inside and top stitched. 

The neckline was finished in the same way which was a real head scratcher, trying to figure out how to sew binding to the v-neck in one direction and then turn it under and have it sit flat, but after much trial and error I got it to work.

The shoulder seams were sewn last and were cut to be 1" wide. The seam allowance was turned under and stitched down to create a 3/8" wide channel on either side of the seam through which I could thread straps to add gathers to the shoulder.

For the skirt I took two full widths of the fabric and joined them together at the side seams. I added in-seam pockets into the side seams before sewing the panels together using the same techniques I used in round 2 to make sure the plaids match across the seam. To finish these seams on the inside I did a faux french seam where each side of the seam allowance was turned to the center and the seam allowance was then stitched closed encasing the raw edges inside the seam. The pleats were calculated based on how much fabric was available and where I wanted the pleats placed. I made sure that there was a pleat at each side seam so the pocket sits neatly inside a pleat.

The waistband was finished with an internal facing, machine stitched on one side and then turned under and hand stitched on the other side. A 2.75” deep double turned hem was hand sewn at the bottom of the skirt.

I wanted to use the same plaid fabric as the dress, but only had scraps left over so taking a page out of round 2’s book I again pieced my scraps together to get a piece big enough to cut one hat brim. The two internal seams in the hat were finished with a binding made of the blue swimsuit fabric which were then top stitched to the side of the hat. The seam connecting the stretchy poly lycra crown to the ultra stiffened brim was definitely one of the hardest I've sewn - I really struggled to get the stretch fabric to fit nicely without puckering. I'm happy with the final result but it was a real struggle getting there.

Each Rouleau strap was machine basted in place around the leather inner sole piece then the lower sole was sewn upside down onto the top and turned inside out through a gap left in the heel. The foam was inserted through this gap which was then hand stitched closed. This hand stitching was really hard, going between leather on one side and the rubber sole material on the other required a good pair of pliers and a super sharp needle.

I love every piece of this outfit, the bikini fits perfectly as does the rash vest and I love the strap details that I've added - they really take this to the next level.  The dress feels so good to wear yet looks so put together.  The hat....I can't wait to wear the hat.  The only slight problem might be the sandals, they do tend to slide around on the feet a bit, and I don't know how long the foam inner sole is going to last - just wearing them around the house for the day they're already pretty crushed.  Maybe I'll have to add a solid sole once I get some more materials.