Thursday, 24 December 2015

A Timeless Classic

Ah, Christmas! If you can't make/wear/blog a novelty print party dress and do silly edits on the photos, well, when can you?

I'm not exactly on the Roisin end of the spectrum when it comes to fit & flare dresses, novelty print or otherwise. But last November, I got this pattern free with a sewing magazine and was seized with the urge to make one. I probably wouldn't have followed up on that urge if it hadn't been for the realisation that such a dress could be endlessly re-used each holiday season, for one or at the most two wears a year, until it falls apart or I die of boredom. (Or develop more refined tastes in party clothing. I really can't decide which of those outcomes is most likely to happen first).

Thus, the silly party dress was made. I can attest that it performs perfectly, having worn it for Christmas dinner last year: those nice deep pleats around the waist allow for as much overeating as I regrettably tend to do on that occasion. And I deliberately didn't fit the bodice too closely either, because, well, same reason.

The photos are all kind of the same, but I couldn't choose between the various festive poses I managed to pull. Best to roll with it, right? Here we go...

Shhhh! Um, because... you might wake the elves??

Bauble inspection pose. In the snow. Indoors.

How to rescue a good picture of the dress accompanied by an atrociously bad picture of the face:

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to realistically blow a kiss at the self-timer? Actually, a number of you probably do I suppose #bloggerproblems.

You may have spotted that I don't have any matching shoes. Not really a problem, as I'm never going to wear it outside anyway.

However, I do have coordinating jewellery.


Merry Christmas!! May you get tons of sewing-related presents!


Friday, 30 October 2015

Leaves on the line: a shawl for Bomma

I don't often show you my knitting, do I?*

(* unless you follow me on instagram, in which case I hardly ever show you my finished knitting).

Theoretically, this is because knitting is a lot slower than sewing, and tends to happen disproportionately in autumn, and, well, I'm just more used to talking about sewing. But just because something happens less often doesn't mean it's not happening at all, and as a matter of fact I knit all year round, plus, I'm actually very capable of wittering on about all kinds of random crap (in case you hadn't noticed). No, that's not the reason I don't blog about it. The reason is: I'm rarely proud of my knits in the way I'm proud of my sews (yes, as a noun. Suck it up).

I've knit enough now to more or less know what I'm doing, or to be able to figure it out. I know when I'm prepared to troubleshoot and when I'm prepared to frog it and start again. I can follow the instructions, which is an achievement in and of itself: learning to read knitting patterns is like learning a foreign - nay, ALIEN - language (and don't even ask me about knitting from charts). But generally, I just don't have the experience, the feel, for it yet that turns out the level of finish I'd like.

I know realism and fail-commiseration have their own, rightful places on sewing and crafting blogs.  It's not like I deliberately avoid those things. But what can I say? It's just more fun to share the things that turned out cool, isn't it?

Yes. It is. And so we have here a piece of knitting that, ok, I'm pretty pleased with. VERY pleased with, in fact!

I made it for my husband's Bomma - his grandmother - who turned 90 last week. I don't wear a great deal of shawls myself, and really not ones with lace patterns, but for a while I'd been itching to try one anyway simply because there are so many patterns out there that look fantastically fun to knit (see point 14). Which this was! It's deceptively simple and surprisingly quick, yet those leaf shapes are really high impact - and it was a little bit like magic watching them appear.

The pattern is Leaves On The Line by Susan Ashcroft, who is otherwise known as the stitchnerd and has legions of devoted fans on ravelry.  I can now be counted as one of them - both the design and the explanations are incredibly intuitive, and this was one of the most relaxing things I've ever knit. (If you'd like more technical details, my ravelry notes are here). Plus, SHE'S FROM BRUSSELS! Which is where all the cool kids live, don't you know?

This weekend there was a big family party for Bomma - literally. She's the lynchpin of an enormous extended family, having (step)mothered thirteen children - who now have children of their own, who now have children of their own, and everyone plus spouses was there. We estimated about 80 people present, all of them related to each other in some way.

Understandably I think, at 90 years of age, Bomma had instructed 'no presents'. But me and the husband decided that what she really meant was that she didn't want to be swamped with stuff, especially considering the number of people involved, and that something handmade and useful would be exempt. 

We didn't want to make a fuss, and gave it to her quietly as we were leaving. She opened it out, and we had a little chat about the knitting, and then she looked up at us, and smiled and said:

"You know, I don't like presents usually, because, well, people these days just don't make an effort."

Which was about the best thing anyone has said about a homemade present ever.


Friday, 23 October 2015

Something for the weekend

One Friday morning a few weeks back I woke up wanting to wear my rockbuex.

Not the rockbuex. Don't worry, all will be explained.

Problem: the rockbuex wasn't cold proof.  Summer was cruelly short-lived this year, and that Friday morning, the only things I could find that went with the rockbuex were t-shirts, which was not going to cut it any more. So the first thing I did, after a cup of tea but before breakfast, was sew a jumper.

Here. Rockbuex + emergency sweater:

It's not going to win me any style awards, but this cropped Linden with a hem band hits the rockbuex in exactly the right place, taking the whole thing just far enough over the line (for me, anyway) between oversized pyjamas and acceptable street wear. Nothing more or less than super-comfy, super-relaxed stuff for Friday through Sunday. Happy happy.

Excuse the face #Fridayisforderps

But some projects just spontaneously breed other projects, don't they? And once I'd made the Linden, I realised that I wanted with toddler-like urgency needed more things with sporty 5 cm elastic waistbands, so I could mix and match the comfy stuff all weekend and never have to squeeze myself into a pair of jeans again, or at least not before the day I get round to making jeans that fit, which is very likely to be several decades hence (does anyone else have projects that just appear in your head as a fully formed thought, exactly like that overly long sentence?) Also because, well, different shoes need different outfits. Of course. Even when it's just one pair of trainers or the other.

Or perhaps all this was actually just a load of mental excuses for making an Ilsley skirt. *LOVE* those hem curves.

Like with the rockbuex, I used my favourite, most comfy waistband technique, which is: 5 cm wide elastic threaded through and then topstitched down twice, making a channel in the middle for a drawstring.  Cheapskate tip: shoelaces make excellent drawstrings. They can be found in good range of colours and thicknesses without too much difficulty, and cost about half as much as the average crafting cord, and BONUS the ends are already finished.

Both the jumper and the skirt were made from sweatshirt fabric I had in my stash. The black for the sweater cost 2.5 euros in a sale two years ago - I got 5 metres of it, and there's still a good bit left (see here for a previous, not very different, outing). The grey for the skirt I bought at Les étoffes du Sentier in Paris last January - it was 3 euros a metre, and I got four, and have just squeezed out this and a Freemantle coat from it with nothing but tiny scraps left over. All in all extremely satisfying!

The fact that these were stash projects, and one of them was a TNT pattern I'd made multiple times before, also meant they came together extremely quickly.  Both of them that same Friday, in fact.  And I have to admit - I sort of hate to during #slowfashionoctober, but I must -  I have quite a serious weakness for the quick & dirty when it comes to my homemade clothes. I guess fast sewing isn't the same as fast-fashion in the high street sense, but I do think sometimes the "rush" of having an idea and executing it IMMEDIATELY is in no small way similar to a shopping high.  This was brought home all the more by the fact that my next project was/is the aforementioned Freemantle coat which forced me to take things slower. I don't know what to think about this. On the one hand, well, so what? My fabric sources and project choices are what they are, and I'm not sure what I could do otherwise, realistically. On the other had, I sort of feel guilty. Should I, do you think?

Well anyway, let's not end on too serious a note. Here I am, getting out and about and taking action shots for the Better Pictures Project:

God it's exhausting to even look at. And watch the grass - my own personal launch pad!


Sunday, 11 October 2015

Roberts Collection: dungadress!

Hello hello, and happy weekend! How are you all, fellow sewists? I hope you're having a good one! After a few busy weekends with little time at home, me and the kids have been enjoying some quality time going nowhere these last couple of days, and I'm pleased to report that I've made a decent dent in a warm winter coat project. Hopefully I'll have a couple of finished things to share soon. (Shock news - more Lindens! Does it get boring to read? They never get boring to make or wear).

Anyway, in my humble opinion, the highlight of this weekend - at least as far as the sewing blog world is concerned - is indisputably the launch of Marilla Walker's Roberts Collection.  This, my friends, is not just a new sewing pattern: it's a bargainous FOUR sewing patterns all in one! And are you surprised that I love it? No, I expect not. Let's look at my test dress, shall we? :-)

This is view C, the dungaree dress. Unfortunately for representative blogging purposes, this version has actually been changed the most since testing, so the version you see here is not exactly the same as the finished pattern.  The main changes are slightly less ease at the waist seam (about 4cm less I think, so not an enormous difference) and the side closures, which I'll show you below. Overall though (no pun intended...) it's pretty much the same. My favourite feature in any case - the one that I think makes this design stand out - is the lovely slim straps. Combined with the low-slung waist, it's got the stylish slouch factor absolutely bang on. And as you know, I'm all about the stylish slouch :-)

So I attempted to take pictures out and about, dutifully doing my Better Pictures Project homework. I can't say they turned out great, mainly as I didn't exactly scout any interesting locations, I just went to the end of the street and back. But hey, it's a start (and I have better locations lined up!). These pics don't show you anything much new either, just me and the dress in natural light, but basically they're here because I had such trouble narrowing down how many photos to show you - I seriously, absolutely love this dress!  It's so bright and so comfy and so FUN, and in much the same way as a trapeze dress, it's just delightful how flattering it is when it feels so much like it shouldn't be. I'd always thought lack of waist definition was a figure-flattery risk, but I am so very, very happy to be discovering that it's a benefit! It's one of the things Marilla mentions as inspiration for the pattern collection - being a fan of wearing jeans, but not a fan of wearing waistbands - and I both totally agree, and totally think she nailed it.

Here's a side view so you can see a bit more what that all means in practice. The A-line shape hangs quite wide on this, which I like - though I do wonder if that's slightly different in the finished pattern. The front bib now draws in slightly more to meet the back, so I suspect the skirt is less trapezey and more of a classic A-line than mine is. But I really like this version as is, and while that little triangle you see at the side was a development that didn't make the final cut, I think it's a cute little detail. As and when I make this dress again, I'll be sticking with it!

Here are a couple of close ups of how the sides come together - and I think the lines here are just so flattering. It's kind of a 'big' garment but with a very light touch: those thin straps, back and bib shaping mean the overall effect isn't big at all. And the little pleats at the waist are just enough for a little extra breathing (ahem, eating) room, without being particularly noticeable at all.

And ah! The back! That strap/back piece symmetry!

Mum comment:  You're very bright.
Brother-in-law comment:  You're very yellow.
Husband comment:  It looks like an apron. Is that... a thing?
Friend H comment:  Err, Jo, your apron... oh, ok.
Friend B comment:  OK, either you made that dress, or it's designer. Right?

(Friend B wins, obviously).

What do you think? Could this pattern be an entire wardrobe solution for you - or are dungarees and jumpsuits just a step away from waistbands too far?  No prizes for guessing which side I'm on :-)

P.S. Quick edit to add: the fabric is a medium-weight denim with very slight stretch. In case the info is useful for reference purposes :-)


Thursday, 24 September 2015

Off topic: free screensavers

Hi guys! It's totally off the usual sewing topic, but I thought I'd share a couple of screensavers I've made in the last couple of months for work (well, for my computer at work - I wasn't commissioned to do them or anything!) Offices can be boring and I figured a screensaver is as good a place as any for some mild light relief.

The 'messages' maybe reflect the fact that I'm a personal assistant in a team full of people who like to get in a tizz about 'urgent' things, I don't know - can you can tell that I'm the one who likes to stay calm by relativising? I mean, it's not like any of us are going to die over it or anything. Anyway, they're free to use should you wish to!

:: I'M NOT HERE ::
download here

:: DON'T PANIC! ::
download here

And I'm assuming you know or can work out how to change your computer's screensaver all by yourself :-)


Sunday, 20 September 2015

Tiny pocket Hemlock

Hello!  How are you today?  I'm feeling a little underwhelmed - Sunday evenings tend to have that effect, don't they?  Plus I'm about to show you a fairly unexciting t-shirt. But then life isn't always exciting is it, so, well - suck it up haha! :-)  Yeah, I'm keeping it real with the sewing blogging here. It just felt like time for a chat, so here I am.

So I made a knit hemlock. I can't really remember why to be honest, apart from a kind of sewist's curiosity - just to check out what all the fuss is about.  It is indeed a very easy sew, and clearly an excellent base for all sorts of variations - but then you knew that already. I used a remnant of brown/cream striped jersey and slapped a tiny gold pocket on it (no explanation needed, surely. It's a tiny gold pocket).  On me it's considerably less oversized than it is on Jen, ahem. (Shits given: zero)

I finished the neckline, sleeves and hem by turning under 1cm and coverstitching. People with coverstitch machines - do you have trouble tying the ends off? I thought I'd pulled the thread through and tied them up really carefully, but still the sleeve hems have unravelled after a couple of washes (see below). Any tips for me? Plus they flip to the inside which is really annoying, I guess it's because it's a pretty narrow hem. Next time I'll finish the sleeves with little bands/cuffs anyway as I'd like them to be a teensy bit longer.

I did have grand plans for a bunch of other quick, fun hemlock tees - I even started sewing one with some rather nice flutter sleeves cut on (get me, fancying things up). But its been distinctly autumnal in temperature round here recently, and once I realised I'd given up hope of an indian summer, I couldn't bring myself to carry on. This bothers me tremendously - I absolutely hate UFOs, I have to finish things or chuck them out, but I just can't bring myself to do either with this one. Really, I think a tee like this is generally an instant gratification kind of project, isn't it? Which doesn't work so well when there's going to be a six to nine month delay before you actually get to wear the outcome.

Ugh. Autumn. Sunday evening.

Actually I can't wait for Monday morning tomorrow - we've had some seriously irritating bad behaviour from the kids this weekend (well one of them, but I won't identify which, to save potential embarrassment when he's older. Oh wait, oops...)  There are many things to like about the office (adult company, intellectual stimulation, relative quiet, coffee) but what I'm most looking forward to this week is the chance to speak again without whatever I say causing someone to throw furniture around while manically cackling with laughter and attacking me with plastic ninja turtles. (And in the unlikely even that that did happen, we'd just have the person concerned carted off by security or the doctor and it would totally not be my problem. It's all about context...)

ANYWAY. Now for some random other things, which might be marginally more exciting than the hemlock, for those of you who've stuck this post out to the end.

First, yesterday I realised that quite literally* EVERYBODY (*god I hate when people say that) on Instagram was signing up for Periscope, which is basically the same thing but with live video. So I did too (I know, I know, I'm such a sheep). I have to be honest: this kind of thing makes me feel really old. My phone asked did I want to sync it with my twitter account and I said yes, and as a consequence I can tell you that I think my username is the same on both: @jo_sews. Right? (Er, good luck finding me there, should you wish to...)  I did one video so far and, having replayed it, realise that next time it would be better not to put my finger over the microphone half way through. Anyway, it's pretty fun to hear my sewing friends speak and see them in live action, so if you're at all tempted, come and join us!

Second - this is a thing that is actually, truly exciting! Drum roll please!!! ... On Thursday 29 October, I will be in London, for the sole purpose of fabric shopping and meeting some of my lovely online friends!  Yippee!!  For the moment, it's just me and the lovely Marilla (yes, I get to fangirl in person!), and I think we're probably not up for organising a sewing meet of enormous proportions (which is why this announcement is hiding at the end of a fairly boring post - just for the true fans hehe), but if you're around and free and fancy joining us at some point - please just say so! There are loads of you lovely UK-based sewers that I'd love to meet, and it drives me nuts that I'm there fairly often and still never manage to meet up with anyone!  We don't have a specific plan yet but the general idea is Goldhawk Road and/or Walthamstow market (are these combinable??), and if I can fit in a quick pilgrimage to Loop as well, I'd be a very happy lady...

Have a happy Sunday evening, everyone! Or Sunday morning / Monday morning / whatever day it is when you're reading this (* delete as applicable).


Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Combi-short Paloma: Make My Lemonade

Don't you just love when you make something so all-round great, you can't decide which part of it is your favourite?  (I hope that does happen to other people too and this isn't just me sounding terribly smug).  Well, my lovelies, this is one of those makes.

I love the back. The surprisingly not-symmetrical lozenge-shaped back yoke, the angle of the straps, the roominess of the bum...


... but then I also love the front, from the pointless seam down the middle of the bib to the shorts slouching over the hips, taking in the ties, pockets and belt loops along the way.

Wrinkles! #pressalltheseams #ironnothing

(Things I do not love: husband taking the photos. I was all set up with the tripod when he arrived back from his run early and insisted on 'helping', which never results in good facial expressions/stylish poses).

Awkward pose? Check. Facial expression? Cropped.

And all that is just the stuff I love about the finished garment. Whereas what I really, really loved was the whole process of making it.  I fell for this pattern hook, line and sinker well before it was a wearable garment. It's a delight!  So, before I give you a tour of the guts, here's the lowdown:
The pattern is the salopette Paloma (Paloma dungarees) by Make My Lemonade. I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that, although I speak French fluently, I've hardly dipped so much as a toe into the vibrant world of French/francophone sewing blogs, and thus I only became aware of this lovely little pattern because Marilla Walker put a picture of it on instagram.  It's an open secret that not only do I love dungarees, but I also have a total fashion-crush on Marilla, who manages to discover and design the most lovely things - it's like having found my own style by stealth, because basically she's doing it already (just better. Crushes have to have an element of aspiration, really, don't they?)
Anyway, long story short, she posted the picture and I immediately bought the pattern. Wait, short story slightly longer: the other thing was, it only costs € 1.99. Seriously! Look here if you don't believe me. For that knockdown price, you obviously don't get a beautiful package with detailed instructions (which does exist but will set you back € 14.90 + shipping) - you get the pdf pattern tiles, the layout for sticking them together and an online instructional video (both in this post).
See what I mean about husband photos? Ugh <shudder>.

Now, the video is in French.  This may understandably seem like an obstacle if you don't speak the language, but if you're prepared to patiently pause your way through it, I think the visuals are probably enough to follow along anyway. You clearly see which bit matches up where, which is the key thing really - if you've used google translate to label your pieces accurately, you'll be fine.  Watch it through once for the big picture, then take it slowly. My only big tip: the notches show where to fold, not where to match pieces up.
For those who do speak French, the video is worth a watch/listen just because she has such a lovely, truly French accent. Or maybe it's just me who'd appreciate that, because I speak French almost exclusively with non-native speakers (or, less frequently, Belgians. Belgians, don't get outraged please!! Native French-speaking Belgians do, of course, speak very nice French too, but, well, how to put this...? It was just lovely to listen to a well-spoken Parisienne for once - and all the more so for not having to experience Paris at the time. There, is that neighbour-insulting enough to make it ok...?)
Err, I seem to have digressed. Yes, the point! The point was, I had basically fallen in love with the pattern the second I started watching the video. I can't help it, I like French, it's my thing. And I've been wondering ever since whether this coloured my view of the whole thing.  But, there's no escaping the cold, hard facts that this pattern is not only stylish and comfortable but also impeccably, interestingly drafted. What more could a (Francophile) sewist want?


One of the things I found most pleasing is the way the shorts pieces are completely straight at the waist, but the waist seams of the front bib and back yoke pieces are curved - which is what gives the salopette it's shape. It was really a little bit magic to sew it together at that point and see how it turns oversized into flattering, just like that.  You can just see too, above, that the straps overlap ever so slightly at the back, which makes them sit very nicely when wearing it. Then there are the belt loops, to visually break up the waistline just enough but not too much.  Plus, I don't know - look at the shapes there? So balanced and geometric! 

And that, in the end, is my absolute favourite thing about this make. Most specifically, it's these triangular overlaps at each side for the snaps. They're so very shapely, so very pointedly contrasting with the curve of the shorts - and they're gloriously, beautifully tidy to construct. The drafting here is ever so precise, and everything matches up where it should, until you end up with a perfectly neat and oh-so-aesthetically-pleasing side/pocket finish.

I just. I can't even. I LOVE THEM.

Too much, maybe? DON'T CARE. Look at this from the right side out! Seriously - how could anyone wear these and not be constantly thinking about how wonderful the closures are?? I can't.

One thing I did do that's not in the pattern is to topstitch various seams, and in particular the side seam from about 1" below the pocket, to reinforce and hold everything in it's perfectly precise place. Then went back and extended it as far up as the lower snap (you can see here, below, where I stopped and then added a couple more inches) because the first time I wore it - fortunately only inside the house - I realised there was some serious knicker-revealing gape. Which has it's time and place I suppose, but this ain't it.

My other, minor changes were for fit.  Make Lemonade mentions that this pattern runs big, and it really does. I made what I hoped would be a wearable muslin and was drowning in it - this version is a size down from the one my measurements put me in. I also slimmed down the sides of the bib a little - the muslin was making me look wider in a place where I'd really rather not be, and it kind of threw the balance off. It's truly amazing what a centimetre's difference can make to how good a garment looks!  The other thing the muslin revealed was the need for a serious flat bum adjustment.  I'd show you a picture because it was hilarious - but in the end I couldn't even stand to take one of me wearing what basically looks like a hugely oversized nappy with straps.  I just traced the back crotch curve a couple of sizes smaller, and fortunately it worked fine.


So, there we are.  My salopette Paloma has been worn every day it's been warm enough (like three times in two weeks ugh Belgian summer) and has stood up very well to picnics in various parks as well as both the construction and de-construction of a mahoosive tent.

With me all the time inwardly smiling about those snap flaps and the pointless, but oddly lovable, centre front seam.


Monday, 10 August 2015

The Holy Grail: a well-fitting bikini

Hello! How is your summer going, sewing friends? Or your winter, should you be in the southern hemisphere?  My three weeks of hot, sunny, Spanish lounging are sadly over - and after two weeks back at work, they already feel like a very long time ago. But they were good, and the office is slack over the summer, so I'm not really complaining.  And, now that it's been sewn, well-used and photographed, I can finally show you my bikini! SHOCK SPOILER: it's totally wearable!!!

A bikini that fits has been one of those sewing goals elusive enough to end up becoming totally obsessive. The idea started about three years ago over a conversation in the hammam, where I was bemoaning the fact that finding a bikini to fit my small back & large bust had proved frustratingly, utterly impossible so far throughout my adult life, regardless of how much time, money, fitting room anguish and indifference to stylishness I was prepared to throw at it (I'll be honest - not that much of any of those things). There was general sympathetic agreement from my fellow full-busted friends, if I remember correctly. And then Lucy said: come on Jo, surely you could sew yourself one?  It's just two triangles and a couple of straps!  Of course, it took no reflection whatsoever to know she was right. And so, the quest began. I ordered McCall's M5400 the same weekend, dived into my first attempts as soon as it arrived - and then gave up.  It was too difficult.

Here, how about a gratuitous beach picture to move things along a bit? (Also, because once I got there, taking modelled swimsuit photos suddenly seemed totally unimportant, so I have none. Just imagine me here, when we get to it).

Anyway, in hindsight, view B - two triangles and a couple of straps - was the wrong version to start with. It was never going to provide enough support, and I had no idea how to make it fit in the first place. For some reason though, I never looked past it.  Instead, I looked at every other swimsuit or bra pattern available, keenly scrutinising every new indie release, endlessly wondering - could this work? Might this be the one I can make into supportive, attractive beachwear? When I made my Bombshell last year, I knew it wasn't The One - but still harboured the unspoken hope that maybe, perhaps, it would surprise me. Could it be the DIY swimsuit to conquer all??

No, my list of demands was too long for that.  It had to be a two piece. Non-underwired, but holding everything in place nonetheless. Full coverage, but not frumpy.  (Actually that's not a long list, is it? Just virtually IMPOSSIBLE). I tried the Watson bra, but alas 'tis made for smaller bosoms than mine. I tried the Pneuma tank, but harboured doubts about the monoboob effect: when you're sunbathing in 38 degree heat you really don't want a swimsuit that pushes your assets into one hot, sweaty pool of cleavage. Add "lift and separate" to that list of must-haves. (I'm not done with the Pnema pattern though, it's great and I have other plans...).  In the end, with one week to go before my holiday deadline, I picked up the McCalls pattern again. And wondered, with a certain weary sigh at my own short-sightedness, why I'd never before considered view D.

Like, duh.

View D is basically made for those of us who want non-underwired, lift-and-separate, support, style and coverage. I'm not the only one, right??

Now, this is not to say that I didn't have to do any fitting. Hahahahahaha. Haha. That doesn't happen.  And anyway, this pattern is not drafted for full busts. Plus, there's the small back thing. So, I just did what I do with any other pattern: picked my size based on my high bust and carried out an FBA. It works pretty easily with this design, because you can slash and spread as if you were adding a dart and then rotate the extra fullness into the underbust gathers. Woot!  The first muslin revealed I had got the extra volume right, but the straps needed significant tightening at both the back and neck in order to pull in enough support to hold everything in place. I believe the pattern runs large actually, which would probably account for the huge amount I took out of the straps. 

Anyway, after that, it was just fine tuning. I scooped out the armhole (not enough, as it turned out) and - this is my FAVOURITE thing EVER - changed the curve of the cups at the centre front from concave (curving down/inwards) to convex (curving slightly up & out).  Have you noticed that almost all bras have a slight concave curve there?  This, this!! This is the reason why boobs that are any less than utterly perky just won't stay put in a plunge bra (I know it's not just me).  BUT: change that curve, and the shape goes from exposure-risk to full-cup fabulous. Ooh yes!


Right, this picture is here because it made me laugh. The original pattern piece and my modified one, side by side:

On the left we have the bikini as drafted for pert young things. On the right we have the bikini as drafted for people in their late thirties with a couple of kids under their belt whose boobs have long since given up the war on gravity.

The one additional change I made to the pattern was to add a well-stretched piece of elastic all the way along the underbust seam - which in combination with the close-fitting straps provided exactly the amount of support I needed. (If you're reading and thinking pffff that'll never work for me - for reference I wear a 32GG bra).

The sewing itself was pretty straightforward. By this point I had made multiple muslins of multiple bikini/bra patterns, so I can now say that I am very familiar with swimwear sewing techniques!  I did have to do it at high speed though, so it's not as tidy as it could be. I serged the elastic to the suit, then folded it over and topstitched with a zigzag stitch, which I aligned to fall just over the inside edge of the elastic. (Is that clear to anyone?? I hope so...)  I was having trouble on previous attempts with the elastic flipping to the outside of the suit, and this technique put a stop to that.

Yeah, not that neat. But effective!

And here it is!  Just a little more on the details - as you can see here, my underarm curve/strap is still too tight so I need to scoop that out a bit. And I will also reduce the depth of the bodice/strap at the front, as it permanently flips up. One of those things where the design looks great until you start moving.

Tadah!! Here I am in all my bikini-wearing glory! The bottoms are the lower part of the Nettie bodysuit (with a flat bum adjustment, but you can't see that from here :-)).

OK, ok, I'm trying not to be too self conscious but let's move on quickly shall we? Time to cover things up a bit.

Because at some point one must drag oneself from the beach to the bar for a beer and a bocadillo. Gratuitous photo...

Knowing just how hot and humid it can get on the Iberian peninsula, I made a beach cover up this year with as much scope for air circulation as possible:

It's the racerback tank dress from Drape Drape. I love me a racerback, and while this doesn't exactly qualify as actual clothing in my book (unlayererd at least) it DOES provide the most fantastic breeziness over a swimsuit. I used some stripy viscose knit from Tissu Fabrics, and the fabric is lusciously cool too.


I got funky with hot pink thread in the coverstitch machine to tart things up a bit. Lots of fun playing around with that! Sometimes I think I didn't really need to get the coverstitch and have tremendous guilt about my expensive hobby - it doesn't get used all the time, after all. But then every time I do use it, I remember that it's the Best. Toy. Ever! No regrets :-)

Anyway, this is getting pretty long! Kind of like talking high speed with all your school friends the first day back in September. So much excitable blah blah!  Well, forgive me, I AM pretty darn excited. A wearable bikini - I thought it'd never happen! It got put through it's paces too: lakes, pools and two full weeks of long days swimming in the Med - it held up to all of it and looks like it'll be going strong for a while yet.

Well, to sign off I'll leave you with my top water-related tip in Barcelona. Should you find yourself there in July or August and in need of cooling off, I highly recommend making your way to the Municipal swimming pool of Montjuïc. It's easy to find, doesn't cost much (it's the municipal pool!) and comes with absolutely unbeatable views over the city. Plus you're conveniently placed to visit the sights at the same time (my favourite is the Miró museum, but there's plenty else too!)

On that note, I think I'd like to know what your favourite off-the-beaten-track recommendations are! If I were to come and visit, what would be your favourite thing to show me?  What travel gems have you discovered that the rest of us probably don't know about? Spill!