Latest Project — Swim Shorts

So because I’m not busy enough, and because I think I was in sort of a spandex withdrawal after finishing 40 pieces last month, I took on a new project — pattern tester for 5 out of 4 Patterns.

I’ve never used PDF patterns before (weird, I know), so that was really the only part of the project that worried me a bit. This first pattern test was for a pair of ruched, reversible swim shorts, but honestly the most time consuming part of the project was finding space in the studio in which to work — there are still scraps of this fabric, a few inches of that strapping, tiny bags of random stones, and miscellaneous pattern clippings everywhere. EVERYWHERE.  But I found about a yard’s worth of space, which was all I really needed anyway.

I made two versions of these shorts, and my “model” loved them both.  Despite the fact that I’ve probably sewn 400+ leotard crotches in my life, I’ve never done one with a gusset — and I think I might actually incorporate it into some future skating projects, surprisingly enough.  The part that seemed to be most difficult for the majority of the testers — topstitching the spandex waistband so that the shorts are reversible — wasn’t a big deal for me, having just finished oh, maybe, 100 yards of spandex topstitching in the past two months alone (that’s a hell of a lot of appliques and straight lines!)…but I did have a bit of a hard time with the elastic arrangements.  For the first pair, I did my usual skating dress elastic thing…but I really needed to follow the instructions exactly in order to be a viable tester, so for the second pair I used clear swim elastic, inserted into the seam allowance.  Worked great, and I learned something in the process!  I doubt I’ll use this technique on any skating or dance garments, but I feel like I have a new “tool” in my shed that I can pull out when needed.

If you’re looking for a good PDF pattern company (and I’ve also learned through this project that all PDF pattern companies are NOT created equal!) that specializes in activewear, this is the one.  She creates her PDF’s in layers, so that you don’t have ten different sizes on one sheet, which is a serious challenge to decipher — instead, you can click on just the size(s) you want, and the rest disappear, making it so easy to find your correct cutting line…which is so important when making form-fitting clothing.  I can attest to the fact that the sizing is perfect, and this pattern went through many, many revisions and testing before being finalized and released today.

Here they are — pardon the sailboat on land, by the way…sick kid meant no early trip to camp to take better sailboat pictures on the lake!  Still, you get the idea.

XS side

Side view. Skater butt, of course.

XS blur

Back view

Pattern is on sale for a week, starting today!

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*I did not pay for this pattern, but I’m also not being paid to review it, so there you go… 🙂

Tips & Tricks Tuesday: Use What You’ve Got

Pins. I hate pins. Mainly because they inevitably end up on the floor, in my foot, or in my dog’s mouth. There are occasions when straight pins are necessary: attaching skirts to figure skating dresses or ballroom gowns, getting an inset bra placement just right, keeping ridiculously slippery and delicate fabric in exactly the right place despite the best efforts of your feed dog, etc. But generally, pins are overrated.

I started using pattern weights when I made my first wedding gown ages and ages ago, because the fabric was so curmudgeonly that it showed every tiny little pin hole. Besides — at this point I don’t have the time to sit and pin paper patterns to fabric. All of my stock ready-to-wear patterns are made out of vinyl anyway, so pins are out of the question.

But pattern weights are expensive. And ugly. So I looked around my shop to see what I had that could be repurposed. And what does every skating coach and skating parent have in spades? Old wheels. I realized I have an embarrassing collection of them, so I figured I had two options: throw them away or re-imagine them. Since the good sets cost more than $100 each, throwing them away seemed like such a waste.

So instead, I turned a set of eight old wheels into a quirky, cute, and extremely useful set of pattern weights. Since I wanted them as heavy as possible, I filled the inside cavity with fishing weights (after removing the bearings, because keeping extra sets of bearings is an entirely different type of anal retentiveness), wrapped each one in a small piece of spandex, and secured it with two rubber bands. They look nice enough to leave out on the cutting table, and they don’t roll around (no pun intended) or move like regular pattern weights do thanks to their larger surface area.

"Free" pattern weights

“Free” pattern weights

If you don’t happen to have old roller skating wheels sitting around, you’re bound to have something from a past mania that you couldn’t bear to ditch. Also, the dollar store carries sets of very small food storage containers that would work well filled with sand and with the lids glued down. Firefly Fabrics sells these pattern weights in a variety of colors if you’re more inclined to purchase them than make them. The fabric can be removed in case they need to be cleaned (how you would get pattern weights dirty is sort of a mystery to me, but I remember sewing with four kids under seven, so really, I’m sure there’s a way), and since they’re gathered with rubber bands, they can be reconstructed simply and quickly.

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