Stitched in Time Slideshow


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sew a swimsuit!

 Sewing a swimsuit is a lot easier than one might think. Here I'm going to show the steps of how to make a swimsuit I designed, though the steps are pretty much the same as any swimsuit. I learned how to make swimsuits in a sewing class at Brigham Young University using the Kwik-Sew's Swim & Action Wear book by Kerstin Martensson.
  1. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to master making swimsuits! The book also comes with basic swimsuit patterns that you can use to create you own designs, as I do.
  2. Speaking of designs, this is the swimsuit we'll be working with:

  3. Unless someone asks about it, I won't go into making the pattern for this though it was fairly easy.

Step one: Take your measurements and compare to pattern. Check bust, waist, hip, back-waist-length and crotch depth. If it is a multi-sized pattern, like the Kwik Sew, alter your pattern for length if you need to and then blend your hip size to your waist size to your bust size. Super easy!

Step two: Cut out lining and baste together (go to step 3 to see how you should cut out swimsuit fabric). Use a stretch needle for your machine and a slight zig-zag stitch that will be easy to pull out. Try it on to make sure it covers/reveals what it is supposed to and fits comfortably.

Step three: Once the lining is good to go, cut out your fashion fabric. Make sure it has about 10% spandex and stretches at least 70%. Lay it out on a flat, smooth surface so you can move it around easily. Match up the selvages but not the cut edges as they are 99.99% of the time off grain. While keeping the selvages even, smooth the fabric so there are no wrinkles and no diagonal pulls at the folded edge. Lay out your patterns using the fold, not the selvages, to measure grainline and make sure the greatest amount of stretch is going around the body. Swimsuit patterns sometimes, if not always, include an arrow that shows where the greatest stretch should be instead of lengthwise grain. For me it is easier to keep it on grain if I draw a line perpendicular to the greatest stretch arrow and then keep that line parallel to the fold. Anchor your patterns down with weights instead of pins (pinning will distort the fabric as it will stretch over the pin) and cut out carefully with scissors or a rotary cutter and mat.

Step four: Sew center back seam of lining pieces and fashion fabric pieces. I used a serger, but you could also use a sewing machine stretch stitch or two rows of zig-zag stiching 2.5 long x 2.5 wide. Don't forget to use a stretch needle! Oh, and all purpose thread works just fine on swimsuits. :)

Step Five: attach lining back to fashion fabric back encasing center back seams, smoothing the seams opposite ways to reduce bulk. Sew around the edges with a 2.5 x 2.5 zig-zag so you end up with one back piece. Do the same for the front piece but leave the top neck edge open! You need to be able to slide your bra cups in between the lining and fashion fabric later on.

*The picture shows part of step 5 before step 4 was finished.

Step six: Sew on crotch piece. If you have done the "burrito seam" before this will make sense, otherwise this may be difficult to understand. You need to sew the crotch piece to the back by putting the right sides together of the fashion fabric and the right sides of the lining together. This will create a "sandwich" seam as the fashion fabric crotch piece will be bottom layer, the back piece the middle layer (which has been sewn to the back lining), and the crotch lining piece the third or top layer.
 Sew this seam and then match swimsuit front to the fashion fabric crotch piece. Zig-zag together with lining crotch piece free of this seam. Now, roll up the swimsuit front and back until it is small enough for the lining crotch piece to reach around the rolled up swimsuit to the ziz-zaged front seam of the crotch piece. Sew lining into front crotch seam.
Pull the rolled up swimsuit front and back pieces out from between the fashion fabric and lining crotch pieces. Voila! Enclosed seams on an area where an exposed seam could be extremely annoying!

Step seven: detail stitching for this swimsuit's design. I'm gathering the front at the bust with elastic (approximately 2'' of elastic for 4'' of fabric). I pinned the top and bottom of the elastic where it needed to start and end, stretched it out in between the pins and top-stitched it in place with a double stretch needle.

Step eight: sew side seams.

Step nine: insert bra cups. Try on the swim suit, pinning on straps to hold swimsuit up. Stand in front of a mirror and slide the cups in between lining and fashion fabric, adjusting them to where they need to be. Unless you are perfectly symmetrical, which is unlikely, the cups will be placed in slightly different places which is fine!!!!! Pin them in place. Take off the swimsuit and pin the bra cups only to the lining, removing the other pins as you go.

Using the 2.5 x 2.5 zig-zag, stitch the lining to the bra cups around the edges. Make sure that you don't catch the fashion fabric front! You can only do this if you left (or unpick) an opening at the top between your fashion fabric and lining. It'll be tricky but you can do it. :) When you're done, close up the opening.

When you're done, close up the opening.

Step ten: attach 3/8'' wide elastic to leg openings. Cut elastic to 1-2'' smaller than elastic opening. Zig-zag cut edges of elastic together (don't overlap, just butt the edges next to each other and allow the zig-zag to pull the two sides together.) Now your elastic is circular like your leg opening. Divide the elastic and leg opening into quarters, then pin the elastic at the quarter marks to the inside of the suit. Usually you need the elastic just a little tighter in the back than the front (to prevent wedgies) so move some of your elastic to the front side of the swimsuit, making it a tighter stretch in the back. Sew the elastic to the leg opening, stretching it to fit between the pins, with a serpentine/multi-stitch zig-zag 2.5 mm length and 5-7 mm wide. The elastic should stay flush to fabric cut edge all around leg hole.

Step eleven: Prepare straps and neck edge. Sew up a tube for the straps and then insert elastic (I cut out two 1 1/2'' x 14'' rectangles, sewed it into a tube with a 1/4'' seam and inserted 1'' x 14'' piece of elastic). The elastic is optional but I think it looks tons better with it. The picture below shows it both ways for comparison, and note how the seam in not visible from the top side of the strap (I have it centered on the backside):

Gather ruffle for neck edge with two rows of basting.

Zig-zag ruffle and then the straps to neck edge. Cut 3/8'' wide elastic that is 10% smaller than top opening (say you have a 28'' opening, -10% would be -2.8'' so your elastic would be 25.2'') and serpentine it on in a similar manner to the leg openings (evenly stretched all around).

Step twelve: Double needle top-stitch. Everywhere you put the 3/8'' elastic, fold it back to the inside of the suit and using a stretch double needle, sew the elastic down.  You have to do this from the outside of the suit or else you'll get an ugly zig-zag on the outside and two nice rows of stitching on the inside. :/
The double needle should not be centered over the elastic or near the fold. It should be close the the inner edge of the elastic, but not so much that it is falling off. You may also want to lengthen your stitch to 3.5-4 mm, double check that your machine is on straight stitch and check that the needles are centered or else you will break them.

Step thirteen: Drawstrings! Cut out two 4 1/2'' x 1/4'' rectangles for the casing and four 1'' x 9'' rectangles for the strings. Sew each of the strings into tubes with 1/4'' seam allowances, turning them inside out and tying off one end of each.
 Cut the bottom of the casing rectangles to match the slope of the leg opening at the side seam. Center and baste the rectangles over either side seam, ending 1/8'' away from the edge of the leg hole. Stitch-in-the-ditch up the side seam, sewing the rectangles up the center to the suit, and stop 1/4'' way from the top of the rectangle. Sew 3/8'' up either side of the center creating two slots stopping again 1/4'' way from the top of the rectangle. Pull out basting. Using a safety pin, pull the drawstrings up the slots as shown, stopping when the drawstring is flush with the top edge of the rectangle.
*I used my machine's stretch stitch, but a very narrow zig-zag will do the trick.

Top-stitch over the drawstrings and  rectangle 1/4'' from the top edge.

Step fourteen: Bow! I like cartoony, 3-D bows that hold their shape. To achieve that look, sew up a tube of fabric, turn inside out and insert elastic (for 3/4'' x 3'' bow, cut a 2'' x 6'' rectangle for bow and 2'' x 2'' square for center piece). Once the elastic is inserted, push the edges of the tube/elastic together and zig-zag it like we did with the leg elastic, creating a circle. Center this seam in the circle to create a bow structure and stitch down, as shown.

Sew the square into a tube, turn inside out and sew the tube ends together. Turn inside out again and slide over the center of the bow. Hand sew onto swimsuit and make it very secure!

Finished swimsuit...almost. It's not really done until you can see it on someone! I'll be posting that soon.

Friday, April 19, 2013

I was in a introduction to theatre class at BYU, and was assigned to design costumes for a ten minute play we had to perform for our final. FUN! (: Here are my sketches, color renderings, and adaptations using clothes from the D.I., my wardrobe and some trim from JoAnn's Fabric and Craft Store. I didn't have to go all this out but it was so much fun I couldn't help it! I don't have pictures of the finished products yet but I'll get those as soon as I can.

Gray pencil skirt with pleats (adapted from a dress pattern - I just made the skirt and added a waistband) and a red silk scarf I made with a fabric remnant. No, I did not make the jacket, sadly...

Off-white Jacket

A cute off-white jacket I made for my sister (I shortened the sleeve, added the collar by making my own pattern, and extra room on the overlap so I could fit four buttons:)

ORCA Project part 1: Proposal and Corset

This February I was awarded the ORCA grant at BYU (the Office of Research and Creative Activities grant). Here is my proposal explaining the whole thing and the first part of my project - the corset.

Reproduction of an Original Edith Head Design

Rebekah Jackson,, BYU ID: jrebeka
Mary Farahnakian, College of Fine Arts and Communication

Project Purpose
I will recreate an original costume designed by the renowned Edith Head and present it at the Costume Society of America national symposium.

Project Importance
Edith Head designed costumes for Hollywood productions over a career of 58 years (Sauro 191). Though she started in costume design with little training or experience, she quickly rose to the top of her field (“Edith Head” 192).  She continued to garner great acclaim for her work, and went on to win an unprecedented eight Academy Awards and an additional 35 nominations. She was known for ability to work with difficult actors and figures, and even became a great influence on teenage fashion for her work in A Place in the Sun (Sauro 191,192). These great achievements and the influence she had on her field brought her to my attention, and has inspired me to investigate the field of costume design. I have long admired her work from repeated exposure to her designs and have long desired to reproduce her work in an attempt to understand the workings behind her designs. Reconstruction of her work through this project provides such an opportunity, but more importantly will resurface acknowledgment of her work at a national level. It will provide an opportunity for others to re-examine her work and bring to new light her contributions to costume design.

Project Profile Body
In this project I intend to reproduce an original Edith Head design from the 1965 production The Great Race. I chose this particular costume because it is an example of Head’s capabilities, its origin from the well-known classic directed by Edward Blake, and because of the similarities in height and figure between myself and the actress, Natalie Wood.

When I finish my research on Edith Head and her career for a complete understanding of her work, I will study the original costume to establish a basis for the reproduction. After sketching an authentic view of the garment, I will find a pattern similar to the design in order to estimate the necessary supplies needed to recreate the gown, and provide a starting point for my own design. When the design is complete, I will purchase materials similar to the ones used on the original garment and use these materials to reconstruct the gown with my own sewing machine and appliances. I will also attempt to replicate the coordinating accessories for a complete ensemble. All alterations necessary to fit it to my own person will be completed as well, during which time I will refer to the strategies provided in Edith Head’s The Dress Doctor for a proper fit. Upon completion, the garment should fit me exactly and maintain the integrity of the original design.

Anticipated Academic Outcome
With the design completed, I will travel to the 2014 national symposium of the Costume Society of America. There the dress will be placed in an exhibit where I will formally present the garment and my research. Following the symposium I will also have a complete paper that goes into the depth of my research on Edith Head and the recreation of her work and submit it for academic publishing.

From this project I also hope to improve my working knowledge of costume design, clothing construction, and perfect my understanding of Edith Head’s contributions to the field. From using Head’s strategies for working with different figures, I will also learn how to create effective designs that enhance different body types.

I have years of experience in sewing and design. Throughout high school I was hired out as an independent sewing contractor, sewing hundreds of items including everything from doll clothes to replicas of an oriental blouse. In 2010, I entered the Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) Star Events competition and won gold at the state level for clothing construction. In 2012 I placed in the top five of my category in the national Simplicity & Joann Fabric 2011 Halloween Costume Contest.

 Mary Farahnakian, is particularly well suited to mentor me as she currently teaches classes on historical costume design. She is a Professor of Design and Technology in the Theatre and Media Arts department. She is a member of the national board of directors of the Costume Society of America and a member of the International Textile and Apparel Association. She received her PhD at Brigham Young University and has designed with Mary McFadden in New York and Jean Barthet and Eric Dubrulle in Paris.

Project Timetable

In January I will finish research necessary for construction of the dress and make preliminary sketches of the design. In February, I will begin searching for and purchasing supplies. By April I will have the notions needed for construction of the garment, have completed my research, and signed up for the Costume Society of America’s 2014 symposium. In May I will proceed to constructing the garment and complete it by August 31st, 2013. The deadline for the entering the symposium is in October.

Scholarly Sources

"Edith Head." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2nd ed. Vol. 18. Detroit: Gale, 2004. 191-193. Gale
Virtual Reference Library. Web. 1 Nov. 2012.

Head, Edith, and Jane Kesner. Ardmore. The Dress Doctor. Boston: Little, Brown, 1959. Print.

Head, Edith, and Paddy Calistro. Edith Head's Hollywood. New York: Dutton, 1983. Print.

Sauro, Clare. "Head, Edith." Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion. Ed. Valerie Steele. Vol. 2. Detroit:
Charles Scribner's Sons, 2005. 191-192. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 30 Oct. 2012.


So that's very interesting and everything, but here comes the fun stuff. After being awarded the grant (I was rather shocked when I got it, I didn't expect to,) I immediately started on the undergarments. I know I don't mention undergarments in the proposal but I need them to make the costume look right. The first undergarment, or the corset, was very interesting to make. I drafted the pattern myself (I've never done that before) while basing it off of corsets Natalie Wood used in The Great Race (1965) and a real corset from 1908.

Sorry, these pictures are all a bit scandalous but they're the best I have of the corset!
So next step: Do mock-up and order supplies. Lets just say I realized what I had got myself into when I started sewing those curvy seams together - a lot of stay-stitching and clipping to get those "mountains" and "valleys" together. Luckily I didn't have to do much altering, though, as all I had to do was take out a pattern piece which shrunk the whole thing about four inches. (I guess the mannequin I used for draping the pattern was a little too big.)  (:

So, for the supplies I bought steel boning, 24 grommets, bone casing, and coutil (a very expensive but strong fabric for making corsets). I was disappointed, however, when I could only get white or a few other colors of coutil. I wanted it to be pink, similar to the movie (even though you don't see what corset she wears under the costume I wanted it similar to the one she wears in a later scene.) So... I dyed it! That was really exciting and terrifying. I never could have done it without my mentor, Professor Farahnakian, who helped me every step of the way.

 After that came the best experience of all - sewing together unlike seams first with basting, to make sure it would fit, then again to readjust curves so they fit more properly, then once more with a permanent stitch. But on none of this could I clip or staystitch my seams like I did with the mock-up, forcing me to stretch inward curves to fit the outward curves, while easing in the outward curves with a looser stitch. I had to readjust the curves a lot as the easing sometimes caused too much fullness or bubbling in one area. ~sigh~ But I finally got the seams together, and then I had to sew them twice more after trimming and folding the seam allowances to make flat felled seam (and on curved seams that is no easy task). But I did it! Yeah!

You can kind of see the seams in this picture as I trim them and fold them. I pressed the allowances all in one direction except for the side back seam which had a gusset (you can see the gusset in the picture) where I pressed the seam open and then turned in the raw edges. After that I added the waist stay, boning channels, bones, busk, bias tape and grommets with a lot of measuring, marking, pinning and slow sewing.