Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sewing with spandex for the little gymnast

Lucy has been begging me for months to make her a gymnastics leotard.
Well, actually, she's been begging me to buy one of the cool sparkly and velvet ones they sell at her gym.  But for $40 I just can't do it.  Especially when I know I can make one.

So this weekend I finally got started with bright purple Lycra and deep pink Elastic.  Ghastly right?  Perfect.
Now this is sort of a work in progress.  In fact, I hope to share a full tutorial with you down the road with a cooler fabric but I'm still working out the kinks. 

If you're new to sewing with knits, elastic, sewing swimsuits, etc. here are a few tutorials to get you started:

I started by tracing one of Lucy's recent swimsuits to get a perfect fit.  I first made two rough pattern pieces.  Then after sewing the entire leotard went back and retraced, making adjustments where needed. I always label each pattern piece with a "version" number and the date to keep everything orderly.
Then I cut out the pieces from Spandex/Lycra fabric.
• You can purchase spandex in some fabric stores.  My favorite sources are the online shop Spandex World and the in-store shop Michael Levine (when I'm in LA)
• You can read details about the fabric in my book Fabrics A to Z.
• But in a nutshell....Spandex is a very stretchy knit fabric (sometimes sold under the trade name Lycra) that works perfectly for swimsuits and leotards.
• It's important to determine the direction of the stretch before cutting.  Some spandex has 4-way stretch which means it stretches vertically and horizontally, some only has 2 way stretch (like the purple fabric below).  Use your hands to stretch it both horizontally and vertically.  You want the stretch to go horizontally across the body so it can stretch with your tummy. 
Now comes the part where I admit something I should have done 10 years ago....
I used FOLD OVER ELASTIC! (or F.O.E.)   What?!  Where have I been...or not been?  Why has taken me so long?
It's changing my life.
You see, I've made swimsuits in the past (here and here) where I created a casing for the elastic and strung it through.  But unless you have a fancy Coverstitch machine (I don't personally know anyone that does) it's very difficult to get the elastic perfect.  Enter Fold Over Elastic.  It has a small line down the middle where it folds.  So first you sew it to the wrong side of the fabric, then fold it over the fabric edge and sew it to the right side of the fabric.  And....
New leotard! 
And FOE comes in tons of colors, even some prints.  Just doing an etsy search I came up with a bazillion options.  If you have a favorite shop for FOE leave it in the comments! 

Now since I was making things up as I went along I totally forgot to add extra padding in the crotch area and when Lucy tried it on, definitely needed it.  So I patched it up by cutting and sewing an extra piece down there.  Next time I'll sew it in before adding elastic.

AND...I'll create a more detailed tutorial so you can see all the sewing steps.
My little gymnast was quite pleased with the results.  She even pointed out "Mom, I love these little triangles you sewed all over the pink elastic!"  That would be a zigzag stitch and I love that she appreciates the tiny details.

So with Version 1 Leotard finished, we tried it on and she showed me some moves....
(sort of).  You can tell I know nothing about gymnastics...other than watching them during the Olympics.
And, the leotard totally works for baton twirling as well!
Lucy was intrigued. 
 And gave it a whirl.
Then yesterday we really tried out the new routine at her Gymnastics class.
Her friends were excited to see her wearing something other than her old ballet leotard.
 There she goes.
And that's a Leo wrap.
For round 1, I'd say it's a success.  More versions to come....

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