Custom-fit ruched swim coverup

My girls weren't the only ones who got new swim duds!

I sewed this ruched swim coverup myself from very lightweight jersey knit. And here's how I did it!

First, you need very accurate measurements--and a lot of them.

  • High bust
  • Bust
  • Under bust
  • Waist
  • Hip
  • Lengths: high bust to bust, bust to under bust, under bust to waist, waist to hip, and waist (or hip) to desired skirt length, top of back of bodice (a bit below underarm height) to hip

Once I had my measurements, I subtracted a square for the back. (You can measure from side seam to side seam for an exact measurement--I wouldn't just divide all the numbers by two because the side seam will be farther forward on the bust than the waist.) You probably want to bring in the sides a bit at the small of the back:

You could sew the whole bodice as a tube, but that makes it hard to add the ruching, and generally in a sleeveless top, the back is lower than the front, so keep that in mind!

For the front of the bodice, take your other measurements, subtract the square, and divide that answer by two. If your fabric is really stretchy like mine was, you'll need to subtract another inch or two here to create negative ease. "Ease" is the difference between the fabric measurements and your measurements. Normally you want at least a couple inches so you can put on the clothing and move in it.

In a knit fabric, you can use negative ease to have a very fitted garment. Or, in this case, one that stays up. I definitely need more negative ease in mine!

Once you have all your measurements ready, using the length measurements and your halved and adjusted front bodice measurements, make the pattern (I believe this is similar/identical to making a sloper, a personal generic pattern). I use a piece of newspaper to make my pattern, laying out the adjusted widths spaced according to the lengths. Connect the measurements with curves.
Then you use this half pattern on a fold, which will make the bodice top:
Cut one piece like this. Then, to create the ruching, take your regular pattern and draw horizontal lines across it. I did mine about 1.25" apart.

Cut the pattern along these horizontal lines, and space the pieces evenly to double the overall length of your bodice. You'll have to redraw the curves here.
Cut one long piece like this. Sew two lines of long basting stitches along each edge (mine also required two sets of basting stitches down the front of the bodice). Pull the threads to gather the fabric to match the regular-length bodice. Stabilizing stitches for the ruching are your friend.

Then sew the back and front together.

For the skirt, draw a straight line on the angle from the waist to hip measurement. Extend this line to reach the desired skirt length.
My research favored a six-gore skirt, and the bodice is only the front half of your dress, so you'll want to divide that original skirt trapezoid into three even gores to get your final measurements or pattern pieces.

The full pattern will look like this:
Cut six gores and sew them together, then sew them to the bodice!

Here's a closeup of my bodice. You'll probably be able to see the lines of stabilizing stitches:

And just for fun, I got some cool pictures of the finished product on a breezy day before heading to the pool at our RV campground outside of Bryce Canyon!

Happy summer!

Kids' Towel Coverup: the Wayward Way!

As part of my Summer Sewing Spree two years ago, I made . . .

Wayward Kids' Towel Coverups!

I found this adorable terry towel coverup for kids, and I fully intended to sew something equally cute for my daughters. But a major time crunch hit and I ended up having to go the super-fast route. So here's the quick and dirty wayward way to make a cute, fast towel coverup for a child, boy or girl.

Step 1: Measure! 
You'll need two (or three) measurements. The first is width around the chest (girls) or waist (boys). You'll want to add at least four inches for overlap. If you want to use elastic in the back (I recommend this for boys, but it doesn't seem to affect my girls'), you'll want to add more width to account for the gathering. Decide how long you want the elastic to be, then add that to the width. Remember this one, too! (Also keep in mind that the elastic will need to fall between the shoulder straps for girls.)

The second measurement is length--for girls, that's from underarm to however long you want the cover up to be (mid-thigh or knee length works well); for boys, that's from waist to the bottom of his swim trunks. (Which is often not his knees. Don't make the same mistake as me!)

Step 2: Materials!
You'll need:
  • A towel at least as big as the rectangle formed from your measurements.
  • A piece of cute fabric 4" wider and 2-4" longer than your measurements.
  • Sewable Velcro (or snaps)
  • Elastic (may be optional for girls' coverups; at least 3/8" wide)
  • Thread
  • Pins
  • Scissors or rotary cutter
  • Iron
  • Sewing machine
Step 3: Cut the towel!
Use your measurements to trim down a towel. Towels can be hard to cut, so I would use scissors or a rotary cutter to get through the hem, then rip the towel.

Many towels have decorative weaving near the ends. I cut out the towel between these lines, and save the weaving to form the straps. I also kept the top hem intact.

Step 4: Cut the fabric!
Add 4" to your width and 4" to the length of your rectangle (I added 2" to my length and used the selvage to form the long top edge on some of the pieces), then cut out a piece of fabric that size.

Step 5: Sew them together!
Center the towel on the fabric, wrong sides together (ff your towel has a wrong side). (If you're using the selvage on top, make sure the top edges of the fabrics align.) Fold over the edge of the fabric to meet the edge of the towel, and press. Then fold that folded edge of the fabric again, overlapping the edge of the towel:

Sew along the folded edge where it overlaps the towel (indicated by a dashed line above)--but do not sew the top edge of the fabric to the towel! (You can, however, sew the hem of just the fabric along the top if you're not using the selvage.)

Step 6: Place the elastic! (May be optional for girls; didn't really make a difference for mine)
Remember the elastic measurement we used in step 1? We need it again. Cut that length of elastic. If you want the finished product to have 4" elasticized, we need to work with 8" of fabric. Find the center of the towel & fabric, and measure out 4" (or whatever your chosen # is) on either side. Mark both of these points.

Pin either end of the elastic between the towel and the fabric at the points you've marked. Sew in the elastic (more details here).

Last year's coverup almost fits this year...
Step 7 (girls only): Place the straps!
Either cut 2" strips from the towel remnant, or get the decorative woven strips you saved earlier. If you placed elastic in, pin the straps between the fabric and towel on either side of the elastic. Otherwise, you might want to have your child try on the cover up to determine the best placement and length for the straps.

Measure the strap length twice!

Sew the straps in place between the towel and the fabric. (You can use a reinforced box stitch pattern for this if you'd like.)

Step 8: Velcro/snaps and finish!
If you're very picky, you might want to sew the Velcro or snaps on the front flap to only the towel, so that the sewing lines don't show through. But let's face it, if you were very picky, you wouldn't be doing it the wayward way, would you?

Place the Velcro or snaps on the front flaps. Remember that the inner flap will have the Velcro on the outside (fabric side)! Sew in place. Sew any unfinished edges along the top. And voila!

Grownup sunhats!

Last summer, I went a little nuts with sewing. I've shared my daughters' reversible toddler sunhats, but the one I made for me wasn't quite the success theirs were. I wanted to love the result, but, well . . . I didn't quite.

I started off fantastic: a yard of gorgeous, emerald green 100% linen and a free sunhat pattern from BurdaStyle.

Only once I opened the file, it was less a pattern and more just instructions. I am not a sewing wiz. Frankly, I wasn't smart enough was too WAYWARD to follow the instructions well. The results? Also wayward!

So let me just tell you how to custom size your sunhat, wayward style!

First off, measure your head!! Measure around your head where you want your hat to fit. Please don't think that just because the pattern says you should make the hat 24" circumference and your head is 22", you should follow the pattern and your head needs "ease." It doesn't! Do not follow the pattern! Follow your head circumference! (Oh, and write it down.)

Top stitching on the crown
Second, measure your head!! And not just in the measure twice, cut once way. (And oh yes, I cut more than once.) Measure your head from forehead to the base of your skull, where you want your hat to hit. Also measure from ear to ear, where you want the hat to hit. Be sure to measure those lengths by wrapping the tape over where you want the center point of the hat to be. Take the average (i.e. add those numbers and divide by two). Write that down, too.

Now, you have your head measurements. The crown of the hat is made in six sections. So, if your head is 22" in circumference and your ear-to-ear/front-to-back average is 12", we'll need to divide that up into the sections. The ear-to-ear/front-to-back average is divided in two to give 6" as the crown height.

The circumference has to be divided by six, giving us the ugly number of 3.67" for the width of each piece.

Don't go cutting yet!

First, add the seam allowance to the measurements, 5/8" on each side. This brings our width to 4.92" (okay, rounding up will make the hat 1/2" larger around), and the crown height to 7.25".

NOW you can cut your paper pattern of a 4.92" x 7.25" rectangle. Lovely. Now, fold your paper pattern in half (making the rectangle even narrower) and sketch a curving, convex line, starting about 1/3rd of the way up the long edge and ending at the top midpoint. I might have used an iron as a tracing guide. Cut along the line and open to reveal your very nice, symmetrical pattern piece!

Cut 6 of these (or 12 if you want to line your hat; I did).

Now, cut out your brim. You'll need two of these. Again, don't make the mistakes I did!

Brims tend to hold up better if they're not quite a full, flat circle. Leaving out a segment of the circle gives the hat dimension and the brim shape. But remember that the inner circumference of the brim must match the circumference of the sewn crown!

I forgot that and drew a circle with an inner circumference to match the crown, then hacked off a bit of the end to make the not-quite-circle. My brim was too short to go all the way around my hat! Fortunately, I had some extra fabric and was able to fix it, but I was not happy!

So, let's say you want to omit 4" off the full circle (the more you cut off, the further down the hat brim will droop. Personally I wouldn't do more than 4"-6"). You'll still need to end up matching your 22" crown, so here's what you gotta do: add the amount you want to cut off the circle to your head circumference, bringing us to 26". Now, do some math (sorry!) to find the radius of that circle: 27"/(2*3.1415) = 4.30".

Using a protractor (or two pencils and a piece of string 4.3" long!), draw a semicircle with a radius of 4.30" on the edge of a piece of pattern paper (or newspaper, if you're me).

Top stitching and satin stitch along brim edge
Decide how wide you want your brim. Wider isn't always better--it can also be heavier, even too heavy to support its own weight! The Burda pattern also made the brim asymmetrical, 1/2" narrower in the back than in the front (6" in front, 5.5" in back). However, I feel like the interfacing used just isn't strong enough to support the brim and it ended up too floppy. To reinforce a wide hat brim, you might consider Timtex or buckram.

Draw a second circle to finish the brim (or 2 more circles, if you're changing the brim width) by adding your brim width to the original circumference to get the outer circle radius: 6" + 4.30" = 10.3".

NOW, on the INSIDE semicircle of the brim, measure in 2" (half of the length we're trimming from the brim) from the edge. (If your brim will be asymmetrical, make sure to do this on the narrower/back side.) Sketch a line from this point out to the outer circle. (You need this to be large enough that you can fit the hat together, but the larger the angle this line would form with the edge of the paper, the more the brim will angle/droop down.)
Add your 5/8" seam allowance all around and label the angled end "back". Place the non-angled end against the fold and cut two whole brims.

Now you have all the pieces ready for your custom sunhat. The BurdaStyle directions from here are very helpful. Hopefully it will fit you better (and come together with less trouble) than mine!

Outdoor sewing room photo by NormaNack

Reversible toddler sunhat

Two years ago, we had a Wayward reunion at the beach—and I had big plans about all the crafts I wanted to make for our cute beach gear.

Top priority was a sunhat for my girls. I found a cute free toddler sunhat pattern with ruffles and ties online at Merriment Design, and I used a photocopier to blow it up to adjust to my 3-year-old (I think I sized it up very slightly for my 1-year-old, too).

The pattern is adorable as is, but . . . I'm wayward. I can't just sew according to a pattern! I have to do something! So I adapted Merriment Design's pattern to make the hat reversible. You can see a peek of the inside fabric in this shot:

For the most part, the changes are pretty easy, but be sure to read the notes at the end!

Materials needed:

Cut out your hat!
Using Merriment Design's pattern:
  • Cut 4 triangles from fabric 1
  • Cut 4 triangles from fabric 2
  • Cut 4 brims (2 top, 2 lining): Fold fabric 1 in half, right sides together. Cut 1 brim pattern on doubled fabric (making 2 pieces). For the second brim, fold fabric 2 in half, wrong sides together. Cut 1 brim pattern on doubled fabric (making 2 pieces).
  • Cut 1 strip 25″ x 2″ for ruffle in each fabric
  • Optional: Cut 2 strips 16″ x 1″ for the ties in each fabric (I used ribbon for my 1-year-old's hat, and omitted the ties for my 3-year-old's)

I won't copy all of Merriment Design's instructions, but following her directions, sew together the 4 crowns in each fabric, and then sew the two pieces of the brims together in each fabric (you will end up with four separate pieces at this point: a crown in each fabric and a brim in each fabric).

Make the reversible ruffle!
Match the 25" x 2" strips and pin right sides together. Sew a seam along one edge.
Press closed, then press open, then fold back and press flat:

Using two rows of long basting stitches along the raw edge, gather the ruffle to fit along the outside (larger in circumference) edge of the brim. Matching fabrics, pin right side of ruffle to right side of one brim, with raw (gathered) ruffle edge along outside brim edge (larger in circumference). Sew down.

Place the other brim right side to right side, "basically making a ruffle sandwich with the two right sides together" as Merriment Design describes it. Sew along outside edge.

Always being careful to match fabrics, sew the crowns and brims together using Merriment Design's instructions. If you're using ties, I recommend sewing those to the matching side of the brim before sewing to the crown. When the ties are on the "wrong" side, you can tie them in a bow at the back of the crown.

Between the extra fabric from enlarging the hat and the added weight of the ruffle seam, the brim of my 3-year-old's hat was a little extra floppy. She loved it, but I would recommend lining the brim using interfacing.

There are two ways to do this:

1. Iron fusible interfacing onto the brim fabrics before cutting out brim pieces.

2. Fold interfacing in fourths and cut 1 brim (making 4 pieces), sewing the two pieces of each interfacing brim together, then adding those pieces to the outside of the ruffle sandwich and sew, being careful to match the asymmetrical shape of the brim.)

Rebecca with a friend

I made my girls' hats with a total of 3 fabrics: one fabric for both girls' hats so they could have a matching pair, and the other side in two different fabrics to match each of their towel coverups.

Unfortunately, the beach didn't agree with my one-year-old and she hates hats. But Jaime was kind enough to model for us (okay, she was making a face, but you get the picture here):

What do you wear to the beach?

DIY Summer Camp

Nobody in my house is more excited for summer vacation than I am—I can hardly believe our summer vacation begins next week!

The first weekend of summer will be consumed with MOVING TO A NEW HOME about 20 minutes away. We're sad to leave our neighborhood & friends, but excited for our new home, and getting to know our new city. We've already signed up for a pool pass and swimming lessons, and I'm looking at all the fun summer activities coming up, from the city festival to movie nights to open air markets. So I'm adapting our Summer Family Fun Plan from last year to create this year's DIY Summer Camp!

Once again, I'm very worried about spending the whole summer vacation in front of the TV and computer. Last summer, a perfectly timed email from The Power of Moms gave a great example of how to avoid the couch potato summer, and we made up our family fun plan.

We started with a summer bucket list--a  list of all the things we want to do, all the places we want to visit, all the things we want to learn, including experiences that no summer would be complete without:

This year I'm starting with our themed days of the week. For 2013, our days are:

  • Make it Monday: arts and crafts
  • New Town Tuesday: visit or research something fun to do in our new town, such as the library, local restaurants, and other attractions
  • Wet Wednesday: play at the pool or lake or in the sprinklers, get slurpees
  • Thoughtful Thursday: acts of service
  • Fun Fridays: trips, movie nights, game nights

Last year's DIY Summer Camp, also had activities the kids need to do every day, like reading and writing practice (my 6-year-old wrote stories or journal entries, or practiced his full name; my 3-year-old did letter worksheets from Confessions of a Slacker Mom; my 2-year-old . . . mostly ran around ;) ) and chores. This year we'll build on that with more of a set schedule. I'm thinking we'll tackle chores—which now include homework—from 9-10 each day, then head to the park for a little while before swim lessons.

Last summer, we also came up with a list of their favorite fun things to do, which would go great in an "I'm Bored" jar.

Everyone is excited for our summer plan, and I love the flexibility and structure it offers. I have ideas for fun things to do every day all ready to go, and I can plan ahead for them.

What do you do in the summertime?

The Sashes

Jasmine asked me to explain how we made the sashes for her dresses. We found a champagne lace fabric and a matching chiffony like fabric in the special occasion section at Joanne Fabric and Crafts. We bought tons of it and used it all around the reception. (Of course we used a coupon.)

To make the sashes, we cut rectangles about 14 inches wide and the length the waist measurement plus a couple inches. (Obviously not an exact science here.) We folded the sash to make it about 4" wide. We tried to put in a pleat to make it look nicer. We ran a shallow seam along the ends to hold it pleated and hand stitched a few places in the middle. We sewed velcro on the ends for a fastener.

Jasmine determined how long she wanted the bow and the ribbons on the back. We lined the lace fabric with the chiffony fabric and folded it to 4" and sewed on the center band. We cut 4" wide strips of lace and chiffon and used the machine to stitch them together at the very edge.
This gave the lace more body. Then we tucked this through the center band. Truth be told, we just safety pinned it to the sash and called it good!

Bridesmaid Dresses

I'm sure many of you on Pinterest have seen this pin:

Well, meet my bridesmaid dresses.

I found some heavier jersey knit fabric at JoAnn and bought tons of it. I asked each of my bridesmaids for some measurements. Remember when I asked them to be my bridesmaid? Well yes, after that they sent me their measurements. After that it was quite simple. However, making the dresses more fitted than in the tutorial from Sweet Verbena wasn't as simple. First we cut out the front and back of the dress with the shoulder-to-floor measurement.
Then, at their bust (or under the bust, this may also be your bra size measurement) we cut it in a little bit. We sewed a curve into the pattern to make it more fitted and less bulky around the bust since we were using heavier fabric than the tutorial. This we did by starting near the sleeve opening (a 10 in cut made from the top seam down) and worked our way in.
We made sure each dress had the right curve sewn in. This happened through a lot of trying on and adjusting! After that, the neck opening was cut in the middle of the dress with the back and the front lined up cutting down 8-10 inches. This opening was angled a little bit just for preference meaning it was cut in more of a triangle than just a slit. Each opening was hemmed and the dress was done! Now as for the sashes...we'll let my mom blog about those since she did most of the work on those!
**To adjust for a pregnant bridesmaid (cough, cough Jordan) trying on right before the wedding was key. We left extra room in the front half of the dress's length and adjusted after a final fitting.


For our centerpieces on the tables at the reception I wanted something not on Pinterest. Not that Pinterest is bad, I just didn't want to have the same reception as everyone else. Then I was stuck. It's kind of hard to think of these things on your own. Jordan had beta fish in cool vases. Jaime had cornocopias of flowers (she got married right around Thanksgiving). Brooke (who also got married right after Christmas) had ornaments. The bar had been set! I thought of something but I Googled it just to see what it would look like. There weren't many options on Google but it looked like it could work. So it was settled. We would have books as centerpieces.

I wanted thick, hardback books that had red covers. In order to save money we went to every thrift store around us. We nearly cleaned out all the red covered hardback books! But we found some pretty good finds. Plus, if you're like me and love the smell of old books it was great. It took us some time to do this but we bought about 4 or 5 books for each table.

Now came for the set up. We placed 2 table runners on the table over a white tablecloth. One was wider and was red. The other went on top of the red and was the gold color. We found square and circle mirrors at the dollar store and also battery powered candles (off-white and darker red.) We placed the candles wrapped with a band of ribbon on the mirrors and gave each table two candle and mirror combos. We then sorted the books in size order so it was easy to put them on the tables in nice stacks. We then plopped a Harry Potter book or Lord of the Rings book in the pile because these are our favorites! Now, our centerpieces were personalized.
To top it all off, we put 4 framed (gold frames from Target, Wal-Mart and the dollar store, not too hard to find them) pictures of us on each table. Three of the pictures were from when we were little and one of the both of us. And voila, beautiful centerpieces!

When deciding centerpieces think of the theme your wedding has or stick with the wedding colors. Pictures are always and easy go to and they're also fun. There are a lot of things you can do with pictures. Pinterest is a pretty good place to look for ideas of things to do with pictures or anything else, really. Think of something that fits both your personalities even if it's subtle.  If your venue allows candles, those create a wonderful glow to the room and can be more pleasing than regular lights. Battery powered candles work great too. Flowers are also a simple and elegant option. Flowers are especially welcome at spring and summer weddings. Centerpieces should enhance the overall feel of the reception hall and the wedding itself.


I decided that with the lace on my dress, pearls would be a good compliment for my wedding jewelry. This decision was much easier than expected. I wanted round shaped pearls that were off-white and I wanted dangly earrings. Oh my goodness, folks, this was not easy to find. We looked EVERYWHERE. Department stores, pawn shops, Khol's. I looked through everyone's jewelry boxes. Ok, not everyone's but my sisters sent me pictures of their pearl jewelry and I looked through my mom and grandma's jewelry. Finally, I found a nice necklace and bracelet set from my grandma. She told me she never wore them so I could have them. Double score! Now came the adventure of finding matching earrings. Again, we looked everywhere. I had seen some in a department store early on in the hunt but they were no longer there when we looked again. Dang. Finally, they may have had silver hooks (all my accents were gold) but I found earrings I liked. Seriously, huge relief.

When deciding on what accessories you want, remember this is your wedding and you are the bride! (well, you can be a groom reading this too but I don't think you'll be looking for the same things as I was!) If you're wanting to go with something classic like pearls, don't settle on costume jewelry from the kid's department. Look everywhere. Don't feel like you need to spend a ton on jewelry but make sure what you're buying will look as classic as you want it. If you want to go for diamonds, again, don't settle for costume jewelry. It looks fake. I promise. When I was deciding between gold or silver, I took into account my wedding colors and the metal of my engagement ring. I had champagne color accents in the wedding colors and a yellow gold engagement ring, so for me, the choice was golds. If you want a classic look, don't go towards bold colored jewelry. I would stick with anything white, cream or ivory. My dress was stark white so I wanted an off-white pearl. If you want a touch of color, I would suggest pale colors. Even paler than pastels. You don't want to distract from you and your dress! But ultimately, it's your day. Feel beautiful no matter what!

PS I also got my bridesmaids pearl bracelets from Khol's. That one wasn't as hard of a decision!

DIY S'Mores Wedding Favors...again

Remember how I said I'd post pictures of the wedding favors and I never did? Well...I'm sorry! Please forgive me. Let's try this post again!

Since we got married in the winter I wanted a wedding favor that somehow related to it. I found some ideas on Pinterest and the one I loved the most was S'mores in a box. It was quite simple. We ordered boxes that opened like a match box only bigger. *Finding deals online was a HUGE saver for the wedding in almost all the decorating part! We bought a bag of mini marshmallows, graham crackers, some full sized Hershey bars, toothpicks, thread and matches (I will tell you how we waterproofed matches in another post.)
My mom and I popped in a movie and got to work. We found that the name brand Honey Maid was far better at breaking into the quarters where the perforation was compared to generic. Plus they taste better. We cut them with a knife, carefully, and one by one. There was still a lot of breakage. Good thing those are tasty!
Then we cut the Hershey's bar up. Each box was to receive two graham cracker sections and two chocolate sections. The chocolate bar cut easily if we also did it carefully, not going to fast or applying too much pressure. There was some breakage. Good thing those are tastier!
Then we stuck 3 marshmallows on a toothpick. There was no breakage there. It was quite easy.
Next we tied 2-3 matches together with thick thread (twine would've worked too) and stuck them in the box.
The box lid just slid right over the other box.
We printed off witty labels that said our names, the wedding date and things like S'more happiness or S'more fun. The labels came with a link to the company's website where you could put the design you wanted and print them right.
And ta da! S'mores in a box!

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