With that said now we get to the fabric stuff or how to make a leotard in 61 minutes (with some help from a cat) and using no elastic.
If you read the Coletterie blog on a semi-regular basis you might have seen Sarai’s post on “The lazy gal’s guide to summer dressing” a month ago. She was showing us how to hem a full skirt and was wearing a very cute Capezio leotard that is available for purchase on Amazon. These days I check the “made in” part of the label and try REALLY HARD not to purchase things made outside the U.S. which is…almost everything. So this tutorial is my answer to getting what you want in an hour : ) Of course that doesn’t count the time spent getting the fabric and I do recognize the other side of the coin in that our fabrics are most likely made outside the country but there are only so many windmills I can tilt at at one time.
The fabric I’m using is a 4 way cotton-lycra stretch that I found at Stone Mountain & Daughter. It’s thicker than the fabric I used for the trunks and cost a little more. I’m using 3/4 yard of $10.00/yard fabric so my total fabric cost is $8.19 including tax. The pattern is the same one from the lady who used to make deancewear professionally. I’ve been asked if there are any patterns in the big 4 books that would work and I’m sure there are. Next time I’m in Joann’s I’ll take a look and post about them. I have some I’ve used for years that are Butterick and Simplicity from back in the 90’s that work just fine.
I’m showing you my layout before I cut along with a clock that will track my progress. You’ll notice the shoulder seams of the leotard are off the fabric, that’s because we aren’t cutting those out : )
Now we cut. You can see where I’ve NOT cut the pattern, the back scoops low while the front follows the same approximate lines of the tank top I made from a t-shirt a few posts back. I’ve cut 6 strips the full length of the fabric by 1 1/2″ wide for straps and facings. So far we’ve spent 5 minutes on this project…
Gently work the back pieces out from under the cat and overlock that center back seam. Again, move cat onto a separate pile of fabric kept nearby for the express purpose of keeping kitty attention off your project and quickly grab front of leotard.
We’ve also got one pissed off cat who thinks the previous attempts to divert his attention stink and let’s us know his feeling on said subject. See the ears?
I’m pretty sure this could be done in an hour but to be truthful I had to account for the cat factor. Others could have kids pulling stunts while mom sews or husbands who suddenly forget where their socks are stored, real life stuff that would have them raising fists in my direction thinking I live the unencumbered life. Hah!
The side – bras aren’t recommended but this fabric is THICK so I’m not going to be overly worried about the girls. I’m also trying to make the leotard that Sarai is wearing and she is clearly not wearing a bra. Yes, this could be modified. No, I’m not doing it today.
Now take one of the bands, fold it in half and iron just so it’s a little eaiser to handle. Matching raw edges pin it around the armhole edge, down and up the back and around the opposite armhole edge, just like we did with the leg bands for the trunks. If you look at the pic above you can see it is one long continuous line. You don’t need to stretch it much, maybe 10-15% but not much. You want it to fit close to your body without cutting in. This is why we use the 4 way stretch fabrics, they let you fit things close without causing binding and numbness. Yes, I’ve seen people wear clothes so small they actually have numb parts on their bodies. Craziness. No reason for it unless you have issues and then you need more help than a fashion lesson from me is going to give you.
The only part of the top of the leotard that isn’t finished yet is the very front. This is what it should look like:
We are now 18 minutes into the project and ready to finish off the front and make straps.
Grab another one of the straps you cut (by this time Stuart was sitting on the small pile of straps and growling softly at me. I decided one more pic of him was pushing my luck so I grabbed a kitty treat, got him to move a little and sneaked the rest of the straps into my pocket) and fold in half lengthwise. Find the center of the strap, then the center front of the leotard and pin the two together. Measure the distance from the center front of the leotard to the side seam, mine was almost 6″. Figure out what 80% of 6″ is (just a little over 4 1/2″). From the pin at the center front of the strap mark 4 1/2″ on each side and pin strap to leotard front.
Just in case that isn’t clear enough for you here is a close-up:
Now we need to make the straps to do all that lovely fancy work for the back. Fold 2 of the strips in half lengthwise, wrong sides together if it matters for your fabric, and overlock.
Straps galore! To make them into “straps” we need to stitch that overlocked seam down. Fold the straps in half lengthwise and using a decent stretch stitch, stitch them from one end to the other, like this:
To turn the front binding on the leotard, into the same kind of pretty as the straps you’ll do the same folding-and-stitching-maneuver that you just did on the separate straps.
Stitching EXTREME close up and fading of contrast so you can see the stitching. I also decided to stitch DOWN the seam on the back facings just to make life easier on myself. You can do it, you don’t have to, entirely up to you.
Let’s now get that pretty back put together!
Bring the straps around to the back and pin in place. How do you know what that place is? Try it on! The straps need to be close enough to hold the leotard up and far enough apart to give you space to do strap art. HINT – Use safety pins to do this. Safety pins are one of my BEST friends, ever. Use them, submit to their usefulness.
Another shot of the pretty front and straps. You don’t see any wrinkles do you? That front ain’t going anywhere you don’t want it to! A really BIG deal to dancers is the ever-present threat of falling out of a leotard while in some crazy extension. No one has EVER fallen out of this : )
Once the straps are in the right place just stitch them down. Nothing fancy, just run the needle back and forth a few times over the end of the straps. They should overlap about an inch for firm hold. Thirty three minutes, less than half an hour to go…
NOW for the pretty back! I cut each of the 2 straps I sewed previously in half to play with. What’s the worst that can happen if you cut a strap too short? You either make a new one or piece it. No biggee.
See the safety pins? THAT’S what’s holding things in place so I can try this on and make sure I’m not creating back-boobage. If you don’t know what back-boobs are then you need to get yourself over to the People of Wal-Mart website. Warning: once you start looking you will have a very hard time looking away. Each page contains 4 images of actual outfits people have worn into Wal-Marts all across the country complete with snarky commentary. Just warning you…
The sides of the straps literally just wrap around that shoulder strap. Make sure it wraps around and under by about an inch but there is no tucking/hiding etc.
Back to the real world (I had to look at the latest offerings on PoWm and wasted an HOUR of my day!…could’ve made a leotard…) you can see the way the straps look on the inside, the white stitching helps highlight their position. Do NOT attempt to tuck the straps inside the leotard as you’re getting the positioning done. Just pin on the outside and keep your life easy!
The inside right now looks like this, the straps are still pinned on the outside until you’ve got the placement just right. Once you have acheived strap placement perfection THEN you mark the strap where it overlaps the leotard, un-pin it, move it so the right side of the strap is against the wrong side of the leotard and the edge that you marked is matched up to the edge of the leotard. Stitch those babies down!
Final steps – the legs. Just like the trunks, take the two remaining strips, fold in half lengthwise and iron. Measure leg opening, mine is 24″, and subtract approximately 20% and mark strips (mine were 20″). Pin to leotard, keeping more of the stretch to the back/bottom area. You don’t need much stretch on the front, that can be fairly flat. Overlock the leg bands on and look at the time!
Here’s the whole back of the finished leotard on the INSIDE:
Extreme close up of the front : ) We’re one minute away from being done…
All that’s left to do is stitching the crotch seam so put right sides together and overlock, or stitch with your stretch stitch or both.
PLEASE let me know if I’ve made any assumptions that leave you in the dark. It’s one thing to have done this over and over and over, it’s another thing to write it down.
And finally, ladies and gentlemen, I give you my finished back deck –
The project that started out as “Oh look, free deck stain. Let’s go clean the deck off, hose it down and put on a couple fresh coats.” First of all, free stain you ask? How? Our county has implemented Hazardous Recycling for things like batteries, paints, household chemicals and some prescription drugs. There is a recycling center about 15 minutes from me that you drive into, a very nice person in a jumpsuit and gloves comes to your car and removes all the items you have no use for that we do NOT want dumped into our air/water/dirt.
At that point you can merrily drive away OR go around the corner and into the Free Store. Anything that is turned in in decent shape is put up for “adoption”. We are allowed to take home, for free, up to 15 cans of “stuff” a day. I’ve painted a good deal of the outside of my house with free paint, along with my small barn and studio. I wanted to cover up the ugly brown asphalt shingles the house was covered in in the 50’s so we brought home 8 cans of various grey paints, mixed them all together and sprayed for days. Then I wanted some sort of red trim on the windows and a red front door so I found a can of mocha colored paint, took a small can into Home Depot and had them give me the red pigment the use to mix paint colors. Added that to the mocha and voila! House updated, no money spent : )
In the case of the deck once I hosed it off I found rot under the pots. I know, I know, if I had used saucers I wouldn’t have had this problem but I didn’t and now I do. Once you find rot in one place the problem expands exponentially and we ended up replacing ALL the support structure and half the deck boards. The white rails are new but the grey slats are all re-purposed except for a couple. We re-used everything that we could and THEN I was able to paint/stain. The white bench on the right was a Joann purchase about 8 years ago. It’s cheap pine but I made sure to prime and paint it well so all it needed was a couple touch-up coats this year.
The chairs on the left are from IKEA at least 13 years ago. They too were soft, inexpensive wood but I stained them purple and they’ve held up pretty well. The fabrics were all left over from my wedding 6 years ago and the cushions came from Target back when they did a Cost Plus-type display right after Christmas years ago.
The vintage red cart on the right holds some of my vases and a vintage canister set that holds specialty chicken foods. Why use boring when you can use cute? Chloe didn’t understand why I wouldn’t let her outside while I was taking photos so that big white bump just inside the screen door is her.
And finally, the new ottoman/coffe table! That would be the white piece of furniture in the middle. I made that from a set of legs that was in the trash at a theater I worked at years ago. I’ve kept them for “something special” and this was the year they’d either become useful or move on.
The entire bench was FREE and I’ll show you how I made it since it was easier than making a leotard : )
But not today and not this week because….
Because I’m leaving on Thursday evening and flying to Washington D.C to attend the No Kill conference!!
I can’t tell you how excited I am : ) I have officially suspended any and all sewing activities to make sure I have time to pick out my outfits, get a manicure and pedicure (hey, I deserve it every now and then!) pack and make sure the garden is well watered. I made sure to get there a day early so I could go to the Natural History Museum at the Smithsonian since it was closed when I was there 6 years ago. I’ve also got a list of vintage stores to check out while I’m there; you know, because I don’t have enough stuff…
Why am I doing this? During Jim’s battle with cancer I became acquainted with Matthew Zachary and the Stupid Cancer organization. While it is meant for “young adults” and we were clearly not in the category, Matthew was one of the first people to show me that yes, there is life after cancer and yes, you need to “Get busy living!”. I spent 2 years “waiting” for the next test, the next round of treatment, the next move and pretty soon you come to realize there will always be a “next”, but what are you going to do “NOW”?
I didn’t want to go back to costuming, I still can’t really step into a theater and I drifted. Former students of mine dragged me onto facebook, which was delightful to see them grow up, get married and have kids of their own, but there were also pages to “like” of animals and rescues. First up was the agency from whom we adopted our greyhound. That led to another, and another and pretty soon my feed was filled with stories of rescues and pleas for help.
Then Patrick was rescued in New Jersey and things started to jell for me. “Patrick’s Miracle” is the facebook page and once Patrick was stable the admins started sharing other dogs stories and were vocal animal advocates. I had always wanted to work in animal advocacy but I had a full time job, a young daughter and then a sick husband. Once the smoke cleared I KNEW what I wanted to do, just not how. I also knew I wanted to work with the “underdogs” of the dog world, the pit bulls. Through Patrick’s facebook page I found out about Romera and we adopted her. Then I found other animal advocates and worked for things like getting chickens better conditions on farms here in California, signing petitions and writing to legislators when animal issues came up. Someone taught me about the evils of PETA (oh yeah, you think they’re all touchy-feely animal love but nope) and introduced me to the No Kill paradigm. The more I read the more I wanted to know. The more I looked into the shelter system in this country the more I knew it needed to be fixed and I wanted to help fix it.
I can’t tell you exactly what my path will be but I’m starting with the No Kill conference this week. Several hundred advocates and shelter workers will get together to take classes and connect and I’ll be there. This fall I’m enrolling in a certificate program in shelter management and then we’ll see where things go. The one thing I DO know is that in life it isn’t so much WHAT you know (although there is a basic level of knowledge required in any field) but WHO you know. I’m starting with the Who and then I’ll move on to the What. I keep reading that to be truly happy you need to follow your inner passion. This is my Act 2. I am almost as excited to go to this as I was the BADRAP reunion for the rescued Vick dogs. Speaking of which, the Gund dog made in the likeness of Jonny Justice came out this week and I ordered mine : ) Have you ordered yours?
Let the journey begin.