Good Vibrations! {a boys swim costume!}

I’m totally posting out of order, and out of season here – but my wall reminded me today that I never brought this home this summer, so I am posting it here now, or it will probably never happen! This is a guest post I did for Melly Sews this summer. The only excuse I have right now is that my kids started swim team for the middle school this week, so that’s sort of a tie in to fall? My friend’s kids took Swimming lessons in North York in the summer but they were so popular they’re carrying them on into the fall season, so that’s another excuse!

Hey all! I’m super excited to be here today as I adore the blogs of my most gracious hosts! For those of you who don’t know me, I am Catherine and I blog over at cathgrace. I am a stay at home mom of two school aged kids, (my daughter calls me a stay at home girl!) wife to a U.S. Air Force Officer, and I love to craft, decorate, embroider, knit, weave, and sew (sewing is my greatest passion outside of my family) and I like to think of myself as a “maker,” since I am always making at least a half dozen things at once!

I was originally totally stumped when it came to choosing a song for my outfit; I am afraid that I am in the middle of a big move right now (we are moving to South Korea for 3 years with the Air Force) so I sewed my contribution for this post at the beginning of June before my sewing machines were put in a crate to be shipped by boat to our new home on Osan Air Force Base; which was before the theme for this series was chosen. In the end though my sweet sister suggested “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys, and it felt perfect for the fun, slightly retro feeling print, and the great summer feel of the song went well with the outfit, so forgive me that my son’s outfit isn’t that musical, but I think I got the summer vibe down pat!

Today I am going to be sharing the process for screen printing and sewing the rash guard for my son’s swim costume. (I’ll be putting a tutorial for some of the details on my board shorts over on my blog, I decided not to do a full tutorial here since Melissa already did such a lovely one a bit ago!) Sorry this is a little picture heavy, I wanted to get all the steps in!

I decided to start with a commercial pattern for this project, so anyone can start with the same pattern rather then the sometimes daunting task of drafting your own! I used Simplicity 9499 for this project (even though it was clearly designed to be pajamas) because it had the raglan sleeve I was looking for to use with the rash guard, and there was a basic shorts pattern that was a good starting point for board shorts.

When choosing the size I needed for my son for the rash guard, I basically ignored the sizing on the back of the pattern envelope,

And instead focused on the FINISHED size measurements (which can also be found on the back of the envelope at the bottom, but I like how clear they are on the pattern pieces.) The reason I am not making the pattern’s suggested size of Large for my son (who has a 27 inch chest) is because if you read the finished size on the pattern, his rash guard would end up HUGE on him at 10″ bigger around then he is. Patterns add ease for movement depending on their fabric and use suggestions, but since I am using a nylon-spandex 4 way stretch knit rather then a cotton jersey, I wanted the rash guard to be more fitted. (So I made the small with modifications.)

Whenever I sew using a purchased pattern I start by laying the pattern out flat,

and then laying tracing paper on top. (I use large rolls that I get at an art supply store). I like to trace my patterns because then I can reuse the pattern in different sizes later, and I can make my modifications directly to my traced pieces. (Raise your hand if you have ever cut off a bit of extra length or width you meant to add when cutting out your pieces because it wasn’t on the paper pattern!)

Although I was making a Small width-wise for my son, I needed to extend the length to Large since he is taller. After tracing all of my pieces onto tracing paper in pencil, I go over my lines with marker, and name and date all the pieces so I can put them in an envelope and know what they are later.

For this project I shortened the sleeve shorter then the original pattern piece, and then I widened and shortened the neckband since the knit I am using is much stretchier then the double knit that the pattern expects you to use.

After making my pattern but before cutting anything out I screen printed an image onto my fabric. I went to school to learn how to do surface design and screen printing, but wanted to use a method that cost very little and used tools that anyone could easily get. (screens are usually quite expensive)

I started by pinning my fabric to my print surface (I use 1″ industrial felt that is on a sheet of plywood and covered in a canvas drop cloth that is pulled tight and stapled around the back, but a similar surface can be made by lots of layers of cotton batting rather than the wool felt) The reason you want a print surface is so that you can pin through it, and it has just enough give that your pattern really gets squished into your fabric rather then missing low spots. I use an old sheet to protect the print surface, and then I use quilter’s T-pins to stretch the fabric so it lays nice and flat, this is a much better surface for printing on than just laying your fabric on a table. (I would usually have my board on a table so that I am not on the floor, but my table was packed at the time) After pinning my fabric down, I ironed freezer paper that I had used an X-acto knife to cut my design out with onto the fabric (another bonus of a print surface is you can iron directly onto it)

At this point you could just paint the pattern on, but I actually don’t like the painted prints as much in most applications because it never looks as smooth as screen printing, if you look closely at anything printed with a screen you will see the texture that the screen adds, plus you will have an evenness of paint density that will make your piece look more professional. you could either buy a blank screen from an art store for $30+ or you can do what I did for this project and make your own cheap one! I made mine by stapling a sheer polyester fabric to a frame, I have used anything from $1 store picture frames, to art stretchers for this, and it really is only dependent on the size you want your image to be. My screen material was just a cheap white polyester fabric I found in the formal dress section of Joann’s. (The only requirement is an even-weave, rather than a knit or a netting.)

As you can see, my screen is stained and not exactly fancy, but it works just fine! I made my color by mixing a blue pigment with a white pigment, (which can be found at an art supply store) but for smaller projects, regular old shirt paint will work just fine.

I used a way to small a piece of stiff but flexible plastic to evenly spread my pigment around my screen, I would usually use something bigger, but most of my stuff is packed away. For smaller projects, store loyalty cards, or hotel room keys are my favorite thing to use (you can use your credit card in a pinch…….. I’m just not going to guarantee it will work again afterwards!)

This is what it looks like after you lift the screen off, my paper is lifting a little because I couldn’t use a super high heat to iron it on, because I didn’t want to melt my fabric) but the lifting doesn’t really matter as the screen will hold it down nicely for you. (Don’t forget to rinse out your screen before your paint dries and ruins it for future use!)

After peeling the paper up, I let the pigment dry and then ironed it to set the pigment (just follow the instructions on your particular paint)

OKAY, now we can cut out our pattern pieces! I folded the fabric with the screen printing on it in half, and pinned my pattern on so that the picture was slightly coming off of the top (I like printing before cutting out my pieces, because it does give you the option to edit where you want the image to be)

I used my serger to attach the sleeves front and back, although you can use a stretch stitch on a regular sewing machine.

Here is what it looked like all sewn together. Next, I used my coverstitch machine to hem the sleeves and top stitch over the sleeve seams, but a twin needle on a regular sewing machine will do the same job.

Next, I added the collar by sewing it into a tube, that I then folded in half so that the finished edge was at the top–I pretty much sewed it in place the same way that the pattern instructions will tell you too, so I’m not going to go into too much detail, except to say that once it was sewn in place I top stitched it down just like the sleeves were sewn.

The next step is to serge/sew up the side seams including the underarm/sleeve seam, making sure you match the sleeve hem nicely,

I like to tie a knot in my serging, and then in order to make the sleeve edge look finished, I tuck the thread tail inside,

and then fold the seam over it and top stitch the seam down to one side,

this will give your sleeve a much more professional look because you wont see the serged bit trying to pop out ever,

Finally, all you need to do is hem the bottom in the same manner that you hemmed the sleeves, and then you have a finished rash guard!!!

My son is 11 (will be 12 this Oct) so he is going through a………… stage when it comes to pictures, so forgive me for some of these pictures! He apparently thinks it’s funny to sabotage my photo shoots by being silly, so I have decided it’s funny to put some of the more embarrassing pictures of him in this blog post – I’m sure he’ll thank me in a couple of years!

As you can see, I got the image inspiration for the screen print from the fabric I used on the board shorts!

This is apparently the face I get when I ask him to run through the sprinklers……….is he making fun of me much?

I apparently couldn’t even bring myself to leave his head in this one……… Seriously Isaac? Just a smile please?

Although he *is* a pain in the backside to photograph right now, I love making things for Isaac, because he really LOVES whatever I sew for him, and since we have been staying with my mom in AZ for a couple of weeks before heading out to Korea, he has been wearing this swimming costume several times a day in her pool, and I have officially been give a tween boy’s thumbs up for this project, which I am going to consider a win!

Thanks again for having me! I would love it if anyone came on over and visited me at my blog, I am afraid things may be a little bit quiet there for a short moment as we make the transition over to living in Korea (we are traveling to California for a quick Disney trip, and then straight onto Korea while this post is being put up!) but I am excited for our next adventure to begin and would love to have lots of bloggy friends to take with us as we go!! (I have heard KILLER things about Korean fabric stores, and I am hoping to share the love with some fun giveaways in the future!)

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