A Syo-lytic leotard

I asked for a dance pose.

So I’ve been trying to start sewing down stash. I’ve been positively stingy with the new fabric purchases the last little while (which seems to mostly be resulting in pattern-binging, but that’s another issue). I’ve been avoiding Fabricland like an (insert clever, really annoying thing to avoid here).

However, the other day Syo had a doctor’s appointment across town at a location I wasn’t familiar with, and so I had built in an excessive amount of traffic/getting lost time, and so we arrived in the area with rather more than an hour to kill before her appointment. And I may not know that area well, but I do know where the fabric store is, so in we tromped.

And Syo found the swimsuit fabrics.

And they were having a big 50% off nearly everything sale.

And I’m officially the biggest pushover ever to disgrace mommydom.

So Syo scored a metre of pink, grey, and white leopard- and heart-print spandex. For a new leotard for her dance class.

Now, she is in sore need of a new leotard—the ones she has are mostly two or three sizes too small. But there is a dress code for the class (however poorly enforced) and I’m pretty sure pink leopard print isn’t on it.


Kwik Sew 1670

Bring on Kwik Sew 1670, again. This pattern has previously been used (abused) to create the pattern for Tyo’s close-fitting shirt, and the leggings have been made before, but this is the first time I’ve made the leotard up as such. It’s the first time, frankly, that I’ve sewn with full-on spandex in all its slippery, stretchy glory.

That's more like it.

First off, I will say, a sleeveless leotard is an insanely easy project. Two pattern pieces, no facings, not even any binding. I started tracing the size 8 (a bit large on Syo but the smallest in my packet) at 8:00 and had the whole thing done before 10:00.

Hmm, swayback appears to run in the family

I followed the Kwik Sew instructions remarkably closely, although I don’t know if I’ll do the same next time. They have you measure out elastic lengths, stitch them into circles, and then stretch the circles to fit the various openings (leg, arms, neck). While the elastic lengths were good, I think I do just as well applying in the flat and eyeballing my stretch ratio. I’ll give it a try next time and let you know…

Triple-stitch zig-zag finish

Anyway, I stitched the entire thing on my Janome, as she has the best stretch-stitches—I’ve come to the conclusion (backed by a wee bit of actual research) that my 3-thread serger really isn’t intended for making seams, just finishing them. I’m not supremely in love with the overlock stitch on the Janome—the seams look a little wavy when you open them up—but it is very stretchy. For applying and then topstitching the elastic, I used the 3-step zig-zag. It’s a bit of a home-finished look, but not a bad once, I think.

Side view

Some of this may have been motivated by the fact that Syo got her costume for the year-end show the other day. Ah, 1992 called, it wants its clothing back. Black, neon, fishnet, paint-splatter print—an amazing blast from the past. All of which I paid $80 for. And it’s not exactly badly made, and I don’t begrudge the stitcher getting paid a living wage for her time, and she does have a coverstitch, which I don’t… but, frankly, I could’ve done just as well*. And maybe I needed to prove that to myself.

Gappy neckline

Syo is obscenely happy with her new leotard (not to mention how quickly it was made up). It is a smidge large on her, or at least the neck gapes a touch where I didn’t get the elastic pulled quite evenly, but I imagine that will lessen as she grows. As leotards go, it’s pretty modest, high-necked back and front—I’ll be really tempted to scoop out the back a bunch next time. The butt-coverage is decent, but I suspect it will become less so as her body takes up the excess length. The crotch between the legs seems a bit wide to me, but doesn’t appear to bother her. There’s no crotch-lining included, but I might try adding one next time.

The big question, of course, is what to do with the rest of the fabric, since I used approximately 30 cm off one side of the 150-cm wide, 1m length…

*I don’t think I have any ambitions to pursue a career stitching up dance costumes for local troupes, anyway. Well, at least not the kind of semi-mass-production this kind of costuming requires. Now, making someone a fabulous bellydance or flamenco costume… that could be fun.



Filed under Sewing

25 responses to “A Syo-lytic leotard

  1. Man, that’s excellent! I want one of those!!

  2. LinB

    Yay! I loved sewing swimsuits and exercise wear, when these KwikSew patterns first came out. I still keep buying them (who knows why?). Dreaming of a future granddaughter, I suppose. There are some excellent sports bra patterns around, that could use up the rest of your yardage for both your girls, if you don’t find another purpose for it before then.

    • Well, really there’s enough yardage left for another couple of leotards (of this style, anyway… wish I had a pattern for one with sleeves!

      Sports-bras are a good idea, too. I’m sure Tyo wouldn’t mind one or three…

  3. I remember the day my gymnast daughter figured out the the big girls (over 8) don’t wear underwear with their leo’s. So sad. She eventually gave it up anyway, but now she is on the dance team at school. They make special underwear for the really big girls (over 14) to wear under their leo’s we found out.

    • Ah, yes, that eternal conundrum. We had a huge battle over whether the tights go over or under the leotard, too—she really doesn’t like the lumps the tights make when worn under. Mine haven’t figured out the no-underwear idea, so far…

  4. Aw, your daughter is adorable! I love the first dance pose. Are knees supposed to bend that way? Maybe they do when you’re that young and bendy like Gumby, but probably less so later on in life. Or at least, for me. *as bendy as frozen hard plastic*

    The leotard turned out really good! The fabric isn’t nearly as obnoxious as I pictured when you first mentioned, are you sure it won’t fly in class?

    • It is a kinda painful pose to look at, isn’t it? I’m not quite sure what she was doing… (my flexibility is much more like Barbie’s than Gumby’s. And not one of those Gymnast Barbies, either.)

      I plan to let her give it a try in class. Y’know, better to beg pardon than ask permission…

  5. SO CUTE. you know, in tat leotard, you could do some great li’l syo crocquis… that she could then draw designs on… that you would then have to sew…

    oh wait. nevermind.

  6. Since no one else is going to play (insert clever, really annoying thing to avoid here).

    Going to the only McDonald’s in town with a playground on a Saturday at noon when you don’t have kids.

    Cute leotard. I think that must win for the fastest wearable item ever traced and sewn. C’mon I am so sure that you want to try to earn your living making and selling these. As for the leftover fabric, I am pretty certain she will grow and you can make another, larger one or two or three……..

  7. Nice. I was so afraid of leotards, too, but man what a great instant gratification project, right?! I have a couple of Kwik Sew patterns that I haven’t yet tried, but I’ve done two Jalies and both were great. I do have a coverstitch, but I actually prefer the three step zigzag. The coverstitch doesn’t feel as sturdy. I noticed (because I became obsessed with them) that the other girls in gymnastics who wear RTW, many of them are triple zigzagged too. I don’t think it looks “home sewn” at all.

    • Yeah, I’ve noticed it on a number of gymnastics costumes, too (back when the kids were in gymnastics… we’re not so good at consistency in the extracurriculars department 😦 ) I wasn’t sure if they were RTW or made and sewn for the gymnastics school, though…

  8. Cute! I pretty much only made leotards/skating costumes when I started sewing. Let’s just say it was surprisingly amazing the first time I ever made a garment in cotton…

    As for sewing the elastic – I have always used a regular zig-zag. A while ago I got a book about sewing athletic wear, and it suggested using a 3-step zig-zag on the elastic, so I tried it and I thought the results were a lot worse – I had the same neck-gaping issue you mentioned here. I haven’t ever had that problem with a regular wide zig-zag stitch. I feel like the 3-step zig-zag stretches the elastic out and won’t let it form to the body, but the regular zig-zag does a better job of letting the elastic recover and prevents the gaping.

    • Talk about jumping in on the deep end! (Although the fitting is a bit easier, anyway).

      That’s interesting about the regular vs. three-step zigzag. I haven’t compared it with a regular zig-zag on elastic, but I feel like the regular zig-zag creates more of a tendency to roll, while the three-stage keeps things more flat. It does poke an awful lot of holes in that little plastic elastic, though, especially if you have to do a seam twice because you ran out of bobbin-thread halfway through and didn’t notice… 😉

  9. Great leotard. I remember my dance teacher not letting anyone wear bright leotards because they gave her a headache. At my daughter’s school, they don’t care about the colour of the leotard, they just don’t want shorts and skirts over the top, so that they can see that they are working the right muscles. She will be the envy of her classmates in this leotard.

    I have a cover stitch machine but I use zig-zag for swimwear and leotards as my coverstitches don’t seem as sturdy. I used to think it looked home sewn, but I have seen some really expensive RTW swimwear sewn with zig-zag. I like to attach the elastic with a 3 step zig-zag, then turn it over and sew it down with a regular zig-zag. You can see that in my tutorial http://strawberrymilkrun.blogspot.com.au/2011/11/colour-block-bikini-tutorial-bikini.html
    Sometimes I do the quarter and pin thing with the elastic and sometimes I just apply a little tension. The quarter method is slower but it does give more consistent results, especially if you want both legs or armholes the same. You can buy elasticators for sewing machines to hold an even tension for you. I have used these, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

    I also did a tutorial on straps, testing out different sewing machines vs overlockers, if you are interested. http://strawberrymilkrun.blogspot.com.au/2011/10/sewing-swimwear-spaghetti-straps-using.html

    Leggings out of the left-overs would be pretty groovy.

  10. Too cute! This turned out adorable, and I sure hope they don’t forbid her to wear it again! I agree with making it into bras, or holding off and seeing if you want to make up another leotard once she outgrows this one.

  11. Wow, I wouldn’t even be able to tell it was homemade! Dance classes here are pretty rigorous about the leotards (black or pink only) but I think they ease up on the restrictions once the kids get older…. Of course, I have boys and they have shown no interest in dance, so I get all my information third-hand.

    Did you do the triple zig zag twice? I’ve always been leery of that because a lot of patterns say to zig zag the elastic to the wrong side, then turn and zig zag again. It seems to me like that would dramatically reduce the elasticity, no?

    • That is why I like to use the regular zig-zag – I stitch twice and it turns out fine. Especially if you stretch the elastic, but not the fabric, one the first pass. I don’t like the triple zig-zag on elastic for the reason you mentioned here.

  12. Nice!

    From my perspective, sewing the first item for a suitably motivated reason is usually fun and enjoyable. Sewing the second is great because of what you learned with the first. Sewing the 23rd is likely not as much fun. Although if you do find it fun, you may as well make money at it and charge a living wage.

    My mom (who does seem to enjoy the 23rd) makes water polo beanies out of that fabric. Both of my brothers compete/judge lifeguard competitions. Some require beanies (and then it just becomes habit) to identify a team in the water. Mom made some for one of the two of them and then people asked my brothers where they got them. Next thing you know, she’s made beanies for at least 10 lifeguarding teams across Ontario. Every summer there is one or two more, or past clients needing replacements for lost beanies. Strange but true.

  13. Amy

    This is how I got back into sewing… leotard, actually unitards (do they still call them that?!) from Kwik Sew for a dancer project. I don’t know if I could do it all the time but I learned quickly that this kind of sewing definitely seems in demand!

  14. I love that happy Syo face – its very good mummy stuff. So, good job, as they say and it will be interesting to see if they let her wear it again at class. :o)

    BTW I like zig zag stitch for elastic too and much better than the tripple one, which for me also stretches out the elastic too much and doesn’t let it recover nearly enough. Well more often than nuts n bolts zig zag.

  15. Pingback: Sewing to Exhaustion | Tanit-Isis Sews

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