Necessity is the mother of invention; isn’t that what they say? As a mom, it seems I’m always inventing or, at the very least, creating something, and usually that something involves my four-year old daughter, Lane. It’s funny how differently you view childhood through a pair of ‘mom eyes.’
As a kid growing up in Florida, I think I spent the entirety of summer in a bathing suit. I lived in the pool, and if I wasn’t swimming I was zipping down a slip-and-slide or jumping through a sprinkler or even drinking out of my mom’s garden hose (Yuck!).
I can remember that feeling of summer so vividly. But what I can’t recall is ever having something on over my swimsuit. I remember going to dozens of pool parties, and it amuses me now, but I’m pretty sure I just showed up on the doorstep in my bikini and a bath towel and said ‘Let’s party!’ Maybe it’s because I was the youngest of three girls and such a frivolous garment as a sarong wasn’t a priority for my mom to spend some of our clothing budget on, or maybe I just refused to wear one.
Of course, nowadays finding terrycloth cover-ups with a wide variety of characters printed on them can be done blindfolded. We have things like water shoes to keep our children’s feet protected from hot concrete while they’re playing in the local splash pad, and I’m totally guilty of purchasing my preschooler sunglasses to match specific outfits in her wardrobe. So I guess it isn’t totally unexpected that as a mom who sews for my little one that I find summer time and swimwear to be incredibly inspiring. However, I also feel I am meeting a need — and not one of simply just swimwear.
Not far from our house is this great little town square which features a host of restaurants, small stores and dessert shops. It’s a great place to visit in the evening when the sun sets late, and it’s a fun area to bring our daughter. On weekends there’s a great farmer’s market with live music. There are swings and a small theater, but my daughter’s favorite part is the splash pad with synchronized sprinklers.
One thing my husband and I have always found tricky is how to do what we enjoy while visiting the area (dine at the pizzeria and window shop) while letting our daughter have some fun splashing in the sprinklers. I love dressing my daughter up when we go out, and she enjoys dresses, especially the kind she can twirl in, and of course that’s not always the most practical thing.
When I saw the chocolate chip digital print neoprene (scuba knit) from Mood, I fell instantly in love. I knew Lane would love it — she could give Cookie Monster a run for his money when it comes to a love for chocolate chip cookies — and I was excited to sew something I’ve never worked with before. I’ve been challenging myself lately by working with stretch fabrics, and wanted to create something fun and summery that was also practical.
I started by creating a one-piece bathing suit patterned from a leotard Lane has recently outgrew. I lined the front of the suit with a nude colored swimwear lining, though the scuba knit is a nice weight and not really sheer at all, I like the quality feel a lined swimsuit creates. The cut of the swimsuit is modest with two simple straps, and I think it looks charming on Lane. I wanted to elevate it slightly beyond a simple swimsuit, though I think the digital print fabric takes a simple swimsuit to a special place.
Thinking about what a summer evening or a Saturday afternoon might entail for our family — dinner out with a stop by the splash pad afterwards, or a birthday party involving water balloons and sprinklers — I decided to create a swimsuit cover-up that could double as a cute and stylish summer dress. Playing with the scuba knit, which has an amazing drape and feel, I decided to go with a classic circle skirt enabling Lane to twirl to her heart’s content.
What’s more fun to a four-year old little girl than twirling?
I gave the skirt a wide elastic waistband covered in the cookie print, and finished with a rolled/lettuce edge. When worn together, the suit and skirt appear as though they’re a one-piece dress, and are great to attend a pool party or to wear out to dinner. In seconds she can slip off the skirt and be ready to splash and play in the water on a hot summer day (or night) and I don’t have to worry about finding some public bathroom to change her into a bathing suit on the spot.
After my experience with the chocolate chip cookie neoprene (scuba knit) I decided to also experiment with a thicker neoprene, and the coral rose color was too beautiful to resist. Feeling inspired, I chose the matching wonder mesh, and brainstormed how I could marry the two.
Upon receiving the fabric, I was in love and wish I had purchased it in every color. The body it has is so much fun and my mind raced with ideas for implementing this unique material into the costume creations I make for my daughter.
The way it holds pleats is so inspiring and I can see this being a go-to material for me in the future.
Given the stretch it has, it’s incredibly forgiving and it’s liberating to think you don’t have to hem or worry too much about seam finishing (though fold over elastic worked like a charm for this project.)
Again, with summer in mind, I opted for a classic box pleat skirt with a simple bodice which features a racer back. I love how the skirt holds it shape, (no need for layers of petticoat netting) and the material lends itself to a sporty vibe. I also love how Lane can wear this to a water themed summer party and I don’t have to worry about her getting wet — actually, I encourage it.
Since I’m all about accessories, I decided to use the mesh to create a fun and floppy hat, and edged it with the neoprene. I also used some scraps to create a large flower which adds a bit of whimsy to the entire ensemble. Next, I’ll be whipping up one of those neoprene sleeves for frozen ice pops. Have you seen those? No more freezing fingers like we had back in the day. Plus, every girl needs a summer snack holder to match her dress, right?
Years ago, if you had told me I’d be sewing with scuba and neoprene to create swimwear for my daughter, I would have thought you were crazy. I didn’t believe either fabric would be so easy to sew with and never did I think they would be appropriate for children’s wear. Adjusting the pressure of my presser foot, using clips instead of pins and of course a ball point needle made construction easy, and both of these projects made me fall in love with my serger even more. I’m excited as I think about the fun projects that lie ahead, and am glad I challenged myself to use materials that were new to me. So, as a wise man once said, “Thank you, Mood!”
Jennifer Rouch is a stay at home mom and sewist who creates clothing and costumes for her cosplaying daughter, Lane. You can see more of her creations on her Instagram page, Ferdalump, or watch her adventures on her YouTube channel.