Do you know what a rash guard is? I certainly had no idea when Jalie’s Valerie rashguard came out recently. According to Wikipedia, “A rash guard, also known as rash vest or rashie, is an athletic shirt made of spandex and nylon or polyester. The name rash guard reflects the fact that the shirt protects the wearer against rashes caused by abrasion, or by sunburn from extended exposure to the sun. These shirts can be worn by themselves, or under a wetsuit” My favorite thought on rash guards comes from Jim Gaffigan:
I like swimming with a sun shirt. People always look at me like I fell in the pool.
— Jim Gaffigan (@JimGaffigan) August 18, 2011
In the past, we’ve put our boys in similar shirts for swim lessons. Our boys tend to get really cold in the water, and we’ve noticed that the shirts help them not be so cold. Recently, I’ve seen more adults at the pool wearing similar styles. Frankly, I think the time has come in the world of swimwear!!! Growing up, my Mom would have me wear a t-shirt over my suit because my fair skin would burn so readily. I hated the big old t-shirts floating around in the water, and as such, I never became a confident or good swimmer. Who knows? Maybe a rash guard would have changed my early swimming experiences.
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Valerie Rash Guard
This pattern is really very simple in form. It’s got a 6 panel design which is typical for rash guards, and there’s an optional front zip. The zipper is a nice style addition if you’re wearing this over a suit, and it also helps you get the narrow neck over your head. Nylon lycra is stretchy, but maybe not THAT stretchy. On my next version, I’ll definitely be adding the zipper.
I bought both the pink and coral clouds print and the coral spice from Fabric Mart I think 2 years ago. Both of these fabrics are nylon lycra with a lot of recovery and comfortable 4 way stretch.
I made this at my in-laws house on CA’s far north coast. Without my serger and coverstitch, it took me a little longer than usual, but I was surprised at how well the construction turned out. It was a good reminder that your sewing skills are more important than the tools that you’re using. Or to quote Ansel Adams:
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Sewing nylon lycra without a serger
A serger is a really helpful tool to handle sewing nylon lycra. The stretch of a serged hem marries well with the 4 way stretch of the nylon, but if you don’t have a serger, you can still sew up a swimsuit. Here’s some thoughts for sewing nylon lycra on a regular sewing machine:
- For construction, use a narrow zigzag. A width of 0.5 will look almost like a straight stitch, but it retains enough built in stretch for the seams to not snap under stress.
- Lengthen your stitch: Nylon lycra can stick a little under a presser foot. If you have a machine whose presser foot tension you can adjust, loosen the tension. Otherwise, lengthen the stitch for the best quality stitch. On the machine I was working on, I lengthened the stitch to 3.5 (normally I’d use a 2.5 length for a narrow zigzag).
- Use a stretch needle: Stretch needles have a certain point that works well for the dense stretchy nylon. They really make such a difference!
- Use a 3 step zigzag for hems: You can use a double needle for hems, but I’ve found that my double needle hems aren’t as sturdy on high stretch fabrics. A 3 step zigzag on the other hand makes a hem with lots of recovery and a clean look.
Jalie 3351 Swim Shorts
I think these two patterns were basically made for each other. Even note how the panel design moves seamlessly from the top to the shorts. Jalie, you smart people, you’ve found a forever fan in me!
Not only is the colorblocking on the shorts cool, but the side panels cross over in this little v that’s actually a pocket. Who doesn’t need pockets for their keys at the pool? Smart, smart, smart!
Instead of a regular lining, the shorts have a separate brief that sews into the waistband as the lining. This has proven to be a really comfortable lining option. The best part is that these shorts do NOT float up like swim skirts can. There’s some monkey business with the directions where you join the lining and the shorts to the waistband. Other reviewers on Patternreview have noted it and Jalie fixed the written directions on the downloadable directions The picture on that step shows the right side of the fabric when it should be the wrong side. I mention that because it led me to sew the lining the wrong way out. I subsequently had to unpick a whole waistband, and basted brief/shorts layer. Not so fun… If you sew this pattern, definitely download the directions from Jalie’s website and think think think and take your time on the waistband step.
So though it’s not a traditional swimwear look, I think it should be!!!! At any rate, I am looking forward to not matching with the random crustaceans I find along the beach!
Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.