Monday, April 25, 2011

Pattern Review: Kwik Sew 2601

Alright, this will be the first and official review of my skating costumes made using Kwik Sew Pattern 2601.  This is my only TNT (tried-and-true/tried-and-tested) pattern as of yet.  I have used it for every single skating costume I have made.  I have recently acquired some new KwikSew patterns with different sleeve options (raglan sleeves), which I plan to test out next year.  This will be the longest-post-ever since I have so many crazy opinions and pictures of awesome dresses.  In any case, let us get on with the review!

Kwik Sew 2601

Pattern Description: Two styles of leotard with three sleeve length options (sleeveless, short, full-length), and an optional skirt.

Pattern Sizing: XS-S-M-L-XL; the size ranges from 31"-45" (bust), 22"-37" (waist), 32"-47" (hip) on the package

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? I use this pattern as the basis of all of my (roller) skating costumes. I have made about 20 costumes from this pattern, but not many of them look the same, because once I knew how the pattern fit I changed the style of the top for however I wanted my design to look. The first two costumes I made did look like the pattern when I followed the directions and pattern exactly, with the exception that the neckline was a bit higher as were the sides of the hips. After that no, because I changed it. I don't find the skirt flattering at all, and so I made my own skirt patterns, and sew my skirts to the leotard directly. I have never made the skirt with this pattern, but it looks very easy as it is just parts of a circle with a waistband.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, the instructions were quite good. The instruction about how to measure and calculate the amount to shorten/lengthen the pattern is CRITICAL to a good fit but also very accurate in the instructions. This is especially important with sleeves. For activewear like this it is important that the sleeve attach to the body directly under the armpit, otherwise you will limit your range of motion and you will have over stretched/gaping armholes. I have used the sleeves in this pattern with excellent fit and no problems. The other instructions about construction are also quite good, and I still follow the order used by the instruction guide during construction even though I do not need to look at them anymore.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I like that is came with sleeve length options and 2 styles on the leotard. I didn't particularly care for the skirt, but I haven't seen a skating costume pattern where I have liked the skirt. I liked that it came in multiple sizes, so very easy to use M on top, XL on the bottom, or whatever size adjustments you may need. The pattern also is printed on very heavy paper so it is quite sturdy. Also, the pattern is very good at covering the bottom, without being too low on the hips. It makes the leg look super long, while covering the behind sufficiently. Another nice thing, the size ranges are large, so it is easy to fit people who may not be your "standard dancer size".

Fabric Used: Mostly lycra/spandex but also stretch velvet, slinky and other dance/swim/skate type fabrics. I have used non-stretch lace *gasp* as an accent on one dress (not all over the dress, but strategically placed). However, in general you want some nice 4-way stretch material. A hint on buying fabric: if you look at the cut edge on the bolt in the store and it is rolling, don't get it. It is better to go with something higher priced that doesn't roll because it will turn out much nicer, sew much easier, and save you money on headache medication. Also, this way you can make a skirt with a raw edge and it will hang nicely.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: For sizing this pattern I was between sizes and multiples sizes (Ex: measured 36.75" bust where max small is 35.5" and minimum med is 37"). I went to whichever size measurement I was closest to, which usually meant going up to higher sizes. I recommend using full bust measurement (not upper bust) to get top size, as the fabric will stretch into place and fit snugly. When I started making this pattern I used a size M on top and size XL on the bottom. I have since lost 4 inches in the bottom (mercifully stayed the same on top) and so now use M top and L bottom, although soon I may have to go to a size M all over.

The pattern uses (in general) a 3/8" seam allowance. I use a 5/8". I am usually on the small side of whichever size I have chosen (as in, smallest size for the size M range, as indicated on the back of the pattern package). I also usually have to take in the waist area, and occasionally I have to add back darts because I have a swayback. Depending on the fabric I also sometimes add darts on the front from under the bust down to the hip-bone level, because I have a full bust. Some fabric is more clingy and I don't need to do this, but some of the stiffer lycra or hologram type fabric doesn't fit well under the bust. If you have a full bust, you may need to make the under bust darts as well.

The pattern only lines the bust area, but I tend to sweat a LOT. So I usually line the entire leotard, unless it is made of velvet. Velvet is already hot enough and it will hide the sweat stains better than lycra will.

The pattern also uses 3/8" elastic for the entire costume. I like to use 1/2" elastic around the legs and 3/8" everywhere else. The pattern also tells you how much elastic to cut for leg opening, etc. I think it grossly overestimates, or they must use much less stretchy elastic. When I used size XL on the bottom, I was cutting a size M amount of elastic for a comfy fit. Now that I am using size L, I have gone down to size S amount of leg elastic. If I go to size M for the bottom, I will probably still use the 20.5"/size S elastic length though. The problem I had was when I used the recommended amount of elastic I had saggy tights. There is nothing more uncomfortable than skating with saggy tights. So I use a lot less elastic, no more saggy tights, and nice tight fit around the legs. I think some people might find it too tight, but if you get the pattern be prepared to need to experiment with elastic lengths (probably going smaller). Also, this can be difficult to feel until you are moving around in the leotard, so you may need to wear it and then go back and adjust the leg opening.

As for design changes, I made 2 skirt patterns (one symmetric one asymmetric) that I have used and sew onto the leotard. I also have altered the top various ways (higher V neck, no gathers, one-shoulder, used elastic straps instead of sleeves, etc). I have changed the height of the V on the back and also sometimes made it more square and less V-shaped. I have added various embellishments and other design details. I never alter the bottom of the pattern as leg holes are leg holes and these ones fit well. As a side note, I have not had formal training and this was my second pattern I ever made, so really, it isn't hard. Actually the first time I try a new style I usually just eyeball my pattern alterations when I am cutting (more gasps) and it comes out ok. I do mark where things are on the pattern as I cut, so I can raise/lower things in the future though. And I think once you see how simple this pattern is and where things end up on the body it is pretty easy to alter the pattern yourself. Overall, I think this is an easy pattern to alter after you have made it once and tried it out to see how it looks.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes, I have used it about 20 times! I do, of course make pattern design changes often, which some people may not be comfortable with. Also, the pattern uses 2 fabrics to create the design contrast, but it is easy to line up the pattern pieces and cut the leotard out of one fabric if you don't want the 2-tone look. I would recommend this pattern because it gives a lot of flexibility in terms of finished look as well as being well drafted with clear instructions. Also, I am (as indicated by the sizing) more of a curvy/full figured type body, but I have seen the pattern used on a stick-thin teenager and it looked good on both of us. I think this pattern can be flattering to many body types.

Construction Tips: This isn't part of the normal pattern review, but I thought I would add it.

Cutting the fabric: I like to use rotary cutters on this type of material. It gives a nice clean cut and can have a nice smooth line on the skirt hem. Since I leave my skirt hems unfinished (this type of material doesn't ravel in general) having a nice clean smooth cut is important. Also, because it is a leotard, it is easy to fit the entire pattern piece on a rotary cutting mat, which is nice.

Sewing seams: I don't have a serger (yet...) so you can make this on a regular sewing machine. Up close or on the inside, maybe not as nice on the seams as a serger would be, but when you are dancing/skating no one will notice. I used a 3-step zig-zag or a stretch overlock stitch that is on my sewing machine. The overlock stitch gives a nicer look to the seam on the outside, but the 3-step zig-zag gives more stretch. While you are performing, no one will really be able to notice, so as long as it stays together, use any stitch you want that has a little stretch/give. When I put on my skirts (again, self-drafted/not part of this pattern) I topstitch them with a small zig-zag. Some people find this tacky, but if you have larger hips this method usually prevents the skirt from rolling along the seam and making them look even bigger. Also, you can't really see the stitching if you match the thread well to the fabric. Again, once you are actually moving the stitching is not noticeable, but the nice form fitting shape of the dress will be.

Darts and fitting: If you have swayback or full bust you may need darts. This is generally how I would recommend deciding if you need these. First, sew up crotch and side seams, add the leg elastic. Check the fit by holding up the top/pinning to bra. It should be snug around the legs and butt. Don't worry about the top being big or baggy or droopy. Elastic will fix this. However, if there is large amounts of gaping on the lower back and saggy-ness around the waist, you probably need the back darts, and possibly to take in the waist. Sometimes I have to do both. It is important to make the back darts before you sew in the upper body elastic so it will lay smoothly. Make adjustments and check until it looks reasonable. Then sew in the rest of the upper body elastic, sleeves, etc as recommended by the instructions. At this point you may want to add under bust darts if you think it looks too gappy or saggy under the bust. Again, this will probably depend on bust size and fabric. If you make bust darts, have them go from directly under the bust at a slight angle toward the belly-button - this can make you look like you have a smaller waist. I usually stop the darts at about hip bone level, which will be under my skirt.

Sewing elastic: I like to sew the elastic to the fabric, then fold over and sew again (as recommended in the instructions). However, the instructions say to stretch the fabric and elastic together. I only stretch the elastic. This makes the fabric look sort of gathered, and then stretches out when you put it on. I like to use regular zig-zag on elastic as it doesn't stretch it out as much as a 3-step zig-zag, and thus is will hug your body better when you wear it. Also, if you decide to alter the pattern and change the back/add straps then I usually like to use the larger sizes of elastic (1" - 2") and sew fabric around the elastic to make straps. These tend to be quite snug while looking nicely finished because the elastic will regulate the strap width. In this case, I don't stretch the elastic or the fabric, so that the straps will look nice and smooth. There won't be a problem as long as the fabric stretches and you use a zig-zag type stitch.

Undergarments: I like to sew a bra into my dresses if they will be used for competition, so that there aren't any distracting lines on the back (ok, well I WILL be doing this this year, last year I was just happy to have dresses). Bras that are smooth (no lace, no embellishment) tend to look best as the fabric will be tight over it. If you will sew in a bra, I recommend finishing the dress, put on the bra with its tightest hook/setting and tight straps. Then pin the bra (maybe get help) to the elastic parts of the dress. Use the zig-zag to sew on top of the elastic and cut off the parts you don't need. Without the back part, it will relax a bit, which is why you want to set it to maximum tightness before you sew it in. I have full bust, so unless you are really large it should work ok. If you don't want to sew one into the leotard, you can make tan straps (as described above in the elastic section) and add them to a normal bra by cutting off the regular bra straps and back with the hooks. Usually criss-cross in the shoulders with another strap around the back gives a lot of support. Then it will look like you have reinforcement straps on the leotard and not like you are wearing a normal bra under it. Also, you can use the altered bra with a lot of leotards/costumes without the added expanse of $20 bra in each one. I use altered bras for practice and sewn in bras for nice practice costumes (stuff I would wear at regional/national competition practice or for tests) and competition costumes. Also, I like to wear 2 pairs of tights for warmth and because it does a better job of sucking things in/smoothing things out.

Conclusion: I think this is a great pattern for someone who is just beginning to sew skating/dance costumes. The fit is in general pretty good, and the instructions will teach you how to make these types of costumes, so that you can apply the skills to your future creations. And the overall result will probably look good at the end, or at least give you enough confidence to keep sewing. I made the two styles on the cover of the pattern first, but had more success and fun when I used this as a template for my own designs. I try to do something new and interesting with each costume, so some are better than others, but overall I find that sewing for skating costumes is the most fun and rewarding thing for me to sew.

The original View A.

Original View A Back.

Original View C.

Original View C back.

Ok, so since this is the "official" review for this pattern, I posted some (rather awful) pictures of the original practice dresses I made above.  Now for the good stuff: the ones I actually wore for competition.

The first competition dress I ever made was sort of a last-minute deal before nationals.  This was just after I had started sewing (about 3 months) and my usual seamstress was very sick and couldn't sew.  My old dress was a bit big and not fitting super well, so I decided to do some serious stash-bustin' and use leftover fabric and rhinestones from previous dresses.  Now, I hadn't been sewing long, but I had been skating a long time, so my stash of skating fabrics is vast (with 2 girls skating for close to 10 years, there was a lot of stretch fabric purchased and used and leftover from various previous skating costumes).  In addition, I had/have a large rhinestone stash where you always have a few dozen of a certain color left over from a project, so I decided to use them all for this costume on the lace.  I used a mix of garnet AB, volcano, siam, capri blue, and crystal AB on this dress.  I also sewed on some of the large Swarovski jewels, and used sequins to make some of the smaller sew on stones look larger from a distance.

The definition of stash-bustin: My first competition dress that I ever made all by myself.

This dress was made last-minute before nationals out of leftovers from many previous skating costumes.

Leftover lace, leftover rhinestones.

A few large stones, and then stones with sequins to make them look larger.
The lace is actually a red metallic with lots of different colors of rhinestones.
My next competition dress was less flashy, since it was used for figures.  I used a black stretch velvet, that had an interesting texture and color effect.  The under part of the fabric is red, but the fuzzy part is black, with a crushed sort of texture in a wavy pattern.  I used garnet AB and hematite stones, as well as some patterned sequins on top of the lycra strips I used for the design.  The fabric strips are sort of an applique that I pinned on and attached with a zig-zag stitich.

My figure dress, using the sleeves from Kwik Sew for the first time.

An action shot!

Fabric and rhinestone details.  You can see the red/black/sliver look and texture of the velvet.
The other competition dress I have made is very, um, latin ballroom, I guess?  I went the cheap route, using mostly sequins for the design.  The entire dress probably cost less than $50 to make.  Fabric is lycra from JoAnn (I loved the color, I couldn't help it!).  I used long bugle beads with bangles (ok, paillettes if you must) for the skirt, and smaller shaped sequins on the top.  A few square rhinestone beads in the gold design areas.  Nearly all of the sequins and beads are sewn by hand, with only the small flat ones being glued onto the dress.

My version of a cross between latin ballroom and a skating dress.

An action shot.  Despite the heavy bangles, the skirt had nice flow.

A close up of the sequins on the top - I used the "carnival" iridescent color.

The gold stripes are not as nice looking close up.

The skirt bangles.
I also want to show one of my favorite non-competition dresses that I have made.  The lace was a bargain bin remnant find at FabriX on a trip to San Francisco, obtained for $1.50 I think.  There was just enough for a dress, but not enough for one with sleeves.  The base fabric is from JoAnn (I know, right?) back when they had decent dance wear options.  It is actually very light blue/shiny/foil dot/mystique fabric.  Through much pestering, my mother got me to put some jet AB and blue flare stones on it, but they don't show well in the pictures.  They do, however, look stunning on the floor.

My favorite practice dress ever.

The back.  I don't know why the skirt looks crooked - it isn't really.

A close up of the lace and fabric.

Gather on the front - I used the technique in the Kwik Sew pattern.
Anyway, so I have made many other practice dresses, but I don't have pictures of many of them yet.  They aren't as awesome as these ones are, but I do like most of the dresses I have made.  Some of them are getting quite worn, and some are now a little too big, but I do wear most of the dresses I have made a couple of times a month to practice.  Currently I am working on my costumes for regionals (all stitched up, but playing with rhinestones), but you don't get to see pictures until after the big event.  Perhaps next year when I am in my next round of making practice costumes and competition dresses I will post a step-by-step tutorial with construction pictures and such.


  1. Thanks for sharing your review and dresses. I love your latin-y green dress!

    My daughter stated skating this fall and I'm pretty jazzed to make her some dresses. I've made one practice dress so far and am looking forward to making fancier ones as well.

  2. Did you make the latin dress based on the 2601 pattern? love it

    1. Yes, all of them are based off of Kwik Sew 2601. Leotards are pretty simple, so it is easy to make style changes without too many problems.