Thursday, 4 August 2016

Summer cover-ups

A Beach Cover-up

We don't get much summer here in England, but we like to make the most of what there is. Once it hits 24 degrees, out come the shorts and sun-dresses. But - some of us can't take too much sun.

In July, we took toddler Jane,  now 2 and a bit, to Italy for a week, and there, the mercury was hitting 40 - pretty much too much for us pale-skinned weaklings. So it was either - stay inside in the air-conditioning, or - head for the water, whether the pool or the beach, and hope to find some shade.

When we did go to the beach, in the evening when it was cooler, I thought about a cover-up for little Jane and her very fair shoulders. I wanted something very simple that I could run up in a hurry, and designed the one you see below. I half-made it from material I'd taken away with us, without a sewing machine, and finished it when I got home (after she'd worn it!) 

I also made her a whole beach set including, as well as the cover-up, a top and a pair of shorts to match. More about those in another post.

Below, I'll tell you how to make a cover-up like this. This one was intended to protect fair skin. The same pattern and design, though, would work equally well for a towelling wrap for after a swim (or even after a shower or bath!), and I'll be making some of those soon as well.

To make a child's cover-up, (or for an adult, for that matter) you need only two measurements. 

1) Measure from the nape of the neck to roughly the back of the knee  ("Oh that tickles, Grandma!"). You can make it longer or shorter if you wish. However, this gave a good length for a toddler. . I'll call this measurement the length. 
2) Make the toddler do 'aeroplanes' with her arms, and catch her long enough to measure from wrist to wrist. Halve this measurement. I'll call this the aeroplane wing measurement. 

Normally, I would expect the length to be a little more more than the aeroplane wing measurement, (half the width), unless the child has unusually long arms. For Jane, the finished measurements were:
  • length: 21"
  • 'aeroplane wing' 17".
Now, in making my cover-ups, I cut off the corners. Obviously as the arms are shorter than the length, I rounded the sides quite a bit. The bottom, I just rounded a little bit, but you could say I still took about 3" off the back and front lengths in rounding. So to get your 'measured length' for cutting, if you also intend to round the bottoms, you need to add that 3" back. You can also add half an inch to each of your measurements, if you want to make a narrow turned in hem, but this is not intended to be an exact science. You don't need to, if you intend to bind all the way round with double-fold bias binding.

To work out the size of the square you need, (and assuming the length is longer than half the width), multiply your final length measurement by 1.4. (Mathematically, it should actually be times 1.414214, but 1.4 will do just fine!)

In case you don't want to work that out, here are some examples, and if your measurement falls between these you can just figure it out for yourself. For even larger sizes, you can probably see that for every 3" longer you want it, you need to add about 4 1/4" to the side of the square. Sorry the table won't centre properly.

Measured length  Size of square needed
18"    (45.7 cm)
25 1/2"   (64.7 cm)
 21"     (53.3cm) 
29 3/4"    (75.4 cm)
24"     (61 cm) 
 34"          (86.2 cm)
 27"     (68.6 cm)
38 1/4"    (97 cm)
30"     (76.2 cm)
 42 1/2"    (107.8 cm)
 33"      (83.8 cm)
46 3/4"    (118.5 cm)

Note that a lot of fabrics, especially dress cottons, come in a standard 44-45" /  110-115cm width, so you wouldn't be able to get a square larger than this out of such fabric. Therefore about 31" is the longest cover-up you could make out of this standard size of fabric. But there are wider fabrics available. 

So, you are starting with a rough square, cut to have sides as shown in the table. You then want to fold it in half along the diagonal, to make a triangle, and arrange it with the diagonal (the long side of the triangle) at the top. Round off the two bottom corners a bit into a curve. (If you wish.) Like this.

(You don't have to do this, but it makes hemming or binding easier, and personally, I think it looks nicer than just points hanging down.)

Next fold the triangle again, this time putting the two side points together. Measure across the top fold. This should be equal to your 'length' measurement, and will hopefully be a bit longer than your aeroplane measurement. So you need to reduce the width. Measure from the centre point along towards the two side points, and mark the aeroplane measurement on the top fold. Don't cut the points off yet. You want to round off the corners of the two sides, so that you get a smooth curve, but each curve should take in your aeroplane marks. This should make the sides about wrist length.
Here's what I ended up with as a pattern. Yours should look similar but the measurements won't necessarily be the same.

Before you unfold it to look at it, I suggest you mark the centres of your 4 rounded points or corners, it will just make it easier when you need to fold it again for later steps. You'll end up with a shape something like this, when you unfold it. A sort of rounded diamond shape.

To make the hole for the head, fold it again into quarters. (See how useful your marking the corners was?) Cut a small slit from the central point out towards each of the arms, about three inches to 3 1/2" long. (I made my slit 2 x 3 1/2", or 7" wide in total, which was a bit too wide for a slim little neck. I had to take a tuck in each side.) 

From the centre of this slit (i.e. still the central point of the whole piece of folded into quarters material) I then cut another slit 4 1/2" - 5" long down toward the front point, forming a 'V'. (Only one way - down the front.) 

Trim a curve to the front neckline by eye, dropping down to about 1 and a half inches at the front slit. Remember not to cut this curve in the back neckline as well, only in the front, as you want the front to be a little lower than the back.The neckline should look something like this (bearing in mind I decided the 7" was a bit too long):

(Or at least, it will when you've hemmed it.)

This was for a total finished length of 21". If your length measurement was a lot more or less, you could make the front slit a bit longer or shorter. You probably don't need to adjust the crossways slit that forms the neckline.

Here's my finished neckline:

I had made a double fold bias binding from a strip 34 inches long by 2 inches wide of the same material. I pressed this with my iron in two lengthwise, then folded the edges in to the crease, and pressed again. So there were 4 layers in all. (But, again, you could just use ready-made bias binding.) 

To make the neckline, first make small hems along the sides and bottom of the 'V'. I turned in a bare 1/8"-1/4" twice. Next, find the centre of the back, and, opening out one fold of the bias tape, pin the centre of the tape to this point, and carry on pinning round the back of the neckline and round to the front of the neckline on each side. There will be several inches overlapping, to form strings. Sew from one side of the 'V', round the neckline to the other side of the 'V'. Then re-fold the bias tape back over the seam and pin it. Sew from one end of a string right round the neckline and along the other string, over-sewing the binding closed. (I find it looks neatest to attach it to the inside of the neckline first, then over-sew on the outside. This is not the way I was taught, but there again, in those days we were probably expected to sew the second seam all by hand so it didn't show on the outside.) 

This I had done all by hand while we were away, including making and pressing the bias binding tape. While we were on holiday, little Jane therefore wore it without the bottom edges hemmed at all. Once I was home and reconciled with my sewing machine, I 'borrowed' it back, and ironed over a double hem of 1/4" and a further 1/4" all the way round the edges, then ran it through the machine to hem it. You could alternatively use double-fold bias binding, or some other trim. I'm very fond of pom pom trim, I had a beach cover up myself as a child trimmed with bobbles.

This (in diagrammatic form) is the kind of thing you can buy easily on ebay. 

Finally, I added a press-stud (snap fastener) to each side. From the top fold, I measured down the sides about 5-6" - it wasn't that exact. I just needed to leave a big enough gap for a little hand to come through. I didn't take a picture of this specific step, but if you look at the picture below and see where my side curve starts to change direction from more or less vertical to definitely diagonal, that's pretty much where I placed the press-studs.

You don't have to put press-studs, in fact you could tack the sides loosely together if you wanted, or add some strings or loops to help hold the sides together. Or you can just leave it completely free, if you want. I just think it helps it hang 'square', rather than being free to slide round to hang crookedly, having the sides attached at one point.

My next job will be to make some out of towelling to act as wraps for after going in the water - possibly to help with changing. The other grandchildren will be going on a beach holiday near Christmas time, so I've got a bit of time to do it. Towelling doesn't hem as nicely as cotton, so these might have the double-fold bias binding treatment.

One day, I may have some pictures on a child!

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