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Rash Judgements

It’s summer where we are (if you are in the Southern Hemisphere, dear reader, you know you are not but you might find this useful in any case), and trips to the lake, beach, and swimming pool are on a lot of people’s lists. Your Aunty is of an age when she remembers people slathering on iodine and baby oil, grilling themselves on the beach for hours at a time, and no one thinking anything about it. A lot of those people now look like the pair of ancient shoes and have had to have surgery for skin cancer but that is a discussion for another time.

Today is a very different day. We have sun block creams that go up to the level where you may as well be sitting in your basement as being out on the beach. People are campaigning to shut down tanning parlors (or at least ban teenagers from using them since skin cancer is the fastest growing cancer in this group). Every outdoor retailer from REI(tm) to L. L. Bean(tm) offers UV protective clothing from head to toe. In Australia, concern and public awareness is at a level where children’s school uniforms include a broad-brimmed hat. You’d think everyone would be ‘sun sensitive’.

But we’re not. We’re as delusional as everyone else about this, but young moms are definitely on the cutting edge. When I see young moms at our county park swimming hole and their toddlers are dressed in UV protective shirts on top of their bathing suits, this is BIG NEWS. They even have their own cute name for these – they are called ‘Rashies’ (which actually sounds like the name of a 15th century Middle Eastern classical poet but I digress…).

Rashies, are named after the rash guard shirts which water board sports clothing retailers have had available for years to protect people from getting abrasion-based rashes either from sand or the wax on boards. Actually, there are rash guard shorts made as well. Usually, this is a substitute for wearing a wet suit in warm water. But the shirts, which are made from nylon or polyester and lycra ™ are also UV protective and have been taken up by swim clothing manufacturers and retailers for UV protection for everyone from kids on up. Now, ahem, in your Aunt Toby’s day at the beach, if you wore a tee shirt over your suit to protect yourself from burning, you were considered somewhat of a weeny. And of course we now know that tee shirts (especially the white ones) are basically worthless in terms of UV protection. UV protection depends on the tightness of the weave or knit and the depth of color.

Enter, Stage Left: Make your own rashie.

A request was lodged from the younger set in our family to make a couple of rashies. Delving into the stash (and for once, I was organized and actually had a box labeled “Bathing suits, bike shorts, and other sports fabrics”), I came up with a couple of pieces of nylon with lycra that would do for a young fellow at the beach. Now, commercial rashies tend toward rather somber colors – but our little guy is rather jolly and though I put the Hawaiian print fabric with a sigh, I thought the neon green and the stripes would do him fine (and make him also easy to spot as well). I did not try to copy a commercial rash guard exactly; this is for someone who can still get a might fractious about things being pulled down over his head or which fasten too closely to his neck, so I used a pattern from Ottobre Design from the 3-2011 edition, with lapped shoulders. I used the long sleeve version. And here’s a digression: I LOVE the children’s designs from Ottobre, especially for little boys. The offerings from ‘the big three’ in the US for little boys borders on the mind-numbingly boring. I love the creativity, fantasy and clever use of design and fabrics in Ottobre patterns. End of digression.

Now, you are probably asking yourself “why not just buy a rashie?” If you don’t have appropriate fabric available to you, that might be a worthwhile consideration but even at the toddler level, they are actually quite pricy and for the amount of time it takes to make one (I made those two at the top in an hour), I think it’s definitely worth doing. The other thing is this – if you have ever not made a bathing suit (and most people who sew do NOT make their own bathing suits, despite the problems with fit, and the exorbitant prices, for reasons beyond me) and would like sort of ‘gateway’ experience to get used to working with nylon lycra fabrics, making a rashie (even for an adult) is a great project. Just choose a top or tee shirt pattern which is more fitted to the body, some colorful nylon lycra fabrics (which come in everything from plain colors to holographic prints to camo these days) and go to it.

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  1. Cheryl says:

    Toby, this is fabulous! Especially because I haven’t been able to figure out why these shirts are called rash guards, and you’ve explained it! Not sure I’d ever heard of them before an Athleta catalogue arrived, uninvited, in my mailbox. Pricey, indeed.
    I have, actually, made my own swimsuit…once…nearly 40 years ago. It was orange, and as I couldn’t find any lining fabric (hard enough to find the suit fabric), unlined. Sadly, the first time I wore it was with my then DH at an indoor pool….even without sun, it was, um, distressingly transparent. He asked me not to wear it again, and I was embarrassed enough to agree. Never made another, either. I look at the fabrics available, and they’re boring! Nearly all solid colors, no fun prints at all. So I buy from Lands End, whose suits always fit.

  2. Uta says:

    These are fabulous! In Germany, I can buy rashies for children for 5-10 Euros; swimsuit fabrics cost 10 Euros a metre at least. But you’re right sewing swimsuit fabric isn’t that hard. And I also love Ottobre, I keep buying the magazines for the cute and inspirational children’s fashion although I have more than enough patterns by now.

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