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BOMBSHELL SEWALONG PT 3: CUTTING FABRIC & GATHERING BACK PIECES


Hey pals.

Now that you have your pattern cut, graded and/or adjusted to fit your hot bod as required, we will start cutting our fabric out.

I am making myself View A in a pretty abstract floral print (I am size 10). This is how my pieces looked laid out on the fabric:

Once I cut out the straps and the two ruched bodice pieces, I folded the remaining fabric in half to cut out my crotch piece. That piece must be cut on a fold. Don’t be deceived by it not being all foldy in the above photo.

As you can see, using one metre or yard of fabric, you can just get enough for View A for sizes 10 and under (but if you lengthen your pieces a lot you may need a little more fabric).

View B takes a little less fabric, especially considering I lengthened these pieces a lot for my friend Izzy’s suit:

My preferred method for cutting is a rotary cutter on a self-healing mat. A mat and cutter will set you back around $80 but it is sooooooo worth it. I use washers from the hardware store as pattern weights and it took me about 10 minutes to cut out each suit. Obviously you can use scissors, but you will have to be careful and pin your pieces often since swimsuit fabric can be slinky and temperamental.

Cut your fabric pieces, transfer your notches, and repeat for your lining pieces.  Because our seam allowances are only 1/4″, it is better if you use a marking tool as opposed to cutting your notches. It will be difficult to find a cut notch since your seams will be either be serged or zigzagged together by the time you need to match markings.

I like making longer markings with a disappearing tool so I can see them even after I have serged my seams:

Once your fabric has been cut out and all relevant markings have been transferred to your fabric, it is time to prep your gathered pattern pieces. This is the most fiddly part of making this swimsuit and it takes a little time to prepare these pieces but you want your ruching to be as evenly distributed as possible. Please note that all of the following instructions apply equally to all 3 views, despite the fact that I am showing it for View A in the photos.

Let us begin. Before we sew our gather lines, sew a few rows of straight and zig zag stitches on a piece of scrap fabric to work out your tension. If you are having problems with skipped stitches, it is probably because you do not have stretch needles.

Next, sew two rows of long basting stitches within your seam allowance along each side of pieces A & B, about an 1/8″ of an inch apart. For the second row I like to keep the fabric lined up on the 1/4″ mark on my machine and just move my needle over.  Make sure you leave a few inches on each end of each line of stitching.

Once you have sewn your basting stitches on all 6 seams, lay one of your back lining pieces flat on your work space. You want the corresponding fabric piece (B) to match the length of each seam once it is evenly gathered.

Note: Normally I prefer to gather fabric using the ol’ zigzag over a piece of string and pull manoeuvre. That technique doesn’t work here since you need to secure your gathered edge to the lining. Which means sewing over the string. I know this does not work. Me and my seam ripper know alllll too well. Stick to basting stitches.

Secure one of the gathered seams by wrapping the loose thread ends around a pin in a figure 8 motion. Once one end is secure you can fiddle with with your gathers until they are as even as possible and match the length of the corresponding lining seam. Secure the other end of the thread using the same figure 8.

The one area where you don’t want many gathers is at the top point of your back piece. You can leave the top few inches relatively ungathered. It looks really gnarly and does not sew together nicely if there are a lot of gathers on that skinny bit. Ask me how I know.

As you can see above, the gathering in the top point is minimal.

Repeat the above steps for all 4 seams on the 2 back ruched pieces.

Please note…. the side seams are actually straight (unlike most dress or blouse side seams). The curved seam on the back pieces is actually the back seam. Just keep that in mind so you don’t sew the side seams together instead of the center seams. Ask me how I know this.

Once you have your two back ruched pieces, all evenly gathered and looking so lovely and purty, it’s time to pin them to your lining. Pin frequently to ensure your gathers stay evenly distributed.

When it comes time to sew your lining to your fabric, there are 2 options.

1. Serge them if you have an overlocker. Make sure you have your differential feed on (if that is an option on your machine) so your seams are not stretched while you sew. Don’t sew over your pins. Rock and roll.

2. Use your narrow basting zigzag stitch. If, like me, your machine does not have an adjustable pressure foot, and if, like me, your walking foot blows, you may have issues with your foot flattening out your gathers as you sew. If this is the case, pin even more frequently and sew slowly while using your fingers to try and keep the ruching even. If all else fails and your machine smooshes your gathers too much, you may need to hand baste them first. Annoying, but worth it for more even gathering.

Here is a completed basted back piece. The top edge is done using a zigzag on a regular machine, the bottom was done on a serger:

The same piece from the other side (the zigzag is not as pretty because my machine is a jerk):

Once both back fabric pieces have been basted to  their respective linings, you can serge or zig zag the leg opening. Leave the crotch and top as is for now.

Now it is time to sew the two ruched pieces together along the curved center seam. Again, you can either serge or zig zag here. If zig zagging, keep your stitch fairly narrow.

Alright! Let’s leave it here for today! Tomorrow we will prep the front!

  • Amy

    ooh, I love that floral print. It’s gonna be gorgeous.

  • Grace

    You serge the CB seam allowances once to baste the lining to the outer and a 2nd time when you join the CB seams, am I following? If so, how much are you letting your serger knife cut off in each pass?

  • Shannon Smith

    Looks amazing! I am sitting here wishing I had time to get some swimsuit fabric. Maybe on the weekend I can play catchup.

  • This was the part that scared me the most, but now I can definitely see I was being a huge baby for nothing!

  • Exactly right Grace. I’m not really cutting anything off. I’m passing as close to the knife as possible without really using it, unless some errant fabric has to be sitting outside the seam allowance.

  • In love! I HAVE to get caught up! Thanks for helping us through the scary parts!

  • Sara Mayo

    Can you go over sewing the dart in the lining? I thought the dart looked like a cutting line on the pattern piece, but in your photo youve traced the lines onto your lining fabric rather than cut them out.

  • I’m sorry if that is confusing in the pattern. I’ve gotten into the habit of tracing it for the last few suits but if you’ve cut it you will be fine.

  • Sara Mayo

    Okay, thanks Heather.

  • DecoupageDesigns

    Heather, I just had to tell you…I was furiously (as in fast, not angry) basting my lining pieces together to get a general idea of the fit & when I tried it on, the butt fit like a Brazilian cut suit. I was dismayed. LOL. Lo and behold, I had ignored the notches and matched up the bottom of the front & back pieces instead of the top.

    So, if some poor seamstress e-mails you in the future in a panic just let her know that 1-she’s not the first to make that mistake and 2-to line up the TOP of the front & back pieces.

    I resewed it the right way & it fits perfect 😉 Thanks for the fabulous pattern!

  • ack glad I’m not the only one who thought that. Good thing I cut my lining out on muslin first because I totally cut out the dart. oops!

  • Sarah

    I’m really enjoying this pattern and the terrific instructions so far. Quick question – when I overlock/serge my fabric to my lining pieces (and then overlock/serge the back two pieces together), does it matter if I use three thread or four thread on my serger? I normally use three thread, but I have never sewn knits before (I normally just use my serger to finish seam allowances). I’m using 100% polyester thread. Thank you.

  • I would use 4 thread. The 3 thread stitches are generally bets for seam finishes. The 4 thread gives you more stretch!

  • House Of Pinheiro

    lol whats wrong with brazilian bikinis…?

  • Nothing if you have your heiny Rachel.

  • W H

    Have you thought about cutting the back outer and liner on the fold? You could put a basting line down the center back, gather, fold it to the inside and serge that, then attach the two at the side and leg seams. This would cut down on bulk back there while giving the same look.

    • Give it a try and let me know how it works out!