Just a liitle blog administrative business: after a few requests I have changed the commenting system to Disqus. No more annoying squinting at blurry numerals. And now for today’s special program…
I think I underwent the sewing equivalent of an epic Medieval quest in the process of making this bathing suit. I battled dragons, I got lost in a dark wood, I doubted my mission, I looked into a black hole of despair and wept in the face of oblivion, but eventually I rescued the virgin princess and all is right in the world.
As some of you may recall, I’ve been on a mission to make the perfect swimsuit. I have scoured the interwebs for patterns that achieve that pinup 50’s cut that is most flattering on curvy ladies like myself. I was having a little anxiety attack about how I was going to draft the pattern myself when I stumbled on a 80’s pattern on ebay that was similar to what I was envisioning.
Unfortunately the pattern was not ruched in the back and had the dreaded high-cut bathing suit bottom that gives anyone with more than a tiny apple bottom a 4 cheek ass disaster. I spent a few days modifying and redrafting the pattern. I extended the front pattern piece a few inches so it was level with the bottom of my new more modestly cut seat. I eliminated the tab at the bust ruching – instead I serged the gather from the inside. I redrafted the back pattern piece to be as long as the front so it could be ruched, and cut the cheek part much lower so the entire booty was encased.
I made two muslins out of an old 4 way stretch lycra I had lying around to test for fit and made a few modifications to the paper pattern. I hit up a wholesale lycra place and picked up a few swimming suit tricots; I got a beautiful matte navy and neon baby pink but used the wrong (more matte) side of a shimmery emerald green lycra for this test version.
Here is where shit started getting gnarly. I’ve never sewn with this type of super stretchy, slippery, sketchy craziness before and followed the advice of this forum post by buying a walking foot. However, my machine does not have an adjustable pressure dial on the sewing foot, and I had an insanely difficult time getting the gathers to stay even when I was zig zag stitching the ruched pieces together. To be honest, I’m not even sure if that walking foot works at all. I’ll be curious to try it on different fabric. It took me a few gos to figure out the best way to sew two ruched pieces together. It was especially difficult along the back seam. What I realized after seam ripping the entire thing about 5 times (here is where the tears came in) is that the gathering HAS to be stabilized by another, non gathered piece of fabric, aka the lining. The best process is to gather the front or back piece on each side, zig zag the side seams to the lining sides, and then sew the front to the back together with the lining sandwiched in between, rather than sewing the entire suit and then sewing in the lining. Unfortunately, I did not sew the 2 lining pieces to each back piece until after they were sewn together at the back seam, so the back seam has not held its ruching. I think i could rectify this by sewing that back ruched seam to a piece of clear elastic (thanks for the advice Dixie!), or by following the same procedure of gathering each side, sewing to the lining, and then assembling all the pieces together.
Whew. I’m sorry if that sounds confusing. That’s because IT WAS REALLY CONFUSING. To make matters worse, my serger was completely jacked (although I was thrilled to find an amazing repairman this weekend who tuned it up for only $40) so I couldn’t serge the seams. Instead I did a narrow zig zag at the seam line and then encased the seam edges in a wider zig zag. It makes for a bulky seam but I only used a 1/4 seam allowance. The elastic was pretty easy to put in but took some practice getting the perfect amount of stretch so you don’t have any gaps along the leg holes. (By the by, anyone interested in making a suit this summer should check out Dixie’s swimsuit sewalong – she has made some KILLER suits lately and I’m sure she’ll be able to teach us all a thing or two. Or twenty).
Overall I’m pretty happy with this as my first foray into swimsuit making. I will be making another at some point, but will try to install some cups to give a little boob lift, and will move the neck straps down so they are sewn in next to the bust rather than at the top of the suit for additional boob liftage. I think the Norma Kamali must have some structure/underwire action since the model appears to be wearing a pushup bra. I’m also considering making a simple high waisted bikini bottom using the same pattern and doing a cute structured bra top using this pattern. (Sidenote: I lost my mind on the Christmas in Summer sale at Vogue/McCall’s today…. 20 patterns isn’t excessive, right?)
I’ve worn this to the pool a few times already- it’s super comfy and doesn’t get too heavy when wet despite all the fabric. And most importantly – I feel GREAT in it. As most of you know, wearing swimsuits in public can be terrifying. Wearing something a little glamourous and old school sexy totally compensates for any cellulite anxiety that comes with being nearly naked around strangers. Add some platform wedges and a giant sun hat and you really can’t go wrong. So much do I love this suit that I am apparently willing to put pictures of myself wearing it ON THE INTERNET. Testify.
I know I mentioned sharing the pattern – I want to spend some time tweaking it and grading it to different sizes. Hopefully I will have a pattern available for download sometime next spring. This pattern needs to be shared with the world.
Hope you are enjoying the sunshine.