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SWIMSUIT, SWEAT & TEARS


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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.

  • Cirque Du Bebe

    Great view from behind! Love the whole shebang together with the hat and the colour you’ve chosen. What a massive challenge! Very inspiring.

  • Sassy T

    Impressive! Can see you rocking a polkadot one of those.

  • You look absolutely amazing, congrats on making your first bathing suit! I hear you on the ruching and in the future using the lining to make things easier, I’ve been there! I have a rather boyish lack of curves figure but I’m wondering if this lovely bathing would change that so I may have to give it a shot!

  • Gosh, this is cute as can be! Great job, dude!!

  • smunch

    You are an impressive sewist! This is AMAZING. I found your blog after seeing your awesome mint striped dress and love what you make!

  • smunch

    You are an impressive sewist! This is AMAZING. I found your blog after seeing your awesome mint striped dress and love what you make!

  • I think this style would look amazing on just about any figure. The ruching adds some interesting shape/texture at the waist – I feel like women’s magazines are always recommending shapes like this to fake curves….

  • Good call Sassy T!

  • Ha ha, thanks love. I feel like, if I can do this? I can make anything.

  • Kerry

    This is really fabulous – you look stunning!

    I’m going to need to make a vintage style swimsuit one day – I just bought one but it’s a little short in the body for me, so doesn’t sit as nicely as it should. I feel very inspired after seeing yours!

  • mokosha

    i love it! great color and beautiful cut.. i made two alison swimsuits (burda pattern) last year, and i love love them

  • sallieforrer

    You’re my hero! You look SO FREAKING FANTASTIC! The suit is quite literally the MOST perfect one piece I have ever seen! Its insanely flattering. You did such a great job. And I’m pretty impressed with your deductive reasoning skills with the back ruching (re: stabilizing) I probably just would have cried and wadded it up into a ball and chalked it up to my machines not being fancy enough. But no! You totally saw through that little ruse figured out the real problem! I’ve also been lurking Dixie’s swimsuit sew-along to gather tips for that fateful day when I decide to go down the swimsuit rabbit hole…

  • Ahh it’s amazing, and you look awesome. I think the tears might have been worth it. I’m so jealous of everyone and their swimsuit sewing madness, especially Dixie. I bought 2 suits at the beginning of the summer and have yet to wear either. I’m afraid a self-made swimsuit would be pretty unjustified.

  • this was a test version?? it looks glorious!! and WHY ARE YOU HIDING YOUR NEW HAIR FROM US.

  • Sweet Jesus that looks awesome! I love the idea of gathers in the back – way cute. The green color is great on you, too! I’m glad you worked out a way to stabilize the gathers. I’m so impressed with your enthusiasm to dive right in to altering a pattern for your first suit! *applause*

  • asewingodyssey.blogspot.com

    Put simply…wow! This swimsuit is breathtaking (in style and colour) and you look stunning in it and seriously chic paired with your hat and wedges! The fact that you are working on a pattern to share with us mere mortals is also incredibly generous of you…thanks so much! I cannot wait to get my little mitts on it ;o)

  • We’ll see how it goes – I figure between Illustrator and Autocad I can draft something up. I suspect this suit would be PERFECT on you.

  • *Blushing* You are my swimsuit sensei so that means a lot Dixie. The gathers are NOT stabilized and are only getting less ruchy each time I wear it since I didn’t figure out what to do until after the damn thing was finished. But next time, OH NEXT TIME.

  • Ha ha. It’s not hiding! Check out that ponytail! FROSTED TIPS!

  • GET TO THE POOL GABBY! SUMMER WAITS FOR NO ONE.

  • Thank you my dear. Although I wish I had deduced that back seam earlier – it just gets more and more stretched out with every wear. Sigh. Next time. (Whattya think of my Photoshop skills? Googling Photoshop + Cellulite was one of my more hilarious tasks this week. Thank you Dust & Scratches filter!)

  • I loved them too! Everyone’s version I have seen have been super cute, but I wanted something a little more textured. Did you post them?

  • You look so good in that I’m questioning my heterosexuality. Ha Ha at my own joke. I hope hope hope you post the pattern because I want one just like yours.

  • Ha ha ha, now that is what I call a compliment! Now that I know how much people love this suit I am gonna hustle my ass to get a pattern out….

  • Sarah

    Wow! I’m blown away by your work on this. You look fantastic, and you saved yourself a fortune not buying a 40s/50s original online (!) Looking forward to your download :)

  • Amy

    Oh, you just had to tell me about that sale! Urgh. I am trying not to buy patterns, trying, trying…

    This is really beautiful! Norma would be proud. I love the emerald colors and the hat! Wow, the hat. By this time next summer we’ll all be swimsuit crazy and ready to go ;).

    Sewing gathers is so hard and here’s my two cents on the walking foot: it helps the top layer from creeping and is absolutely the bomb if you are sewing three or more layers of various fabrics together. But with everything else it’s just a big space hog and I never find it to be useful on knits. I admit that I bought a new sewing machine because I was tired of not being able to adjust the presser foot pressure. (More like, I begged for one for my birthday.) My old machine really pounded/stretched knits or anything with lycra and I wanted to stop thinking it was my fault!

    And thank you so much for your lovely comment yesterday. I love your photographs and style–definitely inspires ME.

  • Jessica

    Great suit!
    would you forward me the coordinates of your repairman? When my machine crashed I sent it to a guy in Lasalle and it cost me nearly 150$ (shkoober@hotmail.com)
    Thanks

  • Jessica

    Great suit!
    would you forward me the coordinates of your repairman? When my machine crashed I sent it to a guy in Lasalle and it cost me nearly 150$ (shkoober@hotmail.com)
    Thanks

  • Angela

    What a great job you did! It doesn’t look like you had any trouble at all! How nice of you to share it with the world~!!

  • savagespider
  • savagespider

    Kwik Sew 1948 is the same pattern in case anyone has trouble finding Kwik Sew 1947.

  • Kazz

    Wow Heather you absolutely blitz’d it, all the modifying etc most certainly paid off. I will be one of the first to download your pattern. You feel great? You look AMAZEBALLS!

  • Sarah Latchem

    This is so gorgeous! It really is so flattering and I would def love a pattern of it as I would make one in an instant!

  • Stephanie

    This is so amazing and very flattering. I love the color! I’m excited about the pattern!

  • Love the colour and the gathered seam down the back. Very cool!

  • Love the colour and the gathered seam down the back. Very cool!

  • Zoe

    It looks totally amazing! What a fabulous colour. xx

  • Dalila Seckar

    Your suit is great! The ruching looks good and I really like the bum-hugging derriere. It’s hard to find a good swimsuit these days – the Kamali suits are great but so pricey for something that uses so little fabric! …Great work on this!

  • CraftyMrsG87

    I’ll be eagerly awaiting for your pattern! Your blog post about making the swimsuits has greatly helped me, for i would have been swearing at my machine! I enjoyed it so much, it made me giggle. Not at your misfortune, of course, but because we all have felt the “shit” when trying out new sewing patterns! Thank you so much for the chuckles and the tips.