I don’t know about where y’all are, but swimsuit season is BASICALLY upon us over here. Sure, they haven’t opened the pools – yet (that always happens on Memorial Day weekend, coincidentally right around my birthday as well. Pool parties every year for this kid!) – but it’s only a matter of time. Plus, I want to be ready when the water is warm – and not be scrambling to finish something the night before I hit the pool. Last-minute sewing is for people who work well under pressure. Which is not me.
So, anyway, I made a bikini! Yeah!!!
If this pattern looks familiar, it’s because I’ve made it before (not to mention it’s made some ROUNDS ’round the internet). It’s not a swimsuit pattern, per se – it’s actually a lingerie pattern. This here is the Watson Bra & Bikini pattern from Cloth Habit, modified into the swimsuit you see here. And yes, I realize that these pictures basically mean y’all are seeing me in lingerie. Whatever.
I have made this pattern before a couple of times (see one and two), so I knew I was good with the fit and I had strong feelings that this pattern would work equally well as swimwear with a few modifications. It was just a matter of finding a good swimwear lycra and figuring out how to stabilize that cradle in a way that wouldn’t deteriorate in chlorine and salt water.
Since I’ve gone into detail about the making of this pattern before, I won’t talk too much about the sizing or construction outside of making it into swimwear. I sewed my regular size – the 30D – and the fit was good except a did have a bit of gaping right between the side of the cup and the underarm. I think it has more to do with my elastic application – it might not have been stretched enough – but it was on both sides so I dunno. It may have been due to the stretch of my fabric, but the rest of the top fits great and the 4 way stretch is similar to the millskin I used for my first Watson. Anyway, I fixed it by taking in a dart and topstitching it down (at this point, the swimsuit was complete so there was nooo way I was unpicking all that shit haha). Not the most elegant solution, but the print is super busy so you can’t really see it, plus it’s right at my armpit. If anyone is looking and notices that shit, we’ve got bigger problems on our hands.
Other than that, the fit was good! I add a little bit of extra to the bottoms – about 1/2″ extended out from the back for more butt coverage, and about 1/2″ extended at the top to make them slightly higher. They’re still a little cheeky, but I think it’s pretty cute :)
Like I said, there were a couple of things that needed to be addressed in order to convert this into proper swimwear. For one, I knew it needed lining (maybe you wear unlined swimsuits, but I don’t!). I cut an extra of every piece out of swimsuit lining, and was able to origami it so that there aren’t any raw edges, except where the cups meet the band. Couldn’t figure that one out, so I just serged the seam. I also needed to change out aaaall that elastic to be swimsuit elastic- the picot and lace edges elastics that you use in lingerie are beautiful, but they aren’t made to hold up to salt water and chlorine (not to mention, they totally make that shit look like a bra). This was easy – I used braided swimsuit elastic and attached it opposite of how you attach lingerie elastic. Meaning, you sew the first swipe on the inside of the garment (I used my serger, but you can zigzag this), and then fold it one more time and zigzag topstitch. I did this everywhere except at the top of the cups, where I sewed it as you normally would for a bra (hadn’t thought that far ahead, whoops).
The strapping at the back band also totally stumped me for about a month. In the pattern, the top of the back band is finished with strapping that extends to go over your shoulders. It’s beautiful, but it’s not really good for swimwear (again, can’t stand up to the elements/chemicals, and – again, looks like lingerie). Of course, you can just finish the top edge with elastic the same way you finish all the other edges – but I liked the look of the strapping, plus, I have a feeling it’s sewn that way to help with the fit. After a bit of thought, I decided to do elastic covered straps and apply them the same way that the strapping is done on a regular bra. I used Ada Spragg’s tutorial on making elastic swimsuit straps (GIRL THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS SHIT), and they turned out pretty nice! I left off the adjustable sliders since the elastic was so thick, but I did keep the little O-rings at the top.
The only downside is that I wasn’t quite precise with my seam allowances, so one strap has a tendency to twist (I’m pretty sure that’s from the elastic inside trying to roll up). It’s annoying, but not enough to make me unpick and start over. We’ll see how I feel after I get back from the beach :P
Another thing that needed to be addressed was changing out the hook and eye for something that looks, you know, not like a bra. I used a swimsuit hook and eye – I know it doesn’t match, but it’s all I had on hand and anyway, you can’t really see it when it’s on – and just adjusted the back to fit the hook. I did this after the swimsuit was assembled, but before I attached the straps. There’s a tutorial on how to do this over at Cloth Habit, it’s for a bra, but same concept. For the opposite side, I just folded over the edge and sewed it down to make a tunnel for the hook to go through. Easy!
Finally, I had to figure out a way to stabilize the cradle while still making this thing hold up in water. For most lingerie patterns, this might not be a problem – but with this particular pattern, the cradle (the part of the band that attaches to the cups) needs to be stabilized so it does not stretch. The pattern has you use lightweight tricot, but I wasn’t sure if that would deteriorate over time. Instead, I cut two pieces of heavy powermesh running in opposite directions, and stacked them on top of each other with the swimsuit lycra on top and the lining on the bottom. Powermesh is water-friendly (well, so I’ve been told!) and it does a pretty good job of keeping everything stable.
The rest of the bikini was as straightforward as making lingerie. All pieces are cut from swimsuit lyrcra and swimsuit lining (other than the powermesh to stablize the cradle), and I included lots of zigzag topstitching to give it a sporty look.
In case you were wondering, my swimsuit lycra is from Spandex House in NYC. I bought it while I was in the Garment District in March. My lining is also from Spandex House, and the elastics I used are from Joann’s. I think the bra rings came off an old bra, and I don’t remember where the swimsuit hook is from. Other than using the serger to attach the elastic, I sewed everything on my sewing machine. Even with me stopping and researching and scratching my head, this shit only took a couple of hours to make. And just like that – I’m ready for the beach! Yay!
Oh, and how ’bout that AWESOME necklace I’m wearing?? I can’t take credit for choosing that – its from Rocksbox, which is a new online service where you rent 3 pieces of jewelry every month, chosen for you by a stylist. You can swap out the jewelry as much as you like during the month, and any pieces you buy are discounted. I’ve been trying it for about a month and it’s really fun – and definitely got me wearing jewelry that I otherwise neverrrr would have picked up. I was given a couple of months free by the company to try it out, but I’m seriously thinking of maintaining the account afterwards because I like this shit waaaay more than I thought I would! It’s only $19 a month, the shipping is free both ways, and I’ve received (and bought :I) some really cool pieces! So there’s that. Anyway, bringing this up now because you can use the code lladybirdxoxo and try your first month of Rocksbox for freeeeee. Who doesn’t like free, amirite? Also, SHINY.
Can’t wait to try this bad boy out in the water when we go to the beach in a couple of weeks! Also bonus for having a suit that no one else will be wearing (I used to buy aaaall my suits at Target. Do you know how many Target swimsuits run up and down Santa Rosa Beach? Do you know how many of those said swimsuits look better on the other person than they do on me? The shame.). I have tons more of this lycra – the minimum cut was 1 yard and you really only need like 1/4 yard to make a bikini – so I’m already trying to justify having a fleet of geometric swimsuits. We’ll see!