Made Up: Stretch & Sew Bikini

8 Sep

You know, for someone who doesn’t go swimming very frequently (or sunbathing, for that matter, as evidenced by these photos. Eh, what can I say – as an ex-smoker, I’m trying to be careful with my skin these days!), I sure do make more than my share of bathing suits. They are really fun and satisfying to sew up, though! I try to quell that urge by making undergarments instead, but sometimes you just wanna make something that gets shown off!

Paisley print Stretch & Sew Bikini - front

For our short trip to Cancun last week, I thought I would make another bathing suit to drag along – partially so I wouldn’t be stuck trying to wriggle into something damp on the second day (yeesh! I hate that!), and partially because, dammit, I wanted something new and sunshine-y to take on vacation! When Karen announced the Made-Up Initiative – which is currently funded at 248%, btw, because we are all awesome – I decided to set those plans into action and pledged to make the damn swimsuit.

Paisley print Stretch & Sew Bikini - side

Paisley print Stretch & Sew Bikini - sideI reckon there’s something about announcing intentions that causes them to immediately go awry, but, yeah, this was totally the Swimsuit That Almost Didn’t Happen. True story, if I hadn’t already made a big stinkin’ pledge, I probably would have put this project to sleep early on. I really hate the idea of not seeing something through, though, so I soldiered on and stuck it out. Happily, the end result was this lil’ paisley dream! Yay!

My first attempt was with a completely different pattern, McCall’s 4330 – a string bikini straight outta the 1970s. The pattern called for wovens, but I thought I could adapt it with a stretch knit. It actually mostly worked, except, I tried on the top about halfway through and realized that I DO NOT LIKE the way I look in a string bikini! Eep! Too little coverage, well, everywhere. I know that’s the whole point of a string bikini, but I was not feeling it. I considered giving up at this point.

Instead, I dug around in my stash and found this copy of Stretch & Sew 1390, which is for a cute little halter-style bikini that is, again, straight outta the 1970s. I liked that it offered more coverage – both top and bottom – than the string bikini, and I liked that it was actually sized and drafted for swimsuit knits. I’d never sewn with a Stretch & Sew pattern, but I have definitely noticed the cult following that these patterns get, which is always a good sign in my opinion. I traced off my size (you have to do this with these patterns; the instructions are printed on the nested pieces. Sort of a pain, since it means the instructions are on a GIANT sheet of paper, but kind of nice in the sense that you are forced to keep all the sizes!), made a mock-up of the bikini top, and then prepared to cut in my actual swimsuit fabric – when I realized that I had nowhere near enough yardage to do this. I was using leftovers from a previous suit – bikinis are so tiny and they barely take any fabric, so this usually isn’t a problem. However, this suit has few seams & looong halter-tie straps, which means it *does* require more yardage, which I didn’t have. At this point, we were less than 2 weeks out from departure. Again, I considered giving up. Dun dun dun!

Paisley print Stretch & Sew Bikini - front close up

Spoiler alert! I found an awesome paisley swimsuit fabric at The Fabric Fairy, immediately ordered it, and it was at my house within a week. Since I’d already worked out all my fitting adjustments before ordering the fabric, that meant I was able to get right into sewing once I received everything. The whole suit was made up in an evening session. Pretty awesome! And I actually like this fabric a lot more than anything I was trying to pull out of my stash, so double win for me!

Paisley print Stretch & Sew Bikini - back

Paisley print Stretch & Sew Bikini - back close up

The pattern is well-drafted and very simple to assemble – there aren’t a whole lot of seams, and the instructions are clear and easy to follow. The bikini top is self-lined, with the outside shaping created by soft gathers, and the inside has a few darts. The straps tie behind the neck, halter-style, and the bottom is encased with wide elastic all the way around and closes with a swimsuit hook. The bottoms are just your standard bikini bottoms, lined in swimsuit lining and edges finished with elastic.

My original tracing and mock-up trusted the sizing of the pattern, which ended up with it being much too big. I ended up cutting the bikini in the size A cup and shortening the elastic for the midriff by about 3″ (I imagine most anyone would have to make this adjustment, as they just have you cut it to 27″ for all sizes and I’m sure there are plenty of people who are either bigger or smaller than that!). For the bottoms, I just kept cutting the size down until they finally fit me. They were really huge – which I prefer negative ease with my swimsuit bottoms (so they don’t look like a saggy diaper when wet!), and these were quite the opposite. I think I ended up going down about 3 sizes to get the fit that I wanted.

Paisley print Stretch & Sew Bikini - bikini top on dressform

I followed the instructions pretty closely as written, except that I topstitched the bottom band of the bikini top to avoid doing any handstitching, and I sewed the elastic in the bikini bottoms a little differently. Most of this was made on my sewing machine with a zigzag stitch, except finishing the edges of the bottoms before attaching the elastic – I serged those edges first, so they’d look clean on the inside. Oh! I also added really thin swimsuit cups to the bikini top, sandwiched between the outer fabric and the lining. They are super thin, so they don’t really add any padding – just eliminate any nipping that could potentially happen haha.

Paisley print Stretch & Sew Bikini - bikini top

Top of the swimsuit, flat. The elastic goes all the way around the ribcage, which makes for a very secure top (you just need to make sure that it’s the right circumference for your ribcage, since it closes with a hook and doesn’t tie).

Paisley print Stretch & Sew Bikini - self lining

Darts on the inside/self lining of the bikini top.

Paisley print Stretch & Sew Bikini - bikini bottoms

Bikini bottoms!

Paisley print Stretch & Sew Bikini - side back

No matter how many swimsuits I make, I will admit that I always feel a tiny bit stressed when I wear them out for the first time! Will it hold up? Is something going to go surprise see-through on me? What if the fabric sucks and bleeds color all out into the water? Thankfully, this one didn’t give me any problems and I really enjoyed wearing it during my vacation! I think the paisley fabric is so pretty and it makes me happy to look at it 🙂 I’m glad that I stuck this one through and ended up with a fun little swimsuit as a result!

Did you pledge for The Made-Up Initiative? How is your pledge coming along? The deadline is in 2 days!

33 Responses to “Made Up: Stretch & Sew Bikini”

  1. Ines September 8, 2015 at 12:57 pm #

    It’s awesome! I love the cut, I just think it’s so cute. The fabric is also really, really cute!!

    • LLADYBIRD September 9, 2015 at 6:40 am #

      Thank you! I think the fabric is the best part – really makes the suit 😀

  2. Miss Biddy September 8, 2015 at 1:16 pm #

    This is gorgeous, and inspires me to make some swimwear!

    • LLADYBIRD September 9, 2015 at 6:41 am #

      Yeeaah!!! Making swimwear FTW!!

  3. carlalissa September 8, 2015 at 1:41 pm #

    perfection in paisley! yay!

  4. didyoumakethat September 8, 2015 at 3:32 pm #

    This is amazing – the bikini and your muscle tone. Thanks so much for your continued support of Made Up. I really appreciate it!

    • LLADYBIRD September 9, 2015 at 6:43 am #

      Thank you for putting together this whole initiative! I am so happy to see the awesome driving force this community can create when it comes to giving to such an awesome cause 😀

  5. Nathalie September 8, 2015 at 4:10 pm #

    Great bikini! You are right they are satisfying to make. I really like this basic halter shape. I made my first one this summer and made a second one immediately after the first. It does takes some getting used to sewing with that fabric and elastic. If you are interested you can see the result her

    • LLADYBIRD September 9, 2015 at 6:44 am #

      Those are really beautiful swimsuits – and I’m totally impressed that they are the result of a first try! Love that Soma swimsuit pattern, it’s sooo good!

  6. Miss Celie September 8, 2015 at 4:28 pm #

    Have I asked this before? But, do you have a coverstitch machine? Not that I use mine like I should. But, they are great for knits and swimwear. And, I don’t even sew that many knits.

    • Becky Thompson September 9, 2015 at 5:05 am #

      Girl, if you EVER want to sell that baby, you just say the word. I’m dying for a cover stitch. Knits are my thing!

    • LLADYBIRD September 9, 2015 at 6:46 am #

      Ugh, I WISH I had a coverstitch! I have coveted one for about 7 years now. I’m so jealous that you actually have one!

  7. Birgitte September 8, 2015 at 4:42 pm #

    It’s fabulous! I think it’s pretty much the most perfect bikini ever – I love the halter-style with the solid band under the bust. Too bad summer and swimsuit season is absolutely over here in chilly Norway! 😦

    • LLADYBIRD September 9, 2015 at 6:47 am #

      Well, if you get a hankerin’ for swimsuit weather, you can always come over here! It’ll be stupid hot for at least another month or so hahahaha 🙂

  8. Megan September 8, 2015 at 6:27 pm #

    This is great! I have been working on a bikini based on the Florence bra using your old swim-suit posts as guidance. I wish I would have waited another few days to see this post before finishing mine! (it’s okay, but could always be better)

    • LLADYBIRD September 9, 2015 at 6:48 am #

      That’s the story of my life with all my makes – could always be better! There is ALWAYS room to improve 🙂 It never stops, which means you’ll always be learning (I like that part of sewing!).

  9. Kathryn September 8, 2015 at 8:24 pm #

    Cute suit! I LOVE that fabric. I’m all about the paisley.

  10. mancunianvintage September 9, 2015 at 1:34 am #

    Gorgeous fabric – which you’ve transformed into a cute suit. Looks great!

  11. Becky Thompson September 9, 2015 at 5:07 am #

    Ohhh, very cute! That pattern gives great coverage and I bet you looked FAB in Cancun! We love it down there and I was so jealous that I couldn’t go. Hope you had a good time. Pictures in your makes please? Also, I totally linked your post to that vintage pattern wiki site. 🙂

    • LLADYBIRD September 9, 2015 at 6:52 am #

      Oh, it was so awesome! Haven’t been to Cancun before, but it’s a beautiful place! I actually don’t have any pictures of me in this swimsuit, and very few that I took in Cancun (I don’t use my camera much on vacation; I’d rather enjoy the time I’m there! Most of my trip, the phone was left in the room safe haha).

      Thanks for linking my post! I should probably start doing that with my vintage makes; seeing other reviews for those patterns has always been helpful to me!

  12. gingerella September 9, 2015 at 7:37 am #

    I’m glad you stuck with it because these look ace! The paisley fabric is lush. Just need to add finishing touches to my Made Up pledge trousers and take some photos!

    • LLADYBIRD September 11, 2015 at 8:24 am #

      I dunno about you, but I always perform best until last-minute pressure 😉 hahaha!

  13. ellegeemakes September 9, 2015 at 7:11 pm #

    I’ve never made a swimsuit or bikini – – it was always too intimidating but your post is so helpful, I actually believe I could! That is such great fabric – – Wow! Cancun is such a fabulous place. Lucky you!

    • LLADYBIRD September 11, 2015 at 8:25 am #

      I bet you could! Swimwear seems really foreign at first, but it’s pretty easy and straightforward to make up. Probably even easier than some of the stuff you’re already making 🙂

      • ellegeemakes September 11, 2015 at 10:15 am #

        You have a point..:)

  14. shannon September 9, 2015 at 8:03 pm #

    I wish I had that swimsuit pattern from stretch and sew. My Mom made that exact swimsuit in the 70’s. I remember her taking a bunch of stretch and sew classes when I was a little girl. When it came to the swimsuits . . . well she was all over that. You look great in that suit! Also, i love your recent hair color and style!

    • LLADYBIRD September 11, 2015 at 8:26 am #

      There are tons of copies of the pattern on Etsy 🙂 The prices look to be pretty reasonable. And thank you! 🙂

  15. Margo September 25, 2015 at 4:56 pm #

    Great suit! I love the print. What is it about going on a trip and the need for something new to wear. I am usually sewing up a storm just before getting on the plane. I’ve been known to sew on buttons in the hotel room as well 🙂


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