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!
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.
I 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!
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!
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.
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.
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).
Darts on the inside/self lining of the bikini top.
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!