Let the creepy internet stalking begin. I’ve posted pics of myself in a bikini. But not just any bikini, my super awesome handmade custom designed bikini! You’ll have to pardon all my poorly lit photos. I was not about to model this outside when I was turning blue just standing inside my studio! See my transparent skin actually turning blue? Yep. No beautiful sun-kissed skin over here, people.
So WHY did I make a bathing suit in November when the temperatures are falling below freezing on a regular basis? Because my son just started parent-child swimming lessons at our town’s indoor recreation center. Daddy took him to his first lesson last week while I ran the 5K but the rest of the 9 weeks is up to this mama to hop in the pool with my little fish.
This is also my submission for The Monthly Stitch’s November Challenge: “From a Sewing Book.”
I worked from the vintage book Easy Sewing With Knits by Judy Lawrence, copyright 1972. I picked up this book back when I was first learning to sew with knits and read it cover to cover. It’s one of the earliest books on the subject as knits were just hitting the public market around the time of it’s publication. Because it was targeted to an audience unfamiliar with the general properties of sewing with knits I thought it would be perfect for a home seamstress just starting to tackle stretchy stuff.
I have to say I did not learn much from the book that I hadn’t already read around the blogosphere. That is until I re-read the chapter 11 How to Fit and Sew Swimwear. It isn’t a pattern, per se, but it gives great detailed instructions for sewing and fitting these tricky little buggers and shows you how to draft your own one-piece.
I never thought I would sew a bathing suit so I didn’t pay attention to this part the first time. But after seeing Lauren’s and Tasia’s incredible Bombshell Swimsuits I starting rethinking this notion.
I had a major crush on their blue gingham fabric so when I found the SAME FABRIC in the clearance bin at my local Hancock Fabrics, I actually squealed right there in the store! I decided I would most certainly be the third wheel to their gingham girl Bombshell party. I even looked up the yardage for the Bombshell on my smart phone while I walked around the store clutching my prized fabric.
After I got the fabric home and stared at it lovingly for a while (and by “a while” I mean “two months”), I realized that the Bombshell just wasn’t right for my body. I prefer two piece swimsuits because I rather like my midsection – I even went to great lengths to keep my belly ring while pregnant so I could have motivation to get my abs back after my son was born – but I am majorly self-conscious of my butt and thighs. I usually opt for a bikini with a skirt on the bottom for more coverage.
I searched the web over for a pattern with a gathered bust similar to the Bombshell. I came up with this:
McCall’s 9237, copyright 1968.
I kept searching for the perfect bottom with a skirt but the only one I could find had a detachable skirt which I think would be annoying in the water. I’m not a fan of that high-waisted number that is supposed to be the bottom of this McCall’s pattern so I decided to draft my own.
I started with my favorite, best-fitting bikini brief underwear which just happen to have the same percentage of stretch as my swimwear fabric (4″ stretched to 9″). Score! I pinned it down to the pattern paper and traced around each section, leaving seam allowances. I cut it out of the gingham and swimwear lining to make it fully lined. I then drafted simple rectangles for the front and back skirt pieces, matching the waistband widths. I cut those only of the gingham.
After I had everything stitched together I proudly tried on my bikini bottom only to find that I failed miserably. The brief portion fit wonderfully. I could have managed to loosen the waist elastic a tiny bit but I wasn’t going to take any chances of losing my shorts in the water. The big failure? The skirt. I completely ignored the fact that my HIPS are LARGER than my WAIST! I cut straight rectangles based on the waist! I think I may have actually slapped myself in the forehead for this one. The swimwear fabric has incredible stretching power because the skirt actually stretched to fit over my hips and rear, but I looked like I should have been working the street corner in that get-up! I almost took pictures of how horrible it really was to show you but then I remembered that once something is on the internet, it’s there forever. Not wanting to jeopardize my chances of running for president (HAHA!) or anything, I thought better of it and just set about ripping the skirt off the briefs.
Luckily since I purchased fabric to make the one-piece Bombshell with that fabulous rouched front panel, I had enough fabric to recut the skirt, this time opting for a FLARED trapezoid shape as wide as my remaining fabric allowed. An hour later, the skirt was vastly improved though still a little more fitted than I envisioned.
If you take a close look at the last pic you can kinda see the design lines of the skirt. The seams of the briefs are actually at the front of the hips rather than at the sides so I echoed that in the skirt. I wish I had added little walking slits at the bottom of the seams as I had in the original way-too-tight version but in my haste to correct the error I forgot.
On to the top…
Since I was working with a swimsuit pattern from the ’60’s, the recommended fabrics were all wovens, meaning that the pattern was NOT drafted for the super stretch performance swimwear knit I was working with. This left me with plenty of challenges and changes to make.
For starters, the pattern I purchased was a 32″ bust. My 37″ bust would normally be impossible to squeeze into a zero-ease pattern in this size but thanks to my super stretch fabric, I found that the pattern was TOO big as drafted. I took in about 3/4″ on each piece at center front to account for this. That means I ended up with a whopping 6.5″ of negative ease on this. I also had to shorten the straps and center band by several inches. Instead of making buttonholes for the back closure as called for by the pattern, I folded back and stitched the end of the bra band to form a loop on one side and added a clear swimsuit hook to the other.
I also added swimwear elastic to the entire bra portion – top of the bands from the front to the back, all around the bottom of the band, and the shoulder straps. No wardrobe malfunctions happening here, folks. That sucker is staying put even if it does squeeze the underarm flab a little.
Finally before closing up the lining at the front I added padded swimwear bra cups for a little modesty and “oompf.” I struggled with the best way to secure them in place. In the end I chose to simply top stitch through all layers at the bottom of the cups. The top stitching is obvious when I’m not wearing the suit but when worn it’s nearly hidden in the folds of the front thanks to those center front and side darts and the bias-cut band which gathers it all anyway.
Once the final stitches were in place, I had to test drive – err… dive – it before the moment of truth when I hop into a public pool with a bunch of 2- and 3-year-olds. I filled my bathtub nearly to the rim and went for a “swim” to make sure things were going to stay put and I wouldn’t have any unpleasant surprises. I’m happy to report all went well and this bikini mama is ready for swimming lessons tomorrow morning.