Friday, 22 April 2016

I made a swimsuit!

Changing cubicle selfie before the swimsuit's 'maiden voyage'
I felt the fear and made it anyway! I needed a bit of a push to finally get down to making a swimsuit but I'm so pleased with the finished result. I go to a small group weekly swimming lesson where we work on improving different aspects of our strokes and do difficult things like learning butterfly stroke and also diving (my nemesis but I've learnt to tolerate it). Being a tall person (5'9"), swimsuit buying can be 'challenging'. I always have to try on at least 25 to 30 suits before I get one that I can stand upright where the straps don't dig into my shoulders badly.

So, how did I know it was time to start thinking about getting another suit? Well, there's one sure-fire way! When you go into the shower before getting into the pool, if the bum (of the swimsuit, just to clarify!) starts to feel saggy with the water, it's time! 

Front 
So, after a bit of googling I came across Jalie's Racerback Swimsuit. Perfect and it has everything I wanted in a 'serious' swimsuit. I purchased it at Christmas, stuck the PDF pieces together, measured myself and adjusted the pattern. I even bought fabric, powermesh and elastic. Then it all sat there for at least 2 months while I was too scared to do anything. Seeing Kay The Sewing Lawyer's version gave me the push I needed to just get on with it. 

My idea was to make a muslin to check for fit and then I can get stuck in to buying some fabric to make coloured, bright and maybe even patterned swimsuits. There, that's another thing that annoys me about swimsuit shopping. I try on lovely coloured, patterned suits but end up having to buy boring black or dull navy plain suits because they're the only ones that fit. 

Back 
Good swimsuit fabric seems quite difficult to come by, or at least I found that. If you know anywhere I can get chlorine-resistant 4 way stretch swimsuit fabric, let me know! I bought my fabric after having a good old mooch about in Edinburgh Fabrics. They've got lots of dancewear fabrics but to me they felt too thin. I want to build something that lasts. Yes, I did say build! I think the thin lycra fabric would dissolve in the swimming pool in a short time. So I've got my eye on some of the offerings from FunkiFabrics, just trying to restrain myself from buying all the lovely colours and patterns!



After the saggy (swimsuit) bum time, I decided to 'just get on with it and what was the worst thing that could happen? I mess it up and waste fabric? Well, it's only fabric and I really needed a swimsuit. So I cut a size W and added an inch to the body length to all relevant pieces. And there are quite a few pieces for such a compact garment. I followed the pattern instructions and lined the front of the suit. I used powermesh, I don't know if it's the correct thing to do but it hasn't caused any problems. I did wonder if it would stretch less than the suit fabric but that doesn't seem to be the case. 

Inside out - back
I deviated from the pattern by adding a soft bra. Again I used the powermesh and some 1" elastic that I had in my stash. I used my old swimsuit as a rough guide to how to do it. When the new suit front was sewn, I traced around the arms and neck and guesstimated the body length and created a new pattern piece for the soft bra. I cut and spread the bottom of my pattern piece so there would be enough fabric to gather into the elastic. For the body length of the soft bra, I held it up to me and just chopped off length until I thought it was right. Seems to have worked! I stretched a piece of 1" elastic along the front of my rib cage to get the right length. Then I sewed the bottom of the soft bra edge to the elastic and voila! I then added the soft bra top to the front of the swimsuit and treated them as one piece when sewing up the side seams and adding straps. It was easier than it sounds. 

Inside out - front
I didn't realise just how much sewing (and thread!) there would be in making this swimsuit. I have an overlocker and used that throughout. For the topstitching I used my ballpoint twin needle. The pattern instructions have you overlock a seam and then topstitch the seam. It creates a lovely, professional looking finish. I have to say that there are a few lumps and bumps where the front princess seams meet the elastic leg edging but I don't care. Brazenly don't care, actually, because...I made a swimsuit!

Inside out - detail of leg and elastic
So after overlocking and topstitching the suit together, you then need to sew the elastic around each leg, arm, back and front neck opening, including the hole in the back. That's a lot more stitching but the pattern instructions are good. They specifically instruct you to buy 1cm wide elastic. There is also a chart telling you the length of elastic you need to cut for each of the openings and each of the sizes. very precise and I really liked that. To attach the elastic, you sew the band together so it forms a ring and attach it to the RIGHT side of the suit. Guess what I repeatedly did wrong during the making of this suit? Yes, attach it to the wrong side (numpty). More than once. Use a zig-zag stitch on your sewing machine and the left zig-zag stitches onto the elastic, and the right zig-zag stitches into 'air'. You then turn the elastic to the wrong side and topstitch. This encases the elastic, very clever.  

Detail of back seam
I also have to report that I've worn this suit to two 50 minute lessons, swam all the strokes in it, and it's brilliant! The first time I put it on I thought it was very firm but that could just be the difference between the new fabric and my old, worn suit. It has settled/relaxed a bit after the first wearing and is good and comfy now. The elastic certainly does hold firmly and there have been no 'wardrobe malfunctions'. So, now I have a wearable muslin, unfortunately in black, but expect to see eye-searingly colourful versions popping up on this blog over the next few months! Have you ever made a swimsuit?

13 comments:

  1. Good for you! This is definitely one of those 'milestone' sewing moments. I've always liked the look of the Closet Case Files Bombshell but your pattern looks more practical for regular swimming sessions.

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    1. It certainly is a milestone project! I think you're right about the Closet case files Bombshell swimsuit, it's absolutely gorgeous but I wouldn't wear it to normal swimming sessions. Go for the Jalie Racerback for that, once you put it on, it stays put!

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  2. Well done. You have achieved a brilliant fit and also achieved the tricky part of applying the elastic evenly.

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    1. Thanks, Marjorie, the elastic did take a firm hand when putting it through the sewing machine and when you finish sewing it on, there is so much gathering you wonder how it will look when you wear it. I shouldn't have worried though, it's a very well drafted pattern. Even if it is in black fabric!

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  3. I'm so impressed! It looks great!

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    1. Hey Halsted! Great to hear from you and I love hearing how you're getting on back in the US. As for this swimsuit, well, it's amazing what you can do when you push yourself, even if you have no idea if you'll succeed or not. Half the fun is just giving it a go...that's probably true about most things in life!

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  4. Fabulous! Your suit looks really well made Joyce. Another basic - but a really impressive one. Well done, you must feel so proud.

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    1. Hi Ruth, yes, I have to say I'm completely disgustingly proud of myself! It was just supposed to be a muslin to try out the pattern for fit but it's worked out so well I can wear it. Result!

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  5. I'm so impressed! This is fabulous! I have some thoughts around making a "swimmie", but as I am fast approaching "saggy bum" territory, I will probably end up just buying one. Which will probably take as much effort as making one!

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    1. Hi Helen, you should give sewing a swimmie a go. It's really satisfying and totally worth it. I can't wait to go mad with colours and patterns now after a bit of online fabric shopping!

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  6. What an amazing accomplishment to share! Love that you had the courage and determination to take on such an advanced project. The final results looks terrific on you. This is so encouraging for me because I have been wanting to try to sew my own bathing suit for a long time now. I should probably get going on that now!

    Ceilia @ Chynna Dolls

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    1. Hi Celia, I say just go for it! What's the worst that can happen? If you mess up the sewing it's not a disaster and after all, it's only a piece of fabric. I held back for months before cutting out just out of fear. Really glad I got over that!

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  7. This is amazing. I find your achievement very inspirational Joyce. Thank you for providing so much useful detail.

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