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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Thursday, August 9, 2018

Let's talk swimsuits: first instalment of my sort of sew-along

Well I promised a sew-along on swimsuits, one of the many topics on which I have too many opinions, and here we are ready to go.

Since I am not sure how really to do a sew-along let's not worry about that. BTW I am shutting down the FB page and we can just run this here in our familiar place in the blog and on Instagram where you can find me @bemodi

I had this idea that if I also ran a Facebook page people could post pictures of what they were making, which no one did which was fine with me because well it's summer and I am sure you are all very busy. Just reading about what we are focusing on is probably enough for most of us, and these thoughts can be filed away for when they are needed.

So swimsuits, bathing suits, all those garments that are meant to be worn in the water, are pretty interesting to make.

And these days there is no reason you can't make exactly what you want in exactly the same materials, or better, than you can get in the stores. 

Interestingly enough swimwear is one area of sewing to where there is a lot of money to be saved. This is based on my own observation that the more vulnerable a person feels in a garment the more she will pay for it even if it is made of very little materials. So with that great physiological insight and the little bit of math I have I figure you can make a really great swimsuit for less than half, more like a third of what a similar unit would cost to buy.

Then there is fit.

Fitting in swimwear isn't really that hard. There are not a lot of seams to work with but there is length. Length is such a powerful element in swimwear.

Short people suffer from baggy swimsuits when the bathing suits are too long, and that bagginess just gets worse when wet.

Tall people, like me, suffer from body strangulation in regular length swimsuits, and all the riding up and tugging that goes along with something not being long enough for coverage. I can't begin to describe to you how nice it feels to be able to add the 4" I need to body length to a bathing suit and as a result to actually feel my shoulders aren't being forced down or that my legs openings aren't creepy up creepily every time I move. 

As I have made swimsuits for my daughter and the girls this summer as well as myself I have been so interested to see that each of us needs that same 4" added whatever our size- like it's a family imprint or something.

For the purposes of this sew-along I am going to be working on, or have just completed, three different swimsuits.

The first one, a sort of retro version by request, for my daughter, is from Halo Fabric Addicts fine fabrics (yes I know I am using a lot of their stuff this summer,  and it has not been my cheapest option, but the quality is just so outstanding). Here is the Jalie pattern we are using and here is the fabric, lining and cups (they come in sizes which is nice) all from Halo:

For myself I am making another, my third version this season, of the Diane swimsuit pattern Jalie released this spring, in some random yellow fabric and yellow parrot print I got locally last year for the little girls who didn't like it because it was neither pink nor purple. 

Over the year I have been able to persuade myself it is age appropriate for me. If you don't think so I would appreciate it if you didn't say anything, since it did take me an entire year to warm up to it. I went ahead and cut out the cups from an old bra for this suit, and stitched them in (a friend told me this would be a good idea) before I found out about the better idea Halo swim cups that are actually designed for the water. My recycled bra cups really aren't although they do give my profile a familiar look. 

I already tried this old bra concept on another swimsuit and although they look fine dry they sort of hold the water when wet which requires a bit of discreet chest pressing every now and then. Sometimes going cheap is less than classy. However they are in the lining of this suit now so we are going to stick with, it and besides I have that chest pressing move more or less down on automatic now:

Finally I am going to show you what went on when I made my daughter-in-law a maternity swimsuit. I used Rad patterns First Crush pattern for a maternity suit which is really a maternity version of the standard First Crush pattern, which comes in an amazing range of variations:

Standard pattern as well as maternity options

We will have words about the instructions for this pattern later but the basic shapes are very interesting. I used this fabric and a particularly wonderful black lining from Halo. The pattern has a sort of built-in bra in it:

So that's me. Now those of you who are sewing along what are you making.


Jodie said...

Great topic Barb. I agree that sewing swimsuits is the one place where sewing is cheaper than store bought - and you miss out the horrible fitting room experience as well! I have made swimsuits for myself for the past couple of years and since I was sewing quick quick to get ready for a Mexico vacation for the last one was stuck with the fabric I could get locally. Likely not the best quality but for lounging and splashing by the pool for a weeks vacation, it was fine. One thing I'd like in your sew a long is a list of resources that are easy to access for Canadians. I'm loving Halo but wonder if there is another source I should check out. Thanks!

sallygardens said...

I’m planning to make a swimsuit for my 14 month old granddaughter using the Sew a Little Seam Marin pattern. It too has a lot of options and I think I’ll try one of the tankinis, but she and her parents are visiting soon so I’ll probably choose while they are here. I made two swimsuits for my daughter this summer (first time) using the Stitch Upon A Time Brazi top with the crossover option and the bottoms from Kwik Sew 3239. I have plenty of room to improve but was surprised at how well they turned out.

Anonymous said...

I have a new colostomy so I bought a discounted Land’s End suit with a basically dress length top. I haven’t even tried it on since it came home two months ago. My thought was I’d shorten it if I return to regular status. BSuits and I just don’t get along. Maybe that could change if I made my own? Regardless, I’ll follow along with great interest. Everything you write, I mean everything, is a gift to us, Ms. B.

beckster said...

I am not planning on making a swimsuit, but I am going to follow along diligently. I always learn something from these sew-a-longs. And by the way, I _love_ that parrot fabric. I think it will make a great suit for you. It is not in the least juvenile looking.

Anonymous said...

Its hard to imagine anything better than the parrot fabric, unless maybe it came in bright red and blue!


Liese Sadler said...

As usual a wonderfully funny post! Thank you for saving me from having to hone the fine art of "chest pressing".

LGjeltema said...

I’ve seen suits before but am looking forward to picking up a tip or two.
I take a water class several days a week and find polyester a necessity for suit life. So far I’ve not found a fabric source for the poly swim fabrics. Also, it’s less stretchy so adjustments will be needed to accommodate.

Diana Griswold said...

I love the parrot fabric, Barb! And I have the same Jalie pattern. I will be watching closely as a preview of making the actual pattern.


Dr. Fun (AKA Sister) said...

Hooray for a swimsuit SAL! I've been making them for years after I found out how cheap and fast they are compared to the "real" things, and the last storebought one I had actually broke at the shoulder strap, while the one I made 6 years ago is just now getting some saggy elastic. I've used Kwik Sew 3238 and McCall's 5400 the most, and I HATE putting in cups, so I've started using a top that is just gathered and lined, since I'm fairly flat-chested. One problem I have is that when I line the whole tankini top, the bottom hem wants to roll up and show the lining. Have you ever had that problem?

BetsyV said...

I just finished a test suit of the Jalie Diane pattern last night and gave it a swim-laps-in-chlorinated-pool test this morning. I am sold on making my own suits now! I am not tall but all my height is in my lower torso, so the lack of long torso options for lap swimming really struck a nerve when I wanted to buy a 2nd suit a few weeks ago. I am 6" longer in the torso than Speedo's standard size 14. I am 5'3.5" tall. Go figure. I used a poly/lycra remnant with 70% stretch and purchased lightweight swim lining; dritz cotton covered swim elastic, and lightweight sew-in bra cups really for use in, say, a sundress. The suit survived the swim and the suit-spinner in the locker room. I doubt those bra cups will survive many times through the spinner, but I went ahead and ordered thinner chlorine-resistant elastic and chlorine-resistant foam bra cups from Sew Sassy (NAYY), so I am ready to go with version 2, no further pattern changes. I used size W at the top, grading from waist down to size Y at leg openings and length Y, and added 2" (1" front and 1" back) length about halfway between waist and leg opening. SO COMFORTABLE.

Looking forward to some construction tips. I had some needle choice issues (skipped stitches), and I will change Jalie's suggested zigzag stitching on the turned under elastic to a twin needle, which will better mimic the stitching on my Dolfin brand suit.

Kay said...

You can find everything you need for swim wear sewing at Watertower Textiles. They are in Leemington, Ontario and have very reasonable shipping rates.

Alison said...

I'm thinking about a new swim suit, and hoping that my idea about how to modify my former suit pattern...KWIK SEW Pattern 2690 Misses' Swim Dress, from 1998. I love the skirted suit aka "swimdress", but want to change it so that the skirt starts near my waist, instead of all the way up under the bust. When I wear it in the pool, the huge skirt drifts up and gets in the way when I do my water exercises.. If I attach it lower, near my waist (or where my waist would be if I had one) then it can only drift up a lesser amount, as the total amount of fabric will be less if that makes sense.

Theresa Maria said...

I just found your website tonight, via Ruthies website, and am excited to read your blogs. I also love the black print fabric you posted above, to make a bathing suit with. Where can I find that? I'm from California, so hope I can aquire it. It's exactly what I was looking for to make my suit. I have never found the kind of suit that I want, so I am going to make my own pattern, adding shorts on to a one-piece style, where the front will crisscross over the bust, smooth ruching at the waist area (without a center seam), and fitted shorts will extend to just above my knees. It will be more of a modest one-piece fitted suit, as I am overweight, and my right leg/knee is larger than the left (due to a skating accident), so it will help conceal it.

I also saw on Ruthies page, that you had a drawing for your new book, but can't find the ebook that you gave away. Where can I purchase an ebook?

Question about the book as well. Does it help in showing how to make actual patterns? I have been sewing since I've been about 10 years old, initially learning from my mom & in jr. High classes, but I've been self-taught most of my 50+ year life. When making items (like traditional Italian long baptism gowns, etc), I don't use patterns, but just drape, pin and cut material, but it may be simpler to do, so want to learn to make patterns.

Looking forward to your blog!


Barbara said...

Hi Theresa the e book is available on the C & T publihers website http://www.ctpub.com/sew-the-garment-making-book-of-knowledge/

Unfortunately I don’t cover pattern drafting in the book but do have a chapter on fitting adjustments. As to that print fabric it is actually navy and white not black and white and available from Halo Fabric Addicts if they still have it. Your project sounds very interesting!

Barbara said...

Alison your idea for adjusting the swimsuit skirt makes total sense to me, I have never worked with that pattern but it sounds very doable. Looking forward to what you make!