Welcome to the first of two blog posts from Lamazi about making swimwear. Sharlene @sosewdressmaking and I @marie-stitchedup are here to share our experience of sewing this garment for the first time. You will then be treated to a second post from some more experienced seamstresses, who can impart their sewing swimwear wisdom on to you!
I don't think I am the only one longing for the sight of the rare beast that is a long balmy British summer time. With overseas travel indefinitely on hold, our back gardens are the most exotic climes the majority of us are set to experience in 2020.
In spite of staycation 2020, I still want to refresh some things in my summer wardrobe. Without the additional pressure of a holiday deadline to aim for, it is also a great time to look at learning some new skills.
Lamazi have started to stock an extensive range of swimwear fabric, notions and patterns which make getting started on a swimwear project really easy.
I chose this beautiful swimwear fabric. It is a lovely shade of blue, which combined with the tropical print really screams summer. The quality is exceptional and I recommend it without reservation. It has excellent stretch and recovery, and stays completely opaque.
This photo shows a piece where I unpicked basting and lightning stitches and there is barely a mark. I must admit, I was completely dreading having to unpick this as I thought it may snag and ruin the fabric.
I chose the Opian Pilatus swimsuit as it felt like a nice balance between a bikini and full swimming costume. I love the cut-out features and the bustline tie.
I like the cut of the front leg, not being too high or too low. The back is a bit more skimpy and therefore its slightly more 'cheeky' than I anticipated! I must admit to a mild panic at the trying on/fitting stage before I applied the leg elastics. Without that anchorage there was... shall we say a migration of the knicker portion which gave the illusion of it being very tiny!
I worked up the nerve to apply the elastic, which I was convinced would make things worse. - After all you're effectively hemming your garment therefore making it smaller! However, to my surprise, the elastic kept the fabric where it should be, allowing it to do its job at covering my derrière!
Overall, I love the style and fit of this pattern and would definitely recommend it for your first try at sewing swimwear.
Useful information before you start sewing
Swimwear is by nature shifty and stretchy. Both necessary features for its intended purpose. With this in mind, I would definitely recommend using a rotary cutter and pattern weights.
As my pattern only has 0.7cm seam allowance, it has small room for error. In order to be as accurate as possible with my cutting, I decided to cut on the single layer. Therefore I traced my pattern pieces into full pieces, instead of half where they would usually be cut on the fold.
Although this added a small amount of time to the beginning of the project, as with most things, extra time at the prep stage makes the task much easier, quicker and less stressful.
By cutting on the single layer, it is easier to maintain control over the grainline, and minimise movement of the fabric under the pattern pieces. It also gives you a really clear view of pattern placement on your final garment. This is something I paid careful attention to as I didn't want to have an ill placed palm tree!
Another bonus of cutting on the single layer is that you are able to be far more economical with fabric consumption. This fabric is quite generous in its width, so I was able to cut a fully lined top and bottom piece from 1m.
It is not, by any measure necessary to cut this way. If you choose to cut on the fold, I would recommend bringing your foldline to the edge of the table in order to keep the fabric from twisting. If I am using slippery knit fabrics, I use wonder clips on the fold line edge to keep it secure.
Once you are ready to get sewing, if you haven't been given other specific instructions, I found the following created a good finish:
- Needle: Use a new needle. You will need a needle designed for knit fabrics. I used Schmetz Stretch number 75/11 and had no skipped stitches.
- Walking foot: to allow both layers to be fed through at the same pace.
- Gutterman All Sew polyester thread. Choose polyester thread over cotton as it can withstand chlorine and saltwater.
- Good quality, fine pins without any nicks to prevent snagging; or use wonder clips.
Techniques and Settings
- If your machine has it, I recommend using the lightning shaped stretch stitch for the seams. This provides durability in some high stress areas.
- For other areas such as attaching the first pass of elastic, I used a zig-zag stitch 2 wide and 2.5 length.
- For the topstitching, you can use the zig zag stitch, alternatively, I used the three step zig-zag stitch which allows for maximum stretch where it is needed over the elasticated areas.
- If your sewing machine allows it, reduce the presser foot pressure to prevent the fabric being sucked into the feed dogs. I set mine to 3.
- If you have trouble with your fabric being sucked into the feed dogs, try beginning your stitching away from the middle and sew to each edge.
- As this is a knit fabric the seams can be sewn on a 4 thread overlocker. However, overlocking/seam finishing is not necessary as this fabric does not fray. I sewed my swimsuit completely on my sewing machine.
It has been a really good experience to try something completely new. It is not nearly as difficult as I had anticipated and I am really pleased to have branched out into sewing swimwear! I hope if you are approaching this for the first time you have found some helpful information from us.
Sharlene is now going to give you some tips on the fun bit: Sewing your costume!
I have always loved this style and knew when I did eventually venture into sewing my own swimwear this would be the first pattern I would try. I had a RTW swimsuit for our last family holiday in a similar style so I knew I would like it. I love the high waist and plunging neckline.
I think this pattern is a good place to start if you are new to sewing swimwear. As with all of Chelsea’s patterns there is a lot of information on techniques used during the process. It has a larger seam allowance than most knit garments which gives you a little more room to sew your elastic and make any fit adjustments. For this fabric I decided to go for the sleeveless version, but the sleeved version is definitely on my list to make in the future.
I choose a size small on top and graded from a small at the waist to medium hips, adding 1 inch to the rise. These are the sizes I would choose with all Friday Pattern Company patterns, and a standard adjustment to the crotch rise for me. Next time I would maybe add 1.5 inch to the rise, as I feel it was pulling a little at the waist.
My first tip for sewing this pattern or any swimwear is to take a note of the different stitch lengths and sizes that you use. I used a combination of basting stitches, zig-zag, lightning bolt stitch and a triple zig-zag. I noted down the different sizes of stitches I used for each one to keep myself right.
I used a combination of pins and wonder clips for this project, and would recommend that you have both to hand for when you feel they will be helpful. As Marie has already mentioned, good quality, sharp pins are helpful when sewing with this fabric.
The fabric itself was a dream to work with. The high quality definitely made my first time sewing swimwear a lot easier than I was expecting. The key to working with this fabric is to take it slowly and feed the fabric as gently as possible to stop any stretching or skipped stitches. I have a vintage Pfaff with built in IDT which helped feed the fabric through evenly. If you have a walking foot definitely use one.
When attaching the elastic in this pattern Chelsea uses the ‘quarter’ method, dividing each seam into 4 and the same with the elastic, and stretching between these points to get an even stretch around the arm hole, legs and neckline. If your pattern does not recommend this it is a good tip for getting an even finish.
If you are unsure about sewing your own swimwear I would definitely recommend giving it a go. Being able to adjust the size to suit YOUR body makes the biggest difference, I have never had a swimsuit fit me so well, or that I felt so comfortable and confident in. Being able to get all the fabric, notions and lining in one place from Lamazi was so much easier than having to search for it myself (I am a little lazy in this respect!).
Like most girls in the group I was nervous about sharing photos of myself in swimwear, but the confidence I got from knowing that I had made this for my body was all I needed. I am so happy with the finished result and can't wait to wear it in the paddling pool in my back garden! And eventually, someday, on a warm sunny holiday.