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Suitably Attired: Boosting Confidence with a Swimsuit that Fits

Welcome back to the second Lamazi Fabics blog post on sewing swimwear.  In the first post, Marie and Sharlene gave a fantastically informative introduction to sewing your own swimsuit and made two gorgeous costumes.  Now we - Victoria, Janet and Suzy - plan to show you how you can use your sewing skills to customise your costume to make perfect swimwear you’ll feel fabulous in. 

First up is Victoria @victorialucilleanne

Suits me – my style – my fit

I have been wanting to make this swimsuit for such a long time and I finally went for it! This is the Cottesloe Swimsuit by Megan Nielsen. I have admired the low back version with the tie for a long time. I have always found when looking at this swimsuit, that it needed a few more feminine “me” touches for me to fall in love! I decided those changes would be to lower the front neckline and thin the straps a bit! I also added an inch to the total length of the swimsuit and graded out two sizes in the hip and bottom area in order to make it more comfortable for me. I think lower necklines look a little better on people that have smaller busts (aka: me). Therefore, I am going to show you a few ways to hack a swimsuit and make it yours! I feel I can run after my kids with confidence in this beauty and this swimsuit is a nice template for endless hacks. 

Let me just start by saying I love this fabric called umbrellas! It is amazing quality and doesn’t warp the design when stretching. The print is very vibrant and did not fade in the wash. Most of my swimsuit is unlined and it is very comfortable. It has great stretch and recovery. I have no problems moving around in this fabric and running after the kids!

In order to change the neckline, you need to understand a basic concept, and that is the fact you will need a different measurement of elastic to accommodate your new neckline. You could plummet the neckline to as low as you would like but you would need to measure the extra neckline length to figure out the elastic needed. As you can see below, I lowered my neckline by 1 3/4 inches and took 1/2 inch off of the inside of the straps. I also took 1/2 inch off of the inside of the back straps and graded that back in with the pattern line a few inches down. You also need to make this adjustment on the shelf bra. 

Now, we need to measure our new neckline. When holding a measuring tape against the original neckline from shoulder seam to shoulder seam, it is 16 inches for my size. My new neckline is now 19 inches. That is an addition of 3 inches.  I added 2.5 inches to the elastic needed for the front neckline which is buried into one long piece that encompasses both the back and the front. She has you mark a line on your elastic to indicate where the front ends and the back begins, so I pushed this mark 2.5 inches further. Of course I also added 2.5 inches to the total length of this piece before cutting it from my roll of elastic. Why 2.5 inches and not 3? Well, I wanted the elastic to maintain the amount of tension with the added length and also knew that a lower neckline would do well with a little tighter elastic! 

When applying the elastic to the swimsuit, make sure it feels the same and has about the same amount of tension as the other areas. Your armhole elastic requirement should not change. 

Let’s move on to the rest of the swimsuit. I have several areas that need modifications and it is very easy to do this on a swimsuit. I have a very long torso, so I slash and spread the front and the back by one inch. DONE! I also have larger hips and I prefer a lot of bottom coverage. I am a size 2 at the top and I first graded out to a size 3 around the belly button reaching the 3 at the hips. Then I graded out a tiny little bubble halfway to the 4 and went all the way down to the 4 length. I did the reverse up the other side and it was perfect!!! For the leg elastic length, I chose the size 4 length but it turned out to be a little to loose, so I tightened it and ended up with about a 3 length! I finished the rest of the swimsuit as directed and put bra cups in as well! It turned out so well! 

I know this was very quick but I hope it made sense for you! Enjoy your swimsuit that fits you like a glove! 

Now, over to Janet @jannisews

Dipping my toe in the water – in search of the perfect fit

I have made two previous swimsuits, both with ready-made cups. I prefer some bust support, but neither have proved satisfactory, so I wanted to attempt some custom fit cups.  I chose the Closet Case Patterns Sophie Swimsuit as it has a built in foam cup bra option.

I also bought the class that goes with this pattern, as foam cup construction is new to me. I needn’t have feared, the construction was simple and the fitting wasn’t hard. I made a couple of test runs to get the fit of the cups feeling good then proceeded with the real thing. I used 3mm bra making foam which provided support rather than size enhancement.  The cut pieces were butted together and stitched with a 3 step zig-zag.  I covered the seams with tape I made from tricot iron-on lining cut into 1” strips , folded 3 times and pressed, then top stitched on over the seams. To establish my wire size I extracted the wire from a worn out but good fitting bra and compared it with the chart from Bra Makers Supply, provided in the course.

I used two complementary fabrics, from Lamazi Fabrics great selection. The darker side panels hopefully delineate the curved side seams to give the illusion of a waist (which I don’t really have).  The lining is Navy Blue lightweight power mesh, I prefer this lighter option to regular swimsuit lining which is a little heavier, but I lined the front panel with a heavyweight power mesh which has less stretch, to (help) hold my tummy in.

The cut size is based on your under bust measurement with a choice of cup sizes. My measurement was 35” so I went up to the nearest size up, which was 14.  I graded to a 16 waist and a 12 hip.  As there are 6 seams the increments were relatively small. I used the largest cup size.

All seams were sewn on my regular sewing machine, a Juki DX7, using one of the utility elastic stitches.  Most machines will have something similar, if not identical.  The outer edges were serger finished before being stitched down with a small zig-zag, being careful not to leave any elastic exposed.

Rather than make a complete separate lining, as per the instructions, I used a method learned from the Sewing Bee where each lining panel is sewn into the body seam and the final seam is done ‘Burrito’ fashion.  After the first back panel seam is sewn the garment is rolled into a sausage so the back lining can be wrapped round and stitched in place on top of the final seam.  The garment is then turned out so all the seams are enclosed, and the extra pull of the front panels anchored. This process is a little more time consuming, but gives a neat and supportive finish. You will see from the picture that because the lining mesh is quite flimsy, the edges don’t quite meet up, that’s not a big issue as it can be trimmed level before the elastic is inserted.

The remainder of the stitching was straightforward, I used latex swim elastic - I find clear elastic very flimsy and difficult to handle, whereas the latex has more substance and as it is fully covered by the hem treatment there is no danger of any skin contact. All elastic was stitched with a regular zig zag stitch, a large one for the initial installation and a smaller one for the turned hem.  It is good idea not to stitch too closely as many perforation holes will compromise the non woven elastic. (Ask me how I know!)

The first fit revealed that the suit was too large around my back.  It didn’t feel secure and the cups were not being held properly in place. I should have cut the size 12.  So I made an extra piece using the bra top from the View B bikini, altering the top line to match the swimsuit, using the heavier weight power mesh.  I had to unpick the elastic from the top of the back, but I hadn’t done the final stitch down row before I tried it on.  This extra piece didn’t include the cups and only came as far as the under-bust seam. It was sewn onto the stitching line for the wire casing, and stitched in the ditch for an inch or so down the front seam. The top edge was held under the back elastic stitching, the bottom edge was finished with an additional piece of swim elastic and left free.

That gave the extra security that I needed so the final issue was the straps.  I am not a fan of halter necks, I find the weight is uncomfortable on the back of my neck. The stretch spaghetti strap alternative was never going to give enough support. After some trial and error I made the halter straps but crossed them over and anchored them at the back where the panels meet.  This gave me the lift I wanted and kept the back in the correct place. I have found the straps are too stretchy, so intend taking them off and remaking them with interfacing inside to stabilise them and hold me up even better.

I now have a comfortable, secure feeling and flattering swimsuit.  I am not a fan of sunbathing so the crossover back straps won’t give me any strap lines.  I also now have the confidence and knowledge of foam cup construction which will hopefully inform my attempt at bra making, which I hope to revisit.

Thanks go to Lamazi for providing the swimwear fabric and inviting me to join this collaborative blog post.  I hope you find it helpful.

And to Suzy @sewing_in_spain

From Bra to Bikini in Bubbles Blue

 

When Liana of Lamazi Fabrics suggested a joint swimwear blog, I was excited to try out an idea I´ve had for a while….a bikini from a lingerie pattern. The talented Lamazi blogger team have made elegant and beautiful one-piece suits, but for me, bikinis are the biz; I love to feel the sun and the water on my tummy, and as women say in Spain – every body is a bikini body! 

Right now, Lamazi has such a great range of swimwear fabrics, and straight away I loved this Bubbles Blue in navy and turquoise.  A pretty print, non-directional, and no pattern matching, the small design works well with the small pieces involved in a bra pattern too.   I´ve made a couple of swimsuits now and this fabric was the easiest by far to work with –  doesn´t curl while you´re cutting it, stitches nicely and has a good weight, while still providing enough stretch. 

Converting a bra pattern to a bikini is fun, and here´s how to do it…...

Pattern:

There are many more bra patterns than bikini tops, especially if you are after a bit of support and security.  If you´ve already made a bra which fits well you have a head start, otherwise just pick a style to suit you. I decided on something supportive, and picked the Black Beauty Bra by Emerald Erin Sews

Materials:

Apart from your swimwear fabric, you need to get hold of the following:

  • Swimwear elastic instead of lingerie elastic, otherwise you risk your bikini sagging with the sun, salt and chlorine you are going to subject it to. I like 6mm clear elastic, or 6mm latex elastic, which can be hidden under the seam allowance.
  • If your pattern uses foldover elastic or binding, you can make your own binding from strips of swimwear fabric – I cut binding 2.5cm wide.
  • The classic fastening of the bra back is replaced by a plastic G hook or bikini clasp.
  • Depending on the pattern, you may need plastic sliders and rings, as metal ones can burn your skin in the heat of the sun. I made my bikini while shops were shut during lockdown, but luckily I’d saved some old RTW costumes and was able to use the sliders and rings…. It´s always worth hoarding hardware from swimwear!
  • Swimwear lining makes your bikini top look more professional, especially as the inside could be seen. 
  • Foam is optional, but I´d recommend it for modesty when your swimsuit is wet, also, it stops the swimsuit fabric from stretching on the cups.
  • Powermesh is recommended for the bra bridge at the front, but it’s also good for holding that stretchy fabric firmly, ie. the cradle and the back bands.
  • If you choose a bra with underwiring, you will need casing, ideally in the same colour as your lining… I only had nude casing, it doesn´t take a dye, I tried! …and wires in your cup size.
  • Straps are made out of the swimwear fabric; I cut mine at 3.8cm wide, and folded them over some 9mm transparent elastic and stitched it down.

Construction variations:

I cut the back bands 2cm longer, tapering at the ends to take the bikini clasp, and I lengthened by 5mm, and reduced the width of the powerband top which supports the cup.  This allows it to pass through a ring.

To line the bikini top, I assembled the cup pieces in lining; the three layers – swimwear fabric, foam and lining – were hand-basted together. 

Also I stitched together the back bands, bridge and cradle pieces in lining, and stitched them to the outer pieces (with the powermesh attached) at the top of the bridge. The lining is turned to the inside and the layers treated as one.

Where the instructions call for foldover elastic, I zigzag stitched swimwear elastic just inside the edge.  At the bottom of the bikini, I just folded the edge in 6mm and zigzagged it down, hiding the elastic.  On the powerbar, the neckline and underarm, to avoid making my pieces smaller, I added the elastic in the same way; I attached the binding. Then I turned half the binding to the inside and finished with a double stretch needle, to replicate the look of a coverstitch machine.  

Ta Dah! One bikini top based on a bra pattern!

Of course I needed bottoms, so I used my favourite knickers pattern, the Megan Nielsen Acacia

To make bikini bottoms from an underwear pattern: cut one set of pattern pieces in the swimwear fabric, and one set in swimwear lining.  Stitch up each set, then put the lining inside the swimwear fabric version, wrong sides together.  Pin and overlock, or zigzag, the lining and outer together. Attach the swimwear elastic to the inside of the legs and the waist with a zigzag stitch.  Turn those edges in and zigzag or stitch with a double needle.  This is such a speedy make – but with hindsight, I would have cut the pattern pieces slightly bigger for more coverage, or added a band to the waist.

Making swimwear is such good value, once you have all the bits and pieces.  From one metre I had enough fabric to make some matching swimshorts too, using this Jalie 2446 pattern , which I also lined.

So that’s me all set for the summer!

Thanks for reading and thanks to Lamazi Fabrics for the opportunity to sew with this gorgeous swimwear fabric.

 

We hope you have enjoyed our joint post, and you have lots of ideas for sewing your swimwear to suit you.

Suzy, Janet and Victoria 


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