If you love beach cottage style, Nantucket is your heaven. We rented bikes one afternoon and took L out for her first ride. She actually fell asleep during the ride! She did great during the whole trip, but naps? Fugetaboutit. So pretty much anytime we got in the car (or on a bike!), she was out.
I wanted some new swimwear for the trip. And I didn't want to spend hours in tiny dressing rooms with fluorescent lights trying on pieces that only half appealed to me. So I decided to try my hand at sewing swimwear. I figured the results couldn't be much worse than RTW.
The very first thing I did was arm myself with some knowledge about sewing swimwear. Two resources that helped pump me up:
1. Lori's Sew Forth Now podcast, Episode 5: Dive into Swimsuits. In this episode, she interviews Anne St Clair on the ins and outs of sewing swimwear. I highly recommend a listen if you are planning to sew swimwear! She talks about needles, stitch types, elastic, fabric stretch - all the details of swimwear.
2. Threads Magazine #131, the June/July 2007 issue has an article "Inside Secrets of a Swimsuit" that provides info similar to the podcast, and of course the pictures are helpful.
I made the McCall's 5400 tankini and the McCall's 3566 boyshorts.
Milliskin Matte with 4-way stretch in Navy for the fashion fabric (it's a very nice, weighty material), and nylon lining (HSL-02) for the lining, both from Spandex House.
Notes on construction/alterations
McCalls 5400 tank, tied and untied
The tankini is fully lined and the pattern instructions are very clear, this turned out to be an easier project than I anticipated and could certainly be made in one evening if one is determined to do so. The front is made of two pieces with a horizontal seam just under the bust. You leave a slit in that seam at center front, then you put a tie through to cinch the center front together, creating a nice shape at the bust. There are separate pattern pieces for the upper front for A/B, C and D cup sizes.
I went to my local fabric shop to find bra cups, but they only had sew-in cups, which I didn't want. The wonderful saleswoman there tipped me off that if you go to the swimwear section of a large department store, they will often have random, orphan bra cups that they're willing to give to you - free! So I dutifully headed downtown to Seattle's favorite department store, and sure enough I was allowed to dig through a box of homeless swim bra cups. I found quite a few matching pairs and took 2 sets.
Now, if you sew this pattern as instructed, it won't accomodate removable bra cups, but it's easy to create a pocket for these. I cut a second lining piece for the upper front, but cut about an inch off at each side seam. Layer this with the regular lining piece for the upper front, and be sure to leave the narrower lining piece's sides free when you are sewing the side seams. You'll end up with a pocket where you will be able to slip the bra cups in.
The McCalls 3566 boyshorts were even easier to sew. Other reviews I've read of these boyshorts said that they run large, so I made a size 10 (I used a 12 in the tankini - and did quickie muslins of both to check the sizing). I took some height off the waistline and I took some length off the legs so they were more like a pair of RTW swim shorts that I like.
The pattern instructions advise you to line just the crotch, but instead I created a full lining.
Together, these pieces are somewhat reminiscent of a retro style suit. These simple styles were perfect for me to "dip my toes into" the world of sewing swimwear (pun intended). I have another pattern for a one-piece suit that I am hoping to tackle before a trip to Maui next month.
If you have been considering sewing swimwear, give it a try! At worst, you'll lose a half yard of fabric and a few hours of your time. More likely, you will probably end up with a half decent swimsuit!