Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sewing swimwear - it's not as hard as you think!

I am waaaay behind in getting my projects onto this blog!  In late June, we flew to the East Coast for a weeklong vacation in Nantucket, meeting quite a few members of Tim's family there.  It was my first time there and I absolutely loved it!  Not only because it was our first taste of Summer 2011, but the island is just so picturesque and lovely.

  

  

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.

Patterns
  

I made the McCall's 5400 tankini and the McCall's 3566 boyshorts.

Fabrics
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.


Conclusion
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!

19 comments:

Uta said...

Fabulous swimsuit! The patterns go so well together, I love the retro feel, and the color is very nice on you.

katherine h said...

I love that retro look swimsuit. Good on you for trying something new...the results were so worth it!

Valerie said...

Great swimsuit and a nice casual style. Well done.

senaSews said...

Lovely swimsuit. I love the retro vibe of it. And it looks so neat and well done!

Lori said...

You look fabulous in your new swimsuit, so retro. Your daughter is such a cutie and growing up so quickly. Thanks for the link to the podcast, I appreciate it and Anne is an amazing teacher.

molly said...

Wow looks great!

Rachel said...

I love that swimsuit. It is so cute!!

Lindsay T said...

Don't you just love Nantucket?! Martha's Vineyard is also worth a visit, though it's very different from Nantucket. Love our East Coast islands.

Cennetta said...

Very nice swimsuit. I must try making one.

Pavlina said...

what did you use for your muslin/fitting toile?

cidell said...

I've been dying to make a suit. I actually said out loud (when I read the post) 'That's so stinking cute!'. You look marvelous. How cute is L on the back of the bike?

Gail said...

what can I say? yummy mummy swimsuit! You look very Jackie Kennedy with the headband.

Vicki said...

Great job. They look very smart.

Annec said...

I really like the styles you chose....your tips really help too...this might be the year I finally wear a comfortable AND stylish swimsuit! Thanks for the inspiration.

Carolyn said...

Wow! You make it look so easy! It looks amazing on you!

sewing spots said...

I sewed McCall 3566 for my dd this summer, too. Yours turned out well!

The Slapdash Sewist said...

So very cute! It definitely has retro style, especially with the striped headband. Jealous of your beach vacation!

Anne-Marie said...

Oh what a great post and wonderful project. I think I have to give swiming suits a try. lovely !!!

Kamela said...

You did a wonderful job! I just picked up the same pattern and gaining the mojo to make it! Thanks again and awesome blog!