Alright, look how much fun they're having in those swimsuits. Its probably something to do with not spending a year's paycheck on one back in the day. Or because the beach is awesome, and reading is fun, and god look at that sky. Go outside.
ANYWAY. Swimwear isn't quite like it used to be. Which is great because there's some cool bathing suits out there, but also a bummer because looking for a high waisted bikini lead me down an upsetting path. My options were:
- Spend $30+ on just one piece of the boring suit at a retail store (not insane, but again, I'm broke and not spending money on boring)
- Spend $90+ on the beautiful, amazing, brain meltingly fabulous ones on Etsy. (my Favorites is cluttered with fantastic handmade bathing suits)
- DIY the shit outta this thing.
Clearly, I'm going with 3. My first idea was to trace some underwear to make a pattern and add a few inches. I googled around and found some good ideas for altering a one piece (which I'd like to try next), altering a very popular BurdaStyle underwear pattern (also on the list), and like my own idea, drafting a pattern from something you already own.
Here's how it went down:
I bought about a yard of fabric and half a yard of lining fabric, both in the swim and dancewear section. My fabric store only had solids, but there's great places to buy patterned fabric online, I got some nylon lyrcra type fabric. I also got a few yards of braided elastic, and a roll of matching thread. I already had a stretch needle, but if you're thinking of trying to sew or alter some swimwear, save yourself the stress and disappointment and splurge the few bucks on the right equipment. Especially with stretchy fabrics, the right needle matters. My receipt came out to $19.35 for everything.
Here are the shapes of the pieces. The wine glass like piece is the front, the little one is the crotch piece for the liner, and lastly the tush shaped tush piece.
The way mine worked out is that the front is about an inch narrower than the back, and when you look at the finished piece its the same way, but on your body the seams will be along your sides. If you're tracing underwear like I did, don't forget seam allowance.
1. Cut out pattern pieces!
I cut two pieces of both the front and the back, and only one of the crotch lining.
2. Create the lining! Sew crotch lining to front lining piece. You can see that they're shaped similarly on the bottom. I didn't take a photo of this step, but when you have the pieces in your hands, its pretty self explanatory. Pin the smaller side down to the front lining facing UPWARD, the opposite way its actually going to lay. Then sew that seam down using a stretchy stitch (I have a mock serger stitch on my sewing machine, but otherwise you can use a plain zig zag or a lightning bolt shaped stitch. avoid a plain straight stitch), and flip the piece so that the seam is hidden and the shapes are now matching. Pin the back piece to the front, sandwiching the crotch liner in between the two, and then pin and sew that bottom seam. Sew up the sides of the liner, but don't go into autopilot and sew up the leg holes! (you've done it, come on.) Huzzah, you're done with the lining. AND its already inside out and no flipping.
3. Create the shell! This one is much easier and faster, only 3 seams. pin the front piece and back piece together, right sides facing together. Sew up the sides and the bottom with your mock serger, zig zag, or lightning bolt stitch. Flip it right side out. Prouda you! Almost there hombre.
4. Sew the elastic to the leg holes! Slide the lining into the shell and pin in a few places at the top. This isn't for sewing yet, just to hold it into place while you make the legs. While stretching a bit, sew the elastic down to both the lining and shell from the inside using the lightning bolt shaped stitch. From the top, it should be elastic > lining > shell. When you've made it around one leg hole, cut the end of the elastic where it meets the start so there's little to no overlap. Fold the elastic over once so that its hidden and with the shell on top this round, over stitch it with a plan old zig zag. Repeat on the other leg! We're in the home stretch (SEE WHAT I DID THERE)
5. Sew the elastic to the waistband! I did the waistband the same way as the legs, except I tried it on first to make sure I liked the length of it first. On mine, I had added too much and wanted it to be around belly button height, so I trimmed off an inch all around first.
AND YOU'RE DONE! Ready to swim, unless you can't in which you really should sign up for a lesson or two but you'll still look great all summer!
OH YEAH THATS A SELFIE GET USED TO IT.
Looking back, I'd try some things differently. I purposely over purchased fabric for some room for error and experiments which I'm glad I did because its been a super fun project so far. I might cut out the waist band and reattach it with the elastic threaded into a fold over band instead, or make a whole new one once I get more elastic. I bought a twin needle to try out soon, I'd like to try to get some patterned fabric online and do some panels instead of a basic shape and color eventually, I definitely want to try the Burda pattern, and my eyes are peeled for some swimsuits in good condition to alter. If you've sewn with elastic before but are not quite ready to start from scratch, Google around for examples of how to do this. Basically, just cut the top of a once piece off at the height you want, add a waist band, and TA-DA! you have a high waisted bottom.
I should also throw it out there that this is a very homegrown self taught beginner version of pattern drafting and swimwear making. If you're more advanced, challenge yourself to alter a real pattern and give us all some tips and whatnot.
Aaaaaand if you wanna buy a great retro swimsuit from Etsy, let me live vicariously through you, ok?