Hi everybody! It has been a long time since I wrote my last post, more than a month, but fear not: I’m back! Today we finally hit the beach – literally, as there was low tide and no sign of ocean! – to take some photos of my latest make. Let me said it out loud: I’ve made a bikini! A bikini!!! But let me show you the no-water beach first . I really find this amazing and strange at the same time, in Italy we don’t have this sort of tide changes and the sea is always there for you to enjoy… very different isn’t it?
Anyway, as it often happens with me, it all begun with the fabric. I regularly check the new arrivals section on the Tessuti website: they always list beautiful fabrics and several months ago I set my eyes on an awesome cherry print swimwear Lycra in pink. I simply had to have it, even if I’ve never sewn with this kind of material before and I had no swimsuits in my plans either. It took me a few days to finally decide I really needed that fabric in my life, so I bought some along with a matching plain pink one. This fabric is now out of stock on the website, but there is some left in aqua and let me be honest, I’m doing my best not to buy it. It must be because of the cherries!
Once I got the fabric, I needed a pattern. At the time everybody was going mad for the Papercut Soma Swimsuit and the few versions I’ve seen around the blogosphere let me decide to buy it. It really is a very cute pattern, my favorite variation is the one with the bustier style top and front triangle detail. I tried to make it, in a cheap black Lycra as I didn’t feel confident to cut into that awesome cherry print yet, but the size I chose was completely wrong, too big, and so I left my yummy cherries rot in a corner until today.
It took me months to finally decide to give swimwear another go. Probably and partly because of the lack of nice patterns for this sort of garments: I find the ones by the Big4 pretty dated-looking and there were very few other alternative options around (now that the new Named Ticket Collection is out I can say I’m in love with their bikini and can’t wait to make one!). Anyhow, I then stumbled over an Australian swimwear pattern company that I’ve never heard of, Swim Style, and really liked their bikinis. I bought two straight away, the Sun Lover and the Bandeau Bikini and ended up making the first one as it is a bit easier.
The Sun Lover bikini includes two styles of briefs, high and low waist, which I chose, and has bra cups inserted between two layers of lining. I really appreciate this as I’d never wear a bikini without the protection of foam cups. The straps are crossed over the back and threaded thought the casing at the center back. More about it later on. The pants back continues toward the front, creating a flattering panel which gives you the opportunity to play with color blocking or different prints.
I cut a size 10 for both top and bottom and I’m pretty happy with the fit. I followed the instructions step by step and didn’t have any problems – wording and diagrams are clear enough and I loved the elastic measurements charts telling you the exact length of elastic needed for each size. I found this very helpful as I often wonder how much should I stretch the elastic as I sew, usually resulting in a too tight or too loose application. I think this is a great tip, this way you are pretty much sure your bikini will hug you nicely without cutting into your skin or dropping off you. It’s the first time I find this sort of information in a pattern and I’m extremely happy about it. On the other hand, I haven’t sewn lots of knit garments yet, so maybe there are other companies out there suggesting elastic measurements.
Once my top was finished, I tried it on and noticed that the back sections weren’t staying put, but they were collapsing under the pressure and the pulling of the straps fed through the casing instead. I think it’s the same sort of problem I’ve seen written somewhere about the Soma Swimsuit with the back cross over elastic, the back bands collapsing in an unwanted way. It wasn’t a very appealing look for a bikini so I tried to fix the problem inserting some boning at side seam points and next to the back casing. This helped, but didn’t solve completely the issue so I had to find another way to keep the top closed and flat at the same time. I decided to un-stitch the casing and sew the two ends together, eliminating the opening – there is enough room for me to put the top on and off without rip it open and I’m now happy with how the back looks. If I’d sew it again, I’d probably cut the top out of a unique piece or add side seams, eliminating all together the center back opening/seam. I’d also insert the boning before sewing the binding for a more neat finish, to hide the ends of the casing.
The bikini is constructed so that all the seams are encased and the resulting look is very professional. The only step I’ve done differently was sewing the straps following the Papercut tutorial here. To form the straps, the Sun Lover has you to fold and tuck under the binding and top-stitch it as you go, which I find rather annoying as it is hard to keep everything in place and aligned using such a slippery fabric. The Papercut method instead, is way faster and easier: just sew the straps right sides together to reach the edge of the top binding, turn them right side out and top stitch. Easy breezy.
I’m very happy with this top, even if it’s quite different from the store bought ones I have, offering a bit more coverage than what I usually reach for. I find it very comfortable though and surely I won’t be worried of flashing too much skin on the beach. Similarly, the briefs are quite low cut too, covering a good amount of bum. I don’t find this style particularly flattering on me, but I do love the front panel so I think I’m gonna wear this pants a lot anyway. For a more tan-friendly sort of bottom, I’ve sewn up another pair of briefs too, the low rise ones from the Soma pattern. There is only one problem, can you spot it? Of course you can, the print on this pair is bloody upside down! What was I thinking of when I cut them?? Argh! Too bad, I’m gonna wear them no matter what and one day I’ll make another pair with the print going the right way, but at the moment I’m too annoyed to even think about it. How stupid!
The back of this pair of briefs is plain pink, I really like playing around with color blocking!
About the rest of the supplies, the white swimwear lining I used comes from Booby Traps, the molded foam bra cups – which was a real pain finding in the right shape – are by Sullivan, and 1cm wide elastic and thread are from a local shop. That’s all.
Sewing with Lycra is definitely more challenging than sewing with a jersey or other knit, but it’s nonetheless doable. I’ve completely sewn this bikini on my sewing machine, without using the serger or a walking foot – as it was badly pulling the threads of the lining – and the whole process hasn’t been that stressful either. I’ve used a 75 stretch needle and the zig zag stitch for all my seams, a narrow one for the seams and the widest for the top-stitching. I find sewing small projects is way more time consuming than stitching together a dress or a skirt, but it’s very rewarding as well. There are a lot of little details to take care of and it’s harder to get seams matching on such small pieces, but if you get things right, the result is a unique piece of art. I did my best here and surely there is room for improvement, but at least I’m familiarizing with this sort of material and trying to learn the best way to handle it. I’m curious to try other swimwear patterns above all now that I’ve stocked up on some very cute Lycra prints in Melbourne! Here in Australia is already autumn, but temperature are still warm so you’ll probably see a Beverly Twisted Bikini very soon…