Sunday, March 13, 2011

The one where I make a swimsuit and realize I need to go on a diet

GULP. This is like posing in your underwear.

I made a tankini this weekend. I don't know why, because it's 45 degrees and cloudy outside today, but I have been craving warmth and sunshine so badly I decided to try my hand at swimwear.

And I'll be damned, I made a swimsuit. I'm kind of stunned, because swimwear and bras are the two things I've never considered making for myself. Ever. Well, I take that back. I considered swimwear last year but chickened out.

I started out with Kwik-Sew 3779. I like strapless swimsuits, despite my clear lack of natural uplift. I don't like tan lines. Instead of a one-piece concoction, which I cannot wear due to some weird misengineering of my body, I wanted a tankini. So I stole the bottoms pattern from Kwik-Sew 3608. I made a Medium in both pieces, which is clearly too small on the bottom half and possibly too small on top. Check out how it cuts into my sides? Yeah, that's cause it's too tight.

I wrote up a pattern review here, but I wanted to add some of the more gory details.

For one, I threaded my serger with wooly nylon. It's actually called bulky nylon if you go looking for it in stores, and I've only found it locally at Joann's. That was some feat because my serger is a jet-air threader and those wooly threads don't love being forced through the machine at jet speed.

I also threaded my sewing machine with wooly nylon in the bobbin thread and 100% polyester thread in the needle. I wound the bobbin on the slowest speed so it wouldn't stretch too tight.

I made the top with this method, and so far it looks like it was a good idea. When I made the bottoms, I switched to wooly nylon in the needle of the sewing machine and had nothing but problems, so I guess I don't recommend that. But my Bernina, she can be feisty. And right now she's in the midst of breaking down so it may have been a combination of all of the above that caused my problems.

When I had the wooly nylon in the bobbin and the needle, the needle thread kept fluffing up on me. So much so that I actually had to take my small scissors and trim the fluff afterwards.

I used clear elastic for the leg openings and the waistband on the bottoms, and then for the top it calls for 3/4" elastic. So that's what I used, just regular old elastic. No complaints here about any of that.

I lined the top with a stretchy swimsuit lining I think I ordered last year from Honestly, it's crap. It's kind of a very stretchy mesh and you can just tell when it gets wet it's going to stretch out and droop. So I lined the bottoms (much more critical lining technique unless you want baggy pants) with a very stretchy smooth nude swimwear lining I bought recently at Joann's. If you want more control over your tummy, you can use girdle fabric as lining, too. I have some Powernet I ordered from but didn't feel like this busy pattern needed it.

Let's see, what else? Oh, yeah, the boobs. This design is strapless with a shelf liner. I doubled the liner and on the layer most close to the body, I left the sideseams open so I can insert those little boob cup insert thingies you get in RTW swimsuits. I have a million of them floating around in my drawers. To keep the cups from migrating together, I stitched the center of the two linings together. I have yet to try this out, I'm hoping it's a successful experiment.

Honestly, sewing swimwear wasn't hard, per se. I just find working with pure spandex like this to be kinda tricky. It wants to move around a little bit too much for my taste. I considered using Wonder Tape to keep it all together at critical points (like the center fronts with two gathered edges and a bias flounce) but ended up just going slow with a few pins and a lot of patience. That alone is a miracle, since me and patience are like oil and vinegar.

This pattern didn't let me down. They tell you exactly how long to cut your elastics, which is a godsend. They tell you exactly how to assemble it, where to sew the elastic, etc. You can't go wrong with a Kwik-Sew swimsuit pattern.

So, onward and upward my friends! I have another tankini laid out and breathing*, ready to be cut tonight. And in true Heather fashion, I have plans for another dozen swimsuits. So I'll probably make two more? Sounds good.

* Forgot to mention, you always want to lay stretch fabrics out flat for a day (or as long as you can stand to) before cutting them out. Especially with spandex, you want it in its original shape before you cut into it, so don't let it sit in a wad and then try to cut it out right away.

** Post Post edit: I'm thinking of documenting my construction of the next swimsuit and posting it in stages? Not a sew-along, really, but as I was thinking about starting this project I really couldn't find any blog posts about swimwear that were detailed. What do you think, would it be helpful?

**Ok, I've started the series on making a swimsuit. If you're interested, click Here for the post on getting ready and links to the following posts as they appear.


  1. I'm so glad you posted about this pattern!! I ordered it from, and if it ever gets here, I'm looking forward to my first attempt at swimwear. I would LOVE to see your in progress.

  2. Yes! Please post details. I am trying to make a swimsuit this year. I am small on top and have big legs, so it's a mess for me to shop for a suit. So I thought maybe I could make one to fit me right. I feel very intimidated by the idea and would love to springboard off of another brave soul's process of making one. For me it would be very helpful, thank you!

  3. Not the right style for your body type. You would look better with a bikini. Definitely needs to have a halter top. You aren't overweight, its an illusion from the wrong design.

  4. Oh doll! You are amazing in so many ways. How are we not neighbors? I would love to see how in the heck to do this. I know I'm not there in the skill set yet but will do just about anything not to try suits on in the store. If I saw you do it I think maybe I could do it too. Post video...I love video!

  5. Yes, I'd love to follow along with your blog postings on making swimwear. I like the one you have already made.

  6. You brave, brave woman. And diet? NO WAY! Love the suit. Thanks so much for the posts!

  7. Very cool! I love the fabric you picked for this suit! I think you look great in it btw! I would LOVE to follow along and see how you make the next one! Very inspirational!!

  8. how would you alter the bodice part if you had boobs the size of an elephant (which is the case)?

  9. Your tankini is brilliant and inside as well! I've tried to sew a few times, but it haven't had the real. But now I take a fancy sewing again another one. I hope in this weekend on the beach I'll wear it!