Author Topic: Sewing a swimsuit?  (Read 11767 times)

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Offline ejvc

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Sewing a swimsuit?
« on: June 29, 2011, 09:04:06 PM »
Call them cozzies, bathers, swimming costumes, bathing suits, what you will, I call them swimsuits.  I took the plunge the other day and ordered two metres of swimsuit fabric from eLingeria.de, it being seemingly impossible to find domestically.  Now that I have an overlocker, you see, all things are possible.  Also, every year we spend a couple of weeks in the family cottage by the lake, with large attached jetty.  It's not Rio, but one has standards.  I even have a pattern that I like -- the 02/2011 issue of Ottobre has a nice retro-feel pattern.  And the kids version has a girl suit.  Charlotte would be pleased to have a similar suit to me, I think.

But, has anyone else made one?  Is anyone else making one?  Can I have tips, please?  This was not covered in the patterns I elarned to sew from, and I expect Ottobre (as they do) to assume a certain level of confidence and skill that I haven't necessarily obtained.

Thanks!
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Offline kbenco

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2011, 10:26:30 PM »
Elizabeth, you are already  good at sewing knits. Swimsuits are not so tricky as an ultra thin and stretchy t shirt rayon. Hopefully your fabric is nice and beefy.
I always use a walking foot, a stretch needle, and swimsuit or clear elastic (not coated), so that the swimsuit will dry quickly.
My bugbears with swimsuits are
1. The elastic around the legs - do not divide this into quarters as 99% of instructions direct - you need stretch at the back, not elastic digging in at the front and underneath. I sew the elastic at a 1:1 ratio at the front, and stretch only at the back.
2. I had terrible trouble with thin straps and bindings prior to purchasing a coverstitch. Be nice to yourself if your thin straps do not look RTW without a coverstitch. I tended towards thicker straps in order to save headaches.
3. Line. Linings in swimsuit patterns tend to be skimpy. I frequently line the entire front and lower back of a swimsuit, which disguises extra padding and prevents see-through when wet. I also frequently use the heavier swimsuit fabric as a lining rather than the very thin beige fabric that is typically sold as swimsuit lining.
Karen

« Last Edit: June 29, 2011, 10:30:23 PM by kbenco »
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Offline Ambimom

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2011, 10:44:43 PM »
Yes, I've made bathing suits.  It's been a while but this is what I recall.  These patterns are often drafted for some fictional "everywoman."  You need to alter your pattern before cutting to make sure it will fit you -- especially in the chest, leg, and bottom. 

Serger is definitely the way to go.  I used woolly nylon thread in the loopers for extra stretch. 

Make sure the straps are long enough and comfortable, especially if you swim laps.  When I made my suits, I relied on fabric loops and hook closures the patterns recommended, but if I were to do it today, I'd probably do some D rings and  snaps on the straps. 

I relied on the pattern's bra, but if I were to do it today, I'd either buy a bra that actually fit, cut it up and sew it into the suit, or buy a special cup liner that I think they now sell ready-made.  If the bra isn't right, you will be really uncomfortable and the suit will never look right either.

I also found cutting an extra crotch panel very helpful.  I serged around the panel and just sewed it onto the bottom of the suit.

Nowadays they have fold-over elastic which comes in a variety of colors.  It can be used for the legs and makes a nice finish.  You can encase that I suppose if you don't like the way it looks, but it is much more comfortable then regular elastic for swimwear imho.  I had to insert skinny elastic through a casing serged with woolly nylon.

Offline theresa in tucson

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2011, 03:52:46 AM »
I made several suits last fall and after I had taken a short five class course on knits.  I threw away the first two suits and didn't get a keeper until I took apart my Land's End swimsuit and copied that.  My problem was not having adequate coverage over the seat and not having it long enough for my extra long body.  Land's End used to advertise the "tugless tank" in their catalogs and their suits come in XL as well.  Sacrificng a suit that was getting threadbare, to say the least, was bearable since I knew it fit! 

KWIK SEW has a decent booklet, complete with patterns, on swimsuits and workout wear.  What I did was overlay my master pattern on the KWIK SEW and copy the important contours.  I'm flat chested and big in the hip so I can't give any advice on bras.  I did do linings as the knit instructor said they help the suit last longer.  And follow Karen's advice on where to put the stretch in the elastic.

Offline Karen Roth

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2011, 05:39:29 AM »
I used to make them a lot. Thanks for reminding me somewhere I have a favorite one piece pattern with shirred drawstring sides from college I think I'd wear today still... and fabric I bought a few years ago to go with!

I put the elastic in faster on the sm.  I use a triple zz, stretching the elastic to fit.  I "gathered" enough in back to cup the seat, but I don't do a 1:1 ratio in front - I'd shorten the elastic 1/4" - 3/8"... not a lot, but just enough to pull it close to the body without actually gathering.

As to lining - be sure to TEST stretch and make sure it stretches at least same amount as the swimwear fabric!  I made DD a beautifully sewn/finished suit one summer... had just completed another that fit perfectly... same pattern, no changes... she could barely get it on and it was not comfortable.  The lining did not have nearly as much stretch as the outside fabric - the culprit!
Karen

Offline Pipsy

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2011, 08:18:24 AM »
I have made quite a few bathing suits and out of different fabrics.  What you make will depend on how often you wear it and where.  I agree with what has been commented here so far.  I have not lined a bathing suit.  As I most frequently wear my swim suit to our community pool for exercises after which I sit in the hot tub, I can tell you the traditional sleek lycra fabrics do not last long d/t the chlorine in the pool and the hot tubs are dynamite on suits - and the reason I make my own.

I have never lined a suit.  The best one I ever made was made from old fashioned crimplene, which is impossible to find. I have a big tummy and like a tank top top so I can widen the wast area.  It lasted forever.  I simply made a tank top and made the bottoms from a pair of panties. This was before 2 piece and tankies were available.  Now I am wearing one from Land's End which is similar as it is a heavier fabric for the top.  I hate the bottoms which are like lined sports shorts.  They blouse up in the water.  I bought the suit in a hurry when I was traveling a couple of years ago.  I recently saw some fabric similar to the top in a shop and think I will go and buy some and make new bottoms. 

You will have lots of fabric if you ordered 2 meters.  Bathing suit fabric is usually very wide and don't take much material.  But you can use the scraps for binding jackets  :D  I do not have a serger so just used a very narrow zigzag stitch but in the crotch seam I used the super stretch stitch on my machine. Good luck. I found bathing suits were about the easiest thing I ever sewed!  Make sure you use chlorine resistant elastic and not rayon elastic.
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Offline su-sew

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2011, 03:21:46 PM »
I've only sewn one bathing suit.  It wasn't so difficult as expected.  It was back zip tank suit.   It was a Stretch and Sew pattern  (all American suits? now OOP?).  The pattern gave very good instructions for sewing it and measuring for your body length-VERY IMPORTANT!   My suit ended up about 1 cm too short in the body length, despite measuring a few times.  I basted it together, leaving extra thread for stretching, and jumped in the shower to see the fit when wet, before doing any permanent stitcing. 

 I did  a few practice runs on fabric scraps before sewing the swim elastic (cotton and rubber) onto the armholes and leg openings to get a feel for how to hold the fabric and elastic together while being stretched.   I don't have a serger.  I think I used a slight zig zag when stitching on the elastic.  The suit is at my cottage so this is a guess on how I did that part.   I completely lined the front with skin tone bathing suit lining.  I think the pattern only had a crotch lining.

Unfortunately it is disintegrating from wear in chlorinated pools  -the fabric is a nylon and lycra blend.  If you can get it, use the all polyester bathing suit fabric. I have a RTW polyester suit that hasn't disintegrated and it is several years old.



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Offline RuthieSews

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2011, 05:01:28 PM »
I have one piece of swimsuit fabric bought as a remant but I've never actaully tried to sew it up.
Not entirely sure where it is....

Offline scottiesews

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #8 on: July 03, 2011, 06:39:19 PM »
I've made a few from swimwear fabric bought from Fabricland not recently though.  I also used swimsuit elastic bought from English Couture, bottom of the page, it isn't supposed to rot from the chlorine.  I used the Kwik Sew book patterns & followed their instructions, using a 3 step zigzag for the elastic & a 3 thread overlock for the seams, I used ordinary Gutterman thread as that was all I had.  As kbenco said, only stretch the leg elastic at the back to cup under.  Also do check the pattern you use against a suit that you already have that fits well.  Mine all turned out long enough & wide enough but a bit low at the front neckline!
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Offline ejvc

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2011, 06:53:19 PM »
I made a toddler suit today for Charlotte, using clear elastic in the legs, and a pattern from Ottobre.  I totally messed up the leg elastic: wrong length (a little too long, although I tried the stretching as directed it didn't really work). Also the sewing it down was a NIGHTMARE.  More samples needed. However the straps, folded in three and stitch with 4mm twin needle, are pretty good, as was the binding (serge, flip to back, twin needle).  I had no problem with the crotch gusset either. I used the three-thread "super stretch" stitch on the serger.  Charlotte immediately wore it to the paddling pool and loved it, saggy butt and all (the suit, not her!).

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Offline Karen Roth

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #10 on: July 04, 2011, 02:04:10 AM »
Oh Elizabeth I feel your pain on the clear elastic.  I know many swear by it for swim/exercise wear and other uses but we have never bonded.  I don't like/use it for a shoulder stabilizer, swimsuit elastic, no machine, no foot, no stitch I have ever used on any garment has ever enabled me to stitch it in without it being a mess.  I just have to look at the common denominator - it's me.  Luckily there are many alternatives.  I use the beige swimwear elastic (specifically marked as such).  It comes in 1/4" and 3/8" widths where I've gotten it (and oddly I find one much more stretchy/loose than the other, I generally go with the 3/8").  It is easy to handle and stitch in, doesn't get all bunched up, waste time with the seam ripper, or bring on the barrage of colorful language... ::)
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Offline shams

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #11 on: July 04, 2011, 02:45:20 AM »
I have kinda paid attention and Kathryn (fzxdoc) likes a particular clear elastic from Hancocks, I think.  It has a more "powdery" finish, she says.  But she also says it seems to be discontinued sold on a roll.  I've never bought any, but have wished I had some when stabilizing the shoulders of a garment in an unstable knit.

Offline Jane S

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #12 on: July 04, 2011, 03:13:15 AM »
I purchased some a couple of weeks ago from my Hancock.  It was on a roll and sold by the yard.

Jane

Offline Pipsy

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #13 on: July 04, 2011, 07:57:22 AM »
I can't be sure, but I don't think clear elastic is the best choice for a bathing suit. I have known it to snap. The beige elastic is the elastic meant for bathing suits as it is chlorine resistant and it does stretch more than the clear making it easier to sew.  Unfortunately not all bathing suit fabric is chlorine resistant.  I do wonder, however, if some stretch fabric purchased for bathing suits (by me and others) may be the fabric meant for dancing costumes.  The best swim suit fabric that I purchased as swim suit fabric was heavier than the dancing costume fabric.  The store I purchased my suit fabric from is now closed down but I seem to recall that they had all the stretch fabric piled together and it wasn't labelled and the staff didn't know.  Best choice if one wants the stretchy stuff is to purchase from a store that sells athletic fabric and the staff knows the fabric quality. I agree with su-sews that the poly stretch fabric is best. The stuff I have found is a heavier texture and not quite as stretchy as the nylon. 
If I stitch fast enough does it count as an aerobic exercise?
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Offline ejvc

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #14 on: July 04, 2011, 08:26:57 AM »
Re clear elastic, the funny part was that I didn't have a problem stitching it down with the elastic on top and the swimsuit underneath.  But when I flipped it to be a swimsuit sandwich with elastic in the middle, it was TERRIBLE.  when I got to the crotch gusset where there's a cotton jersey it was fine again.  So I think it is the swimsuit fabric rather than the elastic, somehow.  I used a stretch needle, and didn't have any skipped stitches, just my feed was VERY uneven.  If my 611G were working (curses to self) I could have done some adjustable pressure, which I think would have improved the situation.  Kbenco recommended a walking foot, which I forgot about.
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Offline RobbieK

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #15 on: July 04, 2011, 12:36:12 PM »
I've made lots of swimsuits in my time and I've ALWAYS used the beige stuff specifically for swimsuits.  I have used clear elastic on diaper covers and it worked ok, but whenever I try to use it on anything else I lose my manners.

Offline Ambimom

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #16 on: July 04, 2011, 01:39:02 PM »
I recommend foldover elastic very highly for swimwear http://www.elasticbytheyard.com/browse-store/fold-over-elastic/  It comes in lots of different colors and widths.  Just sew it on with a zigzag. 

Offline pdiddly

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #17 on: July 05, 2011, 06:12:55 AM »
Shame it didn't turn out as you wanted but if she was happy to wear it then not a total failure.  Does anyone remember the knitted bikini that almost fell down if you tried to swim in it?  Can't be worse than those.

I am sure the next one will be perfect
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Offline boppingbeth

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #18 on: July 05, 2011, 11:32:19 AM »
I haven't done any fancy suits, with bra cups or anything, but I've done a lot of plainer style suits.  I have a redhead who does the whole body burn, and needed full body suits to swim in for many years.  Kwik sew patterns are great for this; they fit well, and look good, and their instructions work. Jalie has a couple of great swim suit patterns; just watch the stretch factor, because they really mean how much stretch they say, and if the fabric doesn't have it, the suit is like a girdle.   

I love the triple stitch zig zag for sewing down elastic, and I agree with others about stretch under the bum more than around the front.  I'm another 3/8" swimsuit elastic girl; everything else looks skimpy to me, and the better suits have 3/8" elastic around here.  I haven't mastered my coverstitch machine yet, so no straps with coverstitching, but I would say that you need to be sure to try the suit on and get it wet before setting the strap length.  Ask us how we know.  Thankfully exposure on a 7 year old is usually laughed off, but now, we need to check and recheck. 

An excellent, but very expensive, book about making swimsuits with bras is called Making Beautiful Swimsuits, which you can find here. http://www.beautifulbras.com.au/book.htm#swimbook  I'm pretty sure you can also order it at Bramakers Supply, so you aren't paying for international postage.  This book presumes you have a bra pattern that fits, and you custom draft a swimsuit to fit you around that.  Both of the books are expensive but well worth the price if you are going to get seriously into this area of sewing. 

Offline pdiddly

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #19 on: July 05, 2011, 09:28:18 PM »
Elizabeth

I am sure you have seen this but just in case you haven't Burda have just posted something on sewing bikini or swim wear http://www.burdastyle.com/projects/leopard-print-bikini

P
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Offline boppingbeth

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #20 on: July 05, 2011, 09:49:41 PM »
Very cool!  I just spent a lot of time exploring and enjoying that link.  thanks.

Offline ejvc

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #21 on: July 06, 2011, 06:33:44 AM »
Thanks for the link, Pauline!  I've not seen the BurdaStyle swimsuit patterns before.  And I have a LOT of swimsuit fabric.  They just don't take very much...
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Offline tcsewhat

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #22 on: June 11, 2012, 12:10:40 AM »
Let's bring this thread up again.  Where can I find patterns that are more like RTW?  I like tankinis and I am spoiled by wearing Lands End suits.  I have  a lot of Lycra fabric.  But most of the tankini patterns have  no support on top.  They are usually halter tops and while they have room for bra cups, there is no band around the top to hold the cups in place.  In most RTW suits, the elastic under the bust goes around to the back- like a bra- to hold the cups in place and provide support. 

I have seen many RTW suits with stitched cups where you can "see" the underwires- it is a topstitched detail.  Have you seen a pattern like this?  That would give support. 

I have looked at Kwik Sew, Stretch and Sew and Jalie.  There are many one piece suits with support- but no tankinis or two piece.  Am I going to have to borrow pieces from other patterns to get what I want?  Thanks for any info you can supply.

Offline oscarthegrouch108

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #23 on: June 11, 2012, 12:19:34 AM »
Did you check the Big 3 (Simplicity, McCall's, Vogue)? I remember one of those had a newer swimsuit pattern, but forget which book I saw it in.

You can always make a one piece into a tankini. When cutting the top, fold up the pattern where the crotch and leg openings start. When you cut the bottom, fold the opposite way. Just remember to leave yourself some overlap and enough for a hem/elastic.
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Offline theresa in tucson

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #24 on: June 11, 2012, 12:30:12 AM »
Have you considered taking apart a worn out Land's End suit?  That is what I did to get a pattern to fit me.  I'm long bodied and hippy and the two patterns I first attempted did not have enough coverage over the fanny.  Once the Land's End tank was disassembled and copied I had no more problems.  The three suits I made were KWIK SEW but they were a tank and a surplice wrap.

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #25 on: June 11, 2012, 01:22:22 AM »
McCalls has 4848 which is a woman's pattern and unfortunately it is out of print, but maybe you can get order it from the website. I don't know if it is what you were looking for.

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Offline subversivesewer

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #26 on: June 11, 2012, 02:28:26 AM »
McCall's just came out with a Juicy Couture knockoff.  Otherwise I've used Kwik Sew patterns for the ones I've made for myself and DD.  There is not much variety out there, but luckily you can modify a basic pattern to suit your taste.  I did that once b/c I wanted a retro style with ruching in front.  Worked out pretty well.  I can only find one kids' swimsuit pattern so I modify it.  I will be making DD one in the coming weeks and snoop shopped the Nordstrom and Macy's sites to get ideas.  I'm going to add a ruffle detail to the front in a contrasting color.

Overall, I was astounded by how incredibly easy it was to make a swimsuit!  And cheap as well!
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Offline miranda

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #27 on: June 11, 2012, 04:32:27 AM »
Hi Elizabeth

I've made a few swimsuits.  Here in Aus our swimsuits tend to not have the separate crotch piece in the main fabric, so I adapt US patterns by adding it onto the back suit pattern.  I also like to fully line suits, but I do find it makes them a bit snug.  ...But I've seen few ladies at the pool who are showing more at the rear than they intend in a suit that is a few months old (chlorine eats swimsuits) so I like to make sure I'm, err, covered.

Def use scraps to make a few samples of elastic etc.   I've used clear elastic with good results, but I think I've also used other sorts.  I've never used my walking foot for a suit.  It is a good idea, though.  What I have used, mainly for knickers, is an elasticator foot for my overlocker/serger.  It made applying elastic a snap.  You need to make a few samples, though, to see how much to stretch.  I've got a similar foot for my sewing machine, but haven't yet tried it.  Will do next time I'm sewing this sort of thing.  (Will be on home dec for next several months, so no elastic there!)

Miranda

Offline tcsewhat

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #28 on: June 12, 2012, 12:01:57 AM »
I have not made a swim suit in about 5 years- just got too busy and it was easier to order them online.  Now I have lost a bunch of weight and everything is too big.  And it is a bite to try and alter swim suits!  I did purchase 2 RTW suits while I was in Florida this spring- you can find better suits down there.  One had adjustable straps, a detail that I will try on mine. The strap hardware looked nice - its metallic.   I am finding in RTW that the straps are all too long, so the top doesn't fit.  I tried one on at Kohl's today that didn't fit but was the right idea.  There was a band under the bust and you could tie it in the back to tighten the fit.  It helped to keep the top where it was supposed to be.

Anyway, I dug out my patterns.  I did find a lot of them in my stash.  The big 3 don't have much right now- just bikinis and 1 plus size suit.  But I found all my Kwik Sew and Stretch and Sew patterns.  Even some Burdas that are OOP.  I do know how to shorten a 1 piece top into a tankini.  I have done that before to get a racer back style.  I even found 2 with stitched cups. I will get to work and report back. 

BTW, the bra lady from Australia, Lee Ann Burgess, has a book on making swimsuits too.  It is available from Bramakers Supply in Canada.   They are supposed to be supportive and a good fit.  But I am going to go with what I have. 

Offline miranda

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #29 on: June 12, 2012, 01:04:28 PM »
Adjustable straps is a good idea.  Will look for the book mentioned.

Offline Brenda

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #30 on: June 14, 2012, 01:36:43 AM »
Looking for a pattern source? How about www.jalie.com?
I have their newest pattern, haven't tried it, but I've made some of their patterns and have been very happy with them. They are a mother-daughter due out of Quebec, Canada.

Offline miranda

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #31 on: June 14, 2012, 01:44:33 AM »
I love Jalie.  I've also got one of their swimsuit patterns, but haven't yet tried it.

Offline tcsewhat

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #32 on: June 15, 2012, 12:56:03 AM »
I have 2 Jalie swimsuit patterns.  I just made the "skirtini" bottom in black.  It needs a bit more room over the tummy- but that's me, not the pattern.  the waist fit fine and the length was good. 

I also found both my Stretch and Sew and Kwik Sew books on making swim suits.  The Kwik Sew one is nice because it tells you how to alter the pattern for a different look.  They show you how to cut it up to color block and how to add design details.  Not much on adding inner support- but over all a good book. 

Offline miranda

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #33 on: June 15, 2012, 03:27:53 AM »
I have the Kwik Sew book and have made several things from it.  It is brilliant.

Offline swimandsew

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Re: Sewing a swimsuit?
« Reply #34 on: July 04, 2012, 12:34:30 AM »
A few weeks ago I finished sewing Jalie swimsuit pattern 3134 in size T.  I'm 5'4", 130 lbs, long waisted, and have relatively larger hips than bust.  Size T matched my hip measurement, as Jalie suggested, and I lengthened the pattern.   I also swim laps four times a week so wanted a racer-back style.  I found the pattern ran much smaller than sized.  Is this common with Jalie? 

Also, the pattern required stretching the elastic around the edges far more than I considered attractive or comfortable.  I also used power net in the front and a Dritz bra form to avoid "nipple peek through"   When I wear the suit, I receive lots of compliments but I find the suit extremely uncomfortable.  The suit is still too short and pulls everywhere.  I hated the clear elastic I used--it didn't seem to want to stretch as much as the pattern called for.  Also, there were too many pieces in the pattern to measure what I needed to know about sizing before cutting. 

I will use the Jalie pattern again after I finish the similar Kwik Sew swimsuit pattern I'm using now.  This one has far fewer pieces.  Now that I know how the Jalie suit goes together, I probably will make the suit 4 sizes larger, change the overly high cut leg line, use regular swimsuit elastic, and line the suit completely with white fabric with the same fiber content as the swimsuit fabric. 

My suggestion is for anyone considering making a similar swimsuit to start with a much simpler pattern with far fewer pieces then move to the Jalie pattern.  Fortunately I have enough of the yellow and white pattern and matching solid yellow to make another, since the suit is so pretty.
« Last Edit: July 04, 2012, 01:23:48 AM by swimandsew »

 

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