Category Archives: Swimwear

A pair of Pilatuses

Heyo! A bit more holiday spam, by way of talking about the two swimsuits I made pre-trip, both using the Opian Pilatus pattern.

I made the one on the right here first as a wearable toile, as I suspected having seen several completed Pilatuses that I’d want to make some fitting and stylistic changes to the pattern. This fabric is a jazzy swim lycra I got as a big cheap remnant from the Manchester Abakhan last time I was up there.

The alterations I made are roughly diagrammed here:

So slimming down the front bodice: swooping the neckline lower, making the straps slimmer by about half, and making the tie area skinnier. I also made the back skimpier – following the slimmer straps from the front, taking the scooped neck lower and raising the scoop beneath too. Conversely, I gave the bottoms much more coverage. I raised the waistline by about two inches and cut the leg openings at the largest size to make them lower cut. I also graded between waist and hip size.

Then I felt all good cutting into my main fabric, a Liberty swim lycra which I bought from Liberty itself although they don’t seem to have it in stock any more: The Fabric Store and Guthrie & Ghani stock some prints. The top is self lined (pretty important as you’ll see the rear on the ties) and the bottoms are lined in some black swim lycra I had lying around. The Liberty fabric is lovely quality as you’d expect: quite firm stretch so it fits a little tighter than the first set I made but in quite a nice secure way!

The pattern was great to work with generally. A nice 11 page PDF that assembled easily, with brief but helpful and well-illustrated instructions. And both suits got a great workout on holiday!

These suits were so comfortable for swimming and lounging in and both fabrics seemed to hold up really well. In fact the only thing I’d change is I think I overdid the coverage on the bottoms and they’d look more balanced if they were cut more like the original design. I felt overdressed on a beach full of Italians in very small two-pieces! But having this suit might even encourage me to hit the local pool a bit more too…

Self-drafted swimsuit

Self-drafted swimsuit

This is how I feel having made a swimsuit – a self-drafted one that I am this happy to be photographed in, no less. However, I do seem to have lost all of the process photos I took while drafting and making it, so that will have to wait for another time. Sorry!

Self-drafted swimsuit

Having reviewed the swimwear pattern options out there and not feeling any of them, I decided to go the self-drafted route. This honestly isn’t as scary or reckless as it sounds; in fact I think it makes perfect sense for swimwear as you can feel more free to tailor it exactly to your specs.

Self-drafted swimsuit

I designed this costume to suit my body type, ie to draw attention upwards with the strap detailing and minimise the lower half by keeping it less fussy and higher coverage. It’s honestly the most flattering and comfortable suit I’ve ever owned. I based it off an old Topshop suit that I took apart to use as a basic block, but made tons of amends and four toiles to get to this point.

Self-drafted swimsuit

I will share more about the construction in the future, but basically it’s four pieces – front, back and separate cups. It’s fully lined and all the raw edges are encased in fold-over elastic which also forms the straps. The bust cups have deep open-legged darts to create shape, and the elastic does a nice job of keeping everything firmly in place. I know bust support is an issue for lots of sewists planning swimwear – my bust is kind of average sized but I think this style of darted cup works great for it, giving good shape and support without the need for foam cups or underwires.

Self-drafted swimsuit
Self-drafted swimsuit

The FOE strapping crosses over in the back and joins the underbust line in a continuous loop. I’m really glad this came together exactly as it did in my head and feels very supportive without cutting into the shoulders.

Self-drafted swimsuit

I cut the bottoms quite low with plenty of seat coverage. Again the FOE keeps everything snug and I’m sure it’ll stand up to serious swimming just fine. I know there are concerns about FOE degrading in chlorine and salt water over time so I’m interested to see how it fares. Unfortunately there are no beach trips on my horizon for a few months yet so the acid use test will have to wait a bit.

Self-drafted swimsuit

In terms of supplies: the main fabric is from Funki Fabrics, who kindly sent me the fabric for free to try. I’m really pleased with it – it was very easy to work with, the print is sharp and vibrant, and though I haven’t used it in water yet I hope it holds up well. They have a million choices of prints and plain swim lycras so it’s a great choice for UK sewists looking to get into swimwear. The lining is from Fabricland (eye-searing website trigger alert – find it in the Swim/Dance section, it’s called ‘Lining Skin Thin Jersey’) and FOE from Plush Addict.

I’m so happy with how this suit came out that I’m thinking of digitising the pattern and instructions, would anyone be interested? Either way, when I make the next one I’ll at least be sure to take some photos and share some of things I learned along the way.

Swimsuit sewing ‘spiration

Maybe it’s the approaching summer, maybe it’s my love of sewing all things stretch, maybe it’s that I’ve just booked my plane ticket to Barbados for next January… but I have swimsuit sewing very much on the mind at the moment.

swim wear

I want to hop on this bandwagon because I’m continually disappointed with the fit and flatter-factor of RTW swimsuits. I usually end up going for a one-piece or (unpleasantly-named) tankini because I don’t like my midsection being out on show but I always feel a bit frumpy in them, so it’d be great to actually make a two-piece that fits and flatters exactly right. Either way I want my dream suit to look cool and modern, probably in a print paired with graphic black panels.

swim fabrics

Luckily for me, Funki Fabrics saw some Twitter chat about my swim plans and jumped in to offer me the fabric for my suit from their amazing selection. I’ve got samples of the above (Prism, Chrome, Space, Feathers, and Lightning) on the way. I also picked up a clasp and some plain black swim lycra for toile-ing this weekend. Any tips for where to look for other notions: lining, cups, elastic?

swim patterns

I still haven’t decided whether to go one or two-piece, or indeed what pattern I’ll use. I’ve ruled out all of the Big 4 (so dated!) and also the most popular indie pattern around, the Closet Case Files Bombshell. Much as the Bombshell looks awesome on others, I have a ruched swimsuit already and don’t like it on me: I think it adds thickness along the torso. The newish Papercut Soma is a definite contender: I think the one-piece’s wrap top would be cool in a print with a plain black lower half. Another option is to look at lingerie patterns. I think the Ohhh Lulu Sophia pattern could be great for bottoms: I’d do the ruched side panels in black with a print centre. Maybe paired with the Ginger or Soma bustier as a top?!

So many options! Any more ideas or swim-tips to throw in for me?