The Swimsuit Project

Over the past two weeks I tried my hands at sewing my own swimsuit. I’ve had fabric and elastic sitting in my stash for a couple of years, and finally felt like diving in.

The pattern I chose was Oasis from Ellie and Mac. Their patterns come in PDF form, so my first challenge was to print the pattern. That isn’t actually difficult. The patterns come with multiple layers that you can turn on and off to remove extra lines that you don’t need, which is useful as it comes printed with all sizes from XS to 5XL.

I didn’t take any photos of my printing process because it wasn’t pretty, mostly due to my printer lacking sufficient ink (something I didn’t learn until I had attempted to print a dozen pages). You can see that I re-used the backside the paper for some pages. Once you have printed the pattern, you follow the layout and tape them together along printed guidelines. For my suit, I printed both size L and size XL as my measurements cross them both, and I adjusted the seams on the paper before cutting out the pieces. On the swim bottoms, I also shortened them about 2″ because I am only 5’4″ and short-waisted. The bottoms are meant to be high-waisted, but I was not interested in making them so high they touched the bikini top.

I was using a rotary cutter and cutting mat to cut out clothing since before I was a quilter. I use large washers (2-2 1/2″ or so wide) as weights (plus maybe scissors, pin cushions, books, whatever else is handy if I need more), and then cut. If you’re new to cutting stretchy fabrics like swimwear knits, be aware that they shift and slip and also curl.

The pattern has various options for one and two piece suits. I chose to make a two-piece with a halter top and high-waisted bottoms. Most pieces are lined with swimwear lining. The directions overall were plenty clear. I used a combination of pins and Wonder Clips to hold the pieces together for sewing and serging. I even tried gluestick at times. Pins can get into tight spots, but the clips are just faster in my opinion. The gluestick was hit and missAnd they hurt less if you drop them on the floor and step on them.

To construct the suit, I used my Singer 5-thread serger (link to the machine most similar to mine here). You can sew a swimsuit or knit clothing entirely by sewing machine, assuming your machine has a zig zag stitch. Despite my having owned my serger for about 15 years, we still aren’t on the best of terms. It sat in the box for many years when my kids were toddlers and I had no time and space to sew, let alone time to learn a new machine. Part of my motivation for the swimsuit project was to improve my skills. My serger can also be converted to a coverstitch, which I would also need for this project.

I got plenty of practice with both the serging and the coverstitching. Especially as I ripped and re-sewed the binding and straps several times each. Did I mention that knit fabrics curl? Also, they can’t really be pressed with an iron–it either melts, or else the pressed lines don’t stay. I have since heard there’s a trick using wash away hem tape instead of pins or clips, which I’m definitely going to try next time.

I am more than a tad nervous posting a photo of my mature mom-bod in a bikini. I’m working on body positivity here. Some days I feel more confident in myself and accepting me as I am, and in others I think I need to hit the gym a lot more than I do. Please be kind. Also, I have plenty of matching fabric left and somewhere have a swim rash guard pattern, so perhaps I will share that adventure as well.

My overall impression of the pattern is good. I didn’t grab a shot of the back of the top, which I regret. The ties crisscross and help adjust the fit and are really cute. I definitely like the top more than the back.

My overall impression of my construction is, well, that my skills are improving. I’m not completely wowed by the fit, especially of the bottoms. Despite adjusting the waistline and length, I still feel like they were too high and too tight and give me a bit of muffin top. I wonder if my fabric (especially the lining) was less stretchy or if my seam allowance was just off (its really hard to figure out where to measure seam allowance on a serger).

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