I recently signed up for Sewing Swimsuits: The Supportive One-Piece on Craftsy. For those of you that are unfamiliar, craftsy.com offers interactive online courses for many subjects, including sewing, knitting, art, photography, and cooking. I have taken a few of these in the past and always found them to be worth the time and expense.
Sewing Swimsuits is taught by Beverly Johnson, a Canadian lingerie and swimwear designer. I love her. Her teaching style strikes a nice balance between just-the-facts and friendly chat. She also offers classes on sewing shapewear, bras, and panties.
I have been wearing two piece swimwear for at least 20 years. One-pieces are always too short or too high-cut or too something. Making my own one-piece has been on my sewing bucket-list for years.
Beverly’s class teaches how to make a simple maillot that fits. The idea is that once you know how to do that, you will be able to apply your swimwear skills to other styles. Craftsy rates it appropriate for the intermediate student: “For those who are already comfortable with the sewing machine and have made at least a few projects successfully.” I would say that’s about right.
Gathering the supplies took way longer than actually making the suit. I ordered a variety of foam bra cups to find out which size and shape worked best. I needed swimwear elastic, which is designed to withstand chlorinated water. Of course, I needed lycra fabric that I liked, but also nylon swim lining. The class does not include a pattern, so I had to get that also.
I started with Butterick B4526 which contains a pattern for a simple, scoop-neck one-piece. But after re-watching the class, I put it back in the envelope. Why? In the first lesson, Beverly advises against patterns with a back piece that is cut on a fold-line. The reason is that you need to have a curved seam in the center back to accommodate the shape of the wearer’s lower back. I already have to make adjustments there when I sew pants, so the two-piece back was a must-have. Aha. That’s one fit problem identified.
I hunted online, and other than the instructor’s own patterns, there are none currently in print that have a two piece back and a plain scoop neck. I didn’t want to use the instructor’s patterns just because there was no download option and I was too impatient to wait on the mail.
Sometimes being impatient leads to a lot more work. I took my Butterick pattern and extra pattern paper and started marking it up. I made modifications to the back pattern piece to make it look more or less like the shape of the one in the video. Finally, I added seam allowance to the side that used to be placed on the foldline.
I had some plain orange lycra that faded like crazy when I washed it. Since I no longer wanted to use it, it made good “muslin” for testing the pattern. I cut out a set of pieces then basted it together and tried it on (with a bra, to simulate having foam cups).
Okay…. the bust darts were too low and the leg openings were way too low. Seriously unflattering! This kind of thing happens when I try on ready-to-wear suits, so it’s not surprising. No problems with the center back though, so the two-piece modification worked. Standing in front of a mirror, I took a fabric marker and sketched in the changes I wanted to make. I marked the true bust point so I could place the dart correctly. I also drew lines (a little wobbly, but that’s okay) around my leg opening showing where I wanted the new leg opening to be.
With a little math, the marked-up muslin, and some rulers and markers, I made more changes to the pattern. At this point, it doesn’t look very much like the original at all.
I was fairly confident in my pattern, so I cut muslin 2 from my good lining fabric. I basted it and tried it on for fit.
In Part 2, read about putting it all together. Until then, happy sewing!