We are definitely moving into winter here in London. The clocks have changed and I can see my breath in the evenings. But I'm still going to go ahead and post the last couple of projects from my summer wardrobe! It'll be weather appropriate for any of you reading in the southern hemisphere anyhow! I absolutely loved making my bombshell swimsuits a couple of years back and every swimwear pattern release catches my eye as the designs are so much more inventive than what you can find for a reasonable price in the UK shops. But there's a reason for the lack of exciting bathers here, the London lifestyle doesn't exactly call for a wardrobe full and is exactly why I haven't made any more. When I realised I was going to need swimsuits for a couple of reasons over the summer I jumped at the chance to make my own again.
Top of the wish list was the Beverley Twisted Bikini from Named Patterns. Like all of their designs I liked this for it's contemporary feel and unique yet simple design. I also had my eye on the Splash Swimsuit from Lily Sage & Co.; maybe one for next year! As with all the Named patterns I cut the size 38 and am really pleased with the fit. It's snug and secure without being overly tight. The first one I made from leftover lycra from my black bombshell swimsuit to test the size. The top is self lined in the instructions and I used the same black lycra to line the bottoms too. The watermelon print for the second version I picked up in Spandex House when I was in NYC earlier this year. I had limited suitcase space for fabric shopping in New York so I'd promised myself I'd only buy things I had a definite plan for and things which were difficult to get hold of (at least at a reasonable price) here in the UK. Swimwear fabric in fun prints like this is nigh on impossible to find so I could't resist squeezing a yard of this in. I lined the bottoms of this bikini in some flesh coloured lycra I again had left over from making my bombshells.
I'm glad I left it so long to post about these two as now I can properly report back on their performance in a variety of situations! Both have been worn on the beach, in the sea, in pools and on flumes. The watermelon fabric has definitely held up better than the black which is what I expected as the black lycra is just a bog standard nylon I picked up on Goldhawk Road. This type of lycra is absolutely fine for holiday type swimwear but won't hold up to more regular wear or much rigorous activity. I could feel the difference between the two as I sewed. The watermelon has a thicker, smoother hand which just seemed more elastic and robust. The difference in wear and tear can kind of be seen in these pictures which I took just recently for this post.
I absolutely adore the shape of the top but have mainly worn the top untwisted as twisted it is very booby which may be ok for a Vegas pool party but maybe not a morning swim! Untwisted the straps have a lovely flattering curved shape which follows round to the back fastening. As I knew after making the first one that I was going to wear it mainly untwisted I moved the cups a fraction closer together on the second version to reduce the gap at the centre front. The bottoms are a kind of slightly high rise which I do like but next time I will probably lower slightly as I've been pushing these down a little to make them more flattering. They're very comfortable though and bottom coverage is good even when swimming!
The inclusion of two little pieces of boning at the side of the bust help to hold the shape of the top. Don't be daunted at all by the boning. It's just two short pieces of the plastic Rigilene stuff and they are inserted into channels created by stitching your seam allowance to the lining. Rigilene can be easily cut with normal scissors to the length you need and to prevent sharp ends tearing through the fabric I melt the ends a little with a lighter round of the spiky corners. That's a little trick I picked up on my tutu construction course a couple years ago!
I really like the way the bottom edge is a proper band with elastic inserted inside it as it feels very supportive and secure. I used some quite thick and stable plush back elastic inside this piece so it feels nice and strong rather than too stretchy. I used some rubber swimwear elastic I bought ages ago in Barnett Lawson along all the other edges which required it. The bikini clasps are both just clear prom ones bought in John Lewis as I couldn't find anything more interesting at the time.
I must admit I was a little confused about the inclusion of fusible knit interfacing in swimwear and wondered how that would hold up in chlorinated or sea water. I'm assuming this is more of a pattern for lounging on the beach under a big hat in rather than doing my swimming but mine was definitely going to be getting wet! I had similar concerns about the elastic for the band as I thought special rubber/clear elastics were used so they don't break down over time but everything seems to be working out great so far! The knit interfacing is only used for the top in the seam allowances of the side seams anyway, I guess to reinforce the area that will hold the boning.
A lot of the constructions techniques were familiar to me from making the bombshells. For example the application of elastic to the edges of the briefs before turning them in and stitching. However I do like how the top is fully lined and so all the edges are finished cleanly. You only see your stitching on the outside along the bottom band. Both sets were sewn up entirely on my normal machine with different widths of zig zag stitch, you don't need an overlocker for this one. You will need a stretch needle for the lycra and remember to make a good colour thread choice for where it is visible. My duck billed appliqué scissions from Ernest Wright & Son came in really useful for this project as it was nice to be able to trim down the turned in edges on the briefs nice and evenly close to the elastic without fearing for snipping through the lining. Thanks for the lovely present Mum!
The instructions are good and I think thorough enough to follow even if this is your first attempt at swimwear. On the first pair I got confused when assembling the front twist detail for the bikini bottoms as it's not particularly clear which two edges of that pattern piece you should be sewing together to make a tube. I chose the wrong sides and ended up with a piece which was too long and skinny but at the time thought it was just because when the rest of the bikini was stretched out on the body it would pull taught. What I instead ended up with was a saggy loop of fabric hanging on the front which didn't have that lovely gathered effect at the sides. As I didn't spot this until the bikini was fully assembled it was too late to go back and rectify so I just chopped a bit of length out of the middle of the piece on my overlocker. It's not perfect but black is very forgiving when it comes to mistakes and the twist disguises the extra seam line quite well. A lesson in patience and thinking things through. At least I nailed it for the watermelon print pair!
I really enjoy sewing swimwear and can't wait for a reason to try another pattern now. If you've sewn a good number of knit projects you can definitely handle swimwear. It's not as daunting for me as sewing lingerie as you're not dealing with quite so delicate fabrics and also you seem to need far less in the way of supplies to begin with! Sewing a bra has been on my wish list for a long time but I keep getting held up at the point of trying to get all the fabrics, notions and elastics together. Any tips on where to get these things in good colours in the UK would be much appreciated! That and the quest for decent swimwear fabric are to be continued...