Whenever I read about people being stressed about their last-minute holiday wardrobe plans, I just couldn’t understand why they would do that to themselves. And suddenly it was me that was working frantically on a swimsuit the day before our flight. So how did it come to this? This year for the first time in ages, we had booked a two-week beach holiday (in the South of France). We knew well in advance that we were going and I knew that I wanted to use this as an opportunity to try out sewing swimwear. So I started to search for swimsuit Lycra, and I searched and searched. First I thought it was just not the season for this type of fabric, but then when spring and summer approached, I realised I just couldn’t find anything I liked, at least not online. So the holidays were quickly approaching and I didn’t even have the fabric…
Then I saw bloggers posting about the UK fabric printing service Contrado and decided to give it a go. I had done some fabric design once before, when I made a dress for my mother using the German service stoff’n. The service was good, but the choice of substrate was quite limited. Contrado on the other hand has more than 90 fabrics to choose from, including several types of swimsuit Lycra. I ordered a swatch pack and decided to try the Slinky Lycra Matt which had a nice weight to it. For the designs I played around with my favourite colours and created a simple hexagon pattern. I did the original designs by hand in water colours and then together with my brother (my Photoshop skills are non-existent) digitalised the print. The great thing about Contrado is that you don’t have to buy the fabric by the meter, but you can choose an individual length. This was very handy for the swimsuits, as the fabric is relatively expensive and one meter would have been too much and so I decided to only order 80 cm (which was more than enough). I was so excited when the fabric arrived at my doorstep. Printing fabric is not cheap and I found it difficult to imagine the exact scale of the pattern, so I couldn’t wait to hold it in my hands. For this pattern I wanted to go bold. It turned out exactly as I’d hoped, and the quality of the fabric so far seems to be really good.
Never having sewn a swimsuit before, I wanted to start with something quick and not too complicated (the Sophie Swimsuit was earmarked for later). Once I had the fabric in front of me, I knew I wanted simple style lines to put the fabric in the focus. After some browsing online, I realised that Madalynne’s free Noelle Bra and Panty pattern would be the perfect match. I’ve been drawn to sporty and high-neck styles lately and have to blame Madalynne for that.
I made the pattern in a size M based on the size chart and the fit was spot-on. The only thing I changed was to lower the rise of the panty slightly as it hit me at an awkward spot. Next time I would also take in the waist a tiny bit.
In terms of construction I used temporary spray adhesive to baste the lining to the shell fabric. Then I followed the instructions to put it all together. The instructions are short, but the garments are so simple, that this wasn’t a problem for me at all. Instead of lingerie elastic I used swimwear elastic (ordered from MacCulloch & Wallis) to finish the edges. The bra strap and the ring to slide the strap through at the back were salvaged from a bodysuit, which I had picked up for cheap to cut up. The main parts came together quite quickly only the leg openings were a struggle. Due to the thickness of the fabric and the elastic, there was just too much bulk where the elastic overlapped and my machine just couldn’t handle it. In the end I decided to replace the swimwear elastic with some lingerie elastic (which involved some painful unpicking of the triple zigzag stitch) and it worked a lot better (not sure how it will hold up over time though).
So what is my conclusion? Making your own swimwear is a lot less difficult than it looks. My fabric sewed up beautifully, thanks to its thickness and the use of a ballpoint needle. While I was afraid that the zigzag stitch for finishing the edges would look home-made I actually think it doesn’t look too bad. So far the swimsuit has held up really well in the French sea and was super comfortable.
I absolutely love the shape of the Noelle bra, especially how the back feature sits between the shoulder blades. The set has a great amount of coverage making it look sporty but modern.
Best memory wearing this two-piece so far? Showering under the rain gutter and washing dishes in the pouring rain during an un-announced 24h water cut, one of the highlights of our trip.
Now if I just could go back to sleeping, reading, swimming and eating French food all day long…