Sophie Swimsuit


So it’s time to get the last summer blog post out of the way and move on to more weather-appropriate sewing.

First can we talk about the beauty of analog photos? For the first time in ages we decided to take our analog camera on holiday and I love how the pictures turned out. I especially love the snapshot of my new Sophie Swimsuit (above).

Swimsuit sewing had been on my list since knowing that we would have a 2-week beach holiday in the south of France this summer. I wasn’t settled on a pattern until Heather of Closet Case Files released the Sophie Swimsuit and I immediately knew it would be the perfect pattern.

After having practised sewing swimsuit fabric on the simpler Noelle Swimsuit I felt prepared enough to dig into this more complex pattern.

Fist I had to find all the materials though. The fabric issue was solved with again using fabric from Contrado, based on a simple brush-stroke stripe design (you need to wear stripes when beaching in France right?). Same as for the Noelle Swimsuit I chose Slinky Lycra Matt, which again was the perfect choice.

Then the notions. For this padded underwire bra style quite a lot of different notions are needed and it took me ages to find the right ones (if someone knows good UK or European online shops with a good range of swimwear notions, please let me know!). In the end I got most of it from MacCulloch & Wallis, a London shop that I had ordered from before. They stocked the bra foam padding, underwire channelling, S-hook closure and the swimsuit elastic. The foam was only sold by the metre, so I have bra foam for a lifetime. Both the foam and the underwire were normal bra making materials, not specifically for swimsuits, I couldn’t figure out if that would be necessary. The underwires I had left over from bra making, ordered from the Merckwaerdigh Etsy Shop, the swimsuit lining I got off ebay.

When I purchased the pattern, I considered buying the video workshop, which I’m sure would have been great. Since I had made an underwire bra before, however, I decided the pdf pattern would be enough. As always with Closet Case Files patterns the instructions are very thorough and the blog has great posts that walk you through some of the main points.

The sewing started with some head-scratching though when it came to choosing the sizing for the bikini top. When I measured my bust, the chart put me in a cup size between a 4 and a 5 (5 being the biggest size). I made sure to read the corresponding blog post on the sizing and other reviews and knew that these cup sizes don’t correspond to the normal A, B, C sizing. Still, I’m just about an A cup and the underwires would have been between a 36 and a 38, which based on the wire size chart were a lot bigger than the underwires of my bras. I also hadn’t purchased any underwires as I had a bunch left over from the bra making, so I decided to use the ones I had (size 32). Just to make sure the cup wouldn’t turn out too small I basted the cup pieces together and checked the fit, which seemed fine. While I’m not an expert on the fit of bras, I don’t feel the final bikini top is too small. I did notice though that the top does have more coverage on others that have sewn it up, so maybe a slightly bigger cup was intended. I might test out a bigger cup size next time.

Overall the construction was quite straight-forward and the whole thing came together quickly (which was necessary, as I sewed it up the day before going on holiday). The only issue were some raw edges at the corners of the cup that were not enclosed properly. I might have just not been exact enough when cutting and sewing. The problem was quickly solved with some hand stitches. Next time I’ll also make sure to stretch the upper layer a little bit tighter over the cup. As it is now, it wrinkles slightly. Another thing, that I would want to resolve are the wrinkles at the cradle. This is an issue that many versions online have (even the product photos), probably caused by the stretchiness of the cradle fabric. The pattern tells you to underline the main fabric with some non-stretchy material. I had some netting left over from my last bra, which is supposed to be non-stretch. It still it had a little bit of give, which will have caused the wrinkles. I’ll make sure to hunt for something more suitable next time. For the closure I decided to go for a simple silver S-hook, which turned out really pretty and looks a lot fancier than the typical plastic bikini closure.

In the end the bikini top turned out really cute. I especially like the neck ties and the retro feel. You might have noticed that for the bottoms I decided to do something different than the high waisted ones the pattern came with. While I love the look of them, I tend to wear low cut bottoms more and I had just made some high waisted bottoms for the Noelle Swimsuit, so two high waisted bottoms would have been too much. I do have enough fabric left over though, so I might make some high waisted ones in the future. I didn’t use a pattern for these bottoms but just traced off some underpants I own. I didn’t really take the time to calculate the size based on the stretch of the fabric, and they turned out a little small. It didn’t prevent me from wearing them all the time though…

Overall the bikini turned out lovely, perfect for our time at the Côte d’Azur. It’s held up really well and is comfortable to wear. The only issue is that the cup foam soaks up all the water (bra making foam might not be that suitable for swimwear after all) and I had to wring out the top after swimming, to avoid dripping the whole day. Still nothing that would have prevented me from wearing it.

I would love to make another Sophie Swimsuit at some point. I have some lovely floral fabric that I want to use, possibly in combination with some stripes or some solid fabric. Or I’ll make another one playing around with the stripes. I’ve seen some lovely versions online doing that (e.g. Selmin’s lovely Sophie).
sophie_01 sophie_02 sophie_03 sophie_04 sophie_05 sophie_06 sophie_07 sophie_08

So, that’s it for summer sewing. I’m really sad to see summer go, and am trying hard to get excited about autumn sewing. I’m thinking rust, velvet and tutlenecks (maybe not all in one …  but then again, why not?).

Noelle Swimsuit

noelle_01Whenever 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…