It’s difficult to know where to start on this bloody brilliant pattern. Honestly, I don’t know what I love more – the fit, the style or the fact I actually made a bikini!
First things first, living in the UK, I found it difficult to source the notions for this pattern. I was really intimidated by foams, underwires and linings and spent a long time searching many different shops, but found either they had too much or too little choice. In shops like Sewing Chest I just didn’t know where to start as there was too much stock to choose from, and at the other end of the spectrum shops like Sewn, Bristol didn’t have everything I needed. However, after reading Allie Jackson’s post on her long-line Sophie, I saw she recommended Emerald Studios on Etsy. Despite being in Canada and having expensive shipping, I decided to go for one of Erin’s bikini kits. It had everything I needed with no technical jargon, and everything was brilliant quality – despite ordering from Canada, it arrived in about 5 days. Sourcing the swimwear fabric was much easier as Funki Fabrics has practically every colour and pattern under the sun. I went for the Shiny Nylon Lycra for plain colours, and then for the printed fabric I went for ‘Flex’ option in an awesome lemon and orange print.
Onto the bikini itself. For the bra sizing, I went with a US size 8 with a 4” bust difference, which equalled a 38 underwire. I decided to go up to a size 10 for the bottoms, but took in about 0.5cm at each of the waist seams as I have a large bum, but my waist is a size 8. I felt that as I have very little experience in sewing lingerie and swimwear, I should make a toile out of some spare lycra I had from a previous project. This ended up being a very good idea, as I needed to make a few adjustments to the fit. I increased the inner cup breadth by 0.5cm and correspondingly on the upper panel and foam pieces. I also increased the width of the bridge by another 0.5cm. I followed the guidance on Heather Lou’s blog about fitting a balconette cup, which was really very helpful. When it came to inserting the underwires, I found that the 38 was too long, so I had to trim about 0.25cm off each end – this worked perfectly.
Finally, onto the construction! I’m not going to lie, I found pulling it all together quite challenging. I hear great things about the video tutorial, which you can purchase, but I spent so much on all my supplies I couldn’t justify the cost. In the end, I actually didn’t need it. I did, however, make a lot of errors on my first bikini. I used the wrong foot, didn’t set the right tension and foot pressure, and spent hours sewing and unpicking the channelling top stitching, but when it came to the second I learned from my mistakes and made drastic improvements. So, here are my pearls of wisdom:
- When cutting out the cup pieces and foam, take time to label them in a way that suits you (I stuck green pins in the left and red in the right) as if you have plain coloured or a non-directional print fabric, it is very difficult to work out a) which side is which b) which is inner and outer and c) are they upside down/inside out! Be militant about laying on the left and right side of the cutting table.
- The pattern calls for stretch needles which, obviously, you have to use – but don’t use them when working with foam. The blunt needle punches through the foam, rather than cutting through it and pushes it down into the feed dogs of your machine, causing it to get chewed up and to skip stitches.
- The most difficult part was sewing the underwire channelling. Using the first row of topstitching as a guide for the second was not easy – I either sewed too close to the first line of stitching so that the underwire couldn’t fit, or missed it entirely. So, on my second bikini I basted the second row by hand from the back exactly where it should be and used it as a guide and seriously, it was SO much better, easier, and neater. I cannot emphasise how much easier it was – that little bit of time to prepare made it much quicker than having to redo various bits.
- Although the pattern recommended an even feed foot, I found that this made things worse, so I used an ‘A’ foot on my Janome which worked just fine.
- I cut out the bikini in much less fabric than suggested on the pattern. Honestly, I think I could probably squeeze out another without too much trouble, plus I’ve got extra notions…
I am so happy with both bikinis – even the less than perfect first attempt. I am usually a stickler for detail and perfection, but despite the many errors I am still so proud of it. The second one, however, was finished in a day and was 100x better. So perhaps, if you are a bit of a novice like me, then plan to make two – I don’t know about anyone else, but I like two swimsuits on holiday anyway?
This is another brilliant pattern from Closet Case Patterns, Heather Lou’s tutorials are always such a great extra resource. Everything from the instructions, fit, look of this bikini is bloody awesome – 5 stars, 10/10, brilliant!