Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The High-Waisted Swimsuit I Didn't Plan to Make

Two years ago I decided to make myself a swimsuit. I bought the pattern. I ordered the fabric. I didn't make the swimsuit. Six months after I bought my supplies, I was sewing my wardrobe for the World Race. I thought I'd get my swimsuit sewn up while I was at it. A new one piece swimsuit to take along on my year long mission trip? It sounded like a good idea to me, but alas, it didn't happen.  A year later, I returned from the World Race, and remembered I still had a swimsuit to sew. I wanted to sew it, but I'd returned home in the middle of winter so a swimsuit seemed a rather impractical sewing project. Late spring rolled around, and I thought I'd make the swimsuit for my summer of taking the kids I nanny to the pool. Once again, the swimsuit making plans didn't come to fruition. Finally, I figured I'd get my swimsuit made in time for the beach vacation I was going on. Well, I got back from said vacation yesterday, and still, the planned for one piece swimsuit hasn't been made.

It would appear swimsuit making never made its way to the top of my sewing list this summer. Except, it did. I actually did manage to make myself a swimsuit this summer, it just wasn't the one I'd been planning on making. It wasn't a one piece. I didn't even use an actual swimsuit pattern for half of it. And, I didn't even use the swimwear fabric I bought two years ago. Oh no, that fabric is still sitting in my stash, awaiting the day I will make the originally planned swimsuit. Rather than use my carefully picked out swimsuit pattern and pretty purple fabric, I bought some black and white galaxy print swim fabric when I found it on sale at Joann's. Less than a week after I aquired said galaxy print fabric, I made myself a swim top. But let me start at the beginning. . .

As previously mentioned, I've spent quite a bit of my summer hanging out with the kids at the pool. On one of those first pool afternoons of the summer a swimsuit caught my eye. It was a bikini, but the top was different than any swimsuit I'd seen before. It completely covered the upper back and shoulders, and tied in the front, under the bust.

Now, the worst sunburns I've had in my life have been on my upper back, across my shoulders. This swimsuit covered that area, so those sunburns wouldn't happen. (I swear, I do wear sunscreen, I'm just pale and burn easily) Almost immediately, I decided I just had to re-create the shoulder covering bikini! Thus, on my next trip to Joann's, I acquired the patterns and fabrics to do so.

For the top, I decided to use Simplicity 8654. It's a reprint of a 1940's pattern, and had just the shape I was looking for. There were only a couple changes I had to make to turn it into a swimsuit pattern, rather than a woven crop top pattern.

First, as I would be using a very stretchy knit fabric for my swim suit, rather than the zero-stretch woven the pattern was drafted for, I traced the pattern one size smaller than I usually make in Simplicity patterns. Looking back, I probably should have gone down two sizes, but just going down one size worked out ok. 
Second, I widened the shoulders slightly for extra sun coverage. 
Finally, I removed the darts from the bodice back. Thankfully, there were no front bust darts to contend with, otherwise those would have had to be removed as well. (The lack of front darts is the primary reason why I picked this pattern over a similar Vogue pattern for the top.)

I cut the top out of both my galaxy swimsuit fabric, and a swim lining fabric. I then cut out extra triangles of my galaxy fabric to line the front ties with, so when the top is worn the white lining doesn't show on the "wrong" side of the ties. With my top cut out, I began to assemble it.

Now, I had never before made a swimsuit. And, for my first ever swimsuit piece, I wasn't even using a swimsuit pattern. Thus, I had no instructions telling me how to construct this thing. So, I basically just winged it. I googled "how to apply elastic to swimsuits", read a couple tutorials for that particular skill, then went for it, constructing the top in the manner that made the most sense in my head. There was nothing particularly complicated to it. Except for adding bra cups, or rather attempting to add bra cups. Those were really hard to get placed exactly perfectly. In the end I decided my swim top had enough support without cups and abandoned them all together. Other than that I had no real issues.  I ended up stretching my elastic a little too much while applying it to the neckline and lower edge of my top, so the edges are a little ruffly looking rather than laying perfectly flat. This isn't ideal, but I decided it was fine. As this was my first piece of swimwear, I didn't expect it to turn out perfect, just cute and wearable! And in that, I believe I succeeded!

The swim top was actually easier to make than I had expected it to be! The weekend after I finished it, I wore it with some plain black swimsuit bottoms on a float trip with my brother and some friends. Thanks to the back and shoulder coverage, I came home from that float trip with no major sunburn - a first for me when it comes to float trips!

Now, when I cut out my swimsuit top, I also cut out a pair of high-waisted swimsuit bottoms (from McCall's M7168) to go with it. Only, I didn't have time to make them before my float trip in June. Thus, they became lost and forgotten at the bottom of my "to sew" pile. Until I bagan packing for my end of the summer beach vacation.

Suddenly I remembered I'd planned to make some high-waisted bottoms to wear with my top. Before this swimsuit, I hadn't worn a bikini since I was 10. I knew I'd be more comfortable wearing my top at the beach and hotel swimming pool if I had the extra coverage high-waisted bottoms would provide. Thus, I dug out my cut out pair, and sewed them up the night before I left on vacation. The bottoms went together even quicker and easier than the top! (Using an actual swimsuit pattern, rather than an adapted shirt pattern, may have contributed to how easy they were to make)  

My finished swimsuit was just what I hoped it would be - perfect for the beach!

Playing in the waves!

Watching the sea creatures the tide brought in! 

And building sand forts!

It's not the swimsuit I've been planning on making for two years, but I'm incredibly pleased that I actually managed to make myself a swimsuit this summer! Maybe I'll make the intended one piece next summer. . .

Photo Credit to Bretta and Julea Gerhard


  1. gorgeous! I just [finally] got a swimsuit cut out, but am waiting for the elastic to arrive. Fingers crossed it looks half as good as yours does. I like the idea of the cover up top...

    1. Thanks! I'm sure yours will turn out fabulously! Swimsuit making was surprisingly easier than I expected it to be.

  2. Really like the look of your swimsuit! Different, but very pretty. Great job.