Tag Archives: bathing suit

So Many Possibilities: The Women’s Mairin Swimsuit by Sew a Little Seam

So Many Possibilities:  The Women’s Mairin Swimsuit by Sew a Little Seam

Fall is the perfect time to talk about sewing swimwear, right? Well, I suppose if you are in the Southern Hemisphere, this is for you. For all of us in the Northern Hemisphere, maybe it’s just planning ahead?

I didn’t sew much this summer because it felt like I was wasting the day if I didn’t get outside. My family and I did a lot of exploring, and even found ourselves a new favorite ocean swimming spot–which brought home to me just how much I needed a new bathing suit. My beloved tankini, made several years ago now, was really showing its age. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted–either another tankini or a bikini + rash guard combination. Then I found the Women’s Mairin Swimsuit by Sew a Little Seam, and it had SO MANY POSSIBILITIES! Check out these line drawings!

Women's Mairin Swimsuit by Sew a Little Seam
Women's Mairin Swimsuit by Sew a Little Seam

This company is new to me. It looks like a lot of their patterns are for kids, but they have some adult patterns as well. Even though PDF patterns are not my preference, the huge number of options in the Women’s Mairin Swimsuit pattern convinced me. I had to give it a try.

I had a million ideas that I initially considered, many influenced by my swimwear Pinterest board. I filled up an online cart with swimwear fabric, and then my husband told me to add even more that I had been waffling on. I have never ordered so much swimwear at once in my life. The plan was to order a little bit of a few prints/colors, but the striped fabric I really wanted had a 5-yard minimum, and thanks to my husband, I got it. That one, in particular, will go with everything.

Women's Mairin Swimsuit by Sew a Little Seam
This pile of swimwear fabric represents a year or two of collecting. They came from (top to bottom): Fashion Fabrics Club, Spandex by Yard, Fabric Mart, Fabric Mart, and Spandex by Yard.
Women's Mairin Swimsuit by Sew a Little Seam
I also got this from Spandex by Yard. It exactly matches the fabric used in some of the inspiration pictures on my Pinterest board. Hopefully I will use it next year.

I also ordered swimwear elastic.

Pattern Choices and Materials:

  • Top: narrow strap tankini top with mid scoop neckline and halter mid back
  • Bottoms: mid cut leg low waist bikini bottoms AND mid cut leg high waist bikini bottoms
  • Outer fabric: Seafoam Nylon/Lycra Swimwear/Activewear Knit by Milly and Bright Pear Polyester/Lycra Swimwear/Activewear Knit by Milly, both from Fabric Mart and now sold out, and striped poly/spandex fabric from spandexbyyard.com; I really like the feel and weight of each of these fabrics
  • Lining fabric: polyester swimwear lining fabric from spandexbyyard.com; this has a more cotton-y feel than linings I have used in the past (which were more slippery), but so far, so good!
  • Elastic: 1/4″ natural swimwear elastic and 1/2″ White Polyester Latex Free Elastic which can stand up to saltwater and chlorine just like swimwear elastic; both were from Sew Sassy Fabrics
  • Swim cups: made of poly laminate foam from Sew Sassy Fabrics
  • Size: My measurements were a little bit scattered through several sizes, but size 20 was the most common, so I chose that
  • Stitch info: I used polyester thread for my top thread and woolly nylon in my bobbin; 75/11 stretch needle; average presser foot pressure (3 on my machine); my stitch choice was a 3-step zig zag with a height of 5 and stitch length of 0.5

Upon looking through the directions for this pattern, I have to say–I was impressed. This pattern is a TOME. It’s huge. There are so many options and possible variations, that it must have been a lot of work to put it all together. I felt like I had gotten a pretty good deal for the price. I had my doubts about the ability of elastic straps that were only 1/4″ wide to provide bust support, but I decided to give it a try and trust the pattern.

To begin, I converted all my half-width pattern pieces into full-size pattern pieces so that I could easily cut everything on a single layer of fabric.

The various sections of the pattern instructions are well labeled, allowing you to print out only what you need. I liked the photos that went with the instructions as well as the various charts to help you figure out measurements and strap length. I found that the listed strap lengths worked well for me. However, I was a little confused on the strap/tie measurements chart because there was no area labeled halter/open back like in the line drawings. I think that the “Wide Low Back” down through the “Open Back No Tie” sections are meant to correlate with that.

Women's Mairin Swimsuit by Sew a Little Seam

I liked that there were instructions for sewing cups into your lining, and I thought the lining looked nice overall once it was in.

Women's Mairin Swimsuit by Sew a Little Seam
Women's Mairin Swimsuit by Sew a Little Seam

One thing I would change, however, is this: the shelf bra will have exposed elastic. My elastic was not particularly soft, so I ended up making a casing for it.

Women's Mairin Swimsuit by Sew a Little Seam

Next time, I wouldn’t trim the bikini pattern piece by 1/2″ as instructed to create the shelf bra pattern piece. I would leave the extra length as in the bikini top pattern piece and fold my extra fabric over my elastic to cover it. The elastic shown in the picture in the instructions looks much softer than what I was using. (It looks like plush bra strapping, actually.) If you have softer elastic, it wouldn’t be such a big deal to have it exposed.

Straps were nice and easy to make. I loved having the striped fabric for my straps.

Women's Mairin Swimsuit by Sew a Little Seam

Once my top was finished, I tried it on, but found that, as I feared, 1/4″ elastic straps were not supportive enough for me. I quickly made myself a pair of 1/2″ straps and sewed them on as well, creating a fun strappy look on the shoulders and back.

Women's Mairin Swimsuit by Sew a Little Seam
Women's Mairin Swimsuit by Sew a Little Seam
I thought it best to add some extra reinforcement in the form of a satin stitch where I attached the straps in front.
Women's Mairin Swimsuit by Sew a Little Seam

Next I made the low rise, mid leg bikini bottoms.

Women's Mairin Swimsuit by Sew a Little Seam
Women's Mairin Swimsuit by Sew a Little Seam

They came together quickly, but when I tried everything on, I found that the front of the tankini was slightly shorter than the back on me and paired with the low rise bottoms, showed a bit of my stomach in a way I didn’t want it to.

Women's Mairin Swimsuit by Sew a Little Seam

I also found that the leg holes were somewhat loose in the back around the rear, although they provided excellent coverage and I liked the leg height I had chosen.

Women's Mairin Swimsuit by Sew a Little Seam
Women's Mairin Swimsuit by Sew a Little Seam

I liked the bottoms overall, but I wanted full stomach coverage from the suit as a whole, and I wanted to wear it to the beach the next day.

I’m not a good (or fast) panic sewer, but I was determined. The next morning, I quickly cut a set of high rise, mid leg bottoms. I asked my family not to talk to me for a little bit, and I set about to sew these up in an hour. I stretched the leg elastic tighter this time around. And I finished in time!!!

Women's Mairin Swimsuit by Sew a Little Seam
Women's Mairin Swimsuit by Sew a Little Seam
Women's Mairin Swimsuit by Sew a Little Seam
Women's Mairin Swimsuit by Sew a Little Seam

These bottoms were the perfect height with the top, although the leg holes were still a bit loose in back. But it didn’t matter in that moment! I threw on my new suit, and headed to the beach! And I felt awesome!

Women's Mairin Swimsuit by Sew a Little Seam

Final Thoughts

Pros: My takeaways from making this pattern are, in general, that it’s a cool pattern with a lot of possibilities. I’m excited to try more of the variations in the future. In fact, I think that if you paired this pattern with the Vero Beach Set from Hey June Handmade, you would have your perfect beachwear patterns for the summer.

Cons: Some things to change about this pattern are, first and foremost, the elastic. Quarter inch and 1/2″ elastic are just not substantial enough for great support. I would go up to 3/8″ and 3/4″ in the future. It would also be a good idea for me, personally, to lengthen the front of the tankini if I make it again and tighten the leg elastic further.

In an ideal world where I realize all of my sewing ideas, I would make a few mix and match tankinis and then make several bikini tops and rash guards that would coordinate with the bottoms I had already made. Then I would make several of the Vero Beach shorts from board short material as well as a top or two from the Vero Beach set, and I would be ready for any outdoor adventure where I might decide partway through that I needed to go for a swim. ūüôā


Bathing Suit Finished!


It happened! ¬†I finished my bathing suit and…I think it works!

Bathing Suit Finished!

When we last met here, I had finished the bottom, but not the top. ¬†During this week, I worked on joining up all the pieces and adding elastic to the neckhole and armholes. ¬†That last bit wasn’t a part of the pattern, but I really like the look it provides, and I was hoping to solve a few problems with it.

Bathing Suit Finished!

There was a small part on the front neckline where I didn’t catch my outer fabric¬†very well when I was sewing all the layers together. ¬†There was no invisible way (that I could think of) to fix that. ¬†Even using clear thread, it would have been visible.

I also wanted to stabilize those openings and give them more support so that they would be stronger and hopefully not gape when wet.

Finally, I was hoping the edging would magically tighten and take in the little bit of excess under the arms. ¬†So…that didn’t happen (which I expected, but you always hope for that happy accident!), but I’m more optimistic about the other things.

When I began to apply the elastic, I realized it was a make-or-break moment.  The suit would either be much better for the addition or it would be ruined.  I bet on the side of better and went for it.

It worked!

Bathing Suit Finished!

Bathing Suit Finished!

After letting go of my perfectionism, I ended up with a swimsuit that isn’t perfect, but is actually finished and is, I think, a wearable first draft. ¬†I’ve tested it briefly. ¬†Now to see how it does over a whole day at the beach.

If you happen to be working on your own bathing suit and want to try applying elastic like I did, check out this tutorial¬†on the Kadiddlehopper blog. ¬†I used the advice here on both the stitched and turned elastic for my leg holes as well as the bound edges in the top. ¬†I actually have this blog post printed out and saved in a binder so I don’t lose it!

As for the few other details on this suit, here they are: ¬†I fully lined both the front and back of the top and bottom. ¬†I also used powermesh from the Imagine Gnats shop as the lining fabric in the built-in bra of the top. ¬†I have nothing but good to say about buying from there–super fast shipping and great service. ¬†All my elastic was 3/8″ swimwear elastic, and I used wooly nylon thread in my bobbin, with 100% polyester G√ľttermann thread in the top. ¬†I used a walking foot, plus a stretch needle and Jalie’s method (found in the pattern) of sewing a long zigzag stitch first (width: 4.5, length: 0.5) and then going back and doing a straight stitch while stretching the fabric slightly¬†(length: 2.5) at the actual seamline. ¬†For pattern and fabric details, see my first post on this swimsuit. ¬†If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Bathing Suit Finished!

Bathing Suit Finished!

Thanks to everyone who encouraged me! ¬†It means so much, and it really helped me finish well. ¬†My neighbor’s mom, who I just love and who is an amazing seamstress herself, is now convinced that I can sew anything. ¬†Little by little, right?

Here’s some fun for your weekend.


  • I have really been loving the Instagram feed of @suzyquilts.¬† There is something about her bright and beautiful pictures and her patterns…and I don’t even quilt!¬† (Well, I do have a quilt that’s been in-progress since 2008, but I’m talking quilting as a regular practice.)¬† I love the stripes she uses in her Kris Kross quilt.¬† Tempting…¬† You can also find her website here.
  • If you like the crop top look, but not the idea of baring your midriff, Allie J. will show you how to “make your own (fake) crop top” in this tutorial.
  • We like thinking games in our house, and one of the games we play on the iPad is Monument Valley.¬† They bill it as “an illusory adventure of impossible architecture and forgiveness”.¬† It feels a little bit like trying to figure out an M.C. Escher visual puzzle with calming, completely non-scary background music.¬† Good for any age.
  • Explore.org has links to lots of wildlife cameras.¬† It’s pretty cool that you can see African wildlife, ospreys in Maine, or pandas in China any time you want.

Bathing Suit Progress…and a Breakthrough


I think it’s time for a progress report.

Making bathing suits (year three)

But first, how about some mental anguish?¬† ūüėȬ† As I was procrastinating and freaking out about this project, I had a breakthrough that now seems completely obvious (funny how that happens sometimes).

I expect to create the perfect suit.

Despite the fact that I rarely allow myself to be a perfectionist in my sewing, despite the fact that I understand that skills take time to build and ‘finished is better than perfectly unfinished’, I’m putting a perfectionist’s pressure on myself with this project.¬† Of course I’m procrastinating and freaking out!¬† That’s completely unrealistic!¬† I may have¬†made suits before, but it takes time (and considerably more practice) to become skillful.

I guess it just goes to show that perfectionism can sneak up on anyone.

Once I realized this, I decided it was time to chill out.  So, I put on some surfing to distract me and psych me up to sew bathing suits and got going.  Now we can talk progress.

This is year three of attempting to create a bathing suit that I love.  The last two years have (sadly) been fails.  Year one was a pretty spectacular fail due to my not clueing in to some very awful print placement, forgetting to add in the necessary internal support, and the fact that it came out too big.  That suit just got cut up to become bottoms.

Making bathing suits (year three)

Making bathing suits (year three)

In year two I made every iteration of the Soma Swimsuit by Papercut Patterns.

Soma Swimsuit Test Suits

I wanted to practice and then hopefully create a tankini by hacking my favorite bikini view. ¬†Unfortunately, I have no practice constructing bras, so I couldn’t create the desired support well. ¬†I wore the tankini once, but by the end of the day, the structural elements started to come out of their places, so…no good. ¬†I also decided I wanted bottoms that offered fuller coverage.

Soma Swimsuit Hack by Pattern and Branch

So here we are at year three.¬†¬†I finally found a fabric that I completely love at the Fabric Fairy (she has a lot of excellent swimsuit prints), but I can’t find a tankini pattern that I’m really excited about.

Making bathing suits (year three)

I’m using the bottoms of the Jalie tankini (#3023), but I’m¬†not jazzed about the top. ¬†It’s good, but I wanted something a little different.¬† So my solution (which I realize may lead me to another fail) is to use lisette/Butterick 6295, a work-out top that I really like, and to add extra elastic to the neck and arms.

Making bathing suits (year three)

Here’s where I am as of Wednesday evening:

Making bathing suits (year three)

After putting so much time and energy into searching for a pattern I love, I’ve decided that this is what I really want:

I want a pattern designer to create a tankini pattern that has interesting details to set it apart from the crowd, offers full bottom coverage and the option for internal support up top (in the form of underwires).  I think you could (please!) also include a sports bra pattern as another view with the same optional underwire support and cool details.  That would make me so happy.  Jalie?  Fehr Trade?  Closet Case Files?  Someone?  Please?

Until then, I’m working away at this as well as several bathing suit experiments that will not be for me. ¬†After this, I just want to make something easy for myself. ¬†I want to return to my selfish, simple, sewing¬†ways. ¬†Well…until I find the next exciting challenge.


  • I’ve mentioned how much I like the podcast Thread Cult and I’ve also mentioned the 3-D printing company Nervous System.¬† Guess what?¬† In episode #40, Christine interviews one of the founders of Nervous System about 3-D printed clothing, and it is FASCINATING.¬† The dress Nervous System made is a thing of beauty (and wonder!).
  • It’s been so much fun to discover new artists via Instagram.¬† One of my current favorites is Anisa Makhoul (@anisamakhoul on Instagram).¬† I love her saturated¬†colors and cool style.
  • Watching surfing movies has helped me make it through the last few winters, but now it’s bleeding into other parts of life as well.¬† I’ve decided it’s my new figure skating–fun to watch when doing projects (as I mentioned above–good for when you are sewing bathing suits!).¬† If you want to start down the surfing rabbit hole, let me enable you.¬† The World Surf League app, which is free, lets you watch surfing live when events are on (or you can go to their website).¬† I follow them on Instagram (@wsl) so I always know when an event is happening.¬† My favorite is when I can watch the women surf.
  • I have to dedicate this video to my husband’s family.¬† I think they played this song a lot when he was growing up, but I doubt they did it like this.

The Sewcial Sew, The Refashioners 2016, and Me-Made-May 2016 (Whew!)


Hey, friends! ¬†It’s time to get back to some sewing! ¬†A lot has been going on in the sewing arena over here, and I wanted to share some exciting places my blog has been popping up as well as give you a quick progress report.

In May I linked up my jeans post with Allie J.’s blog for her Sewcial Sew: ¬†Basics challenge.

Every month she puts out a challenge, and if you sew something within the month that fits the theme, you can put a link to your blog post on the page. ¬†At the end of the month, she posts a round-up of all the links. ¬†It’s a great way to discover new blogs and it’s really fun to look at everyone’s projects. ¬†As Allie says, the theme is general enough to allow a lot of latitude, but should give you some guidance if you aren’t sure what to sew next. ¬†This was my first time joining in, and I really enjoyed it (plus, Allie said some very kind things about my jeans, so that doesn’t hurt!). ¬†Thanks, Allie!

The June 1st blog post over at the Makery revealed the blogger line-up for this year’s Refashioners 2016 challenge…and guess who’s on the list? ¬†Me! ¬†I’m so honored to be included in¬†this group.

Refashioners 2016

The Refashioners challenge is a chance to take a specific type of garment and refashion it into something entirely new. ¬†Creating clothing in this way is really fun. ¬†It takes a lot of thought to decide how to refashion the item(s) you are working with, but the end results of everyone’s¬†creativity is truly fabulous.¬†¬†Last year’s theme was men’s dress shirts and I¬†made a lined jacket from four shirts for¬†the competition.

The Refashioners Challenge 2015

(You can read about my entry here.)

This year’s theme is jeans. ¬†You can use one pair or you can use ten!¬† What do you think?¬† Are you game?¬† If you want more details, either about the blogger series or the competition that follows, check out Portia’s blog.¬† There’s plenty of inspiration on my Denim Pinterest board if you need a little help getting started.

For extra reading on the idea of refashioning, you can also find Portia and fellow participant Marilla Walker in this Seamwork article.

Last but not least on the sewing challenge front was Me-Made-May ’16.¬† I made my pledge to wear at least one me-made article of clothing daily, wear two me-made clothing items in the same day at least once a week, and not to repeat items within a week.¬† I also decided I wasn’t going to make a big effort to take daily outfit photos this year since that was a lot of work last year.¬† I took some quick and easy photos here and there for Instagram, but that was it.

Me-Made-May 2016

So how did it go?¬† I would say it went well.¬† I decided pretty quickly that I was going to throw the no-repeats-within-a-week restriction out the window.¬† It wasn’t because I didn’t have enough clothing that I had made, but because sometimes I loved an item so much that I wanted to wear it multiple times in a week.¬† I was amazed at how much easier it was to do the challenge this year over last year.¬† A full year’s worth of sewing has really filled a lot of holes in my wardrobe and/or replaced garments that didn’t fit as well and that I didn’t love as much as those I’ve made.¬† It’s a great feeling to see that accumulation of skill and accomplishment.

While it may seem like I haven’t been doing much actual sewing lately, the opposite is true.¬† In addition to working on my Refashioners project behind the scenes, I’ve been gearing up to face down one of the (many) areas of sewing that I have yet to successfully master: ¬†swimsuits! ¬†I am deep in the trenches of swimsuit making.

Making bathing suits (year three)

Cut out bathing suits, jeans remnants, and mending are piled everywhere!

I had a whole long section in this post giving you an update on where I’m at with all that, but I decided to cut it and save it for another post.¬† This one is getting long, so let’s wrap it up with some fun recommendations instead!


  • If you want to try your hand at making a bathing suit, you might like to look at the many suits featured on the Curvy Sewing Collective’s Curvy Swimsuit Sewing Pattern Round-Up.¬† There were several pattern companies they featured that I wasn’t familiar with.
  • Are you mourning the death of David Bowie?¬† Do you like puppets of the Jim Henson type?¬† How about Jennifer Connelly?¬† If any (or all) of these apply to you, may I humbly recommend a blast from the past?¬† I put before you the movie The Labyrinth.¬† I didn’t listen to David Bowie’s music, but I LOVED him in The Labyrinth.¬† It’s still one of my favorite movies.
  • My favorite book growing up (starting sometime in elementary/middle school) was Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.¬† I knew I had finally found the perfect iteration of this story when I saw the edition illustrated by Fritz Eichenberg.¬† His illustrations capture the essence and feel of the story better than any others I’ve seen.
  • I think I need to start using this method to cook my shrimp.

Do you think it will work on chicken?

Summer=Swimsuits: Soma Bathing Suit Hack


I’m back today with my long-awaited/long-procrastinated-on Soma swimsuit hack.¬† During the winter, I tried all the Soma swimsuit variations (here, here, and here).¬† Then, I set out to make my ultimate version!¬† Here were my goals:

  1. Turn Bikini Variation 2 into a tankini, inspired by this suit.
  2. Add support in the form of underwires, with help from Gertie’s blog.
  3. Add polylaminate foam for coverage and modesty, as seen on sallieoh’s blog.

Let’s check out the suit:

Summer=Swimsuits:  Soma Bathing Suit HackThe top.

Summer=Swimsuits:  Soma Bathing Suit HackHigh rise bottoms.

Summer=Swimsuits:  Soma Bathing Suit HackLow rise bottoms.

Let’s talk about the bottoms, because there isn’t much to say there.¬† I followed the directions and made the low rise bottoms in a medium and the high rise bottoms in a small.¬† I used black fabric for the outside with a black lining.¬† I used white elastic because I wanted to order a large quantity, and I figured that would be most versatile.¬† I like them, but I think the next time I make bottoms, I’ll go for something with more coverage rather than this style, which is slightly cheeky.¬† I think the pattern for these is good–that’s just my personal preference.

Now for the top.¬† Here’s a small fraction of my planning:

Summer=Swimsuits:  Soma Bathing Suit Hack This is when math class (at least arithmetic) meets the real world!  I figured and refigured until I thought I had it right, and then I made pattern pieces for the front and the back trusting in the spandex to stretch right over any mistakes I might have made.

Summer=Swimsuits:  Soma Bathing Suit HackFrom left to right:  back, front middle, front sides.

So, this next part is going to get long.¬† Feel free to skip to the end if you aren’t interested in the sewing details, but because it’s helpful to me when others post what they did, I’m going to give you my step-by-step process (because I’m also hoping someone out there can troubleshoot my mistakes!).¬† This will make most sense if you have a copy of the directions in hand while reading this.¬† Here we go!

This was my process for the top:

  1. Starting with the bikini top part, stitch together outer fabric only as in Step 1 of the directions.
  2. Stitch together lining only as for outer fabric in Step 1.  In retrospect, I should have followed the lining instructions.
  3. Trim seam allowances back and clip curves on outer and lining pieces.
  4. Encase underwires in channeling or 1/4″ double fold bias tape (I used this since I hadn’t ordered channeling.).¬† Don’t stitch ends closed, at least on one side.¬† Leave extra bias tape at ends.
  5. Pin to inside of lining, matching bottoms to underbust seam and shorter sides to triangle seam.
  6. Hold underwires slightly open (as per Gertie) and mark with chalk or whatever.
  7. Remove underwires and sew on both sides of channeling/tape with a straight stitch.
  8. Reinsert underwires and sew ends closed.
  9. Pin polylaminate foam in place with lots of pins!
  10. Use long zigzag stitch (for me this was a zigzag with a width of 4 and a length of 2.5) to sew around the outer perimeter of the front.
  11. Use square zigzag (this had a width of 4 or 5 and a length of 1.5) to sew over seam between lower cup and underbust piece, being careful not to sew the underwires.  Sew from central triangle toward outside seam.
  12. Use square zigzag to sew on either side of center bust seam from middle triangle to outer edge.  I tried and tried to do this, but my machine kept skipping stitches and I never managed to get it right.  I had to rip the stitches out in the end.
  13. Follow steps 7 and 8 for Bikini Variation 2 in the instructions with a square zigzag (I used a width of 5).
  14. Stitch together the bottom of the back piece so it can be used as one piece.
  15. Assemble front outer fabric and then¬†lining fabric for tankini/stomach section.¬† I forgot that I wanted to sew each outer piece to each lining piece and then assemble the front so it wouldn’t balloon in the water, but I don’t think it mattered in the end.¬† I ended up with pieced outer fabric and pieced lining fabric for the front that was not attached together.¬† If I wasn’t going to sew them together, though, I could have just cut two of the back pattern piece in lining fabric and saved myself some time and made the inside of the suit look a little nicer.¬† Oh, well.
  16. Sew front sections together wrong sides together around the edges.
  17. Layer fabric for tankini section in this order:  outer back fabric right side facing up, constructed front right side facing down, back lining piece wrong side facing up.  Pin together at sides and sew with long zigzag stitch.
  18. Flip fabric around so everything is right way out.  All side and front piecing seams should be enclosed.
  19. Use a long zigzag to sew across the front excess length (there was about 1 inch extra length on the front) in preparation for trimming it even.
  20. Use long zigzag to sew top and bottom of stomach/back covering together so it seams like one tube/piece of fabric.
  21. Omit elastic sewn around the bottom of the bikini top in the directions.
  22. Attach stomach/back piece to bikini top piece with right sides together.
  23. Hem bottom with a half inch hem and square zigzag.
  24. Use directions on Papercut’s website to make straps (1 1/2¬†inch wide cross-cut strips of fabric and 3/8 inch elastic), but use square zigzag for all (width of 4, length of 1.5) rather than the long zigzag.¬† Also, double sew (sew twice) when sewing right sides of fabric together.
  25. Step 9 in the directions with lots of stitches!!!
  26. Step 10 in the directions with lots of stitches!!!
  27. Test in the shower or at the beach.

Here’s a look at the back and inside of the suit.

Summer=Swimsuits:  Soma Bathing Suit Hack

Summer=Swimsuits:  Soma Bathing Suit Hack

Summer=Swimsuits:  Soma Bathing Suit Hack

Summer=Swimsuits:  Soma Bathing Suit Hack

I tested the suit and the high rise bottoms out on Wednesday for a good couple of hours at a local pond and here are the successes and failures of the suit in its current state.


  1. The general silhouette is great and very flattering.
  2. This works well as a tankini and my version offers good coverage in the stomach area, which I like.
  3. The style lines and color blocking are cool.¬† I’m happy with how that turned out.
  4. The top gives some support and separation in the chest area.
  5. I finished this crazy suit!

Failures (or at least “Elements I am Not Satisfied With”):

  1. The underwires do not lay flat against my chest.¬† Since I don’t have any experience making bras at this point, this is something I can’t troubleshoot.
  2. The polylaminate foam I put into the upper and lower cup areas does not offer full coverage.¬† I cut off the seam allowances and had to stretch the fabric to put them in, so that they seemed¬†like they would¬†offer full coverage, but when I put the suit on, the foam in the bottom cup sinks down and leaves the exact area where I wanted padding unpadded!¬† I tried to use a zigzag above and below the central seam joining the cups, but my machine, which sews well through all kinds of materials, skipped like crazy and just couldn’t handle sewing right on that foam.¬† I used a walking foot, wooly nylon in my bobbin and nice Gutermann thread up top, tried both a stretch and a jersey needle (new ones), and messed with the tension and feed-dog pressure.¬† What the heck?!!

If you look at this picture, you can probably see the holes from one of my topstitching attempts on the lower cup on the right side:

Summer=Swimsuits:  Soma Bathing Suit Hack

Here’s an inside shot, too, for those who might be curious for a close-up:

Summer=Swimsuits:  Soma Bathing Suit Hack

After trying numerous solutions to the foam problem, I knew that I just needed to finish this thing and move on with my life.¬† I’ve been mulling it over, working on it, and procrastinating on it for so many months now.

My conclusion is that it’s still a wearable suit.¬† It does offer some support, even if the support isn’t right.¬† After my trip to the pond, though, I realized that I could live with the underwire situation being imperfect, but I really want to fix that foam.¬† The foam from the upper cup is partially stabilized by being caught in the fold-over on the top edge but the bottom is not anchored down, just held between the outer and inner fabric.

Readers, what would YOU do about stabilizing the rest of the foam?¬† Can I use a straight stitch?¬† I had assumed it needed to be a stretch stitch, but maybe I’m wrong.¬† Can you troubleshoot this suit for me?¬† What would you have done differently with the underwires?¬† Is this pattern one that can even be made into the kind of suit I tried to make it into?

My hope in posting all these details is that someone, somewhere will be able to take my experiment to the next level and perfect it.¬† I’m also hoping some of you will know what I did wrong and tell me.¬† Even though I will probably not make this suit again, I want to know how I could have made it better.¬† When I set out to make this, I scoured the internet to find out if anyone had put in underwires, and couldn’t find that they had.¬† I’m hoping someone will find my post, and take this pattern/idea one step further.¬† You can do it!¬† (But if you do, leave me a link in the comments so I can go and check it out.)

For anyone who’s curious, I got my fabric from¬†Girl Charlee¬†and my elastic and polylaminate foam used for swim cups from Sew Sassy.¬† The underwires came from an old bra.


Soma Swimsuit Test: Bikini Top Variation Two


I am so excited to share Variation Two of the Soma Swimsuit with you today!¬† This is my last test garment for this pattern, and I think it’s definitely the coolest and most flattering, at least on me.¬† The fact that its structure is naturally somewhat supportive probably helps.

Enough talk, though.  Here it is:

Soma Swimsuit Test:  Bikini Top Variation Two

Soma Swimsuit Test:  Bikini Top Variation Two

Soma Swimsuit Test:  Bikini Top Variation Two


I really love how this came out.¬† It kind of makes me wish I had more of this fabric¬†so I could¬†use it to try making a tankini, but I’ve used it all up, and¬†Girl Charlee, the site I ordered my fabric from, doesn’t have any¬†more.¬† I will say, though, that while I love the combination of these two fabrics, the coral one, which is a midweight, is¬†much easier to sew with than the lightweight¬†chevron print.¬† Lesson learned.¬† I think my final products with the midweight fabric were much better and more professional looking than what I managed to make out of the lightweight, too.

So, details on the top:

I followed the directions, but used Lauren’s idea¬†to prevent any, um, textural show-through in the front.¬† She used about four layers of lining and one layer of the outer fabric in the cups.¬† This was a bit tricky, but I persevered, and it came through alright in the end.¬† My machine was able to handle all the fabric layers,¬†which was a huge relief.¬† I think the only other thing I did differently, was that I sewed a double line of stitches on the top and bottom elastic.¬† I hadn’t sewn down far enough and the elastic was flipping up a little bit at the¬†chevron fabric.¬† Hopefully this will help.¬† Here’ s the suit before the final edging elastic went in:

Soma Swimsuit Test:  Bikini Top Variation Two

Soma Swimsuit Test:  Bikini Top Variation Two

So, here are my questions now:¬† If I were to make this into a tankini (kind of like this), could I add a little more support like an underwire or a shelf bra?¬† Would that even be a good idea?¬† I definitely don’t know what I’m doing in that area (it doesn’t help that I forgot to put the shelf bra into last year’s suit, either).¬† How much chance is there that I can force it to work?¬† I think I would make it one size bigger next time, so I want to make sure it still has good support.¬† I want everything held in place!

I’ve contemplated taking a break from this pattern and making one or two of the Jalie swimsuits, in the hopes that those patterns might show me my answer.¬† The Soma suit has a great stylistic edge, but Jalie has years of experience on its side.¬† I also think I might need to change gears completely for a short time.¬† My head is starting to swim with all these bathing suit questions (no pun intended), and I can hardly walk into a clothing store without snapping a picture of inspiring bathing suits.¬† I really, really, really want an awesome suit that I love by summer (and I want to be awesome at sewing bathing suits), but I may be on the edge of bathing suit burnout, so perhaps I’ll sew up a few t-shirts or a skirt as a break, and then get back to it.¬† Does anyone have any tips on adding support to women’s suits or do you have a favorite bathing suit pattern?

I will admit, learning how to sew these things is very empowering.¬† I think I might be getting a little arrogant (my pride is outflanking my skills).¬† I look at the price of bathing suits, and I think, “Yeah, right!!!¬† I can make that!¬† And it will cost less, be cooler, and be unique!”¬† Yeah, maybe I need to step back a few paces…

Still, check out my work as a whole:

Soma Swimsuit Test Suits

It feels good to have done all that, even with the imperfections.  And giving myself the opportunity to practice makes me feel like I can get the obligatory mistakes out of the way on the path to ultimate bathing suit domination.  Someday, even Anthropologie shoppers will wish they had my suits!  Wahahahaha!!!!

And on that note, I think I’m going to sign off and look for something different to sew.

Soma Swimsuit Test: One-Piece and Low-Rise Bottoms


Monday was sewing day, and I’m pleased to say I made real progress.¬† I finished the one piece and the low-rise bottoms test versions of the Soma Swimsuit pattern by Papercut Patterns.

Soma Swimsuit one-piece by Papercut Patterns

one-piece front

Soma Swimsuit one-piece by Papercut Patterns

one-piece back


Soma Swimsuit low-rise bottoms by Papercut Patterns

low-rise bottoms front

Soma Swimsuit low-rise bottoms by Papercut Patterns

low-rise bottoms back

Don’t you think the snow is an appropriate backdrop?

Here are my notes and thoughts for you.¬† I sized the bottoms down from the medium that fit my measurements to a small and the top of the one-piece from a small to an extra small after testing out the high-rise bottoms and the bikini top variation 1, which is a similar style to the one-piece.¬† I think that for the low-rise bottoms, I should go back up to a medium, although I like the high-rise bottoms in a small.¬† I also used a different elastic technique on the low-rise bottoms and I think it makes them look like…well, have you ever seen a swim diaper?¬† Kind of like that.¬† The good news is that they’re not going anywhere, but they give me some serious muffin-top, if you know what I mean.

The one piece is easy to put together even if you are different sizes on the top and the bottom.¬† Because the back doesn’t close, you just need to make sure you mark the midpoint of your top and bottom pieces and line those up.¬† (The pattern tells you to line up the markings on the top with the side seams of the bottom, but if you just mark the mid-points of top and bottom pieces, everything still works out.)¬† I definitely heard some popping stitches as I pulled the one-piece on, but thankfully they were basting stitches.¬† Everything felt pretty secure, but if you are someone who likes support up top, this is not the suit for you.¬† Sadly, I do like some support or else Speedo-like compression, so I think I will not make the one-piece in my final fabric.¬† I¬†also wonder how the fold-over elastic is going to hold up over time.¬† Still, the suit is wearable, professional, and a vast improvement over last year’s attempt.¬† Also, I really like the mid-weight fabric in the one-piece as opposed to the light-weight fabric I used for the bottoms.

Here are a few close-ups in case you want to see details:

Testing the Soma Swimsuit by Papercut Patterns

waist detail, one-piece

Testing the Soma Swimsuit by Papercut Patterns

front strap details, one-piece


Testing the Soma Swimsuit by Papercut Patterns

waist detail, low-rise bottoms


I still have bikini top variation 2 to go, and I have high hopes for more support and coverage from that pattern.¬† If all goes well, I hope to turn it into a tankini in its final version.¬† I’ll keep you posted!

If you are looking for more details on pattern, fabric, notions, etc., see my last post here.


The State of Things


I feel like I’ve been sucked into the sewing vortex.¬† Without the chance to easily go outside for walks or have as much time to myself due to all the snow days, all I’ve been doing is sewing, thinking about sewing, reading about sewing, trying to avoid thinking about spring and summer, and looking at fabric websites to fuel my sewing.¬† I like it best when the blog reflects a wider range of things than just that, but sewing is mostly what’s going on.¬† Give me a month and I’ll probably be back to watching surfing documentaries to make it through the end of winter, but for now, I have to keep my head in the game and think winter, winter, winter.¬† That’s why I’m sewing bathing suits.¬† ūüėČ

Here’s a peek at what’s going on over here:


The State of Things at Pattern and Branch

The Soma Swimsuit Pattern by Papercut Patterns

I’ve decided that I WILL conquer swimsuits (hope I don’t have to eat my words).¬† Maybe you recall last year’s attempt.¬† This year, I plan to try again.¬†¬†I¬†got the Soma Swimsuit pattern from¬†The Papercut Collective¬†for Christmas, and I want to try all three suit options (two two-pieces and a one-piece).¬† Sorry to have to tell you up front that I won’t be modeling them for you.¬† This isn’t about body image issues.¬† It’s about the fact that I don’t want pictures of myself in undergarments or bathing suits on the internet.¬† Everyone has their threshold.¬† I will, however, take pictures of the suits (not on me) if and when I finish them.

I ordered some fabric from Girl Charlee¬† and elastic from The Fabric Fairy and, at the wise advice of my husband, decided to do some test garments with leftover materials while I waited for the new materials to arrive.¬† I’m glad I did because it’s giving me a chance to figure out my size and to freely make mistakes without ruining my “final” fabric.¬† I made a small top and medium bottoms, but while they fit, I think they will fit better if I go down a size, so that’s what I’m going to try next.¬† Their sizing is rather more generous than ready-to-wear sizes.



Testing the Soma Swimsuit

Test versions of the high-waist bottoms and Bikini Top version 1 (front)

Testing the Soma Swimsuit Pattern

High-waist bottoms and Bikini Top version 1 (back)

The salmon colored bottoms are mediums and the chevron bottoms are smalls.¬† Thankfully both have the same amount of coverage, but the smalls feel more secure.¬† I’m really not a bikini wearer, but there are times I just want to sit at the beach with a tank top on over my suit, and not have my stomach get all sweaty.¬† Plus, I’m wondering about making bikini top version 2 into a tankini.

The shower has become the testing ground.

Testing the Soma Swimsuit Pattern

While the top fits (you can adjust it a lot to get the perfect fit), I noticed that the bust darts were off-center, so I sized down for my tests of the one-piece and bikini top version 2.¬† I don’t wear an extra small in ANYTHING, so if you sew this, make sure you take your measurements with the knowledge that you may still have to size down.

Now I’m working on making a pair of low-rise bottoms, the one-piece, and bikini¬†top version 2.


Testing the Soma Swimsuit

Testing the Soma Swimsuit

Testing the Soma Swimsuit


A word on¬†supplies:¬† I ordered fabric and lining as well as swimsuit elastic and fold-over elastic.¬† I had leftover bra rings from a project I never made (I got them at Sew Sassy).¬† I had to buy a few bathing suit hooks at Joann Fabrics as well as some bulky/wooly nylon thread for my bobbin thread and 100% polyester thread (I chose Gutermann) for my top thread.¬† (I don’t have a serger, so these will be sewn on a conventional machine using a stretch needle and a walking foot.)¬† I did not order the bra strapping or swimsuit cups/foam for making cups.¬† I really wanted to, but the cost was starting to get prohibitive.¬† Here is the problem I ran into:¬† if I wanted the best prices, I had to order my supplies from about four different websites.¬† But then I would have to pay shipping at every one of those websites.¬† I searched the web for two days and finally found one site that had ever single supply I might want or need:¬† Fabric Depot.¬† The hardest part, though, is that their shipping costs are pretty high, so having limited funds, I decided it was time to follow Tim Gunn’s perennial advice and “make it work”.¬† I don’t want to spend all my hoarded Christmas money on a single sewing project.

In case you are thinking about making this suit yourself, here are some helpful blog posts around the web.

  • For lots of fun information on the suit, check out the tutorials posted on Papercut’s site.¬† They include making your own straps (I did this.), making bikini top version 1 reversible, sewing the high-waisted bottoms, making bikini top version 2, creating your own bindings, and finding supplies in various countries.
  • Inna (The Wall Inna) posted her one-piece version of the suit.¬† She made her own covered straps.
  • Lauren of Lladybird posted her awesome take on the bikini versions (see version 1 and version 2).¬† She also solves the problem of, um, modesty issues if you don’t have bra cups or swimsuit foam to insert into your suit in her take on version 2.¬† I’m going to give this a try myself on version 2.¬† My version 1 certainly would have been better with a little more…well, some cups.
  • Sallie (of sallieoh) rocks version 2 and introduces a strap variation.¬† She also tries out using swimsuit foam for coverage in her version.
  • Find the tankini take on bikini variation 2 that I mentioned above over at Unlikely Nest.¬† She also tries her own strap variation.
  • And on oh, she dabbles, C makes pretty cool versions of the one-piece and bikini variation 1 with high-waisted bottoms.
  • Finally, not Soma related, but very helpful anyway, I used this post for inserting elastic last year.¬† I used Papercuts instructions for the two bottoms I’ve already finished, but I’m going to try these techniques out on the low-rise bottoms.¬† That post is part of a larger series on the blog Kadiddlehopper¬†that was really informative as I made my first forays into the world of sewing bathing suits last year.



Finished Projects! Wow!


Well, you may not believe it (I can hardly believe it myself.), but I found new drive to finish all those projects I was procrastinating on.¬† I’m excited to show you.


Now this first one is borderline “Craft Fail”:¬† The Swimsuit.¬† The nice thing is, it looks great on the hanger.


I sewed my first swimsuit! (Pattern and Branch)

Front view



I sewed my first swimsuit! (Pattern and Branch)

Back view

Now, maybe you will¬†(immediately) notice something I did not.¬† I was so enamored with the chevron design¬†that I only focused on lining the points up with the middle of the suit.¬† I was so proud of myself!¬† Now my¬†husband noticed what you may be laughing about right now, but he knows that it annoys me when¬†he trouble-shoots my projects, so he wisely stayed silent until I tried my finished suit on and saw it for myself.¬† In case you haven’t noticed, think about how the¬†points of a chevron design could, possibly, act as arrows…Do¬†YOU want arrows indicating your most private areas?¬† I certainly don’t!¬† Despite this feeling on my part, it seems I managed to point arrows at both¬†my upper and lower private areas.¬† Oops.¬† That’s awkward.

I also realized partway through that although I thought I was sewing View C on my pattern, which has a built-in shelf bra, I had actually been sewing View A (even though I cut out View C), and had left the shelf bra out.  Oops.

Swimsuit woes (Pattern and Branch)See that extra piece on the left?  Yep.  Forgot it.  But, you know, I figured I could just skip it because there is that other view without it, so whatever.  Moving on.

At that point, I made the decision to carry on and just finish the suit and hope for something wearable.¬† I knew I could rip it out, and I also knew that if I did, it would cause a mental block and I would never finish this suit or make another one again, so I had to push through.¬† I ran into a few quality issues, but I decided to ignore them.¬† Here is my contrast edge with a few wrinkles.¬†¬†Still a cool concept though, don’t you think?

Swimsuit woes (Pattern and Branch)I found the instructions for the contrast elastic edging on Kadiddlehopper’s 2013 Swimalong.

So, I finally finished, and was hoping for something wearable.¬† (Sorry, but you aren’t getting a picture of the finished project.¬† I don’t feel embarrassed by how it looks, but there is something about modeling a bathing suit on the internet that doesn’t appeal to me.)¬† It looked ok when I put it on, although the fabric was a little thinner than I would have liked.¬† That’s when I saw the “arrows” on the suit and also realized that it wasn’t squishing me because it was actually a bit too loose.¬† I had followed the measurements on the pattern, but either I had picked the wrong fabric (very possible) or they don’t have enough negative ease built into the pattern.¬† It’s really had to tell what is operator-error or pattern-error here.¬† Most/all is probably operator-error since this was my first attempt.

Will I wear this in public?¬† No.¬† But am I glad I made it?¬† Yes.¬† Now the question is:¬† Should I buy more fabric and try again since I could probably get through it quickly now that I’ve done it once, or will I still get a mediocre suit because the pattern is not awesome?¬† I don’t have the experience to know.¬† What do you think?

(In case you want to read it, I posted a review with more technical details on PatternReview about this pattern.)

Now for the other two projects, the shirt and the dress.¬† Rather than getting fancy with them, despite how cool it could have been, I could tell that if I didn’t finish them soon, they would enter that perpetual work-in-progress zone and never be done, so I decided to call them finished with only the contrast binding on the neck and shoulders.

Alabama Chanin shirt by Pattern and Branch

The shirt

Alabama Chanin dress by Pattern and Branch

The dress

I did have to go back and do a small zigzag stitch right on the edges because the wide zigzag I did in the middle of the binding didn’t reach far enough out to tack the edges of the binding down, and it kept rolling up.¬† Maybe you can just see it below.

Alabama Chanin shirt with contrast binding by Pattern and Branch

Both of these patterns are my machine-sewn version of some of the basics in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design by Natalie Chanin.  I love the look of the hand-sewn garments (especially the embellished ones) in her books, but when I want a quick project with a great silhouette, I sew the basic patterns on my machine (plus, you can use old t-shirts or knit sheets for fabric).

I’ve worn the shirt, and I like it, although I will give you one thing to be aware of if you sew with knits sheets.¬† Sometimes (ok, every time I’ve used them) the grain is off.¬† I don’t often notice it in the finished garment, but I feel like this shirt pulls slightly to one side.¬† It’s subtle.¬† I’m the only one who will notice, but I haven’t yet started to obsess about fabric grain.¬† If you do–then buyer beware!¬† The good news is that knit is really forgiving and I never find any of that to be a problem after a few wears.

The dress fabric is pretty thin, so it shows curves and bumps more than I would like (as opposed to skimming over them), but I’m going to try some of the layering techniques in the Alabama Chanin books and see what I come up with.¬† I think it will be cool in the end.

Wow.¬† If you hung in there through this super-long post, way to go!¬† Before we go, I want¬†to tell you that I’m keeping my eyes open for a day to take you along clamming (virtually).¬† This has been a terrible clamming summer with lots of clam-bed closures for a late red-tide bloom (I feel knowledgeable saying that, even though I just learned about it.) and due to rainfall.¬† (I can explain that more another time.)¬† I tried to go last week to do a little “catch and release” clamming, but didn’t find any.¬† I’ll try again, though, and try to document it all for you so you can come along via the blog.

Update:¬† After hanging on hangers, the fabric in the¬†shirt and dress seem to have relaxed enough that the shirt no longer pulls to the side and, while the dress still pulls to the side a bit, the fabric has relaxed enough that it no longer shows every bump and line.¬† The dress has also lengthened to floor length, rather than ending at¬†the top of my feet.¬† Problems solved!¬† ūüėČ