Lessons Learned – Bikini Drafting

[This blog post is going up much later than I intended! My sewing exploits were interrupted this month by a change of houses, but now I’m settled in again. Time to pick up where I left off…and sorry if this seems so last month – because it really is!]

First off – Holy crap! I was not expecting my last-minute submission to the Sporty Summer Sewalong to be chosen from among all the contest amazing entries. I jumped out of my chair when I saw that Karen has listed my name in second place, and I ran and woke my husband up from his nap to tell him. (I had to repeat myself later when his grogginess subsided.) Maybe I shouldn’t have disturbed him, but this is how sewists get their kicks. It’s also nice to ogle all the other fantastic makes for the sewalong. Here’s just a few to admire:

Some professional looking golf shorts by Nilla at Purple Pleats:
A flattering one-piece by Marilla:
And of course the winning entry by Canal Couture really takes the cake for sporty sewing. I love that she tackled making a highly functional garment for her boyfriend that suits his profession perfectly:
As I’ve been rather lucky when it comes to winning things around the sewing blog-o-sphere, I wanted to share some of the things I learned in the process of sewing my first swim suit. Hopefully some of these tips will help others struggling through their first adventures sewing bathing suits or other spandex-y things. I have a lot of stuff to say and pictures to share, so I’m breaking this up into two posts. This post is mostly about drafting, and I’ll put sewing tips in my next post.

Tip 1 – Jersey ≠ Spandex

In trying to make my swimsuit, I first cut apart an old pair of underwear, thinking that this would give me an excellent starting point for drafting the bottoms.


Unfortunately, I wound up with bottoms that were an excellent fit for my size 0 roommate, instead of for size 10 me. On the bright side, I now have a pattern that is perfect for my roommate, and I made her a pair of bottoms too!

Tip 2 – Drafting bottoms to cover your bum

I don’t know if this is exactly a tip, but when I finally arrived at a pattern that provided full bum coverage, it looked like I had drafted a diaper. Here are some pictures of my final pattern (left) next to the first version (right). This is the back:


You can see some of the differences better when I lay the patterns on top of each other:


That’s a lot more paper/fabric in the final pattern. It took many different alterations. The most important one for bum coverage was dropping the leg hole seams and rounding them outward. The side seams were vertical lines in the original pattern, but this squeezed the crap out of the tops of my thighs, so I angle those out. My hips don’t go straight up and down, so neither should my side seams. I also changed where the crotch seam is placed. In my original pattern, it was more toward the back. The extra length you see on the crotch on my finished pattern above brings the crotch seam more toward the front.

Here are the front pattern pieces (new on left and old on right):


You can see the crotch part got shortened on my final version of the front piece, so even though I lengthened the back crotch, the overall crotch length stayed them same. Why did I move the seam forward? Because you see how the original front pattern piece has a curved crotch seam? The back pattern piece had a straight seam, and joining the two was awkward and required many pins.


Also, that seam fell right at the area where I was having fitting issues (i.e. the bottoms were looking “cheeky” in that particular spot). I was trying to figure out how to add extra coverage right at that spot, and the seam there was making it more difficult. So I moved the crotch seam forward, and it solved everything. I have now said “crotch” way more times than I ever expected to in a single blog post. Crotch crotch crotch. Moving on… here are the two versions laid on top of each other

Besides changing where the “you know where” seam was located, I also added a whole lot more width at the sides. Like I said, the originals were sized for someone much smaller than I. So this is took them from a size 0 hips to a size 10 or larger hips. Also, the original pattern had the side seams more toward the front than at the actual sides. That makes sense for underwear, I think. If the seams are toward the front, they are less likely to show through your pants or skirt than if they were exactly at your sides. So the extra width I added moved the seam to my actual sides, which is fine for swimwear. I also angled the side seams out at the bottom (because hips).

Wow. That was a lot of info for a “tip.” But I hope it helps for other people trying to alter their swimsuits to cover their bums.

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