ManyTracks Sewing and Knitting
Bathing Suit Bottom
How-to ~ Ideas
Underwear can be comfortable! Bathing suit bottoms can fit. They can be interchangeable, they can be fun to make. Once you have your pattern, go crazy and make as many pairs (singles?) as your drawer can hold and your imagination requires.
Bathing Suit / Skivvies
What better time to think about summer swimming than the middle of winter! At least it’s a good time to sew for that coming season. I bought fabric last spring to make a new bathing suit but the warm months definitely aren’t the time for me for anything other than quick emergency sewing or mending projects. The plans (and piles) for winter sewing/mending/altering are larger than days available so I simply pick out what most interests me, or is highest in my focus at the time. And thinking of kayaking made me think of the bathing suit that I don’t yet have. Actually, I seldom go swimming but kayaking is high on our list of “do more of” this summer and it is most certainly a water sport (as in ‘wet’). Though I hope to get my paddling technique down this summer so less of the river water ends up in my lap, appropriate clothing makes kayaking more fun. That includes being ready to slip out into the water for a swim.
Bathing suit bottom or underwear -- there’s little difference and both are quite easy and fast to make (relatively speaking). I’ve been making my skivvies for some time, after realizing it would be faster to make them than alter factory made ones to fit and feel the way I like them. The most time consuming part is coming up with and fine-tuning your pattern. You can buy a pattern or find one online, then go from there to get your just-for-you fit. Or simply cut apart an old bathing suit bottom or underwear that already fits and trace out your pattern from that. That’s what I did. I like to use brown kraft paper for patterns. It’s sturdy and holds up well to repeated use, and adjusting.
Draw your pattern, make notes of
seam allowances and anything else you find helpful right on the
pattern. When it comes time to adjust your initial pattern tape
extra paper wherever needed. Make your new pair, adjust some
more, etc. When I'm to the "fairly confident this is the one
(hah!!)" then I cut out a new pattern. If you do a lot of
pattern making, a roll of brown paper is handy. Gather your
materials and sew away.
A rotary cutter and weights makes cutting stretchy fabric a lot easier and for me, more accurate. Though the photo shows the rotary cutter "open" I NEVER set it down this way (except for this picture apparently!). The cutter is always closed and locked first. Do it consciously enough times and it becomes a habit you won't have to think about, but your skin will thank you.
Crotch -- It's nice if you can cut your pattern out of one piece of fabric. But if because of the size/shape of your fabric simple seam it at the crotch. This often happens when using a knit shirt and you have to get half from the back and half from the front. For comfort I overlap and stitch this seam (as I do the side seams), instead of the usual basic 'fronts together' seams. You can put this seam wherever you need to to fit your fabric.
Overlap 1/2" and either pin or use a glue stick (my preference - see Side Seams) and top stitch.
Crotch Lining -- This can be whatever fabric you like. I use self fabric when my fabric is same in or out so the 'inside' of the skivvy can be 'outside', and vice versa. On a bathing suit you may make a full lining. On heavier fabric no lining is needed, unless you need to cover a seam for comfort.
* Cut lining piece width of main
pattern minus width of elastic. This helps keep bulk down in
Side Seams -- Oh, how irritating they can be, and uncomfortable. But they certainly don’t have to be! My easy solution is to overlap and top-stitch--sides, crotch (if there is a seam), lining. So much more comfortable. And the humble but so appreciated glue stick makes the easy even easier. It helps me do a better, cleaner job of sewing. I use a 1/2” overlap. Let the glue dry before sewing; a quick press with the iron helps. ZZ stitch down one side of the overlap, turn over and do the other side. For this and for attaching the elastic I use a length and width of 2, loosen needle tension one number, and loosen the pressure foot tension. A ballpoint/jersey needle for knits and a stretch needle for lycra makes it all go smoother.
Finding and fitting just the right lengths of elastic can be a bit of trial and error (make notes!). Using an already-fits item helps in the initial guess. Use plenty of pins. Here are my notes for sewing on the elastic.
Reduce pressure foot to 1 // Loosen needle tension to 3 //
Stretch and stitch slowly
Make your skivvy, wash it, wear it, adjust your pattern, find some more material, make another pair, wash it, wear it... There’s no end to this instruction! Do wash before making altering decisions as the fabric and elastic will relax back to shape in the washing and be more a more accurate fit.
So that takes care of the bathing suit bottom test piece (the first photo) and now I have to come up with the top. I still have that fabric I bought last spring and hopefully I’ll get to sewing up that final bathing suit before the snow goes. BTW, much of the above pertains to men’s knit undershorts (bathing suit/biking short/running shorts...), too. They are a bit more complicated to sew up but not overly so. So next time you’re in the local thrift store, check out the larger sized knit shirts for your next sewing project, for him or her.
Copyright by Susan Robishaw
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