Saturday, 31 December 2016

SEWN: THE ZIG-ZAG SUIT

This is a story about a suit. A suit of wonder. A swimsuit with mysteriously magical powers.


I never thought I'd experience the day when I would feel so supremely comfortable and amazingly confident in a swimsuit. Of any description.


Today, my friends, is that day.


Today I feel like I found the suit of my dreams. Made with my own hands.


A swimsuit that allows me to run Baywatch style down the beach without my swimsuit bottoms disappearing into my butt (TMI?). Let's be clear. I have a butt. A generous butt. And no swimsuit has ever stayed in place. This one does not move a millimetre.


This is a suit that let me stand in front of a sandstone wall at a busy beach and shine like a freakin' supernova for photographs. Boo-yeah!!!


Ok, enough self-adulation. Let's go with I feel quite pleased with myself and that's no mean feat. But you better believe you're gonna get photo overload.

This is 1970's era Butterick 5449, a Gil Aimbez design.

That middle chick is seriously saying "Get your hand of my shoulder. Now".
Image source

I originally saw this swimsuit made up by Sarai, founder of Colette patterns and decided I just. had. to. have. it. NOW! An ebay search led me straight to a copy available right here in Aus in my size. Yes, please!

Now in blogging her suit, Sarai did note that this pattern is sized for moderate stretch fabrics only and not the likes of modern nylon lycras. Sarai noted she removed about 4 inches from the hip and would probably grade the whole suit down in future makes.

I agree. I took the suit bottoms in a massive 6 inches at the waist and 2-3 inches at the hip. I might have even taken it in more in the final fitting, but that's what my toile shows. Yep, I had some dodgy lycra so decided to mock it up first. The final lycra behaved a little differently, but it was worth the exercise.

I also added 1cm to the length of the body at about the waistline. This added rise to the back waistline that I originally thought I could do without. But honestly I think it lends to the flattering rear visage.


I love the criss cross back. I love the zigs and zags of the swimsuit's lines.


Construction was challenging. I had to make it up as I went along. It took some zigging and zagging and eventually just going totally off piste. Sometimes you just gotta go with your gut and very limited swimsuit making experience. So if you're interested in the changes I made and the construction I undertook, read on fearless reader. If you just want to see my awesome suit then scroll down for more pretty pics.

I fully lined the suit (change no. 1). I think it lends the outer lycra good support assisting in its longevity and... modesty. Let's not forget modesty.

The pattern has you bind the edges of the upper triangles with bias binding. Um, no (change no. 2). I bound the edges with lycra wrapped black rubber elastic - basically how you'd apply exposed binding to a neckline. You lay the right side of the lycra "binding" to the right side of the swimsuit fabric edge with a strip of elastic on top. Stitch with a zig-zag stitch. Then turn binding to inside and topstitch. I used a three-step zigzag for the topstitch on all bindings. Looks great.

I also added extra thin bra cups tacked between lining and outer (change no. 3). These are purely for my own modesty and do not add oomph. Something I usually crave, but... suit of magical powers. And someone told me the iconic 70's look is flat-chested. Nailed it.


The outside edges of the suit are bound in the same way as the triangles and let me tell you that's one hell of a continuous bind of about 3m, as those edges extend into straps that are also bound elastic. The long straps cross the back, slip through rouleau loops at the outer corners of the top triangles, and then tie at the back. I did consider using a bikini clasp but decided to go with the ties for now as I quite like the visual. (Note: the edges are finished totally differently if following the pattern where elastic casings are formed and then elastic threaded through. Again, that would have suited the available materials at the time of drafting, but eventuated with change no. 4).




I did have some issues with the original line of the bottoms especially around said butt. As the fabric this is designed for has less stretch than the lycra I used, the line of the butt was a bit funky (not in a good way) and suited to almost creating a bloomer effect. Which kept happening every time I applied elastic - which was a million freaking times. Either that or the edge would flip up. I ended up hacking into that line and basically creating a straight line from outside hip to crotch (originally it's quite curved). Enter change no. 5. That sorted the butt fit.

The lovely Carolyn of Handmade by Carolyn sorted out my elastic application issues, the darling woman. I love you, Carolyn! I'd used clear elastic before, but really wasn't happy with the feel or finish it gave. Carolyn advised me to use braided swimwear elastic, which is her preferred elastic. I was a bit reticent at first as all my previous RTW suits used rubber elastic. Spoiler. I tried that and failed and then finally succumbed and the braided worked perfectly and is supremely comfy. Win! Lesson? Always listen to Carolyn.

Changes for next time, because #obvious. There will be a next time and a next time and a next time. I'll reduce the size of the upper triangles on the upper outer edge. Too high under arm and a bit too much ease (Remember? Flat chested). Perhaps try the bikini clasp - but I do really like the look of the tie.

I used a perfectly perfect Zimmerman lycra for this suit and I have enough left for a do-over when this one eventually disintegrates.

Anywho. Behold the suit. I'm so sorry. I know there are a shiteload of images but... squee! It's a big deal to feel this goddess-like. Be nice now...






I wish you all a very happy and peaceful New Year. Please let 2017 be a year that does not have us all shaking our heads and asking why? I'm off for a swim in the frigid depths now...

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