One of the biggest inspirations on my lingerie-sewing journey this year has been, without a doubt, Emerald Erin and her Bra-A-Week challenge. Not only was it hugely motivating seeing my fellow sewists and bloggers undertaking the challenge of sewing their own lingerie, spurring me on to finally have a go myself, but Erin’s own makes are unfailingly fabulous and awe-inspiring. From her stunning bras, longlines and corsets to her great explanations of bra theory, it’s a great resource as well as serious eye-candy (so, if you haven’t checked it out or submitted a lingerie make yet, I definitely recommend you do!). But possibly my favourite makes of Erin’s this year have been her gorgeous swimwear creations. Much like my initial hesitation to sew bras before seeing the challenge, I’m sure it would’ve taken me much, much longer to get around to bathers if I hadn’t been so taken with the pieces Erin came up with! As it is, I’ve been sitting on this for a few months, but I’m now very pleased to present my first me-made bikini!
The bikini top is a modified Orange Lingerie Boylston bra, and the bottoms altered Ohhh Lulu Graces. The outer fabric is swimwear lycra from Rathdowne Fabrics & Remnants, and the lining is swimwear lining from Booby Traps, as are the g-hooks at the back. The swimwear elastics came from Spotlight. And if I do say so myself, it’s a damn fine pair of bathers!
I’m pretty fussy when it comes to my swimwear (which is probably why I’ve only owned one RTW bikini in the last ten years); I always prefer bathers which come in cup sizes, not dress sizes; proper bust support, preferably underwired; substantial straps and fastenings (no strings); and a vintage or retro vibe in style and prints. Oh, and my budget for swimwear is usually no more than $60 (after listing all that, I’m now astonished that I own any bathers at all!). I’ve long lusted after the luscious prints and stunning designs offered by Seafolly, but as you can imagine, their swimwear is usually far out of my usual budget. However, when it came to my attention that a certain fabric warehouse frequented by myself was in the habit of stocking certain designer remnants, well – what more incentive does a girl need??
As well as the features listed above, I had a few ideas in mind for the design. Ever since I’d made my first Boylston, I knew that it was the perfect pattern to transform into swimwear. It was a pattern that already fit me very well (and even better with a few small tweaks!), it had a nice shape and an ideal balconette-style neckline, and it already had fabric straps ready to convert to halter straps. I drew further inspiration from this set of Erin’s, with its retro vibes and ruched detailing, and brilliant solution for the old conundrum of the back fastening: no matter how supportive a bikini top is, narrowing right down to one small fastening or hook just never feels secure enough. But when there’s three? Well, I start to feel a bit safer 😉 I used this tutorial of Erin’s (what can I say, I find her endlessly inspiring!) to make the loops for the closure.
So, pattern alterations! The main ones for the top included my usual narrowing of the bridge and slight lengthening of the back band. But this time, I also eliminated the scoop back, instead continuing the line from the side seam before the scoop starts. I lengthened the straps to about double the original length, and created a new pattern piece for the upper cup, slashing and spreading until it was twice the length of the original piece. I debated adding extra length to the back band, to compensate for the length lost by not using a hook and eye closure, but in the end decided that the band would have enough stretch anyway (good decision). The only alterations I made for the bottoms was adding ten centimetres length to the side panels – I thought about doubling the length on both ends, but in the end I wanted the look of the ruching decreasing towards the back.
The construction of the top was not so dissimilar from assembling the bra as usual; especially seeing as I was using the same underwires and channeling, foam, denier lining (for the bridge) and powernet (to under-line the band) as I always do. Like my last Boylston, I thought elastic on both sides of the straps would be better than on one only, so I stitched it down inside them before sewing them in. I also obviously had to gather the upper cup pieces before sewing them to the lower cups, and the elastic insertion was slightly different; instead of the usual sew-to-right-side-flip-to-inside method used in lingerie, I sewed it to the wrong side and then turned it under to enclose it. I wouldn’t normally add boning in a bra of this length, either, but a bikini top is definitely something you want to stay in place, particularly when it has halter straps 😛
On to the bottoms! I knew that my good old TNT pattern, Grace, was exactly what I was looking for in bikini bottoms. Nice rise and coverage, flattering and comfortable fit, and a design I could have some fun with. The construction was much the same as usual, excepting the gathering and basting of the side panels to the lining, and the fact that all panels were lined, which meant I could enclose the seams using my favourite sandwich method. Not much else to say about them except that I think they are the most comfortable bathers bottoms ever!
I really cannot understate how thrilled I am with how these turned out 🙂 Whilst I do still see a place for RTW in both my wardrobe and lingerie drawer, I think swimwear might be where I indulge in exclusively me-made pieces. Especially with such gorgeous fabric to hand – I think otherwise I would’ve been fence-sitting for a lot longer, but given the high-end nature of the label, I have reasonable confidence that it will hold up well in the water. It was really great sewing with fabric of this quality, and it looks great on too – it retains its colour and print when stretched, instead of showing white like a lower-quality print lycra might. And given that it’s only $20/m at Rathdowne, and you only need half a metre at most…well, there’s really no reason not to, is there? 😉
I’m down at the beach this week, and really enjoying some chill out time (as well as testing out these bad boys!). And I’ve got a tropical island holiday coming up after Christmas…guess who’s packing their me-made bikini? 😀
Until next time,
Miss Maddy xx
Gorgeous set!! It’s very “Erin-inspired”, but it has so much of your own personality too! I absolutely love the vintage vibe you always add to your creations 🙂 And I definitely agree, Erin’s posts and makes are a great source of inspiration and encouragement for all bra makers!
Also, I have similar problems when I have to choose RTW swimsuits: I prefer the ones with underwires, almost like a bra but in a swimsuit fabric! Am I foreseeing a handmade swimsuit for next summer? Who knows! 😛
PS: I believe I’m improving my English vocabulary every time I read your posts! Today I’ve learned the word “bathers”, which may be useful in my next summer holidays! 😉
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Thanks so much Sofia! I think personality shines through in most people’s sewing, and it’s always fun to see 🙂
I hope you do make some swimwear! I’m sure it would be stunning too 🙂
(And I’m glad my blog post are helpful in more than one way too!)
This is beautiful! I love the fabric, and it looks like it’ll be super supportive for a bikini too, good job 🙂 I think after Christmas I’ll be buying the Grace panties pattern and giving it a go as I’ve loved all your versions, and particularly this one with the ruched sides – I find them to be so flattering on the hips and waist as well as looking pretty.
I’m definitely very inspired by Erin too – I think if I hadn’t seen beautiful bra and swimsuit makes from her (and you too actually!), I would probably have been too nervous to jump head in on lingerie sewing!
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Thanks Sian (and you’re very welcome)! Having taken this set on a proper road test now (involving some decent waves) and I can now vouch for the fact that it is as secure as it is supportive – which is very!
I won’t repeat all my sentiments on the Grace pattern – I think I’ve made my feelings clear by now 😉 all I’ll say is, I hope you like it, and I can’t wait to see your version! x
Gorgeousssss…how nice to be able to convert your bra patterns to such beautiful and expensive-looking custom swimwear! I’ve found lots of inspiration in both you AND Erin this year, so much so that I’m hoping for a bra kit for Christmas 😉
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It *is* nice! I definitely recommend it 😉 thanks so much, and for all the inspiration I’ve had from your makes this year! I look forward to seeing some lingerie posts in the future 🙂
This is so cute! I really do need to give the boylston another go. Do you like it better than the maya? They seem pretty similar, but the boylston seems neater…
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Thanks! They are pretty similar over all, and I like them both for different reasons – I think I like the look of the Maya better under fitted clothes, as it has a more lifted and rounded shape; however I think I prefer the neckline of the Boylston (the balconette style with wide-set straps) from a style point of view 🙂
Oh Maddy, I love this! I actually started cutting out my Boylston bikini last night so this was perfect timing. I love the ruching you added to the upper cup, I might just have to borrow that idea, I hope you don’t mind :). I’m still stuck on straps, I was contemplating an external powerbar come halter or just straight straps but I can’t decide!
I totally agree, Erin is such a wealth of knowledge and her blog is a wonderful inspiration! The suit you’ve taken inspiration from is one of my favourites too 🙂
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Thanks Emma! I don’t mind at all, and I can’t wait to see yours 🙂 I really like the sound of the external power bar straps – my RTW bikini (which I really like) has them and I think it works really well. I’m sure either would look good though!
Erin’s blog and Bra-a-week-challenge is totally addictive and so inspirational 🙂
This set is lovely, I love everything about it, great work!
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Thanks so much!! 🙂
I think I blushed through reading this whole post, you are so kind ^.^ 🙂 And those bathers (I need to start calling them bathers!!) are SO gorgeous! I’m so happy I could help to inspire something so beautiful! ooh, you’re giving me the swimwear bug again- I can’t wait to get back into it, I don’t think I’ll be able to wait for summer here! 🙂 🙂 xoxox Erin
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Thanks Erin! You more than deserve it 🙂 And I am definitely looking forward to seeing more bathers from you 😉 xxx