I already made one swimsuit this year, & although it did not display my sewing proficiency to its greatest advantage, it fit well, it was comfortable, & I liked it. There was just one problem: I used a plastic locking closure on it, positioned so high up on my back that I simply could not clasp it by myself. Every single time I wore it, Jared had to clasp it for me. I knew I needed a suit I could put on without help. & also, Jared broke the clasp a few weeks ago. It just kind of snapped into like five pieces one day when he was trying to clasp it for me. Obviously the suit can be salvaged. It’s not difficult to just replace the clasp. But I decided to just get a jump on making a suit with no clasps, in the interest of satisfying a need without having to buy any new notions. I already had this swimsuit fabric & plenty of lining on hand.
There’s also a backstory as to why a swimsuit rocketed to the top of my sewing to-do list, even though summer is drawing to a close.
In June, I found a lump in my right breast. I already had a doctor appointment scheduled, because I needed her to sign off on my health so I can volunteer at Ramona’s preschool. She did an exam & also felt the lump. She referred me for an ultrasound to get it checked out. I’ll cut to the chase here: I am fine. I don’t know if it wound up being normal breast tissue or a benign cyst or what, but in any case, I do not have cancer, or even a non-cancerous tumor that requires any treatment. Whew! But it was definitely a scary few weeks. There’s no history of breast cancer in my family, & I’m only 37, but I know way too many women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer at around my age. One of them, a woman who wrote a zine I was really into in the 90s/early 00s, even died, leaving behind young children.
At my doctor appointment, there was also a full blood panel done. My labs came back showing elevated blood sugar & elevated liver enzymes. The obvious conclusion here is type 2 diabetes. Unlike breast cancer, pretty much EVERYONE in my family has type 2 diabetes. It killed my father at the rather young age of 48, & my sister (she’s 35) has been experiencing all kinds of awful complications recently. My grandmother had it, & God knows how many aunts, uncles, & cousins. Honestly, if I make it to age 50 without a type 2 diabetes diagnosis, it will be a miracle. But a follow-up fasting blood test gave me the all-clear.
But that doesn’t mean I have to just sit back & wait. Before Ramona was in the picture, & then for about 18 months after she was born, I was pretty devoted to doing water work-outs at the local pool a few times a week. We have a gorgeous outdoor facility here in Lawrence, but also a really nice indoor pool for cold weather. When Ramona was 18 months old, I slipped into a horrible depression & had that whole financial crisis where my disability was rescinded (I am on disability for depression; kind of ironic that the government decided I wasn’t disabled while I was in the midst of one of my worst depressive episodes in recent memory). I felt I couldn’t justify the expense of a pool pass anymore (even though water work-outs are really good for my mental & physical health) & I let it lapse. (Haha, or I let it “laps”. See what I did there?)
In the two years since I stopped going to the pool, I’ve gained thirty pounds, which is kind of whatever, who cares what a scale says. But I’ve also had more chronic pain, including debilitating migraines, more insomnia, more low-grade constant depression, & a lot less energy for being an involved & engaged mom.
So, I decided: Ramona started preschool on Thursday, & after I dropped her off, I went straight to the pool & bought a new pass. My goal is to go every other day. We’ll see if I manage it. Since a lot of the time I’ll be going while Ramona is at preschool & Jared is at work, I needed a suit I could get into by myself, stat.
I made a pattern from scratch to make my last suit, & I used that same pattern for the bones of this suit. I changed the back to have more coverage, with just a teeny little cut-out. To keep the edges snug against the body (the scoop on my last swimsuit stood away from the body a little bit), & sewed swimsuit elastic to the edges, stretching as I went, & then trimmed the raw edges with fold-over elastic.
I didn’t line the ruched section on the front this time because, duh, it doesn’t need to be lined. That means the hemming is much tidier this time around.
The biggest change I made was the top/bust area.
I constructed cut & sew foam cups using my trusty Shelley bra pattern. I layered swimsuit fabric over them & made these little pleats/tucks along the bottom of the cup. The frame is made from Duoplex covered in swimsuit fabric. I sewed the swimsuit-covered cups to the swimsuit-covered frame & attached the channeling so the topstitching would be on the exterior of the suit. The bra on my last suit was completely internal, but I wanted to experiment with bra styling for this one. I added a seam allowance to the bottom of the frame & sewed my band elastic to the Duoplex only, just above the seam allowance. That way, everything is supported, but there isn’t an unsightly bunch of zigzagging all over the front of my suit. The Duoplex layer is attached to the rest of the suit at the wide seams & along the top, but is left free at the seam between the frame & the torso. I tried attaching it, but it caused the frame to ripple & I wanted it to lay smooth as a contrast to the gathering on the cups & the ruching on the torso.
I covered the seamlines on the cups with scraps of swimsuit fabric. The straps are made of bra strapping sandwiched between swimsuit fabric, finished on either side with fold-over elastic. They still have a bit of stretch to them, but they’re pretty stable.
I added a layer of swimsuit elastic to the bra part of the suit to snug it up against the body & finished with fold-over elastic. The only bummer part is that the swimsuit elastic is a lot wider than the fold-over elastic once it’s folded, so it shows on the inside. I would have preferred for it all to be completely enclosed. I could have ordered wider fold-over elastic, but I was really racing the clock to get the suit done before Ramona started preschool. Next time!
I also finished the legs with fold-over elastic. If you’re curious, I got the swimsuit fabric during the Hancock close-outs. I think it was literally like $1.50 a yard? It’s not my favorite print (I kind of really do not like birds; they attack me a lot), but it is my favorite color, & with the black trim, I actually love the way this suit looks. I’d usually gravitate toward a louder print, but this just goes to show: sometimes the fabrics that don’t really sing on the bolt are the ones that make really nice-looking garments.
Close-up of the cut out. This is easy to do. Just draw lines on your pattern piece indicating where you want the cut-out to be & add a seam allowance if necessary. (I just covered the raw edges with fold-over elastic, so I didn’t bother with seam allowances). Use the bit you cut off to figure out out how you want to crossover to look. Both pieces will be sewn together in the side seam, & for this suit, I secured them together in the fold-over elastic all the way to the cut-out. When I attached the straps, I bartacked them to lower fold-over binding first, & then the top. Because the lower binding is angled, this enabled my straps to angle perfectly to cross over in the back. I love me some crossed straps! I don’t know if I am being very articulate about how to do this (there’s a reason I don’t do tutorials), but once you figure out, you can use this technique on everything: dresses, t-shirts, undies, whatever.
So, that’s that! I leave you with an obligatory mom photo: Ramona on her first day or school, standing next to one of those chalkboard things that are so popular on Pinterest. Yes, I made it myself, it’s not digitally printed or anything. It’s chalkboard posterboard & hand-lettering/drawing with chalk markers. I’m pretty proud of that airplane drawing. Drawing is really not my forte, so I’m pleased with how it came out. (PS–Ramona LOVES preschool. Yay!)