So it’s come to this. Me, sharing pictures of myself in a bikini online. A leopard print one at that! But you know what? I’m more proud of this make than any other so far, despite it still needing a few tweaks. Read on for more about my first (but definitely not my last) plunge into swimwear sewing…
In a Nutshell:
A retro-style, halter neck, high waisted bikini. In leopard print pulled from the stash. What’s not to like?! I should just stick a bone through my hair and go full on cavewoman glam 😛
No, honestly, I did save a chicken bone for precisely that purpose, then forgot to use it in the photoshoot!
A leopard print 4-way stretch poly jersey I found in Fabric Land, Bristol. I’d originally planned to make a top out of it, but it’s that really shiny, cool to the touch stuff that is better suited to activewear, IMO. I lined it with proper swim fabric in black, sourced on eBay (it’s really hard to find proper swim fabric and notions in the UK!).
New skills learnt:
This was my first time sewing swimwear, and my first go with plastic boning.
Changes I made:
- Removed 2″ from the top after wearing it on holiday, as it was ridiculously high waisted. Higher than my actual waist by at least an inch! Here’s a pic of me wearing it on a French beach to show you the original height. Okay, not the best pic, but it was all I had.
The Dakota bottoms are an easy sew with only a few seams, so I worked on those first to get used to the fabric and elastic before tackling the Reno top. One thing I found was that spray basting my two fabrics together was not going to work. Spray baste does not hold on slippery swimwear fabric! It was easy enough to work with the two layers, however. I just machine basted them around the edges instead (even when the instructions didn’t specify to, as it was easier to handle the fabric that way). I used my overlocker to sew most seams, and to attach the elastic. As I didn’t have the three step zig zag specified in the instructions I used a regular zig zag to topstitch the elastic instead. It seems to have worked fine.
The Reno top was pretty daunting for a swimwear beginner as it had so many pattern pieces (13 in the main fabric, three in the lining), but once I got going with sewing it up I was surprised how easily it all went together. I certainly wouldn’t recommend it for anyone completely new to sewing with knits, but if you’ve handled stretch fabrics and elastic before, you can make this. The pattern is cleverly constructed so you end up with a really neat finish on the inside and hardly any stray thread ends to deal with.
Time taken: 4 hours, 21 minutes (3 hours 1 minute for Reno, 1 hour 20 for Dakota)
(time taken is the time to sew, which will include pinning, stitching, pressing, etc, but doesn’t include time spent planning, tracing patterns, cutting out fabric, setting up the sewing machine, puzzling out instructions, trying things on, etc. So in other words, it’s not actually the total time I’ve spent making something, but it’s a rough guide at any rate. Just don’t come complaining if it takes you longer to make something!)
Oh my God, I LOVE this bikini!!! I’m actually amazed by how much I love it, because honestly, when I look in the mirror I can see all sorts of fit issues with it. Strictly speaking it’s not flattering, as it completely flattens my boobs and probably makes my bum look ginormous (not that there’s anything wrong with big bums, I hasten to add), yet somehow I still feel amazingly glamorous in it. I would never have guessed that what are essentially Granny knickers could feel this sexy! I’m guessing the fabric helps. If I’d made it in something less foxy than leopard print then it might start to look frumpy.
Here’s some more pics to give you an idea of how it looks from all angles. And yes, I realise the back of the bikini top is pulled down way too low. I didn’t realise until after the photoshoot, but never mind. You’ll just have to imagine it in the proper position. Go on, I bet you can!
I think one of the reasons I love this is that it has all the advantages of a bikini, in terms of going to the loo and getting changed easily under your maxi dress on the beach (yes, this is what I do), but you also have the feeling of security that a one piece gives you. The bottoms go up so high I don’t think there’s any chance of them slipping off. Even with a small child tugging at them. Believe me, I’m speaking from experience here!
You also don’t get muffin top with a waist that goes up this high! Yes, I can eat ALL THE ICE CREAM!
I would also like to confess that I’ve been wearing this on the beach with a leopard print maxi dress as a cover up, and with these leopard print flip-flops. Yes, I have turned into THAT woman now I’m 40. Expect tight, cleavage revealing leopard print tops, high heeled stilettos and painted on jeans in the near future 😛
Changes for next time:
I’d like to look into inserting an underwire if I make the Reno top again, as I think it would help with the overall silhouette. I’d like to try a different style of bikini top next time, though, as I love ones with more shaped cups.
I definitely plan on making the bottoms again, and I think the fit needs a bit of work. I reckon they need taking in at the sides and there’s clearly too much fabric still at the front as they’re wrinkling up there. I’m not sure exactly where I’d need to adjust to get the results I’m after, so might experiment first by making some knickers using this pattern. I also think I need to change the elastic distribution on the legs, as it needs to be pulled tighter under the bum to help the fabric hug there. Not really a big problem as I’ve been wearing this without any wardrobe malfunctions, but definitely something to remember for next time. Maybe cut the elastic another inch shorter?
Based on two Seamwork credits at $6 total, and the average exchange rate at the time.
Main fabric £7.99 per metre. Swim lining £4.99 per metre. I do decent cuts of both left over (enough to make more bottoms, I reckon), but used the full length so I’m counting the full price.
I did spend a little more, but bought in bulk (5m each elastic, 2m boning) and only used 1.3m of the narrow elastic, 1.6 of the wide elastic, and about 20cm of the boning.
Total cost: £19.67
Although I know I probably could buy a bikini cheaper than this, I spent some time looking earlier this summer and the only ones I liked were much more expensive. So I think that was a bargain, really, and I have plenty of fabric leftover, plus I can use the patterns again.
Oh, and this is how this outfit makes me feel:
Have you ever dabbled (or paddled!) in making swimwear? And would you give this pattern a go? Also, is there such a thing as wearing too much leopard print? Enquiring minds demand to know!
And I’ll be back next week with my Colette Wren dress–another winner from the folks behind Seamwork Magazine!