Me Made Maldives – Swimsuit edition

When I first experimented with Stretch Pattern School‘s instruction for drafting One-Piece Swimwear Block, I didn’t think I was ever going to use it for swimwear. That was an exercise in getting a Knit Top Block that I’d be happy with. Back then my feet would always be firmly planted on the floor of the pool or beach & although I toyed with the idea of learning to swim, I couldn’t find the courage or will power. So this mid-life crisis had at least one positive side-effect. I still can’t swim properly, but I’m committed to learning now. And I got comfortable enough in water that I was able to lift off & chase fishes while on holiday. OK it was really shallow water, but at least my feet was off the lagoon floor! I even ventured into the part of the pool that was a tad deeper than my height! And the swim discs on my arms did come off once I relaxed enough – thank you Maldives! – though I still need those Speedo Fitness Fins & goggles to keep me calm. Anyway, I thought I’d reward myself for my effort with some me-made swimwear.

Self-drafted VS replacement
Bandeau Bikini Top

This was a replacement for an old Victoria’s Secret Bandeau Bikini Top that aquired unsightly stains over the years. I love the design & the bottom still fits OK. And since a bandeau top seems simple enough, this was actually the only holiday sewing I committed myself to.

Fabrics: 80/20 polymide/lycra Riviera stretch fabric and 84/16 nylon/lycra Bodystocking Lining from Funk Fabrics UK. Hardwares & bra padding recycled from the VS original. 8mm latex elastic from MacCulloch-Wallis UK.

Pattern:Ā  I could have just disassembled & traced the VS original. But it was a bit old, so might have stretched out. And for a top that can be worn strapless I didn’t want to risk it falling down. So the pattern is a mix of Stretch Pattern School Bandeau bikini top instruction & the disassembled VS original as guide for pieces needed & shaping. Width-wise it follows the SPS instruction, though I moved the side seam forward slightly. The Front has 3 layers: slightly taller shell, lining, & pocket for bra padding. I added lining to the back as well because my fabric felt a bit thinner than the original. Top elastic is in 3 pieces while the bottom elastic is 1 continuous piece.

Construction: Construction order is based on reverse engineering the VS original roughly as follows…

  • Strap tubing.
  • Bra padding pocket opening edge.
  • Baste the 2 inner Front layers together & Back shell/lining layers together (lining handled like underlining).
  • Front top seam.
  • Front top elastic* to seam allowance & turn right side out.
  • Attachment loops for detachable strap at Front top.
  • Side seams.
  • Back top elastic* & the entire Back-Front-Back bottom elastic*.
  • CB hook & loops.
  • Slide CF buckle in place, then bonings to side seams.

āˆ— All elastics were overlocked to the fabric edge first, then turned inside & top-stitched in place with zig-zag stitch.


Self-drafted Asymmetrical
One-piece Swimsuit

While browsing photos of Maldives on IG, I came across a striking asymmetric one-piece modelled by @cassie_cameron (22 Dec 2018). I scoured the internet & the closest I could find is this one from US Forver 21 which didn’t get great review for quality & isn’t available in the UK anyway. The fit & bust seam seems different from the IG photo, so I can only assume it’s a knock-off. The good thing though is the extra side & back views helped me think through what I may want in my version.

Fabrics: 80/20 polyamide/lycra Perform Muscular Compression stretch fabric and 84/16 nylon/lycra Bodystocking Lining from Funk Fabrics UK. 8mm & 16mm latex elastics from MacCulloch-Wallis UK.

Pattern: It was touch & go whether this would make it to Maldives because a) I never properly tested my SPS One-Piece Swimwear Block, & b) there’s no single source of pattern drafting instruction for a design like this. Most asymetric one-piece with tummy cutout have shoulder strap on the non-cutout side. I had to cobble together multiple drafting SPS drafting instruction to create this & tested muslins along the way.

Testing & tweaking the One-Piece Swimwear Block

So first thing I had to do was to retest the SPS One-Piece Swimwear Block. The last muslin I made had really awlful crotch as you can see. But this may partly be because I was too stingy to put leg elastics in for a muslin test. I made a fresh muslin this time with leg elastics which did look a little bit better, but still a bit excess fabric in the crotch. I compared the Block to my 0-ease Pants Leg Wrap just in case, but the crotch length seems right. Regardless, I tried shortening the crotch anyway & I’m much happier with the result. I also slimmed the waist a little bit because I’ve lost a bit too much weight during this mid-life crisis. Hopefully the stretch fabric will accommodate any weight gain after this crisis is over.


Now the question of leg hole elastic… There are conflicting advice about this. SPS advice fitting the elastic to your leg rather than trying to calculate negative ease base on the pattern. But when you’re not sure where the leg holes will sit on your bum, it’s a bit hard to know where to wrap the elastic around. On Pattern Review someone said they always reduce the pattern leg hole by 78%. In the end I measured the relatively new no-frill RTW fitness one-piece I have & used that that guide for leg hole elastic length.

The other question with leg hole elastic is whether to have a) more negative ease in the back (so fabric cup under the bum cheeks?) or b) same amount all the way around. SPS advice b. I think I did try both on the muslin & preferred a, though the difference isnt’ great. This is again partly due to my fitness one-piece having similar gather in the back.

On to the actual Asymmetric One-Piece pattern-drafting

This was mostly based on SPS’ Asymmetric One-Piece instruction (not online anymore, but a different asymmetric tanksuit with waist cut out is close enough), with the bandeau bra top tweaked following SPS’ Empire-Line Once Piece instruction. To create the SPS Asymmetric One-Piece, you also had to have the CB Seam Bikini Bottom Block, which is based on the Band Side Bikini Bottom Block, which is in turn derived from the main One-Piece Block. So here are the Bottom Blocks & Empire-Line preparatory patterns I had to create first…

And pulling them all together now…

Since it’s a franken-pattern, I made a muslin first to test the fit & also figure out construction order. Good thing I did because the fit & the design both needed tweaking. TBH I don’t understand the logics for all the steps in SPS’ Asymmetric One-Piece instruction – eg why one side of the leg opening is shaped differently than the other. Maybe it’s to address the IRL effects of asymmetry (eg gravity, moving body parts, stretch property of the fabric), maybe it creates illusion of balance better. In any case, it didn’t work for me. So I made both leg holes the same. Also had to lengthen the tab that connect the bandeau & the bottom because the bottom was pulling the top down. Design-wise I aslo widened the tab, tweaked the cut-out curve, lengthen the bandeau top, & narrowed the shoulder band to better match the inspiration photo.

As for the shoulder strap, I ended up using a length that’s the same as my 0-ease bust measurement & underarm-cross-shoulder circumference, which means it’s negative ease when the strap is pulled just off the shoulder. Originally I thought this design would be pool-side/beach lounging only & absolutely no good for swimming. But the shortened strap made it not too bad for swimming. Granted at this point my swimming doesn’t involve much arm movement yet.

When it comes to cutting out, the top & bottom peices are lined/underlined. The top Front also has an extra layer of lining for bust padding pockets – like the VS replacement Bandeau Top above. The strap is shell fabric folded length-wise into a tube. The top uses 16mm elastics at top & bottom edges + boning at the side seams for insurance against waldrobe malfunction. The cutout & leg holes use standard 8mm elastics. The strap has no elastic in it.

Unfortunately I threw away the notes on how much negative ease I used for all the elastics. I think I might have used the One-Piece Block reduction percentage as guide, but recalculate the absolute lengths base on the measurements of the pattern pieces. I think I also used varying reduction percentage for different edges, and uneven application for the leg holes & tummy cut-out. So the leg holes have more reduction in the back, the cutout has no reduction at the vertical stretch (because I was worried about the Bottom pulling the bandeau Top down).

Construction: Construction order is roughly as follows…

  • Top bust darts, Top bra padding pocket opening edge, Bottom CB seams, Strap long seam up to Top attachment points & turn right side out.
  • Bottom F-B crotch & side seams, Strap short seam.
  • Baste Top 2 inner Front layers together, Bottom shell/lining layers together (lining handled like underlining).
  • Top side seams, Top lining layers CF seam (to form pockets for bra padding).
  • Baste Strap to Top’s top seam.
  • Top’s top seam, boning to Top lining side seams.
  • Top’s top elastic* to seam allowance & turn right side out, Bottom cutout & leg hole elastics*.
  • Baste Bottom tab to Top’s bottom.
  • Top’s bottom elastic.

āˆ— All elastics were overlocked to the fabric edge first, then turned inside & top-stitched in place with zig-zag stitch.


The Verdict

Not bad for first attempts at swimwear pattern-drafting & sewing if I may say so myself. Plenty of room for improvement of course. There are draglines here & there, and my zig-zag stitches are quite uneven. But overall I’m fairly happy with these. Too bad that on return from holiday the rubbish housewife striked again. Both of these white swimwear (+ RTW ones) promptly turn pinkish from laundry colour bleed. šŸ¤¦ā€ā™€ļø

I think there will be more swimwear sewing in my future. Probably not training ones, but fashion swimwear. For training I like the idea of high tech suits designed to train techniques & increase water confidence. Hopefully one day I will be able to swim leisurely face above water breaststrokes in me-made swimwear like all the other elegant ladies in the pool.

3 comments on “Me Made Maldives – Swimsuit edition

  1. Elle says:

    Good for you on tackling this complicated draft (with good results)–and for taking the first steps to swimming!

  2. Jacqui says:

    wow amazing and very inspirational. Have not had the courage to tackle swimwear yet but after seeing what a fabulous job you have done I am inspired to give it a go. Thank you!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.