Friday, July 25, 2008

The Curaçao Swimsuit (review and step-by-step tutorial)

Curaçao Swimsuit
(Burdastyle Alison Vintage Style Swimsuit)

This is my version of the wonderful Burdastyle swimsuit that came out a few weeks ago (pattern is downloadable here). I've been meaning to try my hand at a swimsuit for some time... Hoping that in the near future, my work and various papers will be all finished-finished, and some time, maybe, I'll take a much-needed break at the beach! This pattern came in very handy as it looked better than any swimsuit pattern I've seen.
I made this last weekend, just before Seb, the kitty and I left for Amsterdam for a fortnight (where I am now busy writing a paper and finishing my dissertation).

This is my entry for PatternReview's knit contest.

~Pattern review~
Pattern Description: Vintage style bathing suit Pattern
Sizing: S-M-L, but Burdastyle forgot to add a size chart. Duh. I cut an S and the body of the suit turned out a bit loose on me, so this pattern does run a bit large.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
No, not at all. In fact, it's as if the instructions were nonexistent.
Some steps are entirely omitted. They don't even tell you how to finish the swimsuit.
The few instructions the writers did see fit to offer were not satisfying anyway: there was much neater ways of making this swimsuit, so I went along my own rules. Honestly, people, who wants seam allowances in a swimsuit crotch?
Oh, and as was noted by Cidell and commenters on the Burdastyle website, the pattern lacks some essential information: the crotch piece and back strap should be cut on the fold; notches are missing to create gathers at the bust. The rectangle piece that gathers the insert in the middle is not labelled on the pattern sheet.
ETA: Burdastyle have just updated the pattern with the relevant information.
Except one pair of notches is still missing to make the gathers at the bust - those at the top of the insert (?); the corresponding notches are also still missing on the strap, methinks.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I fell in love with the swimsuit as soon as I saw it.
Now... I've read several times on a sewing board (that I otherwise appreciate tremendously) about this cliché of French women all lying on the beach au naturel. Well, like most clichés, it's a wrong generalization that can feel a little insulting to some. ;)
Personally, I hate feeling like I have to wear the equivalent of underwear in public just because I'm at the beach. Don't misunderstand me - I have absolutely nothing against women who do feel at ease this way (I strongly believe that everyone should do as they please, as long as no one else is hurt) - it's just that I can't. This suit seems to achieve the impossible: it will make me feel at ease while being super cute and a little glamorous.

Fabric Used: Poly-lycra jersey knit with a four-way stretch. I got it from a year ago- it kind of jumped into my cart as I was buying some batiste for my dupioni gown. It cost me ridiculously little (less than 2 dollars, i.e 1.3 euro) and I needed less than a yard for this project (yes, I can still make a tank top out of the remnants). Since the pattern is free, the only significant cost for this swimsuit was the bra cups - 4 euros. Do you have any idea how much a swimsuit costs in Paris? He he.

(Miss Cutie claims she made it all)
Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:
- I inserted bra cups between the shell and the lining to add some support.

- I cut the back strap on the fold and added a bit of length to make ties, as per the model's pictures (I can't see how they managed to make these ties with the pattern such as we got it)
Back of the suit
- I wanted the legs to be a bit longer (the shorty style was really not quite there after hemming), so I unpicked the hem (ack) and cut strips to create a binding. I cut the pieces slightly (1 cm) narrower than the bodice binding.

- I made the most of my striped fabric by cutting the body vertically, the insert (bust) horizontally, the center tab vertically, and the leg's binding and bodice binding/straps horizontally. Fun!

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I don't need another glamorous swimsuit; I recommend it to intermediate to advanced seamsters that are up for a challenge.

This was such a gratifying project. Apart from underwear and a couple of jeans, I haven't bought any clothes in over two years. My dream is to make absolutely everything I wear (apart from jeans, but including underwear), and this showed me I really could!
I'm happy that I have now reached a level of skill (and of confidence) that allows me to tackle a pretty technical project with no real instructions and some significant pattern faults, and to actually manage something that doesn't look wonky (I hope!).

It may sound that I'm bashing Burdastyle, but I don't really mean to. I'd been wanting to be trying one of their online patterns for a long time, and while the instructions and markings on the pattern were sometimes seriously lacking, the pattern itself was very well drafted. Plus, this style is truly unique. And, hey, the pattern is free! Merci, Burdastyle!
I took notes while assembling the swimsuit in case it might be useful for others, so here's my
~Step by step tutorial to construct the swimsuit~
1. Swimsuit's Body
Assemble swimsuit's body back to front right sides together at side seams.

2. Crotch
Assemble crotch lining to front and back of the swimsuit's body, with lining's right side against the swimsuit body's wrong side.
Try the suit on, make alterations to fit if and where needed. You can now serge the side seams.
For a neater finish, you'll now have to sandwich the body's seam allowance (front and back) between the crotch and crotch lining. To do this, stitch crotch outer piece to back right sides together. Then to stitch the crotch to the body's front, right sides together, you'll just need to scrunch the crotch lining out of the way. There should still be enough room to do the seam on the machine.
(If you're having a Bree tendency, like I did, make sure you match the stripes at the crotch. Not that anyone will look that close at that particular spot, but it'll make you feel better).
Trim the crotch seam allowances. Turn them to the inside.

3. Preparing the Front Insert
Fold the "front insert" in half.
note: since the front insert folds in half, what I'm calling the lining is the half that folds to the inside of the swimsuit
Make 2 rows of gathering stitches, on each side, for *both* the insert and insert lining (you'll need to make them separately as we don't want to attach the insert and it's lining at this point, for a neater finish). Start about 1 cm after the insert's curve at the bottom, and stop about an inch from the top (i. e., the fold).

4. Adding Bra Cups
If you're adding bra cups:
Stitch the insert's lining to the swimsuit's body, lining's right side against body's wrong side. *do not attach the insert's outer side to the swimsuit now.*
Try the suit on and pin the cups to the lining's inside, where you need them to be (careful with those pins, ladies!).
You'll be sewing the cups onto the inside of the lining (not directly against your skin). The cups will be hidden between the lining and the shell.
Adjust the gathers so that they are spread evenly over the cups. Stitch the cups to the lining's inside, using a narrow zigzag stitch.

5. Attaching the Insert to the Body
Stitch the insert to the swimsuit, right sides together. As in step 2, the bodice will thus be sandwiched between the insert's shell and lining, and no seam will be visible on the inside or on the outside. This is made possible because we haven't assembled the insert's shell and lining at the side seams yet, thus leaving an opening allowing to do this seam on the sewing machine.

6. Center Tab:
If desired (though this can be left out - Cidell's sans tab version is also very cute), add the center tab to gather the insert in the middle. Fold the piece lengthwise right sides together, sew the long side, turn right sides out. Fold under one of the short ends, attach to the bottom of the insert's lining. Fold the other short end under, attach to the bottom of the insert's shell.

7. Binding the Swimsuit's Body
Baste the insert's and lining's sides together.
Fold the long strap piece wrong sides together. Mark its center, and mark the back of the swimsuit's center. Pin the folded strap's center to the swimsuit's center. Stitch the strap to the swimsuit, pulling on the strap as you sew. This will make the strap stay snugly against your body as you wear the swimsuit.
Stop one each before you reach the insert's top. Make a 1-cm notch perpendicular to the strap's raw side, right at the top of the insert. Turn the straps to the wrong side, and sew the remaining long sides as well as the short end closed. Turn the straps inside out through the 1-inch opening on top of the inlay. Sew the opening at the inlay closed.
Serge/finish the binding and body's raw edges together.

8 a. Back Straps (tied version)
Fold the back straps right sides together and stitch the long side and one short side closed. Turn inside out, pin where you want them to be (I pinned mine at the bottom of the bra cups). Stitch them to the seam allowance only, being careful not to catch the body or the binding into the seam. I recommend making a double seam for added strength (you're going to be pulling on these each time you tie your swimsuit in the back).
8. b. Back straps (single strap version)
Stitch the long side closed. Turn inside out. Stitch either end of the strap onto the seam allowances of the swimuit's sides.

9. Optional leg band (my idea, not in original pattern):
Measure the legs' opening's perimeter, and cut 2 straps in this length, plus seam allowance. Width: I cut mine 1 cm narrower than the body's binding. Again, you may want to cut them just a bit shorter, to make them sit snuggly at the legs - but not too snuggly, or your legs will look like stuffed sausages. I pulled just a tiny bit on the band while attaching it to my leg opening.
Sew the bands closed on the short side.
Attach to the legs same as you did for the body's binding.
Serge/finish bands' and leg' raw edges together.

And you're all done!
I hope this all made sense. If not, give me a shout and I'll try and be clearer!

Here's a tiny pic to show how it fits - but I won't be showing any other picture on this blog.
As you can see, I made a hair band to match.

Now Seb had better take me to the beach as soon as I've written the final word to my thesis! Which should be some time next week, provided I retain the same level of energy and focus (which means, very scarce blog and email reading, and of course, no sewing... yeah, I wrote the tutorial as a "break" between rereading two chapters).

I'll catch up with you all friends afterwards!
In the meanwhile, take care.


Adrienne said...

You did a great job!! ENjoy your vacation after you finish up all your hard work!!!! Good luck!!!

pinky said...

"(Miss Cutie claims she made it all)"
LOL I have the same problem at home with Milka..

You look very gorgeous with this swimsuit. With the hair band, you become a pin-up back from the 60's ;)

Enjoy this summer

Redwitch said...

This is supercute and a gorgeous colour. You are so talented to make this with such limited instructions! I hope you get to relax and enjoy it on a beach somewhere soon :)

Shashi Nayagam said...

Dear Isabelle I couldn't even begin to understand how you made this gorgeous swim suite. You are so clever.
Bonnes vacanes
Gros bisous

karenv said...

Wow Isabelle! This is absolutely fantastic :) Such a great colour and style - you're so incredibly talented!

Thank you so much for your sweet words on my blog today :) {{{hugs}}} Have a great holiday!

mermaids said...

very chic! a couple weeks ago i took a class on bra making. way easier than one might think. now that i can make those, there is very little need for RTW.
once get all those papers out of the way, i can't wait to see all the lovely things you will sew.

Dénia said...

Oh la la, comme il est beau!! Alors là, vaiment tu es trop trop forte!!!
Bon on sais bien que c'est ptite Mignonne qui a tout fait... comme ta robe de mariée d'ailleurs!!!
Ce maillot est super beau et te va trop bien!
J'espère que tu pourras aller à la lage, Mom me dit que tu travailles beaucoup... Snif!
Gros gros bisous

Cathy said...

It's adorable, Isabelle! I love the colors and the cut.

Timmy's still being stubborn. I'm feeling sad about it, but he'll get here by Wednesday if nothing else.

Tracy said...

Well, now don't you look very cute and sassy in that swimsuit...and in your best color too! :o) It's wonderful, Isabelle. You were brave to do this. I find even the thought of working up a swimsuit very, very intimidating--LOL! Thank goodness you had Lil' Miss Cutie to help get through the tough bits! Have a grand holiday, my friend--rest, relax and between work ;o) ((BIG HUGS))

peacockchic said...

Wow that really came out nice. I love the color and the fit on you. Superb job!

Petra said...

I've been admiring your work for a while, but had to comment on the bathing suit - WOW! I can't believe you made that, absolutely stunning, anyone that can sew together a suit is a super talented seamstress to me! Amazing, now how about a little suit for Miss Cutie?

cidell said...

Have you considered a creer in tecnical writing? Lovely suit!

kasizzle said...

I love the way you played with the stripes.
Looks great!

Lisbei said...

Hello ma chère Isabelle !
Ton maillot de bain est superbe (j'adore la couleur), et tu es superbe dedans ... Félicitations pour l'avoir cousu, cela me paraît totalement insurmontable !
Si tu es à Amsterdam, il doit y avoir un petit paquet qu'y t'attend sagement à Paris ... j'espère !
Bisous !

Christina said...

I am seriously considering making this suit after seeing your lovely version and excellent instructions.

You really do need to head to the beach to show this off!

Deb L said...

Thank you so much for sharing the tutorial with us for this suit. I've saved it for future use, as it really is cute and a bit glamorous!

Making things with our own hands is so refreshing. :)

I hope you get that escape to the beach soon!

nowaks nähkästchen said...

Beach with style, I like that! It looks really glamorous and you'll be the most beautiful woman on the beach. :)

(And if you don't make it to the beach very often... there is still Paris Plage... ;-)

But there is one thing I'm curious about... I never dared to make a swim suit of a material that was not marked as material for swimwear, because friends warned me other materials would start to sag when wet? Is that true? How does it wear in the water? I'd really like to know.

(Btw if you ever need another cute bathing suit.. you know the dress version of Kwik Sew? ;-) )

Judith said...

It is beautifull Isabelle and you look beautifull in it

Hala said...

alora la je me complexe....
il est super beau ton maillot , bRAVO BRAVO BRAVO...

Pirouette said...

Isabelle, your swimsuit is fabulous! I would never have thought to make one, but seeing your's really inspires me. Thanks for the tutorial. I will download this pattern soon.

Cherie said...

Isabelle, very adorable and so chic! Love the headband, add a little straw bag and you'll look like you're in the movies! Very ambitious, and it turned out wonderful!

cheryl said...

I love the suit! I have been eying this pattern up since it was put up on BurdaStyle! Thanks for the heads up on the instructions problem. I tend to find most of the patterns there have this problem. Fortunately there are many people you can ask for help!

Tany said...

Exquisite!!! Dear friend, you look like a cinema diva in the sixties!! Just gorgeous and I really love the leg bands you added! I hope you'll have the chance of wearing this beauty on a well deserved vacation soon!


kirstenrana said...

This is the perfect combination of fabric and pattern - I love the changes you made. This suit is now on my to-sew list :)

Jennifer/OH said...

Wow, a swimsuit! Will your talents never cease? This is amazing. Swimwear off-the-rack has always been such torture for me. Like you I prefer the modest look and there is nothing out there with sufficient coverage that doesn't make me look like I am 80 years old. I love this style. Very 1940's. I especially like the alterations you made to the legs with the banding. The matching headband makes the outfit complete. I hope you do get you beach holiday soon.

cathymk said...

So Stylish! Love the matching headband too.

Karen said...

You certainly deserve a day at the beach after all your hard work this year, and now when you get there you'll look fabulous. I love the suit. Love it. The changes you made to the legs really add to the vintage appeal, and the hair band is the perfect final touch.

Mymy-le-Chat said...

Vite, vite je rattrape tout mon retard dans la lecture de ton blog, préparation de mon déménagement, fracture du bras gauche, panne d'ordi, tout était là pour (j'allais dire "me casser les pieds" mais non, le bras c'est déjà suffisant) m'embêter.
J'aime beaucoup ton manteau, il est superbe et te va très bien.
Je t'envoie plein de bisous


coonieandplume said...

Your swimsuit it gorgeous, Isabelle, you did a wonderful job on it! And it fits you so well, you make me feel of a starlette ;)

I have nominated you for a Kreativ Blog Award. :)

Enjoy your time in Amsterdam.


Jenna said...

Oh I absolutely ADORE this swimsuit on you, Isabelle! Thank you for gracing us with a small picture, even though I know that you had to be a little uncomfortable with it. I just love the colors you chose and the pattern. So retro and classy! I hope that you'll get to the beach soon so that you can put it to good use and get some well-deserved relaxation time at the same time. *hug*

Teddylyn said...

Very cute suit and great tutorial! thanks for sharing!


Tanya said...

Isabelle! Look at that suit - LOVE the fabric for it, the color, everything about it and you look great in it. Hope you get to wear it sooner than soon. The band is perfect with it - how fun!!!

Congrads on you getting to the finish line on your thesis - woo hoo!!!


LauraLo said...

This is gorgeous. No. YOU are gorgeous!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your achievements, both for your sewing and your thesis ;-) Ann

Jill in CA said...

Wow that is super cute!! I especially love the matching hair band. I hope you have a much deserved trip to the beach soon! Best of luck with completing your dissertation. :)

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your detailed directions for the Alison pattern. BurdaStyle's directions read in the manner I sew, on a wing and a prayer. I began checking size, pattern layout, and instruction sheets after reading posts from those who wasted time or fabric due to inaccuracies. The patterns are great but the creators need to edit content more carefully, for pattern & directions. At any rate thanks again. Cordially, Nehmah

stitcherw said...

Your swimsuit turned out great, what a gorgeous color. Good luck finishing up your thesis.

Claire said...

What a lovely suit. Thank you for sharing your sewing journey through the world of swim suit making and for the detailed instructions. You look very glamorous and chic with the matchng headband. Enjoy your well deserved vacation.

Dyan said...

This is a beautiful suit very classy without over exposure which I am personally not one for either! I like the idea of making what I wear and having bought a few patterns to start off with. Thanks for sharing your patterns, it's so inspiring.

Anonymous said...

in step 5, "the bodice will thus be sandwiched between the shell and bodice" is where i get a little confused

Isabelle said...

Anonymous, I meant "between the shell and lining". Just edited my instructions to make it clearer. Thanks for the heads up :)

Little Hunting Creek said...

Hi Isabelle, you look beautiful in your swimsuit. Thank you for the great instructions. Good luck finishing your thesis - those last pages will go fast,and then you'll have a well deserved vacation!

Meg said...

Great color and nice to see the boy-leg.

Ronee Parsons said...

Thank you for the tutorial. I was getting a little stuck with the Burdastyle instructions, and your tutorial helped me through it! :)

The J said...

Thank you so much for the detailed instructions - I grabbed the pattern yesterday!

Ana Carina said...

Hi Isabelle,

This swimsuit looks fantastic on you! Your production (photo) is very "vintage" with the band to match.


Rose said...

You look chic and sexy in the swimsuit and handband...fab choice of fabric which looks great on you. Thanks for the tutorial. I may attempt a swimsuit yet!

Sharon said...

Great job on your swimsuit! I love it. Congrats! Did I miss your wedding anniversay? I hope not-if I did then Happy Anniversary!

djharris said...

Thanks very much for the detailed guide. I've just cut out the pattern and was about to start when I read the instructions and realised I was going to need some help... your tutorial is excellent and you look great in your version. Debra

Jude said...

You did a great job. The color is my fav too. Thanks for the tips

Kit said...

Thanks for the detailed swimsuit post, I should have read it BEFORE I tried to make my "muslin" of the swimsuit. You can see my silly 1980's version on my site. The not-fun of trying to make it is still too recent in my memory to try again, yours turned out so nice so I must try again eventually!

Hawaii beach said...

Great job

Tina said...

Thanks for posting this tutorial - I now feel much more confident about trying out the pattern!

Crafterella said...

Hey there,

Kim has added their version of your project on crafty community Cut Out + Keep and we thought you might like to see how it turned out.

You can see their version and also import your project here:

Crafterella :)

Myss Meow said...

You are my new hero! I am so looking forward to giving this a try and I'm very grateful for your tips. The picture of your cat on the fabric you are trying to cut out is so true! It's like they see fabric laid out and they think it's just for them.

Liz said...

ugh wish I'd seen this before I started making the suit, you're right the instructions are terrible! I have to try making it again with your instructions! :)

Ali said...

I just wanted to thank you for this tute! So incredibly helpful! :) Really, I would've been totally lost without it.

Sommer Sheffield said...

By chance, do you take commissions for the REcreation of this swimsuit (en rouge) :)?? I love it and I want it :)

If I had a sewing machine, I'd try do it myself, mais je ne l'ai pas :(

Monica said...

I belive that you said you are living in Paris? I am also living in France and I would love to buy some fabric to make this suit. Do you order fabric online or do you buy it in a store? If you do buy it online could you tell me where. All the lycra fabric that I`ve found is solid colors and not too exciting. I like your fabric and I would prefer ordering from France. I dont know any good fabric stores here yet! THank you so much!

.alda. said...

Wow, I am so glad I stumbled across this! I'm a pretty decent seamstress but have never sewn a swimsuit before so I'm a bit hesitant. This particular pattern is actually one of the nicest I've seen, so how awesome is it that it is FREE?! Hooray. Thanks for the great post, you've demystified it for me quite a bit :D

Gloria Morken said...

Love the suit! Especially the leg binding. Great job! I'm ready to try this, thanks to your instructions!