Friday, August 28, 2015

Pink Lace Swimsuit: In-Depth Review

I started to write one long post about my Seamwork swimsuit, but it was way too detailed and bogged down the beauty of the finished product. If you're interested in how I modified it, and how difficult it was to fit, read on! If you just want to look at pretty pictures, check out last week's post.

In general, I had two different kinds of adaptations to the pattern; changes for fit, and changes due to the see-through nature of the lace. Dealing with the lace was easier than working with fit, partly because of my experience last year with a similar fabric and this cardigan.

Let's start with the bottoms, which were very easy. I cut a small, based on my hip measurement, and removed 4 1/2 inches from the rise. I'm not in to high-rise anything, sorrynotsorry. The fit of these is pretty spot-on, though I think I need a slightly tighter elastic in the waist. Otherwise, no fit changes.

As I mentioned last week, I wanted to use the seam lines on the swim bottoms to "color block" with the lace. Basically I wanted the side panels to be unlined. I ended up "lining" the side panels with lace, so they are two layers of lace instead of lace+lining. It's a subtle peek-a-boo of skin, hopefully not too much. A lot of my seams are double-sewn due to the somewhat delicate nature of the lace. Sometimes I used a zig-zag stitch on my sewing machine, sometimes a straight stitch. All of the elastic is topstitched with my coverstitch (which is amazing on swimwear, in case you were wondering).

In order to make the side panel see-through, I disregarded the front lining pattern piece and simply constructed two fronts. One was all lace, and one had a lining center panel. Clear as mud? I haven't slept in two weeks (yay newborn growth spurts), so please ask questions if you have them! I did have to use a neon Sharpie and color in the white elastic, which could be seen through the lace. In hindsight I wish I would have figured out a way to cover the elastic.

The Reno top...well that was a pickle and a half (is that a phrase? again, no sleep...). Like all Seamwork patterns, it's meant to be a 3 hour project. I easily had twice that many hours into it, mostly because of my choice to use lace. However, 3 hours still seems unrealistic unless you're positive it will fit and already know how to make a bra/swimsuit. In case you couldn't tell, it is basically a bra with tie straps. Thank goodness I've read a lot of blog posts about bras, although I've never made anything other than a soft bra. I have a small band size but large cup size (thanks breastfeeding!) and I wasn't sure how to make that work. I couldn't just cut a large cup size because then it wouldn't fit into the size small band. I decided to do a full-bust adjustment to the cup pieces, similar to what I did here on an Ohhh Lulu bra. That method would enlarge the cup size without changing the bottom seam of the cup where it sews to the band. 

Problem: there is a lining piece to the cups, and it's one pattern piece instead of two. No center seam where I can make an adjustment. Solution: ignore the lining pattern piece and cut the lining from the two cup pieces. Additional problem: using lace, I could then see a seam in the cups. Additional solution: double up the lining and face the seams inward.

After all that planning and problem-solving, this method completely failed. I don't know why, I'm not skilled in bra-fitting, but the best way I can explain it is that the volume I added to the cups was in the wrong place. I added it to the fullest part of the cup pattern piece, but that was NOT the fullest part of my actual bust (thanks gravity). 

And as you've heard, you don't know whether these sort of fitting issues are happening until you finish the damn thing. This is where the tears happened. This lace fabric is AMAZING and I had a TON of hours into the project. I felt myself starting to slide into some serious post-baby body hate. But have you ever gotten teary with a toddler around? It's kind of impossible. My three year old daughter just patted my leg and told me it would be okay. Who can cry when something like that happens?

I had to do a few things to make this work. First, I pinched the top of the band in center-front, narrowing the distance in between my breasts, basically sewing a dart there. This is a known fit issue for me with bras so I wasn't surprised. Second, I added an underwire. I have zero sewing experience with underwires. I know I'm not "supposed" to wear them as a nursing mother (they can compress the breasts and cause clogged ducts, supposedly) and I don't wear them right now, but I do prefer them. Anyway, I ripped apart an old bra and took out the underwire, and sewed it into the seam allowance of the cups. I have no idea if that's right. It wasn't a perfect solution, but it made a HUGE difference in fit. And the textured lace hid all wonky/extra stitching.

Next, I pinched and tucked the excess fabric in the cups until it was laying flat, then sewed it down. Yup. Totally ridiculous, and if the fabric were anything other than a textured lace, you would be able to see it. Basically, all the volume I added with my FBA, I took back out. And in case you're wondering, I made two rough muslins of the cups, but they obviously didn't help. You'd have to muslin the whole thing.

Other changes...the neck straps are underlined, to hide the seams. I didn't have pink serger thread (what??) so the thread was showing. Underlining solved that issue and created stronger straps anyway. 


I created a casing for the boning because you could see it through the lace (obviously). Now the casing pokes through and threatens to jump out of the suit. In hindsight, I could have sewn the casing directly to the lining and inserted the boning. This was my first time working with boning, so, live and learn. BTW, Jo-Ann's sells boning by the yard, so it only cost me a buck.

Fabric bleed

After all of that, here's the bad news. Even though I pre-washed this fabric (with the lace in a lingerie bag) the colors bled the first time I wore it. And the second. And the third. I didn't have time to test it in water because I was literally tying up loose ends in the car on the way to a pool party. I got out of the pool to attend to baby H, who was wrapped in a swaddle blanket, and after ten minutes I realized the blanket was pink. Waaaaaaaaaah. The swimsuit came off for the rest of the day. I've since hand washed it and the color keeps bleeding. It's awful, and so sad that I can't think about it. I'm fairly positive it's the lining and not the lace. Thank goodness a cool snap of weather has moved through, or I would be epically depressed about not getting to wear it until I figure out a solution. I'll probably contact Fabric Mart, because swimsuit fabric that can't get wet is sort of...evil.


  1. Beth, I came searching for your post on the reno top to see if I can get help before I start putting mine together, as I remembered that you and share similar large bust/ small torso issues. I'm wondering how to deal with making the cup larger as well. Hmmm... Off to search my pinterest boards in case I saved another post that tackles enlargening bikini cups. But I'm definitely adding the underwires like you did and Seamwork has an article on adding those at least, so hopefully I won't be too lost.

  2. Such a lovely swimsuit - was going to sew up one for this summer and appreciate your in depth review.

    To stop the dye bleeding try using synthrapol, a dye fixative batik artists use a lot. I have had issues with fabric bleeding before and washed it in synthrapol ( and it worked! Though sadly the worst dye bleeding I ever experienced was a gorgeous printed silk that I pre-washed only to have one color (out of 5) in the print bleed, then found out about synthrapol after the fact.

    1. THANK YOU! This suit has been sitting in a bag, waiting for some sort of solution to the dye bleed. I'll check that out!

  3. Hi, Beth! Thanks SO MUCH for the in-depth review. I love the texture of the lace. Question for you - where did you find the 3/8-inch plastic boning called for in the directions? You mention buying boning from Jo-Ann, but I couldn't find 3/8-inch stuff. I'd love to hear your input. Thanks! I'm hot to make this suit for a lake trip in a couple of weeks. Sounds like I'll need lots of time to get it right.

    1. Hey there! If I remember correctly, my Jo-Ann's had boning by the yard kind of stuck in a basket near the sewing notions like needles and rulers. It was NOT with the bra cups or elastic, which would make more sense to me. Of course, this was a year ago, so who knows where it might be now!

    2. Thanks! Will check again! I feel like they hide the more "hard core" notions. Frustrating!


I would love to hear from you! Please feel free to comment below.

Newsletter sign up