Best of Handmade Swimsuits

Bathing suits are one of the few items of handmade clothing that I find are actually cheaper than most store-bought versions. However, despite being two small pieces of cloth, they are trickier to get right than I thought. For the first several years I made suits, most of them were duds. Some didn't feel substantial enough, some too tight, some too loose. But after more than a decade, a have not only improved my technique but also found a few favorite patterns. As the originals had worn out, I thought it was time to reprise my favorites for our recent trip to Hawaii. 

Fabric: swimwear fabrics from Blue Moon Fabrics 
Cost: $75 for all three suits

Pattern: BurdaStyle Bandeau Top 05/2014

This was one of my first successful swim tops, after about five years of sewing them. While the pattern directions are sparse and typical of Burda, I had less trouble with them time around. As with last time, I added swim cups which give a really nice shape. I believe the original has normal straps, while this has a halter. It's not designed for lots of surf and waves, but feels fairly secure (as worn in the kayak, below). 

The bottoms are another TNT pattern - a simple front and back with a high cut. This time I also added a waistband. I also drafted a low-waist one with leftover fabric (not pictured), though those didn't feel very secure so might not work out. 

The next one I first made in 2016. 

Pattern: Madalynne Sierra Bra (a free pattern!)

This one comes together fairly quickly, with a few modifications including completely lining it. Last time I made it I drafted the halter strap as one piece with the top. This time I did not (in order to make it easier to line), but didn't have the cleanest results. Regardless, this is an easy style for me to wear and gives a good shape. 

Same bottoms as before. I had originally tried the Edgewater Ave Oakley Bottoms, but realllly don't like high cut legs on me. As with the other, this also had a low-cut version with the leftover fabric (not pictured) that worked out fairly well. 

Finally, I tried one new-to-me pattern that I really liked. 

Pattern: Luciolons Cassis swimsuit (maillot de bain Cassis)

Someone on Reddit described this suit as their dream pattern and I have to agree! I love that it is covered up but still shows a bit of skin. It's got something very French about it. I actually worried that the top would provide too little coverage with the low cut and the cut-outs under the boobs. I do not recommend if you are more endowed. That said, I really enjoyed it and it worked out well on me. I takes a little fiddling with the straps when I put it on but then stays in place. 

As I looked up bathing suit bottoms online, one thing I had trouble with was getting a good idea of how cheeky the backs were cut. Several patterns out there have multiple options cuts, but often don't identify in the photos which is which. The same goes for people's posts on Instagram. And many don't post pics of the backs at all which is... understandable. So here's my contribution to the internet: this is the cheekier of the two options. 

I'm back home from the delightful warm weather now, but it's finally starting to heat up at home. I'm fully restocked ready for summer!

Handmade 1980s Ski Suit!

I was looking for my next big project and planning my next trip and thought - if I can make a bathing suit, jeans, and a wedding dress, why can’t I make my own snow clothes? This one took a lot of research and was a bit intimidating to start, but ultimately is not much more complicated than making a lined jumpsuit.

  • Ski Suit: DaisyKingdom mash up of Ladies’ Alpine Suit 75, Ladies’ Zippered Overpant 72, and Men’s Exhibition Suit 98
  • Mittens: Jalie Mimi Mittens
  • Fanny Pack: Proper Fit Clothing DIY Fanny Pack
  • Balaclava: Katrin Schubert Matching Balaclava
Fabric: 2-ply waterproof breathable fabric from Peak Fabrics with a Radiantex insulation and ripstop lining
Cost: ~300 for jump suit, mittens, fanny pack, and balaclava

My tips for making a snow/ski suit: :
  • Get the right fabric: I bought 2-ply waterproof breathable fabric from #peakfabrics with a radiantex insulation - store owner Agnes was a big help! Also check out Discovery Fabrics and Seattle Fabrics
  • Don’t forget notions: I used waterproof seam sealing tape, 10 zippers, a buckle, yarn… Matching notions from Harts Fabric and yarn from Yarn Shop Santa Cruz.
  • It’s all in the details: Things like zippers at the leg opening, pit zips, pockets, ski pass holder, and a fanny pack for my water bottle made this really functional
  • Test the fit: I made two muslins and sewed my lining first to triple check the fit and movement
  • It’s not cheap: All told, I spent just about $300 for a suit, mittens, balaclava, and fanny pack. But that’s less than a @tipsyelves suit + hours of entertainment (aka sewing time) for me
  • Have fun! 

Pattern notes:
  • Ski Suit: As I drafted/hacked this myself from a combination of patterns and made two muslins, the fit was pretty great. I worried about mobility on the slopes, but really had no issues. I was careful to make it a little looser to account for the insulation, but it really didn't need to be too bulky. My one wish is that I had made the sleeves a bit longer to account for mending the elbow. But it's really not any different than drafting a jumpsuit. 
  • Mittens: Jalie always has well-made patterns with excellent instructions. This one even came with a video! I wish I had given a bit more reinforcement at the thumb joint, but otherwise these came together really nicely. 
  • Fanny pack: Unlike Jalie, with this pattern I took a chance on a new-to-me designer and was a bit disappointed. This pattern came ONLY with video instructions, which I found really obnoxious. I also did not like the technique for the lining. While it is supposedly fully lined, in reality it was actually interlined, meaning in most places the lining was sewn together with the outer fabric and the raw edges were finished with bias tape. I made a few modifications (once I understand the pattern by watching the video 100x) and was able to easily fully line without needing bias finishes. The pattern was only $2.99, so I guess I got what I paid for. On the plus side, it was a nice big size for my water bottle. 
  • Balaclava: It was fun to add in a knitted piece to this outfit. I didn't realize the pattern was brioche when I originally bought it, which is a new technique for me despite knitting for many, many years. And you know what? Now I'm hooked on it! I am currently starting my third brioche project since finishing it. Overall the pattern was solid, though I did make a mistake and used a wool blend that isn't as water-resistant as a 100% wool yarn. 
Final notes:
The skiing conditions were perfect. It was relatively warm (40F), and I was able to unzip the pit zips and the front zip and feel great. We took it easy the first two days and I really loved getting back on the slopes after not doing much skiing. Unfortunately, at the end of the third day I fell on some baby moguls in the Ditch of Doom and recently learned that I completely tore my ACL. I guess I sew better than I ski! Luckily I am healing up nicely without surgery and hope to wear this out again next season. 

Fairyland Dress

I love dressing to a theme, and so when our friends invited us (and Beatrix!) to their wedding at Fairyland in our old neighborhood I couldn't resist making an over-the-top dress for the occasion. 

Pattern: Simplicity Misses Cocktail Dresses #4070 bodice with a self-drafted double circle skirt
Fabric: 6 yds each of satin twill and organza
Cost: $75

My dress was inspired by this elaborate creation from Krikor Jabotian's 2016 collection. I love the challenge of trying to recreate a couture piece from an image and spent a lot of time on the research for elaborate pleats like this and this. I eventually decided on a double circle skirt (two circle skirts sewn together) with tapering and pleating on the front half. I can't say exactly how it worked out because I adjusted the pleats right up until I sewed the final skirt onto the bodice (and a few times after) until I got something I liked. I did add one extra piece to the front for... modesty. 

I love how even in the back, without the pleating, the double circle drapes really nicely

To give the skirt added volume, I created a petticoat with two tiers of ruffles out of red organza to line the fabric. I think I cut and sewed nearly 100 feet of ruffles. As if that wasn't enough, it's hemmed with horsehair braid - a cheap one that caused me a bit of grief. After machine-sewing the horsehair to the hem, I turned it under and hand-sewed it for an invisible finish that took me all of one evening. I also hand-tacked the petticoat to the skirt at regular intervals. 

The bodice is my go-to Simplicity #4070 that I've been making dresses with for nearly a decade. I did a heart cut-out for the back which was fun to put together and not all that difficult once you get your head wrapped around it. 

I even sewed a little capelet from Vogue #9315, a top pattern that I thought had good potential to be used as outerwear. The wool and lining were leftover from my husband's coat, and very much needed on any California night. 

My one word of advice is, if you make a fancy new dress, don't let Beatrix in a tux steal the show. And get your man a matching bow tie, of course. 

A Sweater with Reckless Abandon

So there I was browsing through Instagram one day minding my own business when I saw the most wild, amazing knit I've ever laid eyes on. @verca_knits was making this joyous, rainbow-colored hat that was just too cool for words. The knitting was unlike anything I'd ever seen, with bursts of color against a pillowy-soft white yarn. It was nothing like I typically make, and yet suddenly I HAD to make one for myself. I was in love. 

Pattern: DaisyAndPeace Chunky Knitted Sweater No. 15 with this stitch pattern
Yarn: Malabrigo Rasta in Unicorn Bark (4 skeins) and Natural (7 skeins)
Cost: $250

After some internet research, I discovered that the pattern was the Tentacula hat from Jenny Noto. Being extra (and already owning too many knitted hats), I decided I needed this as a SWEATER. After more research, I settled on using Malabrigo's Rasta yarn in Unicorn Bark and Natural (I'll let you guess which color is which). Not only was this a big departure for me style-wise, as I typically don't wear these colors and especially not all at once, but I almost never knit with chunky knits. Undeterred, I soon found myself adding over $200 of bright yarns to my cart. *Gulp*

To adapt Jenny's Tentacula hat pattern, I first found a suitable pattern for a plain chunky knit sweater. You almost don't need a pattern as any two oversized rectangles with sleeves will do, but I still like a bit of guidance. I ended up using this pattern from Etsy. My yarn was a bit bigger than gauge so I ended up kitting the smallest size and reducing the number of stitches to 80%. I know, I know, if I'm going to buy a pattern specifically for a project I should at least get the right one, but I liked its simplicity, the slight puff of the sleeves, and it really was nearly the right size. 

Next was to figure out that stitch pattern. Jenny's pattern has a lot of good information, but I found it a bit difficult to follow. Luckily, she links to this great YouTube video from Knit with Me on how to do the stitch pattern. Even if you don't plan to make this I recommend giving it a watch because it really is a very ingenious stitch pattern. It is mostly worked in stockinette stitch, with loops pulled through with your needle or a crochet hook. She calls the stitch "draw a loop," which I'd never heard of before but has some really cool knitting applications, not the least of which is this stitch pattern. If you follow me on Instagram I'll put up some videos of how it looks to knit. 

From there the sweater knit up pretty quickly, minus some time to order more yarn (twice). The Malabrigo yarn is really very soft and lovely. The sweater is a bit of a beast, but not as stiff as I worried it would be. I think it will serve me well for outdoor dining or drinks, or perhaps an art walk? Anyway, I hope you enjoy this sweater as much as I do and it inspires you to step out of your comfort zone and try something wild. 

Handmade Kayak Paddle Jacket

Since moving to Santa Cruz, my favorite new toy by far has been the second-hand kayak we scored on Craigslist. It has more than paid for itself this past fall and, after a short break in December and January, I had it back on the water in February with my mom and Beatrix, and my dad alongside us in his rowboat. The otters of Elkhorn Slough have been phenomenal. 

Pattern: Jalie Maxime Jacket
Fabric: ripstop nylon and nylon rainwear
Cost: free - remnants

I wanted a new paddle jacket for the cooler months in spring, so I decided to see if I could make my own. After some research, I downloaded the Jalie Maxime Jacket. I liked that it was designed for athletics with things like a zipper shield, chin guard, and elastic cuffs and hems. I also wanted one with a front zip because temperatures can change quickly when you're paddling and I wanted to be able to cool off a little if I needed to. 

The jacket is made entirely with fabric from three different water-repellant scraps I had laying around. The sleeves and upper body are made from my most waterproof fabric, a water-repellent "aviator flight outdoor satin" (whatever that is?) that I used in my raincoat. I modified the Jalie pattern so that the jacket yoke and upper sleeve were cut in one piece, similar to McCall 6531. I also eliminated the pleat there. The body is made with light blue ripstop nylon, which isn't totally water-repellant but dries quickly. And there's even some black ripstop nylon filling in over the rest of the jacket. For the sleeve cuffs, I opted to use poly spandex (swimsuit fabric) to make a cuff that fits tightly to my wrist to help keep water out. Since they're stretchy, I can also push up the sleeves when it gets a little warmer. Finally, I used a stretchy cord rather than elastic at the hem of the jacket. 

Here we are out on the water and it worked well! It keeps me dry from splashes and also dries quickly in the sun. Not bad for a bunch of scraps from my cupboard! Since this is a water jacket, I sewed small buttonholes at the bottom of each pocket to drain water if needed. But mostly the jacket just gets some ocean spray. 

Aren't the otters just amazing? 

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