A Pair of Cottesloe Swim Suits
I’ll admit it, Instagram is an influential place. So when I started seeing all the versions of the Cottesloe Swim Suit from Megan Nielsen popping up, I really wanted to make one. I love to swim! And, like most humans, I hate swimsuit shopping. The other day I was looking at the size chart for a swimsuit I liked online, and my measurements had me at a 16 on top and a 22 on the bottom. How could I ever buy a one piece that fit and looked good?! Well, I am a sewist!
BUT, I just sewed my first knit thing ever (a simple t-shirt). Sewing a swim suit seemed difficult. Uh, wrong. I think each of these took between 2-3 hours. And while they’re not perfect, each one got better than the last. And it wasn’t that difficult.
In contemplating my future swimming self, I took advantage of a sale at Mood Fabrics and decided to fully dive in. Black, Gold Coin, and Houndstooth. The black and gold coin were awesome. The Houndstooth was not what I was expecting. The print was bigger than I thought, and almost like a basket weave print. I like it... but I’m sitting on it for now. All are SFP 50 and have aloe microcapsules. Whatever that means. It seems like something good?
I got enough black for a one piece and a two piece, what I thought was enough for a gold coin top (it was actually nearly enough for a whole bikini!) and enough for a another one piece and maybe bikini or bikini top. Mixing and matching! I did lots of research and made sure to use a needle for knits, polyester thread, and rubber elastic for the arms, legs, and neck (controversially, I was advised by a VERY TRUSTED source not to pre-wash my fabric). For the waist and bust band, I decided to try out two options—some 1” cotton elastic and a more firm elastic from Stretchrite that is 32% rubber and 68% poly (1.5”, cause I thought a wider waistband might look nice). In terms of lining, my fabric has some compression and isn’t sheer. So I decided to skip lining. The pattern calls for a crotch gusset. So that was no problem.
And then I let everything sit for like a week. I was still scared.
I woke up Saturday morning and decided, okay—I’m going to do this. I sewed up the one piece first. Less overall sewing and less elastic insertion seemed the wisest route. And black fabric hides a multitude of sins, including sewing missteps. And it is pretty chic. So a black swimsuit to begin! As you can see, my elastic insertion was like 50% correct. And the rubber elastic I ordered did not like to be picked out once sewn. It broke (I’m not really sure about the quality of the elastic, it came in a messy jumble…but it seems to be mostly fine). So…I made nice with the wonky elastic and decided it’s on the inside, and this is my first try. It’s okay. In terms of sizing, I made an 18 on top and graded out slightly for my hips to a 20. I don’t think this was necessary, given the negative ease, but I didn’t want to be too tight in the hips.
For the first bikini, I sewed an 18 on top and a 20 on the bottom. The elastic went so much better! Still not perfect, but better. One of the tips I received was to use wonder tape to baste in place. I tried that on this suit with mixed success. Even though I was using 1/4” tape and my seams are 1/4”, there are a few spots where the tape pokes through. I have been patiently tearing it off and hope to get it all off in time.
Now our story takes a sad turn. I was planning to share THREE swim suits today. The third was going to be my ta-da, look how much I improved moment! That did not happen.
For the second bikini, I wanted to live my best bright life and was really drawn to this gold coin fabric. I bough 1/2 yard, planning just to make a top and wear the black bottoms. But as I started to cut, I realized I could get nearly a full suit! I made a few adjustments from the first bikini and decided to lower the waist by 1.5”. I could also only get a full suit if I added a contrast stripe band. This really slowed me down. I couldn’t decide! I went back and forth for days—should I add it? In the end I went with the band, cut a bit wider to accommodate the 1.5” elastic. And then I started sewing. And after two swimsuits and a year since I bought it, my sewing machine decided it was on strike. My zig zag stitch was coming out straight 50% of the time. Grrrr… time for a spa day and patience. I will finish this gold coin bikini!
I really like this pattern and clearly it’s a great start for making your own swimwear. How about you, are you planning to make a swim suit this summer?