My swimsuits are taking up an entire drawer and look like a bunch of tangled snakes. I promised myself I would not make as many this year… Swimwear is so much fun to make and it costs very little and so it wasn’t hard to go hog-wild on all of the endless possibilities.

This year I wanted to only make one or two suits and make them awesome. Well, that didn’t exactly happen because I also love a good science experiment.

I wanted to know what would happen if I took a pattern from 1972 and made it today with modern performance knit. In the 1970s double knit polyester was new on the scene. Before double knit polyester was invented swimwear patterns were usually made from non-stretch material. This meant they had darts, zippers and princess seams to go over the curves of your body. Todays knit would not work on that style of pattern. I tried once and it was a big mess. Although a 1970s pattern that was meant for double knit polyester might just work though. So I dove in.

Things I knew – polyester from the 1970s had little stretch and it was only two way stretch at that. My pattern would need to be sized down because of this. I also knew that 1972 was the last time big box patterns were vanity sized. Vintage patterns are tricky in this way as you can be different sizes in different decades.  This pattern should have been close to my size. Boy was I wrong!

I set up all of my machines and dove into to the unknown without fear. I planned to use my regular machine for basting the lining to my outer shell fabric, my serger for seaming and my cover stitch machine to finish all of my topstitching seams. My cover stitch will give my suit a professional look while holding it all together well.

I cut out my suit.

I estimated if I cut 5/8″ off each edge my suit would fit. Ha Ha!! Not only was my suit six inches too big for the first fitting it was WAY too long. My stretch knit is four way – meaning it doesn’t just stretch across (two way) it stretches across horizontal and vertical.

Problem solving. I was able to take the suit in at three points by doing the two sides and the back. The next problem was the 47 year old pattern did not use any elastic anywhere but the legs. I added elastic everywhere I would normally add it, top back, center just below the bust and the legs of course. No peak a boo surprises here.

Winging the elastic I had a more problems. On one side, the back of the suit to the upper bust did not match up. I sewed this down the best I could. I tried the suit on and simply moved on. I also reminded myself that nothing is ever perfect. BTW no one noticed!

The final huge problem was the length. I decided to take a trip to my public swimming pool and study the suits. One thing I noticed was a lot of one piece suits had ruching on the sides. To ruch my suit I gathered the sides with a basting stitch and sewed elastic to them in the seam allowance.

And so it goes while learning another set of skills. If I did this again I would compare the vintage pattern to my sloper (master pattern) I made.

Behind the scenes~

I made my fabric on Spoonflower with my new set of skills I learned using Procreate. ProCreate is an app for design on the iPad.  Check out my Spoonflower shop to see more of my retro and modern designs.

It has been eight months of only shopping indie fabric shops on my year challenge. I can’t wait to write about all of the things I have made this year from local fabric shops and indie online shops.

Share your favorite online indie fabric shops with us.

Thank you for reading,

Tracy McElfresh

Dream it! Sew it!


Tracy McElfresh