I’ve longed for a better fitting swimsuit for years. My upper half and lower half in no way mesh with commercial sizing. The only option has been buying cup size swimwear, and even then I could only purchase bikinis since there is a multi size discrepancy between my bust and hip. Last summer I gave up and ordered an ill fitting DDD one piece. Not this summer!
Spurred on by baby/parent swim lessons I vowed to tackle making my very own swimsuit. Enter Lisette for Butterick. I’m a long time fan of Liesl’s line of kid patterns, Oliver & S, so I knew she was a strong designer and pattern writer. When I saw her two new swim patterns I was smitten! But which to choose? B6358 is a nice sporty suit, but it only went up to size 20. I also wasn’t sold on the bust support it may or may not provide. But B6360, a tankini/swimdress, went into women’s sizes and provided a lot more coverage. Sold!
I admit I was a little nervous about making a swimsuit. I was also worried since I’ve read that the Big 4 pattern are drafted with much more ease than most indie patterns. I emailed Leisl, the pattern designer and she was so very kind to have a dialogue with me.
My main question was, “How does the drafting of the women’s pattern differ from the misses’ pattern?”. We had a chat back and forth and here is the main information. Each size range was re-drafted, so the women’s sizes were not simply the misses’ size graded up. The misses’ pattern is drafted for more of an hourglass shape, while the women’s pattern is drafted for a fuller bust and tummy. The other differences are the cup size is bigger (B for misses’ vs. C for women’s), crotch length is shorter for women’s, and the misses’ bottom has a higher cut leg line.
We also talked a little bit about tackling a first swimsuit. I was nervous and really didn’t want to screw it up. Should I make a muslin first? Can you do that with swimwear? No, not really was her answer. Swim fabrics can vary so much in the amount they stretch and their weight. It’s really better to just jump in knowing that your first suit won’t be perfect, but you’ll learn a lot.
Okay. I can do this.
Armed with Liesl’s advice and my pattern in hand I went searching for fabric, but buying online was daunting. B6360 has many pieces and, while I can pattern match like a boss, it wasn’t something I wanted to tackle on my first swimsuit, so prints were off the table. Eventually I landed on some slinky and sort of shiny solid teal fabric from Michael Levine. I also picked up power mesh for the lining as that is what the pattern recommends.
Once I started making the suit, it went better than I expected. I did a 1 inch FBA on the cups to make the size 18 fit my 42 inch bust and graded out the skirt to a size 22 at the hip. I cut out a straight size 22 bottom. This is the beauty of a two piece suit. No torso length to worry about! Huzzah! The instructions tell you to cut the pieces on the cross grain. so that’s what I did as well. And aside from fending off marauding toddlers, the process was smooth.
Sewing the top was much harder. I hadn’t realized how much my machine was going to hate the slippery fabric. Whenever I was sewing the fabric and the lining or elastic it was mostly smooth, but when sewing only the main fabric my machine threw a hissy fit. Instead of my usual fast stitching I had to slow way way down. There are some areas with a little wonky stitching as a result, mostly the hem and channels on the skirt. I did a lot of seam ripping and trying again until I could get things mostly looking okay. When sewing the top to the skirt there is one place with 9 layers of gathered fabric and elastic that all need to be stitched together. I might go back and re-do that part eventually. It is not my best work.
By contrast the bottom of the suit was quick and easy to sew. The hardest part was feeding the waist elastic through the waistband, which really wasn’t hard to do at all!
The suit ended up fitting really well! It is nice and snug in the top, the skirt gives a lot of coverage, and the bottom is nice and well-fitted too. I wore it to the pool recently and I felt great rocking it on the deck and in the water. I never feared I would accidentally expose myself while navigating a baby though her swim class, and nothing pinched or pulled. Two thumbs up!
To summarize –
Pattern name: Lisette for Butterick 6360, described as a “close-fitting, lined swimsuit/swimdress combination is cut on crosswise grain. It is elasticized with front twisted band and gathers, and it features side seam casings and drawstrings so you can also choose to cinch it up and wear it as a tankini. The shoulder straps cross at back, and it has removable bra cups and a bra hook at back.”
Size range: 8 (31.5/24/33.5) to 24 (46/39/48)
What size did you make? 18 bust graded to a 22 hip
What are your measurements, height, and body type? 42″ chest/36″ waist/47″ hip. Bra Size 36G. I’m 5’6″ tall and I consider myself a pear, but with a tummy.
What adjustments did you make and how long did they take? I added a 1 inch FBA to the cup. I didn’t spend a ton of time on it since the fabric is stretchy.
What was the construction process like? Did the instructions make sense to you? Okay, so this suit was probably not the best beginner pattern. It has lots of little pieces to make like the ties and the knot feature in the front. Between the slippery fabric and alternating between really thin layers and really thick layers my machine was not pleased. However I will say that the instructions were very clear. There was only one spot where I was a bit confused because I decided not to read the directions (whoops!), but otherwise crystal clear. The only change I would make to the pattern is to include how many yards of each elastic you’ll need. It was annoying to unfold the pattern, measure each pattern piece, and add them all up before I could go elastic shopping. Also I ended up with too much fabric. So much that I’ve since made two toddler suits with the leftovers and I might be able to make myself a bikini top.
How do you like the pattern’s fit? Do you think the design works well for your particular body shape? Fit was pretty spot on going by my measurements. I will say I think using power mesh is part of that. It was less elastic than some of the other swim linings I browsed. Or maybe because I cut the suit on the cross grain. I wasn’t quite sure since this is my first self-made suit.
Will you make the pattern again? If so, what fit or design changes will you make? I would consider making it again when this one wears out. The style is great for running after kids. I would probably eliminate the knot feature as it gets lost under my bosom and I’d definitely cut the leg line higher as that’s my preference.
Do you have any advice on this pattern for other curvy sewers? Are there any resources (blog posts, fitting books, tutorials) that helped you sew this piece up? I think this is a solid option for a sewer who has made a successful swim suit or has a pretty good base skill set.
Size Range: 3 – the women’s sizes on this pattern aren’t terribly generous
Construction Process: 4.5 – taking off .5 for that horrible 9 layer spot
Final Fit: 5
Overall Rating: 4.375 – Overall super happy with how it turned out!