Social media and Swimsuit Sewing Fears
Last week, I made my first ever swimsuit. Despite sewing for years, it is the one thing I have always put off trying.
I had this weird idea that it would be incredibly difficult and sewing swimsuits was something that only MEGA EXPERT level sewists should attempt. Who was I to even be considering it?!
Its like there is some unspoken rule that you have to sew for x amount of years or start with cotton poplin and only sew zipper pouches and pin cushions until you can perfect them before levelling up.
Where did I get this bonkers idea from? Social media.
Facebook is an echo chamber sometimes. You shout out your fears and 30 people echo back that they have the same worries, thus confirming that you are right to be worried.
I am a member of numerous sewing groups on Facebook and my feed is constantly filled with people saying how they really want to try sewing such and such a garment but that they are scared it is going to be really difficult. That they want to attempt sewing knit fabric but they've heard you need a serger and they are not sure that they are ready for stretchy fabrics.
These are all valid concerns, but is it something we should be scared of?
What is going to happen if you skip sewing a pin cushion and jump straight into sewing a cotton lycra dress?
Will you make mistakes? 100% yes. Will your fabric get jammed in the machine? Probably. Will you get so frustrated that you want to set your machine on fire? Likely.
Will you get hurt and die? Chances are slim to none.
The absolute worst thing that could happen? You waste fabric.
Be smart, practice on something cheap. Then so what if you ruin your fabric? You will have learned a ton of skills for the next attempt such as
- Which stitches work best
- Which needles to use
- What speed you're comfortable using your machine at with whatever fabric you are using thats new.
- What speed you're likely to make more mistakes sewing at (I make the most mistakes when I try to go too slow. I get bored, I lose concentration and I make silly mistakes)
- Why you should use your actual measurements and not your ready to wear size.
I am not denying that its important to have a good foundation, to learn the basics and practice does make progress. However, it should not stop us from trying. Mistakes are how we learn.
The first ever garment I sewed for myself was a Seamwork Mesa Dress. In Swiss dotted, heavy black cotton lycra. I had no idea I wasn't "supposed" to be attempting such a thing. I saw the dress on Pinterest and thought I want to try that!
I leapt right in with both feet. The fabric got jammed. I broke a needle or two. I didn't own a serger. I put the sleeves on inside out. It took me 3 days to finish and I was hella proud of myself. It is not up to my standards today, the neck band is super wonky and I wouldn't wear it in public -it is far too short.
I had no fear, I got lost in the fun and frustration of creating and learning because no one had told me that i shouldn't do it or that sewing with jersey is so hard. I made 2 more and each one got progressively better.
And then. Then I joined all these groups, and I started to doubt myself. I started to force myself to try do things "the right way" Start at the beginning. And what happened? I ended up with a ton of zipper pouches, and garments that I never wear because they are not my style. I made them because they were "for beginners"
The more I scroll through my Facebook feed, the more I notice the pattern of me wanting to try and then becoming discouraged.
I decided it was time to put on my big girl (swim) pants and just to go for it. I have a house full of fabric. If I messed up... So what? I'm constantly telling my kids just to try. It was about time I practice what I preach once more.
I picked my patterns from Patterns for Pirates, because I have used them for many years and I know they have brilliant easy to follow, full photograph instructions.
And you know what?
It was so ridiculously easy.
So easy, I made them in half a day.
And stupidly forgot to document it.
Yes, the fabric was a bit slippery, but thats what pins and clips are for. A wide zig zag stitch and a slow speed prevents jamming. I thought sewing in the foam cups would be the most difficult. It took less than 5 minutes and didn't require any unpicking.
Inserting the elastic takes a bit of getting used to but again, not so terrifying. A nice wide zig zag stitch makes sure its not too difficult to unpick if you really need to and I did the whole project on my sewing machine with no serger - I own one, but it is not necessary.
The top was not my usual style but it works, Kara tends to pull on my swimsuit for balance as her core muscles are not super strong thanks to Cerebral Palsy. I put power net between the layers of swim fabric so the neckline doesn't really stretch too much when she pulls at me and she can always grab on to the flounce.
Next time, I won't do the cross straps at the back, between those and the power net it was quite difficult to get out of the top. I did have a bit of a panic that I was going to have to shout for help getting undressed or worse be cut out of it! I think regular straps would make it a bit easier to wriggle out of.
I have plans to make many many more swimsuits. I have promised Joel that I would make him and his dad matching rash vests in the 852 water dragons fabric - but I have to finish my next bikini first!
You might not have as much success as I did, you might do even better or you might need to throw it out and start again. The beaches are closed anyway, so plenty of time to practice!
Don't put off doing something you really want to try just because someone else says it seems really hard.
Take a deep breath, watch some youtube tutorials, read through the pattern instructions and take your time, be prepared to fail but you might just surprise yourself.