Building a Swim Separates Collection Starting with Alice

Even though we are still getting freezing rain and cool temperatures here in southwestern Ontario, I’m intrigued by the idea of sewing up swim suits for the summer for two main reasons. First, these are the patterns that designers have in testing right now in preparation for a new season. And second, because I still have 2 great swim fabrics left from my trip to Ann’s Fabrics that I’d really like to play with!

I took the opportunity to participate in the pattern test for the Alice High Rise Bottoms from 5 out of 4 Patterns. Whenever I’ve worn swim separates, I always prefer a high rise bottom because it stays on the best because of my body shape. Skirts and swim shorts haven’t really been flattering on me in RTW, mostly because to fit in my waist they were just awkward and ill-fitting in the crotch.

The Pattern: Alice High Rise Bottoms
Designer: 5 out of 4 Patterns
Size Range: XXS-5X
Difficulty: 2/5
What I Made: 4X waist graded to 5X hips
Alterations: full tummy adjustment, used 3X front top curve, sewn with lining and swim attached at interior seams

Like when I start any pattern I hoped the Alice was going to fit great right off the printer, but that wasn’t quite the case. However, I know that Jessica worked really hard to get a proper fit for the upper plus sizes and for that I’m super grateful! And my end result is something I’m very happy with and look forward to making another pair.  The reality is that the whole waist/tummy/hip region is an area with so much variety from person to person. Add to that the style of the bottoms, and personal preference, and I now realize it makes perfect sense I’d to have to do grading and pattern alterations. Since I’m sewing them custom, I might as well aim for a perfect fit. Here’s how my muslin of the last version of the pattern looked. You can see how much of a full tummy I needed to adjust for. It is where I carry most of my weight and it’s quite forward rather than spread out. Don’t pay attention to the extra fabric at my leg, this was fixed beautifully in the final version.

Working with the final pattern, I knew I needed to do a full tummy adjustment. I recently had the opportunity to take a jeans sewing class (more about that in another post!) at a local sewing collective. The instructor walked me through the adjustment on my jeans so I applied the same principles here. I’ve also seen examples of full tummy adjustments on a few other sites including the pants fitting guide at 5 out of 4, as well as this very detailed video from In House Patterns Studio. I used the concepts from both to draft my own adjustment for my tummy as seen in the pictures below. As you can see, my adjustment actually creeped on to the back piece as well as I needed height already by the side seam (see picture above). This is a mini version of the pattern, not drawn to scale and the curves are off, but I wanted to show a scaled down block of how I adjusted for my body.

The instructions for the pattern also make note of the value in stretching the elastic on the leg seam to different amounts as you go around the leg holes and crotch curve. After sewing through several muslins, I actually found using less pins made it easier to keep track of where I was and how much stretch to apply. You want the most stretch in your elastic right under the tush. The seat on this pattern is wide as part of the styling, but will also benefit those of you with a curvy derriere! The other reason I used less pins on my final version (aside from being a pin minimalist, really….they stab me and get in the way!) was because I tried out a sneaky technique for sewing the swim layers together.  Swim fabric and lining can be very slippery to work with at times. This can make adding the elastic to a loosey-goosey double layer challenging. The swim lining I have is quite nice and had beautiful drape and a comfy hand to it. But that also translates to tricky to sew with.

Here’s where I tried a new technique. It’s something I discovered while I was sewing together, and perhaps other people are already doing this, but I thought it was neat. Instead of sewing the lining as one piece, and the swim fabric as a separate piece, I actually layered them together and sewed the back crotch seam first. I don’t have a picture so it’s a bit hard to explain, but in the end the lining and swim layers end up attached at both the side seams and the back crotch seam before applying any elastic.  I’m not sure it’s better overall, in that you have more bulk at the seam because all 4 layers of seam allowance are on one side of the seam instead of being nested. However, you do end up with one line of serging/stitching, and the layers are more stabilized to work with when attaching elastics. By the way, this is totally off book from the pattern! The included instructions are to make a straightforward lining and suit and then attach at the elastic seam, which of course works very well and is how I constructed my Amelia one piece. I just wanted to play around and see what happened. Hopefully I haven’t confused you and made it overly complicated.

Back to the pattern review now! I’m very happy with the finished crotch width, tush coverage, and the comfortable high rise style of the suit. I also am a big fan that a maternity option is built right in as well. Just WAIT ’til you see the maternity style, it’s seriously the cutest swim bump I’ve ever seen! I hope one day I’ll need one of these for a bump. The shape of the leg hole sits comfortably and doesn’t seem to ride or chafe. It kind of has a retro feel to it I think; it echoes of the days of long line bras and high rise pants, which are both so cute and practical.

Good to know…

  • Again, I preferred to use pins instead of clips working with the swim fabric and lining
  • In a way, you are fitting the hardest part of a pair of trousers, so don’t be alarmed if you have to make rise, seat or crotch adjustments. They are all very achievable alterations!
  • 5 out of 4 sells patterns as swim separates, so just a reminder this pattern is for the high rise bottoms only. There are loads of top options as well as other bottoms to create a personalized mix and match swim capsule.
  • All elastics can be a little different in stretch and recovery. Once you cut your swim elastic for the waist, consider holding it around your waist where the suit rise will sit and see if it feels snug. I had to shorten mine a bit to get a comfortable fit that I felt confident would sit snug enough to not fall down.
  • I’ve made just the baseline suit, but it also includes optional short and long flounces, as well as a cute tie front. The tie is a great way to add visual interest if your suit bottom will be seen. I plan to wear long tankini tops with mine, so both options didn’t seem necessary for me.

Options for future versions…

  • A ruched front panel
  • I might play around with the pattern in modal or some natural fibres and see how they feel as high rise brief underwear, that would be a bonus!

You can get the pattern HERE: 5 out of 4 Alice High Rise Bottoms HERE: 5 out of 4 Alice High Rise Bottoms. This is an affiliate link.

Did you notice the sneak peak of my top? I’m working on modifying the ‘Knot Your Average’ shirt and dress into a flowy tankini top. I’m adding more of a loose fit and some length, but more on that when it’s complete. But here’s the spoiler…just don’t look too close because it’s not quite finished. My husband and I worked hard to get these pictures since it was so cold last weekend and windy. We went for a drive looking for new parks and photo shoot locations and found a really neat park in our area that we didn’t know existed! It’s right on the water and somewhat secluded, but with a really neat splash pad and park, a nice trail, and access to walk to the water’s edge. You’ll see more of the park when I share my DIBY Adrianne sweater next week. I’ve enjoyed the happy consequence of going on photoshoots with my husband on days we might not have because of the weather, exploring new parks, going on location scouting drives. And most of all, learning to see myself through the camera lens instead of with the bias of my own body insecurities. The camera lens is a lot closer to how my husband sees me and I need to realize that more and more.

On that final note, one last picture to share of my Alice bottoms taken in the shade, behind the protection of a wall so as not to freeze my butt off!

Do you like swim separates or one pieces? What fitting challenges do you have when sewing these types of close fitting garments?

2 Replies to “Building a Swim Separates Collection Starting with Alice”

    1. aww thanks! Check out the two links to the pants tutorials I’ve looked at…they are quite helpful for understanding what’s happening to the pattern/fabric as you manipulate it. Happy sewing 😉

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