The Bombshell Swimsuit

As I have got older I have tended to avoid wearing a swimsuit in public. Although I love swimming I hate having to dry my hair with a dryer as I end up looking like Crystaltips.   I am also, like many people more than a little apprehensive about exposing so much bare flesh. Clothes are like my armour, I can use them to express who I am, cover my insecurities and highlight my assets. Without them I have a tendency to feel rather exposed and self-conscious  Consequently the two swimsuits I own are the vintage kind with the little skirts (aka Mom swimsuits!).

However, when Heatherlou’s Closet Case Files Bombshell Swimsuit pattern was released last year I was smitten by the design. I loved Esther Williams films when I was little and the bombshell has that vintage feel. In my favourite Esther film ‘Dangerous when wet’ she wears a white swimsuit which is a dead ringer for the Bombshell and she swims with Tom and Jerry in it! As more and more versions popped up on the blogesphere it became apparent that it was the holy grail of swimwear, super flattering with a good dose of old school glamour.

The bombshell only became a necessity to sew with an impending holiday to Anglesey. Now North Wales is not really renowned for being tropical or glamourous but it does have beautiful beaches and even if I was only going to be paddling in rock pools I wanted to do it as glamorously as possible!


My first hurdle was finding the fabric, swimsuit lycra is hard to come by in the UK but this Ebay seller had a fairly good selection of block colours. I was undecided between Navy, Wine or Bottle Green, after a few days pondering I finally plumped for the green. I also got a metre of slightly finer skintone lycra for the lining. I was really surprised at how much fabric was needed, two and a half metres including the lining. I also needed five metres of swimwear elastic and opted for the 8mm white rubber type as it looked (and was) easier to work with than the clear plastic I had used before.

I used a ballpoint needle on my regular machine and also opted for the walking foot, I tried it without but it kept skipping stitches. I followed Heather Lou’s sew-a-long which was brilliant. I cut a size 12 and graded up to an 16 over the bust. the pattern is brilliantly drafted and comes together so quickly. I used my overlocker for the side and centre back seams, there was a lot of fabric to cope with, four layers, two of which were densely gathered, there is a whole lot of ruching going on in this suit!


I knew I would need a bit of extra support in the bust area. I looked at swimwear cups in my local haberdashery but even the large size didn’t look remotely adequate. I ended up harvesting the cups from an old t-shirt bra and sandwiching them between the main fabric and the lining. I also stitched two rows of the swimsuit elastic underneath the bust to act as a kind of shelf.


I did plan to sew it over a couple of days but once I started I didn’t want to stop, I couldn’t believe how much fun it was to sew! I think it took about five hours in total, including coffee breaks. I initially basted the straps at the position given on the pattern but when I tried it on there was an awful lot of spillage! After a bit of repositioning I found the right spots which provided the optimum amount of support needed to keep the girls under control!


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So how did it fair on the beach? I was concerned about so much fabric holding a lot of water but it didn’t take long to dry out after a quick dip in the sea. I must admit to getting a bit nesh in my old age though, as I did spend most of the time sat in the beach tent happily knitting while Big Mr and Little Mr braved the waves and went body boarding! (Beach knitting is now my favourite holiday activity!) Although I did throw a couple of Esther Williams poses I didn’t get chance to do any graceful swimming as the sea was a bit too rough, I will just have to suffice with doing a few handstands in the local pool!

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The Bombshell fit is perfect and gives the right amount of coverage without looking at all mumsey, I did feel ultra glamourous and most importantly confident, I could potter about the beach without being self-conscious! My whole body image has changed so much since I started sewing again, if you had told me a couple of years ago I would be posting pictures of myself on the internet in a swimsuit I would have laughed (manically!) but now I have accepted my body for what it is. It has served me well for 43 years now, it’s strong and healthy and does what I want it to do without too many complaints. I’m getting old enough to realise that life is too short to get hung up on perceived imperfections and we should really be amazed at what our bodies can do.

Has sewing for yourself changed how you feel about your body image?


Plaid Grainline Archer Shirt

I have been sewing far too much icing recently and not enough cake. I love dresses and skirts but as I work on a horticultural project they are not very practical for day to day.  Looking for inspiration for the summer stashbust I came across this woven plaid. I’d bought 2 metres with a view to making an Archer shirt but then found out that the pattern needed 2 ½ metres and so it was put on the back burner. I later bought 3 metres of another plaid to make my first Archer, figuring I would need extra fabric to match the checks. When it came to cutting out however, I found I could squeeze it out of 2 metres and so my original Archer plan would work after all.

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My first Archer

I had been meaning to sew my other Archer for a while but it kept getting bumped down the list in favour of Summer sewing. It feels a bit weird sewing a thick shirt in summer but I’m thinking ahead to Autumn which unfortunately is just around the corner. We’re also off to Anglesey next week which can be a little breezy so the Archer will be the perfect cover-up.

I was a little apprehensive when I made my first Archer, although I had done cuffs, collars and plackets before I had never done a collar stand. I Looked at one of OH’s shirts and just couldn’t figure out how it was all attached. Encouraged by all the wonderful Archer’s on the blogesphere I decided to put my faith in Grainline designer Jen’s  sewalong and take it a step at a time.

I cut a size 14 and took a good 4 inches of the length of the arms (I have stumpy arms) and an inch and a half off the body.   It took a while to cut out because I wanted to make sure the checks matched.   The tutorial was a lifesaver, I don’t think I would have managed it with the instructions alone. There are a lot of little steps along the way and I found it a great project to keep chipping away at. I was amazed at how well the pattern was drafted and how everything fitted together so well. There is a fantastic ‘burrito’ way of attaching the yoke that is just genius! My only stumbling block did turn out to be the collar stand. There is a video on the tutorial and I must have watched it twenty times before I managed a vague grasp of how to do it. When it came to sewing my second Archer I followed Andrea’s of Four Square Walls brilliant tutorial of an alternative way to attach a collar stand which was brilliant, I’d highly recommend it if you need to attach a collar.  The whole make was a lot easier the second time around and all came together without a hitch. I finished it with some simple brass buttons which area good size and weight for such a substantial shirt. I am particularly pleased with the pattern matching and I’ve even managed to get the yoke centred this time around!

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(other half wanted to know why I’m always looking away in photos, it’s because a, that’s my best side and b, in all the photo’s when I’m looking at him you can tell I’m replying to his smart Alec comments!)

I have been living in this shirt since I finished it, my son has also tried to pinch it even though it’s a fair bit too big for him. I might make him one for his birthday in the same size so he can grow into it and when he grows out of it I’ll be able to wear it! I have got another Archer in the pipeline as I’ve got a couple of metres of fine white cotton with tiny daisies printed on it.  It will probably be easier to sew as there will be no checks to match but I probably won’t get around to sewing it until next year as it will definitely be a summer shirt, now it’s all about sewing for the coming season!

Are you still sewing for summer or have you got plans for your Autumn wardrobe?