Ipswich Swimsuit Part 2: Making the Bra

Ipswich Swimsuit Pattern Pieces
Yes, the Ipswich has a lot of pattern pieces!

After ordering the extra notions and cutting out 20 pieces of fabric and power mesh for the Ipswich Swimsuit, I finally dove into sewing and started making bra! Thank goodness for Cashmerette’s Swimsuit Making for Curves video! Jenny Rushmore, the owner of Cashmerette, calmly walked me through all the tricky bits.

Sewing Machine Tips

I am making the entire Ipswich Swimsuit on a sewing machine. I have a serger, but when I’m making something for the first time, I prefer to use my sewing machine.

Jenny at Cashmerette recommends sewing the swimsuit with a size 90 stretch needle, which, of course, we’re currently out of. I tried to punt by using a size 90 ballpoint needle, but the number of skipped stitches exceeded the number of actual stitches by a wide margin, so I settled on a Size 75 Stretch Needle. 

Although I own a fabric store, I didn’t actually know the difference between a ballpoint needle and a stretch needle. So, I did a little research, and here’s what I learned! Both have rounded points that penetrate between fabric threads rather than pierce them, but the stretch needle is less rounded. The stretch needle also has a special eye and a special scarf*, which (somehow) leads to fewer skipped stitches. Generally, ballpoint needles are better for loosely woven knits, while stretch needles are better for tightly woven knits with spandex, such as swimsuit fabrics. Okay, I still don’t completely understand the difference between ballpoint and stretch needles. But, I do know the stretch needle is the superior option for this project!

*Scarf – The scarf is a groove out of one side of the needle that allows the bobbin case hook to intersect with the upper thread and form stitches.

Ipswich Swimsuit Skipped Stitches
The lines of skipped stitches are with the ballpoint sewing machine needle. The better-looking line of stitches is with a stretch needle.

Jenny also suggests using a walking foot so that the upper and lower fabrics feed at the same rate. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve definitely found my walking foot to be helpful. I have a dual-feed mechanism on a couple of my machines, but they pull the upper fabric from the back of the foot, and I don’t think they would work as well as a true walking foot does. A true walking foot grabs the upper fabric in front of the needle. The dual-feed mechanism is great for sewing with thick wovens, like denim.

Walking Foot
My walking foot moves the top fabric at the same rate as the feed dogs move the lower fabric.

Sewing the Foam Cups

The cups are confusing.

I had to study the diagrams in the instruction booklet and watch the cup-sewing section of the Cashmerette Swimsuit Making for Curves video several times to make sure I was joining the correct pieces in the right manner. Luckily, it got easier from there. Butting up the seams and zig-zagging them together went pretty smoothly. I skipped covering the cup seams. But I did sew in some woven stay tape along the top edge of the cup and added fold-over elastic. I appreciated Jenny’s two-step fold-over elastic application. I haven’t mastered applying fold-over elastic in one step, and I’m glad she hasn’t either!

Making the Bra Frame and Adding the Cups

I don’t have anything interesting to say about making the bra frame, other than it was blessedly easy! But, pride cometh before the fall I suppose, because the next step was much harder.

Sewing the bra cup to the bra frame was particularly challenging because I was sewing a concave curve to a convex curve, and I was sewing them wrong-sides-together. I was glad I was able to watch Jenny do it five or six times before I did it myself. Jenny suggests sewing the cups to the frame with the frame facing up to avoid puckers which worked well.

Ipswich Swimsuit Cup
Swim bra cup #1 in the frame.

I misplaced my underwire channeling somewhere between home and the shop, so I had to stop my bra construction before adding the underwires. I hope I can find the channeling because Sew Sassy is way behind on shipping due to the demand for elastic! If I can’t find my channeling, my swimsuit progress will slow down. Luckily, I can put the bra aside, and sew the rest of the suit before incorporating the bra, so these blog posts can continue.

 For information about the fabrics and notions I’m using, read Part 1 of this series here. You can then find Part 3 here!

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