Better late than never!
Almost out of season, but ere’s a quick review of my Swimwear Making Workshop at the Threadworks studio, in Clerkenwell (London).
The space itself is a lovely space with huge windows and fantastic high ceilings. I immediately fell in love with the little library nestled ni a huge shelf packed with fabrics and sewing supplies.
The workshop was thaught by Claire Stidston, of Stidston Swimwear, an independent swimwear designer and manifacturer.
To introduce the day, Claire told us the story of how she got into designing first her own swimwear, and then of how she took the big plunge and made of it her day job.
Like most of us, she really struggle to find good looking swimwear for less than a hundred pounds, let alone when looking at items with certain sustainability criteria. Feeling it was time for a change, she decided to research swimwear design and constructing techniques. I’m not sure how long it passed before she went from sewing for herself to getting commissioned work, but to make the story short Claire has now started her own production and her collection is available through her website and selling in the four corners of the world.
The aim of the workshop was to provide the basic patterns and sewing techniques to sew swimwear. I had a nose around what was on offer and was thrilled to see Claire’s fabulous velveteen bikinis and swimsuits. With mix an match pieces there were several design options (two bikini tops and two bottoms, plus one swimsuit) and the fabric was included in the cost of the workshop, so all you need to do is turn up. With my holidays a couple of weeks away this was happening at just the right time, and the cost of the class was reasonable enough, considering the standards*.
On the day Claire introduced us to her business, into how she got into swimwear design, telling us mor about her collections and the patterns available and also touching on the recylced plastic Lycra she sources for some of her designes and that was available for us to use. Prompted by the initial signs of an awakening environmental conscience I was really tempted to go for the recycled lycra, but I was so much in love with the velveteen already. Apart from my conscience still nagging me, I have no regrets about my chooice, the bikini came out really pretty and it’s super comfortable to boost.
However, it wasn’t an easy sew.
First velveteen, a 4-way stretch jersey with a substantial nap, is on its own not the most comfortable sew. Second, I managed to cut the two sides in opposite nap directions. This might sound like a small detail, but made particularly tricky keeping the fabric pieces under control. As the nap went in opposite directions the two pieces of fabric I was trying to sew together kept sliding away from each other, resulting in misaligned edges and twisted straps.
Nothing I wasn’t able to rescue with the help of Claire, but what was supposed to be a relaxing afternoon spent on a relatively small project became a forehead-knotting affair that drained all my energies.
One of the results of the misaligned pattern pieces was that there was some obvious peaking of the gold velvet, initially intended as lining only. Truth to be told I was already so much in love with the colour combination that I didn’t mind at all when I realised the lining was going to show, so we started thinking about how we could change the sewing steps so that my bikini could become reversible, putting my newbie mistake to good use. The reversible factor is added by using hidden seams and some clever bagging out of the pieces, the only problem is that between the pieces being very small and the fabric so frustratingly unstable, it required all of my patience and half a gazillion pins to make it happen. Happen it did though and I couldn’t have been happier with the results. The midnight blue and the honey-gold set each other off beautifully and I have three possible combinations (total blue, total gold and gold/blue)… which is a lot of options for one bikini!
I was concerned that a velvet bikini was not going to be a sensible choice, but in the few days I spent swimming in both sea and swimming pool when visiting my parents I have to say it behaved incredibly well… besides attracting a considerable amount of compliments. Partially because of the unusual fabric choice and the colour contrast, but mostly because it is an incredibly flattering pattern. There is definitely some magic drafting in that bikini top, making it comfortable, stable and extremely supportive. I am seriously considering hacking it into an alter neck top and surely making another version in lycra.
Thanks a lot to Claire & Lydia for hosting the workshop, and to the other ladies on the course. Here’s a group picture of all of us with our finished makes.
If you are interested Threadworks is running more swimwear sewing workshops (one of which is a 4 week design workshop, how awesome is that?!), and some other great looking courses. Have a look at their schedule here.
*I have noticed the prices of the workshop has gone up quite a bit since I took it. Also worth mentioning that I am not in any way affiliated with Threadworks. I just genuinely loved the experience!