It's almost FATKINI SEASON!
Yes we're already hearing about the "beach body" panic from ads and media trying to hock you the latest fad diet, surgery or gym membership. Now here's the best part of body acceptance. Go to a full length mirror and take a look at yourself. THAT is your beach body....right now...with no changes needed! So if it was on some mental list somewhere you can go ahead and check it off and enjoy the holidays.
Maybe you feel more comfortable covering up on the beach, but if you feel up to baring some skin then you should check out the fatkini threads on Tumblr. It started earlier this year, when Gabi Fresh put up a gallery with XOJane of fat bodies rocking their bikini swimsuits. It got a lot of media attention (some good, some bad) and inspired others with bodies of many sizes, shapes and color to post Tumblr pics sporting bikini. It is super-empowering to flip through the images. You can find a lot of submissions using just the Tumblr tagfatkini, but warning; some triggering items are mis-tagged (like weight loss and body-negative posts).
So this summer, I have every intention of wearing a bikini in public, and screw anyone who has a problem with it!
While the XO Jane site has a list of places that sell plus-size bikinis, I thought I'd show how easy it is to sew your own so that you don't have to guess at the fit. These instructions are simple and will work for any size and shape body.
Today's project will be the string bikini top (all bottoms will be addressed in a separate post).
You will need a few measurements:
Measurement A: around your chest just beneath your breasts, where your bra band usually sits.
Measurement B: from beneath your breast to above it, over the nipple.
Measurement C: across your breast at the widest point (up and over like for measurement B)
Measurement D: from the top of your breast to the nape of your neck.
Here's a visual:
You will generally need about a quarter to a half yard of fabric, but if you plan to make matching bottoms you may want to get a full yard. You can use almost any fabric with some stretch for this, down to and including an old tee shirt or pair of sweat pants you want to recycle. You want something that will dry well, and is somewhat chlorine resistant if you plan to be in the pool. If you use very thin, light color material you will want to do two layers unless you really want the world to see your nips.
Note: If you have one breast a different size than the other (whether due to nature or surgery) then just take measurements B and C for both breasts separately and keep track of which is which (Left and Right). If you plan to wear an insert or pad of some kind, measure to include it. If you wear a mastectomy or other prosthesis, you can make two layers and leave one side open as a “pocket” with a velcro closure. Message me if you need help with this.
A Note on Knits
Swimsuit material and other light, super-stretch knits are notoriously difficult to deal with. It slides, stretches out of shape, and your sewing machine really wants to suck it down into the bobbin casing. You'll want to be careful when measuring and cutting to make sure the fabric isn't stretched or distorted. If you pull on it while measuring or cutting the end result will be off.
Since we're working with straight lines here, an easy way to set up the fabric is to use masking tape. When you measure, use 1/2” wide masking tape to outline the shape you want to cut. Place it so that you cut down the center of the tape. This not only helps keep the fabric from distorting when you cut, but it keeps it from unraveling and developing runs. Remove just before hemming.
A sewing machine needle specifically for knits may help if your material is subject to runs, but is not necessary for heavier fabrics like tee-shirt fabric.
When you sew, use your machine's stretch stitch settings (look in your manual). If you don't have a specific stretch stitch, use the zig-zag stitch. Use a thread of similar type as your fabric (cotton for cotton, synthetic for synthetic). Don't bother with the stretchy elastic thread unless you really know what you're doing. I tried it, and the hassle of finding just the right machine settings to keep it from shredding completely outweigh any extra stretch benefit. If you make it to fit your body, normal thread on a stretch stitch will be stretchy enough.
You will want to pick up some neutral-color tissue paper, like you use in gift bags, or wax paper. By placing this under the fabric as you sew and stitching through it, you keep the machine from sucking the fabric down into the bobbin case. It should come out afterwards with a hot water soak and tweezers. If you want to get fancy you can buy water-soluble stabilizer from a fabric or craft store. This saves you some tweezer plucking of paper scraps and simply dissolves in soap and water. I don't mind the extra work, and the tissue paper is cheap.
Making the String Fatkini Top
You will first need a piece that will tie around your chest under the breasts. You can use a ribbon, bias tape, or a piece of your swimsuit fabric for this. Cut it to measurement A plus 13 inches (for tying). Hem or otherwise secure the ends.
If you're making it out of fabric, cut a strip that is measurement A plus 13 inches long by 2 1/2” wide (you can make this wider or narrower as you'd like, but this produces a band about 1” wide).
This gives you about 6 inches of end for tying in the back. If you want a bigger, showier bow then add a few more inches.
Fold the short ends over 1/4” and stitch the hem.
Fold the strip in half lengthwise with the wrong side of the fabric on the outside. Run a line of stretch stitches 1/4” from the raw edge down the length to make a tube.
Use a large safety pin or other tool to turn the tube inside-out so that the seams are on the inside. Stitch the ends closed. This is your chest band.
Now you are going to make the breast pieces. Draw two triangles of fabric where the base is Measurement C plus 2 inches wide and the height is Measurement B, plus 1.5”, plus the width of your chest band (1” if you made it as above).
Start by making a 1/4” hem on all sides of each triangle.
Fold up the bottom edge to the width of your chest band. Sew across, but leave ends of the “pocket” open to thread the chest band through.
Fold down the tip of the triangle 1”. Sew across, leaving a pocket open on both ends.
For the neck tie, you can again use any two ribbons or strings twice the length of Measurement D plus 12 inches, threading it through the open pocket at the top of each breast piece and tying it all behind your neck.
You can also use the same technique as you used with the chest band. Cut two strips of your fabric 1½ inches wide, and the length of Measurement D plus 12 inches. (note: this gives you 6 inches to tie a bow at the back of your neck. If you want a bigger bow then make it longer).
Hem the short ends, then with the fabric wrong-side out, fold it in half lengthwise and stitch along the long end. Turn the tube inside out and stitch the ends closed.
Thread the chest band through the bottom of each breast piece, and a neck tie through the top of each piece. You should get something like this:
If you don't like the double strings around the neck you can use a knot, bead, or bow just above the breast piece to bring them together and make them look like one piece. You could also alter the pattern, so that instead of the breast piece coming to a triangle point, it extends up and becomes the tie itself. This will be trickier to cut and hem, but it is entirely doable. You can also cut a single tie and sew it on at the top of the triangle (in which case you would not make a separate pocket at the top).
So now you have a rockin' fatkini. You can go to town with adding ruffles, beads, fabric paint, etc. to make it your own. You can wear it with a tankini bottom piece, or wait for the instructions on bikini bottoms to make a matching set.