Bombshell construction - back

Red Polka Dot Bombshell

Ladies and gents! (?) !

Today, I am here to prove that even bearing the comedy of errors that was the construction of my Bombshell swim suit, a cute, wearable result is still possible!

Let me start by saying, I do not normally post photos of myself in a bathing suit on the internet. Heck, there are a scant few photos in existence anywhere on this planet of me wearing a bathing suit. One thing I’ve learned as I approach the big 4-0 is that life is really too short to reign in my personal joys over what amounts to no more than fear of name-calling. Spoiler alert: my size 16 bod is about to get all up in your face! And this suit, flawed as it is, is one of my personal joys. And honestly, every day that I am healthy and breathing and able to move about my world as desired is a personal joy! Love the body you’re in, even if there are things you’d like to change about it. It’s an amazing machine.

<tangent>: I’m training for a late-August half marathon, and while I am working to lose weight in the process, I must admit that there’s a tiny voice in the back of my head weeping, “Noooooo! None of your makes will fit anymore! After all those pattern adjustments!” I will just have to make more things. That’s all there is to it! </tangent>

So, back to the Bombshell. There are a zillion makes of this suit floating around the web, and it just looks great on everyone. My particular version is, as I said, a comedy of errors. Most I hope to remedy in my next make! I made this up with a nylon/lycra swimsuit fabric from The Fabric Fairy. It was listed as medium weight, but felt a bit on the light side. It is lined with nude swim lining fabric, also from The Fabric Fairy. Honestly, I was a little disappointed in the fabric all around. It did not take well at all to the removal of all of the basting and gathering stitches required for this suit, and the lining – while listed as light/medium weight, was super lightweight and easy to tear. Maybe I’m just used to the athletic swim suit fabric that my RTW lap swimming suit is made from. I worry how long this fabric will hold up. It also must have shrunk a bit in pre-washing, because despite being listed as 60″ wide, I couldn’t get all of my pattern pieces to fit as prescribed in the cutting layout.

That was my first construction problem: I did not have enough fabric to cut the crotch piece on the fold, as required. So, I added a makeshift seam allowance and cut the pieces out as mirror images on a single layer and sewed them together. Good thing this pattern covers up the front panty part of the suit! Who wants a giant seam pointing down to their $^#&#@?

The assembly of the back of the suit went fairly well, despite the fact that I was using a standard presser foot and not a walking foot. Why did I not use a walking foot, you ask? Well, I could have sworn my machine came with a walking foot, but when I looked in my presser foot box, I couldn’t find it. So I trudged along without one, making a mental note to order one. I finished the suit yesterday, still irked that I didn’t have a walking foot, and before I sat down to write this post today, I went on Brother’s web site to see what presser feet are listed as included accessories with my machine… and the walking foot is listed. What??!! I dug through the accessory box again, and then remembered… there were a few pieces that came with my machine that were packed separately from the accessory box. I dug into my storage bin, and what do you know… I have a walking foot. It is lovely. It looks like an alien crab claw. But I did not use it to make this suit, so I occasionally did have trouble with my fabric slipping around. Sigh. First world problems.

Bombshell construction - back

Bombshell construction – back

When it came to assembling the suit, I had all kinds of problems with the lining being way too big. I had attempted some pattern adjustments using instructions I found in the Bombshell sewalong comments, but I really wasn’t sure what pieces needed the adjustments and probably messed them up. I was adding to the waist and a little to the hips. Here are those instructions, in case anybody else is working on grading the pattern larger than it is written (re-posted in case the comments ever vanish!):

Original poster’s measurements:

47″ bust
43″ waist
54″ hip

The Bombshell pattern’s size 18 measurements (largest size):

44″ bust
36″ waist
46″ hip

Grading instructions from Heather Lou (the pattern designer):

There is very little ease in this pattern. It fits very snugly. My suggestion would be to grade between your bust and hip sizes (if your bust size is available in the range of sizes). If not, then add what you need to the bust area and multiple whatever length you add 1.6x to your ruched pattern pieces so you don’t end up with less ruching overall. Does that make sense?

This is the formula I would use if I was grading the pattern specifically to fit your measurements. Trace the unchanging line of the pattern piece (the center seam or the line where the fabric is placed on the fold). Using size 18 pattern pieces, measure at the widest point of the bust. You are going to extend that point by 7%. Taking the narrowest point of the waist, you should add 16% to that point. At the widest point of the hip, add 17% (I got these numbers by dividing the bust/waist/hip ratio for size 18 with your bust/waist/hip ratio). Actually, add 1/2 of the above percentages since the pattern pieces are only half and will be doubled when you cut them out. You follow so far?

Once you have your new key measurements plotted (widest bust, narrowest waist, widest hip), you can join them together with a smooth curve (tracing the curve of the size 18 piece if possible). Normally I would suggest that you also lengthen all your pieces by 106%, but since you are short waisted you may not need to. Do the above exercise using a stretchy piece of a fabric for your lining parts only and see how the fit is. If it fits okay in the length, you will not need to lengthen any pieces. If you need to add a little to your lining pieces, THEN you would add the 1.6 ratio to your ruched pieces.

Does that make any sense? Good luck!


Translation, as I understand it:

1 – ( pattern measurement / actual measurement ) = % of total grade

So, for example, the waist calculation would be:

1 – ( 36 / 43 ) =

1 – .837 = 0.16  (or, 16% total grade)

That total grade is then divided by half, since the pieces are cut on the fold. So, 16% / 2 = 8% increase for the waist.

Next, use a ruler to measure the waist of the size 18. Multiply that measurement x .08 and you have the amount to add to the waist. Mark it, then repeat the process for the bust and hips as necessary, then re-draw the seam line to accommodate your measurements.

sewing horizontal rule image

I understood the math well enough (assuming my interpretation above is correct!), but I didn’t fully comprehend which pattern pieces did what, and where I needed to add my adjustments – so I just added them on everything that had a waist and hip seam. It couldn’t have been too bad, because for the most part, the suit fits. The bust is a bit small, but that is also my own fault. On most patterns, I need to use my high bust measurement to pick a size, and then do a full bust adjustment. Otherwise, the garments are way too big in my neck and shoulders. So I traced off the Bombshell bust at size 16 (to match my 42″ high bust measurement), and graded to my slightly-over-size-18 measurements at the waist and hips. Well, this design doesn’t really have any neck or shoulders to speak of, and I didn’t do any sort of FBA, so I really should have just cut out the size 18. As a result, I probably should not go for a jog in this swim suit, for fear of a major wardrobe malfunction.

The only other pattern adjustments I might make are to the back. First, I might raise the back a few inches higher, as several other curvy bloggers have mentioned. It falls at an unflattering place across the back for those of us with some meat around our shoulder blades. Next, I might change the distribution of my hip adjustment inches. I carry weight in my lower abdomen, but not as much in my backside, so there’s a bit too much fabric in my bum area. The suit seems to fit fine in the front, so maybe I can cut back a bit on that adjustment overall.

I added cups to the bust of my suit to prevent nip slips. I had a really hard time finding cups that got decent reviews online, and ended up buying 2 different kinds. (I plan to make a second Bombshell suit, so I’ll eventually be able to compare the two). The ones I used for this suit were Braza Swim Shapers Triangle C/D “enhancement foam pads.” If any C/D cup boob fits into these pads, I’d like to see it, because all they’re really big enough for is nipple coverage – which is fine, because that was my intention. But sheesh. They are hilariously too small to actually provide any support for a D cup. They were easy to work with and sew in, though, so there’s that. The others I bought are Dritz Molded Foam Bra Cups D/DD, also listed for swimwear use. They look like they will be much better. By the time I got to sewing in the bra cups, I knew my first Bombshell was a bit of a mess, so I tried the cups that looked less promising. Hopefully the Dritz cups will work well in my second Bombshell make.

Overall, my suit is a bit clumsy and a lot imperfect (kind of like my body!) But it was fun to make, and I love the design, and now that I’ve found my walking foot, there will definitely be more Bombshells in my future. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was an easy suit to put together, but the difficulties for me were mostly due to pattern adjustments and the basic woes of working with slippery fabrics. The key skills include basting, gathering, and sewing with elastic, all of which I’d done at least once before – but not much more than that, so I definitely came into this project with minimal practice on those techniques. The sewalong was a huge help, and between it and the pattern instructions, everything worked out as described. At times, I felt like I was just trusting the process and flying by the seat of my pants, but moments later it would all make sense as the pieces came together. My next make will seem much easier, I suspect.

I didn’t track exactly how long it took to put this suit together. I spent a good hour tracing and adjusting the pattern, and another half hour or so cutting it out. The next night, I spent about 2 hours working on step 4 of the sewalong – prepping and sewing the back. I finished the rest of the suit over the course of maybe 4 or 5 hours the next day. So – conservatively speaking, maybe 2-ish hours prep and 6-ish hours sewing? I do expect this to cut down significantly the second time around, and I’m sure it will go faster for more experienced sewers. It seems like it might easily become a 4-hour-ish project, once I’ve got it all down pat.

After much rambling, without further adieu, I present to you my red polka dot Bombshell swim suit:

Red polka dot Bombshell swim suit

Wait, is that Casper the Friendly Ghost?

I’m not sure what I messed up with the focus, but this will have to do, as I will not be modeling my suit for the neighborhood again. You’ll just have to come see me on Virginia Beach next week if you want an in-focus close-up!

So, have you given the Bombshell a try yet? If not, will you? C’mon… you know you want to!

Join the conversation

  • Kat - 5 years ago

    Holy fuck Shelly, that’s HAWT!!!! looks fabulous!

    • Shelly - 5 years ago

      I will be workin’ it on Virginia Beach next week 🙂

Pings & Trackbacks