achievement unlocked: pink bird print swimsuit


I already made one swimsuit this year, & although it did not display my sewing proficiency to its greatest advantage, it fit well, it was comfortable, & I liked it. There was just one problem: I used a plastic locking closure on it, positioned so high up on my back that I simply could not clasp it by myself. Every single time I wore it, Jared had to clasp it for me. I knew I needed a suit I could put on without help. & also, Jared broke the clasp a few weeks ago. It just kind of snapped into like five pieces one day when he was trying to clasp it for me. Obviously the suit can be salvaged. It’s not difficult to just replace the clasp.  But I decided to just get a jump on making a suit with no clasps, in the interest of satisfying a need without having to buy any new notions. I already had this swimsuit fabric & plenty of lining on hand.


There’s also a backstory as to why a swimsuit rocketed to the top of my sewing to-do list, even though summer is drawing to a close.

In June, I found a lump in my right breast. I already had a doctor appointment scheduled, because I needed her to sign off on my health so I can volunteer at Ramona’s preschool. She did an exam & also felt the lump. She referred me for an ultrasound to get it checked out. I’ll cut to the chase here: I am fine. I don’t know if it wound up being normal breast tissue or a benign cyst or what, but in any case, I do not have cancer, or even a non-cancerous tumor that requires any treatment. Whew! But it was definitely a scary few weeks. There’s no history of breast cancer in my family, & I’m only 37, but I know way too many women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer at around my age. One of them, a woman who wrote a zine I was really into in the 90s/early 00s, even died, leaving behind young children.

At my doctor appointment, there was also a full blood panel done. My labs came back showing elevated blood sugar & elevated liver enzymes. The obvious conclusion here is type 2 diabetes. Unlike breast cancer, pretty much EVERYONE in my family has type 2 diabetes. It killed my father at the rather young age of 48, & my sister (she’s 35) has been experiencing all kinds of awful complications recently. My grandmother had it, & God knows how many aunts, uncles, & cousins. Honestly, if I make it to age 50 without a type 2 diabetes diagnosis, it will be a miracle. But a follow-up fasting blood test gave me the all-clear.

But that doesn’t mean I have to just sit back & wait. Before Ramona was in the picture, & then for about 18 months after she was born, I was pretty devoted to doing water work-outs at the local pool a few times a week. We have a gorgeous outdoor facility here in Lawrence, but also a really nice indoor pool for cold weather. When Ramona was 18 months old, I slipped into a horrible depression & had that whole financial crisis where my disability was rescinded (I am on disability for depression; kind of ironic that the government decided I wasn’t disabled while I was in the midst of one of my worst depressive episodes in recent memory). I felt I couldn’t justify the expense of a pool pass anymore (even though water work-outs are really good for my mental & physical health) & I let it lapse. (Haha, or I let it “laps”. See what I did there?)

In the two years since I stopped going to the pool, I’ve gained thirty pounds, which is kind of whatever, who cares what a scale says. But I’ve also had more chronic pain, including debilitating migraines, more insomnia, more low-grade constant depression, & a lot less energy for being an involved & engaged mom.

So, I decided: Ramona started preschool on Thursday, & after I dropped her off, I went straight to the pool & bought a new pass. My goal is to go every other day. We’ll see if I manage it. Since a lot of the time I’ll be going while Ramona is at preschool & Jared is at work, I needed a suit I could get into by myself, stat.


I made a pattern from scratch to make my last suit, & I used that same pattern for the bones of this suit. I changed the back to have more coverage, with just a teeny little cut-out. To keep the edges snug against the body (the scoop on my last swimsuit stood away from the body a little bit), & sewed swimsuit elastic to the edges, stretching as I went, & then trimmed the raw edges with fold-over elastic.

I didn’t line the ruched section on the front this time because, duh, it doesn’t need to be lined. That means the hemming is much tidier this time around.

The biggest change I made was the top/bust area.


I constructed cut & sew foam cups using my trusty Shelley bra pattern. I layered swimsuit fabric over them & made these little pleats/tucks along the bottom of the cup. The frame is made from Duoplex covered in swimsuit fabric. I sewed the swimsuit-covered cups to the swimsuit-covered frame & attached the channeling so the topstitching would be on the exterior of the suit. The bra on my last suit was completely internal, but I wanted to experiment with bra styling for this one. I added a seam allowance to the bottom of the frame & sewed my band elastic to the Duoplex only, just above the seam allowance. That way, everything is supported, but there isn’t an unsightly bunch of zigzagging all over the front of my suit. The Duoplex layer is attached to the rest of the suit at the wide seams & along the top, but is left free at the seam between the frame & the torso. I tried attaching it, but it caused the frame to ripple & I wanted it to lay smooth as a contrast to the gathering on the cups & the ruching on the torso.


I covered the seamlines on the cups with scraps of swimsuit fabric. The straps are made of bra strapping sandwiched between swimsuit fabric, finished on either side with fold-over elastic. They still have a bit of stretch to them, but they’re pretty stable.

I added a layer of swimsuit elastic to the bra part of the suit to snug it up against the body & finished with fold-over elastic. The only bummer part is that the swimsuit elastic is a lot wider than the fold-over elastic once it’s folded, so it shows on the inside. I would have preferred for it all to be completely enclosed. I could have ordered wider fold-over elastic, but I was really racing the clock to get the suit done before Ramona started preschool. Next time!


I also finished the legs with fold-over elastic. If you’re curious, I got the swimsuit fabric during the Hancock close-outs. I think it was literally like $1.50 a yard? It’s not my favorite print (I kind of really do not like birds; they attack me a lot), but it is my favorite color, & with the black trim, I actually love the way this suit looks. I’d usually gravitate toward a louder print, but this just goes to show: sometimes the fabrics that don’t really sing on the bolt are the ones that make really nice-looking garments.


Close-up of the cut out. This is easy to do. Just draw lines on your pattern piece indicating where you want the cut-out to be & add a seam allowance if necessary. (I just covered the raw edges with fold-over elastic, so I didn’t bother with seam allowances). Use the bit you cut off to figure out out how you want to crossover to look. Both pieces will be sewn together in the side seam, & for this suit, I secured them together in the fold-over elastic all the way to the cut-out. When I attached the straps, I bartacked them to lower fold-over binding first, & then the top. Because the lower binding is angled, this enabled my straps to angle perfectly to cross over in the back. I love me some crossed straps! I don’t know if I am being very articulate about how to do this (there’s a reason I don’t do tutorials), but once you figure out, you can use this technique on everything: dresses, t-shirts, undies, whatever.

So, that’s that! I leave you with an obligatory mom photo: Ramona on her first day or school, standing next to one of those chalkboard things that are so popular on Pinterest. Yes, I made it myself, it’s not digitally printed or anything. It’s chalkboard posterboard & hand-lettering/drawing with chalk markers. I’m pretty proud of that airplane drawing. Drawing is really not my forte, so I’m pleased with how it came out. (PS–Ramona LOVES preschool. Yay!)




Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

13 thoughts on “achievement unlocked: pink bird print swimsuit

  1. Great job on your swimsuit it’s pretty & came out well. Birds aren’t my fav either but can’t beat the price! You did a fab job on Ramona’s first day board you do realize now you will have to make one every year as long as she will allow it (maybe age 10 ) lol

  2. I’m having some anxiety about my health lately too, but I haven’t yet found the motivation to do anything about it. I haven’t had bloodwork done in a while even though I’m supposed to for at least two of the medications I’m on. I’ve been avoiding it because my eating habits are like 60% sugar, 30% other things that aren’t great health-wise, and maybe 10% stuff that’s sort of okay. I was riding my bike to school pretty regularly last year, but I stopped doing it and now I have almost no physical activity in my life, even though it helps me tons mentally, like you say, and helps me with fibromyalgia pain if I do the right kinds of physical activity (bike riding isn’t really the right kind, which is why I stopped). Maybe I need to sew something awesome like your bathing suit to get me motivated? Who knows, blergh.

    I love Ramona’s board! I’m really impressed with your lettering and drawings, and I love her career goal.

    1. Thanks for the compliments on the chalkboard! Ramona is definitely going through a phase where she wants to be just like Daddy (who got his PhD in May). She wants to dress like him, she wants a backpack like him, she wants to do paperwork like him, she wants to teach like him. It’s pretty cute. It’ll be interesting to see how things change now that she’s in preschool & around other kids more.

      Have you considered water walking or water aerobics for physical activity? It’s definitely a commitment to get to a pool (especially in cold weather) & get all soggy & everything, but it’s pretty awesome for chronic pain issues. Some places even have warm water pools.

      1. That is adorable, though based on my experiences as a gradumentarian, I hope she changes her mind!

        I loooove the water and wish I had easier access to a pool. Water exercises are the only exercises I’ve tried to far that don’t hurt me because they take all the pressure that’s causing me so much pain off my body. There’s a YMCA near me that’s supposed to be putting in a pool, but I can’t find any info on when it’s supposed to be done. There are outdoor pools, but they don’t help with winter. There’s also a pool at school, but aside from not being comfortable potentially encountering my students while practically naked, they don’t have any classes except for learn-to-swim and the free swim time seems dominated by would-be olympians.

        1. I just ignore the would-be Olympians. It’s nice that there’s always at least one old lady doing her thing with some pool noodles or whatever.

          The pool can be so awkward though. On a recent trip to my local pool, all the lanes were occupied. The pool rule is that you have to share if you’re alone in your lane & someone asks. You can either each stick to your own side of the lane (they’re fairly wide) or you can go in circles. So I picked a woman who was water-walking & was like, “Room for one more?” & she was like, “I really prefer to have the lane to myself.” Uh, so does everyone, but it’s a public pool, so get over yourself, lady. It was like a weird tense negotiation & I felt like such a nerd being all, “The rule is that you have to share.”

          Having seen Jared’s experiences, I also kind of hope Ramona changes her mind about being a gradumentarian. I don’t understand how he’s done with his dissertation now & teaching a class with 10% of the students he often had as a TA, but he seems just as busy as ever? I know he’s preparing lectures & applying for jobs & revising his dissertation, but I naively expected the pace to mellow out a bit once he actually had his PhD in hand.

  3. Oh man oh man I love this suit. It’s beautiful. I love the birds too even though birds aren’t really my thing either. I guess there’s an exception to every rule.

    Sorry to hear about the scary health stuff. I just had blood taken today for a specific thing and they chucked in a bunch of checkup tests and I’m nervous about it because I have been very inactive over winter. I did try rejoining the gym with a pool but it’s full of rich people sooooo that didn’t go well. I mean it was fine but I couldn’t hack it. Now it’s warmer I’m getting a lot more walking and stuff and oh man do I notice a mental health difference. It’s so crap about the disability stuff – I have several friends here who are on disability and keep getting cut off for bogus reasons like ‘you’re working so you must be fine’ when they have a one day a week job with flexible hours. Infuriating.

    I hope the swimming is nice time for yourself and does the trick.

    I love the board. I am in awe of your neat lettering and rad drawing!

    1. Yeah, I got kicked off disability on the grounds that I have a child, & apparently if I can have a child, I can have a job. Not that parenting isn’t insanely challenging & exhausting to have a child, but it’s not really the same as having a job. Upon a reconsideration, the department that makes these decisions agreed & reinstated me. But it was definitely an incredibly shitty six months waiting for the decision to be made.

      I like our local pool because it’s a community resource, so all kinds of different people go there. I have to confess, I am a bit intimidated by actual gyms, rightly or wrongly. Even though I pay for a pass to the pool, same as I would for a gym membership, something about a gym membership just makes me think “rich people” & I feel like I don’t belong.

      1. HONESTLY what a waste of freaking time and money for everyone involved. Not that that should be the issue – the issue should be not cutting off people who need support for spurious reasons. But really, I bet it cost them more money to do all the paper shuffling etc. I suppose that’s ‘job creation’, huh? The thing my friends have said (and that I also experience although not to the same degree) is that there are really big differences in 1) a hard thing that you want to do, can time shift and negotiate on your own terms and that rewards you – like parenting or my friend who runs a small photography business 2) part time work 3) full time work. Said friend was told that because he was working (for himself) part time, he must therefore be able to work full time in an office. Which is just so ignorant it’s malicious. Or do I mean so malicious it’s ignorant?

        (I’m on a real ‘fucking capitalism’ kick this week… more so even than usual)

        I feel exactly the same way about gyms. I don’t think it’s rational but it’s pervasive enough to to another hurdle to going. Also the only gym with a pool anywhere accessible to me is the super posh gym – it’s ok in the mornings but in teh afternoons and on weekends it’s full of toddlers wearing ralph lauren everything and I just can’t deaallll.

        1. Yeah, a year or two ago, I looked into maybe joining an actual gym. It’s a women-only gym, which appealed to me because, ugh, men. Another cool thing about it is that it offers child care, so I could do my thing even while Jared was at work. (Getting anything done around his work schedule means either before sunrise or going out after I’ve been with Ramona all day & am only half-conscious.) But I think I had some kind of weird gym-induced impostor syndrome. I was like, “I’m just not a gym person,” even though, what is a gym person? & I also felt it was an expense I couldn’t justify…I don’t know. The gym was weird, my reaction was weird. It was weird all around.

          I hadn’t even considered how much money the state probably wasted on my disability review & reconsideration. I get that they need to review me every few years. That’s just the nature of the program. I’ve been reviewed three times in 15 years. Of course, next time I am reviewed, I will be in a blind panic thanks to how the last one turned out. So that will be fun, especially because even a basic review takes at least three months. I don’t know what it’s like in Australia, but in the U.S., people are pretty bitter toward people on disability. I don’t usually tell people about it right away. I just say I’m a SAHM. That will be harder once Ramona is in school full-time. That is when a lot of stay-at-home moms go back to work, at least part-time. When people do find out, I get a lot of, “Wow, I wish I could just lay around & do nothing all day.” Like, do you also wish that you suffered from such crippling depression that there are entire blocks of your life that you’ve just forgotten entirely because you were in such a dark place? The only thing I remember from March-November 2014 is that Ramona took her first steps in June. The rest is just darkness, even though I’m sure at least part of it is documented in my blog archives.

          Anyway! I try not to think about this stuff too much. It’s too depressing, which is not really what I need in my life.

  4. That swimsuit came out great! I love penguins. I don’t think of them as being particularly BIRD-birdy, if that makes sense. Probably because they don’t fly.

    My sisters had a bit of an intervention with me last week where they said I need to get active again. I am not a nice person if I don’t do something active on the regular. It seems like it’s been helping.

    That chalkboard is super cute! I don’t think you’re giving yourself nearly enough credit for your drawing skills.

    1. I am far from a bird expert, but I think the birds on the swimsuit are owls. Maybe snowy owls?

      Thanks for the compliments on the chalkboard! It’s now decorating Ramona’s room & it looks really nice in there. It will be fun to do another next year & see how the answers change.

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