Chelle Summer


The Swimsuit

Michelle Rusk

The plan had been to start making swimsuits. I just thought I had bit more time to learn my new serger before I tackled my first one. However, my friend Veronica was leaving on vacation at the end of July (to the beaches of California, no less) and she needed a suit. I wasn’t going to say no to the opportunity to create something for my friend, especially because it was a chance for me to start making them.

But I didn’t really consider what a daunting challenge I had in front of me. What didn’t scare me was that I knew my mom had created one for my older sister Karen in the 1970s– one that lasted Karen quite a long time– and Mom had done it on the same Bernina sewing machine that I am using.

We bought a serger for me in Late May but with two trips in June, I haven’t had much of a chance to use it. I would need to make Veronica’s swimsuit on the Bernina with lots of zig zag stitches.

Taking her measurements, the pattern, the notions, and the fabric she picked in hand, I realized what a daunting task I had in front of me. I couldn’t do it alone.

Often in the past I have written about my struggle to be the competitive runner I was supposed to be. I often joke that in high school God and I broke up- an unanswered prayer in eighth grade regarding my dad’s job situation left me not believing in God. I thought I had to do everything on my own.

But several weeks ago as I watched the Olympic trials, particularly track and field, many of the runners talked about how much God helped them.

If I was going to make a swimsuit, not only would I need to channel my mom but I’d need God’s help, too.

Sewing knits– which tend to slide all over the place– is tricky. Getting the needle and thread to behave on the knits can be perilous, too. I allowed myself hours at a time. Just in case. And prayed a lot, often shaking as I sat down, unsure how I could truly make Veronica’s measurements match a pattern that was confusing (my friend Bonnie often called pattern instructions “destructions” because of the chaos they cause). It also made me realize why women hate buying swimsuits. No one’s measurements are the same. How can we be standardized when our bodies are so unique? And I know this from trying on all the clothes that I do– how much doesn’t fit right because of my short frame.

With the seams sewn together but nothing else, Veronica came by and was happy with the fit. It looked great but I was mostly concerned that it felt good. I didn’t want to create something she would never wear.

And when the suit was finished, truly looking like a swimsuit, I felt like I’d survived a final exam and needed a nap. When she put it on, not only was it a perfect fit, but she was happy and comfortable. Excited is a better word.

It wasn’t beginners luck as I attribute some of my successful to the binkini bottom I made in January that taught me some elastic lessons, but rather it was taking the time and letting go, asking for help in a way it took me a long time to comprehend.