Sewing Projects

A New Sophie Swimsuit for my Trip to France

Bonjour mes amis! If you happened to catch any of my (sorry) countless instagram stories over the past few weeks, you may have noticed I was in the land of rosé at lunch, rosé at dinner, and cheese after every meal.  I had a lot of questions about what we were up to while I was away, so I thought I’d fill you in on on the details before talking about my new Sophie Swimsuit.

I met Guillaume in 2013 through Tinder, never knowing we’d still be together four years later, and I’d be living a ridiculous French fantasy in his homeland for a few weeks every year. I remember googling things like “What it’s like to date a French guy” at the very beginning because he just seemed so different from the North American men I had mostly dated.  I’m not sure how culturally representative he is of Gallic men in general, but in my experience, they say I love you very quickly, tell you the truth 100% of the time whether you want to hear it or not (what I like to call “French Honesty” and being a “food @ssh#le”), truly eat an astonishing amount of baguette, and are extremely close to their families.

I love my family, but I actually laugh out loud when I think about us spending as much time together as Guillaume’s family does. There would be a ridiculous fight (or three), and someone (or many someones) is bound to drink too much wine and cry out of happiness or sadness or some combination of the two. Guillaume’s family really blew my mind when I first got to know them. His mom and dad are no longer together but still spend vacations together, often with their mutual partners (my parents have been divorced for over 30 years and are still unbearably awkward when they’re in the same room). Aunts, uncles, cousins, will all share the same home for days, if not weeks at a time. No one fights. No one drinks too much wine and cries. There is no constant TV on in the background. They just hang out all day long around a huge table and eat and laugh and talk. It’s pretty magical. And it’s basically the only reason I would agree to spend my summer vacation with a family other than my own, because it’s just so damn pleasant to be around them, even if I only understand about 50% of  what they’re saying at any given time (this was definitely the trip that made me re-commit to becoming truly bilingual – I hate not getting the jokes!)

Sophie Swimsuit Pattern in merlot lycra // Closet Case patternsSophie Swimsuit Pattern in merlot lycra // Closet Case patterns

For the first half of the trip, we stayed at Guillaume’s mother’s country house in Lozère. While technically in the south, this region has an elevation of over 1000 meters, so it’s cool, green, a little wild and very isolated. The house is small and has been in the family for a few generations, but since Martine is a sculptor with an amazing eye, it’s filled with beautiful treasures she’s found over the years. We were just with the immediate family (mom, dad, sister, and nieces) before driving further south to meet up with the rest of the family in Languedoc. We mostly hung out at his aunt and uncle’s, one of my most favourite places on earth, and where we took these photos. Jeff is a builder and has done a ton of work on the property since they bought it ten years ago. The terrace is shaded by trees, and you can watch the sun set on the vineyards below when you’re not swimming in the pool and eating figs straight from the tree. I one hundred percent cried like a baby on our last night because the entire family is so lovely and welcoming despite my terrible French, and this home is the living embodiment of The French Fantasy.

I was really happy to have this new swimsuit for our vacation, and happier still to take some pictures of it at this special place. I wore my last Sophie into the ground so it was time for a replacement. While I still love my Bombshells, a highwaisted Sophie bikini has increasingly become my go-to suit. It’s got lots of support and coverage but still feels flattering and fun to wear.

Sophie Swimsuit Pattern in merlot lycra // Closet Case patternsSophie Swimsuit Pattern in merlot lycra // Closet Case patterns

The original plan was to make two bikinis in coordinating colors and mix and match. I found a really funky acid yellow lycra in San Francisco and got this wine lycra to go with it, but disaster struck with the yellow. The lycra was a little too thin and the bottoms were completely unwearable, even when lined (wearing them was like what airport security must see when they make you stand in those scary full body x-ray machines – NOT PRETTY). I ended up just wearing this suit the entire time; I may make another one in black or navy next year if I still want to mix and match.

I’ve put on a little weight in the past year and have gone up an underwire size.  For the bikini, I made a size 10 with the #5 cup and then removed a touch of volume at the apex since I’m in between cup sizes. This isn’t hard to do; I made a quick muslin and then pinched off what needed to be removed and transferred that to my pattern pieces. I also scooped out the bottom of the cradle to make it look a little more “bra like”; it’s a subtle change but I like it. I think the bottoms are a size 14 graded to a 12 at the waist.

Sophie Swimsuit Pattern in merlot lycra // Closet Case patternsSophie Swimsuit Pattern in merlot lycra // Closet Case patterns

I also made a change to the lining; rather than using the same pieces for the inner and outer layer, I drafted the lining in two pieces instead of six, just by overlapping the center and side panels at the curved seam and tracing off a new piece. This reduces bulk inside the suit and also saves time in construction. The silver bikini clasp was from my stash, and the fabric came from Spandex House.

Sophie Swimsuit Pattern in merlot lycra // Closet Case patternsSophie Swimsuit Pattern in merlot lycra // Closet Case patterns

We spent a LOT of our time by this pool for obvious reasons, and the family appreciated the blow-up pool toys I brought with me. I’m not sure Rocket Pops are really a thing in France but everyone seemed to enjoy hanging out on it, while the pretzel didn’t even last 24 hours, sigh. We finished up the trip with a few days in Paris (staying at Martine’s apartment on the outskirt of the city) and I’ve been home since Monday, trying to get back into the groove of things. This trip is turning into an annual tradition so as sad as I was to leave, I know we’ll be back again next year. Hopefully with much improved French language skills on my end; I start lessons this fall.

I was sure I was going to come home with a few pounds of blue cheese glued to my butt but surprisingly not! I think the reason most people keep a handle on things in France is because they don’t snack. At all. Despite romantic ideas we might have about French laissez-faire attitude, I actually find them to be pretty disciplined and ordered about food. Breakfast is rarely more than coffee and toast with butter and jam. Lunch is generally pretty light (at least in the summer) and while they eat fairly late, wine and any apero (aka appetizers, most often some saucisson and olives) happens strictly after 7pm. It’s not the all day eating and drinking binge fest from where I come from, and if you’re walking a lot and staying active, I really don’t see why you shouldn’t be able to eat baguette and a moderate amount of cheese every day. At least this is what I’m telling myself whenever I eat a croissant for breakfast. I’ve been applying some of the lessons I learned about French food on this vacation (local, fresh ingredients prepared simply) and am trying to enjoy the last little bit of summer while I can. Life is too short not to eat well.

Has anyone else spent any time in France in the summer? Were you as seduced as I was?

  • missceliespants

    I loved this entire post!! How lucky you are. A man you love with a sane rational and lovely family to boot. Eat all the baugette! And, good luck with the French classes.

    • Thanks honey. Thank my lucky stars he has a great family. l a lot of my friends have terrible inlaws and it makes things so much harder!

  • Your trip made me realise I SHOULD spend more time in France; I go to Paris fairly often as it’s so easy on the train from London but haven’t explored much else of the country. This holiday sounds like an absolute dream, and that’s a fantastic swimsuit!

    • Honestly, there is so much to see in France I start getting stressed when I think about the rest of Europe! If I lived overseas I’d be broke from all the constant traveling I’d feel compelled to do.

  • K_Line

    Love this! Gorgeous landscape and what an awesome family you’ve managed to find. You will undoubtedly be entirely bilingual by next summer – I mean, you can practice constantly (between the bf and the city).

    • We actually NEVER speak French. He’s not a very patient teacher, but maybe it will get easier if I can improve my skills on my own.

  • Isabelle

    I really like the thematical wine lycra!
    If you want to practice, I’m just on the south side of the river! I could teach you french sewing terms (Even if I doubt this would be useful for your trip next summer! 😀 and you probably know those already!). In Quebec, we are of course influenced by traditional French food. You can find almost everything here. Your BF must have his favorite place for “real baguette”! And cheese! Miam…now I’m hungry! Bon appétit!

    • Definitely eases the transition to come home to Montreal! I stocked up on cheese and hit my favourite bakery and felt right at home again 🙂

  • Wine lycra! I need coffee denim. I can’t decide if the ‘functional family’ isn’t a whole lot more insanely attractive than France. I think that ……(thinks for hellhole location)…whatever with G’s famille would be the best vacation location ever. You deserve the luck, my dear.

    • It’s true. They would make Mars a fun time.

  • I lived in France for a while (both in the north and in the south), though not quite as luxuriously as you seem to! A vacation like that sounds like just the thing I need right now. I agree about the baguettes and cheese – I indulged as much as I wanted to while I was there (on my limited budget, at least), but thanks to all the walking I did to get everywhere, didn’t notice any weight gain.
    And I had no idea you guys met on Tinder! One more story to add to my list to justify why I’m on there to all of the people who say it’s only for hookups…

    • Well, we met in the infancy of Tinder so maybe things have changed, but it worked out very well for us! I know a few people who have met using it so don’t give up hope yet 🙂

  • Rena

    I was avidly following your stories as we spent a few weeks in the Languedoc region in June. My husbands family live near Castelnaudary – although they aren’t French they have lived there over 20 years and raised 3 kids there (not my husband). We had such an amazing trip there this summer as my 13 year old daughter was finally old enough to really enjoy touring around. Quite a different experience to rural BC!

    • You’re so lucky to have family there! You should make it annual tradition too. We were in Puisserguier but there are so many great towns to explore (omg the night market at Pezenas!)

  • I enjoyed your IG Stories quite a bit – I spent some time in Nîmes as a tween, and it brought back happy memories.

  • bookandneedle

    I loved your stories and looked forward to them every day! I’ve never been to France, but my friend from college had a very good friend from Bordeaux who was very charming. Your SO sounds charming as well. And your Sophie looks great, that color is perfect.

    • Thank you! Guillaume is pretty charming, I have to admit. Still madly in love 4 years later, but I’d probably feel that way if he was from just about anywhere 😉

  • pam

    OMG…I spent a week in the SW of France last month. Felt like magic. I cannot wait to get back there. I found the locals to be so incredibly welcoming and warm. I was with a group of the most lovely creative American women. The trip left an impression on me that fueled my soul and like a highly addictive substance, I can’t wait to get back for my next luxurious fix. (And I mean luxury in a way of allowing my mind to roam where the good (creative) thought goes. To hang with locals that live there in such straight forward, simple, non-pretentious way. And to be there for long enough that the stress of my daily life melts away to such quiet background noise that the colors of the massive sunflower fields and the majestic sky can hold my attention for long enough to loose all track of time)

    • It’s such a special place! The pace of life is glorious. I’d be lying if I didn’t take a peak at real estate listings and start spinning out wildly impractical fantasies about relocating, haha. (Not gonna happen but its fun to dream!)

  • Anna Rootes

    I spent a week on the Côte d’Azur with my family this summer and absolutely loved it. I’ve only ever visited the north of France before, so it was completely different. Other than the amazing food, of course! My favourite bit was visiting ancient towns, although the kids loved the beach/pool best.

    I made my first bikini for the holiday but it wasn’t a patch on your gorgeous one. I’ll be making a Sophie next year, I reckon!

    • I REALLY want to get to the Côte d’Azur sometime. We were hoping to do a little bit of independent travelling but family time took precedence. In an ideal world we would have stayed another week and driven up the coast but G has limited vacation time. Good thing France isn’t going anywhere.

  • Leah Franqui

    First of all, you look fantastic and that color is just aces, really lovely swimsuit, you make me hate this stupid Indian sewing machine I have that just like, freaks out over knits, and has made me swimsuit shy since I came to Mumbai. I spent my summer in France when I was 15 and I actually studied Commedia dell’Arte in a farmhouse and then we like, toured Europe performing this Renaissance theatrical form. It was a teen summer program. I was not cool in high school. I went back to the dordogne region with my parents when I was a freshman in college for a week, and it was marvelous and filled with all the duck you could desire. Siiiiigh, I want to go back to France, but I’m swanning around Asia right now. So that’s…something!

    • That’s the cutest teenager in France story ever haha. You must have had so much fun! And I hope you can find a better sewing machine… can you get vintage Singers in Mumbai?!

  • Très chic ! And a great colour.

    I had a similar food experience in Paris and Italy last month – eat nice fresh stuff and don’t think too much about it! So much less body hung-up than here in Australia too. The combination is awesome 🙂

    Duolingoor learning French I find, alongside more formal lessons.

    • I think they still have body hang-ups, it’s just a little more subtle. His family at least will always comment if Guillaume has put on a little weight. I think they pay attention but because they tend to eat healthier in general it’s not quite as much of a preoccupation as it is elsewhere.

  • Lisa

    That sounds completely heavenly. I love your suit–it looks fabrics on you.

    • Lisa

      Hahahaha–I mean fabulous, not fabrics! I think my phone knows me a little too well!

      • Ah hahaha! My phone always autocorrects muslin to Muslim.

  • Kathy

    I went to France this summer with my husband and two college aged sons. This was mt first time, and we spent a couple days in Paris, took daytrips to Normandy and Lille. Finally, we went to Lyon and drove further north through Annecy, Colmar, the Alsace wine region, and ended in Strasbourg. All the places were so different and I loved them all. But we only scratched the surface of what France has to offer, and hope to go back and explore the south and more.

    • For such a small country, it’s kind of insane how many different regions there are geographically and culturallY! Endless amounts to discover!

      • Francesca Amodeo

        LOlL so funny:)…. my instant reaction was, what is she talking about, small? But I guess after the vast expanses of Canada it is small … As European, I think of France as one of the big countries along with Germany and Poland:).

        Love the bikini! total perfection:) And the surroundings…. gorgeous. I like France a lot – well, I know the South, parents used to take us to St Trop a lot when we were young and it was still unspoilt – Provence, and Paris – this I know the best. Croissants and pain au chocolat, their cheeses oh yes heart eyes…… Haven’t eaten much home cooking since the young days so I only know restaurant food which is ok but I’m more predisposed towards Italian by birth:)

        • France could fit in our back pocket! It only takes 8 hours to drive across it! That won’t even get me to the ocean from Montreal.

          I REALLY hope we can make it to Italy on one of these trips. Or the very least Malta so we can finally hang out!

          • Francesca Amodeo

            Wow. That really puts it into context🙄😂.
            Really hope you do! And now i can put you up… how does top floor of a 300 year old house grab ya? Looking down into a courtyard….. 😆 Just please don’t do Italy OR Malta in August. It is the worst possible time🙂.

          • YOU ARE AN TEMPTRESS! Thank you so much for the kind offer; I may just take you up on it one day!

  • hannah Young

    Wowzers that bikini is smoking hot! I’ll definitely have a go at making one for next holidays. It looks like you had an amazing time. Living in The UK, I’m lucky that, growing up, I got to spend most summer holidays in the South of France. There’s nothing like the smell of the pine trees or cycling to the boulangerie for morning croissants!

    • The ability to travel around Europe if you actually live there is one of my only regrets about living in North America! So jealous you can hope over to France whenever the mood strikes!

  • VERY sexy Heather Lou! A true depiction of the “bombshell” 🙂 I love your suit, your story, your romance, your pictures and as always your humour. I always have a hearty giggle reading your posts. You might enjoy watching (and listening – her French accent is delicious) Justine (maybe you do already?) she’s a French clothing designer…in this video she explains how the French stay slim which is very similar to what you mention here

  • Quinn May

    Two summers ago we were in France on vacation, some time in Paris and Nice but it was definitely “Tourist France” not local France, which is something I’d love to experience someday.
    I did enjoy all of your stories, you saw some amazing exhibits and I was definitely a bit jealous of the countryside you got to enjoy.

    • It’s so hard to get out of the tourist traps when you’re travelling, especially when its your first time someplace and you’re trying to tick all the boxes. My most memorable trips are always the repeat visits when you can relax a bit and not worry about doing all the things. So what I’m saying is, you need to get back to France 🙂

  • HLC944

    I recently spent 5 days in the Languedoc… entirely in a Charlie Caftan. Don’t know why I bothered packing anything else. Thanks for the patterns!

  • joen

    Your swim suit looks great! And your trip look wonderful!

  • ute

    I’ve just spent two weeks pretty close to where you were and love it just as much as you do. A very good friend of mine lived there and I visited her for many years. I’ve been back for the first time after after a break and missed it so much. I might have to make a Sophie swimsuit for swimming in one of the gorges when I come back 😉

    • Its one of my favourite places in the world. I’d be lying if I wasn’t planning some sort of retirement plan for the south 😉

  • Sounds positively dreamy as a getaway – what fun! And, total babe – loving this sophie! xx

  • I adore this pattern! I made one for my trip to Tulum last month and I felt so glamorous in it. I love that it creates so many opportunities for print and color mixing, but it looks so classic and chic in a solid too. Yay for photographing handmades in special locales too, I was thrilled to photograph mine on a caribbean beach.

    • Caribbean Beach = ultimate photoshoot locale! I was actually hoping to photograph more me-mades in France but for some reason that never happened. Too buys relaxing I guess, haha.

  • DIY Wardrobe

    Cheese is a food group all of its own in my (British) family. I love your latest Sophie, and the gorgeous colour is spookily like the glass of Languedoc wine I had with my dinner tonight!

  • olaf78

    You look so great in your bikini – I wish I had the skills (or more astutely the courage) to tackle swimwear!

    What a great holiday in a beautiful place

    insert green eyes of envy emoji here!

    • You just need a spot of courage; anyone can make a swimsuit! Maybe start with something simple before tackling support and underwire?

  • Wow, amazing photos, Heather! You look smashing in your Sophie. I, too, am in love with my in-laws family dynamic and consider myself lucky now to have two sets of parents to lean on 🙂

  • Just want to commend you on learning French. It’s going to help you better communicate with your French-Canadian customers. Your patterns have bilingual instructions but your email replies are only in English. It’s turned off quite a few of my friends.

    • Hi Chantal. I’m sorry to hear that. We’re a tiny team responding to a large volume of emails doing the best we can. We’ve never received feedback about the language we communicate in so I’m sorry if people are disappointed. We’re one of the few indie companies that offer French translations at all; maybe its confusing since I’m based in Montreal? I just spoke about it to my studio manager/customer service person about it and we’ll see if we can improve on this going forward.

      • Language has always been a tough issue here. A Montreal pattern company sells a sewing pattern with French instructions. Those who buy them just want to get support in French. I’m sure that Jalie went through something similar (but in English) in the early days…

        • To be honest, it’s probably why a lot of companies don’t offer translations at all, despite it being a smart move. We don’t get a monster amount of questions in French but we can work on our responses in this areal.

  • Love the swimsuit, and I second everything you said about France and French people! It’s funny though, I brought my American husband to France a couple times and the long meals seating down with my family or friends, with no snacking before dinner time, are driving him CRAZY!

    • It’s a big adjustment when you’re used to eating all day long and taking breaks from each other! The first week we were there I would just hole up in a chair and read because i needed some “me time”.

  • Kimberley Burgess-Sokolan

    Ahhhh, this makes me feel so nostalgic! I lived three years in Paris in my early twenties. I have still to make my way back “home” nearly 40 years later! France lives on in my soul, keeping me young at heart, forever picky about quality over quantity, and eternally conscious of the need to be true to my own personal style – in all things, regardless of the dictates of “fashion”. Merci infiniment for allowing me to visit her vicariously through you, Heather!

    • What a marvelous time you must have had Kimberley! I love Paris but I think my heart belongs in the south….. I’ve told Guillaume if we ever move to France it has to be there 🙂