Sunday, August 30, 2009

Belly Button Censorship Makes a Comeback!

Striped Swimsuit/Beach Mat from Good Housekeeping Needlecraft, Spring-Summer 1972.

Thank goodness! During the 1940s through 1960s, TV censors knew that North Americans couldn’t cope with seeing a grown woman’s omphalos. After all, the navel automatically reminds people of sub-navel activities that are best confined to the bedroom with the lights turned off.

So, we never found out if Mary Ann of Gilligan’s Island had an innie or an outie, and we dreamed of a Jeanie whose lint catcher was covered up by red and pink pantaloons. Alas, in 1969, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In went after the belly laughs by exposing the belly button, and the genie was out of the bottle for good.

Fortunately, our bathing beauty from 1972 bucked the trend by crocheting up a swimsuit that kept her one-eyed Mabel decently out of sight. Unfortunately, by preventing lascivious navel gazing, she inadvertently drew attention to the fact that her breasts were more than a little wall-eyed.

So, if modesty’s your bag, you’re probably better off with a burqini, but I salute this crocheted forerunner of the tankini for challenging the bikini-dominated 1970s. The next time you’re on a beach, raise your glass to the navelkini!

Er, the bellykini?


For the complete pattern (and more snark!):


SIZES: Directions are for Small, Changes for Medium and Large are in parentheses.

MATERIALS: Phentex (2 Ply), 3 (4-5) Lt. Green (A), 3 (4-5) Lemon (B) and 3 (4-5) Violet (C).
Phentex? Phentex!

Sure the photo’s sidebar had recommended using a “yarn that dries quickly”. But I think that choosing a yarn that will wick away all of your skin's moisture, leaving you a dried up husk floating along the surf, is going a tad overboard.
Boye aluminum crochet hook Size F or size to give gauge.

2 pkgs round elastic, 2 buttons and 1 clasp.

GAUGE: 5 sts = 1”; 6 rows = 1”.
Just take a look at this photo:

FINISHED MEASUREMENTS: Bust: 32 (36-39)”; Hips: 34 (38-42)”.
Is it steel wool? The surface of the moon, perhaps?
STRIPE PATTERN: 2 rows A, 4 rows B, 2 rows C, 4 rows A, 2 rows B and 4 rows C.
Nope, this is a close up of crystalline polypropylene polymer yarn AKA Phentex AKA the stuff you’re planning on wearing against your private parts.
FRONT: With F hook and C, ch 12.

Row 1: Sc in 2nd ch from hook and in each ch to end (11 sc). Ch 1, turn.

Row 2: Sc in each sc, ch 1 turn. Repeat last row 5 times more. Begin Stripe pat and in center st work sc, ch 1, sc (inc made).
Tsk, tsk. If the pattern designer used the active instead of the passive voice, the pattern editor wouldn’t be forced to rely on bolding to keep our attention.
Next row: Sc in each sc and in ch-1 sp work sc, ch 1 sc (inc).
Jeez, they’ve lost count of the rows already?
Repeat last row until piece measures 5” along center, ending with 2 rows B (39 sts). Continue to inc. at center, and, at same time, inc at beg and end of row (to inc: work 2 sc in 1 sc) every row 10 times, ending with 4 rows B (69 sts).
Thank goodness for that bolding, because otherwise I would have blithely increased at the centre any old way I wanted to, and completely forgotten the beginning and end of row shaping.
Work across 26 sts. Ch 1, turn.

RIGHT FRONT-- Next row: Dec 1 st at beg of row (to dec: draw up loop in next 2 sts, yo and through 3 loops on hook) (hipline).

Next row: Inc 1 st at beg of row (leg). Repeat last 2 rows 0 (2-4) times more. Dec at hipline as before, and, at same time, inc at leg edge every row 10 times.

SHAPE SIDE: Continue hipline dec and at leg edge, dec every row until all sts are decreased.

LEFT FRONT Attach yarn in 26th st from leg edge and work same as Right Front reversing shaping.
Not that I know anyone who doesn’t bother reading all of a sentence before diving right in. *whistling*
BACK: With C, ch 12.

Row 1: Sc in 2nd ch from hook and in each ch to end (11 sc). Ch 1, turn.

Rows 2 and 3: Sc in each sc. Ch 1, turn.

Row 4: Begin Stripe Pat with 4 rows A and inc at beg and end of row every 2nd row 3 times, ending with 2 rows B.

Next row: Inc at beg and end of row and in center st as on front and repeat this row every 2nd row 5 (7-9) times more, then inc in center ch-1 only until piece measures approx. 10” along center and there are 81 (85-89) sts.

RIGHT BACK: Work across 40 (42-44) sts. Dec at hip every other row until there are 31 (35-39) sts. Work hip dec, and inc at leg edge every other row until hip measures same as front, ending with same stripe as on front before side shaping. Shape side same as front.

LEFT BACK: Work same as Right Back reversing shaping.

FRONT-CENTER PANEL: Attach yarn in first B st at right center panel and work as follows:

Row 1: Dec at beg and end of row and in center st work sc, ch 1, sc

Row 2: Work to center ch-1 sp, sc in ch-1 sp, work to end.

Row 3: Dec at beg and end of row and in center st work sc, ch 1, sc.

Row 4: Repeat Row 2.

Row 5: Work to center sc, in center sc work sc work sc, ch 1, sc. Repeat Rows 2 through 5, 8 (7-6) times, then work Rows 4-5, 0 (2-4) times.

BRA: With B (B-A) ch 2.
I have to admire the ingenuity of the unsung crocheter who made this swimsuit for the photo shoot. By choosing pink as the B colour, this Sneaky Pete managed to get nipple porn into Good Housekeeping.
Row 1: In 2nd ch from hook work sc, ch 1, sc. Ch 1, turn.

Row 2: Work 2 sc in first sc, in ch-1 sp work sc, ch 1, sc, 2 in last sc.
Now, I just happened to have some pink Phentex on hand (keep your friends close, but your enemies closer), so naturally I couldn’t resist crocheting up two pink nipples.
Note how the model in this photo is sensible enough to keep 100% cotton between her nipples and the Phentex.
Row 3: With C (B-B), work sc in each sc and sc, ch 1, sc in ch-1 sp. Repeat Row 3 continuing Stripe Pat as follows:

Small: 1 more row C, 4 rows A, 2 rows B, 4 rows C.

Medium: 1 more row B, 4 rows A, 2 rows B, 4 rows C.

Large: 3 more rows B, 4 rows A, 2 rows B, 4 rows C, inc’ing at beg and end of last row.
This level of Stripe Pat micromanaging gives me a whole new appreciation for the 'you’re on your own' approach of 1940s and 50s.
Fasten off. Along side edge beg stripe pat with 4 rows C, work 1 sc in each row and in center st – 31 (35-39) sc.
I can micromanage too, you know. For instance, don’t ever say "stripe pat" when you mean "Stripe Pat"!
Row 1: Dec at beg and end of row and over center 2 sts.

Row 2: Sc in each sc. Repeat last 2 rows until 5 sts remain. Work stripe pat on these 5 sts until piece measures 7 1/2 (8-8 1/2)”. Fasten off.

SHOULDER STRAPS: With A, beg to the right of the apex of the bra, work 1 sc in each of 4 sc and in each of 5 rows.

Beg stripe pat with 2 rows A and work Rows 3 and 2 of Center Front Panel until piece measures 15”, or 1 1/2” less than desired length.

BUTTONHOLE: Work to center ch 1, turn, work to outer edge. Attach another piece of yarn in center st and work 2 rows across unworked sts, fasten off. With yarn attached work 4 more rows across all sts.

FINISHING: Sew 1 edge of each bra to 1 slanted edge of center front panel.

Edging: Beg on top edge of left back strap, about 3/4” from edge, over round elastic, work 1 row sc along edge to 3/4” from end of right back strap.
But what part of the Stripe Pat am I supposed to do? Don’t force me to make decisions this close to the end!
Tighten elastic slightly, do not turn. Working over round elastic, from left to right work 1 sc in each sc. Tighten elastic slightly and fasten off.

Beg on lower edge of back strap work edging around entire bathing suit, and each leg, tightening elastic around hipline to desired fit.
Rather than using a measuring tape, I suggest putting on the suit to make sure you get the sizing right. No cheating by taking off the suit to complete the edging. Real women can crochet while standing on one leg.
Sew clasp to back of strap and sew buttons on back strap for shoulder strap.
After all your careful sizing, why would you want to crochet your shoulder straps to the bikini top? You never know when a hot lifeguard may walk by and you’ll need to quickly use the “Whoops my shoulder strap slipped out of its button, accidentally revealing my Phentex-roughened nipples”.

Handmade by Mother is not responsible if the above tactic leads to a citation or arrest for public indecency. This blog is based out of Ontario, Canada where breasts roam free.

Because why should the rest of your body escape the crystalline embrace of Phentex?
With A, ch 126. Sc in 2nd ch from hook and in each ch to end (125 sc). Work in Stripe Pat until piece measures 64”. Fasten off.

Edging: With A, work 1 row sc around entire mat, spacing sts to keep edges flat, work 3 sc in each corner. Work 1 more row A, 2 rows B, 2 rows C. Fasten off.
And now you’re ready for a day of Phentex Phun at the Beach. Although you better pack the Vaseline, otherwise the end of the day won’t be as much fun.
Click here for the printable pattern.


  1. Phentex of the 70s (& 80s, 90s)was ghastly stuff alright. It was only good for slipper soles and pot scrubbers.

    The swimsuit picture reminds me of Squidward :D

  2. OMG, you're right!

    But now I can't see anything else when I look at it, and Squidward's haunting my dreams.

    At least he wasn't wearing a Phentex belly-kini!

  3. I am attempting to make this bathing suit but I am kinda stuck at this part:

    "Repeat last row until piece measures 5” along center, ending with 2 rows B (39 sts)."

    Does this mean just that little section should measure 5" or does it mean the entire piece up until this point should measure 5?"

  4. Hi Paulapatricia!

    Having not made the suit myself, I have no more idea than you do. I'd suggest experimenting and seeing what fits.

    Crochet is always an adventure! An adventure I want photographic proof of - so send pics! Many pics!

  5. Cool, still crocheting on,I hope the result will be picture worthy!