Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Swimwear Tute (that might make you dumber)

Ok before we start out I should say that I have NO expertise here. I've made a grand total of three wearable swimsuits in my entire life. And this "method" consists entirely of my own hacking and would probably send ACTUAL swimwear designers into paroxysms of horror. In fact there's a good chance that this tutorial is going to make you a worse seamstress. Or maybe dumber? Or possibly cause giant asteroids to crash into the earth?
So, fair warning. And if you want some info on making swimwear that will actually make you smarter then check out this site.

AND onward!

The first thing I did was score my fabric.
I used a Nylon/Spandex (Lycra) mix with 4 way stretch. My closest fabric shop (Farbicland at Bloor) carries solid colours of it all the time and occasionally gets ends of SUPER cute prints in too. There's some good info HERE on just what is up with swimwear fabric.
I also use a lining fabric, the best description I could get out of the scary Fabricland ladies was

*YAWN*. "A swimwear lining. For lining swimwear. No." *eye roll* "That IS what it's called. SWIMWEAR LINING."

Pah. Turns out it's made of Nylon too and has two way stretch.
I buy 50 cms of the fabric (unless there's a direction to the print, then I buy a meter) and a meter of lining fabric. I also buy 3 or so meters of pre-cut lycra binding. But it turns out that it's cheaper to cut your own and super easy too. You're also going to need a ball point or knit needle for your sewing machine.

Once I'd gotten my goodies together I needed a pattern. The first suit I made I just eyeballed a pattern based on my current suit. There is some info about making a pattern from an existing item HERE . This method took a bunch of trying on and hacking down.
For the second suit I took apart a swimsuit that fit fairly well but had that weird see-through bum thing. and voila. a muslin:

Then I laid the bits out on the fabric and pinned. I wanted a the neckline a bit higher and the bum and bit more covery so I marked that out.

Once all the pieces were cut out I made duplicates in the lining fabric. The lining I use has a two way stretch and I like to have the stretch go from side to side as opposed to up and down.

You don't HAVE to line the back of your suit. I do anyway though. This time I cut out the lining a bit smaller than the body of the suit. Which, it turns out, is not a super great idea.

Then it was time to do some piecing together. This is the stitch I used for sewing everything
(both piecing together and sewing on the binding) it's a small zigzag.

The most complex part is the back; and really, it not complex at all, you just sew the two bottom pieces separately (lining and fabric), then place them wrong sides together and sew on the crossy back thing. Easy.

Next I sammiched all the layers together.. The sammich goes lining- fabric- (good sides together) -fabric- lining.
Then it gets sewn together at the sides, crotch (heh the word crotch makes me giggle) and top straps. I used the same zigzag as before and was careful to include all the layers.

Then I flipped it right side out. And you guys! It kind of looks like a swimsuit! Exciting!

Except for the gappy bum issue; that needs to be fixed for sure. And that's where the binding comes in. For this suit I made a self binding. On account of the pre-made binding colours all looked terrible with this print.
I folded the width of the fabric in half. Folded it again. Then snipped 1.5 inch strips.


Then it was time to bind the exposed edges and fix the gappy bum problem all in one go.
This is what I do with the binding, fold it over like this:

Then encase all the layers like this:

Then sew it down with my zigzag stitch.
I don't worry about the raw edge, it doesn't fray and I chop it away once the binding is in place anyway. The tricky bit about binding the legs is that you have to pull the binding taunt and sew at the same time, making sure to catch up all the layers. Pulling the binding taunt should give this effect:

(Don't worry it doesn't look like a diaper cover when it's ON!)
And you only really want this for the back of your suit, not the front; so you give the binding some slack for the front.
When I get to the end I tuck the raw bit under and backstitch.
I repeat the binding process on the armholes, neckline and back hole bit and because there's no need to pull the binding tight I just pin it on and whip around. Which you can actually see better in this picture:
Once the binding is on I trim it close to the stitching. Like this:

And that's it. Gots myself a swimsuit. Of course you might NEED ruffles (really, who doesn't?) and to add those you just ruffle up a bit of you binding (or fabric) and sew it on with the same zigzig stich. I do this step before I even piece the suit together. And I only sew the ruffles onto the actual fabric, not the lining.
If you've read this far, (good job with that, this was a LONG post) then here comes the big reveal.
And I'm cringing RIGHT NOW. But here we go. Me in a swimsuit. On the internets, which is practically like PUBLIC. yeesh. OK. Just getting it over with. Look away now if you're easily offended.

See what I did with the ruffle there? and the neglecting to brush my hair?

Oh hey, and I shared here:

And here too:
The Girl Creative


  1. Hi Erin, I followed you here from Wardrobe Refashion. Besides how cute those suits turned out, I wanted to say how totally CHARMING you seem to be (based on your writing style). Thanks for sharing this tutorial!

  2. That is so nice! I have never made a swimsuit ever. I am scared it might not turn out good or it might rip the moment I wear it. LOL! But I should try some time. :) Thanks for sharing!

  3. I got here from WR too, just wanted to say that the swimsuit is adorable, the tutorial is cute, and the blue-and-white one looks like you paid a lot for it somewhere fancy!


  4. WR lurker too. Amazing job on the suit. I've had some fabric for nearly three years and I'm still too scared to try it. This might get me to cut into it finally. Thanks!

  5. You look gorgeous my dear, and that is one pair of spanky-arse swimsuits - SO impressive. Thanks so much for the tute - it all seems more approachable now, though I'm still going to have to loiter in the lycra section of my fabricland a little longer before I'm brave enough. Eeep!

  6. Fab tute hun. I'm pretty certain I get all of it but if I ever track down any swimsuit material I might ask you to hold my hand through it all :o)

    Well done on the reveal, you look awesome!!!

  7. Ooooo, I suddenly feel so much braver. Thanks for the tute!

  8. Oh, totally cute. I knew I was saving that old worn out suit for something!! I'm bookmarking this for later. Thankyou!!

  9. Thanks for the tutorial! What a fabulous suit, and what an entertaining writing style. It was a pleasure to read. Thank you!

  10. The picture with "sew sew sew" all over it totally cracked me up! This is a great tute... I have a horrible time finding swimwear that fits me right.

  11. You look gorgeous. For absolutely sure.\K

  12. Awesome job on the swimsuit!! I have my Lycra and my lining and my elastic all sitting in a pile, but I keep finding other projects to do instead. I need to just get brave...

    I linked to your tutorial on Craft Gossip Sewing:


  13. Thanks you guys! Aren't you all lovely (And giant thanks for the linky, Casserole)!

  14. Craft Gossip sent me here. I LOVE this. You've inspired me to try. Except first I mist locate that fancy lining stuff. And make a SAMMICH! Bahahaha! Susan

  15. Great tute. I came from Craft Gossip also. I made my first bathing suit, for my dd, this year. You teach well. I'm waiting to score some fabric for myself now.

  16. Erin ~ both of your suits are oh-so-lovely, and you look adorable :) Swim suits off the rack are not only a million dollars but usually oh-so-ugly! I've only run across one fabricland lady that wasn't a bit scary (I think they'd all rather be home cuddling up with their sewing machines) - she has since seemingly vaporized so maybe she was just some sort of oasis - sent for the soul purpose of turning me on to etsy :)

  17. so you just made a bathing suit?! crazy amazing!

  18. Amazing! That is very impressive!
    Thanks for sharing.

  19. Oh, that is SO helpful! I want to make my own swimsuit (tried on about 30 in the shops and none made me look like a Supermodel! ha h).This is mega-handy - thank you :)

  20. Very cute! I've always wondered how to make my own swimming suit. Very entertaining and informative post! :)

  21. This is the cutest tutorial! I am attempting to make myself a one-piece swimsuit for the overly-endowed-with-my-own-personal-flotation devices. Trying to find a sensible swimsuit that offers support on top and doesn't engulf your nether regions is just impossible! You've made it look like something I could actually do without harming myself...and others. You're too adorable!

  22. I'm a fashion student so of coarse I spend hours on the net looking for inspiration and 'how-to's' for making clothes. This was a brilliant post thank you! I just have one question......do you use a stretch thread when sewing everything?

  23. You are too cute! Love this tutorial. Thanks :)

  24. That's amazing, gonna try it today. Screw 90.00 bathing suits from Lane Bryant.

  25. Great tutorial! and the suit looks so good on you! bookmarking this to come back to later

  26. Hi Erin, just came across you swimsuit tut & thought maybe you could give me some advice. Going on my 1st cruise, found a suit I loved ,it fit marked down $79.00 to $20.00 Bought it got home & realized "saggy bottom" just to long. I am an experienced sewer but as I sit here in tears trying to get the crotch back to fit the bottom back after cutting off 1 inch I'm looking for help...HELP!!! Sue B aka mrs23b@aol.com

  27. You might say this is no big deal, but you just made a swimsuit!! That's incredible! I feel like that's probably one of the harder things to make since it has to fit perfectly to really work. I'm very impressed! Maybe I should look into doing this since it can be so hard to find cute swimsuits that I look good in.
    Shelly Slader | http://www.brigitewear.com/One_Piece_Thong_Swimsuits_Brigitewear.htm

  28. Thank you for the post! The steps and images are very helpful in knowing how to make the one piece swimming suit step by step. What types of fabric are good to use?

    Emily Marshall | Brigitewear

  29. Thank you, I love your sew sew sew lines! great job on explaining all of it.

  30. Hey I want to buy this swimwear dress. Please tell me price of this dress. I will gift it to my cousin who just started learning swimming. I am just little skeptical if this product is from top swimsuit brands or not.

  31. I notice that you use binding instead of elastic....how does it hold up?


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