Summer for us means a lot of swimming! I love sewing swimsuits!! Though I have been sewing most of my life, I always thought sewing swimsuits would be difficult and not worth the hassle. Well, I was wrong. Not only are they pretty easy to do, but they’re so fun! It’s a very rewarding experience, especially considering how ill fitting store bought suits lose what little shape they had so fast. Handmade suits last a lot longer. The keys to making a great suit? Buy quality fabric (preferable made in USA, not China–support our economy, not theirs) and use a good fitting pattern. More about suits later. Right now, it’s about the accessories 🙂 Swim skirts are so fun, and make running around in your suit a bit more modest.
Update: To draft your own swim skirt pattern, start here
For my younger daughter who swims a lot, I used Kwik Sew 3605. For my older daughter (a teenager), I used the skirt in Jalie 2215 and omitted the built in panties. You could easily do this without a pattern.
- Grab a pair of bikini bottoms that fit the person you are sewing for.
- Use that finished waist measurement, without stretching, adding 1/4 inch on each side for seam allowances.
- Use a ruler to draw a slight A-line for the sides. Measure about how long you want the skirt to be and stop you side cutting lines there.
- Draw the hem line. Curve it slightly. I use a french curve ruler to draft my hem lines like this. If drafting for a teen or adult, then you’ll want to add 1/4 to 1/2 inch to the length in the back. This accommodates a tush and ensures the hem won’t be higher along the back side.
✿After cutting out your fabric, with right sides facing each other, pin the sides together. If using serger, pin parallel to stitching line and out of the way of the knife and needles (as shown).
✿Use a slight zigzag stitch, 3 step straight stitch, or lightning stitch to sew side seams with a traditional sewing machine. Or Serge side seams. (Be sure to use stretch needles in your traditional machine and serger for this project)
✿Cut elastic according to pattern. Sew into loop. If you’ve drafted a pattern, then cut the elastic slightly shorter than the waist (about 1/2 inch will do).
✿Divide skirt waist edge and elastic into fourths. Mark with pins or fabric marker. Pin the elastic to the wrong side of skirt–match marks and only place pins at these marks.
✿Sew elastic to waist. Stretching elastic in between the marks to fit the fabric and keep elastic even with the raw edge of fabric. Remove pins before sewing over them. Use a zigzag stitch or serge. If using a serger, you may want to disengage the knife.
✿Turn fabric over elastic, toward wrong side of fabric. Either use a twin stretch needle or zigzag stitch to sew fabric on top of elastic. Sew with right side of garment facing up. make sure your fabric is neatly folded along top edge of waist, and keep it even for best results. If using a twin stretch needle, then remember not to back stitch. Instead, overlap your stitching about 1 to 2 inches (meaning: sew past the point where you started sewing, to prevent seams from coming undone). For proper threading of your machine when using a twin needle, see this post.
✿Now hem your swim skirt. Using a Dritz EZ Hem, fold fabric toward wrong side 3/8 of an inch and press.
✿With right side of fabric facing up, sew hem using a twin stretch needle or zigzag stitch.
✿Trim any threads, and go to the beach and enjoy!!
If your fabric is thin, you’ll want to use the narrower twin needle(2,5/75). Here’s what happens when using the wider twin needle (4,0/75) on too light weight of a fabric:
See how it puckers and bunches (right side)? This suit has a front lining, so the wider twin needle worked just fine (left side), until I was sewing the back, which was single layer (right side of pic). It really depends on the weight or thickness of your fabric. The striped and pink fabrics are not necessarily the thinnest available, but clearly did better with the more narrow needle. Test on scrap fabric if you’re unsure. This goes for t-shirt fabrics as well.
Additional tips for sewing swim skirts and swimsuits:
✿You don’t need a serger. In fact, my daughter’s favorite suit was sewn using only my traditional machine. Be sure to use a slight zigzag or lightning stitch for seams. Edges do not need to be finished, because they do not unravel.
✿Use stretch needles!
✿Use regular thread in the needles, but use wooly nylon thread in both your machine’s loopers (upper and lower loopers) if you’re using a serger machine. This makes it much more comfortable to wear. A 3 thread overcast is also best when sewing knits–allows more stretch.
Here’s the striped suit with its skirt. When working with stripes, matching up the stripes in the print will give it that attention to detail found in higher end designers. It just looks better.To do this, fold the fabric and cut all pieces along the same place (fold when cutting out your fabric). Front pieces along same fold line (making sure you have folded it straight), and back pieces along the same fold line.
Hope this sew along helps! Let me know if anyone is interested in a pic tutorial of how to draft a simple swim skirt pattern using a pair of swimsuit bottoms, and I’ll get right on it 🙂
UPDATE: I’ve posted how to draft a swim skirt tutorial here 🙂