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Made by a Fabricista: Copycat Swimsuit

I've got to be honest, the thought of sewing a swimsuit has always been one of the scariest things for me. I always have a hard time finding one that I like and that will flatter my curvy figure. So when I find one I like, I need to grab it while I can! I had a tankini swimsuit for a few years (I hardly swim!) but it was starting to dry rot and sag. So I decided I was still going to keep the suit until I grew up the courage to make one.



I'm not sure if my fear of sewing swimwear came from the fact that I just don't like wearing a swimsuit in the first place, or the fact that it actually has to be snug so it doesn't fall off of you in the water, but there was definitely a fear!

Back in January 2014, I went on a business trip/winter escape to Miami. I found a fabric store that carried a TON of swimsuit fabric! I found a fun print and solid to match. That made me one step closer to making my very own swimsuit.

THEN we had a business trip planned to Las Vegas for a trade show in October 2014. October weather in Las Vegas is still pretty nice, but I now REALLY needed the swimsuit because the bottoms I kept wearing had been taken in a few too many times! So this was the start of my swimsuit sewing adventure.



First, inspect the RTW swimsuit. What techniques do you want to repeat in your version? Below is a photo of the RTW suit I copied. I noticed they used rubber elastic along all seams. There was also a 1" wide elastic used on the shelf bra and there were molded foam cups. The foam cups were sewn on to a soft, semi-sheer swimsuit lining. The lining also extended to the back of the swimsuit. There were also black ties at the top of the halter. 


Close-up of the RTW lining - Cotton elastic on the bottom of the shelf bra. 
After inspecting, I ripped the seams on the entire suit so I had each piece I needed to make a new suit. I also ripped out the elastic that the manufacturer used around all the edges of the suit. It was still in pretty good condition, so I thought I better keep it! I also kept the cups and wide elastic for the built-in shelf bra. 


After doing some research on sewing with swimwear knits, I found I definitely needed to have elastic around all edges. The 1" wide elastic also needs to be cotton. The cotton will not deteriorate from chlorine. 

You will need the following:
- pattern paper 
- marking tools
- seam ripper
- scissors
- Enough swimsuit (4-way stretch) knit fabric to make the suit. (I had about 1 yard for the top and 1 yard for the bottom. But you may only need 1/2 yard. I liked having extra so if I messed up, I would have enough fabric left.)
- 1 yard of swimsuit lining or mesh
- Clear elastic, about 1/4" wide (enough yardage to go around all the seams.)
- Thread to match
- Stretch needles
- Sewing Machine/Serger
- Cotton Elastic, about 1" wide, enough for under your bust.

After the entire suit was taken apart, I laid each piece on pattern paper and traced around the suit. I then folded the paper in half, matching the side seams so that it would be a mirror image. The photo below shows the halter back piece. I also cut a front halter, inside lining (front and back) halter ties and the swimsuit bottoms, front and back and bottom lining using the front piece. When you're making the pattern piece for the halter front lining, mark the cup position so there's less guesswork later. (But if you feel like they should be positioned differently, you can place them where it works best for you.)


Here you can see the swimsuit lining fabric. (The nude fabric.) The black piece has the cups and RTW swimsuit lining before I cut out the cups. 


After you have all the pieces cut out from the swimsuit fabric and swimsuit lining, it's time to put them together! Take the front swimsuit lining and halter front and pin them together, wrong sides together. Sew or serge around the neck seams and armhole area. Do the same for the back around the top.



Note about the cups: I liked where the cups were on the RTW garment, so I used the same positioning. If you place them based on your markings, then zig-zag stitch them into place on the swimsuit lining only! If you feel they need to be positioned differently, I would wait until you have the swimsuit bodice and lining sewn together, THEN position them where you would like it and zig-zag in place. (It will just be a little bit trickier sewing them in.)

Pin the side seams right sides together, having the lining fabric stitched separately from the swimsuit fabric. Serge the side seam. Fold the lining down into the suit. Try it on. It should be somewhat snug. This is a swimsuit, you know! You don't want it to be too loose, otherwise it will bubble up or fall off in the water!


Now it's time to attach the 1" cotton elastic. Measure the elastic just below your bust. (Or wherever the shelf bra should hit your upper torso.) Make it snug, but not too tight that you're uncomfortable. Stitch this along the bottom of the swimsuit lining. Tack the elastic in place along the side seams, as shown in the photo above. 




We're almost done! For the next step, you will need to use a zig-zag stitch on your sewing machine. Starting at the top of the halter straps, line up the elastic just after the serged edge. Fold the serged edge over the elastic and zig-zag stitch all the way around the armhole and neckline edges. Do not stretch the elastic or the fabric! You will get ugly ripples! 



Halter ties: The RTW suit had solid black halter ties. I wasn't sure I needed them, but when the pattern didn't quite fit on the fabric, I knew I definitely needed to make contrasting ties. (Plus the contrasting ties looked cool! I use the same color knit as I did for the bottoms.) Sew the halter ties to the top of the halter (with finished seams.)



Finishing: To finish the edge, press up the hem about 1 inch, or where you feel comfortable. Zig-zag stitch or use a double needle to finish the hem. 




There you have it! A finished swimsuit halter top! 


Making the bottoms: I like a basic swimsuit bottom. I don't like low waist style or the high bikini lines like the 80's! But I also don't care for boyshorts on me. I feel like a horizontal line on my thighs makes them look even bigger. 


I used the same techniques for making a pattern, serging the edges of the knit and then zig-zag stitching the elastic into place. You can use the same swimsuit lining for the crotch, but instead of just using it on the crotch, I cut out the lining in the same size piece as the entire front. Then I didn't have two seams in the crotch AND it also created some extra coverage and stability to the front of the bottoms. 






I'm really happy with the way it turned out! It was definitely not as scary as I thought. Are you ready to pick up some swimwear fabric? Check out our selection knit prints and solids as well as swimsuit linings HERE.

Have you ever made a swimsuit? Do you have any tips about sewing a swimsuit? Share your stories!


~ Julie

Comments

  1. I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!! The print, the colors! I dislike boys shorts, too on me. Great post :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you!! I learned some of these tips from you too!

      Delete
  2. Very cool that you copied your own!

    I made my first suit recently and sewing those cups in was tough! And after using my suit this week, I realized my bottoms aren't snug enough. The next pair will fit very closely.

    Love your new suit!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I think my bottoms are a wee bit loose too, so I'm to take them in just a little, too!

      Delete
  3. You are brave! 2 things I hate trying on and buying are jeans and swim suits. Can't imagine making either but your idea of remaking one you like and wore out is a good one! The new suit is beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comments! I hope you will try out remaking your own suit someday! It wasn't as bad as I thought!

      Delete
  4. I've made a suit or two in the past and they are fun and fast to make! I think the hardest thing is to gauge size. Luckily we can adjust when we make our own. I love your suit!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Size is definitely the hardest part I'm sure. Especially when you start with a regular pattern. Luckily since I was starting with a suit that I knew already fit, it was a little easier! (Although I did bring it in a little bit because it a grown over time.)

      Delete
  5. Fantastic job! It looks like you bought it from an expensive swimwear line. Really love your fabric.

    ReplyDelete
  6. You did a great job! These were some great tips that I'll definitely be using on my first tackle at swimwear.

    ReplyDelete

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