On Sewing Swimsuits…

Awhile back, Patterns for Pirates released very adorable swimsuit patterns for women.  I bought the Siren Swim Top and Hello Sailor Swim Bottoms immediately because rarely do I see a swimsuit pattern I would actually wear.  The only other one was the Soma Swimsuit from Papercut Patterns, until I just recently saw the Marilyn Bikini and the Rita Swimsuit from Wardrobe By Me.  I love all of the new swimsuit patterns recently, including the upcoming Classic Maillot Swimsuit from Designs by Call Ajaire.

Sewing Swimsuits

I’ve never sewn a swimsuit, and I think I’d rather begin with making them for my girls before I start any for myself.  I tested the Maillot for Little P in the simplest version, as the rest of the swimsuits are based off of this one.  I had previously purchased some swimsuit fabric for myself from Imagine Gnats because I really do love her fabrics, and I know from past orders that she carries quality fabrics (my own opinion, I still don’t get paid for it 😉

Then I thought, why stop there?  I went fabric shopping at Fabric Outlet in San Francisco and stocked up on even more swimsuit fabrics.  I seriously wanted to buy ALL THE FABRIC!  After some self control, and only like 6 or so bolts later (I’m going to add here the only reason I was limited was that they don’t have shopping carts, I had to carry these very large 6′ bolts myself, and I was limited by what little ol’ 5’3″ me could carry), I was ready to begin sewing some swimsuits (the polka dots are from Fabric Outlet).

Sewing Swimsuits

Now back to the Maillot…this is such a cute little swimsuit, and the options are plenty!  Now let me remind you I’ve never sewn swimsuits before, and after beginning the suit and topstitching the back for version A, I felt like a rockstar!

Then, I worked my way to the front of the suit, and that’s where I spent the next three days topstitching and ripping, over and over and over.  See, the thicker seams are my coverstitch machine’s worst nightmare, and hence, my own.  If you get one skipped stitch, you need to rip it out and do it over because it will just unravel.

Sewing Swimsuits

There are a variety of ways to overcome this, and between fashioning a hump jumper with post-it notes…

Placing tissue paper under the seam…

Changing to new needles, specifically ELx705 in size 90/14 instead of 82/12…

Growing more arms…wait, that didn’t happen, but I really, really wished it had…

Whacking the crap out of the thick seam with my mallet…

And using the heavy seam feature of my coverstitch machine, I was able to accomplish topstitching.

Sewing Swimsuits

I even scrapped my first muslin and tested a second just to see if it was the fabric that was giving me such a hard time.  It made no difference at all.  A thick seam is a thick seam.  Some testers had issues with this, but many didn’t it seemed.  There are lots of tips on sewing swimsuits out there on the interwebs, and Ajaire will be sharing tips as well on her blog.

Sewing Swimsuits

The pattern itself is adorable though, and the size 2t was a perfect fit for my girl.  It was actually relatively quick to sew up too, so after whipping up a tank top for myself (you know, to remind myself I actually can sew) I decided to give the tankini a shot.  I chose version E front, version G back, and version H bottoms.

Sewing Swimsuits

I did my best to eliminate the elastic from all seam allowances.  I trimmed the seam allowance from the elastic, so instead of using say a 10″ piece, I would reduce each side by 3/8″, so multiply that by 2 (for both ends), and I would actually cut a 9 1/4″ piece of elastic.  I used lots of wonder tape to hold the fabric and elastic in place so I could serge it (wonder tape is amazing for the extra hands thing, and it washes away).  I placed wonder tape about 1/2″ in from the seam, then put the end of the elastic on top of it.

Sewing Swimsuits

After I did this for both ends, I stretched the elastic and marked with my clip where the top of the shoulder was.  This is so I moved the strap correctly when serging.  Also, if you’re using this tutorial with the pattern, then you’ll notice my elastic is on the wrong side of the straps.  I did this because I was attempting to make it reversible, but then changed my mind later!

Sewing Swimsuits

Gently pull the tail end of your serger thread when beginning to feed the fabric through, as the “bump” of the beginning of the elastic may cause the serger to kind of “pause”, creating a thickness of thread.  Once you’ve fed the beginning of the elastic into the serger, you can safely stretch  the elastic and continue serging the rest of the seam.  I did this for the strap elastics and the front chest elastic.  This same technique will basically work with a zigzag stitch on a sewing machine as well.

Sewing Swimsuits

I also sandwiched the straps inside the lining and front piece of the bodice.  I just think it gives the inside a more finished look.  You can also use this technique on the one piece as well.  You just need to turn it inside out first, and bring the straps inside, then tuck them in, noting your main fabric and lining fabric.

Sewing Swimsuits

I used my walking foot, ball point needle, and stretch stitch to sew my tie pieces together.  No problems at all, very simple to my relief.

Sewing Swimsuits

Overall, I’m very happy with the way it turned out!  After looking at the pictures, I should’ve put the straps in closer to each other in the back.  They aren’t falling off her shoulders, but it would’ve looked better I think.

I had a much easier time with the second suit, and I can’t wait to make a bigger version for her sister.  If you’re interested in getting yourself the pattern, I believe it’s coming out very soon, but join the Designs by Call Ajaire Facebook Group for all the details.  *edit*  If you want to check out another tester’s experience with her first time sewing a swimsuit, visit Soul Fed on Thread.  She made a really cute version D, including tips on sewing with a sewing machine, and in case you’re wondering what Maillot means, she’ll tell ya!  Also, the Classic Maillot is exclusively available from Imagine Gnats until July 8th.  Pick up some cute swimsuit fabric while you’re there!

I also can’t wait to get started on a swimsuit for myself!  Have you sewn swimsuits before?  What are your thoughts?  It seems to be en vogue right now, and I’m really happy that I actually tried it!  Thank you Ajaire, for all of your help and getting me off my butt and out of my comfort zone!

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5 Replies to “On Sewing Swimsuits…”

    1. I’ll have to try again… Also, I should add that I’m testing out not having elastic in the seam allowance. Ajaire did say that it was necessary to be there to hold up the straps, so I don’t want to contradict what she says. She’s the expert! I just mess with stuff! I am going to try making it reversible, but I would have to change seam allowances to allow for this, or at least the way I would do the elastics. I’ll definitely share that if I do it successfully! Seriously, this swimsuit sewing can be addictive I think…

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