If there’s one item in my closet (or my kids’ closet) that I’ll always have multiples of each year, it’s a bathing suit. I grew up in Southern California and spent my summer days wearing bathing suits until they were threadbare, and that hasn’t stopped as I’ve become an adult. My sunbathing-obsessed college roommate used to say that it made sense to have multiple bathing suits because they were like outfits once summer hit, and even though I’m not a big sunbather I do love to get in the pool and the ocean with my kids.
May was the perfect month to prep for summer by making some bathing suits for myself and for my kids. Like I learned with my lingerie experiment, sewing swimwear is all bark and no bite! If you know how to sew with knits, you can definitely sew swimwear. I would say the most difficult parts are narrowing down fabrics and getting some of the other necessary bits together (lining, 1/4″ elastic, foam cups). The best part about swimwear is that it takes up just a small amount of fabric, especially if you are sewing for kids.
FABRIC + NOTIONS
I had been eyeing different fabrics from The Fabric Fairy and Blackbird Fabrics (seriously, this ribbed fabric!), but once I saw Nicole from Merritts Makes post her Opian Pilatus suit made with a vertical stripe fabric from Raspberry Creek Fabrics, I was sold! I knew I wanted to make matching suits for me and my kids (yes I am that mom and if you came here via Instagram you know this already), and I knew my daughter would be more excited about her suit if it had pink in it. I usually veer way more neutral in garment sewing but I tend to go for a bold color or print in swimwear. It works well when you have kids because then you’re easier to find on a crowded beach 🙃 I ended up buying more solids from Raspberry Creek for my second suit when I decided I needed a solid color-blocked bathing suit. Raspberry Creek also sells swim lining, and I bought about 1/2 a yard from them for my first suits. I needed bra cups for my suits and I bought them along with more lining from Sew Sassy Fabrics.
I started out with my kids’ suits to practice my zigzag and lining insertion, without the pressure of being nervous that I would mess up on a bigger suit. For my daughter I made the Mairin Swimsuit by Sew a Little Seam. This is a great pattern with such a great value! The sizing goes from 3 months to 12 years, with something like 30 different options to customize your suit. The only complaint I have is that with so many options you have to be very careful about how many pages you print (the entire pattern is something like 125 pages long), but thankfully the pattern instructions are pretty clear about which pages you need to print for your desired view. I really had a hard time deciding which view to make first because all of the options are so cute. For my first attempt I went with high waisted bottoms and a wide strap bikini top with added peplum, because two pieces for young kids is just really practical (putting a wet bathing suit on a kid after going to the bathroom is The Worst). It’s probably the cutest thing I’ve ever sewn, which I think I say every time I make something for my kids, and my daughter loves it too. Finishing seams with a serger isn’t necessary but I have several cones of hot pink serger thread and Maxi-Stretch left over from my activewear sewing that went well with the colors in the striped fabric so I used them. Maxi-Stretch is supposed to be nice against the skin for activewear and swim fabrics, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy it for any more projects.
For my son’s suit I wanted a Euro-style short. There are some cute patterns out there for boys that are specifically for swim (like the Palm Euro Suit) but he’s still in diapers and doesn’t need lining for a suit so I just used a pattern I already had, the Chicka Chicka Bum Bums by Peek-a-boo Patterns. Even though I didn’t need lining I wanted to try experimenting with making his shorts reversible, which I ended up doing by following the general concepts in this video. I seam ripped a lot after several mistakes and sewing the wrong parts together but I prevailed! The biggest problem ended up being that I sized them up a bit too big and they fall off him after being in the water, so I’m going to have to make another pair for this summer and save these for next summer. Or I’m going to pick apart the waistband and add elastic. The original pattern doesn’t call for elastic so I didn’t even think about it being necessary for swimwear, but it makes sense since Lycra + chlorinated water = sag city in a regular RTW bathing suit.
Originally I wanted to make a high waisted bikini set for myself because like my daughter I also prefer the ease and convenience of a two piece. I had always wanted to make the Vernazza Two Piece, but then Friday Pattern Company came out with the Seabright Swimmer at the beginning of May and I was so excited to try it out! Long sleeved one pieces are usually pricey (well, the ones I like, anyway) and I liked the versatility of the pattern, since you can choose to omit the sleeves. The suit is well-suited (heh) for a variety of bodies and chest sizes, but because I have a long torso I knew I wanted to bring up the V so that it wouldn’t be plunging to my belly button. For both of my suits I made a medium and ended up adding 4″ to the bottoms and leaving the top pieces as is, without any other alterations. After I made the long-sleeved version I had a vision of a color-blocked short sleeved suit (and I had a ton of the blush fabric left) so I went back to Raspberry Creek and got 1/2 a yard each of Plum, Peacock and Navy swim fabric.
The Seabright is a very quick sew. I spent about 30-60 minutes cutting out pieces and finished the suit in an evening. The slowest part is hand sewing the cups in, which takes a bit of patience if you’ve never sewn a catch stitch. I felt really confident from the beginning with this suit because I had a chance to meet Chelsea (pattern designer at Friday Pattern Company) at a Stonemountain & Daughter party, where she had a few Seabright samples on hand so I could hold them up to my body and see how they would fit.
Now, for the suits on some actual bodies at my in-laws’ pool over MDW:
Now that I feel good about sewing a regular knit suit I might try the Seamwork Harrington for my husband. I already own the pattern (I used it for a pair of PJ shorts last year) so now I need him to pick a fabric he likes. Will you be making a bathing suit for yourself or someone else this year? (PS: PLEASE don’t put your bathing suits in the washing machine!!!!)
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M O D I F I C A T I O N S : added 4″ to the bottoms of my Seabrights; added a lining to my son’s shorties to make them reversible
O V E R A L L : A fast sew (especially the kids’ patterns); the instructions of the Seabright are very clear and beginner-oriented if you’re nervous about sewing swimwear. I love that Chelsea puts in little encouraging notes throughout her instructions and on the printed pattern, and she doesn’t assume that the sewist is using a serger at home.