The Summer Necessity Swimsuit Tutorial!!!

Because I had such trouble finding a tutorial on how to make a child’s swimsuit, I decided to write down the steps to make the simple swimsuit I created for my daughter. You can use these same steps to make a suit for your child or even for yourself! This method uses folded-over elastic rather than ribbing, so it really is fast and easy!

So here you go . . .

The SUMMER NECESSITY SWIMSUIT TUTORIAL:

First, you’ll need a pattern for your swimsuit. I made my pattern by tracing a dance leotard and adjusting it a little by holding it against my daughter.  You could also trace out a swimsuit that fits well (this is the easiest method — seriously, just lay it down and trace it out, stretching the edges so they lay flat), or even head into your favorite store and find a suit you like and “borrow” its shape. If you have absolutely nothing you can use, you can try putting your child in a tank and underwear and tracing out the shape of those items while she’s wearing them, like this:


and

Only trace out one half of each pattern piece; you will place it on the fold when you’re cutting out your swimsuit. Also, be sure that the length of the sides and the width of the shoulders and crotches are the same for both the front and the back pattern pieces that you make (this width also needs to be around 1.5″ or more to accommodate the elastic when it’s folded over).  You can decide for yourself whether or not to add seam allowances; swimsuit fabric has a lot of stretch, so unless your suit pattern is very, very snug, they’re not really necessary. To be certain your suit pattern will fit well, you might want to make a “muslin” out of an old t-shirt.

Okay, now that you have your pattern, let’s get started!

Here’s what you’ll need:


Swimsuit Fabric (1/2 yard for up to size 6, bigger children will need more fabric)
Swimsuit Lining Fabric (Optional — same amount as swimsuit fabric)
Swimsuit Pattern
Ballpoint Pins (pins for knit fabric)
Scissors
Thread
Elastic (I used 3/8 inch “swimsuit elastic,” and it’s fabulous, but 3/8″ knit elastic will also work)
Rotary Cutter (Optional)

*** Please note; I used a 3/8″ seam allowance for my suit unless otherwise noted, but you are welcome to use one you are more comfortable with; swimsuit material has so much stretch that small changes in seam allowances do not make a big difference. You do, however, want the shoulders and crotch of your swimsuit pattern to be at least 1.5″ wide to accommodate the elastic once it’s folded over.***
***Another quick note: I used lining in my swimsuit, but you don’t have to. If you decide not to, just skip the steps that involve sewing the crotch seam in the lining and basting the lining to the wrong side of the swimsuit fabric.***
***Okay, last note, I promise — Click on any of the pictures below to see them larger.***

1. Lay each pattern out on the fold of the fabric. Swimsuit fabric has 4-way stretch, so it doesn’t matter which orientation your fold is — horizontal or vertical — unless your fabric has a directional print, then you need to make the fold parallel to the direction of the print. I did mine this way to conserve fabric. Cut out the pieces. Because swimsuit fabric is slippery, I like to use my rotary cutter rather than scissors to cut it out because the fabric shifts less.

2. If you are using a lining, lay out your pattern and cut it out as well.

3. Now make sure you have four pieces; a swimsuit front and back and a lining front and back.

4. Sew crotch of swimsuit together, right sides together. Do the same with the lining.

5. Now you have two pieces instead of four. Lay the lining over the suit, matching crotch seams and with wrong sides together.

6. Match the edges all along the suit and lining.

7. Starting at the crotch seam, baste with 1/4″ seam allowance all the way around the whole front and back of the suit and lining. To baste, you turn your stitch length up as high as you can and sew without backstitching. The swimsuit lining will stretch and shift slightly as you baste, but don’t worry; it has a lot of stretch, so feel free to shift and stretch it to match the edge of the swimsuit fabric when you need to. This is a very important step; it will make the rest of your sewing on this project much, much easier.

8. Your suit should now look like this:

9. Now measure around your child’s thigh along her panty line. I just hold the elastic up against her leg rather than using a tape measure. Cut two of these lengths.

10. Stretch each length of elastic across the leg holes against the wrong side (lining side) of the suit, matching sides and centers of elastic strip and leg hole. Pin.

11. Back stitch (sew forward and back a few times) at the beginning of the elastic and leghole. Then strrrreeeeetch the elastic as you sew it just inside the edge of the material using a zigzag stitch (that is no wider than the elastic) or a serger. Be careful to stay inside the edge of the leg hole; you don’t want to miss any of the swimsuit material as you’re stretching and sewing the elastic. Zig zag or serge all the way to the end of the leg hole, stretching and sewing as you go, and back stitch when you reach the end. Do this on both legholes.

12. Your suit’s legholes now look like this:

13. Sew your suit’s shoulders together, right sides together.

14. Measure armhole elastic against your child (place it along where you’d like the armhole to fall) and cut two of these lengths.

15. Pin elastic along armholes as with legholes, matching sides and centers. Sew as before — backstitch, stretch, and sew using a zigzag stitch.

16. Your armholes now look like this:

17. At edge of one armhole, fold elastic over once on wrong side of fabric and pin.

18. Topstitch on right side of fabric using a longer stitch (3+) or a zigzag stitch that’s no larger than the width of the elastic. Stretch the elastic as you sew, just like before. Do this on both armholes and leg holes.

19. Your suit now looks like this:

20. Cut elastic about 1/2″-1″ shorter than the neck opening and stitch it together into a circle.

21. Match centers and sides of elastic circle with centers and sides of neck hole on wrong side (lining side) of suit. I like to put the elastic’s seam at the back of the suit. Sew, as before, by backstitching and stretching as you sew using a zigzag stitch or a serger.

22. Your suit now looks like this:

23. Fold over and topstitch the neck elastic just as you did with the armhole and leghole elastic.

24. Your suit now looks like this:

25. Pin side seams together, right sides together, and stitch.

26. Once side seams are stitched, fold their seam allowances to one side along each seam and pin.

27. Tack these seam allowances down using a few stitches forward and back.

28. It’s helpful to remove the basting around the neckhole (and the armhole and legholes, although this isn’t totally necessary) to allow the material there to fully stretch. If you try to pull the suit on and the openings won’t stretch enough, this is why.

AND NOW YOU’RE DONE!!!

Your finished suit should look something like this:


and this:

Hurray for you! You just made a swimsuit! Now go try it out in the pool!!!

46 Responses to “The Summer Necessity Swimsuit Tutorial!!!”


  1. 1 Jennifer S. June 14, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    Wow. Your daughter looked like she was having fun.

    • 2 everydaychaos June 18, 2010 at 10:43 pm

      LOL, yes, she was having fun. She really thought the whole process was hilarious, for some reason. Five-year-olds are silly creatures, I guess. :-)

  2. 3 sunshinekmp June 14, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Seriously….this appears to be pretty easy to do…. :) I can’t wait for my little girl to get a little bit bigger. I will have to try to make her some swimsuits. We are FL girls, so we NEED swimsuits!! :)

  3. 4 anne @ FloralShowers craft blog June 14, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    This is awesome! I bookmarked this for one of my “someday” projects…last year this would have come in handy, because I went swimsuit shopping a little too late in the year…couldn’t find a thing!

    Thanks again. Cute fabrics!

  4. 5 Trail's Crafts June 14, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    Great tutorial! I like the fabrics you chose.

  5. 6 Wendy June 14, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    This is brilliant! Love the fabrics you chose…

  6. 7 Jennifer June 14, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    That is fantastic!!! I kinda can’t believe how easy it is!

  7. 9 Bethany @ The Paper Pony June 14, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    Ooh! You make it look so easy… great idea! I think I still might be too intimidated by the stretch fabric.

  8. 10 Anne June 14, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    This is an awesome tutorial!! I just got my feet wet (no pun intended) with sewing a bathing suit for my daughter this summer. It turns out to be sooo much easier than I thought it would be.

    I linked to your tutorial over at Craft Gossip Sewing:

    http://sewing.craftgossip.com/tutorial-how-to-sew-a-basic-tank-swimsuit/2010/06/14/

    –Anne

  9. 12 Kelly June 14, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    I was just saying how I wanted to find a tute on making a swimsuit for my daughter!! Thank you.

  10. 13 pinksuedeshoe June 18, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Perfect! My mom used to make my swimming suits when I was little. What a great detailed tutorial, thanks!

  11. 14 Miri June 18, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    Super swimsuits! Your daughter is very patient…guess she knows its worth it!

  12. 15 Leslie June 18, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    you have done it again and it looks so great….i am not sure i am going to try because i am a big chicken but it looks fabulous. i love the fabric

  13. 16 Amber H June 18, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    Okay, this is the coolest thing I’ve seen all day! I have issues with bathing suits fitting, but you made it look SUPER easy! I’m gonna definitely have to keep this tutorial in mind…

  14. 17 Dee June 19, 2010 at 6:59 am

    You win the Most Courageous and Creative award from me for Friday Finishes! Wow! How cool of a mom are you!

  15. 18 Dayna June 21, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    Yay!!! I’m so glad you shared this! Thank you!

  16. 19 Kellie July 11, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    This is just what I have been looking for for my girls. I made one up last year. This year the thread is snapping. I wondered if you could tell me what kind of thread do you use?

    I will be keeping this for future refernce as well. Thanks.

    • 20 everydaychaos July 12, 2010 at 10:55 pm

      Hi Kelly! I primarily use 100% polyester Gutermann thread for almost everything I sew. For my serger I use Maxi-lock that I buy at a local quilt store. I’ve found that the lower-priced brands like Coats and Clark just aren’t very strong, and I go with polyester because it makes less fuzz. :-)

  17. 21 Rachel Breliant March 28, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    I loved this tutorial and I am using it as a guideline on a leotard project. Do you know where i can find a patterned 4 way stretch fabric? Thanks 4 your tutorial!!

    • 22 everydaychaos March 28, 2011 at 2:21 pm

      Hi Rachel!

      Thanks so much for your comment! Joann’s carries some patterned 4-way stretch fabric. If you don’t have a Joann’s in your area or don’t like their prints (they only have four or five), try Chez Ami. Here’s a link: http://www.chezami.com/pa/exp.pa?file=pad36K0WI4A411044&pathcode=fabricshop&subgroup=&sessionid=36K0WI4A411044. You’re looking for either knit tactel jersey, which is like a swimsuit material, or knit lycra jersey, which will be a little softer — probably more leotard-ish. Chez Ami has most of their fabrics between $3.50-$7 per yard right now, with fabrics pre-cut in 2-yard increments, so it’s a great deal and it’s very high quality fabric. Another option is SewZanne’s Fabrics (http://www.sewzannesfabrics.com/); they have some great prints and a really large sale section. If you can’t find a good 4-way-stretch fabric, for a leotard you could use one with two-way stretch, just make sure to cut the pieces out so that the garment will stretch across the belly and use a zigzag rather than a long straight stitch on the arm and leg holes.

      Happy Sewing!

      • 23 rachel December 1, 2011 at 7:09 pm

        thx!!! my leo was pink with a pretty bow. It won 3rd in a sewing competition and i wear it all the time. this was SUPER helpful!!! :D

  18. 24 Julia Rencher May 30, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this tutorial. I have purchased and returned 3 swim suits for my daughter because they were all way too revealing. Now, hopefully, I can turn this great tutorial into an age appropriate suit for her. If you can figure out how to make a swim suit from the 50’s (or even the 20’s!), I will be all over that, too!! haha.

    Thanks!

  19. 25 cherie June 15, 2011 at 7:07 am

    HELP.. my elastic looks all super stretched and not that pretty any suggestions?

    • 26 everydaychaos June 28, 2011 at 5:00 pm

      Hi Cherie! What type of elastic are you using? If it looks super stretched, I would first make sure you’re not stretching it too much while you sew. I’m guessing you aren’t, though, so after I checked that I’d check my stitch — depending on the type of elastic, a bigger zig-zag stitch might work a lot better. Finally, if even that doesn’t work, I’d check your elastic — the best kind of elastic I’ve found is the lingerie elastic they sell at JoAnn’s. It’s kind of a cream color and has an awful lot of stretch. The worst kinds (although they still work, they just doesn’t look as nice) are the non-roll kind and the clear kind. The clear kind, while it’s sold as gymnastics/swimsuit elastic, does not have that much stretch and works better for stabilizing shoulder seams and stuff like that. If you have a picture of what’s going on with your suit, email it to me at darlamom at merlyonline dot com. I’d love to take a look at it.

  20. 27 TracyKM July 2, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    I had a hard time getting my crotch pieces to line up nicely (I was using an old bathing suit as a template), and when I sewed the elastic to the leg holes, one side looks nicely, lightly gathered, but the other side of the bum doesn’t have much gathering (I used the same length elastic!). Any ideas?
    Also, I assume that bathing suit fabric is “4 way stretch” but the Kwik Sew patterns I peeked at in the store say “2 way stretch” fabric….does it really not matter which way to lay it out on “real” swimsuit fabric?

    • 28 everydaychaos July 14, 2011 at 8:47 pm

      Hi Tracy! Sorry to be late in replying; I was on vacation all last week. If it really is bathing suit fabric, it doesn’t matter which way you lay it out; I usually get two swimsuits (for my daughter, who’s 6) out of one yard because of this. As for the other problem; when you cut out the swimsuit using your old bathing suit, did you fold it over first so that both sides of the bum would be exactly the same, or did you trace them separately? If your swimsuit fabric is the same length as the elastic, it won’t show much gathering, so is it possible that one side got cut a little larger? Do you have a picture of the leg holes you could send me? My address is darlamommy at gmail dot com. As for the crotch pieces, depending on how you trace out an old suit or a pair of undies, it can be hard to line them up because the two edges might be slightly different sizes. When that happens to mine, I just cut it down to the smaller size to even it out. Then, when I’m sewing the lining in, I baste like mad because that fabric is so darn slippery. Let me know if that helps. If not, feel free to reply again or email me and I’ll do the best I can.

  21. 29 Colin December 26, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    do you only do bathing suits or do you do any other clothing

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    you only do bathing suits or do you do any other clothing

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  1. 1 Summer Sewing Necessity: Child’s Swimsuit « Everyday Chaos Trackback on June 14, 2010 at 9:52 am
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