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:
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)
Ballpoint Pins (pins for knit fabric)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!!
Hurray for you! You just made a swimsuit! Now go try it out in the pool!!!