Sporty Summer Sewalong – Claire Befriends Swimwear!

Watch out viewers. I’m posting pictures of myself in swimwear for the first time on this blog. Just keep in mind, this is for SCIENCE.

This bikini represents an epic sewing feat for me on so many levels, or else I might not have posted photos of myself so scantily clad. First of all, this swimsuit is a year in the making! Last year I attempted swimwear for the first time when Heather Lou put out her beautiful bombshell swimsuit pattern.
I was so hopeful about that pattern working for me, especially after seeing so many beautiful versions made by other seamstresses. But I didn’t know how to use my serger very well at the time and the results were rather sad. I shelved the bombshell for that summer, but the longing to sew some perfect swimwear stayed in the back of my brain until this summer rolled around… along with Karen’s Sporty Summer Sewalong!
The sewalong was a nice nudge to get me going on finally making the swimsuit I’d been envisioning for a year – one in a pretty floral print, slightly vintage look, and full bum coverage. The cheeky look is alright for some, but I’m more comfortable with both cheeks hugged by some granny-panties style bottoms. (Also, can we stop using the term granny-panties and think of something better?) For a while there I thought I would just buy one, but suits that cover your rear are few and far between, especially in a two piece. And when I did find some possibilities they were sold out in all the larger sizes. Am I just getting too old for two pieces? Should I give up just let my butt hang out?
NO. I will make it myself. And I did. It took me four tries. But it was totally worth it.
I find it terribly awkward to pose for photos when I’m fully clothed, much less nearly naked, but holding a ukulele helps.

The bottoms I made by chopping up some old unders and making a pattern.

I cut the elastic off the edges so that the fabric would lie flat. Then I traced it and added some seam allowances. This did not work nearly so well as you might think it would. Maybe it’s because spandex is less stretchy than jersey? That must be the case, because when I sewed this up in my swim fabric it was definitely too small. So I tweaked the pattern, sewed it up again, tweaked the pattern, sewed it up again…

After several renditions, I finally got something that covered ALL my bum. And even though there are some things I think I still might change on future versions, I’m very happy with how these turned out.

Actually, having to make several pairs of bottoms was a great learning experience. I was much better at working with the spandex by round three or four, especially after viewing this awesome video from BrianSews:

Also, sewing the top was a breeze compared to the bottoms. I used Butterick 3264 which has been in my stash for a few years.

Aside from adjusting the cups a little for a smaller bust, I didn’t have to change a thing on this, although I did eliminate the closures in back. After messing around so much with the bottoms, it was thrilling to get a near perfect fit first time around on the top.

Do I almost look like I know what I’m doing with this ukulele? The only other prop we could come up with were fun noodles. But there’s not a lot of ways to hold a fun noodle without compromising my blog even more.

I’d love to share some construction photos and things I learned, but I will save that for another post as I have to quickly submit this in time for the sewalong deadline! In parting I would just like to say that sewing swimwear is hard, but it does get much, much easier with a little practice, and it’s totally worth it!


  1. What a great swim suit! The coverage of the bottoms is impressive. When making knickers I struggled too to get them to fit closely, and like you I had to have quite a lot of attempts. I think the top is great too, especially at the back. And you found some great fabric – summery and pretty. Its just great – modern looking with a vintage feel. Well done.

  2. I have been trying to make a bikini for my daughter, who is a skinny mini and the same thing happened to me! I made a bottom with the pattern: way too big. Then one with the underwear: way too small. Then one with her new (purchased) bikini bottom: still too small!! Maybe I'll dig it out of the garbage and try again. She's so skinny that there's still some fabric left after all I've wasted. Also, I've also used Brian's tutorial and it is great, but sometimes the elastic is bigger once it's in. Maybe I'm stretching it too much?

  3. Thank you! Luckily swimsuits hardly take any fabric, so making several trials isn't very costly. I'm so impressed by how many things you sewed up for the sewalong! I love the idea of sewing running shorts – I might have to tackle that next!

  4. One blog I read said that she stretches the elastic in her hands first to try to work out some of the extra stretch before she sews it onto the suit. I didn't really try that, but maybe it would help? I think I didn't stretch mine enough as I attached it, because I ended up with a little bit of gape in the back after wearing the suit all day. It's nothing too noticeable, but next time I will hold it a little more taut.

  5. Your experience sounds exactly like what I went through! I like to have my cheeks fully covered too, but I don't want to wear a one-piece (those generally don't provide bum coverage anyway). Everything in the stores that fit that description did not come in my size, and usually was made out of boring fabric, so I decided to draft my own too. I started last summer, and fixed up my pattern a bit for my final version that I just finished a couple of weeks ago. You suit looks great!

  6. Yeah… Best to stay away from noodles as props. Your swimsuit turned out great & I applaud your perseverance! The time you spent making all the different versions really turned out to be worth it looking at the result. Hopefully this will help get me closer to finishing the suit I've had laying around for a year.

  7. I just checked out your bikini and it is so cute! I love that they are a tiny bit shorts-like and I love the ruching details. I'm hoping to tackle some more difficult things like that on my next suit.

  8. I'm thinking about trying to upload a pdf pattern of the bottoms I made for people to use. I don't know much about grading though. We'll see!

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