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Pattern Roundup: Get Ready to Sew Swimwear

Make your own bathing suit this summer, and get as much (or as little) coverage as you like.

It seems as if every magazine I’ve looked at in the last couple of months has an article about how to achieve the “perfect beach body.” I’ve accepted that the body I’ve got is going to have to be the one I take to the beach, whether or not it’s “perfect.” Still, like many women, I don’t enjoy shopping for swimwear. I may not have firm thighs, but I do have firm ideas about how much I’m willing to show off to a bunch of strangers. Not to mention my extreme wariness of sun exposure. Oh, and my displeasure at spending so much money for so little fabric.

Luckily, it’s possible and surprisingly easy to make your own bathing suit. The seams are short, even in the most demure styles, and the techniques called for are simple to master. You don’t need a serger, though if you have one, it can speed the process along. Do be sure to choose fabric, lining (unless your fabric is very dark and has some body, plan to line at least the front of your suit), and elastic that are safe for chlorinated water, even if you don’t swim in a pool. They last longer and seem to fade less readily.

The fun part, of course, is choosing a style. From skimpy bikinis to full-length wetsuits, you’ll find a design that’s flattering and comfortable. After you’ve made your first bathing suit, you’ll see how easy it is to modify a basic style by changing the straps, adding frills and trims, or color blocking.

Let’s take a look a some of the patterns available this season.

If you like to stay gracefully covered up, try these styles.

Butterick 5795, a surplice-style one-piece pattern, which includes a tankini and cover-up, and mini swim-skirt.

Butterick 5795

Kwik Sew 3609, a graceful swim dress.

KS 3609

For retro fashionistas, you’ll find sassy suits that make the most of your curves.

Closet Core Files Bombshell swimsuit

Bombshell suit
Butterick 6067, a sweet one-piece by retro-maven Gretchen Hirsch.

Gertie bathing suit

McCall’s 6569, a pattern with one- and two-piece options, with ruching, ruffles, and plain styles.

McCall 6569

Do you like to show some skin? These patterns might work for you. Add a light cover-up when you’ve had enough sun.


Kwik Sew 3068, a set of one- and two-piece suits, including a strapless maillot with side cutouts.

KS 3068

Papercut Patterns Soma swimsuit pattern, which offers a one-piece and bikini separates.

Paper Cut Soma

McCall’s 5400, bikini and tankinis, as well as a sheer cover-up.

Mccall 5400

Simplicity 1374, shirred one- and two-piece halter styles.

Simplicity 1374

Water sports often call for more practical options. is the place to go for athletically inclined swim gear, from boy-style shorts to racing suits to wetsuits, in short and long styles. Added bonus: Jalie patterns are multisized; each pattern includes sizes from children’s to women’s.

Jalie swim shorts

Jalie racing suit

Jalie wetsuits

Do you plan to sew swimwear this summer? Why or why not?

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  1. mjz | | #1

    I definitely plan to sew swimwear. I've collected patterns and fabric for some time now, and this is the year.

    Swimsuits off-the-rack don't work for me. I'm 5'1", have a small bust, and a bigger rear than is allowed in most patterns. Every suit that fits from the ribs down has a nose-cone bust that is laughable. I can pull the straps up 6 inches off my shoulders.

    I need to learn how to grade negative-ease patterns up in width, down in length, and down in cup size. I've been practicing - have successfully made alterations in a leggings pattern until it truly fits me.

    I need to learn how to control 4-way stretch fabrics so I can make a lining that's ever-so-slightly smaller than the outer fabric for a sleek finish.

    I need to know how to grade the elastic length when I've graded the pattern.

    I saw that Threads was writing about swimsuits, and had high hopes that some of my questions would be answered. Please, help a girl out!

  2. User avater
    thpatterns | | #2

    I love sewing swimsuits, and I was hoping for a link to some PDF patterns.. Tracy

  3. User avater
    tzivia | | #3

    In our mature years, running around in public in garments smaller than our underwear just looks silly, in my opinion. Hence,I designed and made a REVOLUTIONARY swimsuit - one that undoes the REVOLUTIONARY bikini. I call it THE BOOM SUIT because it is especially suited to Baby Boomers who maybe want to cover up more, and who may be swimming alone (no atolls were damaged in the process of designing this suit). THE BOOM SUIT is a high-necked, long-sleeved, ruched-sided surplice top worn over knee-length shorts with security pockets, and an optional wrap skirt - all constructed from lightweight swim fabrics in sophisticated colors. You can wear THE BOOM SUIT in the street.

  4. Stacywacy | | #4

    A better name for the article might have been "Get ready to sew swimwear with these patterns". I have tried to sew swimsuits several times. I always fall down at the elastic insertion stage, and end up throwing the entire project in the trash. I REALLY wish someone would publish an article that would make it crystal clear how to get ready-to-wear results but until that happens, I won't be attempting any more swimsuits.

  5. Mamato8 | | #5

    The only way to get swimsuits the way I like them, is to sew them myself! I have been making my own swimsuits for 15 years. I actually think using just the sewing machine is better. The serger builds up extra bulk on the seams because of the extra thread. Swimsuits are quite forgiving. Many mistakes will disappear when the fabric stretches.

    When sewing the elastic around the legs, I use half the elastic in the front and the other half in the back. This makes the elastic more snug on the back. I like full coverage on my backside. I also make rash guards for my boys. My favorite knit patterns are Kwik Sew. I use a mock turtleneck for the rash guards or a swim dress for my very white daughter. Less need for sunscreen...

    As I get older, I'm happy to have a swim dress and glad to see them becoming more popular. My swimsuit is like a cap sleeve tennis dress with bike shorts. It works and is flattering.

  6. user-2413801 | | #6

    I found a more thorough article in Threads issue #77 from June/July 1998. It has details about elastic insertion and torso length adjustments.

  7. PatHersl | | #7

    Sew beyond me! Although I did make a two-piece when I was in high school, out of a denim-like fabric with no elastic. I think I got it wet once.

    Actually, my husband of 44 yrs has only seen me in one bathing suit. I had it when we were first married and wore it until the elastic went away, I'm thinking about 10 years later and I never replaced it. Just this year I decided to take a swim aerobics class which necessitated a new bathing suit. So 50 lbs into life as we know it, I shopped and found the plain maillot that works for my fluff. Got to class and I'm the small one. Yes! Now, to maybe I'll learn to swim...

  8. nickiplus3 | | #8

    Would love to see your garment.

  9. SewMagical | | #9

    Since I am on a somewhat limited budget, and did not want to spend close to $100 for a swimsuit in my (large) size, I was going to make my own swimsuit this year, but ran into some issues.

    There are only limited swimsuit fabrics available to me locally,so was planning to buy online. The pattern envelope calls for "moderate" stretch fabric, and gives a guide on the edge, where the fabric has to stretch from point A to point B. That does not help when you don't have the fabric in front of you!

    The pattern calls for "poly-laminate" foam" to make the bra cups. Again, this would require an on-line purchase. Some trouble finding sources for that. I thought of using ready-made cups from the notions department, but was not sure how to adjust the pattern.

    Tried calling the pattern company. Unfortunately, they were less than helpful. They could not give me a definition of "moderate" stretch, and had no idea of how to use the ready-made cups.

    I wound up finding a swimsuit on Amazon, and paid less than I would have for all the fabric and notions.

  10. JanNZ | | #10

    Great collection, thank you! Now can we have Part 2 - sewing tips and tricks for swimwear...

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