Buying swimwear is one of my pet hates, along with buying jeans and possibly bras ;0). For some reason I had always sworn I would never try and make my own swimwear, I just didn’t fancy the thought of sewing with all that elastic and lycra. But, when a recent upcoming holiday trip left me despairing trying to shop for a swimsuit I felt comfortable in, I decided that perhaps making something myself might be the best option.
There are some lovely swimsuit sewing patterns out there in the sewing world but the one that kept on catching my eye and calling for me to give it a go was the Megan Nielsen Cottesloe.
There are four different versions included in this pattern. A traditional style one piece, a one piece with a pretty back tie, a low-rise two piece bikini and another two piece with high rise bottoms and a sportswear style crop top.
Since most of our holiday ‘swimming’ mainly involves playing in the pool with the kids and attending various waterparks, coverage and security was up there in swimwear requirements for me. Therefore, I decided to go for version D which was the two piece with high rise bottoms and crop top. I’ve seen a lot of lovely versions of this set around in the sewing community and it looks really flattering on.
I bought my pattern as a PDF from the Megan Nielsen website direct since I wanted it to arrive as quickly as possible so that I could size up and get it all cut out (I had decided to make this swimsuit only two weeks before said holiday after all).
Since sewing swimwear was all new to me and I didn’t have anything that resembled swimwear elastic already in my stash, I ordered some online from Fabric Land. There are two types of swimwear elastic it seems, there’s the rubber kind and a woven kind (I also hear that clear elastic can work well too!). When my elastic arrived, it was the rubber kind although this wasn’t specified on the website.
I knew that, since this would be my first ever swimsuit, I wanted to make a toile first to check the fit and sizing before investing in any lovely swimwear fabric so while I was on the Fabric Land website, I also ordered myself a large amount of cheap striped lycra fabric too.
When it came to figuring out which size I was going to make I, of course, used the sizing chart on the pattern as a guide. My body measurements are, bust 32”, waist 26” Hips 36” which put me at a size 0 for the top and a size 4 for the bottoms. I cut the bottoms first and when it came to cutting out the top, I realised that the size 0 looked rather small for me so I decided to cut a size 4 instead to give me more room to manoeuvre (I hate anything feeling too tight!)
I also decided to raise the scoop in the back pattern piece to meet the front scoop as the pattern was drafted slightly too low for my liking and I thought I would feel more comfortable this way.
So, once my toile was all cut out, I got to sewing up. The actual process, on paper, is very simple. Side seams, crotch seams, elastic, waistband – done!! Sewing the side seams was all fine and I sewed them straight on the overlocker, but I did find inserting the elastic in to be slightly fiddly at first. The elastic measurements given in the pattern don’t allow for much stretching which worried me but I later found out that too much stretching isn’t needed anyway as the elastic is mainly required to keep the legs in place nicely.
So, with a bit of practice sewing the elastic as closely to the edges as I could, I got there in the end. The waistband elastic is sewn into a ring before being inserted into the waistband itself and attached as one piece. Also fiddly at first but actually a nice way to do things as there is no threading elastic through the casing to do – one of my sewing pet hates!
The top is constructed in pretty much the same way as the bottoms with elastic being attached to the neckline and armholes. The top hem band is also attached in the same way as the waistband to the bottoms. Once the elastic has been attached it’s then turned under to the inside and either topstitched with zigzag or twin needled to finish.
I was pleased to note having finished my toile that the bottoms fit really nicely, no gaping, not too tight and I loved how high rise they were – a nice lot of tummy coverage there which is what I like!
The top however, needed a little more length to it in order for me to feel comfortable and covered enough so I made a note to add an inch to the hem on the back and front next time. I’m, very glad that I opted for my size 4 rather than 0 as a 0 would definitely have been rather snug!
For my ‘proper’ version, I bought some lovely navy swimwear fabric and ivory swimwear lining from Sew Me Sunshine, this was very reasonably priced and I would highly recommend it as it was lovely to sew with.
I made up this version in exactly the same way as my toile with my extra inch of length added to the back and front of the top. This time I decided to twin needle finish the elastic openings for a neater touch.
I really wanted to add a flounce around the neckline of this version, so I had a little play around with that. To make this flounce I measured around the neckline and then found something around the house which measured this length or more in circumference (a place mat did the job nicely in this case). I drew around this circle and then marked another circle around the outside of this approx. 8 cm (this was just by eye and based on how low I wanted the flounce to fall). I then cut this circle of fabric out and then attached it all around the neckline of my top.
I’m very happy with this detail as a trial BUT I would have much preferred to have my flounce a little bit more flouncy haha. Next time I will use a smaller circle and sew two or more strips together to give more erm flouncy-ness!! I was in a rush this time and this was the best I could do 😉
So on the whole I’m very pleased with my first venture into swimwear making, I’m so glad to have given it a go and it wasn’t nearly as scary as I had thought it might be. I’m not sure sewing with lycra and elastic will ever be my favourite but I tell you I felt more comfortable and secure in this swimsuit than I did in any of my other ready to wear swim wear so it was well worth the effort in the end. It even stood up to some pretty scary slides at a waterpark we visited so I’m very pleased.
I hope you like how my first Cottesloe turned out. Have you ever made swimwear?? I’d love to hear your hints and tips in the comments below!
Until next time – happy sewing!