Little Yellow Swimsuit

by Dana on August 9, 2010

That she wore for the first time today….

So two months ago, Katy from No Big Dill made these darling bloomer pants out of dainty ruffled chiffon and everyone asked her where she got the fabric. It was a fabric she’d found in Japan, so she picked my brain to see if I’d seen it here in the states. At that time, I hadn’t. Then two days later, the shop Ruffle Fabric contacted me to see if I wanted to try out some of their fabrics. And what do you know? It was the same fabric Katy had been searching for! Life is funny (or ironic?) that way.
Katy and I had a chuckle over the coincidence. And then Katy made a TUTORIAL for her bloomers! (along with a fabric giveaway, but sorry that part’s over).

So….Ruffle Fabric sent me two yards to try out. One yellow, one gray.
Mmmm. Pretty colors. I racked my brain, trying to think of something unique to make from the layers of girly charm.
and then it came to me……a Lucy swimsuit!
After making her swimsuit last year I knew that a two-piece tankini would have been a wiser choice. The girl has to go potty every 1/2 hour. Can’t blame her; she’s like her mom.

So I did that very thing.
Deborah from Whipstitch and I did a mini Swimsuit Sew-Along last summer, where we both shared ideas for making a suit and sewing with Lycra. Next time around I’ll make the official real-deal tutorial (of course it’s hard to pass up the fabulous tutorial that katy did HERE!). So until then, I’ve combined last years tips with this years and added the info to the Tutorials section up top.

So, here are the details.

* I used another swimsuit to gauge the sizing and cut an A-line form for the top. I wanted it to be almost like a Flapper dress. Lucy actually gave creative input and when we tried it on (pic on the left) Lucy said “mom, I think it’s too long”. So I took her advice and cut off two lines of ruffles. And we have, pic on the right.
* Lycra/Spandex fabric. The fabrics here came from a variety of shops but SPANDEX WORLD online has a wonderful selection. I used them last year when making Lucy’s DOT swimsuit.

* Lining the top.
The ruffle fabric is a bit sheer, so I lined it with a cheap spandex, bought last summer at JoAnns. I cut the lining and ruffled fabric at the same time and serged them together (you could baste with a normal sewing stitch) before sewing the whole top together. This kept things from shifting and helped the ruffles lay flat at the seams.

* Elastic.
I seriously need to buy swimsuit elastic. But since I can never find it at my local shop, I get impatient and want to start sewing right away. So I just used normal elastic. It’s worked two years in a row so far. But I know that over time chlorine will cause the elastic to stiffen. With a bit of rubber in it, Swimsuit elastic is a much better choice and dude, it’s so cheap! I need to purchase a bunch right now. Then I’ll be ready for the next time I get antsy. You’ll find some here and here.

* Edging.
I used a nice yellow lycra to create “bias tape” edging for the top (purchased at Michael Levine in Los Angeles). After reading Sew U: Home Stretch, and seeing how crappy my elastic and lining looks, I’m convinced I need a Coverstitch machine. But uh, not sure I can cough up $1400 for one. YIKES.
Amy from Angry Chicken shares some good tips and a video about sewing on the elastic (along with some totally cool swimsuit creations). Um, guess I should have watched the video before tackling it on my own. My elastic is bunched and silly looking. But I’m pretending not to notice.

* The Swimsuit “Panties”. I made these the same way I’d make a baby diaper cover. I took a pair of Lucy’s panties (an older ugly pair than shown here, probably with Cinderella on it) and cut them apart to use as my pattern and cut the new pair out of the nice yellow lycra fabric. I serged the top waistband and leg edges, folded them over to create casings, and pulled elastic through. If you don’t have a serger, no worries, Lycra won’t fray. I lined the crotch area with an extra layer of the cheap spandex.

This photo shows the undies used as a pattern (top), the first mishap pair of Panties (info below), and the final pair:
Half way through the project I decided to iron out my seams (on a low setting) but turned the iron up to high just to get it going (yes, I’m an impatient person). BAD IDEA. The hot iron sizzled a hole right through my hard work. I was so bummed. But went back to the cutting board and did it all again. This time around I avoided the iron all together.

Blasted HOLE:
Finished “Panties”! Yipee!

When creating my pattern last year, I made the mistake of leaving too little room in the bum area. And the suit kind of clung to her buttocks.
So this year I was a bit more liberal and now they’re too baggy. Somewhere in the middle I’ll make the perfect pair of swimsuit bottoms! (maybe when I get around to making that tutorial for you….).
But overall, I love how it turned out!
Ruffle fabric was very easy to sew with and held up well in the water too. With one yard of gray fabric still left, I have another project in mind. It’s just a matter of finding the time.
Oh, why does my daughter look 16 here?
More of this please.
Sewing swimsuits should never be scary. It’s really fun to do! Especially when you’re making one for a kid. It requires so little fabric that one yard gives you plenty of wiggle room (you know, in case you burn a hole through it).

So give it a whirl! Have fun!

Here are all those links again, in one place:

* Swimsuit Sew-along (with myself and Whipstitch)
* no big dill’s swimsuit tutorial
* swimsuit tips with Amy Karol (of Angry Chicken)
* sewing a cool BOY’s swimsuit (and undies) with Made by Rae
* Spandex World, for great lycra
* Ruffle Fabric

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Caitlin February 19, 2012 at 2:24 pm

So cute! I just bought some ruffle fabric from Hobby Lobby (I know, not the best quality fabric) and it’s semi-see through and needs to be lined. If the ruffle fabric from like that too, or can you get away without lining it?


2 Dana February 19, 2012 at 5:20 pm

I think I lined mine with a cheap spandex fabric from Joanns.
But I can’t remember now since it’s been a couple of years :)


3 Patricia Barnett February 21, 2012 at 11:26 am

Really cute swimsuit. I have a coverstitch machine that I use a lot, especially making my cuddle gowns. Watch for a used one to show up on Craig’s List or somewhere like that. Got mine for $400, spent about $200 for parts. Oh yea, it’s an industrial machine also.


4 Loreen Haynes April 6, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Not only is that suit totally adorable, it is decent for a little girl who is active! Love it !!


5 Kristi Hales May 7, 2012 at 12:27 pm

How well did this fabric last? Did it ball up or not?


6 Dana May 7, 2012 at 1:10 pm

we only used the suit a few times so I can’t give you any real answers on that. sorry!


7 Laurel June 19, 2013 at 9:19 pm

I actually made one for my daughter last week and she wore it for the first time today. The ruffle fabric is already starting to disintegrate. :( But, its the cutest swimsuit she’s ever had, and the first one I ever made, so I decided that I don’t care! I’ve cut off the offending threads and it still looks great. I think it’ll probably make it through the summer, but won’t make it to get passed down to her sister.


8 Chelsea May 15, 2012 at 12:16 pm

I am gonna start practicing now so when I have a little one all my own I am ready!


9 Tracy K. May 22, 2012 at 6:41 pm

I like the baggy butt look, I think it suits the ruffles and her age. Thanks for the tips :)


10 Tegan June 5, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Too Cute! I am in the process of making a new suit for my 8 year old daughter. I love the fabric for her yellow tankini.


11 Becky @ U Create June 26, 2013 at 3:10 pm

You are a seriously phenomenal seamstress. Very very cute!


12 Deb January 21, 2014 at 5:19 pm

Do you think that FOE would work for the edging and straps?


13 Emily March 28, 2015 at 2:40 pm

Baggy bottoms are fine as long as they stay on, and they go with the ruffles and are more age-appropriate than a tighter fit would have been. Plus she might get another year out of them that way.

I’m impatient too, but I have to say, it takes much longer for my iron to cool off than to heat up, and I don’t think it heats up any faster if I set it hotter, it just keeps heating up until it reaches a higher temperature, so I have to say, I don’t entirely understand that particular incident. But in general, I find that any time I have to use an iron, it helps to have the TV on, so I have something to do while I wait for the iron to heat up. Other times I’ll go make lunch or dinner while it’s heating up (which I think only actually takes a minute or two, so I end up with the iron ready and waiting while I finish whatever it was that I decided to do while I waited for it to heat up). My other suggestion is to invest in a good iron, if you don’t already have one. I bought myself a cheap one several years ago, and since my mom doesn’t iron anything anyway, she later traded me her much more expensive one (which I’m probably going to end up replacing soon anyway, since she used tap water instead of distilled, and left it sitting with water in it for years at a time, so the holes for the steam are all clogged with mineral deposits, which I’ve been unable to remove, and can only get steam in one particular spot on the iron), and the biggest difference I’ve noticed is that it heats up extremely quickly.

As far as waiting for things like elastic to come, basically, if I have a particular project in mind, I’m limited to whatever I can find at my local shop (by which I mean Joann Fabrics, cause that’s the only local shop I know), cause I have to start right away, but I also want to use better quality fabrics and other materials, and want more choices of colors, etc., so I tend to order stuff online without having a particular project in mind, and end up spending way too much money on it and when I do decide on something to make, I may or may not actually have enough material (particularly fabric, cause I usually end up buying just one yard of everything, cause I alway decide it’s too expensive if I don’t even know if I’ll end up using it, but sometimes even elastic, trim, or buttons… it hasn’t come up with thread yet, but that’s about it). So if you come up with a good solution for that one, let me know!


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