I really never thought I’d be making myself swimwear. It’s another thing I’ve never had much trouble buying in stores. Plus, I felt like it’d take a lot of specialized stuff. Swimwear fabric, swim lining, swim… thread? I didn’t know. And plus, I love a few good beach days but I’m not at the pool 24/7 in the summer, in case my blindingly white thighs hadn’t tipped you off to that fact. But… I don’t know you guys, something flipped when I saw the Jamie bodysuit from Evie La Luve. It’s adorable and strappy, and I could just picture myself relaxing on a towel looking super hot in it.
So, I took the plunge (get it?!), and I made my first swimsuit. Just to complicate things? I transformed a lingerie pattern into a swimwear pattern. I lived to tell the tale, and I’ll try and walk you through that process today! Please note that I do talk about several changes I’d make to the Jamie swimsuit if I could go back for maximum swimwear use — this isn’t really a sewalong, but please read all the way through before you start cutting out your pieces!
The Jamie Swimsuit
Materials for a Jamie Swimsuit
Okay so clearly for a swimsuit, you can’t just use regular fabric. You need swim fabric! I put out a call in my Instagram stories for swimwear resources, and you guys delivered! Tiahna at AmmonLane suggested I check out Peekaboo Fabric Shop on Etsy, and I ordered my swim fabric through that shop. They were great about checking in when my fabric couldn’t be cut in one continuous piece! I got black swimwear fabric and black lining there.
I purchased extra swimwear fabric to make the own straps for the suit — all will be explained. The pattern also calls for rings and slider sets — more rings than sliders. I had some rose gold rings from ArteCrafts left over from my last Evie La Luve pattern, the Maxine Panty. I bought another set of the same product from ArteCrafts again — but didn’t need to, and I kind of wish I had bought bigger rings and sliders. Keep reading for why!
The Jamie calls for a lot of bra strapping, as well as picot elastic and fold over elastic. Apparently, none of those things is great for a swimsuit. Damn chlorine and salt water, I guess. So I bought like 10 yards of swimwear elastic at my local JoAnns to make my own strapping, etc. I didn’t end up using even one of the 5 yard packs, so I guess I have to make another swimsuit now!
Finally, it’s important to buy polyester thread to make your swimsuit with. Cotton will degrade in those aforementioned swim conditions. The good news is that you’re probably already sewing with polyester thread! I just used my tried and true Coats and Clark.
Sizing and Cutting a Jamie Swimsuit
Alright, so the choosing a size thing here was a little tricky. Swimwear fabric is stretchy, but you don’t want a gappy swimsuit. I knew from the Maxine that a small on the bottom worked well for me, and I decided to cut an extra small for the top. While I’m basically just a long line, body shape wise, I suppose I am vaguely pear shaped. However, I made a boo boo when I was cutting the pattern pieces out, and cut out an extra small for the bottom. This wasn’t a huge deal — the fabric allowance given in the pattern is generous, leaving me plenty of fabric to cut out a larger size even with knowing I needed to make strapping.
Luckily, the extra small didn’t end up being too bad. I don’t know if I’d size up in the future, even though the bottoms are a little tight. I have a lot of fear over being exposed at the beach! However, the way you apply elastic for swimwear is different for lingerie. It takes up more of the fabric than fold over elastic. If you want to make sure you’re covered, size up the legholes of the pattern — not the waist or the sides, just the legholes. That will hopefully give you the coverage you need!
When you’re cutting out your fabric, be sure to pin well, as the fabric is slippery! You might even think about spray adhesive for the very thin lining pieces. I think I may have used the wrong side of my fabric as the right side — I liked it because it was more matte. If your right and wrong sides are hard to tell apart, try using chalk or a water soluble pen to keep them straight.
Sewing a Jamie Swimsuit
As usual, Hannah’s pattern is well-written and gorgeously photographed! It’s really an easy pattern to work up. She has a YouTube channel, too, where she shares videos on lingerie making. I used a few of those videos, including her intro video on turning a pair of undies into a swimsuit bottom. It was super helpful for understanding how to put in the elastic to the leg holes. I used that technique to finish off any area where she said to use picot or fold over elastic.
One place where this didn’t exactly work as expected was where the bodice turns into straps. I realized I wouldn’t have enough fabric there to attach the elastic, so I stopped at the seam between the center and side cups. I fiddled with the straps when I put in the rings to make sure no raw edges would be exposed, and it’s fine but it isn’t perfect. I’d recommend drafting those straps outwards to ensure you can fit four widths of your elastic in: two when you sew it in against the edge, and then enough to fold them in and sew again. Does that make sense…? I hope so. If you do this, you’ll want to buy bigger rings and sliders than recommended to make sure you can fit all that fabric and elastic in them.
Speaking of sliders: I didn’t use any. All the straps are attached as they fit to me. This is because I had to make the strapping, and it’s waaaaaay thicker than normal bra straps. Hannah has a super useful video for making these straps, too, and I used her second method. In hindsight, I should have known that the straps would be too thick to go through the sliders, but alas. Even without them, you get the look of the straps and the cutouts. It’s not a big deal to me.
The third change I’d make to a Jamie swimsuit is quickly redrafting the back bands. There are two reasons for this. One, you have to use a swim hook instead of bra hooks to close it. That means you need extra fabric to sew in the hook and make a loop, plus you’re losing space potentially because you don’t have extra room from the bra hook. I’d have added an extra inch to the back pieces to adjust for that lost space, plus the fabric you use to insert the hook and make its loop.
You’re also going to have to decrease the height of that back closure area unless you have a massive swim hook. That’s easy — just figure out the tallest your band can be and still in the hook, make sure you still have fabric to put the elastic in correctly, and redraft the top of the back to smoothly connect from that point to the existing height at the other end.
Also — I did the whole swimsuit on a zig zag. I could have used a twin needle, but didn’t have enough black thread to set it up… Plus a lot of RTW swimsuits use zig zags as well, so it looked legit!
Okay, so maybe this doesn’t come across as being as simple as it really is. But I promise that it is! I loved wearing my Jamie to the beach this summer, and it was such a great introduction to swimwear sewing. Try it yourself, and show it to me! If you turn the Jamie bodysuit into a Jamie swimsuit, I want to see it — you can use the hashtag #maddiemadethis or tag me @maddiemadethis on Instagram.
Yardage needed: about a yard of swimwear, about 1/4 a yard of lining
Level: Gutsy beginner
Time: approximately 3 hours
General modifications: Different method of setting in elastic, make your own strapping, adjust strap attachment area, redraft back closure area#SewingTall modifications:
#SewingTall modifications: None!