It’s here, it’s here! After many months of being inside this winter and quarantining, my favorite season is finally here. Being from Florida, I live for the heat and *slight* humidity. Just a touch, but not enough to make my hair frizzy. Priorities folks. The time in between Memorial Day and Labor Day is my favorite – late sunsets, hot morning runs, grilling… and bikinis! Or one-pieces if that’s your jam. Have you been sewing bras and undies and are now wondering if and how you can use your lingerie patterns to make swimwear? You’re in luck then beach babes! Below, I’m going to give you a brief rundown on the basics of DIY swimwear as well as the new bikini kits for the Maris bralette/bikini top and Noelle undies/bikini bottom.
FABRIC: For swimwear – bikini or one piece – the fabric must stretch. The most common fabrics have Lycra®/Spandex. It is my top, really it is my only, pick for swimwear. Lycra holds its color and is resistant to chlorine and the sun. Whether it fabric, lining or trims – this is what you want to keep in mind – is it resistant to all those three things? Now, if you’re not the type to go in the water, you could get away with it being not chlorine resistant. If you choose a Lycra®/Spandex fabric, it will either be a 2-way or 4-way stretch. With a 2-way stretch fabric, the stretch is only going in one direction. You’ll be able to get away with this in a bikini, but maybe not a one piece. Stay away from anything that has natural fibers – cotton will absorb and hold water, and some become see through when wet too.
LINING: I use stretch mesh or power net as a lining. Both of those fabrics will hold up to salt/sun/chlorine. There is special lining for swimwear. It’s more difficult to find, which is why I use stretch mesh or power net (I have it my stash). If shopping online or in stores, look for “swimsuit lining”, which is called helenka in some places.
ELASTICS: The key to swimwear elastic, just like fabric and lining, is that it will hold up for sun, salt and chlorine. Normal lingerie elastic won’t. There is a cotton swimwear elastic that is latex free. It looks very similar to knitted or braided elastic that you find often in hobby or craft stores. There is also rubber elastic. Most RTW swimsuits that I’ve bought have rubber elastic. I like the quality better, but it is extremely hard to sew. I have gotten in many fights with my sewing machine, even when I’m using a special presser foot that’s supposed to make it easier. The latex free elastic is a breeze to sew. If you’re used to sewing lingerie elastic, it will be a cinch.
PATTERNS: If you’re using a lingerie pattern to make swimwear, you want to compare the amount of stretch the pattern was drafted for. If it’s different by more than 10%, I suggest sizing up or down accordingly.
USING THE MARIS DIY BIKINI KIT
There are 3 new kits in the webshop to make your own bikini using the
the Maris bralette/bikini top and Noelle undies/bikini bottom. If you purchased one of these kits – read below for the changes that I made to the bikini I and you will be wearing all.summer.long.
MARIS BIKINI TOP: No, and I repeat, *no* pattern alterations are needed for the Maris bikini top. Cut out main fabric and lining fabric per the instructions.
NOELLE BIKINI BOTTOM: While I love the Maris panty, I ain’t wearing a thong to the beach or pool. No, no, absolutely not! The Noelle is the perfect alternative. There are only 2 pattern alterations, shown in the image above. I lowered the waistline to account for the wide elastic band and raised the leg line at the side seam 1.5″. After I did this, I felt it wasn’t necessary to eliminate the seam allowances to account for the fold over elastic.
MARIS BIKINI: There are only 2 small changes to sewing the Maris bikini. The first is super simple – eliminating the channeling and the plastic boning at the side seam. The reason I did this was because both are not salt/chlorine/sun resistant. Again, if you’re not spending a lot of time in the water, whether it’s a pool or the ocean, and you’d prefer to have the support, then by all means, keep it!
The other change are the bikini straps. The kits come with swimwear elastic to make your own and I followed this tutorial by Evie La Luve (the 2nd method) to create them. Forewarning – swimwear elastic is less supportive than regular shoulder strap elastic for lingerie. So, if you feel that you need the supportive and you’re not going into the ocean or pool much, I think it’s okay to swap one for the other. That’s what I did for Alee’s bikini below. I used this 3/4″ black shoulder strap elastic from the webshop.
For the fold over elastic binding along the front neckline and the wide elastic at top and bottom of the back band/bikini, both are a blend of polyester and polyurethane and suitable for swimwear. A lot of lingerie fabrics are made with a blend of nylon and Spandex. Nylon has better stretch, so it gives a “less tightness” feel on the body, but polyester is a more durable fiber and has better resistance to chlorine. So that means you don’t have to make your own binding or have a coverstitch machine. Woo hoo!
The same goes for the center front barrel closure and rings + sliders. Both are plastic and suitable for swimwear.
NOELLE BIKINI BOTTOM: Easy peasy. Sew the side seam and crotch seam. Then attach the wide elastic at the waistline and fold over elastic at the leg openings.
What about crotch lining? First thing first – do not use cotton jersey. Cotton absorbs and retains water and the last thing you want is for your hoo-ha to be *moist* all day long. You can use fabric for a gusset, but I prefer to eliminate it completely. It can get bulky and I have seen RTW swimsuits without any gusset or crotch lining.
FOAM CUPS: Lining adds a little modesty, but you could still have “nipple show through”, especially if the swimsuit gets wet. Or maybe you want a little padding to give you a better shape. Enter polylaminate foam. Below is a quick tutorial if you want to add polylaminate foam bra cups to the Maris