Fall is the perfect time to talk about sewing swimwear, right? Well, I suppose if you are in the Southern Hemisphere, this is for you. For all of us in the Northern Hemisphere, maybe it’s just planning ahead?
I didn’t sew much this summer because it felt like I was wasting the day if I didn’t get outside. My family and I did a lot of exploring, and even found ourselves a new favorite ocean swimming spot–which brought home to me just how much I needed a new bathing suit. My beloved tankini, made several years ago now, was really showing its age. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted–either another tankini or a bikini + rash guard combination. Then I found the Women’s Mairin Swimsuit by Sew a Little Seam, and it had SO MANY POSSIBILITIES! Check out these line drawings!
This company is new to me. It looks like a lot of their patterns are for kids, but they have some adult patterns as well. Even though PDF patterns are not my preference, the huge number of options in the Women’s Mairin Swimsuit pattern convinced me. I had to give it a try.
I had a million ideas that I initially considered, many influenced by my swimwear Pinterest board. I filled up an online cart with swimwear fabric, and then my husband told me to add even more that I had been waffling on. I have never ordered so much swimwear at once in my life. The plan was to order a little bit of a few prints/colors, but the striped fabric I really wanted had a 5-yard minimum, and thanks to my husband, I got it. That one, in particular, will go with everything.
I also ordered swimwear elastic.
Pattern Choices and Materials:
- Top: narrow strap tankini top with mid scoop neckline and halter mid back
- Bottoms: mid cut leg low waist bikini bottoms AND mid cut leg high waist bikini bottoms
- Outer fabric: Seafoam Nylon/Lycra Swimwear/Activewear Knit by Milly and Bright Pear Polyester/Lycra Swimwear/Activewear Knit by Milly, both from Fabric Mart and now sold out, and striped poly/spandex fabric from spandexbyyard.com; I really like the feel and weight of each of these fabrics
- Lining fabric: polyester swimwear lining fabric from spandexbyyard.com; this has a more cotton-y feel than linings I have used in the past (which were more slippery), but so far, so good!
- Elastic: 1/4″ natural swimwear elastic and 1/2″ White Polyester Latex Free Elastic which can stand up to saltwater and chlorine just like swimwear elastic; both were from Sew Sassy Fabrics
- Swim cups: made of poly laminate foam from Sew Sassy Fabrics
- Size: My measurements were a little bit scattered through several sizes, but size 20 was the most common, so I chose that
- Stitch info: I used polyester thread for my top thread and woolly nylon in my bobbin; 75/11 stretch needle; average presser foot pressure (3 on my machine); my stitch choice was a 3-step zig zag with a height of 5 and stitch length of 0.5
Upon looking through the directions for this pattern, I have to say–I was impressed. This pattern is a TOME. It’s huge. There are so many options and possible variations, that it must have been a lot of work to put it all together. I felt like I had gotten a pretty good deal for the price. I had my doubts about the ability of elastic straps that were only 1/4″ wide to provide bust support, but I decided to give it a try and trust the pattern.
To begin, I converted all my half-width pattern pieces into full-size pattern pieces so that I could easily cut everything on a single layer of fabric.
The various sections of the pattern instructions are well labeled, allowing you to print out only what you need. I liked the photos that went with the instructions as well as the various charts to help you figure out measurements and strap length. I found that the listed strap lengths worked well for me. However, I was a little confused on the strap/tie measurements chart because there was no area labeled halter/open back like in the line drawings. I think that the “Wide Low Back” down through the “Open Back No Tie” sections are meant to correlate with that.
I liked that there were instructions for sewing cups into your lining, and I thought the lining looked nice overall once it was in.
One thing I would change, however, is this: the shelf bra will have exposed elastic. My elastic was not particularly soft, so I ended up making a casing for it.
Next time, I wouldn’t trim the bikini pattern piece by 1/2″ as instructed to create the shelf bra pattern piece. I would leave the extra length as in the bikini top pattern piece and fold my extra fabric over my elastic to cover it. The elastic shown in the picture in the instructions looks much softer than what I was using. (It looks like plush bra strapping, actually.) If you have softer elastic, it wouldn’t be such a big deal to have it exposed.
Straps were nice and easy to make. I loved having the striped fabric for my straps.
Once my top was finished, I tried it on, but found that, as I feared, 1/4″ elastic straps were not supportive enough for me. I quickly made myself a pair of 1/2″ straps and sewed them on as well, creating a fun strappy look on the shoulders and back.
Next I made the low rise, mid leg bikini bottoms.
They came together quickly, but when I tried everything on, I found that the front of the tankini was slightly shorter than the back on me and paired with the low rise bottoms, showed a bit of my stomach in a way I didn’t want it to.
I also found that the leg holes were somewhat loose in the back around the rear, although they provided excellent coverage and I liked the leg height I had chosen.
I liked the bottoms overall, but I wanted full stomach coverage from the suit as a whole, and I wanted to wear it to the beach the next day.
I’m not a good (or fast) panic sewer, but I was determined. The next morning, I quickly cut a set of high rise, mid leg bottoms. I asked my family not to talk to me for a little bit, and I set about to sew these up in an hour. I stretched the leg elastic tighter this time around. And I finished in time!!!
These bottoms were the perfect height with the top, although the leg holes were still a bit loose in back. But it didn’t matter in that moment! I threw on my new suit, and headed to the beach! And I felt awesome!
Pros: My takeaways from making this pattern are, in general, that it’s a cool pattern with a lot of possibilities. I’m excited to try more of the variations in the future. In fact, I think that if you paired this pattern with the Vero Beach Set from Hey June Handmade, you would have your perfect beachwear patterns for the summer.
Cons: Some things to change about this pattern are, first and foremost, the elastic. Quarter inch and 1/2″ elastic are just not substantial enough for great support. I would go up to 3/8″ and 3/4″ in the future. It would also be a good idea for me, personally, to lengthen the front of the tankini if I make it again and tighten the leg elastic further.
In an ideal world where I realize all of my sewing ideas, I would make a few mix and match tankinis and then make several bikini tops and rash guards that would coordinate with the bottoms I had already made. Then I would make several of the Vero Beach shorts from board short material as well as a top or two from the Vero Beach set, and I would be ready for any outdoor adventure where I might decide partway through that I needed to go for a swim. 🙂