Tag Archives: swimsuit

Inspired by Surfing: Nettie Bodysuit as Swimwear

Inspired by Surfing:  Nettie Bodysuit as Swimwear

I’m really excited to share today’s garment with you.  This one was a long time coming, because I thought about it for months before finally starting on it.

In the past few years, surfing has become a fun spectator sport for me, and I’m also inspired by the fashion aspect of surfing.  In my perusal of current surf culture, I’ve noticed a lot of wetsuits/swimsuits that look like long-sleeved, one-piece swimsuits (see some of my inspiration here, here, and here).  I wanted one of my own…and I knew that I had the power to make it!

Inspired by Surfing:  Nettie Bodysuit as Swimwear

(front view, above)

Inspired by Surfing:  Nettie Bodysuit as Swimwear

(back view, above)

As I thought my plan over, I realized that the perfect pattern for this project wasn’t a swimsuit pattern.  The one that looked closest to what I wanted turned out to be the Nettie Dress & Bodysuit pattern by Closet Case Patterns.  Maggie at Pintuck & Purl was kind enough to order a few copies so I could get on with my project.  Next I started looking around for fabric and inspiration.  Pinterest and Instagram were great for ideas.  And fabric?  Etsy to the rescue–specifically a shop called Ameritexx Spandex.

Inspired by Surfing:  Nettie Bodysuit as Swimwear


Inspired by Surfing:  Nettie Bodysuit as Swimwear

Design & Technical Choices

This project was one of my 2017 Summer Sewing projects.  I chose the long-sleeved bodysuit with the high neck and low back in a 12 at the bust and waist and 14 at the hip.  I didn’t want to put a zipper in, so while I originally chose the medium back, I got a little bit worried about how easy it would be to get into and out of, so I decided to go with the lower back.  I also added in a shelf bra (included in the pattern) and padding (traced from other swim cups) for modesty.  I chose to line the body of the suit, but not the sleeves.

Inspired by Surfing:  Nettie Bodysuit as Swimwear

Inside, front (above)

Inspired by Surfing:  Nettie Bodysuit as Swimwear

Inside back (above)

As far as equipment goes, I made this on my home sewing machine (an Elna 3005, if you are interested) with a stretch needle, a walking foot, and a zigzag stitch.  I used polyester thread (from Gutermann) in my needle and woolly nylon/bulky nylon thread in my bobbin.  My elastic was swimwear elastic and the foam I used in the shelf bra was poly-laminate foam from Sew Sassy.  It’s good for lightly padded bras or swimwear.

Inspired by Surfing:  Nettie Bodysuit as Swimwear

the underside of the shelf bra, where you can see the poly laminate foam

When I cut my pattern, I made sure to trace out a full pattern piece (rather than a standard half pattern piece) so that I could cut my fabric in a single layer rather than cutting on the fold.  I also used a rotary cutter.


I always get nervous when I want to sew a swimsuit.  There are so many layers and the fabric is slippery.  You also really need a swimsuit to work–to stay on your body in and out of the water.  Thankfully, this went together really well.  I told myself I would try it on as I went and adjust as necessary.  Usually I just make the thing and hope for the best, but not on this project!  With the exception of including a lining and treating the lining and outer fabric as one, I followed the directions of the pattern to about the point where it was necessary to add leg and neck elastic.

I did make a few modifications, although not many.  I raised the front leg openings about an inch.  I shortened the length of the shelf bra, and decided to sew over each seam twice for extra security.  I also realized very quickly when I started to add my leg elastic that I needed more width of fabric in the crotch area if I was going to stitch and turn elastic and still expect coverage.  To take care of this issue, I got out the pattern for the bottoms of Jalie 3023 (a tankini), traced it out, and used it as the crotch section of my suit.  I also changed how I applied the elastic.  I used the techniques in this blog post (which I’ve printed out so I won’t lose it), using bound elastic for the neckline and gathered, turned, and stitched elastic for the leg holes.

Inspired by Surfing:  Nettie Bodysuit as Swimwear

Bound elastic at the neckline

Inspired by Surfing:  Nettie Bodysuit as Swimwear

Gathered, turned, and stitched elastic at the leg openings


I’m really happy with how this turned out, although I’m sorry to say that I finished it so late in the season that I’ve only worn it while swimming once.  It stayed on well, and I felt good in it.  In fact, I think this is my most successful swimsuit to date.  The only thing I might change is to take in the sleeves from elbow to wrist slightly.

As it is now, the suit stays on well, despite the open back.  If it loosens eventually, I could always add a strap across the back.  I’m excited to try this out over time and see how I like it.  It wasn’t overly hard to make (despite my fears) and I like how it looks.  I definitely recommend this pattern if you want to give it a try.  I found that using the sew-along on the Closet Case Patterns website in tandem with the directions was really helpful.

Inspired by Surfing:  Nettie Bodysuit as Swimwear

With only about a week of summer left, I have one more garment from my 2017 Summer Sewing list to sew up as well as a second version of my black silk shirt.  I want to charge through them, but my back has been messed up (I really have to find a way to prevent that!).  I hope I can do it!  I’ll report back here soon!

Lastly, tomorrow is my blog’s four-year anniversary.  Hooray!  Blogging has been a great way to take part in the fun of the sewing community and a great personal journal of the things I’ve sewn.  Thanks for coming along with me on the adventure!


  • Around the time I made this suit, Rosie Martin of @rosie_diycouture and Katie of @katiemakesadress also made long-sleeved swimsuits.  Rosie used the Nettie, while Katie tried the Rowan Bodysuit from Megan Nielsen Patterns.  There must be something in the air!  We all caught hold of similar inspiration!
  • Have you seen the new Lander Pant and Short pattern from True Bias?  I’m really tempted by those pants.  I mean–wide legs and patch pockets!  Right up my alley.
  • I decided I wanted to look at the fashion designs of Ralph Lauren and Valentino more closely so I requested some books from the library.  Two out of three turned out to be kids books, but…they were great!  It was the perfect way to get a brief biography of each designer’s life and career.  I’m going to have to try this for other people I’m interested in learning about.
  • I never realized all the similarities between Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings until I watched this! 😉



Bathing Suit Finished!


It happened!  I finished my bathing suit and…I think it works!

Bathing Suit Finished!

When we last met here, I had finished the bottom, but not the top.  During this week, I worked on joining up all the pieces and adding elastic to the neckhole and armholes.  That last bit wasn’t a part of the pattern, but I really like the look it provides, and I was hoping to solve a few problems with it.

Bathing Suit Finished!

There was a small part on the front neckline where I didn’t catch my outer fabric very well when I was sewing all the layers together.  There was no invisible way (that I could think of) to fix that.  Even using clear thread, it would have been visible.

I also wanted to stabilize those openings and give them more support so that they would be stronger and hopefully not gape when wet.

Finally, I was hoping the edging would magically tighten and take in the little bit of excess under the arms.  So…that didn’t happen (which I expected, but you always hope for that happy accident!), but I’m more optimistic about the other things.

When I began to apply the elastic, I realized it was a make-or-break moment.  The suit would either be much better for the addition or it would be ruined.  I bet on the side of better and went for it.

It worked!

Bathing Suit Finished!

Bathing Suit Finished!

After letting go of my perfectionism, I ended up with a swimsuit that isn’t perfect, but is actually finished and is, I think, a wearable first draft.  I’ve tested it briefly.  Now to see how it does over a whole day at the beach.

If you happen to be working on your own bathing suit and want to try applying elastic like I did, check out this tutorial on the Kadiddlehopper blog.  I used the advice here on both the stitched and turned elastic for my leg holes as well as the bound edges in the top.  I actually have this blog post printed out and saved in a binder so I don’t lose it!

As for the few other details on this suit, here they are:  I fully lined both the front and back of the top and bottom.  I also used powermesh from the Imagine Gnats shop as the lining fabric in the built-in bra of the top.  I have nothing but good to say about buying from there–super fast shipping and great service.  All my elastic was 3/8″ swimwear elastic, and I used wooly nylon thread in my bobbin, with 100% polyester Güttermann thread in the top.  I used a walking foot, plus a stretch needle and Jalie’s method (found in the pattern) of sewing a long zigzag stitch first (width: 4.5, length: 0.5) and then going back and doing a straight stitch while stretching the fabric slightly (length: 2.5) at the actual seamline.  For pattern and fabric details, see my first post on this swimsuit.  If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Bathing Suit Finished!

Bathing Suit Finished!

Thanks to everyone who encouraged me!  It means so much, and it really helped me finish well.  My neighbor’s mom, who I just love and who is an amazing seamstress herself, is now convinced that I can sew anything.  Little by little, right?

Here’s some fun for your weekend.


  • I have really been loving the Instagram feed of @suzyquilts.  There is something about her bright and beautiful pictures and her patterns…and I don’t even quilt!  (Well, I do have a quilt that’s been in-progress since 2008, but I’m talking quilting as a regular practice.)  I love the stripes she uses in her Kris Kross quilt.  Tempting…  You can also find her website here.
  • If you like the crop top look, but not the idea of baring your midriff, Allie J. will show you how to “make your own (fake) crop top” in this tutorial.
  • We like thinking games in our house, and one of the games we play on the iPad is Monument Valley.  They bill it as “an illusory adventure of impossible architecture and forgiveness”.  It feels a little bit like trying to figure out an M.C. Escher visual puzzle with calming, completely non-scary background music.  Good for any age.
  • Explore.org has links to lots of wildlife cameras.  It’s pretty cool that you can see African wildlife, ospreys in Maine, or pandas in China any time you want.

The State of Things


I feel like I’ve been sucked into the sewing vortex.  Without the chance to easily go outside for walks or have as much time to myself due to all the snow days, all I’ve been doing is sewing, thinking about sewing, reading about sewing, trying to avoid thinking about spring and summer, and looking at fabric websites to fuel my sewing.  I like it best when the blog reflects a wider range of things than just that, but sewing is mostly what’s going on.  Give me a month and I’ll probably be back to watching surfing documentaries to make it through the end of winter, but for now, I have to keep my head in the game and think winter, winter, winter.  That’s why I’m sewing bathing suits.  😉

Here’s a peek at what’s going on over here:


The State of Things at Pattern and Branch

The Soma Swimsuit Pattern by Papercut Patterns

I’ve decided that I WILL conquer swimsuits (hope I don’t have to eat my words).  Maybe you recall last year’s attempt.  This year, I plan to try again.  I got the Soma Swimsuit pattern from The Papercut Collective for Christmas, and I want to try all three suit options (two two-pieces and a one-piece).  Sorry to have to tell you up front that I won’t be modeling them for you.  This isn’t about body image issues.  It’s about the fact that I don’t want pictures of myself in undergarments or bathing suits on the internet.  Everyone has their threshold.  I will, however, take pictures of the suits (not on me) if and when I finish them.

I ordered some fabric from Girl Charlee  and elastic from The Fabric Fairy and, at the wise advice of my husband, decided to do some test garments with leftover materials while I waited for the new materials to arrive.  I’m glad I did because it’s giving me a chance to figure out my size and to freely make mistakes without ruining my “final” fabric.  I made a small top and medium bottoms, but while they fit, I think they will fit better if I go down a size, so that’s what I’m going to try next.  Their sizing is rather more generous than ready-to-wear sizes.



Testing the Soma Swimsuit

Test versions of the high-waist bottoms and Bikini Top version 1 (front)

Testing the Soma Swimsuit Pattern

High-waist bottoms and Bikini Top version 1 (back)

The salmon colored bottoms are mediums and the chevron bottoms are smalls.  Thankfully both have the same amount of coverage, but the smalls feel more secure.  I’m really not a bikini wearer, but there are times I just want to sit at the beach with a tank top on over my suit, and not have my stomach get all sweaty.  Plus, I’m wondering about making bikini top version 2 into a tankini.

The shower has become the testing ground.

Testing the Soma Swimsuit Pattern

While the top fits (you can adjust it a lot to get the perfect fit), I noticed that the bust darts were off-center, so I sized down for my tests of the one-piece and bikini top version 2.  I don’t wear an extra small in ANYTHING, so if you sew this, make sure you take your measurements with the knowledge that you may still have to size down.

Now I’m working on making a pair of low-rise bottoms, the one-piece, and bikini top version 2.


Testing the Soma Swimsuit

Testing the Soma Swimsuit

Testing the Soma Swimsuit


A word on supplies:  I ordered fabric and lining as well as swimsuit elastic and fold-over elastic.  I had leftover bra rings from a project I never made (I got them at Sew Sassy).  I had to buy a few bathing suit hooks at Joann Fabrics as well as some bulky/wooly nylon thread for my bobbin thread and 100% polyester thread (I chose Gutermann) for my top thread.  (I don’t have a serger, so these will be sewn on a conventional machine using a stretch needle and a walking foot.)  I did not order the bra strapping or swimsuit cups/foam for making cups.  I really wanted to, but the cost was starting to get prohibitive.  Here is the problem I ran into:  if I wanted the best prices, I had to order my supplies from about four different websites.  But then I would have to pay shipping at every one of those websites.  I searched the web for two days and finally found one site that had ever single supply I might want or need:  Fabric Depot.  The hardest part, though, is that their shipping costs are pretty high, so having limited funds, I decided it was time to follow Tim Gunn’s perennial advice and “make it work”.  I don’t want to spend all my hoarded Christmas money on a single sewing project.

In case you are thinking about making this suit yourself, here are some helpful blog posts around the web.

  • For lots of fun information on the suit, check out the tutorials posted on Papercut’s site.  They include making your own straps (I did this.), making bikini top version 1 reversible, sewing the high-waisted bottoms, making bikini top version 2, creating your own bindings, and finding supplies in various countries.
  • Inna (The Wall Inna) posted her one-piece version of the suit.  She made her own covered straps.
  • Lauren of Lladybird posted her awesome take on the bikini versions (see version 1 and version 2).  She also solves the problem of, um, modesty issues if you don’t have bra cups or swimsuit foam to insert into your suit in her take on version 2.  I’m going to give this a try myself on version 2.  My version 1 certainly would have been better with a little more…well, some cups.
  • Sallie (of sallieoh) rocks version 2 and introduces a strap variation.  She also tries out using swimsuit foam for coverage in her version.
  • Find the tankini take on bikini variation 2 that I mentioned above over at Unlikely Nest.  She also tries her own strap variation.
  • And on oh, she dabbles, C makes pretty cool versions of the one-piece and bikini variation 1 with high-waisted bottoms.
  • Finally, not Soma related, but very helpful anyway, I used this post for inserting elastic last year.  I used Papercuts instructions for the two bottoms I’ve already finished, but I’m going to try these techniques out on the low-rise bottoms.  That post is part of a larger series on the blog Kadiddlehopper that was really informative as I made my first forays into the world of sewing bathing suits last year.