As I realised that Alles für Selbermacher had some gorgeous Lycra fabrics on sale, the sewer in me let out a little cheer: this was the perfect excuse to make some swimwear! I had so much fun making my own bikini and found it was actually not so difficult to do, so I'm now going to show you how to sew the chic little two-piece you see below! For the triangle top, I've made a pattern, which you can download for free below, and, for the bottoms, you can simply use our free 'panty' pattern - you'll just have to get a bit of a feel for how to sew them with a Lycra swimwear fabric.
So you can end up with a classic bikini, as you see here...
...with a triangle top that ties...
...and bottoms with side bows
The bikini pattern
For the top I cut out two triangle pieces from this bikini pattern, using the lovely 'Summer Sprinkes' fabric. If you want, you can line these pieces with another piece of a similar Lycra (for example I've used this swim Lycra in pink). Cut the lining pieces without the 1.5 cm seam allowance on all sides. In addition, you will need about 2.5m of 3 cm wide strips to make the strings.
For the bottoms I've used our free pattydoo panty pattern, though with some alterations: I've made the sides somewhat narrower and cut the gusset and front piece as one. I've uploaded a little pdf here to show the alterations more clearly. A good idea is also to take some bikini bottoms that you know already fit well and use them in conjunction with the panty pattern as you make your alterations. Or maybe you're happy with the panty pattern as it is :)
On a practical note, you don't need much fabric to make this bikini and there aren't many seams to sew, thus I would strongly recommend that you sew a test version to check the fit and find out how best to sew the Lycra on your machine.
You can choose to line the front of the briefs with something like a fine polyester charmeuse, or also with Lycra (as we did on the top). This lining stops the wet fabric from sticking to the body too much.
You'll also need to use an appropriate type of elastic that will ensure the leg openings and waistband sit flush against the body and don't become baggy over time. I've used this Framilon tape, which works very well for swimwear.
So, once you've got everything ready, we can get going with the sewing!
Sewing the bikini
Lie the lining on the wrong side of each triangle piece and fold the side edges over twice, by about 0.7 cm per turn. Stitch in place with a stretch stitch (such as a 3-step-zig-zag).
You might need a little bit of patience to really get a feel for how best to sew this Lycra fabric.
You can finish the bottom edge of the triangles with an overlock or zig-zag stitch, if you want, however it's not completely necessary as the fabric won't fray. Turn the bottom edge up by 1.5 cm and sew 1.0 cm from the edge. This means there will be a tunnel to thread the string through later.
Prepare the strings as follows: fold the strip in half, right sides together, and sew along the edge with an overlock or stretch stitch. Then use a loop turner or this short photo tutorial to turn the string the right way out.
Attach a piece of the string about 60 cm long to each triangle piece. To do this, first point the string down and secure from the inside, then turn it up and stitch again into place. This ensures the raw edge is not visible.
Next, thread a 1.5 m piece of the string through the bottom tunnels of the triangles, using a safety pin attached to one end of the string.
Now we can focus on the bottoms: with my altered pattern there is no gusset piece, so the back piece is simply sewn between the front piece and the lining, such that the seam edge is covered.
Next comes the elastic. The elastic recommended above is very stretchy and chlorine resistant. Before sewing, measure the length of both the leg openings and the waistband, then take away 1 to 3 cm from each measurement. The exact amount depends on the elasticity of your fabric - this is something that it's good to test on a practice piece first.
Pin the elastic to the edge of the wrong side of the leg opening, such that it is evenly distributed along the length. Sew on with an overlock or zig-zag stitch.
It can be quite fiddly at first to sew this elastic. If you've never used Framilon elastic then take a look at my sewing video for a girl's dress. Sew the elastic in the same way to the front and back waistband.
Once the elastic is attached, turn the fabric edge over and sew with a stretch stitch (zig-zag or coverstitch) from the right side. Because the edge is slightly tight due to the elastic, you must be sure to stretch it back to full length as you sew.
You also have the option to finish the sides by folding them over by 1.5 cm and sewing with a 1.0 cm gap, through which string can be threaded.
Thread the strings through the channels and tie into bows. Now the front and back of the bottoms are secured together!
...and that's it! Your bikini is finished!
If you feel like it then you can also make further swimwear, such as the girls' bikini below, which I made from our children's underwear set.
For this I've shortened the vest, enlarged the neckline and sleeves...
...and finished the pieces with a little bow and some ruffles
In case you don't fancy making your own sewing experiments, then I can recommend Claudia's free swimwear patterns for kids.
So, pack up your self made bikinis, get the little ones and then see you at the pool!