Friday, March 11, 2011

Swirl Ruffle Swimsuit {Tutorial} Part 1 of 2

It's here!  The tutorial for the sweet little crewcuts inspired swimsuit I first shared with you here (along with the inspiration suit).  If you've never made a swimsuit before...don't fear!  I hadn't made one either (before my first attempt...a two piece I shared here) and just went with it!  I was really inspired to try it after reading Dana's post on MADE where she gives lots of tips on sewing swimsuits and gave me the idea for the ruffle tankini.  Definitely check it out!  The first time around I made a two piece with some ruffle fabric and it was actually even easier than this suit.  So, if you can make this one, you can definitely tackle the two piece {and this one isn't that difficult!}.  I didn't take pictures along the way with the tankini, but I'd be more than happy to post a tutorial (and/or my pattern) for that one.  It was super simple!!  I used a pair of undies as a template for my bottoms pattern, and used that to help me create the bottom part of the one piece also.  If there's enough any interest I will post another tutorial for the tankini.  As I was posting this tutorial I was noticing it turned out to be a lot loooonger than I thought it would be.  I promise it isn't that difficult, but some of the steps required several pictures (and I tried to be thorough as I know many people have never sewn swimsuits...I was right there with ya!).  Because of that, I've decide to break down the tutorial into two posts.  In this one I will explain how to create your pattern, create and sew on the swirl ruffle design, line all of your pieces, and put it all together.

Before we start, it's a good idea to look at where we're going and why (right?).  I was inspired by this super cute suit at crewcuts (which is now sold out by the way...):
{image from J.Crew here}

And, the version we're going to make today:

Now onto the swirl ruffle suit {Part 1}...

 - about 1/2 to 3/4 yard swimsuit material
- about 1/2 to 3/4 yard swimsuit liner (got mine at Jo-Ann...which by the way JUST opened in my area!!  So excited!!)
- swimwear elastic (very important if you want this to last...and super cheap!  Also from Jo-Ann)
- ballpoint needle for your machine (helps you to sew unruly stretchy fabrics more easily...this fabric actually wasn't too difficult to work with, and is very forgiving!  Don't be scared :)
- regular sewing stuff :)

Step 1:  Creating the Pattern and Cutting out the Pieces

I didn't do a stellar job when photographing making the pattern (as my only picture has a "mistake" pattern piece), but I will try to talk you through not making the same mistake and it shouldn't be a big deal :)
I used a dance leotard as my template and that worked great.  You can see that I just traced around the outside of the leotard, leaving lots of extra room in the bottom and leg holes (the leotard comes up a little higher on the legs that I wanted, so I brought it down some when creating the pattern.  Notice that I did not add extra in the crotch area...this is because (as I stated above) I used my undies pattern I had already made and they fit perfect on my little one's bum.  I didn't want to reinvent the wheel so I just traced the same shape I already had.  The pattern piece on the far left is the "crotch" piece (hate that word!) that I traced using the undies.    Notice how the back piece is wider on the bottom than the front piece, and that I cut it straight across just above the armpit area (leave a seam allowance that is double the width of your can see how the back piece comes up a little above the armpit on the piece next to it...this was my seam allowance).  Many one piece suits do not have a separate crotch piece, so if you do not want to use one, make sure to add length in that area at the bottom of the suit (you will be extending both the front an back pattern pieces).  ****Now for the mistake that you DON'T want to make...notice anything missing from the sides of my pattern??  You know, like, a seam allowance!!  Yeah, make sure to leave some extra room on the sides of the pattern (front AND back) for the seams so that your child will actually be able to BREATHE when wearing this :)

I hope that makes sense!  After tracing your patterns, be sure to mark the fold and label the pieces.

For my suit, I lined all three pieces.  I cut two of each pattern piece:  one main and one lining (as shown).

For the ruffles I decided 1" wide looked the best (you know, in my expert opinion...ha!).  There are two ruffle pieces attached to the front of the suit.  One goes around the neckline from shoulder to shoulder, and the other makes the swirl ruffle on the front.  To determine the length of the ruffles I first measured from one shoulder, around the neck, to the top of the other shoulder.  This length ended up 26" for my suit (size 4/5 I would say).  The other ruffle I just kind of guessed, and decided to go with the width of my fabric, which was 60".  So I ended up with two pieces: 1"x26" and 1"x60".  These lengths worked perfect.

And, one final note before we get to sewing.  Since I was making a fully lined suit, I used the dark pink thread on top (to match the main fabric), and the beige thread in the bobbin throughout.

Step 2:  Creating the Ruffles and Swirl (the cutest part!)

You need to create and add the ruffles to the suit before assembling it so that everything is secured and the stitching is hidden inside.

There are many ways to create ruffles, but the way I chose to do it is adjust the tension on my machine so that it ruffled the fabric as I sewed down the middle of each strip (as shown).  It would also work just fine to sew down the middle of each strip using a long stitch (basting stitch) on your machine and then gathering/ruffling the fabric by pulling the bobbin thread and sliding the fabric until you've achieved the desired results.  I've also heard of a ruffler foot that I'm sure would do the trick.  Never tried that though.  Any way you do it, you need to ruffle both of your strips.

Okay, this part is lacking on pictures again, but when you see the ruffles pinned down it should make sense.  And, I'll talk you through it.  You first need to work with your shorter strip.  It needs to be ruffled just enough to be go from one shoulder, around the neck, to the other shoulder.  Once it is the correct length (you can always just trim it at the ends if it's a little long), starting at the top of one shoulder of your main piece (working on the RIGHT side, as you want the ruffles to show) pin the ruffle all the way around the neck to the other shoulder (see picture below).  You don't have to worry about tucking the ends of this ruffle in as they will be covered up when the swimsuit is put together.

After your first ruffle is pinned, fold the end of your long strip under about 1/4" and pin it down about a third of the way across the chest.  **It is much easier to look at the pictures for this part than follow my description...just saying.**This will be the starting point for your swirl design.  Continue pinning that strip across until you reach the same distance from the edge of the other side.  At that point, you will turn the fabric strip so that it is heading the opposite direction just under the first part of your swirl.  Continue this swirl design down the front of your suit as shown.  You want the design to end right about the middle of the suit, so trim a little if needed so that it ends in the right place.  Be sure to fold the end under 1/4" so that it looks a little more finished (see below).  Feel free to add more, or less, or a different ruffle design!

Once pinned, sew down the middle of all ruffles with a narrow zig-zag stitch.  It's easier to tell the path of the stitching (and the design) by looking at the back side of this piece.  I kept the beige thread in the bobbin so that you could easily see the design (and it doesn't matter b/c it won't show in the end anyway).  You can see how the design gets more and more narrow after each "turn" in the swirl.

Now we're ready to start assembling!

Step 3:  Lining the Pieces

First, pin your main front piece and your main lining piece right sides together as shown.

The ruffles you just sewed down will be sandwiched in the middle if everything is pinned together correctly.

*Again, a "no pics but super easy" part!  Next, starting at the inside corner of one shoulder, sew around the neckline with a zig-zag stitch (this is the best stitch if you don't have a serger because it will allow for stretch...and the stitch that I'll be referring to any time I say "sew").  After sewing the neckline, start at the outside corner of one shoulder and sew all the way around the outside of this piece.  This will be the lined front piece for your suit and will finish the neckline.  **DO NOT sew across the shoulders as these will need to be left open to turn this piece inside out and to insert the straps.  The shoulders will stay open until the very end.

Once sewn all the way around, turn this piece inside out through one of the shoulders.  It's a little bit of a tight squeeze, but the fabric is very stretchy and you shouldn't have any problems.

You should now have your {almost} finished front piece, that should look like this (w/ shoulders still open):

Set this piece aside for now, and let's work on the {super quick} back piece...

To create the back piece you will essentially follow the same directions as for lining the front piece, except that you'll leave the entire top open (rather than the shoulders).  You see that my piece (above) looks a little different...that's because I stupidly did not add a seam allowance to my back pattern piece and didn't want to risk making it too small.  Thus, I just put the two pieces wrong sides together and just sewed around the edge.  This actually didn't make a huge difference as the back piece didn't need to be "finished" at all like the neckline of the front piece did.  See the difference here:
That's all for {Part 1}, but join me on Sunday for {Part 2} might need an extra day to digest this and decide it's not too bad!

In {Part 2} we'll add the elastic to the back and leg holes (you absolutely will not believe how crazy easy this is), assemble the suit, and add the straps to finish it up!

Another look at the finished suit will surely inspire you to try it...right??


  1. I would LOVE to make swimsuits for my girls! I was glad to read it wasn't too hard to work with the fabric. Thanks for the's so cute and so well done!

  2. This is amazing! I have to add you to my reader :) Found you through tatertots & jello, <3 your site :)

  3. This looks awesome! I'm so impressed that you lined it! I made a swim suit last week too and was surprised how easy it was but didn't dare try lining it!

  4. This is too cute. Thanks for the tutorial.

  5. I heart this!! You did an amazing job!! Thanks for auditioning for OMTWI!!

  6. Cutest thing ever!! I'll be featuring you as a Friday Fav at this week!

  7. I love this is so cute. I have two preschoolers and have twins on the way in May. I am looking for some wonderful ladies to guess post sewing tutorials. I would love to have you.
    Check out my blog and let me know what you think.
    I don't need it until May or June.

  8. Love it! Great work! I made suits last year and determined not to do them again but this just might tempt me...

  9. Wow!! I'm bookmarking this and will follow your site!!

    You're incredibly crafty and creative!!!

  10. Adorable! I love the color you picked and the ruffles. This is on my to-do list. :)

  11. what a stunning post/idea
    i love it


    Betty Bake x

  12. One day I'll be able to do this!!!! I love this!! I wish I had a girl -- she would be dolled up in ruffles! Did you see the suits in Chasing Fireflies - ruffles! {And SO cute!}

    Thanks for linking up at Today's Top 20!


  13. I have trouble with knits, but swimsuit material! You did a great job, I think my daughters need this suit so I am going to give it a try. Thanks for the idea!

  14. This is just too cute! It would be a perfect addition to my ruffle crazy post I just posted today on my blog. If you'd like to hop over and add your link to my linky that would be totally awesome. If not, I understand. Thanks for sharing such a great ready-for-spring tutorial!!

  15. Thinking of sewing with lycra is too daunting for me, but you did an amazing job!

    Thanks for linking with the Knock It Off contest!

  16. I can see that you are an expert at your field! I am launching a website soon, and your information will be very useful for me.. Thanks for all your help and wishing you all the success in your business.
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