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I wrote the other day about the fantastic Sew Fab pattern bundle that my Hyacinth Moto Leggings pattern is part of. The bundle includes nine patterns in all, and I’ve really been looking to sewing a few of them in particular. There is currently a dearth of between season shirts in my wardrobe, so I decided to first sew the Clara Wrap crop top sewing pattern.
I really like wrap shirts. Years ago I sewed myself a maternity wrap top, though it was a much more basic design than the Clara, with fewer details. And I love wearing shirts over camisoles, so this was perfect for me.
This wrap shirt is short, like a crop top, and has a relatively low v-neck cut. You could wear it as is, without anything under, but I don’t wear low-cut shirts and I don’t like showing off my midriff, so I prefer the Clara layered over another shirt.
The shirt must be made with a knit fabric with 4-way stretch of at least 50% (like my Hyacinth Leggings, which are also in the bundle). It’s important to use a fabric whose wrong side looks the same or similar to the front because the back side will show when you wrap the ties around your waist. When I sewed my maternity wrap shirt years ago, I made the mistake of using a printed fabric with a plain white wrong side. It looked AWFUL when wrapping those super long ties up because it was impossible to keep them straight. I kept this in mind when sewing the Clara!
The Clara wrap crop top sewing pattern was surprisingly simple and quick to sew up. I think it took me a couple of hours or so. It is also beginner friendly, as it requires pretty basic skills. You just need to know how to sew knit fabrics.
I also like that there are three sleeve lengths, as well as an option for a thumb hole in the long-sleeve version.
Overall, the Clara wrap crop top sewing pattern is a great addition to your handmade wardrobe because it is so easy and fast to sew, but also very on-style and versatile. This would be fantastic even for those of you with a capsule wardrobe because you can mix and match it in so many ways with other clothes. So much fun!
Over the past couple of months I’ve been working on a series of leggings patterns for girls and women (you can find them in the Cucicucicoo Patterns shop!). An interesting thing about pattern testing clothing is seeing how differently a pattern can fit different body shapes. The same pattern might be tight for one lady in the same point where it is loose for another. Luckily, there are lots of ways to modify a pattern for a perfect fit, but today we’ll cover how to adjust the crotch in pants in the four most important and useful methods.
I’ll show you how to adjust the rise and the curve in the crotch, which can drastically influence how your garment fits and help make it flatter your body shape. Let’s get started!
A pants/trousers pattern (Here I am using the Simple Leggings for girls and the Evening Primrose Pajama Pants for women patterns, both available at the Cucicucicoo Patterns shop. I’ve printed them out on green paper simply so that they show up better in the photos.)
Quilting ruler* (recommended, but if you don’t have one, a regular ruler will work, too)
This was an image showing the original low and high waist options for my Simple Leggings for Women pattern. Except it was definitely too high for both options, so I lowered it all around for the final pattern.
In this case we have to lower the rise of the pattern on both the front and back. The rise is the length of the curve between the crotch point and the top waist of the pattern. When the rise is too high, it pulls up too high on the waist and/or the fabric slips down both in the front crotch and the bum in the back, making unsightly sags.
You can make this adjustment on either a one-piece pants pattern, like my Simple Leggings, or a two-piece pants pattern, such as my Evening Primrose PJ pants. If you are making this adjustment on a two-piece pattern, make sure you modify both pieces in the same way or else the sides won’t align.
Draw a line across the pattern above the main crotch curve. To make sure it’s perfectly horizontal, I always line up a marking on the quilting ruler with the grainline arrow on the pattern.
Then cut straight across along the line.
You can pinch the fabric of your sewn pants while wearing them to see about how much you need to remove from the pattern. Then mark that amount below the cut on the lower pattern piece. For my example, I’m removing 1 cm, so I made a couple of marks 1 cm below the cut.
Then slide the top piece down so that the bottom edge hits the marks you’ve just made. Make sure that the grainline arrow or other markings in the center of the pattern are lined up, then tape the pattern in place.
There will be bits of the pattern edges sticking out, so just smooth out the curve by trimming it with your scissors (not shown).
Let’s say we have the opposite problem: the rise is too low in the front and the back. If this is the case, the garment’s waist will not reach all the way up to your body’s waist, so we need to add to the pattern.
I will continue to use the example of 1 cm. Start by cutting across the pattern as shown above. Then take the pattern-drafting paper and draw two parallel lines 1 cm apart (or the amount you need to raise the rise). Next, draw a perpendicular line going through both. (top image)
Match up the top line to the bottom edge of the top piece, matching the vertical line with the pattern’s grainline (or other perfectly vertical) marking, as shown by the arrow above, and tape it in place. Then match up the top edge of the bottom piece with the bottom line, again matching the vertical lines, and tape that in place.
Trim both layers of fabric to make an even curve, and you’re done! The bottom picture here has red paper underneath to better show the new curved edges.
Lower/raise the front OR the back rise
Now, let’s imagine that the back of your pants fits perfectly, but the front rise is too high. This was the case with my Birkin Flares. As you can see above, the jeans covered my bum and arrived perfectly to my waist in the back. On the front, however, the fabric sagged down terribly at the crotch. When I pulled them up higher, the fabric straightened out. This meant that the rise was too high ONLY in the front.
It is also possible for the rise to be too high or low only in the back, too. The adjustments to be made are the same.
To adjust the rise ONLY in the front or the back, you must have a pants pattern in two pieces. So here I am using my Evening Primrose Pajama Pants.
Lowering the rise
Draw a line across the front (or back) pattern piece as shown before. Remember to line up the ruler with the grainline arrow (shown by the arrow in the top picture). This is even more important with two-piece pants patterns because neither side is perfectly vertical.
Cut along this line, leaving only a tiny bit intact at the side so that the two parts can separate with the side as a hinge. Then mark the amount that needs to be removed (again, I’m doing 1 cm) below the cut along the crotch curve (shown by the arrow in the bottom picture).
Lower the top part so that the open edge hits the mark made below the cut (shown by the arrow in the top picture). Then tape the pieces together.
Trim off the pattern to smooth the curve out (shown by the arrow in the bottom picture).
Raising the rise
Now let’s imagine that the front fits perfectly, but your back waist is too low, putting you at risk for showing off your bum when you bend or move. In this case, we need to raise the back rise only.
Start in the same way as lowering the back or front rise. Draw a line across the back (or front) pattern piece as before. Remember to line up the ruler with the grainline arrow (shown by the arrow in the top picture).
Cut along this line, leaving only a tiny bit intact at the side so that the two parts can separate with the side as a hinge (shown by the arrow in the bottom picture).
Put a piece of pattern drafting paper under the pattern and tape the edge of the bottom part to it. Then make a mark 1 cm (or the amount you need to raise it by) above the open side of this piece (shown by the arrow in the top picture).
Pull the top piece down so that the tip hits the mark (shown by the arrow in the bottom picture), and tape in place.
Trim the curve to even it out.
Remember that you can make both of these adjustments for either the front or the back of you pants. Here I’m showing how to lower the rise on the back only.
Click below to continue reading about adjustments to the crotch curve itself. Trust me, these are super important!
A few months ago, my husband and I went to a fancy wedding, the type where women wear crazy sparkly dresses and heels at least 10 inches high. I, however, never wear heels (I can’t even stand in them, never mind walk) and I had no intention of paying hundreds Euros for a dress that I wouldn’t feel myself in and would probably never wear again.
I looked through my closet and found one of my circle skirts (which you can see in this circle skirt tutorial) that is made out of a shiny, satiny, flowy fabric that I love but rarely wear. I had slightly elegant faux-suede sandals that matched, so I decided to sew a matching top. I remembered one of the first free patterns that I featured in my Newsletter, a loose tank top pattern called “Sorbetto” created by Colette Patterns. I bought a beige satin fabric to match my skirt and shoes, and I got to work.
A friend gave me a heads up that the Sorbetto has fitting problems, so I first made a wearable muslin, using a light quilting weight cotton.
The fit seemed fine to me, so I went with it, though in hindsight, I wish I’d gone down a size, because this size is a bit roomy on me.
This is a very simple design with a loose, roomy fit so that there is no need for buttons, zippers, snaps or any other closures. The back is a simple, flat piece.
What makes the Sorbetto loose tank top pattern special is the simple box pleat going down the center front. It is an easy detail to sew, but creates a very pretty and interesting visual effect. The armholes and neckline are bound with bias binding. I used handmade bias in a solid color that matched the fabric print perfectly.
(Learn all about making your own bias tape and how to use it in different ways in my Bias Tape Series!)
I wore my cotton Sorbetto top all summer long, and it’s super comfy. My satin Sorbetto, on the other hand, has been sitting in my closet since the wedding because I rarely dress up, but it’s good to know that it’s there ready when I need it!
Notice how different the top looks in these two versions due to the different fabric drape. (Learn what fabric drape is here!) I love how the satin just falls down softly, as opposed to the stiff cotton.
I did my best to make my own bias tape from the same satin fabric, but it was hellish, to say the least. Satin slides around, so it is hard to cut perfectly on the bias, and it does not crease, meaning that it is nearly impossible to iron into folded bias tape. After burning my fingers over and over and yelling pretty much every curse that I know, I decided to just fold the strips of fabric over the edges myself and try to make it as even as possible. It isn’t perfect, but hey, the edges are bound, and that was enough to make me happy in the end!
You never can depend on the weather, so I wanted to sew something simple to throw over my shoulders. My original idea was to sew a triangular shawl with openings for my arms, but I didn’t have enough time to do that. So I made a more fancy version of the incredibly simple rectangular shawl that I sewed as a cover-up for another wedding (which you can see in this post about the flower girl dresses I sewed).
I sewed a big tube from the same fabric used for the Sorbetto top, moved it around so that the seam was in the middle, not on a side, sewed the short sides closed, turned it right side out, and closed the opening with an invisible ladder stitch. It has a decent amount of volume because I didn’t topstitch around it.
Very simple, but just perfect for what I needed!
I realized about 20 minutes before leaving for the wedding that I didn’t have a bag that would work with this outfit. Crap!!
Then I remembered the two triangular scarf accessories that I sewed from the corner scraps of this circle skirt (the instructions for which I give in the circle skirt tutorial). I quickly fiddled with them, sewed, cut, tied knots for decoration and for a strap and applied a snap, and– voilà!– I finished up my matching bag literally while my husband was waiting for me in the car.
A perfect and carefree little bag for my non-conventional wedding outfit!
I was so happy that I was able to sew a matching top and accessories for my original circle skirt, and could wear a handmade outfit in my own style rather than a kitschy dress from an overpriced shop. And the icing on the cake? My daughter said I looked like a goddess! You can’t get much better than that!
You can get the free Sorbetto loose tank top pattern at Colette Patterns and tell me what you think about it!
My daughter and I LOVE circle skirts. We have a bunch between the two of us because they’re comfortable, pretty and just fun to wear. They can be casual, like most of ours, or elegant if using silk or other fancy fabrics. (I recently wore one made of satin to a wedding.) The only problem is that they require a lot of fabric and, if you cut them out in one piece the traditional way, you can only use very wide fabric that WITHOUT a directional print. That is until today, because I’m going to show you how to make a circle skirt with directional fabric or smaller cuts of fabric!
My original tutorial on how to sew a circle skirt (along with a free template) is one of my most popular tutorials, and it’s no wonder because circle skirts are pretty simple to make and once you wear one, you just can’t stop dancing, twirling and swishing it around!
Like I said before, though, in order to make a traditional circle skirt, you need a wide piece of fabric, especially if you are a large size or you’re sewing a long skirt. And fabric with a one-way print becomes an issue, too. Since I’ve published that original tutorial, a lot of readers have written to me asking what to do if the fabric isn’t wide enough or the print is directional. Luckily, there is an easy solution: instead of cutting one circle of fabric, cut two semicircles and join them!
Just to make sure we’re on the same page here, this is what I mean by “directional print.” Both of the above fabrics have prints. The one on the left is non-directional, meaning that it doesn’t matter which way I hold the fabric because the print will always look right.
The drop print on the right, however, is less forgiving. Our eyes expect to see drops dripping downward, not upward. When cutting a one-way print, you need to make sure that you’ve positioned your pattern correctly so that the direction of the print will be correct on the finished product.
This usually isn’t such a problem, though you may need to have extra fabric yardage in order to fit all the pattern pieces on in the right direction (as opposed to a solid color or non-directional print, when you can squeeze pattern pieces in even upside-down). But if you cut out a classic circle skirt in one piece from a directional print, the print will be upside-down on the back. Yikes!
So today’s tutorial is a simple hack of my old circle skirt pattern and tutorial, making two semicircles and joining them to make a full circle. What do you say, are you ready to learn how to make a circle skirt with directional fabric or with fabric that isn’t wide enough for a full circle? Let’s get started!
Light- to medium-weight fabric. Choose the drape according to how clingy or stiff you’d like the skirt.
Wide elastic matching the color of the fabric. The length will be roughly the same as your waist circumference.
Polyester thread. I prefer polyester to cotton thread in projects with elastic to avoid thread snapping.
Sewing needle appropriate to the type of fabric chosen.
Cucicucicoo Circle Skirt pattern (My free patterns are available to all Cucicucicoo Newsletter subscribers. The Newsletter is sent out every two weeks and you can unsubscribe whenever you want. Sign up for the Newsletter here for access to dozens of free downloads, templates and patterns! If you are already subscribed, check one of your old Newsletters or your welcome e-mail for the link and password.)
Preparing the pattern:
Print out the Cucicucicoo Circle Skirt pattern at 100% (no resizing or fitting) and follow the instructions in my original Circle Skirt tutorial for finding your size and cutting out the pattern.
Cutting the pattern on non-directional fabric:
I will first show how to cut out two semicircles of fabric with the pattern on non-directional fabric (fabric that doesn’t have to be laid out in a specific direction because of its print or stretch). This is to save fabric. Like I said before, if the fabric is non-directional, you can fit the pieces together more easily with less waste.
1. Iron the fabric, then fold it so that the selvages meet up at the top. Position the pattern so that one side is directly on the fold and the other side is parallel to and 1 cm away from the open selvages. (top picture)
2. Follow the instructions in the original Circle Skirt tutorial for calculating the skirt length and drawing and cutting the curve. I suggest pinning the fabric before cutting so that it stays folded and in place for the next steps. Notice that I folded the fabric so that the short edge ended right where the bottom curve of the skirt ended, so as to avoid waste. (bottom picture)
3. Remove the first cut piece (still pinned together). Unfold the fabric yardage, rotate it and fold in the other direction, rearranging the position of the fold until you can fit the first cut piece (upside down) on top of it, with the open edges at the top and the folds now at the right. Then cut along the curves of the first cut piece. (above)
This time there is no need to leave an extra 1 cm along the open edges because the first cut piece already includes it. I had to trim a little bit from the open edges of my second piece above simply because the blank space at the selvage was wider than the seam allowance and therefore would’ve been visible on the skirt.
If you can’t figure out how to fit your second piece in this way, your fabric probably isn’t wide enough to do so. It depends on the size and skirt length. In this case, follow the instructions on page 2 of this post for directional print fabrics.
Hooray! You now have two semicircles of fabric with seam allowances on the open sides! Now let’s join them.
4. Open up the folded pieces and line up the straight edges, right sides facing. Pin them.
If you have a tag that goes along the side, pin it in place between the two layers, pointing inwards.
5. Sew along the pinned edges with a 1 cm seam allowance. Finish off the edges (if your fabric frays) with an overlocker or with the zigzag stitch. (top)
6. Finish off the inside circle curve (if your fabric frays) with an overlocker or with the zigzag stitch. Notice how my side label pops out nicely! (bottom)
7. Continue following the instructions in the original Circle Skirt tutorial for adding the elastic waistband (here I already finished the fabric edge off, so you don’t need to do that with the elastic waistband) and hemming the skirt either with a rolled hem foot or my trick for easier curved hems, as explained in that post. Or hem the skirt with bias tape, which is even easier and faster!
I love the look of circle skirts, both when still with the fabric draping down in pleats…
… and when spinning and flared out!
Now that we’ve got the basics down, let’s see how to make a circle skirt with directional fabric, or one-way fabric, which requires a different way of cutting.
A few weeks ago I wrote a review of a bikini pattern that my daughter and I used for our swimwear last summer. However we are a family of swimmers and I needed an appropriate one-piece bathing suit for my year-round pool swimming. I’m kind of picky about the type and colors of the bathing suits I use, so I decided to sew my own with theJalie 3134 racerback swimsuit pattern.
The Jalie bikini pattern I wrote about was great for girls and had a lot of options, but I didn’t love it for a womanly figure (meaning, people with breasts). The Jalie racerback swimsuit pattern has fewer options (only optional contrasting color panels and optional piping on the sides), but I don’t care because this pattern is PERFECT just the way it is!
The bathing suit fit perfectly and felt comfortable and stretchy!The day after I finished it, I took it for a test swim at my daughter’s pool birthday party, and I was stunned at how comfortable it felt in the water! I could move and twist and play as much as I wanted without feeling any looseness or tightness anywhere.
I was in the water so much that I got a little sunburn, despite multiple heavy slatherings of sunblock. (The picture above was the next day, and you can see my top is a bit red. Whoops!)
I wore this bathing suit and swim cap for 8-9 months for my regular swim practice three times a week, but I noticed that the elastic was starting to get brittle and break apart, making the bathing suit looser and looser by the week.
My error was in using natural rubber elastic. I spoke to someone who has a line of swimwear who uses only this type of elastic, so I suppose the type I used was simply inferior quality. Who knows. But you can see in the picture above how the elastic had broken into a gazillion little bits, meaning it wasn’t actually stretchy anymore.
And so, I was “forced” to make another bathing suit, and decided to make two instead of one, of course with the same racerback swimsuit pattern and size. I made another exactly like my original one to match the swim cap, and a more summery Hawaiian style bathing suit.
But this time I used regular woven elastic, which I much preferred working with and has not snapped since I started using these suits.
And once again, absolute perfection!
My first bathing suit is on the left in the picture above, and the new version on the right. They were cut from the same exact pattern size and fabrics. See what a difference having elastic edges makes in a bathing suits?!
Why do I love the Jalie racerback swimsuit pattern?
1. Racerback. I’ve gone through a bunch of one-piece bathing suits over the years, and I have come to the conclusion that I do NOT like scoopback swimsuits because I feel like the straps will slip off my shoulders. The crossed racerback feels so much more secure and fits perfectly between my shoulderblades.
2. Mid-high rise in the back. Another thing I really dislike are sporty bathing suits with a low cut in the back just above my bum. I prefer doing flip turns and whatnot without fear of flashing my butt at everyone, to be quite honest. This suit’s rise is perfect in the back: not too high, not too low.
3. Contrast bands. I chose black for the optional contrast color in my two bathing suits. I love how it wraps around under the arm to the back and up to the shoulder straps. It just looks cool.
But even better, is that it flatters the feminine form. A beach bathing suit is supposed to show off a lady’s curves. A sporty swimsuit is supposed to squash all curves down as much as possible. But the contrast color in the Jalie 3134 racerback swimsuit pattern is designed in a way to visually accentuate the boob area, making you look curvier than you actually are. Seeing as I’m not very curvy to begin with, this is something that I appreciate.
4. Comfort. This swimsuit is so. Darn. Comfortable. I can move, twist, turn, bend, and it stays perfectly in place.
5. Full front lining. I like feeling that little extra padding in the front of my bathing suits, and all the front and side pieces have linings attached.
6. 27 sizes! Like other Jalie patterns, the 3134 racerback swimsuit pattern is for both girls and women, with 27 sizes. I honestly haven’t made one for my daughter because she has to use her pool’s official bathing suit, but I’m sure it would be fantastic for her, too.
So, my conclusion? I LOVE this pattern so much! It is pretty quick to sew up and looks and feels fantastic! You can choose your favorite fabrics and get a perfect fit. What’s not to love?!
Last summer I finally started sewing something that tends to terrify sewists: bathing suits. (You can check out my 10 tips on sewing swimsuit fabric perfectly here!) I purchased various fabrics and two Jalie patterns, one for a racerback one-piece and another for two-pieces. Jalie is a Canadian company and something I love about their patterns is that they include LOTS of sizes from small girls to large women sizes. Which means that I could use the Jalie 2446 bikini pattern for women and girls for both my daughter and myself. Score!
That said, girls and women don’t have exactly the same clothing needs and this became a problem when I sewed my own bikinis, but I LOVED this pattern for my then 10-year-old daughter. I was able to get a perfect fit with a few tweaks and use fabrics that she chose, and she said that these were the most comfortable bathing suits she’d ever worn. What a compliment!
The Jalie 2446 bikini pattern for women and girls is called “Mix n’ Match Bikinis” because it includes 3 styles of top and bottom that you can mix up between each other to get a total of 9 different styles. And actually, I found that you can even make more than that because I mixed pieces from two different bottom styles for Sofia’s bottoms. But more about that in a minute.
I sewed size K tops of View B and size N bottoms of View B with the top band of the View A bottom. The backs of the tops are closed with a clasp and the tops get tied with a bow. Both the top cups and the bottom front have a lining.
It took a little bit of fiddling to get the bottoms right for Sofia. According to her measurements, she should’ve have a size L bottom (seen on the top in the picture above), but those ended up being too small for her. We also noticed that the waist was pretty low in this style and Sofia preferred a higher waist so that she could goof around at the beach without worrying about her bum sticking out.
We also agreed that the one color was a bit boring and seemed to be missing something when paired with the two-tone top. So I went up two sizes for the bottom, to a size N, and added a contrast band of the view A bottom of the same size (seen at the bottom in the picture above), which fit on perfectly and added just the right amount of extra height.
A perfect fit and much cuter with the two colors on both pieces!
The one thing we noticed was that the back strap stretched out over time, so after a while I unpicked the stitches so that I could remove the clasp and leave the straps like that to be knotted at the back.
So the next time I make these for her, the one change I would make in addition to those I already made would be to make longer back and neck straps for easier tying and omitting the clasp.
She wore these two bathing suits nearly every day last summer and said they were incredibly comfortable.
She wore them in pools…
She wore them for walks and playing outside. (Here in my hometown last summer with an Atlantic steamer clam she found on the beach before throwing it back in the water.)
And even when she’d go swimming, these bikinis would stay right in place on her body despite all the water acrobatics that she does!
Wait, didn’t I say that this was a bikini pattern for women and girls? So far I’ve given this pattern a pretty glowing review for girls. What about for women?
These are the two bikinis that I made for myself. On the left is View A size U and on the right View B size U. You can see that at this point I didn’t even bother sewing in the clasp and just left the straps loose to tie.
Here’s View A. I like the idea of the boy shorts style bottom, but I have a feeling that it actually accentuated my wide-ish thighs. But what I really didn’t like was that this bottom has no lining and the seam is right down the center front and back, which feels a little… odd. The top was pretty comfortable.
And then I sewed a View B bikini to match Sofia’s. Which in hindsight I wish I hadn’t, because then we had to coordinate during beach trips to wear different bathing suits. I’m not exactly a fan of the mother-daughter matching thing.
I wish I had added the View A band to my View B bottom as I had for Sofia’s because, as you can see here, the waist is pretty darn low.
Ok, here’s where I was really unsatisfied with this pattern. To put it simply: it isn’t made for people with boobs.
I am far from being large-chested, however my ladies have little resistance to gravity and need support. I also am not a fan of the nipple-sticking-out look, so I took advantage of this pattern’s option to add little “pockets” to slip bra/bathing suit cups or padding in. I tried all three types of padding as seen above, and they were all disastrous. They slipped out of place all the time because in theory they would need to be sewn into place. But even when they were in position, you could see the outline of them through the fabric, which didn’t look very nice. You can see this in the..
For the apparel sewist, there are a few scary types of clothing. Coats. Jeans. (I got over my fear of sewing jeans a couple of years ago when I tested the Birkin Flares pattern.) Bathing suits.
Most apparel sewers are used to sewing stretchy fabric, but bathing suit fabric is a beast of its own. It’s REALLY stretchy and, as bathing suits fit skin-tight, the seams need to be able to stretch a LOT. The second scary thing about bathing suits has to do with the general fear women have of showing off their bodies for what they are.
I finally got over this fear this summer and learned how to sew bathing suit fabric, sewing myself and my kids swim caps, bikinis and one-piece bathing suits. And guess what? After learning a few tips and tricks, it isn’t anywhere near as scary as I thought it would be! I wish I had started sewing swimsuits sooner!
Have you been considering sewing bathing suits for you and your family? Are you a little terrified of trying? Check out my ten tips for how to sew bathing suit fabric, and you’ll be making your own DIY swimwear!
10 Essential Tips to Perfect DIY Swimwear
1. Use the right fabric. Bathing suit fabric is basically a lycra (spandex) fabric that stretches a lot and dries quickly. It doesn’t get very wrinkled, so it’s easy to care for and sew. I couldn’t find any swimsuit fabric in local fabric shops, so I bought a selection of matching colors and prints on Amazon so that I could mix and match them. I purchased red, purple and black solid colors here* and a turtle and a hibiscus print here*. There are a lot of other online shops carrying bathing suit fabric. Look here for a wide selection on Etsy*.
Most bathing suits have a lining, which requires a different fabric which is lighter and more stretchy. I bought this black lining fabric* (seen above on the right) and have used it for all the swimswear I’ve sewn. If push comes to shove, you can just use the same bathing suit fabric as a lining layer, too, but I prefered having the right type of fabric.
2. Get your stretch type straight. Swimsuit fabric can have 2-way stretch or 4-way stretch. 2-way stretch fabric stretches horizontally, from one selvedge to the other. The stretch always goes around the body. 4-way stretch fabric stretches equally well both horizontally and vertically, meaning that the garment will stretch around the body, but also up and down the body. It’s really important to use the type of stretch fabric that the pattern calls for.
4. Use polyester thread. Cotton thread snaps much more easily than polyester thread. This is why it’s always best to use a poly thread when sewing bathing suits, which are meant to be stretched a lot. My favorite is Gutermann Sew-All polyester thread*.
5. Use an overlock machine. The overlock machine, also known as a serger, uses three or four threads for an entwined stitch that is VERY stretchy, and so perfect for swimwear. I use my serger (I use an Elna 664 pro*) for ALL bathing suit seams except for basting and topstitching. In some cases, such as when you sew elastic to the fabric, you will want to disengage the overlock machine’s knife.
6. Use a stretch stitch or the zig zag stitch. If you don’t have an overlock machine, you will have to use your regular sewing machine for all steps. This isn’t a problem because there are a lot of different stretch stitches you can use, such as the triple straight stitch (#3 above) and the stretch stitch or lightning stitch (#4 above), which are good when you need a straight line of stitches. When that’s not so important, such as when basting or joining elastic to the fabric, I suggest using the classic zig zag stitch (#5 above) or the triple zig zag stitch (#6 above). You can find out more about how this stitch works in my zig zag stitch lesson. For my bathing suits, I preferred using a serger for all inside seams and a zig zag stitch for everything else.
7. Use a double needle for topstitching over few layers. The double needle is great for all stretchy fabric and creates the same look as a professional coverlock machine on the outside. I suggest the Schmetz 90/14 Stretch Needle*. You use it with a regular straight stitch, but the zig zagging bobbin thread on the wrong side of the fabric lets it stretch, making it great for topstitching. I love this look, but I honestly had a hard time using it when there were too many layers of fabric, so I actually ended up just using a zig zag stitch for almost all topstitching, even though it doesn’t look as professional.
8. Use a walking foot. This special foot is one of my absolute favorite sewing tools. It has its own feed dogs that work with the sewing machine’s feed dogs. Having feed dogs both above and below the fabric means that it moves bulky, slippery or otherwise difficult fabrics under the sewing needle evenly. You can read more about this wonderful machine foot in my walking foot sewing lesson. I kept it on my machine the entire time that I sewed anything with swimwear fabric, and it made life SO much easier!
9. Use the right stitch width and length for basting and stitching. The stitch length needs to stay relatively long to give more stretch. The width depends on what part of the garment you’re sewing. I preferred using a zig zag stitch with 2 width and 3 length for basting, and a zig zag stitch with 3 width and 3.5 length for topstitching. But try different combinations to find the best one for you. Which brings us to #10, perhaps the most important tip of all:
10. Practice makes perfect! Try different fabrics, stitches, needles, machines. Use scrap swimsuit fabric to test out different stitch length/width combinations. Fold the fabric to practice working over various layers, or even sew some seams and fold those over to see how different methods sew over those more bulky areas. This was how I decided that I didn’t want to bother with the double needle, because I couldn’t get even stitches when sewing over bulkier areas.
Sewing bathing suit fabric is different from sewing other fabrics and you need to test everything out over and over until you find what works for you. And at that point you’ll see that it’s actually pretty easy and you’ll be ready to start working on your bikinis, bathing suits and swim caps!
Now that you know what you need to know, why not get some practice by sewing a simple swim cap? I even have a free pattern for kids and adults in 4 sizes! Check it out here!
I love skirts so much! They are fun to mix and match with different tops, I feel free to move around without any leg restriction, and even very casual skirts look nicer than jeans. They are SO FAST to sew and often even faster to refashion from other unused garments!
Take the above DIY skirt with godets. Can you believe that this garment used to be…
…this unfortunate pair of shorts? Ick!
I’d bought them because I really liked the contrast color waistband and belt loops. (Oh, and also because they were on a great clearance sale!) I hadn’t quite considered the fact that I don’t wear my tops tucked in, so those details could never be seen. And I soon realized that I didn’t like the way they felt or looked either. Then one hem started coming undone, and they stayed in my drawer for years.
Inspired by some of the amazing jean skirt refashioning ideas I’d saved onto my Refashioning Pinterest board, I decided to open up the legs and add contasting godet panels. Because the legs were on the tight side, and also because I really love this green batik fabric, I decided to add godets not only in the front and back, but also at the sides, that way I could easily create an A-line shape and make the contrasting panels look more intentional.
And I LOVE how it came out! It’s such a comfortable skirt and I love how it looks. I actually made this about a year ago and I’ve worn it a TON since then.
One of the great things about making your own clothing (or refashioning them) is that you can make perfectly matching accessories! So I sewed a twisted turban headband with the same batik fabric to wear along with my skirt! I love it when people ask me how I got an accessory to match my skirt so well, and I can tell them that it’s because I made them myself!
So, what do you say? Do you have some old shorts or pants that you never wear from one reason or another? Let me show you how to transform them into a DIY skirt with godets that you will want to wear all the time! Let’s get started!
A pair of shorts or pants (or trousers) that fit properly in the waist
Fabric of any type (I used a quilting cotton weight batik)
1. Remove the hems. If you have plenty of extra fabric to sew a hem later, you can just cut them off. I used my seam ripper to open up the hems and then I ironed them flat as well as I could.
2. Open up the leg seams with your seam ripper up to the crotch. I chose to open up all four leg seams for the reasons I said before, but you can choose to just open up the inside leg seams if you prefer.
3. Continue opening up the front and back crotch seams until you reach where the shape is no longer contoured (shown in the circle above).
4. If you chose to add panels on the sides, sew some stitching along the original seams (shown above between the two arrows) to make sure that they don’t open up any further. DON’T do this for the crotch seams. We’ll get to those next!
It’s not so important how far up you open the side seams. I wanted the side panels to match the size of the front and back panels, but I had to stop a little lower to avoid opening up the pocket.
5. Flatten the shorts inside out so that the two curved edges of the back crotch are matched up. Draw a line with a ruler and a fabric marker and cut off the contoured part all the way down.
Repeat with the front crotch. Then repeat step 4 to keep the crotch seams from opening up any more.
Adding the contrast godet inserts:
You now have shorts (or pants) with more or less regular rectangle shaped parts hanging down.
6. Lay the shorts out flat so that the rectangular parts are opened up naturally. Measure how wide the space is between the bottom of each rectangle (shown above) and also how long the space is from the center of the bottom to the top point where the rectangles join.
My space was 15 cm wide and 45 cm high for the front and back panels. The side panels were slightly less high.
7. Cut out the triangular godet inserts according to your measurements. If the fabric is considerably more lightweight than the shorts fabric, you might want to use double layers of the fabric or add an iron-on fabric stabilizer to the back.
Remember to add margins for the fabric to overlap, so add at least 2 cm to each measurement. So my triangles, instead of being 15 cm across at the bottom and 45 cm high through the center, as were my measurements, I cut them 18 cm across the bottom and 48 cm high.
And also remember that these inserts are isosceles triangles, so the two long edges are of the same length and the longest point goes through the center. The easiest way to cut them out perfectly is to fold your fabric in half along the grain (parallel to the selvage), measure half of bottom width perpendicular to the fold (in my case, half of 18 cm is 9 cm), and the total height along the fold from where you measured the bottom. Cut along the bottom and from there diagonally up to the top, unfold the fabric, and you have a perfect isosceles triangle!
If your inserts are different sizes, make sure you mark them somehow so that you don’t mix them up!
8. If you are using a fraying fabric for the shorts and/or inserts, overlock or zig zag along the long edges. Don’t worry about the bottom edges because we will be hemming those later.
9. With the shorts inside out, fold the cut edges towards the wrong side by about 1 cm and iron them flat (picture to the left above).
10. Line up the top point of the matching insert with the top corner of the shorts’ opening, with the wrong side of the insert facing up, so that they overlap by about 1 cm. Pin it in place, then line up one edge of the insert with the edge of the shorts, pinning them together as you go (picture to the right above).
11. Then line up the other side of the insert with the other side of the shorts opening.
Notice in the picture above how the edges of the insert match up with the edges of the shorts, while overlapping.
11. Carefully flip the shorts right side out. Make sure that the overlock or zig zag stitches on the edges of the insert are not showing from the front. Then pin the insert in place from the front, removing the pins from the back as you go.
It’s very important to check the top point (shown by an arrow) and pin it very well in place.
12. Sew down both sides of the godet from the right side of the fabric. Make sure you sew very close to the edge of the shorts fabric and that you catch the fabric layers in the point without them bunching up.
Repeat steps 9-12 with all of the openings.
Finishing the skirt:
13. Try the skirt on and mark where you want the hem to fall with a pin or two. Cut across the entire bottom of the skirt 2 cm below that mark. (top)
14. Fold the skirt bottom up by 1 cm, press well, and fold up again by 1 cm and press. Sew the hem in place. (bottom) If you need help with this part, read my lesson on sewing the perfect hem.
Give it a good pressing and…ta-da! Your DIY skirt with godets is done!
How quick it is to turn old pants into shorts! And so easy that it’s a perfect project for beginners! And everyone loves getting a little more wear out of clothing that would otherwise end up in the trash, right? Even if the ones I show here are not the most gorgeous shorts in the world (the pants having been used a LOT), they are great for my little boy to play outside and get sweaty and dirty in!
Ready to prepare a bunch of summer clothes for your kids from their outgrown pants? Let’s get started!
1. Flatten the pants out and fold them in half so that the inside leg seams line up to one side, the hems/cuffs at the bottom, and the waistbands and the top.
2. Cut across the top leg at the knee (left). Then cut across the bottom leg using the first cut as a guide. Unfold the pants and make sure that you have removed any torn parts (right).
*Note* The pants I used had holes at the knees, so I just cut right above those. If your pants don’t have holes, try them on before starting and mark where you want them hem to fall with a safety pin. Cut 2 cm (or however much extra fabric you need to hem) below the safety pin.
3. Turn the pants inside out and slip one leg onto the collapsible sleeve ironing board*. Use the ruler or sewing gauge* to fold the cut edge at the inside leg seam over 1 cm, or the amount you plan to hem them. Press and pin in place.
4. Repeat step #3 on the outer leg seam (or outer leg fold if there isn’t a seam). Then fold and pin the parts between the two seams.
5. If you are sewing a classic hem with two folds, fold, press and pin a second time to hide the raw fabric edges. I was using non-fraying sweatshirt fabric here, so I only folded once.
7. Starting from the inside seam, sew all around the leg.
8. Sew around the second leg, and you’re done!
Give the new hems a good steam press to get rid of any wavy seams, and admire your new shorts!
Comfortable and perfect for kids to play in!
Adding a pocket to the shorts:
Most kids like having pockets to put their stuff in. I decided to reuse the bit of fabric below the knee of these Minion pants (see how I made them here) in order to save the Minion face. (I cannot believe how well well these freezer paper stencils stood up to a LOT of heavy duty machine washings!)
This way my little boy has a little pocket that’s perfect for storing stuff in! The Minion isn’t looking directly at the banana anymore, but I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.
Follow the instructions given above to making the cut-off shorts. Then cut out a rectangle of fabric from the part you’ve cut off. Fold the two sides and the bottom 1 cm to the back, then at the end fold the top edge 1 cm to the back. Press the folds well and pin in place. Sew across the top edge only. This will be the pocket opening. (If you’re using fraying fabric, you might want to fold each edge twice to keep it from fraying inside the pocket.)
Pin the pocket in place. Then slip the pant leg around the free arm. Twist the pant leg around as best you can so as to position the top right corner of the pocket under the needle without catching the bottom layer underneath it. Then sew around the right side, bottom and left side of the pocket.
This can be a little tricky to maneuver, especially if you are working in a central part of the leg. But with a little tugging of the fabric, you should be able to do it!
(I used this same method for sewing my leaf and vine jeans years ago. In that case it was pretty complicated to maneuver the fabric around the knee, but I managed it with a bit of patience!)
Steam press the pocket, and there you are!
Perfect for carrying lollipops as well as dinosaurs!
So, what do you think? Could it possibly be any easier to sew simple shorts for the summer? These are so useful and comfortable and my little boy has already been using all four pairs I sewed like this nearly every day!
I do some knitting, so I should love wool like most knitters do, but I just love the way a cotton sweater feels (that is, not itchy), and also how much easier it is to wash them (that is, toss it in the washing machine on a gentle cycle with no fear of accidentally felting it).
So when I found this cotton sweater at a thrift shop a couple of years ago, I grabbed it up for just a couple of dollars, despite the size M tag on it (I wear L).
And I of course never wore it once because, despite fitting my arms perfectly, it was a tad shorter than I like wearing my sweaters. And it sat in my bureau for two years until I remembered something.
That something is that, even more than cotton sweaters, I love cotton cardigans. I love being able to wear them open or closed, and how easy it is to layer clothing with them in in-between seasons, or even to toss in your bag when you go out on cooler summer nights. As far as I’m concerned, the knit cotton cardigan is the perfect spring garment.
So I turned that sweater into a cardigan in about 10 minutes. And I’ve been wearing it pretty much constantly since then.
The great news is that it’s ridiculously fast and easy to refashion a sweater into a cardigan! You can leave it open or add on snaps or buttons to keep it closed. (This will take you more than 10 minutes, obviously.) And you will be rewarded with an incredibly versatile garment that you will want to wear every day!
Do you also have an unused sweater (or jumper for you British English speakers) in your closet that you don’t wear? Well then, turn it into a cardigan! Let’s get started!
a sweater (cotton, wool or any other fiber yarn is fine)
single fold bias tape, or fabric and a bias tape maker to make your own
the usual sewing tools (ruler, chalk roller* or other non-permanent fabric marker, fabric shears, pins, thread, sewing machine. If you are new to sewing and want to know what sewing tools I use, read this post on the best sewing tools.)
walking foot (optional, but highly recommended)
Prepare the bias tape
You will need a length of bias tape about 8 cm (3″) longer than twice the height of your sweater. It doesn’t matter what width it is. I used 12 mm (1/2″) single fold bias tape, but you can use one that’s a different width, depending on the look you’re going for.
Normally making just a little bit of bias tape is annoying because you have to cut diagonally into your fabric. But I’ll give you a little time- and fabric-saving tip: for this project, you don’t need to go around any curves, so you can cut your bias tape on the grain, not on the bias. So, instead of cutting a strip diagonally, just cut it parallel to the fabric selvedge! I’m going to continue calling it “bias tape,” but what I used isn’t technically bias tape, although it’s used in the same way. (Learn more about how bias and grain are different here.)
I wind my finished bias tape on a squashed toilet paper tube. It’s not pretty, but it does the job perfectly!
Ok, now set the timer, because if you have experience sewing single fold bias tape, you’ll probably be able to do the following steps in 10 minutes!
Cut and sew
1. Use your ruler and chalk roller* to mark a line straight down the center front of your sweater.
2. Cut straight along that line. Please be careful not to cut the back layer!
*Note* If your sweater’s stitches are knit relatively loosely, and not tightly as mine were, I highly suggest you sew two lines of stitching, one on either side of the center marked line, very close to it, BEFORE cutting. In this way the knit fabric will not unravel when you cut it.
3. Pin the unfolded bias tape along one cut edge, right sides facing. Remember to leave about 2 cm (3/4″) extra bias tape at each end. Repeat along the other cut edge.
**Awesome trick for a perfect bias tape finish!**
4. Fold the extra bits of bias tape hanging off each edge to the wrong side of the sweater and pin in place. This may look weird now, but trust me, it’ll all come together. Repeat for all four of the bias tape ends.
6. Flip the bias tape to the wrong side of the garment and pin in place.
I prefer to fold the fabric over so that there’s just a couple of millimeters of sweater fabric showing between the bias tape edge and the fold in the sweater, that way the bias tape is completely hidden from the front and not visible on the edge. However this is totally up to you.
See how the bias tape flips over and covers the ends of bias tape that we’d folded over to the back in step #4?
Make sure that you poke the corner of the bias tape out from inside the fold so that it makes a nice crisp corner. You also might want to fold the edge of the bias tape end under a bit so that it’s totally covered up.
7. Iron the fold and bias tape, then sew down the bias tape close to the edge. I suggest using a long stitch length (at least 3) and a walking foot, if you have one. If you don’t have a walking foot, BUY ONE because they are such life-savers in so many situations! (You can read my tutorial on how to use a walking foot here.)
And you’re done!
You can leave the cardigan open, close it with a pin, or add on snaps or buttons to keep the front closed. I chose to use my snap press with colored caps matching the green stripes, which is why they are not placed at regular intervals along the front. The bias tape also works as stabilizer for snaps and buttonholes!
If you choose to use a snap press or pliers, I suggest you first test it out on a scrap of similar fabrics to make sure that the snaps can handle the thickness of the various layers of fabric.
Now try on your fantastic new cardigan and play with all the ways you can layer it!
It’s incredible what a difference such a small modification can make! Not only in how a garment looks, but how useful it is!
Now that it’s an easier garment to layer over other clothes, it doesn’t matter that it’s a little short on me and I’ve been wearing it many times per week! Hooray!
By the way, did you notice the skirt I’m wearing? It’s another really cool refashion, a fresh and modern take on the classic jean skirt! Stay tuned because the tutorial will be coming soon!