Homemade Swimsuit: polka dot ruffle tankini


 I finally got around to making myself the swimsuit that I’d had on my list for a few weeks. Maybe it was nerves that made me keep choosing to pick up other projects, instead of the darling navy polka dot lycra that I chose specifically for this suit. I won the credit to the Fabric Fairy in the Sewvivor competition, and got all pumped up to take the plunge (pun intended) but something about making a bathing suit seemed so daunting. So I avoided it.  It probably has to do with the bottoms. Homemade underwear seem sort of…well, ridiculous. And what are swimsuit bottoms if not okay-to-wear-in-public undies? Last Friday when Eliot was napping and Milo was chilling out for quiet time, I decided to just go for it. I told myself if I messed up, at least the fabric was free, so I can just get some more and try again! Great confidence, eh?

Amazingly, it was far easier than I expected! Once I got over the whole “I’m making myself a swimsuit” issue, I realized that the fabric was just like any other stretchy knit, and I sew with knits all the time! I was inspired by this ruffly j.crew suit, but I wanted mine to be a tankini, and I knew I needed straps. As I got ready to cut, I decided I’d do a single strap that could follow the diagonal of the ruffles. So, that’s what I did! I used a well-fitting one-piece to trace a pattern for the tankini top, and I used a pair of well-fitting underwear to trace a pattern for the bottoms. I would have used another pair of swimsuit bottoms, but I don’t have any that I love the fit of! I sewed all of the ruffles onto the top before adding the lining. Then of course once it was added I noticed two spots where I really wanted to add an additional ruffle, so there are some navy zig zag stitches coming through the nice white lining. That was luckily the only trouble I ran into. I was surprised by how easily the rest of it came together.

The suit took an entire yard of fabric. I kept thinking I would have some extra to make another top, or some shorties for the boys, but those ruffles took it all! I cut the ruffles on the fold like strips for a circle skirt, so they would have some flutter without tons of gathering. Then I gathered them slightly with the serger before zig zagging them on to the top. There wasn’t a whole lot of rhyme or reason…just cover the whole top! Because it’s so ruffly, I didn’t feel like I need a shelf-bra or cup inserts, so I’ve yet to tackle some of the more technical aspects of swimsuit construction. I’ll definitely be making more, so I’ll get a chance to learn more about the fine art of bathing suit chest support!

I did add rubber elastic to the leg holes and waistband of the bottoms, and it keeps them snug even when the fabric is wet and heavy. They fit well, but I’ll plan on adding a quarter inch more of seam allowance on the next pair to keep the bum-squeezing at bay. I love the wide sidebands and the lower-cut legs, though. And they are comfortable, which is awesome.

Two summers ago I went through and purged almost all of my suits. Some I had been hanging on to since high school, and most weren’t as modest as I now appreciate. Last summer, I only needed a maternity suit. So, this year my closet is desperately lacking. I have such a hard time finding suits that are cute, modest, and affordable. I can always find two-out-of-three, but by making them myself I wont have to compromise anything. Now that I’ve gotten over the apprehension of bathing-suit sewing, I can’t wait to design and create some more!

I hope you have a fantastic weekend! You know I will…I’ll be with my boys at the pool!


  1. Katherine
    Posted July 6, 2012 at 12:58 am | Permalink

    Cutest swimsuit EVER! Could I hire you to make me one?

    • Miranda
      Posted July 6, 2012 at 8:08 am | Permalink

      I’d love to Katherine, but it’ll have to be for next summer. I’m booked through November right now! If you really want one, email me and we can talk details!xoxo Miss you

  2. Sam Adams
    Posted July 6, 2012 at 2:12 am | Permalink

    I’m going to make my suit too! I have the fabric, have had it for almost a week, I’m getting more and more scared every day. But I had the good sense of buy 3 yards, for $1 a yard who cares right?! Thank goodness for LA fashion district! Where did you get the rubber elastic? thats what I’m missing right now. I have the clear stuff but it doesn’t seem strong enough, and I have some other natural swim suit elastic but same thing, weak. Your bottoms look great too! I’m planning on doing a little swim skirt with ruffled fabric! Maybe I’ll start this weekend…

    • Miranda
      Posted July 6, 2012 at 8:10 am | Permalink

      Man! $1/yard? I need to go to LA! I found the elastic at my local specialty fabric store. I read that the clear elastic doesn’t work well, to I made sure to get the real stuff. It actually feels really similar to just normal elastic, so in a pinch I’d feel comfortable using that, too!

      Good luck! a ruffled swim skirt sounds darling!

  3. Posted July 6, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Wow!! Great job! You look fantastic in it! I know how to sew but I really need to sew more!

    • Miranda
      Posted July 6, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

      Thank you Natalie! Really, the only way to get better is to just do it. I don’t have any formal training…just lots and lots of practice!

  4. Posted July 6, 2012 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Um… cutest swimsuit ever! It looks amazing!

    • Miranda
      Posted July 6, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

      Thanks! I’m happy it turned out. Can’t wait to try another!

  5. Posted July 6, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    I feel the need to first address your tight little body before I praise the swimsuit. Miranda. You have a freaking ROCKING bod. I could only ever DREAM of a butt that tight. Sheesh! I just wanna slap it! HEh heh…JK. Sort of.
    The suit is a dream. I love the ruffles, and the one shoulder is great. I’m always amazed how you draft patterns from clothes so much. You’re one talented mofo. I just drafted a swimsuit pattern yesterday for my little sister using three different patterns plus a pair of my swimbottoms as a reference, and I was THRILLED with the fit, felt like we won the lotto or something. I forgot to take pictures!! NOooo!!!
    Hey when are you going to be in town?? What should we do??
    Oh ps, I used normal elastic once, and it totally stretched out in the chlorine. Definitely go with the specialy treated swim elastic.

    • Miranda
      Posted July 6, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, I’m pretty hot. You can see why I finished 378th (of 400…) in my race two weeks ago 😉

      I get in town on the 24th! I can’t wait to hang out with you! Let’s plan some fun.

      Thanks for the elastic advice. I’ll stick to the real stuff…

  6. Tasha
    Posted July 6, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    I am always so inspired to sew after looking at your blog. Love this swimsuit!!

    • Miranda
      Posted July 6, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

      I’m so glad! I hope you do it!

  7. Posted July 7, 2012 at 4:23 am | Permalink

    This is so impressive! I love it – the fit looks perfect. There is definitely something intimidating about bathing suit sewing. It’s probably the unfamiliarity of the material and how important it is to get a perfect fit. I am not that comfortable with knits yet (maybe once I learn how to use a serger?), but I’ll get there someday! Thanks for the inspiration.

  8. Posted July 7, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    hey emmy’s friend eliza here! this is amazing! cutest tankini around! and your bangin’ bod doesn’t hurt either! yay a for summer suits!

  9. Posted July 12, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    You made that yourself?? Whoa! That is so gorgeous! I have tinkered with the idea of making a swimsuit but the idea scares me. Kudos to you for braving it! Have you thought of doing a tutorial?

    • Miranda
      Posted July 12, 2012 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

      THanks! I’m happy with how it turned out. I considered doing a tutorial as I made it, but since I was totally winging it I thought I better make sure it worked first!! Now that it’s turned out, I may create a diy the next one I make… we’ll see when that ends up being:)

  10. Toni
    Posted June 30, 2013 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Hi, I am debating about adjusting this for a maternity suit with a cute skirt. Do you think the ruffles would look ok with a pregnant belly?

  11. Ashley
    Posted March 17, 2014 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Great job! I was looking at diy suits via pinterest and am shocked at what came up! Pucker butt bottoms….really? I guess modesty isn’t important to a lot of people. This is beautiful and modest.

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