The amazing thing about swimwear is it usually only costs around $7 per suit in materials. Most dresses can cost much, much more in new materials. You can see why swimwear can be inviting for a seamstress to work with when keeping costs low.

In 2013, I made my first attempt, though feeble, at making swimwear. I’ve been obsessed with making suits ever since. I’ve wanted to write about so many other suits but they have slipped through the cracks. This by far is not all of the suits I have made since I started; it’s more like some of the highs and lows. I hope you enjoy my feats and follies in my swimwear journey.

I was swimming in my first suit, meaning it was too big. Performance knit is so stretchy that it was a huge challenge. Suits need to be negative inches of your body size to stay on wet. How much stretch the knit has can dictate fit as well. I finally realized that when I used the same swimwear lining in every suit they would all have the same stretch. Unfortunately I had already made many suits by this realization.

I decided it was best if I enlisted the help of the experts. All the advice online kept telling me that this book, “Kwik-Sews Swim & Action Wear,” had everything I needed to get started. It was solid purchase and I still use the book today.

I started with the most simple suit.

My second suit I nailed the fit but it was far from problem free. When applying elastic you must learn to only pull it with the slightest amount on tension. I pulled this suit around the neckline way too tight and it bunches. It also lacked any bust support, but that was way over my head at the time.

For the win! One yard of performance knit is enough for me to make two suits. I enjoyed playing with the extra fabric scraps. Sadly the second polka dot suit never fit well. It was quite the learning experience of just making stuff up and well worth the work. Many a time I would wind up taking apart the suits and putting them together again to try and get the fit correct. Swimwear is advanced sewing.

I also learned that if you have an old suit that fits it’s the best option for a new pattern. Above was my third suit and I made many more from this pattern.

My first suits with bust cups were with cups already sewn into active wear from the thrift store. I wound up taking this suit in after this photo. Fit is hard!


The suit made from the scraps. This is one of my favorites.

Matching stripes is one of my favorite things to do.

I even attempted to design Barbie’s suit out of the scraps. Keeping this top up is a full time job. I should have added boning.

The high neck cacti suit was made from scraps from another project. Less sun screen with these types of suits although they are almost impossible to get back on a wet body.

Even Suzy Goose got a suit from scraps.

I was asked on IG to submit an article to Sew News Magazine about suit making in 2018.

Since I love to roller skate I made a series of suits that I can skate or swim in. I learned how to put my own cups in power mesh here in 2018.

This is the only suit I have done for anyone else. It was for a mother/daughter matching photo. I took an existing suit that was too small and added to the sides and middle to add length and width. I also took the crotch out to lengthen it so it would fit for the photos. I’m still afraid to make suits for the public.

2019 I only made a couple of suits. I learned how easy it is to make a skirt cover from the scraps. It’s just a big circle!

2020 I wanted to learn how to convert vintage patterns out of todays knit fabric while still keeping the vintage silhouettes. This requires making the suit much smaller, shorter and taking the darts out.


Double knit polyester came out in the late 1960s. You will notice many of my one piece suits are too long even though I shortened the patterns. Just not enough! This is because poly had no vertical stretch and todays fabric does. Each suit has cups, too!

I did one modern suit pattern this year. I wanted to try a low rise bottom. This was actually the middle rise bottom. Baby got a lot of back and that’s as low as I can go. I learned here not all cups will do in swimwear. I used foam cups left over from bridal wear. One bust ripped right off. Sigh….

These skills didn’t happen overnight but they are very achievable. If you love making things you will become skilled in whatever you repetitively do. Learning is a life long process.

Behind the scenes~

I learned to make my first quilt last week. It was terrible! I made almost every mistake in the book, but I know the next and the next will be better and better.

Thanks for reading,

Tracy McElfresh

Dream it! Sew it!