{Swimsuit Tips & Tricks} The Anthro-Hack Tutorial and Reveal!

A couple of weeks ago, I introduced a fun swim project I've taken on for Imagine Gnats. If you've followed along my Instagram, you have probably seen more than your share of progress pics! Thanks for all of your help, by the way!

Without further ado, here's my "Behind the Seams" play-by-play of my beloved Anthro Swimsuit Hack!

I spoke earlier about hacking patterns you have to make the swimming suit you're dreaming of, so let's start first with the dream:

Ahhh, Anthropologie... such a pinterest cliche to hack your beautiful designs, but with inspiring fabric combos and your risk-taking with trims, how could I resist such a suit??

I started this hack the way I start every other: I broke it down by parts. Here are the features I see, when I look at this suit through the eyes of a hacker:

  • This suit is cut vertically at the waist. No biggie, I can cut any swim suit pattern in half at the waist. (Note to self: remember to add seam allowances) What else do I see?
  • This suit has princess seams. Good catch. It would be harder (though not impossible) to modify a swim suit pattern to include princess seams. If I can start with a P-S'ed design, it'd be a huge time saver. 
  • This suit has a crossover-bodice. I've hacked crossover styles before, I can free-hand this if I need to.
  • This suit has a bias finish across the top. This is noteworthy because most swim suits I've sewn finish edges differently. They call for 1:1 ratio clear elastic stitched to the raw edge of each opening, and then turned under and zig-zag stitched. Why is this suit different? What will I have to change in my pattern-making to account for this? (of course, at the time I'm writing this I have these answers - but let's work them out together, shall we? Some hacking projects require a bit of faith, and a "let's cross that bridge when we get there" attitude.)

Off to hunt for my patterns, I normally start from my stash. First, because if it's in my stash I've probably already sewn/muslined. Second, because "hacking" should cost me as little pattern dollars as possible. After all, I'm already going into it knowing I will be self-drafting some pieces!

In my swim suit pattern stash, I found I had NONE that were one piece. Quite literally one piece. See - the bigger and fewer the pieces I have to work with, the less mental gymnastics it will be for me to alter and customize.  I have this one-piece suit from Jalie, but it's divided into three pieces with seams under the bust. It also has none of the features I identified above - a waistline seam, cross-over bodice, or princess seams. For this hack, I'll be looking for a new pattern - one that will be a simpler canvas to modify. (I'll keep my Jalie pieces handy though, I can use them as a point of comparison later.)

Thankfully, I pretty readily found this one from Ralph Pink (it's free!!), with princess seams! Now don't get too excited - it only has one size. I lucked out, because it happened to be my size. BUT if you have a one-piece suit pattern you love, you can use the princess seams from this pattern almost as a "stencil" or guide to modify the pattern you already have. Nifty, huh??

From here, I have to hack! Let's start by drafting the cross-over piece. As you can see in the image above, the swim suit I adapted has straps. My inspiration, of course, does not. So I start by drawing a straight line from the outside corner of the strap piece (plus 3/8 seam allowance), skimming the top of the scoop neckline (trusting and preserving Ralph Pink's drafting of a modestly cut suit!) straight down to the fold. At the fold (dotted line) I flipped my pattern piece over, traced the outside seam, and continued my new neckline straight down until it intersected the side of the pattern piece.

Ta-da! This will be my starting point for my crossover piece. There's no magic involved here, we won't know how it works out until we do our muslin.

**Please Note, I will add the same 3/8" seam allowance onto ever new seam I create. The margin in the above pattern pieces are the seam allowances as they were drafted, so I won't need to add seam allowances there.**

Our side panels will stay the same for now, but we have to turn our attention around to....

...the back! The free Ralph Pink suit with the princess seams has back-darts. That would complicate things for me and my hacking intentions, so I borrowed the back piece from this one instead! No darts, one piece, just what the doctor ordered. I cut this new back piece at the waistline,  and brought my Jalie pattern piece out for comparison. 

"WHAT? why did you need that?? It's a totally different pattern!"

But is it, really? Swim suits are meant to fit like a second skin, and my Jalie suit fits just how I want it. When I overlap the waistline seam allowances of my adjusted Ralph Pink pattern pieces, they should match up pretty perfectly with my Jalie piece. Where they don't, this is my time to adjust them. Then it's on to the MUSLIN!

Remember: Muslins are a super simplified version of whatever you're sewing. So, since I'm doing this in the privacy of my own home, I'm going to skip the lining+outer layer, and the finished edges. One layer will be enough to show me fit. 

I assembled my back/sides/front pieces this way:

And then overlapped my mirror-image front center pieces and stitched them to the front waistline. Sew up those princess seams, and here's what I'm left with! (Don't worry, there are more images of those steps post-muslin.) 

From here, I pinned my seams to fix my fit. Mostly this meant increasing the seam allowance at the waistline, and taking in the side seams a bit. Super easy fixes - but hey - this is why we muslin!! (That's a scrap piece of FOE wonder-clipped to the top of my swimsuit to hold it up, by the way. I keep things SIMPLE for my muslins!) 

I transferred all adjustments...  

Transferring my adjustments!

A photo posted by Becca DuVal (@beccaduvalphoto) on

And now I'm ready to roll with my final fabric! Which I got from Imagine Gnats. It's excellent quality - and the heavier weight of these swim knits (compared to the flimsy stuff I've used from chain stores) acts almost like compression knit. Who doesn't want a little extra compression in their swim suit?? Hide those lumps and bumps, my pretty swim fabric, hide them good!

Ready to tally the bathing suit votes and cut into my lining for a final fit! #measure1000times #cutonce

A photo posted by Becca DuVal (@beccaduvalphoto) on

I cut 1 pair, mirror image, of my final cross-over piece. Once in my exterior fabric, once in my lining. I spray basted wrong-sides-together the lining and exterior for good measure (swim knit is slippery, yo!) and serged the neckline. With a large zig zag, I basted my clear elastic on the lining-side of that freshly serged edge.

Then I folded that edge overtop of the elastic, and did a narrow zig-zag in a matching thread color. (If you're sewing trim to this edge, do that now as well. I was undecided about the trim, and tacked it on later in the process, so don't be surprised when it pops up in later photos!)

FYI, I'm using a walking foot here and a new sharp needle. I don't sew swim wear any other way. And remember - always sew with some sort of stretch stitch - even your trims!

FYI, I'm using a walking foot here and a new sharp needle. I don't sew swim wear any other way. And remember - always sew with some sort of stretch stitch - even your trims!

With our front crossover pieces complete, we can now attach them to the bottom pieces. Thankfully, wherever there's a lining, there's a good chance that we can entirely enclose our seams. Don't you love when the inside of a garment can look as pretty as the outside!?

Pin your fold-over pieces together, then sandwich them right sides together and right sides together with the lining and exterior for the bottom middle piece. Sew along this edge.

Now let's sew the rest of the suit, the lining and the exterior, the same way I demoed with the muslin, BUT SKIP SEWING THE CROTCH SEAM! We'll get back to that one, promise :)

We're going to enclose our side seams now, too, sandwiching linings RST and exterior fabrics RST along the princess seams. SEW PRINCESS SEAMS SLOWLY, AND PIN THEM TOGETHER FIRST. It's important to preserving the intended shape of the garment that you carefully stretch and stitch them without warping the seam. (My serger kind of got hung up on the bulk at this seam so they don't lay as smoothly as I'd like. I'd probably stick to sewing this seam on the machine.)

The last seam we need to enclose is the crotch. Once again, sandwiching the linings and the exterior fabrics RST.

Now look how pretty! Outside vs Inside:

Before I can add elastic to the edges, I need to add the rest of my trims. Again - with a large zig zag in a coordinating color, and both trims are elastic. (If it doesn't stretch, you won't be able to get this thing on!)

To accentuate the desired "hourglass" shape, I attached my ruffle trim to the OUTSIDE of the princess seam at the bust, the INSIDE of the princess seam at the waist, and again to the OUTSIDE at the hip. It's the difference of maybe an extra half inch in each place, but I like to think it adds more curves where I'd like to have them (and fewer where I do!).

With these trims attached, finish your leg holes with the same 1:1 clear elastic ratio we did already at the neckline seams. You know the drill now - fold over and zig-zag!

Now we're at the last raw edge - the one that spans from the outside of the front straps, under the armpits, around the back, and up the other side. The inspiration has bias tape finish around this part. Now that I'm able to try this suit on, I can pretty well guess that they chose a bias binding for two reasons: (1) to enclose an itchy, ugly, bulk princess seam with 4 layers of fabric and 1 layer of trim, and (2) to easily create their tie straps. 

So I'll roll with it! Pretty-up this last raw edge with a quick pass through the serger. Cut your bias tape the length of the raw edge, plus a least 12 inches of strap on either side. Starting with the middle back, and the middle of your bias tape, pin the bias tape right-sides-together to the INSIDE of the garment. Keep pinning until you get under the armpit and up around to the front side of the suit. Leave your 12+ inches of bias  extending from this point to become your straps later. Sew this in place.

Sorry, no pictures here, my machine and I were having a bit of a lovers quarrel. For a good bias tape visual, check out this post

We're still going to use clear elastic to preserve the shape of our swimsuit, so zig-zag baste it (again, 1:1 ratio) along the OUTSIDE of this edge. (Remember, you just attached your binding to the INSIDE) Then you're going to wrap your bias tape around to the outside of the garment (concealing that raw edge), and tuck it under your clear elastic. Hold the elastic and bias tape in place with wonder clips. Continue enclosing the raw ends of your bias tape through to each end for beautiful straps. Then with a small zig-zag in a coordinating thread, stitch at the very edge of the bias tape to hold everything in place.

Tie knots at each end of your straps - and WEAR that thing! You know you want to! 

If you're well endowed (NOT ME!) or used flimsier swim knit, you might want to invest in some swimsuit cups. I found mine at my local fabric and crafts store, and then basted them to the lining one the suit was completed. 

heck out how beautiful that is! Imagine Gnats knows how to stock awesome swim coordinates

I call this my "wonder woman" suit. Mostly because the trim "belt" is made up of a consecutive gold wonder woman logo "W"s and an overall high-waisted silhouette. And because I feel WONDERful in it :)

What do you think?? Are you up for the swimsuit hack?? Would you rock this style? What should my next hack in this new "Hacker Series" be?? Let me know, below!