Sewing · Tutorials and Hacks

Making the swimsuit of my dreams! (Pilatus swimsuit/Maxine pants pattern mashup)

I actually made this swimsuit in Summer 2020, I just haven’t got around to writing it up until now! I had sewn swimwear before (when I made this Sophie bikini), but at that time I was still a complete beginner. I’m still really proud of that swimsuit, but there are a lot of things I would change about it! Plus, it didn’t fit me anymore, so it was definitely time to make a replacement.

I’d had this Liberty swim fabric in my stash for ages, just waiting for the perfect pattern to come along… in the end, I kind of made up my own pattern, by mashing up a couple of existing ones.

I loved the tie-front detail on the Opian Pilatus pattern, but wasn’t a fan of the ’80s high-leg, hungry-bum thing it had going on, so I basically subbed in the Evie la Luve Maxine pants on the bottom half of the suit. On a normal suit this would have created all sorts of problems with the waist sizes not matching each other, but in this case the top only joins the bottom at the sides (to create a faux-bikini effect) so I figured I could make it work.

According to the Opian size chart, I was in between sizes 2 and 3 in the waist, and my bust was too small to actually be on the chart at all… so I ended up cutting a size 1 in the bust, and grading out to a 2 at the waist. The best thing about this pattern is that the tie front makes the bust size completely adjustable! So I knew I could just tie it a bit tighter and the fit would be fine.

The Maxine pants have been one of my go-to underwear patterns for ages, so I was confident they would fit. I’ve made many adjustments to them over time, but the ones I can remember are:

  • Grading from a size XXS at the waist to a XS at the hips- I must have had slightly different measurements when I first made them, because if I made them now I wouldn’t bother grading and would just cut a straight size XS instead. They still fit fine though, so I haven’t recut them… yet!
  • Making a swayback adjustment of a few cm
  • Reducing the gusset width

Normally I sew in underwear elastic intuitively, but I’m not as confident with swimwear elastic because it has a firmer stretch. So instead, I tried on an existing pair of Maxine pants and wrapped a piece of swimwear elastic around the leg openings until it felt like the right length- secure but not cutting in. I added seam allowances to the elastic and cut two, one for each leg opening. I sewed the leg elastics into loops before inserting them, and used the quartering method to evenly distribute the stretch. This method worked well, although I would prefer the bottom of the swimsuit to have a bit more coverage next time (swimsuit fabric doesn’t stretch as easily as cotton jersey, so even if you make up the exact same pattern it won’t cover as much of your body).

I didn’t change anything about the top half of the swimsuit, except for adding lots of extra zig-zag topstitching. I basically topstitched EVERYTHING that could possibly be topstitched! I think this makes the suit look really neat and professional, because it stops the bow looking all weird and puffy, and stops the lining from rolling to the outside.

Speaking of lining… I lined the top half of the suit with leftover black fabric from my Sophie swimsuit, lined the front half of the bottoms with power mesh, and the back half with nude swimwear lining. There wasn’t any particular reason I used three different fabrics, I was just trying to use what I had to hand!

I can’t say enough good things about this Liberty fabric: it was well-behaved when I was sewing it, and has a weight that makes it feel like really good quality. I’ve worn this suit in the sea a couple of times, and it didn’t do that annoying saggy thing that cheaper polyesters sometimes do! It’s more expensive than other swimwear fabrics (about £30 per metre) but depending on your size and what style of suit you’re making it will still probably end up cheaper than a good quality RTW one. I bought my fabric from Sister Mintaka, and whilst they don’t have the print I used in stock anymore, they do have this floral one. Oh, and did I mention it’s made with recycled nylon?

I actually made this swimsuit in a single day, which I still can’t quite believe! My sew-jo has been absent so far this year, so it’s weird to look back at a more productive time in my sewing life…

So there you have it, my swimsuit of dreams! Well done if you’ve made it through this whole post- I know it’s quite dense but I wanted to be thorough so it might help any swimwear-sewing newbies reading this! Give swimwear sewing a go, it’s not as hard as it looks and whatever you make will definitely be nicer than what you could get in a shop.

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