Online Patternmaking Classes
by Don McCunn
Swimsuits Home Page   ►  Week One

Creating Bikini Tops & Variations

During this week you will learn how to create a Bikini Top pattern that can be used to create variations.


Bikini Top Designs

The first step in creating a Bikini Top is to establish the design lines, see pages 12 through 14 of my book. The Bikini Top Pattern pdf file may be downloaded, printed, and used to create a record of the bikini tops you create.

To measure for a Bikini Top you may wish to work with a fitting buddy. If you do not have a fitting buddy to help, you can easily take these measurements on your own. The DIY videos show the Do-It-Yourself process.

Bikini Top Design

Measuring the Bikini Top

Draping a Bikini Top and Skirt

DIY Measuring the Bikini Top

Draping a DIY Bikini Top

Bikini Top Patterns

Once you have the measurements, you can draft the patterns. You will find the instructions for doing this on the same pages that described the measurements.

Drafting the Pattern

Creating a Pattern from Draped Top

Sewing a Bikini Top

It is a good idea to keep the original draft of the Bikini top as a record of the initial shape you created. Then when you create the patterns for individual Bikini Tops use copies of this original shape. This is important because, depending on the style you are creating, you will be adding different kinds of allowances for elastic, cording, rings, etc.

The first video below shows how to add the allowances to the pattern for elastic and cording, see also page 14 of my book. The third video is for people new to sewing. It goes over the basics of how to cut fabric and mark darts.

Adding Elastic & Cording Allowances

Sewing a Trial Muslin

Cutting and Marking Fabric

Edge Finishes

One of the main differences between sewing for swimsuits and lingerie is the type of edge finish you use. The videos below give examples for different finishes using scraps of fabric. I have used contrasting thread for clarity. Unless you have a very sure hand I suggest you use a thread that is appropriate for your fashion fabric.

Swimsuit Edge Finish

Lingerie Edge Finish

Foldover Elastic Edge Finish

Corded Bikini Top

Corded Bikini Top

The instructions for the Corded Bikini Top show how to create cording using fashion fabric. This is a fairly easy top to create and can be adjusted quite easily for fit because the tops slide along the cording.

The length of the cording for the rib cage should be the distance around the rib cage plus 24" for ties. The cording for the neck should be twice the distance around the neck from bikini top to bikini top plus 24" for ties. If you are going to sew the cording to the bikini top and only use a single length of cord up to the neck, add 12" to the length from the bikini to the center back of the neck.

When you sew the cording you will need elastic that is at least twice as long as the desired cord. For step-by-step written instructions, see page 20 in the book.

Design Concept

Creating the Cording


Sew the Elastic

Sew the Cording Into the Top

Tied Bikini Top

Tied Bikini Top

This Bikini Top is finished with the elastic enclosed inside the bikini top between the fashion fabric and the lining. For step-by-step written instructions, see page 21 in the book.

For the neck tie measure from the bikini top up to the center back of the neck and add 12" for the tie. Cut these ties 2 times the finished width plus 1" for two 1/2" seam allowances. For the rib cage tie add 24" to the rib cage measurement. Cut these ties 2 times the finished width plus 1" for two 1/2" seam allowances.

Sew the Dart and Strap

Add the Lining

Sew the Rib Cage Tie

Bikini Bras

Bikini Bra

Follow the steps below to create a Bikini Bra like the one shown here. The Bikini Bra may be made from a single layer of fashion fabric or it may be a combination of lace and a fashion fabric such as Tricot as shown in the example. For the purposes of these instructions once lace is added to the solid fabric, the combined fabric will be referred to as the fashion fabric. For step-by-step written instructions, see pages 22 to 24 in the book

The Bikini Bra shown uses a fancy picot neckline elastic on the sides of the Bikini Top. There are two sides to this elastic, the decorative side with the Picot edge and the main body of the elastic which is solid. The idea is to attach the elastic so that the main body of the elastic is turned to the inside of the Bikini Top leaving the decorative edge exposed. The finished edge of fashion fabric should appear at the center of the elastic.

This design uses a ring at the top of the Bikini for the neck strap. The bottom edge of the Bikini Top is finished with 1/2" bra strap elastic on the outside and 1/2" twill tape on the inside. This design uses Bra Front Closing Clasp at center front and a 1/2" ring on the outside edge of the Bikini Top.

Prepare the Fabric & Sew the Dart

Add the Lining

Neckline Elastic

Bikini Top Ring

Front Clasp

Finish Bottom Edge

Rib Cage Strap

Neck Strap

Bikini Dress

Bikini Dress

For the skirt of the Bikini Dress, use the pattern created as described in "Draping a Bikini Top and Skirt" at the top of this week andonpage 27 of the book. Adjust the hem to the desired length. This hem can be established when the skirt is first assembled or as a final step as shown in the last video below. For this example the skirt has a center front seam to take advantage of the vertical pattern on the fabric.

For the bikini top and the rib cage band the fashion fabric is also used as the lining fabric. The rib cage band should be the rib cage measurement, plus 1" of ease, plus a 1-1/2" hook and eye overlap, plus two seam allowances. The width of the rib cage band is a design decision. For step-by-step written instructions, see page 28 in the book.

The Pattern & Skirt

The Strap

The Bikini Top

Rib Cage Band

Add the Skirt

Hemming the Skirt

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