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Project Diary: Sarai’s floral swimsuit, part 1

I was determined to make myself a new swimsuit this year, for three reasons:

  1. The whole Colette team was planning a river floating day.
  2. I planned a trip to Palm Springs this year.
  3. Last year, while goofing off in a lake and climbing on a log, I managed to rip the crotch of my old swimsuit almost in half on a nail. I was literally hanging from the crotch of my swimsuit in the water, totally stuck. I had to play it cool while struggling to unhook myself, then crab walk out of the water and wrap myself in a towel. Oops.

So that brings me to this year.

I wanted two things in a swimsuit this year. First, I wanted something that showed a bit more skin than the typical one-piece, but I didn’t really want a bikini. Second, I wanted FLORAL. Because I just love floral everything.


The pattern and fabric


I was totally inspired when I saw this vintage pattern and immediately scooped it up. I guess they’re calling this a monokini now, though I associate the monokini with the famous Rudi Gernreich topless swimsuit.

I wasn’t totally sure that something obviously intended for a lithe 1970s model body would work on my frame, but I figured I’d give it a shot. I’m sort of tired of worrying about how high my boobs are hoisted, you know?

Next, I sought out some nice lush floral swimwear fabric. I ended up with this one from Fabrics World, which is absolutely perfect. I also got some donut fabric while I was at it which I intend to make into workout shorts, by the way.


Here’s another floral fabric I was considering, which I think is equally pretty.


First, I sewed this out of the envelope and it came out big on me. I think much of this has to do with the fabric. Being an older pattern, I’m sure it wasn’t intended for super stretchy spandex. I ended up taking about four inches out of the hips, and the next time I make it, I’ll probably grade the whole thing way down.


I made one major change that I highly recommend, which is that I swapped out the bias tape it specified for fold over elastic. This made the whole thing a very very quick and easy project. In fact, if you go this route, this is a great swimsuit for those new to sewing swim or lingerie.

This was almost entirely sewn without a serger, and you could easily make it without one, which is nice. Just a lot of zigzagging.


I was unsure whether to line it, but in the end I opted not to. If I had, it might have reduced the amount of stretch, which could have been a good thing, I’m not sure. But the fabric really didn’t need a lining, and now that I’ve worn it in the water, I’m confident it isn’t necessary.


I’m pretty jazzed about how the suit turned out, small fit adjustments for next time aside. I managed to get Kenn to snap a lot of photos in Palm Springs on vacation, and I’ll share the finished suit next week in part 2!

Look for those photos Monday.


Sarai Mitnick


Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.



August 15, 2016 #

Such pretty fabric! Can’t wait to see the finished product. And by the way, I love the idea of donut workout shorts?


August 16, 2016 #

I can’t wait to make them. I’m going to copy my favorite pair of workout shorts, so excited to wear them even if I only train at home and Kenn is the only person who sees me, ha!


August 17, 2016 #

Love, love, love the idea of donut workout shorts!

Barb Barna

August 15, 2016 #

Love the fabric and the techniques…I too used a vintage pattern to make my latest suit, and it came out huge. I gifted it to my dear sister who is a few sizes larger than I , as it it so much ruching and elastic, it would have been difficult to take in. I am going to try the Jalie tankini next, as their patterns seem to fit me better in general. Looing forward to the final photos.


August 15, 2016 #

Did you buy enough fabric to make two? or had other spandex for a test run. I’m constantly overbuying fabric. Just curious how you tackled the “Muslin” for a swimsuit.


August 16, 2016 #

I did! That’s the great thing about making swimsuits, they take so little fabric I always have enough for a practice run.


August 15, 2016 #

Me too about the muslin for this. True that there wasn’t stretch spandex when this pattern came out. I remember making my bikinis out of double-face cotton in the 1970s. In fact, I remember the monokini as well, not that I ever wore or saw one in action back then!


August 16, 2016 #

Oh, lovely fabric! i remember monokinis too – just in vogue – and god they were brutal.

Deborah Morrison

August 16, 2016 #

Eep! Floral fabric and a vintage pattern. You are brilliant.


August 16, 2016 #

Love this fabric too! So hard to find floral swimsuit fabric – it would be nice in a pair of leggings too! I also love your idea for fold over elastic which I’ve fallen in love with for neck and arm openings. I can’t wait to see the pictures of it finished on you.


August 16, 2016 #

From a practical point of view, this style of suit is so great! Not only does it cover up a bit more to help us feel more modest/confident, but since the back is open, it’s still easy access for bathroom breaks! TMI, I’m sure, but seriously something to consider–especially when you’re in the woods!


August 22, 2016 #

Thanks for the double fold elastic tip! I have swimsuit fabric sitting around waiting for me to brave it, and that seems so much less daunting!


August 23, 2016 #

Can I ask what pattern number this is? I love how this suit turned out and think I need to find this pattern ASAP!


August 23, 2016 #

It’s Butterick 5449. Sorry, I should have included that. :)