Quite a few years back, Patagonia used to make a nifty skirt that was made from lycra, just like a bathing suit. Unfortunately, they don’t now, so I’ve been making my own the past couple of years. They’re easy to pack, they don’t wrinkle, and if you have a wet rear from surfing or diving, it’s ok with this material. I take three or four with me to the Keys on diving trips, they’re the easiest thing to change out of my swimsuit right there at the dock or beach, and still use it to go out to Lorelei’s later.
First, I picked up some lycra at the fabric store- it’s usually in the swim/activewear section. For this simple skirt, I highly advise to choose a lycra that has a random print so the seam will not be as obvious. Lycra’s a little pricey, but if you’ve got a 40% off coupon (all the fabric stores have those these days), it’s still better than the $60 they were asking you to shell out at the store.
|Same stuff as a bathing suit’s made of|
Before getting the material cut at the store or ordering it, make sure you measure the widest part of your hips, leaving a little looseness in there- you don’t want the hips and rear to be form fitting, the waist will be fitted using elastic.
Basically, you’re going to sew up a tube- this is the simplest garment to make as far as sewing’s concerned. The material’s a bit of a challenge, though, so it’s a good step up project.
First, fold the material over until it’s half the measurement you took loosely around your hips, plus 2 inches. The 2 inches is going to be the seam allowance. It’s a bit wide, but I’ve found it keeps the stitching line laying flat when sewing so you don’t get a funky puckered seam.
Pin the fabric together, but only at the outer edges- don’t pin anywhere in the center or you may put a run in the fabric.
|Pinning only in the seam allowance|
I cut off the excess material, saving it for whatever. Next, I’m going to cut to top edge (waist) perfectly straight using my rotary cutter and a straight edge so I get a sharp line.
|Squaring off the top edge|
When I start to sew down the side, I will make sure this edge is at the top when I start. Then I pin the thing on the borders like crazy, since lycra will shift around like mad.
Before sewing, I will change my needle out to a ballpoint needle designed for knits. I used a 75 ballpoint stretch, since this lycra’s pretty light material, compared to, say, denim.
|Use a needle only for lycra fabric.|
I used regular white poly thread and set my machine to do a long zig zag stitch (2.0 length, 1.5 width) down the one side seam. On knits, you need to do zig zag since there’s stretch in the fabric and you don’t want to bend over or to the side and have the stitches pop out.
I used a guide to make sure I stayed 2 inches from the edge and sewed SLOWLY, making sure the two layers didn’t shift around under each other. DON’T pull the fabric through, and make sure you support the weight of the fabric or you’ll get a gnarly puckered seam:
|Making the side seam|
After sewing down the side, cut the seam allowance off to about 1/4″ from the sewing line- there’s no need to use pinking shears:
|Trimming the seam allowance off.|
Once you’ve sewn down the side, you should have a large tube! Now what?
Next, I’m going to make the casing for the waist so I can put some elastic through to make a waist. I’m using 3/4″ no-roll elastic and 1/2″ Steam-A-Seam Strips to keep the casing folded over when I sew. It helps me greatly to use this, or any other type of stay adhesive on this part, since the casing’s kind of tricky.
I’m going to iron the casing over, making sure I fold the top over 1 1/2″ inches- 1/2″ for the adhesive (which bonds to the fabric), plus the 3/4″ for the elastic, plus 1/4″ to make sure the elastic lays smoothly in the casing.
|Measuring before I form the casing.|
I will adhere the edge down at 1 1/2″, using a medium iron setting. Then, I’m going to use the same zig zag stitch as before to sew it down, 1 inch away from the top edge. Make sure you leave a small opening so you can thread your elastic through the waist!!!
|Using the guide to sew 1 inch away from top edge|
Now, you have a choice before you start threading the elastic into the waist casing. You can finish the bottom edge, or you can leave it raw, since lycra doesn’t fray. Either way, square up the bottom, like you did for the top, and use the rotary cutter to make a clean straight edge.
If you want to make a hem, and don’t have a serger (like me- that stinks!!!), you can use a twin needle for stretch fabrics:
This makes a cool hem edge:
|Bottom hem edge with the twin needle|
Next, I’m going to thread the elastic through the top casing using a tool called a bodkin. It looks like a pair of tweezers, but clamps onto the end of the elastic and makes threading a lot easier. In a pinch, you can attach a large safety pin to one end and feed the elastic through the casing that way:
|Using the bodkin|
|These will be on top of each other- just staggered for the photo|
The mark is where you’ll sew, using a zig zag stitch, once again:
|Sewing the elastic together.|
Make sure you DO NOT PULL at the elastic while sewing.
Once you’ve finished, trim off the ends of the elastic, and adjust the elastic waist back into the casing. Stitch up the hole you left in the casing using the same zig zag stitch, and you’re DONE!
Here’s some ways to wear your creation:
|Hanging out at the beach|
|Going to the store, or changing out of your suit|
|Going out to the bar after surfing|
And fellow surfer girls- the skirt is bulletproof against those dudes spilling their nasty Natty Ice all over you to get your digits. The dude spilling his Dos Equis on you, however, may get a chance. He IS the most interesting man in the world, you know.