Applique Bikini Hack!

Since swimsuit season started (which is right after Valentine’s Day according to the ever strange advertising schedule of big box stores) I’ve been lusting over the applique swim bikini’s I’ve seen in those annoying (but sometimes useful) ads on Facebook. I was stymied, however, by what type of appliqué would be suitable for swim.

Well, one day I gave up and dragged all three children to the mall (it was quite a sacrifice. You’re welcome) and did a little undercover research- and guess what? They’re all cotton appliqués, just like the ones I already had!

Spoiler alert: it’s now my favorite bikini- and has held up quite well to my adventures in the surf, especially as it’s stabilized with swim elastic on all the edges except the neck (more on that below).

I wasn’t entirely sure while I was making this top that it would work out- but it DID and I’m thrilled with it! To make the set even more versatile, I also sewed up a pair of Jalie Gigi bikini bottoms  *for those times when i do remember to shave!

I actually started this hack with the new Rockstar Pattern from Harristar designs, but it wasn’t designed for swim and came out WAY too big, despite sizing down for the built in bra portion, so I turned to my TNT (tried and true) swim top pattern- the Escapade from 5 out of 4 (made before here ), and got hacking!

I’ll share a photo tutorial below, but essentially I:

  • Eliminated the center ruching and ties
  • Used a double fold binding around the edges and for the ties rather than a channel
  • Stabilized the straps/binding edges with swim elastic
  • Added an applique to the front while binding the edges

The applique was sewn in much the same way as my Sunset Cami Lace/binding tutorial (see that here), so if there aren’t enough photos/explanation below, I encourage you to check out that post!

The feather print swim fabric is from Sly Fox Fabrics (designed by Jessica Hooley of the DIBY Club) and is available for retail purchase NOW! I made a Mama/baby sommer dress with it before HERE.

The gold swim is from Sew Vagabond– they have an amazing selection of high quality swim and activewear fabrics (as well as wovens and knits!). You’ll be seeing alot more of them- I’m pretty sure Emily just reads my mind when she goes fabric shopping!

Ready for the hack? Let’s do it!

Gather your supplies:

Step 1:

Cut out your escapade bra pieces out of your main fabric and lining. (You can choose either the bikini or tankini/dress version for this hack). You’ll also need to cut:

  • 1 front binding (1.75 by 80% of the front neckline)
  • 1 back neck binding/straps (1.75 by 55-60″).
  • 1 piece for the bottom band. I cut mine 3″ by 80% of the width of my ribcage where the top sits
  • bottom band elastic per pattern tutorial

Step 2:

Sew the main and lining together at the side seams, and then place wrong sides together and baste around the top and bottom. All seams will be enclosed.

Step 3:

Using your front binding piece, bind the front neckline (treating the lining and main fabric as one). I do this in the same way as I showed on my Moxi Shorts video, placing the right side of the binding to the wrong side of the bra piece (lining side), and serging. I fold that edge up, down over the seam allowance, and under, enclosing all raw edges. I topstitch from the right side to make it easier to stitch evenly. I did not put elastic in this edge since it isn’t going to stretch.

Step 4:

Cut your appliqué to fit if necessary. Use the finished edge of the applique for the top and bottom- the sides can be cut to fit the width of your bodice because they will be enclosed in the binding. Use wash away wonder tape (or a million pins) to attach your appliqué to the front, overlapping slightly with the top of your bodice. Stitch it down to the bodice, across the bottom of the applique. It isn’t going to need to strech much, but you can use a lightening stitch here if you prefer.

Step 5:

Mark the center of your strap/back binding piece. Place it right sides to the wrong side of the bra, starting in the center back and stitching out toward the sides and around the arm of your bodice. When you get to the applique, keep going, stitching the binding to the applique. I don’t have a good photo for this step (too much chatting with a friend while I was sewing!) but here’s a photo from my lace cami tutorial that shows how to apply the binding, only using lace instead of an appliqué.

Step 6:

Apply elastic. Serge or zig zag swim elastic to the seam allowance on the right side of your swim top/strap binding, all the way down the straps and across the back of the bra. Looking at it from the top, you should now have swim elastic, applique/main fabric, and binding. Again, sorry there’s no photo here! If you’re confused, let me know and I’ll do my best to help! The elastic just gets sandwiched between the binding and the front edge. You can see it peeking out in the photo below.

Step 7:

Fold the binding up and over, making sure to cover the elastic. This is the tricky part- wonder tape, clips or many, many pins are your friend. You can see on the left in the picture how the binding will need to be pulled over to cover the elastic on the right side of the top.

Note: You COULD change the way you sew the binding to make the elastic easier to hide, by sewing the binding onto the front with right sides together, then serging the elastic to this seam allowance. However, this makes it harder to catch the back fold when stitching it down from the right side, so I like my way better!

Step 8:

Sew the binding down, around the entire back and up both straps. Use a stretch stitch (as I did), a coverstitch, or a zigzag here. Make sure your applique is fully enclosed at the sides in the binding.

Step 9:

Cut your 3/4″ elastic as described in the pattern for the under bust elastic, and grab the bottom band piece you cut earlier.

Sew the short edges of your hem band together, and then fold it wrong sides together. Slide the elastic into the folded edge.

Sew/serge the band with the elastic inside to the bottom edge of your bikini top (or use the skirt included in the pattern if doing a tankini, and finish the bra per pattern instructions).

View from the inside of the finished top:

There you have it! A trendy, applique swim top with matching bottoms! Time to hit the beach (or the pool. Or the creek! Just find a source of water STAT!)

Note: this top is nursing friendly because I can nurse out the sides-Winning!

If you love the separates look but not bikini bottoms, stay tuned for some matching swim shorts releasing soon from 5 out of 4!

Ahh….beach sunsets. It doesn’t get any better than that!

In case you’re picturing me just relaxing the whole time…remember, this was a FAMILY vacation. These guys just LOVED the sand and the surf…and they played HARD all. day. long.

Someone even got tired out, so I got to have some beach baby snuggles!

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial! You can find all the tutorials on the top of my blog, or by clicking the link HERE. If you make something with this tutorial, please share it with me on Facebook on my page, or with a tag #swshacks!

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  1. Auschick on July 8, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    I love this!!

    • Sarah on July 8, 2017 at 1:08 pm

      Thank you!!!

  2. […] all the packing, I whipped up two versions- the first to match my appliqué bikini (see that hack here). I chose the extra low rise, shortie, colorblocked option for a sporty look. They came together […]

  3. Abigail on July 10, 2017 at 11:35 am

    Sarah this is sooooooooo beyond pretty! It looks so fancy boutique like! Best part about sewing right?

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