Swimming is an inherently vulnerable activity. From wearing a swimsuit in public to dipping your toes in less-than-lukewarm water (not to mention the swimming itself!)—sometimes there can be a lot of fear that gets in the way of really enjoying yourself in the water. Luckily, sewing your own swimsuit is a great way to overcome some of these obstacles. If you prefer to have the padding of foam cups in your bathing suits, look no further! Today I will show you an easy way to add bra cups to your Sandpiper Swimsuit.
How to Add Foam Cups to the Sandpiper Swimsuit
Pick your Sandpiper size and cut out your fabric and lining accordingly (I used View B in the example below, but you’ll follow the same steps for either view).
You will also need a pair of swim-friendly foam cups—try to find something labelled specifically for swim (these are less likely to get waterlogged). I purchased this brand on Amazon, but you can also find cups from Dritz at many craft stores that would work just as well. Alternatively, you can sew your own custom bra cups using foam. Cloth Habit has a great series of tutorials on how to do that here.
The first step is to baste the lining together and try it on. Make sure the right side of the lining is facing towards your body, and the seam allowances are facing out, just like it will be worn when the swimsuit is complete. This is a good opportunity to identify any potential fit issues and make changes to your pattern if necessary.
Next, slide the cups underneath the lining and place them where you want them to sit on your bust. This will vary widely from person to person, and they may not be symmetrical! This is normal, and one of the benefits of placing your cups this way.
Keep in mind the the armholes and neck will be cinched in with elastic later, so don’t place the cups any closer than 5/8″ (1.5 cm) from the armhole edge. You want to leave room for the elastic to fold over later!
Using scissors, cut an X into the lining fabric to create more room for the cups. The size you cut will depend on how much tension there is in the lining fabric. The larger your bust, the more tension will need to be released. The goal is to maintain some stretch to provide support to the suit and bust, but enough slack that you can easily pin and sew the cups in place.
Once the tension looks right and you are happy with where both cups are placed, pin them in place.
Remove the basted stitches from the lining. Set the Top Back lining piece aside.
Optional: If you plan to make Sandpiper more than once and want to skip the basting and cup placement process next time, you can use a fabric pen to mark your cup placement on the lining. Remove the pins, transfer your markings to the pattern piece, and then repin the cups in place.
Take the Top Front lining piece with the pinned cups to the sewing machine. Sew a zig zag stitch all around the edge of the foam cups to securely attach them to the lining.
On the wrong side of the lining fabric, trim away the excess fabric to reduce bulk (don’t worry—the fabric won’t fray). I found that appliqué scissors made this step a little easier, but feel free to use regular scissors if that’s what you have on hand.
Now you will continue to sew Sandpiper per the instructions.
Voila! You’ve successfully added foam cups to your Sandpiper Swimsuit lining.
I’ve already made a Sandpiper Swimsuit, can I still add foam cups?
Yes! You will need to cut two slits into the lining where you want to place the cups, slip the cups under the lining, and hand sew them in place. The lining can either be sewn back closed or trimmed away once the cups are securely attached. The finish won’t be as “clean” as the method above, but you can do this to add cups to any swimsuit already in your closet.
I need more support. Is it possible to add an underwire?
While foam cups will add some modesty and shaping, they will not provide much bust support above and beyond the sporty fit of Sandpiper. If you want to add an underwire bra to your suit, I recommend checking out this great tutorial from Elaine on the Curvy Sewing Collective.
What an excellent tutorial. So clear and concise. Definitely gave me the confidence to try!
This is often the “touble” area for me when fitting/appearing in a bathing suit, so thanks very much Helen for taking the time for this tutorial!
Thank you for this tutorial! My store bought swimsuit has removable cups and I hate the way I have to reposition them after each wash — love the idea of positioning them relative to me and sewing them in permanently. Will definitely try this hack!
Hi, I was wondering if the sandpiper could be hacked into a one piece easily?
It would be easy to connect the two halves of Sandpiper but you will need to add a zipper or change the back neck so you can get in and out of it. I think a front or back zip would be cool and sporty!