I love summertime and I am getting excited for some fun trips coming up this year that involve water so I started to scheme up an easy swimsuit cover-up. After going through a pile of t-shirts my husband was getting rid of I had the perfect idea that would ALSO help me conquer my fear of using elastic thread! Here we go.

Quick and Easy Swimsuit Cover-up


-3 t-shirts, or however many color strips you want (I cut 10″ from each of my 3 tshirts). It is best to use t-shirts that are about the same size to start with.

-elastic thread

Step 1. Take the total length that you want your cover-up to be (mine was about 30″, but you could also get this by measuring your body or a dress that you like the length of from armpit to hem) and divide that by the number of stripes: mine was 30″ / 3 stripes = 10″ stripes.

Step 2. Decide which shirt you want as the bottom stripe of your cover-up. Carefully lay out that shirt, smoothing out the wrinkles. Measuring from the bottom hem of the shirt cut your stripe (mine was 10″). You will use the bottom hem of the shirt as the bottom hem of your cover-up! Easy peasy.

Step 3. Decide which shirt you want for the middle stripe. Cut a 10″ strip of that, cutting off the bottom hem of the shirt.

Step 4. For your top stripe measure 10″ that includes the bottom hem of the shirt – you will use this as the top hem of your cover-up! No hem sewing for us!

You should now have your stripes cut! On to the sewing.

Step 5. Now you will sew the stripes together. Start by pinning the side-seams together and then try to pin the shirts so that they match together. This can be tricky if one shirt is wider then the other. If you have a hard time you can always do a gathering stitch to make your layers gathered a little! After you pin sew those stripes together being sure to sew so that the natural t-shirt hems are left as the top and bottom of your cover-up.

Step 6. Iron your seams.

Step 7.  Now comes the “fun” part, or should I say the scary part…for me at least. ELASTIC THREAD.

Some people LOVE elastic thread and say it is SO easy to use. Well. Every time I try and use it it kind of is a disaster, but I was determined to figure this out.

First you want to take your elastic thread and wind it around a bobbin. Do this by hand and don’t pull too tight and don’t leave it too loose! Just gently wind it around.

Step 8. Now we are going to smock the top of our cover-up with the elastic thread. Load your elastic thread bobbin in your machine just like a regular bobbin. Switch  your stitch length to the longest stitch. Back-stitch at the beginning to secure the thread and then sew all the way around.  As you go along it should start to gather behind you, more so with the more rows you do.

You can do your rows as far or as close together as you want depending on the look you are going for. Instead of stopping and starting with each new row I just continued to loop around and around the tshirt, never stopping.

I found this tutorial to be the most help as I went along.

Step 9. Gently press the smocking with your iron, pressing and lifting not pulling the iron around like usual. Throw your finished product in the washer and dryer and it will help tighten up your smocking too!

And there you go! Easy and cute and comfy. Perfecto.

You may have noticed that I ended up with different t-shirts then I started with. Welllll that’s because I had to do the shirring part 3 TIMES! That’s right. Elastic thread…not my friend. Here is what I did wrong:

MISTAKE 1 – I didn’t smooth the wrinkles out before I sewed with the elastic thread so I was sewing the gathers in and the stripe ended up being 3 times too small. It shouldn’t look like this:

Wrong. Just be sure to stretch the fabric so there are no ruffles when it goes under the presser foot! The tutorial I linked to makes this really clear, so just follow that!

MISTAKE 2: The second time I tried I forgot to change my stitch length to the longest length. This time my fabric was NOT smocking hardly at all. So I threw that one away as well.

Third time’s the charm I guess!

Hopefully my mistakes and frustrations with elastic thread will help you get it right the FIRST time!

How to sew a quick and easy swimsuit cover-up