Tutorial: Malibu Swim Top

Blogger: Deanna Mackin

Malibu Swim Top 

The Malibu dress and top pattern is the epitome of summer style with its beautiful open back and sweet flutter option.  This year I wanted to make Malibu even more ready for playing in the sun and long days on the beach by hacking it into a swim top! The swim top will be sewn using the tutorial steps in the Malibu pattern with just a few modifications.

Before Beginning:

  • Use a swim fabric as the main fabric and swim lining as the lining. Both should have 50 percent vertical and horizontal stretch.
  • Substitute a stretch stitch for a straight stitch to accommodate the knit fabric.
  • Cut the pattern (front/back bodice, elastic panel and elastic) 1 size smaller in width.
  • Use the new malibu swim strap and skirt cut charts included in this blog.
  • 3/8” (1 cm) swim and clear elastic is needed.
  • Omit topstitching.
  • Hemming can be omitted on the flutters and skirt as knit fabric does not fray.

Constructing the Straps and Flutters:

If adding the flutters, remove the seam allowance from the flutter pattern pieces to omit the hem.  To do so, draw a horizontal line 1/2” (1.3 cm) from the straight side.  Measure 1 1/4” (3 cm) from the small, angled ends of the flutter, and draw a vertical line.  Trim the flutter at these lines. This is the new flutter pattern piece.  Sew a basting stitch 1/4” (0.6 cm) from the long, straight edge. 


Cut 2 strap pieces using the cut chart provided in this blog.  The length and width have been reduced to allow for stretch and to create the perfect width for adding swim elastic. Cut two pieces of 3/8” (1 cm) swim elastic the same length as the straps.

With the strap wrong side facing up, secure the elastic to the edge with several clips.  Attach the elastic to the strap with a serger or stretch stitch.  Do not stretch the elastic or fabric while sewing. 


Place the strap right side up.  The flutter will be added to the opposite side that the elastic was attached to.  Align the flutters starting 1/2” (1.3 cm) in from either end as directed in the original tutorial.  Attach the flutters with a basting stitch using a 3/8” (1 cm) seam allowance.  The wrong side of the flutter will touch the right side of the strap fabric.  Make sure to create two mirror image straps.


Fold both long edges of the straps 3/8” (1 cm) wrong sides together, toward the center of the strap until the edges meet in the middle.  Fold the strap in half.  The new strap is now approximately 1/4 of the original width with the elastic and optional flutters sandwiched inside.  Sew to secure the straps with a stretch stitch.  If the basting stitch from the flutter is visible, it can be removed at this time. 


Constructing the Bodice

As mentioned above, cut the front and back bodice pieces, the elastic panel piece, and the 3/4" elastic one size smaller in width than the child measures for the original pattern.  If the child measures between sizes, cut between sizes and size down one size in width.  Swimsuits should have a firmer fit to account for the stretch of the fabric.  Refer to pages 11-12 in the Malibu tutorial for size blending tips.   

Trim 1/8” (0.3 cm) off one side of each of the bodice back pieces (this will be necessary for accommodating the clear elastic in later steps.)  Sew or serge the bodice front and back pieces together using a 1/2” (1.3 cm) seam allowance and repeat for the lining pieces. 


Adding 3/8” (1 cm) clear elastic will help stabilize and support the back bodice back where the tie and elastic panel are inserted. Cut two pieces of clear elastic the same length as the bodice back piece.  Attach the elastic to wrong side of the bodice main, along the long, raw edge, using a serger or stretch stitch. Be careful not to stretch the fabric or elastic. In future steps when the bodice main and lining are sewn together, do not trim the seam allowance where the clear elastic has been added. 


Follow the Malibu pattern tutorial for bodice construction up to page 27.  However, use a 3/8” (1 cm) seam allowance along the back seam to secure the back tie and elastic panel and a 1/2” (1.3 cm) seam allowance along the top of the bodice and sweetheart neckline. 

The remaining side of the elastic panel will now be finished on the inside instead of topstitching.  Start with the bodice right side up.  Pull the lining up and away from the bodice back main.  Baste the elastic panel to the bodice main only with a 1/4” (0.6 cm) seam allowance.  The right side/front of the elastic panel will touch the right side of the bodice back.  Flip the lining over and align it with the bodice back, right sides together.  Use a stretch stitch and 3/8” (1 cm) seam allowance to finish the remaining 2.5” (6.5 cm) of the bodice back.  Omit ALL topstitching on the bodice. 


Constructing the Skirt

The included skirt cut chart provides a skirt measurement that is intended to fall just below the belly button. Use the included skirt cut chart as a guide.  Adjust as desired.  Leave the hem of the skirt raw.  Attach the skirt as directed in the Malibu pattern tutorial, using a stretch stitch.  

Fabrics used in today’s blog are from Carriage House Printery.  I love having access to my favorite designer’s custom prints on over 20 fabric bases including swim fabric!  I chose Indy Bloom Design’s Peachy Sunflowers and Dots in Sunny fabrics and paired my Malibu swim top with the vintage length Laguna bottoms with ruffles. 

I hope everyone takes the plunge into sewing swim with Little Lizard King this year and we can’t wait to see photos of your #malibuswimhack 


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