TUTORIAL: Yoko's Bikini with Iron-On Vinyl

1/2 yard of black dance/swimwear fabric
1/2 yard of red dance/swimwear fabric
• red thread
• black thread
• 1 foot of red stretch iron-on vinyl
• 1 iron-on transfer sheet or silicone pressing sheet (prevents melting the fabric and the vinyl, more are optional, as they can get damaged while ironing)
• 1 already-made bikini top, preferably one around the size that you need (you're not going to cut or permanently alter this at all)
• 4 spherical red beads (I used something similar to this, fourth from the left.)

• iron and ironing board
• sewing machine
• fabric scissors (optional, but make things easier)
straight pins (lots and lots of pins)
• paper scissors (regular scissors)
• paper (2 regular 8X10 printer paper should be enough)
• pencil & eraser
• Ruler and/or measuring tape

I would highly suggest reading the directions/notes for Stretch Iron-On Vinyl on Specialty-Graphics.com to begin. I also have a few notes about iron-on vinyl of my own.

Step 1
Making the bikini pattern

There are several methods of making a pattern for a bikini top. I watched the following three on YouTube: "Design Your Own Bikini Tops" by DonMcCunn, "How to Make a Bikini" by ThreadBanger, and "How to Make a Basic Triangle Top" by GiannyL. However, this is what I ended up doing:

Remove the body string from your already-made/store-bought bikini (you can put it back in later). Flatten out and unbunch the right cup (you can leave the neck string attached) and place it face up in the middle of your paper, and lightly trace around it. You do not have to trace right up next to it, but get as close as possible. Be sure not to make your lines smaller than the actual bikini though. Move the bikini cup away from your paper and clean up your lines. At the top of the bikini where the neck string is attached, make it pointed.

Add seam allowances by measuring 5/8 of an inch away from your outline and drawing secondary lines. Keep them in the same shape as your original outline, all sides should be slightly curved. Cut out your pattern on the secondary lines, label the bottom part of the cup as "bottom" and write "right" on it on the front.

(NOTE: You can also use the left cup for this, instead of the right, just be sure you write "left" on it instead of "right".)

Step 2
Making the flames pattern

Trace your bikini pattern onto a second piece of paper near the edge of the paper. 1 1/2 inches up from the bottom, draw a curved dotted line parallel to the bottom. From that line upward, draw the flames. I used this photo as a reference. (NOTE: If you used the left bikini cup as a pattern, be sure to mirror the image.) Take note that the large middle flame faces outward from the center of the chest and comes up to about an inch and a half away from the top.

Cut out the pattern using the bottom solid line as the bottom and cutting out the flames. Label it "right".

Step 3
Cut out the fabric

Use your bikini cup pattern to cut out four cup pieces out of your black fabric. You can cut all four at once by folding your fabric twice, pin the pattern to all four layers of the fabric, and cut around it.

Measure one of the neck strings of your storebought bikini and cut two out of your black fabric. The fabric for your neck string should be the length of the storebought bikini's neck strings plus 1 inch and about 1 1/2 inches wide.

Before cutting your body string out of your red fabric, check which way your fabric stretches more. One way has more strength, and one way has more stretch. You'll want to cut your string so that it has more strength. If it has mores stretch, your threads will break when you go to put it on.

Measure the length of the body string from the store-bought bikini, and cut out a piece of fabric from your red fabric that is the length of the store-bought string plus 1 inch, and 1 and 1/2 inches wide.

Step 4
Cutting out the Flames

(This would be a good time to turn your iron on so that it can warm up.)

Place your iron-on vinyl on the table shiny side up. Put your flames patter on top of it, and trace around it with a thin permanent marker. This may be tricky, as the iron-on vinyl is slick, and the pattern may slide around. Don't worry if you mess up, it won't show on your final piece. Turn the pattern piece over and trace it again to create a mirror image of your first tracing. The angles of the outlined shapes don't matter much, as the iron-on vinyl stretches evenly in all directions, but try to place them close together and near the edges to save materials.

To make cutting easier, rough cut around your outlines. Don't worry about wasting your iron-on vinyl, you have plenty of it, especially if you traced the patterns close together and near the edges. Be sure you're using regular scissors and not fabric scissors. The plastic layer over the vinyl will dull your fabric scissors. Carefully cut out your flames on your lines. Cut as smoothly as you can, as the result of these cuts will be the final shape of the flames.

This is my resulting flame for the left bikini cup

Step 5
Ironing on the Flames

I would highly recommend taking scrap pieces of your black fabric and iron-on vinyl and testing out the iron-on process. Remember to use your iron-on transfer sheet or silicone ironing sheet to protect your fabric and your iron. Figure out what heat setting on your iron works best and the best way to peel off the plastic coating. Be very careful not to burn yourself when peeling off the plastic coating. (I'm pretty sure several of my fingers no longer have prints because of this.) (NOTE: My photo shows three different types of iron-on vinyl because I was testing different ones that I used for Yoko's boots and jacket later on.)

After you're confident in your methods, take two pieces of your bikini cup fabric with the right (correct) sides up. That is, the side of the fabric that you want to be showing on the outside of the bikini should be facing upward. Make sure that the two pieces you choose are opposites of each-other, one should be the outside of the left cup, and the other should be the outside of the right cup. Match them to your pattern to make sure which side is which. One should match your pattern piece, the other should be the mirror image of it. To keep things organized, place the two pieces as if you were looking at a completed bikini. The right cup should be on the left, and the left cup should be on the right. Place your cut out flames the same way.

Take the left cup and the left flame piece, place them on your ironing board, and line up the flames on top of the fabric. They may not line up perfectly, it's better to have a little bit of black fabric showing at the bottom than let the vinyl go off of the fabric. The extra black will not be shown on the finished product. Iron your flames on using whatever method works for you. (I don't remember why I had pins in mine or what it was pinned to, so clearly they weren't important.)

Repeat the same for the right bikini cup.

Step 6

So I really suck at explaining sewing, and this would be a good time to turn to YouTube for help.
Here's the most advice that I can give you:
1) The Neck Strings - Use lots of pins! Sew them in half, turn them inside out, then roll hem the ends and tie them in knots.
2) The Cups - Sew the two layers of the cups together inside-out (except the bottoms), attaching the neck strings in the process, and turn right-side out.
3) The Bottom - Hem the bottoms of the cups with enough room to slide the body string through.
4) The Body Strings - (Shown above) Again, lots of pins! Sew them in half, turn them inside-out, thread them through the bottom of the bikini cups, put the beads on (two on each end), then roll hem the ends and tie them in knots.

Well, hopefully some of that helps someone. I know I'm really horrible at explaining how to sew (especially without pictures), but this was really intended to help more with the flames than the actual bikini construction, because it's a lot easier to find tutorials on how to make a bikini top. Feedback is definitely appreciated, though I cannot get any more pictures, other than of the finished project, which I will get soon.


  1. ive been wondering how to use vinyl. this is a good guide ^^