Women’s Rash Guard Swim Shirt Tutorial

Love hanging out in the sun, but don’t love the havoc it can cause your skin? Vanessa of The Sewing Rabbit Team is here today showing off how to sew your very own Rash Guard shirt. Its easier than you would think, and perfect for those lazy Summer days ahead…

How To Sew Your Own Rash Guard Shirt

I love summer! Thank God for it! Being by the pool is where you can find me soaking up the warmth of the sun, entertaining a toddler, and staying cool in this South Carolina heat! There are times though, as a mom, where I feel the need to be covered up or I may get too much sun, and in those cases, having a rash guard swim shirt, is awesome!

So whether you live by the “modest is hottest” approach or you are actually surfing some waves, this Women’s Rash Guard Tutorial will show you just how EASY it is to make yourself one!

If you have ever sewn a simple shirt for a child or yourself, you can do this! If you haven’t, don’t be afraid to try! All you need is a some swimsuit fabric or a spandex lycra mix fabric. I found this print at Hancocks on sale! It matched my Land’s End flouncy swim skirt perfectly! I used about 1.5 yards and spent $16 on the fabric! Pretty awesome when compared to most brands!

  • 1 – 2 yards of swim suit fabric or spandex lycra mix fabric, depending on your size 
  • A tighter fitting shirt you can draft from -OR- a basic shirt pattern to adapt
  • A twin needle, 75 or 80, depending on the weight of your fabric
  • Sewing machine & supplies, serger (optional)

Since most of us have a basic shirt pattern we love, I’m not going to walk through the actually drafting process with you today. I altered my Megan Nielson Briar pattern pieces, since they are simple basic blocks, to create my rash guard. You need 2 sleeves, a front, a back, and a neckline band.

The rule of thumb, is to size DOWN one size.

Even after I sized down, I tried my shirt on and took more off the waist. I didn’t want anything floating up and around in the water, so you want a snug fit hugging your body. Everything gets loose in water, so make sure it fits you well!

Cut out your pieces like so!

I cut my neckline band 2 inches x 10 inches, but you may need to adjust for your size.

Ready to sew?!


Adjust your machine to have a longer stitch length on a regular sewing machine, around 4.5 in length OR use a zig zag stitch OR triple stretch stitch, if your machine has that option! Anything to allow some give to your knit. If using a serger, set according to your manual for a 4 thread overlock for stretch fabrics. Test your fabric to ensure you have no waves and adjust your differential feed to make it smooth, if necessary!

Pin your shoulder seams and sew/serge right sides together.

Using a shirt with your desired neckline, cut out your neck hole. It’s good to try your shirt on over your head, make sure it works, take it off and adjust where necessary, making a deeper front line or curve.

Next, sew/serge the short ends of your neckline band right sides together.

Fold your neckline band in half lengthwise.

Pin right sides together your neckline band to your neck opening. You will have 3 layers together here. Mark the center points with pins and then work it around to make sure all fabric is flat and there are no puckers. You may have to stretch the neck band a bit to make it work. As long as it fits over your head, you are good-to-go! Test it, if needed!

Sew/serge your neck band to your neck right sides together.

Next, pin your sleeves to the shoulders right sides together at the center point and work your way out towards each arm pit where it meets the side.

Sew/Serge your sleeve to the arm hole.

Match your sleeves from the wrist to the arm pit to the waist and pin right sides together. Sew/Serge from the wrist to the waist.

Now, we are ready to do a little twin needles sewing! I recommend this for hemming any knits, because it looks so professional on the outside and still allows the give you need for stretching over your head, waist, and wrists!

I remember being so intimidated by this technique when I first started sewing, and then when I finally sat down and realized it was simply just changing my needle, hitting the double needle button on my machine, and using an extra bobbin? I was SOLD!


All you do is wind an extra bobbin with the same top color you need. Thread your machine normally, allowing this thread to go into the left needle. Then, thread your machine a second time, but this time don’t go behind the needle bar, but just let it hang free and thread through the right eye of the needle. I know this seams funny, but it works great! The only other things you need to remember is to set your stitch to a center stitch and select the double needle button on your machine! You are ready to go! Start hemming those sleeves and waist hems! Since this swim fabric doesn’t fray, just fold 1/2” towards the wrong side and sew it down!


See how it creates a zig zag on the back, but looks so neat on the front? It makes my heart happy!

Lastly, I decided I wanted a flat neckline binding, not a collar that stands up some.

This may be a preference, so if you want a neck collar that stands up, you can leave it! To make it look like bias binding, just pin it over and use that double needle to sew it down, making sure to catch the back layer, so it lays flat.

And that’s it! You just made a Rash Guard swim shirt!

Now, go have some fun in the sun!

Next up for me, will HAVE to be sewing rash guards for the kids!

Making one for myself first was fun, and seeing how easy it is, I will definitely be making some for my son and nieces and nephews! Thanks for joining me today!

Follow along


Jess Abbott the Sewing Rabbit is the founder and creative director behind the me sew crazy blog, as well as SewSet.com, 5 & 10 Designs, GNO Events, and co-editor of STYLO. She resides in Virginia Beach with her husband and 3 children.
Follow along

Latest posts by Jess (see all)


  1. says

    After having two skin cancer spots removed, I am a rash guard wearer. Thanks for this tutorial…I will absolutely be using it this summer!

  2. KellyS. says

    So – this looks rather thin…do you have to wear a second top underneath it to have enough coverage?

    • says

      Yes! I never expected it to be my only swim top that I would wear. I have a tankini on underneath and when I want more coverage, I can throw on the swim shirt! I think because it is mostly white, you can see through it more.

  3. Mie @ Sewing Like Mad says

    Brilliant Vanessa! I have a redheaded daughter with very fair skin and now I realize I have been a fool for spending money on rash guards ;-)

  4. says

    Awesome tutorial Vanessa. I haven’t sewn swimwear for many years, and it’s time to get back at it. Very interesting tip about only threading one thread behind the needle bar. I have always put both of them behind. I’m looking forward to trying it this way. I also like the demo on the neckline.

    Sue xo

  5. says

    Who new a rash guard could be so cute! I love it and I should def. make one for the whole family!!! and I dream of having a pool- one day!

  6. says

    Thanks fot your tutorial! I looked at my RTW rash guard, and all their seams look “flat”. I wonder do you know how to make a flat seam using “normal” sewing machine? Thank you.

  7. says

    Oh, I am SO going to do this… no matter how much sunblock I put on or how often I get burned a few times every summer and I am so sick of it, plus totally terrified because of a family history of skin cancer. I will save my bare-shouldered swimsuits for indoor pools!

  8. Leigh Ann says

    I’m a swim instructor in Florida, and go through about 15 rash guards a year, so making my own would be fabulous.

    One question: is the SPF rating for the swimsuit fabrics indicated?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>