Sewing your own swimwear is really empowering. In this video tutorial, Haley shares how to select swimwear fabrics and lining, swimwear notions, and she’ll teach you some basic construction techniques. Plus, she shares a bunch of tips for sewing up your own swimsuit. Have you sewn your own swimwear? Join the conversation in the Community!
- Swimsuit pattern
- Swimwear fabric
- Cotton swimwear elastic
Sewing swimwear is one of my sewing superpowers. I think that after years of being so incredibly bummed out by ready-to-wear options when it comes to swimsuits, sewing my own bathing suit just felt super empowering and joyful. And I feel like it’s my duty to pass on the swimwear love to you. So I’m going to show you the ropes of sewing your own swimwear. In this video, I’ll cover how to select swimwear fabrics and lining, swimwear notions, some basic construction techniques, plus a bunch of tips along the way.
First, let’s talk about fabric. Swimmer patterns are drafted with negative ease. This means that the finished garment measurements are actually smaller than the body measurements. Choosing a fabric with ample stretch ensures that you’ll be able to put the swimsuit on and actually move in it. Two-way stretch fabric will accommodate stretch from selvage to selvage, but it does not offer much stretch in the length of grain. Two-way stretch fabric works for some two-piece suits, but never, ever, ever one piece, since you need one pieces to have some vertical stretch to them. Four-way stretch will stretch from selvage to selvage and then also in the length of grain, making it an ideal choice for maillots, which is a one piece swimsuit, as well as two-piece swimsuits.
Swimwear fabric should be composed of one hundred percent man-made fibers. Natural fibers like cotton will absorb water, making it an impractical choice, literally dragging you down. Look for fabrics that are mostly composed of nylon, anywhere between 80 and 90 percent, but also have a significant amount of Lycra or spandex around 10 to 20 percent.
Swimwear lining usually has similar fiber content to swimwear fabric itself. Lining comes in a range of opacity and weights. Lightweight linings are great if your fabric is already really stable and opaque, but you can choose something more substantial if you want to add compression qualities to your suit or have an extra layer of opacity, like if you’re using a light colored fabric.
Ordering fabrics online can be a little bit of a gamble. Try ordering swatches and then testing the fabric in these four ways. Soak your fabric in some water. Does the color bleed? If so, you might want to go for another option. If the fabric is a two-way or four-way stretch, refer to the pattern instructions and make sure that you have the right fabric for your project. If the fabric is printed, make sure that the print doesn’t crack or distort drastically when you stretch it out. And lastly, does the opacity of the fabric change when stretched or wet?
Next, let’s talk about notions. Elastic is an important element of your swimwear project. It offers shaping and it holds the garment firmly against your body. Swimwear elastic needs to hold up to chlorinated water, and salt water, and sun. Traditional polyester elastics often can deteriorate a little bit quicker under these circumstances. So you’ll want to look for cotton swimwear elastic. It’s easy to work with and it stands up well to chlorinated and saltwater. Cotton elastic is woven with rubber to give it stretch and strength, just like other elastics. It comes in a variety of widths and is quite inexpensive.
Rubber elastic can also be used when making swimwear. This type of elastic can be applied in the exact same manner of its cotton counterpart, but it can be a little bit slippery and more challenging to work with. Rubber elastic has a little bit lower profile and can create a less bulky edge finish, making it a really good choice if you want to reduce bulk in your swimsuit.
You’ll want to avoid cotton thread for swim projects, instead up for polyester thread. If you’re using a serger to assemble your swimsuit, wooly nylon thread is really strong and resilient and is perfect for swimsuits and athletic wear alike. Wooly nylon thread can also be used in your home sewing machine.
Generally, ballpoint or jersey needles are going to work really great for swimwear fabric. That being said, be sure to test on some scrap fabric. You might find that a stretch needle helps you to avoid skip stitches, especially if your fabric has a really high amount of lycra or spandex.
Foam cups are a popular option in ready-to-wear swimwear and foam cups offer some light support and coverage in a wet swimsuit. If you plan on using foam cups, be sure to purchase ones that are specifically meant for swimwear. Foam cups intended for lingerie may not stand up to chlorinated or salt water and might absorb large amounts of water, which is no good.
Pins can snag swimwear fabric and it can be challenging to pin together layers of fabric and elastic craft. clips are a great snag free option.
Now that I’ve covered the basics of swimwear notions, I’m going to show you some basic construction techniques.
Before you can sew up your swimsuit, you’ll need to cut it out. Slinky swimwear fabrics can have a mind of its own. Use these tips to make cutting your fabric a breeze. Utilize single layer cutting wherever possible. This will give you more control since it won’t be two layers of slinky fabric to deal with. If you’re using a printed fabric cut with the right side facing up. This will help you to anticipate print placement as you lay out and will help you to avoid any unfortunately placed flowers.The combination of a rotary cutter and pattern weights can help you to have a little bit more control as you cut.
Grainline also really matters. Take extra care to make sure you’re cutting your pattern pieces on grain.
A serger or domestic sewing machine canbe used to construct your swimsuit. The following are my favorite techniques, using both types of machines.
Use a serger to sew your swimwear fabric right sides together. Standard seam allowances for most swimwear projects is going to be three eight of an inch, so make sure that your blade is engaged and you’ll be cutting off approximately an eighth of an inch as you sew.
If you’re using a domestic sewing machine, a wide and short zigzag stitch can be used in place of a serger. A mocked overclocked stitch is also a great option. You’ll just be sewing right sides together and then being sure to trim any excess fabric as you go.
Always, always, always test your stitch on a scrap of fabric and then stretch that sample out to make sure that your stitch offers adequate strength and stretch.
Depending on the pattern, you might need to baste layers of fabric together. To do this placethe main fabric and lighting fabric wrong sides together and then clip in place and baste together using a wide zigzag stitch.
In most cases, elastic is the means by which you will finish the edges of your swimwear project. The most common technique used to apply elastic is the sewn and turned method. To do this, clip the elastic to the wrong side of the raw edge, evenly distributing the fabric to the elastic. Use a serger or a wide and short zigzag stitch to overcast the elastic and fabric together. Then you’ll turn the elastic to the wrong side of the garment and use a standard or a three step zigzag to topstitch everything in place. You’ll need to gently stretch the fabric as you overcast stitch and topstitch. Try your best to stretch evenly as you go. It can also be really helpful to turn your machine to the needle down position so you don’t accidentally pull your fabric out from underneath your presser foot when you stop stitching.
Sometimes a swimsuit pattern includes elastic in a seam. This is used to add support and stability to an area that might be prone to extra stress. To do this, sew a seam using a serger or a zigzag stitch, then clip the elastic to the seam allowance and attach it using a zigzag stitch again, stretching evenly as you stitch. Turn the unit right side out and admire your stretchy and supportive seam.
You are ready to sew up your very own swimsuit. Be sure to check out this month sewalong class where I will show you how to sew the Maggie two-piece swimsuit step by step. What are your favorite swimwear tips and tricks? Let us know in the comments below. I’ll see you next time and happy sewing!