Created by: Trash to Couture
Have you always wanted to sew your own custom swimwear? These tips and tricks will have you relaxing poolside in a custom DIY suit in no time!
Not only can you sew a custom suit fit to your style and measurements, but there are lots of fun printed and solid fabrics that work great for swimwear. You can also create a swimsuit with a basic sewing machine- no special machines necessary. Let's get started!
- 1-2 yards swimwear fabric
- 1 yard liner fabric (we used Matte Tricot fabric from Pine Crest)
- Swimsuit pattern of your choice
- Dritz 1" Fold-Over Elastic
- 3/8" elastic
- Ball point needle
- Twin needle
- Cutting mat
- Rotary cutter
- Pattern weights
- Surelock Thread
- Sewing Machine
Choosing a Swimwear Fabric
It's important to use the right material for swimwear. I typically look for a Nylon Spandex blend with 4-way stretch. You will want to use high quality fabric with coverage. Nylon/Spandex blends are versatile for swim and athletic wear.
Prints like this retro gingham and floral print inspire me to want to make my own Swimwear! You will also want to add a liner fabric suited for swimwear to the bottoms and the bust area.
Use the Right Equipment
Serger: I am using my Brother Strong & Tough Serger and my Brother SE1900 Sewing and Embroidery Machine.
It's ideal to have a serger but not necessary. A sewing machine will do just fine. I usually combine both my serger and my sewing machine.
I use the sewing machine to sew the pieces together and the serger to clean up the seam allowance. I find it easier to sew first due to the slippery nature of nylon/spandex materials. Plus if I have a mishap it’s easier unpicking than an overlock stitch.
Choosing a Pattern:
There are plenty of options for swimsuit patterns. I wanted a one piece and went with the Alison Swimsuit from Burda Style.
When working with stretchy fabrics like spandex/nylon/polyester (or any knit for that matter), I use pattern weights, a rotary cutter, and mat to cut the pattern out. It's much easier this way, saves time, and great for slippery, stretchy materials like swimwear fabric.
*Tip: if you’re having trouble with the material shifting, try cutting the pattern piece 1 layer at a time (don’t use folds). You may have to draft the other side or print out 2 sets but it will be worth it!
You will want to use a ball point needle when sewing with spandex/knit fabrics or you may get skipped stitches.
You will also sew with a zigzag stitch when using your sewing machine or a special stretch stitch that some machines have. I prefer a basic zigzag that is 2.0 wide and 2.5 length. This always does the trick for me.
For finishing, I recommend using a twin needle. It has the finish similar of a Cover Stitch machine and a professional result.
If using a serger just make sure to test out on the same fabric to get the tension dials correct before the final project.
Use a Walking Foot
This is a bigger foot, and may take some extra steps to secure but is worth it for sewing knits and stretchy materials. The walking foot is a moving feed system that holds and moves fabric between the presser foot's upper feed go and the machine's lower feed dogs to better control difficult fabrics (like knits/spandex/etc) as well as multiple layers of fabric. It came in handy when sewing the thicker layers of the spandex binding along the swimsuit edge.
Tips for Construction
Most Swimwear is sewn with a 1/4" seam allowance- follow your pattern instructions for this. You most likely will be adding elastic leg bands which will keep the leg openings nice and tight around your legs.
I like to add cups for additional support and coverage in my swimsuits. Follow that pattern instructions for these. I typically insert them in the bodice during construction. Then once I try the suit on for final fitting, I’ll pin them into proper placement and baste stitch them by hand on the back side (liner).
For the leg bands you will want to use elastic. I am using Dritz 3/8" elastic.
- Measure the opening and subtract 1". This will be the measurement you will want to cut the elastic to equal. Or refer to your pattern measurements.
- Sew the elastic in a loop with a 1/2" over lap using a zigzag stitch.
- Measure and mark off the quarters on both the leg opening and the elastic.
- Pin the the elastic to the wrong side of the leg opening matching the quarter marks.
- Sew with elastic on top using a zigzag (2.5 length 2.0 wide) close to the outer edge of the elastic (about 1/16 from the edge). As you sew pull the elastic to meet each quarter mark.
Now turn over the fold.
Top stitch the fold into place about 1/4" from the edge or a little less than your elastic width. (make sure your getting the edge of the elastic). As you sew, pull, but also make sure the fabric is running perpendicular and flat or it will wave at the hem.
We hope this post inspires you to try sewing your own swimwear! Click here to shop swimwear fabric on fabric.com.