Hello friends! As promised, I’m back today to share some quick tips on sewing with swimwear fabric! I know there are so many sewists that WANT to sew their own swimsuits, but are too intimidated by swimwear fabric to give it a try. I will admit, at first – yes, it is scary! A couple years ago I started hoarding swim fabric with big plans and intentions of sewing swimwear for myself and my entire family. In the end, I let my fear take over, and my plans kept getting pushed to the backburner. Of course I ran out of time and just ended up buying swimsuits. Well, no more!
My first attempt with swimwear fabric was a learning process, and I’m here to share a few things that I learned! When Maci turned 3, I signed her up for dance class. With a hoard of swim/dance fabric and a plethora of dancewear PDF patterns available, I set out to make her some leotards! The first one was wonky, the fabric pieces were cut uneven, and it was a struggle. It was wearable, but it was hard to put together since the fabric wasn’t cut well, and if you looked too closely, it wasn’t pretty!
Swim fabric is usually pretty thin, slippery, and very stretchy! Sometimes it moves so much it feels like it’s alive! But with the right tools & techniques, it can be much easier to sew with than you think. And yes, you CAN sew a swimsuit with just a regular ole’ sewing machine! If you are fortunate enough to have a serger and/or coverstitch machine, then by all means, put those babies to work, too!
So without further adieu, here are 6 Quick Tips for Sewing with Swimwear Fabric:
- Use Pattern weights & a rotary cutter to cut your fabric – Washers • Pattern Weights • Big Cutting Mat • Rotary Cutter
- Use Ball point or Stretch needles in your sewing machine
- Always check your fabric for the direction of greatest stretch
- Use Wonder Clips instead of pins to hold your fabric together
- Use a walking foot
- Choose size according to your measurements & blend sizes if necessary
I will expound on these a little and explain the reasoning behind these tips.
- Cutting the fabric was the hardest part for me. At the point when I started sewing with dance/swim fabric, I was pinning my patterns to the fabric, then picking the fabric/pattern piece up and using my fabric shears to cut them out. The problem with that was the fabric was so drapey, stretchy, and slippery that it would pull and stretch, and by the time I had it cut out, it was totally wonky. I learned how important it was to cut on a mat, using pattern weights instead of pins, and using a rotary cutter! The rotary cutter I linked above is TINY. It is perfect to get around tight curves. You can use a bigger one if you prefer, but I almost always use my 18mm or 28mm rotary cutters. You can also buy pattern weights, or you can run to the hardware store and pick up some heavy washers. Or you can use cans of tuna. Whatever floats your boat (and keeps your pattern in place)!
2. You want to use a ball point or stretch needle in your sewing machine with any knit fabric. This is because a regular sharp needle will poke holes in the fibers, while the ball point or stretch needles will push in between the fibers of the fabric. It will help your finished item remain more durable and long-wearing!
3. Usually the direction of stretch will be perpendicular to the grain of the fabric, but not always! Stretch your fabric both ways to make sure you are cutting your pattern out with the greatest stretch going around your body! Most patterns for knit fabrics are marked with an arrow letting you know which way the greatest stretch would be going. Don’t just assume. We all know what that makes you! 😉
4. I love love love Wonder Clips! They are great for a lot of reasons, and one of them is because they won’t poke holes in your fabric. Another one is that they also won’t poke holes in your fingers! haha! And lastly, they will not break your serger blade (if you are using a serger)
5. I always use a walking foot attachment on my machine when I’m sewing with really stretchy or slippery fabrics. The feed dogs in your sewing machine pull the fabric through from the bottom. A walking foot basically adds feed dogs to the top of the fabric and helps to feed it more evenly through your machine. This can help prevent unnecessary stretching of your fabric while sewing as well. If you still find that your fabric is getting stretched while you sew, lighten the pressure of your presser foot if you can. (refer to your machines manual)
6. Lastly, make sure you are choosing your size according to YOUR measurements! I cannot stress this enough. Say you normally wear a medium in store-bought clothes, but you are measuring in the XL size for a particular pattern. MAKE THE XL. I know it stings a little, but you’ll get over it when you end up with a garment that actually fits! If your measurements put you across several sizes, then blend the sizes to get the correct fit. You can always use a cheap fabric to make a muslin first if you are really unsure about the sizing.
BONUS TIP: Use scraps of your fabric to test your stretch stitch/zig zag/tension and make sure you can still stretch it without popping threads! You definitely do not want to pop seams and start falling out of your bathing suit mid-dive! 🙂
These tips will not make you a magical swimsuit-sewing fairy overnight, but with practice, you can learn to be comfortable and confident sewing your own swimwear!
While I’m here, don’t forget to grab the Siren Swim Top & Hello Sailor Swim Bottoms patterns from Patterns for Pirates before the release sale is over! The patterns are on sale individually for $8, and you can get an extra $2 off if you buy both, using the code “SWIMBUNDLE”. Sale ends May 1, 2016 at midnight CST.
Do you have any other great tips for sewing with swim fabrics? Leave them in the comments! Happy swimsuit sewing!