Swimwear sewing tips

Dive into Swimwear – Tips for sewing your own swimsuit

If you’re looking for a sewing challenge to boost your skills this year, why not try a DIY swimsuit? Claire-Louise shares her top tips for a flawless finish when sewing your own swimming costume!

 

There’s never been a better time to try sewing your own swimwear, with plenty of fabric suppliers, lots of great patterns and an abundance of online info to help you along the way. If like me you’re an unconventional size, sewing for yourself can be the only, and often cheapest, way to get a great fit.

Tips for sewing your own swim suit:

1 Go and try on some actual swimsuits that are similar to pattern styles you like. No point sewing up a style that’s not right for your figure when there are so many styles available.

2 Chlorine in swimming pools can destroy fabric and cause the elastic to disintegrate if you don’t buy supplies designed for swimwear.

3 Ensure your fabric is four way (stretches both vertically and horizontally). Without stretch running up and down the body, the swimsuit will be very uncomfortable (don’t ask how I know!).

4 Gather your supplies together before starting. Since the pieces are relatively small, swimwear can be a speedy project, so it’s frustrating to almost finish and then realise you don’t have the right clasp.

5 Make a toile in fabric that’s the
same stretch percentage as the one
you plan to use or buy extra fabric. Compare the pattern to a well-fitting swimsuit you already have.

6 Practise all your seaming and edge finish techniques before you get started. Your machine may not like the settings suggested by the pattern, but there are usually other options that will work. For edges that require elastic, it’s a good idea to practise stretching the elastic as you sew, because not even a pro like me gets it perfect on the first attempt.

7 You don’t have to own an overlocker to get a good result, but you do have to use a stretch or microtex needle, and some people find a walking foot useful.

I’m a total sewing nerd, and I love poring over sewing instructions (probably stems from developing instructions for the Sewing Bee contestants to use).  So, I’ve checked out a load of swimwear patterns for you.

Measure Twice Cut Once Henrietta swimsuit 

This PDF pattern appealed to me as a sun worshipper who doesn’t want to get my tummy out! The criss-cross straps and low back create support whilst allowing me to get some sun on my back! The picot elastic edging is a pretty feature and can be substituted for a regular elastic edge if you’d prefer a cleaner line. My top tip is to buy an inexpensive cupped bikini, remove the outer fabric and cut at the sides. Then insert into the front panel. This is a great cheat if you’re time poor and don’t want to sew fiddly boning channels. www.measuretwicecutonce.com.au

Closet Case Patterns Sophie Swimsuit & Bikini

This structured balconette bra-style cup, includes vertical panelling that offers lots of colour-blocking options (black sides for that magic slimming effect!) and I love the higher-waisted bikini bottoms. Once you master the cup fit this will be a very useful pattern for those of us who like to move about and get active in our swimsuits, and need good support! There is a comprehensive post on how to choose the right size based on your under-bust. Find the PDF pattern and the blog post at www.closetcasepatterns.com/choosing-size-sophie-swimsuit-use-bigger-cup

Jalie 3671 GiGi Bikini

I’m a big fan of Jalie patterns, who specialises in activewear. One thing that is unique to this pattern company is that the instructions and pattern appear on the same sheet. These bikini designs (below) feature an under band designed as a ‘no roll’ with a clasp, so you have enough support for those of us who get really active on the beach. There’s a bikini bottom option with a roll top, so you can be high waisted when walking about and roll it down for tanning! The bikini tops would also make great sports bras. Find your local stockist at www.hantex.co.uk/mystockist

Butterick 5795

This is another great-value pattern (right) with two swimsuit styles and a very nice cover up. I’m only sad that this plus-size pattern isn’t in my size! The size range starts at 18W all the way to 32W, and has different cup options, so there’s no need to try and work out tricky bust adjustments on asymmetrical pattern pieces. There are instructions for foam cup inserts, so I wouldn’t say this is a full support swimsuit, but is will definitely provide some support and introduce you to the concept of making hidden inner bras. Don’t overloook the skirted swimsuit, as I know many of us would like to keep our bums covered. Buy the paper pattern from www.sewdirect.com

Cashmerette Ipswich swimsuit & Bikini

I would say that this is the most complex of all the patterns I looked at (page 60), as there are many pieces. The instructions for creating the inner bra support are very comprehensive, as this is something those of us with larger busts really need in a swimsuit. The vertical panelling offers multiple
colour-blocking options. Having multiple seams also offers many more fitting options too. All Cashmerette patterns are well sized; US 12-28, cups C-H and Jenny has an online course that walks you through every step of construction. Find your local stockist at www.hantex.co.uk/mystockist

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