Wednesday, August 24, 2011

S & S way of sewing swimsuits


School will be starting in 2 weeks and yes, I am still sewing swimsuits! 

There's a need since we still have at least another month of beach going weather  and plans for swim lessons through the winter.   I've got the sewing process down pat and can whip out a swimsuit in about 1 1/2 hours or less depending on how much elastic needs to be applied.  My current favorite patterns are Kwik Sew 3785 and Ottobre Design 03/09 #38.

I wasn't so sure about the center seam along the back of Kwik Sew 3785 but my girls really wanted a racer back style swimsuit.  I've been impressed with how well they fit and no one has complained about the seam bothering them.

KS 3785, size Large
KS 3785, size XS

For K's suit, I added an extra inch to the front and back pattern pieces since her width measurements fit the Large best but her height would put her in an XL.   With MG's striped swimsuit, I added an inch but only to the front pattern piece as I wanted the neckline to sit a little higher up than it did on the initial XS swimsuit I sewed:
Kwik Sew 3785, front
Kwik Sew 3785, XS no adjustments

Kwik Sew nicely provides you with lines if you need to shorten/lengthen the pattern. I used the top line for my adjustments since it's the overall length that I wanted longer.

Fabrics:  I've mainly used Chez Ami Knit Tactel fabric.  I like the way that it feels though I've run into some fading issues with the pink/white polka dot fabric that was my initial order.  The other prints I have seem to be doing okay. 

My lining fabric is from Jo-Ann's.  I ended up with 2 types.  One is almost like a heavy pantyhose and the other is similar to swimsuit fabric.  I prefer the latter as it seems more durable.  I usually line the fronts on the suits.  If I'm making a 2 piece, I completely line the bottoms and line the front of the bikini/tankini top.  That's my preference.  You don't have to line swimsuits but I've found that in our case, they hold up better if they're lined.  You also don't have to buy separate lining fabric, you could use the fabric that you chose for the swimsuit.

Notions:  I use polyester thread.  I also buy the swimwear elastic.  I've used clear elastic (Lastin) before but the girls complained that the edges were sharp. 

Sewing tips:  Make sure you use a needle for knits, either a ball point or stretch.  I like to lighten the pressure of my presser foot from a 6 to around a 3 so that the fabric isn't being over stretched while I'm sewing.  I typically baste the lining to my main fabric so it stays together when sewing the seams.  I double stitch my seams for peace of mind with a Tricot/Lightning stitch and a Seam/Overedge stitch. 

#6 Tricot/Lightning stitch

#22 Seam/Overedge stitch

When applying elastic, I use a 3 step zigzag stitch.  I place the elastic close to the edge of the fabric on the wrong side and sew.

 I keep the fabric/elastic on the inside of my presser foot when initially applying the elastic

I then fold my elastic to the inside and sew using the 3 step zig zag again, stretching the fabric/elastic slightly.  I place the outer edge just to the outside of my presser foot so that the stitches are more to the inside.  This keeps the elastic from rolling out.  You can also use a double needle which is what I did with the tankinis.  Keep in mind if you use a double needle, you'll have to sew with the right side up.


And here's what it looks like after the elastic is applied...


Ta Da!  The finished swimsuit!

Another Swimsuit...
KS 3785, XS with an extra inch in front panel

More Swimsuits from the past 2 years...
2009:  MG on the right in Ottobre Design 03/09 #38 size 98

2009:  My first ever attempt at sewing a swimsuit Ottobre Design 02/04 #20, size 92
2011:  K in KS 3785 and MG in Ottobre Design 03/09 #38 and #39
Swimsuit, front
2010:  Ottobre Design 02/04 #20 size 98

Gilda Bikini, Front
2010:  Ottobre Design 03/09 Gilda Bikini size 134
2011:  BK on left in Ottobre Design 03/09 #38 size 104


  1. You totally make me want to try sewing swimsuits. Next year...?

  2. Adorable swimsuits, all of them! I have a Kwik Sew leotard pattern that I also love; very good instructions and very practical lengthening/shortening lines.

  3. Seriously Cindy - you are one clever chick! I don't care how easy you say this is, your cossies rock!

  4. Great swimsuits and sewing, and your girls have great taste in choosing the racerback. School starts here next week, so thanks to our Irish summer we didn't even need swimsuits this year :-( Hopefully next summer I'll get to sew some - your tips are very helpful

  5. Nice tutorial! Swimsuits give you such a great return on your investment, considering their price in the store.

    Are you all staying dry in the crazy weather out there?

  6. I love the racerback ones too! Those stripes are seriously cute!

  7. I'm so impressed with your swimsuits! It's so hard to find cute swimsuits-- maybe one day I'll be brave and follow your lead!

  8. What a great job - the razorbacks are great. I always get a bit confused with the Ottobre patterns - i.e. when to add seam allowance and when not to - any tips?


  9. These look so professional, Cindy!!! I have never sewn swimsuits, but have sewn many leotards over the years. Your tips would definitely have helped!!!

  10. Hi Cindy, I've featured your swimsuits post today...


Thanks for taking the time to comment!