Tutorial: Two Ways to Sew Swimwear Straps


Hi All!

Today I have a tutorial!! YAY!! I know I’ve been promising more tutorials on swimwear this summer and here is my first! and it’s picture heavy!!

When you make swimwear chances are your going to need to make some straps- like bikini strings, or little halter straps but these techniques also apply on wider straps too!

I like to make my bikini strings with elastic in them. Generally straps are going to have to hold up against some lifting and pulling, and I find that swimwear alone is too weak and will stretch further than your stitches will allow for, giving you less support and more chances of popped stitches.

The elastic I use for narrow straps/strings is the same as my general swimwear elastic- I like a silicone coated rubber, in 9mm width (which is a hair under 3/8″). But, as I said, this technique applies to wider elastics too!

METHOD ONE

This is a one-stitch method, where you are essentially stitching your elastic to the seam allowance of your fabric and turning it right side out- it has to be a little more precise with measurements and stitch placement. Let me break it down:

First you start off with your fabric- you need a strip of your swimwear fabric that is exactly 4X the width of your swimwear elastic– so for my 3/8″ elastic that would be 12/8″ or 1 1/2″- by however long you want your strap. I love to do this with my quilting ruler and my rotary cutter!

Now that you have your strip you fold and pin it in half lengthwise, right sides in like this:

 

Then you line up your elastic with the cut edges of your strip of fabric. (you can pin this but I find the elastic is a nightmare to pin, and it’s easier to just feed it in as you go). You will notice that the fold of fabric that your elastic doesn’t cover is the same width as your elastic.

Now your going to stitch through your elastic and layers of swim fabric with a zig-zag stitch, something with a good amount of stretch allowance. On my machine like to use a 2.5 X 2.5 stitch.  Don’t stretch your elastic when you do this!

It’s important that your stitches are towards the inside of the elastic (towards the fold of fabric)- you want one of your stitches right on the edge of your elastic. This is important because it determines the size of tube you are creating for the cover of the elastic- too far to the outside edge of your elastic and your tube will be too big, and if you stitch off the elastic into the fabric fold then you make the tube too small! It should look like this:

Now you have to turn your strap. This is the part that is a bit of a pain- the best method is to close off one end of your tube and use the ‘stick and the straw’. – this one is called the “Turn it All”

You feed your straw through the tube up to the closed end,

This is partly where the frustration can come- if you have a LONG strap (like the rib-cage string on a bikini!) there is a lot of squeezing and squishing to get all your strap on the tube without it coming off the other end!

Then when you get to the end you use the stick to poke it though your straw, turning it right-side out!

 

Your final result is a string, with a seam near the back edge of your strap- and a plain front, all seam allowances enclosed! It’s also nice because the elastic is stitched down in the strap so it can’t twist or bunch! You will see the stitches at the seam but they are very minimal- in this example I used a contrasting black just so you could see better- I should also tighten up my stitch a little!

I like this method because you can do it in one stitch- and all the edges are enclosed. Also with matching thread and a nice tight stitches the seam is almost invisible giving it a very professional look! The downside is having to turn it (you will know what I mean when you try it!) and also- if you do ever break a stitch on this, you pretty much have to turn it back inside out to fix it *gulps*.
So to compare here’s another way!

METHOD 2

This method is slowly winning for me- it takes less precision, less measuring and is a little quicker for long straps/strings- but it does have a different result- both methods have a place!

For this method you are going to cut your strip of swimwear at least 4X wider than your elastic- but this doesn’t have to be precise. You could also just use the straight edge of your whole yardage of swimwear fabric.

You start by lining up your elastic at the outer edge of your strip of fabric, with the wrong side of the fabric touching the elastic.

 

Then you’re going to stitch your elastic to the fabric- again don’t stretch your elastic.

Use a zig-zag (again I used a 2.5 X 2.5), and your going to stitch towards the outer edge of your elastic- it doesn’t have to be right on the edge but you want to keep it closer to that side. It should look like this:

Then you’re going to take your elastic and your going to fold it once in toward the fabric with the right side of the fabric out,

Then you’re going to fold it a second time in towards the fabric, so that your stitches are hidden, and are facing away from you.

Now you’re going to stitch that down. As your stitching you want to make sure that you keep some tension on your extra fabric hanging out to the side, so that it stays nice and smooth and the elastic stays wrapped up tight!

You’re going to stitch towards the ‘inner edge’ of your elastic – towards the extra fabric, this will make sure that your first line of stitching doesn’t show. But you don’t want to stitch right on the edge- leave about 1/8-1/4 of an inch from the outside of your stitch to the edge of you elastic.

Then you flip it over and trim off your extra fabric- this is why it’s good to leave that 1/8-1/4″ to the edge of your elastic- so when you trim the fabric it stays neat on the backside of your strap and doesn’t stick out from the edge.

What I like about this method is that it is also very secure- if for any reason your stitches break, there is a double row of stitching, and you can also go over it and fix it without too much bother. It’s also so quick and easy- no turning the straps right side out, no precise measurements to worry about for accuracy.  I also find this easier for wider straps. The downside is that you have a visible zig-zag on the outside, and a raw edge (although swimwear doses’t fray).
I’ve used both methods quite a bit:
This is the first method for some sleek strings on this bikini from Week 12 :
And the second method for some wide straps on the back of my retro suit from Week 23:

Which method do you like better?

Also what other swimwear tutorials would you like to see this summer?

Happy Sewing!

xo erin

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