This week I’m going to share some of my favourite Swimwear Sewing Tips! I sew A LOT of swimwear, and *whispers* it’s my favourite thing to sew– but bras are a close second! And to be fair to my bra sewing – most of my bathing suits have bras in them!
So this post is all about my 5 Top Tips for sewing swimwear, some of these are collected from my past posts, and some of them are just little tips that haven’t mentioned yet. Here we go!
1. Quality Thread
When I was a kid, my mom made all my bathing suits, and I remember pulling my bathing suit out of my drawer a couple months after summer, (usually right before I needed it to go somewhere) and hearing the little ping of sad and worn out thread snapping in a million little places as I tested the leg elastic. The thread was always the first to go- thread, elastic, and then the fabric.
One thing that I’ve discovered that has completely changed my sewing is high-quality thread. It works better in your machine, it looks better, and it lasts SO much longer. For swimwear I recommend polyester thread (since cotton will hold moisture), and specifically I use the Mara 120 thread from Gütermann, which is an industrial polyester thread. I also use it on all my bras too- once you get the luxury of nice thread, well you just can’t go back!
I will be selling this thread very soon in my Etsy Shop!!
2. Binding Edge
This is a real favourite of mine. I find so often swimwear is always the same type of edge sewn with elastic- which is great- but sometimes for a really neat finish- you can’t beat binding. Binding is great if you want an edge that is not too tight- like if you’re making a more cheeky style bottom (or even if you’ve tried on your suit and find that it’s just a little too tight for you around the legs or waist like I did with this navy medium rise bottom!)
It’s also great when you’re working with foam to reduce bulk, and when you’re working with a variable neckline (the top of a round cup- over channeling, around to the back)! Like in this bra bathing suit.
Apart from these reasons, it’s also fantastic to add a little pop and coordinate your colours like I did on my most recent suit- that nice little black edge!
3. Put your Bra in your Bathing Suit
This is an Emerald Erin classic. Nothing feels as good as a bra in your swimsuit- no worrying about your nipples showing, it’s way more flattering, and feels so much more secure on.
There are so many ways that you can put a bra into a bathing suit:
like simply making your bra with foam and swimwear and wearing it as your bikini top (I have some tips on working with foam and bras here)
But you can also make a one-piece with cups which is oh-so-cute! Tutorial here!
Or you can turn your bra into a tankini using this tutorial here!
4. Use Elastic in your Swimwear Straps & Strings!
I’ve seen a lot of bikinis where the string is simply a tube of swimwear fabric. The problem I find with this is: it’s not feel very secure on your body unless you pull them REALLY tight, and then if you do pull them REALLY tight- chances are you’re going to snap some of the threads holding them together. I much prefer to use a 3/8″ all-rubber swim elastic and wrap it in my swimwear. They feel SO secure, and with the strength of the elastic, you know you’ll never just completely pull them out- they bounce back!
I know two good ways to sew your swimwear strings! And I did a tutorial on them here 🙂
5. Take Care of your Swimwear!
This seems obvious, but I’m still a victim. One story comes to mind- over a year ago now I was heading to California for a vacation to visit family. I had made a cute bathing suit– a bralette style top with a cool pattern with bright neon coral, and neon coral bottoms to match. I was in the hotel – flight leaving in the morning- and we were all ‘let’s jump in the hot tub’…. you can see where this is going. About 5 minutes into the hot tub time, I look down to see that all of the neon coral in my swim top is now purple, and I got out to realize that a similar effect happened to my bottoms. Only the bottoms were solid neon coral before, and now they were a faded neon coral anywhere they were tight and touching my skin, but anywhere there were they weren’t (think a strip up the center back) was now a murky purple colour.
That concluded in a very disappointed me, doing a midnight run to the closest/cheapest spot I could find for a plain pair of black bottoms.
So what I have learned is: DO NOT wear your beautifully hand-crafted swimwear in a hot tub (especially not a hotel hot tub), rinse you’re bathing suit immediately after being in chlorine to help save the elastic for longer, and don’t throw your bathing suits in the washing machine- gentle soaps, and let it air dry!
So those are my Top 5 Tips!
What are your favourite tips for sewing swimwear?
Talk to me in the comments!
I had to call this one my ‘Slice of Paradise’, partly because I took these photos in a gorgeous secluded beach in the south of Prince Edward County, that is a paradise, and because this bathing suit is everything I wanted and more!
When I first thought about the design of this suit, I was like ‘MOM! How cool would this be??’ (since my mom is my go-to person to get opinions) and her response was a little more along the…. ‘That reminds me of the 80’s, in a mens wrestling outfit kinda way’. Which was not quite the look I was going for. But at this point in my swimwear wardrobe, I can afford to take some risks ha ha
There is something so special about this suit, it makes me feel like an absolute beach babe 🙂
I think one of my favourite parts of this suit is the bra top. Normally I’m not much of a strapless girl, but I have to say, I wore this suit all day, climbing over rocks, swimming and jumping all over, and I didn’t even think about adjusting the top once! I was pretty amazed.
I drafted the bottoms of this suit based off my favourite bikini bottoms, because I love the cut of the leg. The legs are finished with elastic, but the top edge and racer back are finished with a self-binding edge, which was a nice and tidy way to attach the little rings to connect the straps.
The bra pattern was based on my black beauty horizontal seam fav, and I used my Bliss underwires (which are a great option for strapless and keeping the girls together and up!). There are a couple little modifications to do for a strapless, like narrowing the bridge, making the band a hint tighter and taking a pinch out of the neckline of your cup(right about where your strap would have been).
For the back I decided to do my classic, three straps with G-hooks, and I used these gorgeous gold ones that I got in a trade from Tailor Made Shoppe <3
As for this photoshoot location, well this is a gorgeous little rock beach in the south of Prince Edward County <3, and yes, this is an oak tree that’s growing off the edge of a very high cliff, but this photo is a bit of an illusion, I’m not quite as ‘perched on the edge’ as I look.
But to counter-balance the heights, I made sure to have some time laying on the beach too 🙂
And of course, the mandatory Gibby photo, because even if he’s soaking wet, I’m going to hug him 🙂 He was SO happy that he got to come along for this photo shoot, he’s quite an avid little swimmer!
Is this my favourite suit of the summer? I can say, absolutely yes! I’m in love!
What is your favourite style of swimsuit?
Talk to me in the comments!
It’s the big reveal!! It was so strange being behind the camera instead of in front of the camera this time! But I’m so excited with how this tankini turned out, and mom is too!!
This suit was directly inspired by mom and everything that she’s looking for in a swimsuit: support and lift in the cups, and a little extra fullness and coverage around the middle. Mom’s body type is an apple shape (which my sister and I can take full credit for – we were both huge babies), and her waist measurement is almost the same as her hip measurement, so the ideal bathing suit is one that nips in right under the bust, then flows away towards the hip.
The basis for this tankini top is a 3-piece cup bra pattern that I designed custom for mom. The inner layer is cut & sew foam covered with a seamed layer of black swimwear fabric, then over the top I added the stretch mesh. Rather than seam the stretch mesh, which I thought would be too bulky, I just used my pattern piece to make a solid cover that is ruched at the bottom of the cup. I thought it was a really pretty solution that almost makes it look like moulded cup!
For the bra frame I used: a layer of 15 denier for stability, a layer of black swimwear then a layer of stretch mesh. The back band is just a layer of black powernet with a layer of stretch mesh over top.
I finished the top edge with black binding, and made some simple high-waisted bottoms out of the same black to go underneath.
The high-waisted bottoms are perfect, because they can still give a little bit of tummy control, and you can just see them and a tiny bit of upper-stomach through the slightly sheer stretch-mesh!
I’m SO happy with how this suit turned out, and I’m proud to report that mom says it’s her favourite bathing suit she’s ever owned! It has the comfort of a bra, it camouflages the mid-section without being tight and ruched, and it’s super light-weight and fun!
Mom is turning 50 this year (can you believe it!) and my number one goal is to only make things that I would also wear (no old- lady bathing suits allowed!) and I can definitely say that I have some serious swimwear envy over this one! 🙂
Now I have some slightly disappointing news. I was planning to have a big surprise give-away of a tankini kit with everything I used to make this suit. However, Canada Post looks like they’re going on strike very soon, which means anything I put in the mail could get stuck there until the strike is over. I’ve looked into different shipping options for the giveaway, and for my Etsy shop, but the prices are pretty steep and right now I think the best option will be to temporarily close my shop and postpone this giveaway until the strike is over or until I figure out an alternative. But I do promise that I will be having this giveaway in the future (as well as a couple limited kits for sale!), so make sure to keep your eyes peeled for that!
But I’ll end the post on a happier note, with this picture of Gibby, the happiest puppy in the world, moments before he shakes and showers mom with a million droplets of water. 😀
How are your sewing plans coming along this summer? Made anything super cute?
I’m getting all ready for the submission post going out tomorrow, so if you have any last minute entires- make sure you get them in right away!!
Now you’ll want to trace the bottom of you bra frame, marking the center front, the side seam, and the center back (this is the bra hook placement- which would be the point you attach your hook & eye, or the fold point that your g-hook would sit in). In this photo I traced all the way past the g-hook fold, but please ignore that.
Now that you have this, you want to measure on your body how long you want your tankini skirt. Do this by starting at the center front of your bra, at the bottom of your bridge, then measure down your body to the point you want your tankini to end. For my mom this was 13″.
Then on your pattern measure straight down from the center front and the center back 13″, making a box.
If you left your pattern like this, you would have a very straight tankini skirt, with no allowances for your hips.
In the back of this tankini, you want to have some wiggle room to fasten your bra hook. Measure approximately 1.5″ in from the center back along your bra-frame line, and 3″ down the back of your back seam, and connect these in an arc. This will give a nice little space in the back to allow for your bra fastening.
Now this is the point where you want to add in all your volume, and I like nothing more than a lovely flouncy tankini skirt!
I like to use the slash and spread method, where you slash your pattern, the spread it to add some volume. This gives a lovely circle-skirt type of volume, so there is no extra gathering and bulk at your bra frame, but it just flounces and flows out from there in waves! Really flattering and easier to sew!
For this tankini skirt I’ve drawn lines where I want to split the pattern and add some volume: one in the middle of the back, one at the side seam, one in the middle of the front, and then I want to add some big fun volume in the front, so I’ve added 5 lines, which will all be slashed and spread. I’ve also added just a little at the center back seam that you can see!
Now to the slashing and spreading! Remember that this is one side of your pattern piece, so the extra you add will be to both sides! I find that with stretch mesh- you really can’t go too wrong- it’s so forgiving and light!
I decided that for the middle back, side seam, middle front, and the first two front slashes, I would add 3″ of width. I did that by slashing along my line, inserting a piece of paper under, and measuring a 3″ gap between the old hemline marks.
To create some bigger drama, I added 5″ to the three front slashes closest to the center front.
Also (and of course I didn’t get a picture of this step)- You need to add a seam allowance along the top frame edge, this allowance should be the same width as the elastic that you are using for the bottom band of your bra, since this will be sewn into the bottom elastic allowance on the frame of your bra.
Add a standard 1/4″ seam allowance along your center back seam (or whatever seam width you like to sew your stretch mesh with).
At the center front I’m going to be leaving my tankini open, so that it has a slit up the front. For a nice finish with this style I like to add a little extra seam allowance, about a 1/2″, this is so that I can fold it in on itself (so there are no raw edges showing) and so that I can overlap the fronts.
Once you have your skirt pieces cut out you will take you your bra that you’ve made up (just the the point of before you add your elastics)
Then you can see laying this out, just how your skirt pieces will be attaching to your bra- you want to attach them along the bottom frame of your bra.
So flip your skirt pieces so they are right sides together with your bra, and pin it along the bra frame, remember to line it up just overlapping the center front (so that your skirt pieces overlap) and you skirt should end 1.5″ in from your hook and eye.
After you’ve pinned both sides, I like to baste it down with a zig-zag stitch like this, you can faintly see that the bra is under these skirt pieces in the picture below.
Once you have it like this, with the skirt side up, you will stitch your elastic to this edge. Imagine there is no skirt piece and you are sewing your elastic to the bottom edge of your bra just like you normally would.
The next step is to sew your elastic, on the second pass, like you normally would, only when your flipping it back in towards the bra cups, make sure that you separate your tankini skirt from the bra frame, so that your skirt is going down and your bra is going up.
This way your elastic will only be shown on the inside, and your tankini skirt just looks like it’s seamed with your bra frame. It’s a very similar technique to if you were adding a ruffle there, or piping.
Then all you have to do is finish sewing up your bra as usual, however you planned, and sew up your center back seam of your tankini skirt!
It’s really super easy! And with the stretch mesh it’s even better because you don’t have to worry about hemming or finishing the edges, it’s best to keep it very simple and light!
I can’t wait to show you the photo shoot I did with my mom for this one so you can see it on her!
I also have another little surprise for you with the photoshoot reveal! 🙂 😉
So much fun stuff happening!!
Do you like tankinis? Do you think you’ll use this tutorial?
Talk to me in the comments!!
It’s SWIMWEAR MONTH!!! You know me, this is my favourite, there’s nothing better than making swimwear- it’s like underwear for outerwear that I can show off to the world (not just online he he)!
And I was thinking about what I wanted to make this month and reminiscing about last year and my favourite makes, and last year on Week 23, I made my Retro Gingham 2 piece bathing suit– which I still love so much! But this time I thought- wouldn’t it be nice to have that same feel but in something a little lighter, more bikini, less ruched?
So I present to you my 2016 Gingham make- the Gingham Bikini! Yes, I am completely in love!
I made this using the same pattern from my demi lace bra in Week 4 with my France Wires, which I think gives it that perfect itsy-bitsy bikini look- but with WAY more actual support and shape!
But most exciting of all I used my new microfiber foam! It’s an absolute dream to work with and is like heaven against your skin, I think this is going to be my new staple! I just love the look and feel of foam in my bras and this foam is the best I’ve ever worked with!
I sewed my foam up like usual, finishing the top of the bikini with a binding edge, and using my swimwear elastic for a clean finish on the bottom band. Which also goes along with the simple elastic finish on my bikini bottoms!
And the fit of this is, as usual, spot on! And I think the foam makes it sit even more comfortably and smoothly! I can’t wait to wear this to the beach this summer!
But I suppose lounging around in the sunroom with Gibby isn’t too bad either 🙂
Of course, I don’t like to make things that I can’t offer to all of you lovelies, so here are the links:
So what do you think? Do you like this new bikini version? Or do you like last year’s retro stylings?
It’s a tough decision, I guess I’ll just have to run around all summer in these to see which one wins for me 🙂 *those moments when you really love your job* 🙂
How is the start of your June? Any little teasers about what you’re making?
You know I always love to hear from you!