Monday, May 7, 2012

Sewing Swimsuits

A friend asked a little while ago if I could share the process of making a swimsuit. So here it is.
Firstly let me say that I am no expert and I only use a basic sewing machine. I use 3 stitches - a straight stitch, a normal zig-zag and a 3 stage zig-zag. What I do is not at all technically correct, but it works...for me at least! Take from it what you want and experiment.
The thing about swimsuit fabric is that it is ver forgiving. I know people are scared of it, but a decent quality fabric is easy to sew...yes, it is slippery, and so it moves about a lot, but if you work around that for the cutting stage, it has never caused me a problem with sewing.
Maeve needed a new swimsuit, and I chose what I thought was a remnant, with  border, but in fact it turned out to be a pre-printed panel for a specific suit, after a lot of head scratching, I came up with a plan.

Printed swimsuit panel

I decided (with the help of a few sewing friends) to make a tankini, with the bottoms in the smaller print, and the top in the larger print. My one big saviour with swimsuit fabric is ussing a mini rotary cutter and a mat to cut out the pieces, this stops everything from moving so much.

I used a one piece swimsuit pattern, and folded down the top to cut the bottoms out, and then turned the bottom up to cut out the top. I overlapped by several inches. The top ends at the leg opening. I tend to just eye-ball the seam allowance, and use the rotary cutter as a guide....what can I say...I like to live dangerously!

Ottobre patterns also call for a crotch piece cut from cotton jersey...I use scraps for this. I had some navy for this suit.


You then sew all three pieces together in this order..back and front, right sides together, and the cotton piece goes right side to the wrong side of the back...making a sandwich. Sew all three together. Then you sew the lining to the front with a narrow zig-zag (3). This encases the back seam.
For all of the "straight" seams, I use a very bare zig-zag..width 1 on my machine, it almost looks straight, but there is give in it.

I then sew the two sides together. With seams like these, which take pressure, (the back, and side seams, I do two rows of stitching, again, a bare zig-zag (1). I then cut a strip, about 4 inches deep and a little smaller than the waist of the top of the swimsuit don't want it too tight, remember it is snug already. I doubled it over, and sewed it straight (bare zig-zag) on the top. Like a yoga style waistband.

I then bound the leg holes...this fabric has a metallic print on it, so I didn't want to use just elastic here, although it would be way easier. I felt that the silver threads would hurt against bare skin. I used a co-ordinating plain fabric for the binding, and the waist. I happened to already have this. I cut it at about 2.5 inches wide, and a little shorter than the circumference of the leg opening, again, you don't want it too tight. I made a loop, and then I sewed it on with a bare zig-zag to the inside, and then turned it under on the right side. I used a slightly wider zig-zag to sew the outside. I use lots of pins for this stage.

The top was much simpler in some ways. I sewed the side seams, again, a two rows of bare zig-zag, one on top of the other. I bound the front and added a little piece of clear elastic, by zig-zagging it on before I put on the binding. I don't think this was actually necessary, but it's on now. I made a long piece of binding, which I found the centre of, and matched that to the back centre, and then ran it on both sides of the back, under the arms, and up the sides of the front. I sort of pin and stretch the binding as I go, to make it a bit smaller than the swimsuit top. Above the swimsuit fabric the binding became the straps, which I just did by continuing to sew it together. I then criss-crossed the straps at the back.

I hemmed the top with a narrow zig-zag. I know that all of this zig-zagging may not be the proper way to make aa swimsuit, but this is not haute couture..this is a child's swimsuit, which unless you happen to meet another seamstress at the swimming pool, and they happened to examine it, then really who is going to notice that you used a zig-zag stitch and not a cover-stitch machine. These are swimsuits made by a hobby sewer, with a basic machine, and some inexpensive fabric. They can be made to fit snuggly, with straps that don't fall off their shoulders, or gape anywhere. They are made to measure. Also they cost very little to make...the panel that I bought cost me €7 and the other bits a couple more euro, so I would say, a decent swimsuit for less than €10.

Next week, I am planning to make the little girls some similar swimsuits, but with plain elastic in the leg holes, and I will try and remember to get some photos of that.

The pattern I used is the Seahorse swimsuit from Ottobre Magazine 3/09 (for the 3rd time/. I changed the layout of the straps, and of course I made it a two piece swimsuit.

The patterned fabric is from Elingeria, they have a huge selection of swimwear fabrics.

The plain dark blue fabric is from an ebay seller Tia Knight/ In Fashion Fabrics It is listed under lycra spandex in their shop now.


Anonymous said...

Well done, Millie!

My kids' swimsuits have zig zag stitching all over the place. Quick, easy, works and isn't even noticeable when worn.

Unknown said...

Wow, Millie. That is such a cute swimsuit. What a nice fit and good coverage while still looking stylish and comfortable.

justmejay said...

I love this Millie - looks fab to me!

Angela said...

It turned out wonderful, Millie. Your description of the stitches you used is very helpful.

motherof5 said...

Thanks Millie.

katherine h said...

These look really great! I used to worry about using a zig-zag and not a coverstitch...then I noticed that some really expensive designer swimwear used a zig-zag and not a coverstitch machine. When I got a cover stitch machine I still used the zig zag, because it was less likely to pull out, and because I actually prefer the look of it.

That fabric is really have used the two patterns well.

Cindy said...

The swimsuit looks great, Millie! Perfect for an active, becoming older girl.:) Well Done!

Millie said...

Thanks so much everyone...and I am glad that I am not the only one to find zig-zag an acceptable stitch to use on swimsuits!

Joy said...

The fabric is so interesting and you made great use of it. It would be hard to find better coordinating prints for top and bottom. Lovely suit!

Millie said...

Thansk Joy! That fabric gave me sleepless nights!

velosews said...

This is great fabric. I'm a swimwear zigzag sewer.


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