If you’re new to swimsuit knits, and knits in general, please know there’s nothing to be afraid of. No fancy machinery needed! Below, we’ve compiled our top tips for sewing swimsuit knits to help you on your way to swimsuit sewing bliss, then we’ll share a few tips from Jaime and Amber.
First, a few general tips.
Yes, you can sew a regular sewing machine to sew a swimsuit. Use a stretch stitch: zigzag, triple or overlocker stitch.
Knit patterns use negative ease. If the finished measurements seem small, that’s probably why; the fabric stretches to accommodate.
Make sure you use a fabric with the same amount of stretch the pattern calls for. If not, consider sizing up.
Start simple. Look for a pattern that involves minimal seaming and pattern pieces. We’re a big fan of the Megan Nielsen Cottesloe.
I sewed this mostly on our most basic Janome machine. I used a serger to seam the (very few) seams.
To attach all the elastic, I used the Tricot stitch (a version of a zigzag stitch).
I used a ball-point needle
I used a basic elastic (that we sell here) instead of the recommended swimwear elastic. From my research, I think the downside of this is longevity, but I'm not a huge swimmer so I went with it. I did use the recommended widths and lengths.
A walking foot is really helpful to keep the layers from creeping as you sew.
Use a zigzag, stretch stitch or a double needle to edgestitch the finished pieces (along the leg openings and neck edges). This will help the edge seams lay more neatly and keep them from rolling to the wrong side, since you can’t really press them flat. I will probably go back and do this to my suit!
To keep the elastic from twisting, I might also go back and stitch down the center of the waistbands to secure the elastic in place. Since this is a high stretch area of the suit, stretch the elastic as you sew, which will allow the area to continue to have lots of stretch.
Use a polyester thread, which will hold up to chlorine and stretch much better than cotton.
If you are sewing a one piece swimsuit, and choose to use a less stretchy, or 2-way stretch swim fabric (like scuba knit) you may need to add some length the body pieces to account for less lengthwise give. Measure the pattern piece from top to bottom, then see if that length of fabric will stretch to fit you comfortably. If it seems tight, play with the fabric to decide how much length to add.