Swimsuit Sewing Challenge 2016: Tips and Tricks for a Beginner

Hi Guys!

I hope you’re loving the newly-designed Sew and Tell Project! If you are still following us at The Show and Tell Project, come join us here! We are here to stay awhile. This post will be the first one in our Swimsuit Sewing Challenge 2016. Alisha, Genie, Emily, and I have all challenged each other to sew swimsuits for ourselves and/or our kids and we are hoping to inspire you to join us!



Last week I was selected to test the upcoming women’s swimsuit from Peek-a-Boo Pattern Shop. This forced me to take a big step in learning to be comfortable with sewing swimsuits!

I have been getting more and more comfortable with knit fabrics over the last 2.5 years, but I still wasn’t feeling the love with sewing with swimsuit fabric. Last year, I bit the bullet and tried to sew a Coco Cay tankini for my middle daughter with gorgeous swim fabric from The Fabric Fairy. The fabric was great, and so was the pattern, but I had not yet gotten good at blending patterns for size and the bottoms ended up too low-rise for her (think Coppertone Baby) and the suit was not her favorite.

Tips and Tricks for Sewing Swimsuits

I thought I would share some of the details of what worked best for me and made me get over my fear of sewing with swimsuit fabric.

1. Matte swim fabric is much easier to work with than the shiny stuff. I found it much easier to make binding out of matte printed swim fabric than out of the basic solids that I picked up at JoAnn’s. The fabric seemed to shift a lot more and I ended up with puckers, so I redid it on my suit which I can’t share until Thursday (3/31).

2. This was pointed out to me in my swimsuit testing group. If you go to a big box  fabric store and can only find the shiny stuff, feel free to use the “wrong” side of it if you want a more matte look to your suit. I was very disappointed in my swim fabric selection at my brick and mortar fabric store, so I chose a solid that coordinated with my print. It looked less like dance wear once I decided to use the matte side instead of the shiny side.

3. I recommend using pattern weights and pins when cutting your suit out. I usually just use weights and maybe pin at points, but I found the weights really helped keep the fabric from sliding around so I could get the best cut.

4. Don’t be afraid to BASTE. If it’s instructed in the tutorial do it – and even if it’s not consider it. Swim fabric likes to move 🙂 I found that basting my bindings on the long edge helped keep them from shifting and puckering and I got a near-perfect finish this way (lining properly enclosed, bindings even, etc.).

5. Extra sharp pins and wonder clips – I am comfortable enough with knits now that I often do not pin my seams and just sew straight on my serger. I could not be that cocky with swimsuit knit. I repeat – I could not be that cocky with swimsuit knit. I found that my sharper yellow head pins went much more smoothly into the swim fabric and didn’t scuff or tug the threads the way some of my duller pins did. I don’t normally use my Wonder Clips, but this is one of the times I’m glad I had some. They were really nice for folding bindings over and keeping them in place for top-stitching.

6. Speaking of sharp – you want to use a quality ball point or stretch needle for the best results. I like to use Schmetz needles on my Brother HC 1850 for best knit handling.  If you are still struggling keeping your layers together and your stitches even, you might also want to put a walking foot on your  machine to help the top and bottom layers feed evenly.

7. Buy swim elastic. You might be tempted to just jump in with any elastic you have, but you will be happy that you used swim elastic because it will have extra longevity. If you’re like me and get most of your swimsuit notions at Jo-Ann’s, I found the 1/4″ and 3/8″ cotton swim elastic hanging on the elastic wall, but there was a 5 yard bulk roll available among the bulk elastics in the baskets below. I’d recommend getting that roll because once you  make your first suit, you will want to make more! Amy at the Peek-a-Boo Pattern Shop also carries  3/8″ swim elastic that you can buy by the yard. She also just started stocking UV 50+ swimwear and boardshort fabric, so it can be a one-stop shop. I can’t wait for my PAB swim preorder to arrive to let you know how it compares to the other swimwear I’ve worked with.

8. Try a very simple pattern first like the Sun n’ Fun from PAB. This pattern is easy to lengthen or shorten, and the topstitching is very easy on it (and there are no bindings which I have found to be the most challenging part of swimwear). If you do not have a little girl in your life to sew for, you can whip up a pair of Bahama Mama Boy Shorts. I made an awesome pair last week in about an hour. I will never buy store-bought swim bottoms again.

So just to prove that I’m not all talk and have something to share with you, here is my cutie-pie in her Sun n’ Fun size 3T. I picked up the nautical print at a mill end store on a road trip and I am thrilled with how it turned out. This suit is unlined because I ran out of swim lining. I recommend lining your suit because it is essential for some styles to prevent chafing and for women’s suits to prevent overexposure. But for this particular suit (on a baby in a swim diaper), skipping the lining was okay.



Sun n Fun size 3


Did you like this post? What tips do you have? Favorite swimsuit patterns for girls, boys, or women? We’d love to hear from you! Comment below or find us on Facebook.


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