Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sew Your Own Swimsuit

Now that it really seems to be warming up here my kids are starting to ask me to drive by the local swimming pool to see if any water is in it yet. Oh, how we wish! Unfortunately for us school doesn't get out until June 2nd, but then that means the pool is open on JUNE 6th!!!! My kids love going to the pool. And we are so lucky that our community pool pass lets us frequent 2 different swimming pools. We love swimming! So....Are you ready for swimsuit season??

For years now I've been making swimsuits for my girls (and myself, but that's a different post)--mainly because I was tired of the lack of modest choices available but also because I was tired of only finding character suits that I don't really want to advertise for, i.e. Hannah Montana. Another factor was that we grow 'em tall at our house and therefore that resulted in problems too for my tall, skinny minnies.

A big thanks to Aunt Gayle and cousin Tiffany for encouraging me to give it a shot all those years ago. My girls are probably rather spoiled now as they usually have at least 3 suits a year to alternate between. Lucky for me I also have a great fabric store that always has lots of choices of swimsuit fabric. Tiffany even stocked up with swimsuit fabric when she visited us last July.

Last night was my 3rd annual swimsuit night--where I get together with a couple friends and we sew swimsuits together. It is a fun little evening. I find that most beginning seamstresses like to have a "teacher" right there handy to help them thru any trouble spots or answer questions they may have. A couple of my friends will still only sew if I am nearby, but I'm working on them.

****Click HERE for some updated tips (May 2010) on sewing swimwear with a serger, swimsuit elastic and topstitching.

Here are some of my tips when making swimsuits:

PatternsThese are the patterns that I have been using over and over and over again for my girls. I've tried other patterns from other pattern companies, but I keep coming back to Kwik Sew patterns for swimsuits. They just seem to fit better. Unfortunately they rarely go on sale. However, over the years I have definitely got my monies worth on the patterns.Kwik Sew 2606 for girls sizes 8-14, racerback style tankKwik Sew 2512 sizes 1T - 4T (which is now out of print, but Kwik Sew has other baby swimsuit patterns available), this is a racerback style tank w/ or w/o an attached skirt. We call it a ruffle bum.
Kwik Sew 2422 girls sizes 4-7 (also apparently out of print), this is a basic tank suit that you can make w/ or w/o an attached skirt.

Elastic
I prefer ¼” elastic for little girls vs. 3/8”. Also, you do NOT need to buy swimsuit elastic specifically. Just grab a package of the ¼ elastic. You will need around 3 yd. of elastic per swimsuit on girls' sizes 8-14.

When attaching the elastic to the suit itself, stretch the fabric the LEAST amount possible to accomodate the elastic. I use a pretty loose zigzag stitch. If the zigzag is too tight then it tends to not allow the elastic to go back in a relaxed position--therefore making the opening saggy and too big. I don't ever use my serger to make swimsuits.

Needles
You will definitely need a STRETCH needle or you’ll be awfully cranky and disappointed in your swimsuit.
Make sure the package says STRETCH—and if you don’t plan on making more swimsuits or t-shirts down the road then I suggest you go in with someone or more than one someone to buy a package (5 ct. of needles). That way it’ll only cost you less than $1 for the needle. I cannot emphasize enough on this one. Using a universal needle will actually cause it to cut holes in your swimsuit fabric along the stitching line. YOU WANT a STRETCH NEEDLE!!

Lining
Unless the girl you are making this suit for is already physically developing, I don’t normally line little girl swimsuits. And when I do line it, I just use the same fabric and cut 2 fronts instead of one. So if you think you will need to do that then add more to your fabric purchase. I usually just buy 1 yard regardless of who I am making it for so that I have plenty to match if necessary, line the suit, or for really little girls, make a matching cover-up skirt.

I also have 3 daughters so the fabric does get used up, if not this year, then next year. We've also have fun sewing for the girls' friends. It seems that for each of them their best friend is the only girl at her house, so she hasn't had the fun of being able to match with a sister. We've taken care of that at times with matching swimsuits.

Good luck to you who choose to make your own suits. It really isn't as hard as it seems or sounds if you just learn a few little tricks.

19 comments:

  1. Love the idea & that sounds like a fun night to sew with friends.

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  2. This is great! I've been honestly thinking of sewing one for my daughter this week, but it sounded too overwhelming. So thank you for the tips!

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  3. Your friends are blessed to have a swimsuit sewing night - I'd love to do that. What a great idea! I think I'll look for one of those patterns you say fit a tallish slender girl like my 8-year-old. And I will definitely look for a stretch needle.

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  4. I'm curious as to why you don't use your serger for swim suits? I only use my regular machine to top stitch the elastic in. Everything else is sewn on my serger. Tiffany

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  5. could you give a picture showing how loose you sew in the elastic? Just curious on the width and length of you loose stitching.

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  6. Tiffany, I'm not sure why I don't use my serger, except for the fact that you don't need to because the swimsuit fabric doesn't ravel.

    I'll have to sew one with and see if it jogs my memory, because really I have no idea.

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  8. hi! my name is jessica & i stumbled onto your blog searching for info about kwik sew swimsuits. i have kwik sew #2605 & a bolt of cute fabric that i got super cheap & all the assorted necessities so i'm excited to give it a shot! i sew alot but this is my first time doing swimwear so i have a couple of questions.

    1-my girlie wants a tankini so can i chop the bottom off the one piecer so it's like a tank top? i figure i will just make the bottom included with the pattern to go with it. should i add elastic at the bottom of the tank to help it stay down or no?
    2-are the kwik sew directions for installing the elastic good to use? i ask cause it seems like everyone has their own "correct" way of doing elastic.

    thanks in advance for any advice you are willing to throw my way.
    peace,
    =0)jessica

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  9. hi, jessica again. one last question, my machine has stretch stitch should i use that?

    sorry!

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  10. Hi Jessica,

    I would've emailed you directly but I couldn't find one for you. So I hope that you get this.

    First of all-Good for you for trying swimsuits!!

    Here are a couple ideas for you and I hope that they make sense enough. If not then send me back another email and I’ll try to do better.

    Stretch Stitch
    If you don’t have a serger then when you are sewing the pieces together I would use a stretch stitch. The one I use sews a straight stitch but sews forward then back slightly then forward more, back slightly. Check your manual if you have it. I like this stitch as the seams don’t pop when the girls yank their suits on—especially when wet.
    There are other stretch stitches too, just play around and see which one you may like best.

    Elastic
    The directions for putting in the elastic are fine with the Kwik Sew instructions. You may want to play around a bit on your own machine before actually putting it in to see what you like. There are a couple decorative stretch stitches you can use when you topstitch depending on what your machine can do. I generally just use a plain zigzag to attach the elastic and then some cute topstitch stretch stitch to finish it off. I think I put some examples on our blog.

    Tankinis
    Use the panty bottom from your pattern for the tankini bottom and then for the top you can just use the top tankini--lengthened. I’ve found that my girls like them long and so I usually cut the top so that it the same length as top of the leg opening. (lay the tank pattern alongside so you can see how long to go.) I hope that makes sense. I’ve cut too many that turned out shorter than anyone wanted and then you’re mad. If you cut it long then you can shorten it up if you’d like without any problems. You may end up having to try it on her before you actually do the hem too so that you can get it straight.
    I don’t put elastic at the hem of the tankinis when I make them long like I’ve described. They may raise up a bit in the water but it shouldn’t be bad. If your girl thinks it is too loose then you can go back and take in the side seams a bit too.
    And depending on your fabric you can line the front piece too of the tankini if need be. Just sew it in with the front—double layer and sew everything else the same way.

    Holler back at us if you have any other questions (and make sure you leave your email address.)

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  11. I'd just like to add that if you do not use swimsuit elastic, be sure to test a section of your elastic in water before going through the trouble of sewing it in. There are some elastics that stretch significantly when wet, and this can be utterly disastrous in a swimsuit. I know this from one extremely embarrassing experience! Use a pin to mark off six inches of your elastic, then soak it well and measure again. I just tried one that gained a full inch.

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  12. Thanks for posting this! I was just wondering if I need to use a specific type of thread? I know that there's elastic thread out there. Should I try that?

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  13. Ok...this might be a really stupid question, but I am extremely new to sewing. Could you use a knit needle instead of a stretch needle?

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  14. I always use STRETCH for any of my knits. STRETCH specifically on the back of the packaging says "for highly elastic synthetic knitwear". That means to me spandex, lycra.

    If you are talking about using a JERSEY BALLPOINT needle as a KNIT needle that packaging says it is designed for "coarse knitwear".

    I also found another spot where is says, "JERSEY / BALL POINT NEEDLES are best suited for tightly knitted fabrics with little stretch to them. The rounded point gently separates the yarns without cutting the fibers."

    The same spot said this about STRETCH needles, "STRETCH NEEDLES have a medium ball point and specially designed eye and scarf to reduce skipped stitches on stretch knits and elastics."

    I would then think that Knit or Jersey ballpoint needles are better for t-shirt type knits, not swimsuit fabric. (But I still use the stretch needle on the tees that I make.)

    In the past, I believe with Jersey ballpoints, I've not had good luck using it on swimwear fabric. It would skip stitches, etc.

    Before sewing a suit, get an extra piece and try the needle out, going thru 2 layers of your fabric. And also try it with a piece of your elastic and fabric together. If it starts skipping then use a STRETCH needle. I don't have that skipping issue on swimwear fabric when using a STRETCH.

    http://www.thecolorfulworldofsewing.com/p-192-schmetz-stretch-needles.aspx

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  15. You are amazing, just in case you didn't know! I was inspired and tried to sew my first suit this summer but had a hang-up. I tried NOT to stretch the elastic when I put it in, but what about for the top-stitching when you fold it? I didn't stretch and we're having a hard time getting my daughter's arms in...
    Also, since Kwik Sew seems to be doing away with skirts :( in their patterns, I was curious as to if you would attach the skirt to the top or bottom piece when you put it on? I'm going to alter the pattern to fit a skirt but wasn't sure which way to attach. Thanks for your help in advance...
    kassia2538 -- I'm a yahoo mail user. Thx.

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  16. For anyone wanting to sew swimwear, your blog is a treasure trove of ideas, tips and tutorials!!! I've just stated an ongoing link party specifically for swimwear. I'd love you to link up your swimwear posts, as I know my readers would be interested...
    http://threadingmyway.blogspot.com/2012/06/threading-your-way-swimwear-link-party.html

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  18. Such a lovely idea to have an absolutely original swimsuit. I'd like to offer some tips about how to choose a right model:
    swimwear to choose.

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