Saturday, April 2, 2011

Swimsuit Questions--Leg Opening Elastic

I've had a few emails lately concerning sewing swimsuits.  Since I was working on my next batch of suits here last week I thought I'd answer them here again for anyone else who might have the same ones--and then I can also throw in some pics for better clarification...hopefully.
1.  Do you sew the lining to the print before sewing the suit together? 

No, because I don't want to pull out the basting once I'm done.  Call me lazy, but if I can, I eliminate as many steps as possible or consolidate the steps.  I will pin through all 4 layers--suit fabric right sides together with the lining on the outside (this is wrong sides together with the suit fabric)--and sew that in one pass.  The layers would be lining, suit, suit, lining.

However, if you are uncomfortable with this, then by all means quickly baste.  I just tend to pin more, instead of basting, if I feel the pieces aren't staying where I want them.  I always tell people to pin as much or as little as you need to in order to feel comfortable.

2.  When you're doing the elastic around the leg openings, do you pull it at all or just leave it relaxed?

Probably not what you were expecting me to say but I'll explain. 
And this is based on what I learned from Kwik Sew directions.  I've found their patterns and info to be the most helpful when making suits.

So first let's look at panty bottoms pattern pieces.
This is what the front piece will look like.

This is what the back piece looks like.

And then hopefully this visual will help you see how they would be sewn together (in this pic it includes the lining)

Sew the elastic piece in a circle before attaching it.  This is how Kwik Sew instructs you to do it--and their elastic measurements are based on the entire opening, not just for the front leg opening or the back leg opeining.

The front leg opening is the length/area starting from the side seam up and around the front, thru the legs to where the crotch portion of the front piece attaches to the back.  This entire length you DO NOT stretch the elastic. 
Just pin it to the leg opening so that the elastic and suit fabric are the same--flat and even. Try not to stretch either the elastic or the fabric.

This will leave you with a portion of the elastic that is smaller than the remaining back leg opening.  This is the part that covers up the fullness of the backside.  This is where you will STRETCH the elastic to fit that space.  It ends up being any where from 1-2" shorter than the fabric.

When attaching the elastic, ONLY stretch the elastic just enough to fit the suit fabric--if you stretch more than you need to, so that the fabric is stretching too, you may end up with a permanently stretched out suit.  You don't want this.  You want the fabric to fit nicely around the backside.

3.  Do you just turn over the edges on top of the elastic?


If you end up with something that looks like the pic below--you serged your elastic on and didn't catch all the lining--DON'T pick it out and start over.  This can be fixed.

Just tuck the lining up under the elastic as best you can.

And then fold it over to the inside of the panty bottom, and pin.  This will hold it where you want it so that you can make sure it gets caught up in the topstitching.

When you topstitch the leg openings just stretch the elastic enough so that the fabric is flat and there are no gathers.  Below I've already topstitched the front of the leg opening and I am getting ready to topstich the backside of the leg opening.  You can see how it is gathered up a bit onto the elastic.

Pull it only enough to make it flat and then topstitch.
This is the same for any of the elastic edges:  i.e. neckline, armholes--only stretch enough to get the suit fabric to be flat.

Once you topstitch the back of the leg opening it doesn't always look gathered (like the above pre-topstitch pic), but it will have a nice curve to it that will conform to where you want, which is covering up the backside.

I'll have a couple more swimsuit questions to answer later next week--all about straps and binding.


  1. Renae, those are great instructions for anyone making suits. I was thinking I had a few more weeks before I needed to start sewing swim suits, but today it was 88 degrees. I guess summer is finally here. Tiff

  2. Send some of your heat our way--we almost have all the snow gone. We even went swimming (indoor pool)last Friday because we couldn't stand it any longer.

  3. Great tips--thank you for sharing and taking time to capture in photos. I will be using them again soon!

  4. I'm having a really hard time with the elastic and my bobbin is going crazy. How do you keep from having the bobbin thread ball up underneath?

    1. I find that any time my machine is having thread issues on the back or underside of one of my projects it is usually a bobbin issue or for some reason my machine needs to be re-threaded.

      Make sure your tension is correct, you have a STRETCH needle, and not too tight of a stitch--(stitch length). Mine ranges from 0-4 and I almost always sew at about a 3.

      Is it balling up at the point where you overlap the elastic?
      If that is the case, try moving that overlap a bit off of a seam so that it isn't too thick and your machine balks. I've had that happen. I also try and position the elastic overlap so that as I sew the overlap cannot accidentally fold back or get pushed down into the bobbin area. I.E. your elastic on the bottom of the overlap extends the same direction you are sewing.

      If you look up at the pic of the elastic circle it shows what I am talking about. The cut edge of the elastic on the bottom extends to the right. I would make sure that is positioned so that cut edge lands towards me as I'm sewing, not away. I hope that makes sense.

      I can't think of any other reason why it would continually ball up, unless it has just been awhile since your machine has been serviced.

  5. Hey This is so long ago of a post but what kind of thread do I use? Just regular?

  6. I'm having a really tough time with my twin needle, especially when I'm trying to topstitch over existing seams. I've broken two needles in 24 hours! Do you have any tips for twin needles? Thank you for all the awesome swimsuit information.

    1. I would just suggest you go slowly over those spots. Sometimes you can cut the bulk out of the seam and that will help. I have broken a twin needle before. Very annoying as they aren't exactly cheap. Make sure the overlap of the elastic isn't also placed at the seam. That will add more bulk than you want. I try to move my elastic overlap "off" a bit.

      Hope that helps.

  7. Are you using a straight stitch with the twin needle or a stretch stitch? Sorry if this is obvious. I just bought a twin stretch so I can try this out, after finding your blog post when I messed up the tankini bottoms (I thought the pattern instructions meant to stretch the fabric and elastic and was like "why does this look so messed up" so thank you for the blog! I read all your swimsuit-tagged posts.).

    1. With the twin needle I use a regular STRAIGHT stitch. Using a twin needle already makes it so that there is some stretch to that stitch or seam (the zig zag on the back or inside allows for the stretch). So you don't need to use a stretch stitch.

      I'm not sure if this happened to you but I would think that using a stretch stitch with the twin needle would actually stretch out the fabric and keep it stretched out. I may have to go test that theory on a scrap piece.

      Anyway, I hope that helps and good luck with the next suits.

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  9. Hi Ranae,
    How did you decide how much elastic to use for the leg opening? E.g. if let's say the leg opening measured 10 inches around, did you subtract 1 or 2 inches?

  10. So when you serge the elastic to the material you are NOT using a knife, right? I am very new to this and thank you for sharing your skills. :)

  11. So when you serge the elastic to the material you are NOT using a knife, right? I am very new to this and thank you for sharing your skills. :)



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