Friday, April 8, 2011

Swimsuit Questions--Straps Tutorial

Here are a couple more questions I've received about swimsuits that I'm answering for everyone.  These happen to be about making straps.
1.  Do you ever make separate straps and then sew them on, or do you always just make the suits where the straps are a continuation of the suit?

Usually, I don't add separate straps.  I prefer the contrasting binding to flow into a continuous strap.  The only time I've made a separate strap and attached it to a suit is when I've done the One-Shoulder swimsuit for my daughter. 

However, with that being said, here are the basics to making a strap that you attach separately to a swimsuit top. 

Cut your piece of fabric about 2" wide and the same length as your elastic.  Cut the elastic for the strap a couple inches longer than what the pattern calls for, or longer than what you measured for the girl.  I do this so that I have some "wiggle" room: i.e. change the straps to cross in the back if the girl prefers, etc.  I also think it is easier to do the topstitching if you have more to grab onto and guide your sewing.
 Serge (or zigzag) elastic onto one edge of fabric--wrong side.  Then fold over twice, covering the elastic,  and pin.

Now you are ready to topstitch.  I just line it up in the middle and go.  If you don't have a double or Twin needle then use something like a multi-zigzag stitch as your topstitch.  It may also be called a Three-Step zigzag.

 Below is what the backside of the double needle stitching looks like--a little zigzag.
Then I just trim off, carefully, the excess fabric, and my strap is ready to be placed in position and attached onto the suit.

Once the straps are positioned, then topstitch and/or reinforce in place.  Cut off any excess strap.

2.  Do you put elastic around the top edges of swimsuits when attaching separate straps?  I.E. like the suits shown on pattern McCalls 4818

Yes, you would put elastic around the entire upper edge of the tankini (or swimsuit).  You cut and position an elastic piece for the front edge.  And then another elastic piece for the back and armholes section.  Then flip it over to the inside just like you would do on any other elastic edge.

And then if you are making a shorter tankini you would also put elastic around the lower edge as well to keep it in place.  When I make the longer tankinis I don't put elastic around the bottom edge.  My girls like their tankini tops to hit a couple inches below their waistline--I usually cut the pattern piece so that the hem is even with the top edge of the leg opening.  Always cut longer if you are able--you can always shorten it up if the girl prefers it.  Not so easy to add onto if they want it longer.


  1. Where do you find your cute swimming suit material? I have such a hard time finding something that doesn't look ancient.

    1. Spandex World or Spandex house sell as little as 1 yard (usually 60 inches wide) they have a $20 minimum. They are both in New York City. Don't forget lining material. Good luck!

    2. I know this is an older post but I just got some really cute swimsuit material from She specialized in knits of all kinds and has a great swim fabric section.

  2. I get my fabric here locally at this great shop and I've checked into whether they will do online orders and they don't. I have bought at Jo-Ann's before, but their selection usually is Blech!! or only solids.

    I myself haven't ever bought swimsuit fabric online because I've been lucky enough to get it here.

    However, I am trying to find cute fun pieces from this shop and put them on my Etsy site to resell. You are not the first to ask me about my fabric.

    If there is some specific style you are looking for I could possibly see if I could find it at my shop: i.e. pink stripes, or polkadot, etc.

    Let me know. I'm sorry that I'm not much more help than that.

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  4. I would like to try making a swimming suit for my 12 year old daughter. She needs a cup bra not a shelf bra but the pattern I have found only calls for a shelf bra. Would it be possible to add a cup bra? Have you ever done this?

  5. Great swimwear fabric at:



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