Sewing swimwear is very simular to sewing lingerie. You can easily exchange most patterns for example. It’s mainly the materials that make the difference. I thought it would be a good idea to share some information about the ins and outs in a FREE printable available to download for everybody. You might even find some more Free Downloads there that might interest you! As for sewing swimwear first we should take a look at the differences between swimwear and beachwear.
As it turns out the qualifications for fabrics in beachwear are less severe than the ones for daily swimming. Problem is; visually there is not much difference and the only way to be really sure you buy fabric suited for swimwear is when the seller can provide the right information. One thing they have in common; just like modern lingerie they are all very fine knits. This is important to make the clothes fit smoothly on the body.
There are 4 key elements to keep in mind :
The stretchability of the fabrics comes from very very fine Elasthan yarns. Too fine to use all by themselves and besides; they don’t take any color. They are always spun inside a cover of other fine yarns like Polyamide. There should be at least 12% Elasthan in the yarns to have enough stretchability for swim and beachwear.
In general fabrics will have less strength when they are wet. The density of the fabric is key here; the thinner the yarns the more dense the fabric will be. Specially for long or for daily swims this is important because:
* the water resistance while swimming
* fabric scraping while sitting in sand or a chair
* fabric sagging (nobody wants their swimsuit ending on their knees after a swim)
* fabric shining through when wet
It’s not very comfortable when the fabric easily absorbs moisture and stays wet for hours after a swim. Fabrics that will dry quickly are preferable at the beach and swimming pool. Most synthetic fabrics will do the job and another benefit; their production is usually quite environment friendly these days while the production of natural fabrics like cotton are not. Specially cotton also will stay wet for hours.
Chloride in swimming pools and seawater often cause colors to fade, just as sunlight does. Specially when it’s just a printed layer there is more chance for this problem. Try to stich to fabrics with colors through and through, this meand the whole yarn is soaked in dye and will keep colors much longer.
This is just for the outer fabric because there’s also the LINING to concern about. There are just a few parts that might need a lining and each has a key ability to look for.
* crotch : quick-dry so do NOT use cotton like you would in lingerie because it should dry up just as quick as the rest of the garment
* torso : thin & stretchy because it’s mainly done to avoid sheerness. If you need a firm supportive swimsuit look for this in the outer fabric. In lingerie powernet is much loved for this purpose but this is usually NOT chloride and seawater resistant and will loose the stretch soon!
* cups : non-stretch because the breasts shouldn’t be sagging in swimwear just as they shouldn’t in lingerie. For this the same linings as for lingerie will do because they don’t have stretch yarns. Some types of Charmeuse lining could stay wet and sticking at the skin though so test this before using it in your swimwear.
PADDING lining deserves some further information. This basically is a triple layer fabric with a centre of foam or batting and laminated with non-stretch fabric at both sides.
You can use it in the cups but also for part of straps when you have a large cup size. This will relieve most of the weight on the shoulder. In the Free Download Sewing Swimwear is a pattern + sewing instructions for this.
For the cups you can cut the padding from the same pattern as the stretch fabric. BUT only add a seam allowance at the underwire seam and not all around the pattern!
You could also use molded (pre-shaped) seamless foam cups but in that case there will be no matching pattern to cut the outer fabric.
After cutting the padding first thing is to sew the coupe seam, this is the one running over the nipple. Use a 3 steps stitching zigzag and cover the seam with a strip of lining. It’s al step-by-step explaned in the download.
ELASTIC is another difference with lingerie. Again, this has to be chloride and seawater resistant which is the usual picot elastic not. Basically 2 types of elastic are used for this:
* rubber elastic which is a quite thick elastic because it’s cut from natural rubber sheets. Although a bit old-fashioned it’s still being used. It’s main disadvantage is the decay over time due to chloride and seawater.
* clear elastic (polyuréthane) which is a very thin elastic strip and will easily stretch out to double it’s original length. This modern type is the most used elastic for swimwear nowadays.
Sewing this type of elastic is quite different as well. It will end up hidden in between the fabric, not visible when the swimwear is finished. The whole process is also step-by-step explaned in the free download.
STRAPS are not the same as in lingerie as well because straps elastic is also not chloride and seawater resistant. Part of the straps can be made of the fabric + padding lining but even then another part remains. The best solution is to sew these from the same fabric as the whole garment. A perfect match and not too difficult to do.
It’s mainly a fabric channel turned inside out. To keep it in shape and length there needs to be clear elastic inside the channel. This is sewn on the seam allowance at the wrong side of the fabric.
All haberdasheries for swimwear have to be chloride and seawater resistant as well. Closures like bikini clips, underwires, decorations, always think it through before adding to the swimwear.
To keep the swimwear as lovely as after it’s just been finished you need to take care of it properly. But that’s easy enough;
* rinse it in clear water after wearing it to get the chloride, seawater and swet out
* roll in a towel to squeeze out every last drip and it will be dry the next morniing
* NO dryer needed which is a good thing since the heat of a dryer will only decrease the elasticity
* don’t store still wet to give fungi not a chance
* handwash your swimwear now and then if possible but if you deceide to use the washing machine stick to 30 degrees maximum and use a soft detergent!
You can download and print the new FREE Sewing Swimwear PDF to read and understand all about it.
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