I can't quite believe I'm writing this blog.
Past me used to run a mile at the thought of pattern cutting and sewing swimwear. I remember trying to make a bikini many years ago, safe to say it was a complete hash and I didn't want to try any again... until 2021!
Now it's become an obsession of mine. I LOVE IT!
AND NOW...It's time to share my love of sewing and pattern cutting swimwear with you so that you too can create your own custom swimsuits and bikinis without any frustration.
❤️ We're going for wedgie-free moments! ❤️ Designer swimsuits recreated! Forget the 4-fig price tags - we're recreating them. ❤️ We're moving freely on the beach with no nip slips in sight.
Beginner's guide to creating your own swimwear
Dream bikinis and swimsuits here we come!
MY TOP TIPS
1. Before you get started, try on the swimwear you already have and take a couple of pictures. Make notes over the top of the picture noting down where you want to make changes (e.g. add extra length here, lower armhole by 1cm here and so on).
2 . Remember, if you are adding in or taking away when altering your pattern, you need to take into consideration the amount of stretch the fabric has. So you don't need to add in the exact amount, you need to add in slightly less.
For example, if I wanted to add in 1cm extra to the length, I will add 0.7cm because generally, the stretch percentage will be around 30%.
3. Stretch the rubber elastic about 15% as you sew so that it doesn't stretch out afterwards and have that lettuce-looking hem! More on this below :)
Now let's get started...
STEP 1 - Creating a pattern
Using swimwear you already have, copy and adapt the pattern to work for your style and fit.
Check out my YouTube video below on how to copy a pattern from a garment you already have.
WHY? So you can create swimwear that actually fits perfectly and that you feel comfortable in.
I've found that copying patterns and then making adjustments from swimwear I already have really helps me see exactly where I need to alter the pattern and by how much too. It allows me to create my own basic swimwear pattern blocks that fit my body shape and size perfectly without spending hours doing so.
It also makes it easier when changing the design. For example, if you want to create a swimsuit with cutouts or add sleeves, you can easily decide where you want the cutouts to be on your body when wearing the full swimsuit you already have and how long or short you'd want to sleeves to be, then mark them on your pattern.
STEP 2 - Creating a swimsuit toile
Once you've copied your pattern, you need to make a toile in swimsuit fabric (not just any stretch fabric) to make sure it looks and fits right for you. Make sure to use a similar fabric to what you will be using for your final swimsuit or bikini. You won't get away with just using a jersey or woven fabric you have in your stash (as tempting as it is I know... put the fabric down haha!).
You'll discover why making a toile was a lifesaver for me in the 'Materials you need...' section below too🙈
On some toiles for swimwear, depending on the design and finish, you don't need to finish any of the edges or seams. I only recommend this once you're happy with the sewing process and confident sewing with swim fabric too. BONUS TIP: Buy a larger swimsuit from a charity shop and cut it up to use the fabric for your toile - BUT make sure the elasticity of the fabric hasn't gone otherwise it defeats the point of this!
STEP 3 - Sewing in the rubber elastic tape
Use rubber tape to give support rather than normal elastic. You will need to add rubber tape all the way around the edges - around your neckline, armholes, legs and so on. You don't need to add it into the seam, only around the edges.
***It's great to use a wider tape under the bust if you have a larger bust for that extra support too. I find that the more support you want, the wider the elastic you want to use. I would recommend having a play with the different widths.
WHY? You can use normal elastic but it won't last as long when it comes in contact with sun creams, seawater and chlorine.
BONUS TIP: To make it look nicer, sew the rubber elastic onto the edges first on the INSIDE and then flow over the edges and sew again. This makes it neater too so you can't see the tape.
STEP 4 - Jumping on the machine to whip it up!
Domestic sewing machine vs. an overlocker.
You don't need an overlocker to sew your own swimwear... yep, read that again and take it in! 🤩 Ok, so an overlocker is a little bit better because it allows the fabric and thread to naturally stretch and trims your edges off for you. BUT a domestic machine can do the trick too!
If using a domestic sewing machine, make sure to use a zigzag stitch (I went for 5 for stitch length and around 2 for stitch width) to allow for the stretch. I found this worked great!
***I tried a walking foot and found it got stuck to the fabric with the feed dogs so scrapped that haha.
WHY? If you use a straight stitch to sew stretch fabrics and when sewing with rubbers/elastics, it won't allow the fabric to stretch so the thread will snap. This is why it's good to use a zigzag stitch or an overlocker.
If you're tempted to learn more about how I create my own swimwear, check out this YouTube video below of an IG live I did around it OR... scroll down if you're ready to full on take the plunge and want to learn so much more detail around this inside my swimwear course:
Materials you need to create your own swimwear & why
Start building your magic toolbox ready to dive in!
Okay so firstly... If you don't want your bits and pieces on show (you know what I mean ladies😂), I would recommend not using a white fabric unless you're adding a triple layer or adding some padding etc.
My toile saved me here otherwise I would have thrown it on, jumped in the pool at my local gym and learned very quickly that I'm baring all to the world! 🙊😅 I don't think Jim would have expected that on his relaxing evening swim.
MY TOP TIPS:
The better the quality the softer the swim fabric is - sometimes I find swimwear fabric a little scratchy but that's the beauty of creating your own. You can choose a nicer quality fabric that's softer on your skin.
You really don't need much fabric to create your swimwear. I ended up getting a swimsuit and a bikini out of 1m of eco fabric which was £18 and I bought some trims for a few more pounds. This is when you can really have those smug moments when recreating those 4-figure designer swimsuits you've seen in Vogue! 😏
Econyl Econyl is regenerated nylon. "It is made entirely from ocean and landfill waste, such as industrial plastic, fabric scraps from clothing manufacturing companies, old carpets and fish nets". This is a personal favourite of mine to use.
An alternative to Econyl. It's stretchy and very flexible fabric and great for swimwear. Double check the lycra you're getting is specifically suitable for swimwear too.
Lining fabric This is a personal preference. I personally don't enjoy using a lining fabric as I don't like the feeling of it, it doesn't give as much support and when you use your walking foot, it seems to get stuck. Instead, I use a double layer of fabric to get a nice finish and more support. Have a play and see which one you prefer.
Perfect to use to add support to your swimwear and finish it off. As mentioned above in step 3, it's better to use a rubber elastic rather than a normal elastic so it lasts longer and withstands all the suncream, seawater and chlorine etc.
Where to buy your swimwear supplies?
Good Fabric Store
Okay, if you've been around here for a while now you'll know I'm OBSESSED with the Good Fabric store! The fabrics are ethical too which is important to me.
I've ordered from here many times and every time the fabrics have been even better than imagined. Polina is also really happy to answer questions and give advice. This is especially helpful when ordering online. A fabulous range of organic swim fabrics for your amazing designs.
I'm not responsible for everything that falls into your basket when you look on her website either because it's just far too exciting on there!🙊
A great collection of ethical trims with a wide variety of elastics, lingerie elastics, ethical rubber for swimwear and more. This is my go-to place for ethical elastics.
Location: Ireland Website: https://www.fabricromance.ie/
Sells beautiful recycled swim fabrics and is great at responding to questions on Instagram.
Cutting out your fabric My Top Tips
✂️ Make sure your pins are nice and sharp - if they're blunt, they're more likely to snag the fabric or use clips if you're worried about this to stop any snagging
✂️ If using scissors, make sure they're nice and sharp too.
✂️ Alternatively, you can use a rotary cutter but make sure to use weights to hold the fabric in place - I've found this works best
Are you tempted to learn more now?
So maybe now you're realising (like I did in 2021) that it is actually possible to create your own swimwear.
And if that's the case then Take the Plunge was made for you!
Dive deeper and overcome the fear of creating your own swimwear. Learn how to pattern cut, fit and sew your own swimsuits and bikinis in my online swimwear course, Take The Plunge.