Sewing Swimwear: Six Practical Tips for Your Next Project

sewing swimwearSummer is most people's favorite season.  During summer, there are of course a lot of activities that we can do and one of the fun things is swimming.  And for this to be the most fun, having good looking and well fitting swimwear is a must.  However, many readers find it difficult to find the right swimwear “off the rack” to fit their size and body shape.

Well, fortunately, there's a solution since you can make your own swimwear.  Don’t worry, you won't be the first one to DIY swimwear.  All you need is a good pattern, the right materials and some practice and patience.

We have gathered some helpful and practical tips for you to succeed in sewing swimwear.  Why not make sewing swimwear your next sewing project?

Tip #1: Choose the right fabric

sewing swimwear

Choose a swimwear fabric that has the right stretch. Really examine the fabric carefully to make sure you'll be comfortable wearing it. Pick a four-way stretch fabric because they are the most appropriate fabric for swimwear. The fabric should be composed of a 100% man-made fibers because these don't absorb water and will be very durable. The best to use are those composed of 80-90 % nylon and part Spandex.

Before buying, stretch the fabric to see how it feels. If the fabric is a print, does the image or design of the fabric become distorted when you stretch it? These basic characteristics of a swimwear fabric are definitely important in choosing the best fabric.

Here are some examples of interesting swimwear fabrics:


Tip #2: Choose the right lining

sewing swimwear

This is an important detail in your swimwear. The lining affects a swimwear’s comfort when worn. Don't choose a lining that will irritate your skin or itch. One good example of a great lining is Halenka. If you cannot source out Halenka, you can choose a sheer swimwear fabric. It will also work great!  Below is an example of swimwear lining fabric.

Tip #3: Choose the right elastic

sewing swimwear

This is an essential part of your swimwear.  The overall durability of the garment greatly depends on the durability of the sewing elastic that you choose. There are two kinds of trustworthy elastic you can use: cotton swimwear elastic and rubber elastic.  There are different widths and textures you can choose from and it is also important to choose the right kind to fit your swimwear’s design.  Below is a good example of specialized swimwear elastic.

Tip #4: Choose the right thread

sewing swimwear

Thread holds your swimwear together, so it's pretty essential.  Threads can weaken over time and with excessive exposure to chlorine and salt. Avoid sewing with cotton thread because this cannot tolerate long exposure to chlorinated water. When using a serger for your project, it is better to use a thread that is made of polyester for durability.

Tip #5: Cutting it right

sewing swimwear

As with any sewing projects, cutting your fabric the right way with the right measurements is essential.  Once you commit a cutting mistake, there’s no coming back unless you have lots of fabric on hand.  As the saying goes, measure twice and cut once.  Cut the parts one at a time, if possible so that you can avoid damaging the other part. If you are using a printed fabric, cutting it with the right side of the fabric facing up will greatly help you see the pattern line clearly. Make use of tools like pattern weights, pins, and a rotary cutter can help you be in control of the fabric while cutting.

Tip #6: Give the right support

Getting the right support for your bust when wearing a swimsuit is a critical factor. Remember that you are wearing only the swimsuit and nothing else, so make sure that you provide the bust support you need.

You can use foam cups for light support. Make sure to use those that are intended for swimwear and not for those intended for lingerie –those cannot stand up long exposure to chlorinated water or salt water and can also absorb more water than those intended for swimwear.

sewing swimwear

Another choice for the chest support is by using an underwire. This is by far the most reliable bust support for swimwear. However, it would also depend on your swimwear design to determine whether you can insert an underwire. If you expect you're going to need the support of an underwire, look for swimwear patterns that allow you to use them. And when you make one, be sure to size correctly for maximum comfort while swimming.

Your thoughts on sewing swimwear?

What are your thoughts about sewing your very own swimwear?  I've been thinking about adding a bathing suit to the workout wardrobe series we've been working on since January.  Would you be interested in future projects and tutorials about sewing swimwear?

Please share in the comments below.  We'd love to hear from you.

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46 Responses to Sewing Swimwear: Six Practical Tips for Your Next Project

  1. Rose Peterson says:

    I have a lonely box in the back of the closet full of horribly botched swimwear attempts. Why do I even save them? Maybe I hope the Swim Suit Fairy with visit to wave her wand and rescue that poor expensive fabric from mutilation. Or I will open it one day to find it was all just a bad dream and they are all beautifully made.

    PLEASE teach me how to make swimwear so I don’t have to hide boxes in the back if the closet in shame.

  2. Mrs Donna L Young says:

    I to am older, bordering on old, heavy and big boobs.. I ordered from an online source but I don’t like the fabric and it is too big, I would love to learn to make my own. My Motto is older big ladies get hot and like to swim too!

  3. M. Price says:

    YES, PLEASE! I have wanted to make my own swimsuit although I can’t find a tankini style anywhere. Would you please include that in your workout series?

  4. Norma I Miller says:

    Thanks for the information now maybe I can make some tops can I get my foam say at Joann’s or where can we find them on line??

  5. Patricia says:

    I would love to know more about sewing swimwear and a new pattern would be great!!! I always have a hard time finding a suit that fits right as I am a size 18/20 but do not have a big bust. All the off the rack suits I try on are always too big in the bust!

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      You will have to learn to draft your own. I will give this more thought and if there is more interest I am happy to write up a mini-course on how to make your own.

  6. margaretsummers says:

    I taught Stretch and Sew in the 70’s and sewing swimwear is not hard….but you relally do need to “stretch” the fabric when sewing.

    • Marnie Johnk says:

      My mom took Stretch and Sew classes, too!!!

    • OnFleakArtistry says:

      What about using a nylon stretch thread (think that’s what I read in another tutorial) does that work and do you pull out the fabric while sewing w/this too?

  7. AA says:

    I love a 1920s-style hip-length swim dress plus shorts to about 4″ above the knee. I just use bike pants pattern and lengthen a fitted t-shirt pattern for the dress. I build a shelf bra into mine, with a vertical strip of elastic between the breasts for a better fit. I’ve finally got to a time I can stop building nursing clips in, so I’m thinking my next bathers will have a more 1950s bombshell top to celebrate.

    I have to disagree on the fabric recommendation above – if you always swim in chlorinated pools, you want 100% polyester knit, as spandex will perish in about 3 months of use. Polyester ladders very easily, so you need to hem properly and be very careful not to stretch the cut edges before they are sewn!
    I love using fold-over elastic for neck and armhole edging, not the narrow lingerie stuff, the 1″ heavy-duty nappy elastic, it’s easy to use, makes a great look and lasts well. My last set of bathers suffered badly-faded fabric long before the elastic wore out.

    I make my kids bathers, too, just use bike shorts patterns and t-shirt patterns, very sun-protective and easy for toilet trips. One-piece bathers make no sense for little kids!

  8. Marti Morgan says:

    I am really ready to sew my own swimwear, as Frances Dean said, I am large busted and am always searching for the best fit. I go to Florida for a month, as well as water aerobics 3 times a week. I have numerous purchased suits (Land’s End has a few with cup sizes, but still not as large as I think I should wear). I have purchased some beautiful material from Sly Fabrics, I bought lining from Surge Fabric, and purchased swimwear bra cups, forgot all about the elastic!!! Haven’t made one cut yet – would love more information to help build my confidence.

  9. Janice Weiss says:

    Swimwear isn’t that hard to sew and with some great pointers more of us would be able to achieve fantastic results! I almost made a successful bathing suit-20 years ago! Haha! I managed a great fit, beautiful binding around the legs and top edge. Cups fit great and the torso was long enough. Then, when I was almost done I realized a couple of things…. I should have lined the entire swimsuit and used a stretch or ballpoint needle with polyester thread. I recently took a bra making class and it’s inspired me to try swimwear again. One thing that the teacher there said that I found helpful was- make stitch samples using the triple stretch stitch and your zig-zag, and cover hem. Every fabric and machine has a slightly different setting that works best. I would love to read more swimsuit sewing articles, a little more knowledge would have saved me a lot of frustration!👙

  10. Fern Wilcox says:

    YES PLEASE!!!!! I enjoy making my own swimwear and would love to have more hints. THANK YOU.

  11. sblessinghww says:

    Thanks for always sharing so generously, and addressing crucial and timely things. In other words, you answer those questions that should be asked, but one does not even always know to ask…the important stuff. That’s awesome…like the importance of thread type…of course everything is held together by thread..and even though you just written a whole post about it, I would most likely have not even thought about which type to use for swimwear….that could be a disaster lol… It is just so easy to get distracted with fabric and everything else.

    I would looooove to hear more about swimwear, and how to sew it myself. This really fits in with Bra shopping….just not working for me, and I have a very average figure, which should make it easy. But the things in the store seem to be made for some other kind of human. They are to loose here, squish and squash you there, pinch, pull and so on, worst I find is when you feel you finally found something that could work..not perfect, but “less worse” and then you find that it gives you rolls and re-shapes which are most unattractive, and weren’t there, until you put that thing on.
    Thanks for helping us make clothes we can actually wear.

  12. irene hynes says:

    I would love to learn more about sewing swimwear.
    I usually wear tankini, with the shorts-style bottoms, since I am “older”, and want to feel covered up a little.
    I swim every day in my apartment pool, or at the beach in summer, so go through lots of swimsuits. It would be great to sew my own…save money…and always have a good fit.

  13. Joey Smith says:

    YES. Please I have tried 3 times and failed all 3 times I would appreciate it tremendously *joey

  14. Frances Dean says:

    I am very interested in sewing my own swimwear as I have a long body and a large bust. I always wear a two-piece (because of the long body) and I like lots of support. I would like to make bikinis as well as a sporty one-piece. I have been reading up about making swimwear, but am still a bit intimidated as yet, although I have started to check where I can source appropriate materials. I will look forward to your workout wardrobe series as I have found your site to be a wonderful help for my beginner sewing skills, it’s my go-to site for patterns and information.

  15. Gail Hart says:

    Yes please. I have previously made my children’s swimwear, but hit roadblocks for adults. I would also like one that is flattering for a mastectomy lady & a nice skirt / outer layer gor the thighs.

  16. Serafina C says:

    How about a swimsuit for women who’ve had a mastectomy? I’ve had a mastectomy and those type of bathing suits are so darn expensive. All it needs is a pocket for the prosthesis.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Yes Serafina, I think I will make a pattern just for a woman such as yourself. I have never made one so I will have to do a bit of research. What style would you be after?

  17. Chantal Lapointe says:

    I would love to know how to alter a swimsuit pattern to fit a long torso. I usually need one inch with woven fabrics. With the negative ease in swimwear, I don’t know how much length to add. Same problem with adding length for a fuller derrière. I am clueless. I would love a tutorial for swimwear fitting issues. Thank you!

  18. Linda G says:

    There are so many of us looking for better fitting swimwear. I’ve made swimsuits in the past and one thing I recommend is to use clear elastic. Most clear elastic is chemical-resistent polyester (no latex or rubber content), made especially for swim and athletic wear, you can sew through it and it doesn’t lose it’s stretch and recovery traits, and it practically disappears inside the suit. Since it is sewn directly to the fabric, you won’t have to thread elastic through narrow openings or casings.

    For those looking for more coverage or just more design options, fitted athletic wear patterns can be adapted for swimwear and are usually already sized for stretch fabrics. Capri workout leggings can be shortened to make swim shorts of your desired length and leotards make a great start for a tank suit or swim dress. Sometimes there are more workout wear patterns than swimwear patterns available and a few include instructions for adding inner support.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Linda, Thank you so much for your valuable experience and taking the time to comment! Much appreciate it!

  19. Kirsten Ross says:

    A tankini with longer briefs or a skirt/brief combo in larger sizes would be wonderful. Modest and fashionable.

  20. Susan says:

    A lot of bought swimwear has a bad fit. You have to tear here and replace there. Espacially for big sizes most of the swimwear is very dull. That’s why I began to sew my own swimwear. So far I tried to adapt bra pattern into swimwear. That way I made one for me and one for my adult daughter. I would be glad to hear more about swimwear and a good pattern (for larger sizes as well) would be great. I prefer swimwear with underwires and my daughters too.

  21. Wynn says:

    Where do you get bra cups for swimsuits … for d+ ladies? When I was very slim – around 40 years ago – I made a couple of great swimsuits. Very impressive. But now I’m a ‘funny shape’ and so always wear shorts over bathers to cover up the big thighs. I rarely go swimming now and don’t quite know what style to make! Maybe a two piece with the bottom as shorts. I think if enough is covered up I might just venture into the water! Lol.

  22. Marijean says:

    Always can use additional tips on sewing swim wear and there is definitely a shortage of good patterns. I make suits for myself and my adult daughter; in fact, neither of us buy off the rack

  23. Libby says:

    I’d like to suggest a very important 7th tip…make sure to use a stretch needle in your sewing machine. It will prevent endless frustration as well as possible damage to your knit fabric.
    I love your tutorials and will enjoy seeing what you share about swimwear sewing!

  24. Nancy says:

    I’ve been making swimwear for quite a while, but now I have a serger and would like to know more techniques using my new machine.

  25. Evelyn I Braun says:

    I recently purchased fabric and lining and cup inserts to make my own swimsuit. In every swimsuit I have purchased the leg elastic is extremely loose. I have purchased foldover elastic and hope to remedy this. I am concerned about the pattern I have for my DIY suit and am trying to figure out how to compare it to the purchased suits to correct it before I cut… Any suggestions? And, yes, please, more on swimwear, etc. Thanks!

  26. Jan says:

    Yes, I would also like to figure out how to put bra cups into strappy tops and dresses. I’ve thought about taking a bra that fits right, removing the straps, and sewing it in, but have no idea if that would actually work in real life.

    I’ve purchased a few performance knit remnants over the past year for a swimsuit. I figure if I totally blow it I’m out less money. This year I had to buy a new suit and found one I can wear but it just barely fits in some places and is too big in others. I’ve got to get over my anxiety about this and make one that fits right.

    Jan

  27. Louise Belisle says:

    Yes, yes, yes! A swimsuit pattern would be great, but please do not forget us Queen size ladies! A Tikini would be great as they are so much easier to take off and we probably would be able to match different bottoms to tops. Too bad I am leaving on a cruise before that comes out. Thank you for all the great stuff you do! Louise

  28. Linda Wright says:

    I have just started making my own bras, thanks to a Craftsy class. Adding a bathing suit to that group would be great

  29. Robin says:

    I am ready to venture into the world of swimwear…got my patterns, fabric, elastic & lining…would LOVE to see future projects & tuts relating to this area!!

  30. Ozell Cobb says:

    Swimwear addition would be great. Hopefully there would be different styles of if swim suits for different body types.

  31. Corey Fisher says:

    I would love to see more swimsuit patterns. I am getting ready to make one and it was very hard to find a pattern, there are not many out there, or maybe I just didn’t look in the right spot. Most of them are 2 piece which I cannot wear.

  32. Brenda Kroez says:

    I’d like to see more information about making swimsuits. I’d also really like to see something about inserting bra cups into strappy tops and dresses, where wearing a bra (other than a strapless bra) is out of the question. Thanks – I really enjoy your blog and patterns. Just finished the swimsuit coverup dress. Really nice.

  33. Amanda says:

    Yes. Thanks for the information. I would like to make my own swim dress

  34. Roxanne says:

    I just finished sewing my first bathing suit. It certainly was a challenge. I feel like I leveled up as a seamstress though. Another blog post idea: swim wear construction, i.e. how to add elastic to the leg openings, how to add cups, underwire and boning, etc.

  35. Lutgart Schockaert says:

    Please more about swimwear.

  36. Liz says:

    Thank you so much for these tips Mayra. Many, many years ago I made a swimsuit with cotton fabric!! Needless to say, it took many days for it to dry. Of course, I have much more experience now and know not to use that fabric. I’d love to try this again so additional tutorials would be great. Thank you for all your educational tips and videos.

  37. Carol Floyd says:

    It would be wonderful to have swimwear in the new workout wardrobe series.

What do you think?