When you think about sewing your own swimwear you dream of a garment that not only fits perfectly but also that looks store bought, not homemade. Even if you don't have industrial or fancy sewing machines you can make a swimsuit that doesn't look homemade. Here are some of the mistakes you should avoid when sewing your own swimwear:
1. Using the wrong stretch fabric
It is common (but terrible) mistake to think that because a fabric stretches a bit it can be used to make a swimsuit. Remember that a swimsuit must stretch enough to fit tight around the body but still be comfortable and be made in a fabric with enough stretch recovery (so you won't loose your bikini bottom when a wave comes :0( !. For that reason, a fabric that doesn't stretch properly (at least 50% stretch), won't do the trick. Check out this blog post that has a video where I explain in detail how to test a fabric.
I do not recommend polyester/spandex fabrics; it can be used for semi-fitted clothing but not in swimwear or fitted garments, they might stretch but look sheer and won't fit properly. Make sure to use high quality nylon/spandex with at least 50% stretch. In order to measure ow much a fabric stretches refer to my other post "5 Tips for Sewing Spandex Like a Pro".
One of my favorite fabrics shops is Las Telas, here you can find a wide variety of nylon/spandex prints and solids, ideal for swimwear at awesome prices (starting at $3.99 a yard). Send them a Facebook message, they will help you find the right swimwear fabric.
2. Not placing pattern pieces in the direction of greater stretch
Because not all fabrics stretch the same amount both ways (crosswise and lengthwise), when arranging your patterns pieces in the fabric, make to place the horizontal direction of the pieces parallel to the direction of greater stretch. Remember you need the most stretch in this direction so you can pull a bottom though your hips or pull over a top.
3. Using regular straight stitch to apply elastics and hemming
One of the biggest (and most notable) mistakes when sewing spandex is using a regular straight stitch. When you do that, since the fabric stretches but the thread doesn't, the stitches will break. If you are using a regular sewing machine for joining seams, use a very narrow zig-zag stitch or a straight stretch stitch (most sewing machines hace this option). When attaching elastics without a serger, I recommend a wide, short zig-zag, refer to this step-by-step post on how to sew elastic to swimwear without a serger.
I will soon make a post comparing different sewing machines. One of my favorites is the Janome 8077 Computerized Sewing Machine (click on the image below). I really liked this machine, for a few things: You can select a specific width and length for the zigzag stitch. This is great because I used different length and widths to attach the elastic, to join pieces and and to topstitch. You can adjust the speed so if you are sewing difficult curves or you are just a beginner, setting it in the slowest speed will help. Also, it has several automatic buttonholes, automatic needle threader and lots of decorative stitches. Finally, you can operate the machine using the pedal or with the touch of a button!
4. Not lining your swimsuit or using low quality lining
Less expensive swimsuits are cheaper for many reasons, and on of them is that they lack lining or are only partially lined. Think of the lining as the structure of your suit. If you use low quality lining it may run (just like a pantyhose!) and won't give you the support and coverage needed. I love to line my suits with the same quality nylon/spandex I use for the exterior. Sure it's more expensive, but it's definitely worth it!
5. Choosing you sewing pattern size according to your store bought clothes
Many people buy commercial sewing patterns according to the size of clothing they regularly purchase. That is a major mistake! Always refer to the sizing chart included in your pattern and find the nearest size. Of course we all have different body types so chances are you won't find the exact measurements. Pick the closest one, if you are in between two sizes, choose the larger one. It is better to adjust a garment that is a bit bigger and not having to make a new one because it's too small :0/
Please comment below and let me know what is your biggest fear when sewing spandex. I would really appreciate if you share this post with a friend that might find it helpful.