5 Tips for Sewing Spandex Like a Pro

Swimsuit by designer Tommie Hernandez

Swimsuit by designer Tommie Hernandez

Sewing spandex fabrics can be very stressful, even for an avid sewer.  My first swimsuits were absolutely hideous, so if this has happened to you, believe me, you’re not alone.  I kept trying over and over until I got it right.  I’m here to make your life easier!

Even if swimwear and ready-to-wear clothing in spandex fabrics are not constructed the same way an expensive evening gown, it is important to use the adequate techniques for sewing this material in a way that the final product does not seem “home-made”.  Whatever you are going to sew, (even if you are sewing in your apartment’s dining room, like me 20 years ago), do it in the best way possible.  When you sew spandex fabrics, many rules learned for sewing wovens do not apply.

Here are my 5 tips for sewing spandex like a pro:

1.         When making a swimsuit, make sure to use nylon/spandex fabric that has a stretch of at least 50%.  I do not recommend polyester/spandex fabrics; it can be used for semi-fitted clothing but not in swimwear or fitted garments.

2.         To measure how much a fabric stretches, first, fold your fabric lengthwise at least 4" (10 cm.) from the edge.  Mark with two pins, one as a starting point and the second one 5" (12.5 cm.) from the first pin (FIG.1). 



 Hold the fabric where the first pin is and stretch it (FIG. 2). If the fabric stretches to 7.5" (19 cm.). Repeat this process crosswise.  If the fabric stretches at least in one direction to 50%, it is ideal for sewing fitted garments like swimsuits.  Don’t have a swimwear sewing pattern, try this bikini top pattern, it’s free! CLICK HERE to get it :0)

FIG. 2

FIG. 2

3.         Most swimwear commercial patterns specify fabrics that have 50% stretch crosswise.  It is important that you make sure the fabric you buy meets the specified restrictions.  If you ignore the specs, the result will not be the desired one.  Place the pattern piece with the sides of  (example hips or bust) in the direction of the greater stretch.  Remember these garment typically do not use zippers or other closures so you need maximum stretch.

4.         Line your swimwear with the same type of fabric you will use for the outside (nylon/spandex) instead of the 90/10 polyester/spandex swimwear fabric.  It’s a bit more expensive but the garment will have a better body and durability.  I had a few mishaps using regular lining, like having to repeat a custom suit for a client just because the fabric was too fragile and it runs like a pantyhose.

5.         Don’t be afraid to experiment! Practice cutting and sewing with strips of nylon/spandex with your sewing machine before doing it in the garment you are making. Write down the with and length of the stitches that work for you. Check out my other post to learn to sew elastics without an overlock/serger!

Ready to make your first project in spandex fabric? Download my free pattern, with instructions in English and Spanish. CLICK HERE to get it.

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