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Tips & Techniques > How to sew bathing suits?? Advice please!

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Posted by: LeilaB

About LeilaB
Member since: 4/29/09
Reviews: 1 (tips: 1)
Skill level:Beginner
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Posted on: 4/29/09 9:40 AM
Review Rating: Off-topic by 1 people   
Hi all!

I'm a beginner sewer.. I sewed when I was 12 for a while, but then I stopped and now I'm 26. I'd really like to begin making my own bathing suit designs. When I went to see about buying a sewing machine the other day, the woman there told me I had to get a serger to make swimsuits. She said that since they are very expensive (she only had one type and it was 940 euros!) and since I haven't sewn alot, I should buy a regular sewing machine with an overlock-like function - not the same, but similar.

She said there is no machine, other than a serger, that has this specific overlock function you need to make bathing suits. Is this true??? I'm not sure I beleive her since she was trying to sell me this one machine that she said I should buy instead, that had the overlock-like function. I decided to think about it, then I went back yesterday and she sold that same machine to this other customer! She was saying, "oh this is exactly what you need-and it's the only one we've got!" after that, I just left. Maybe that machine was promo from the manufacturer or something.

What kind of machine should I buy? Is there one that can sew bathing suits that can also sew other things as well, so that I don't have to have one machine that only dews one type of thing?

Any advice truly is appreciated!

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Ariadne said... (6/19/13 3:04 PM) Reply
oh, goodness. You don't need a serger. For a swimsuit? You can gently stretch the material, one hand in front of the needle, one hand behind- so it's a steady, even stretch- and just sew with a straight seam. That will give the seam some give. You can, of course, stretch more. When coming to the end of the section you are holding, stop the machine with the needle in the fabric, and bring your hands to the needle- releasing the stretch evenly, so that you don't snap or bend the machine needle. Then grab your next section, front and back, stretch out, and resume sewing. This gives a much nicer seamline than doing a small zig-zag stitch. For the elastic. stretch it out, to sort of 'spring' it. I know everything says to sew it into a circle, and then measure off quarters and pin in place- but no, don't do that, either. Lightly stretch the elastic on parts you don't want to bind close- that would be your behind, and then more firmly stretch on parts you want held close- the crotch. You've already "sprung" the elastic, so it won't be enormously out of fit-range. It will fit nicely. In effect, you are using your hands as an "elasticator' applicator. Apply the elastic with a zig-zag stitch. You'll have about an inch to two inch tag at the start that isn't sewn down- you need to to hold on to it to begin stretching the elastic. Stop, when you are close to the end of stitching, and cut off that tail. Then finish sewing down the elastic. Cut off the other end, when you are finished. Okay, now, Fold over the fabric with the elastic sewn onto it, so there is only fabric showing. There are a few options. One, if your machine has a three-step zig-zag, then go for it. I say the extra thread can chafe sensitive skin, but most people aren't doing hard exercise with this. Also, finer thread- Gutermann- probably chafes less than cotton or cotton-poly. Second choice is a larger zig-zag. You can center the zig-zag, but then some elastic will be exposed on the inside. A better choice is a medium zig-zag that goes to the edge of the rolled- over fabric, and to the middle of the seam. This leaves the other half of the elastic, the part closest to the edge of the suit without any stitching on it. This takes more control, but it's the nicest look of the seams. it's most similar to an overlock seam. The first thing I ever sewed was a swimsuit. It's a great way to start- lots of pizazz and wowza, with relatively forgiving fabric. It's also a relatively short amount of time, with next to no hand-seaming. And, well, one yard of fabric versus three to five yards- it's inexpensive, more or less. And, again- the wowza factor. A guy complimenting a hot swimsuit is more memorable than having to point out that you made a sensible work-skirt yourself. You can paint swimsuit fabric with the plastic- looking tee-shirt paints that come in squeeze bottles- not dye, the paints that dry in 3-d. You can stick sequins into the wet paint, and they stay in place, when dry. You can use stretch lace- it's polyester and nylon, the same as swimsuit fabric. You really do want to use a lining- it's the difference between nice swimsuits and well, not-nice-- It's not conventional, but cutting up a tee-shirt, for a crotch-lining. It'll stay wet, but it also will provide better lining-- I've even seen interlock- the really thick cotton- used- to sort of insulate against one's parts being discernable through the crotch- it stops vile jokes, basically. they lose lustre, but for a one-time, or a pool party where you won't swim much- you can put on rhinestones and studs, if your fabric is lined. They fall out on just plain swimsuit fabric. You can see what trims are made of- if it's polyester or nylon- they're probably usable- like rick-rack, or even fringe. They might not last for a long-time, but realistically? Are you going to keep wearing a $10 suit for years on end? Or will you change as your body changes, or your moods?
ceip said... (5/7/11 5:43 PM) Reply
I make leotards, not bathing suits, but similar fabric and issues. My machine is old (20+ years!) and was not super-expensive. It has an overlock stitch that looks sort of like little stacked triangles. It does not trim the seam like a serger but the seam is just as good as a serger would make. There is added difficulty to trim the seam, but for the price and complication of a serger, I am happy to stick with my "regular" marchine.
Longarm said... (1/29/10 6:13 PM) Reply
A beginning sewer needs a standard sewing machine first and foremost because of how it can sew finely detailed seams, but eventually a serger will become equally important. A serger comes into play on seam-finishing for so many types of things you make, from curtains to knits, to regular clothing. And a serger can make pretty rolled edges on napkins and tablecloths, or interesting details done with specialty threads. Mostly, though, a serger is a real work horse in the sewing studio, and not a rare now and then tool. Think of the difference between a dress with raw cut seam edges inside, vs one that has nicely overlocked seam edges that will go through the laundry without shredding or becoming unsightly. The final result of your project jumps from looking very "beginner skill level" to more professionally done. See why you just have to have one?! Get one as soon as you can afford it, after your sewing machine.
corma said... (7/11/09 10:21 PM) Reply
Hi Leija I did a knitwit course years ago and we used the stretchstitch on my machine. You will have to get a multisized pattern. Which will need cups put in them. Lining and swimwear elastic. If you use normal elastic you will loose your cossie in water. It is fun to do for a while but now I buy my swimmers. Corma
DSJG said... (7/6/09 9:35 AM) Reply
You can make bathing suits with a regular zig zag sewing machine. When I was your age my girlfriend & I actually made suits & sold them. Experiment with tension & stitch length and width with a zig zag stitch or stretch type stitch. Also use a ball point or specialty needle for stretch fabrics. Use thread recommended for your fabric type. They will turn out beautiful.
ericaequites said... (5/7/09 1:09 PM) Reply
A serger can be very nice to have, but is not necessary to sew swimwear. Most swim suit patterns havea 6mm seam allowance. I like to sew with a small zigzig, length 2.-2.5mm and width 1mm. Stretch the fabric slightly as you sew, and use a brand new Stretch needle for each project. Be sure to buy 1 cm or whatever width the pattern recommends swimwear elastic. Regular elastic will rot when exposed to salt water or chlorine from swimming pools. Choose a fabric iwth sufficient stretch, and line the suit with swimwear lining fabric or a thin swimwear fabric. When cutting out, be sure the greatest degree of stretch goes around the body. If you plan to buy a sewing amchine, visit some stores that specialize in selling sewing machines and do their own repairs on site. You can find a used machine with a small variety of stitches and a one step buttonhole for far less than 940 euros, perhaps around 200 or so? A swimsuit is not the best first project. Try making something from firmly woven cotton first like a tote or apron. Then, a more fitted project like a skirt will help you learn more. Check your local library for books on sewing techniques.
Passion4Sewing said... (5/3/09 5:13 PM) Reply
Serger truly is the best machine to make swimsuits. One can use a regular home machine, but you will get a neater, cleaner look with a serger. If you truly cannot afford a serger, you can use a zig-zag or three-step zigzag stitch on your home machine. I have never used the home machines that have the serger-like function, but a repairman once told me after I had brought him my serger (for the fourth time!) that converted to a cover-stitch machine that machines work best when they only perform one function. Some sergers also have an additional foot called an elasticator which will adjust how much stretch you have on the elastic as you apply around arm and leg openings. This is very useful. I have a White 2000 ATS and love it. It is priced well for all the things it can do. Hope this helps.
candyo said... (5/1/09 11:48 PM) Reply
This section is for tips; please post on the message boards.
betta1 said... (5/1/09 10:29 PM) Reply
Whoops - should have checked comments better - y'all have it covered! Gail
Kelly D. said... (4/30/09 8:12 PM) Reply
Leila, you can absolutely sew lovely swimsuits with a regular sewing machine with zig-zag capability as noted in the other comments. I recently made 2 great swimsuits from a Kwik Sew pattern to take on a trip using only my Bernina 1530 even though I own a serger also! It's a matter of choice, but I think I get a more professional look by using a double needle on my regular machine to finish all the edges since my serger does not have cover-stitch capability. A cover-stitch is that double row of top-stitching you see at all the hems and edges of ready-to-wear knit garments, including swimsuits. Since swimsuit fabric does not ravel, you don't really need to overcast the edges, but you do need to use stitches that can stretch with the fabric or your seams will pop. Kwik Sew has published a great book on sewing swimsuits and there have also been some good articles in Threads Magazine on the topic. I found the Kwik Sew book at my local library and have checked it out several times. Definitely do more research before you make your final decision about what kind of machine to get. I think it would be hard to have only a serger if you plan to do any general sewing. Most people I know who only have one machine have a regular machine. You are wise not to rely on the advice of a salesperson in a shop. You would be much better off finding friends who sew to advise you or even the people who sell fabric (but not machines) in your area. I hope this helps. Good luck!
joann said... (4/30/09 12:26 PM) Reply
I learned to make bathing suits through Stretch & Sew. You can still buy their patterns and I'm sure their books. As others have said you only need the straight stitch and a zigzag. I never covered the seams since the fabric is a knit and doesn't ravel. The website is and they have 2 swimsuit patterns, but not their old books. The one I have is titled The Stretch&Sew Book, Part 2 , by Ann Person,and should be available used. The great thing about the S&S patterns is they are multi-sized and are accurately sized. I learned a lot from their classes on knits back in the 70's.
CSY said... (4/30/09 12:13 PM) Reply
Kwik Sew patterns have execellent swimsuit patterns and instructions. The Stretch and Sew book is nearly impossible to find. Kwik Sew's book Swim and Action Wear by Kerstin Martensson is also a top notch resouce and comes with patterns. I never use my serger. I use my sewing machine's basic zigzag because it does a great job and I feel I have great control over my stitching. I have made over 6 swimsuits this way and they have all turned out great. Me thinks someone either doesn't know what she is talking about or wants to sell you a serger in the worst way.
chelsy21 said... (4/30/09 10:21 AM) Reply
If you can find a Stretch & Sew swimsuit book or one of their old basic 8 books - just called "Stretch & Sew", there are good instructions for sewing swimwear with just a straight stitch & zig zag sewing machine. Sergers are nice, but not necessary. People have been sewing swimsuits long before sergers were common to the home sewer. Good luck with your search!
Lynnelle said... (4/30/09 8:12 AM) Reply
You may want to try posting your question on the message boards, too.
ChristineBR said... (4/30/09 7:48 AM) Reply
You don't need a serger if you have a zigzag stitch on your machine and a little patience. I would suggest in investing in the KwikSew book on swimsuits as it has instructions, tips and covers sewing machine as well as serger construction. In addition, it has a wealth of patterns included.
Sharon1952 said... (4/30/09 7:04 AM) Reply
I agree with Julie w; it is not absolutely necessary to have a serger although it makes the job faster and easier. What is essential is that you have no more than 1/4" seams and they must be covered to prevent ravelling. If you are careful in your fabric selection and don't make the suits fit too tightly a zig zag stitch will work fine. You'll need to use scrap fabric to practice how wide and long to make the zig zag so it will stretch but not break. Make certain you stretch the fabric as you sew. Best wishes in you sewing!
julie w said... (4/29/09 9:56 AM) Reply
Although a serger can give a nice finish on swimsuits, it is not necessary to have one. All you need is a sewing machine that can sew a zig zag and the use of a ball point or stretch needle. this link may help
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