Thursday 7 July 2011


Tutorial: Preparing to sew up your Pin-Up Bathing Suit

Now that you've measured yourself and used those measurements to draft your suit pattern, we're almost ready to sew. But first I wanted to give you some prep on materials, cutting your pieces and the general sewing of the suit.

What you need:
  • Bathing suit fabric that has four-way stretch (it stretches both vertically and horizontally), normally from a 10%+ lycra or spandex content. I've seen bathing suit fabric that is nylon blend too but I haven't used it. A yard / metre will be more than enough.
  • Bathing suit lining. You don't need to track down actual lining fabric, I've self lined with 'outer' bathing suit fabric before but for this suit I just used a plain lycra in my stash. Must be four-way stretch as well though!
  • Stretch needles. I recommend having a whole pack handy because bathing suit fabric requires a very sharp needle (so that the fibres aren't split... you don't want holes in your suit!) and they get dull quickly.
  • A machine with a stretch stitch. Several people have asked if you need a serger for this suit and the answer is no. In fact, for this suit I used my regular machine the whole time. The stitch I like to use is a triple stretch stitch (check your manual to see if you have one), as it feels very secure and it's fairly easy to sew. If you don't have this stitch, you might have the 'lightening bolt' stretch stitch. This one is fine too, but personally I find it harder to sew as it can make the layers shift. If you don't have any pre-set stretch stitches you can use a regular narrow zigzag stitch. Test different stitch lengths and widths on a scrap piece of your fabric to find which combination stretches well without snapping the thread.
  • Optional: Wooly nylon thread. I've heard that this is the best thread to use for super stretchy products, but I never have and it's not been a problem!
  • Optional: Walking foot. Again, supposed to be good for sewing knits. Never tried it!
Cutting your pieces:
  • It can be tricky to figure out where your selvage is on four-way stretch fabrics as it stretches in both directions, but make sure you get it right as you want the majority of the stretch to be horizontal so you can get it on and off with ease!
  • Cut all your pieces on the fold. Once you have found your selvage, fold close the the edge to the width of your first pattern piece. Cut that one, and then keep refolding close to the edge as you cut the rest of your pieces so you are using your fabric wisely.
  • You will cut from your outer fabric: one front piece, one ruched front piece, one back piece, two front bodice pieces, two back bodice pieces, two shoulder straps, two leg bands, and one tie for the front bodice.
  • You will cut from your lining fabric: one front piece and one back piece. I used my pieces of outer fabric as a guide to cut my lining. I cut the lining pieces a tiny bit bigger around each edge to make sure that it would definitely catch when I basted them together.
  • pin up bathing suit tutorial 021
General sewing:
  • You'll be using two different stitches, a stretch stitch and a basting stitch. Basting stitches will go close to the edge (about 1/4" if you can manage it) and the stretch stitch inside the basting line (about 1/2").
  • Although it looks incredibly messy (as you'll see in my construction pictures!), keep all the tails of your basting threads intact as you go along and don't cut them. At the very end you'll pull all your basting stitches out so having the tails will make it easier. If you don't pull your basting stitches out, you will hear them rip when you put your suit on and you will be terrified. Ask me how I know....
  • As with sewing all stretchy knits, raise your presser foot to its highest position to prevent wavy stitches.
  • When making a bathing suit I try to use as few pins as possible and just sew slowly while lining up the edges with my hands. This isn't as hard as it sounds as the fabric is slippery and fairly easy to slide into place. The reason why I don't pin very much (and when I do, I pin within the seam allowance) is that unless your pins are very sharp there's a risk that they will make small holes in the fabric that could become bigger holes when the suit is stretched.
I think that's all for the prep work, the final tute on sewing up your suit to follow!


  1. Where did you buy your fabric?

  2. I found similar fabric in teal at Joann's on clearance :)