Friday, May 31, 2013

SwimAlong 2013: Swimwear notions and where to find them

We've got the fabric, but there are a few more specialized components we'll need to make a swimsuit. Obviously, this will be somewhat specific to your pattern, but there are a few things we'll all need.
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I know - we're sewing so obviously we need thread, but there are a few types of thread that can really make your swimwear sewing professional grade. Naturally, you'll need regular general purpose thread for seaming. Do be sure that you choose a polyester thread and not cotton or silk. Polyester has the slight give and strength you'll need for sewing swimwear. Another type of thread I want to mention is wooly nylon, which is pictured above. This thread is unspun nylon filaments, and it s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-s with your fabric. If you are using a serger, you can thread some or all of your threads with wooly nylon for a truly elastic seam. I generally put it in my loopers and Maxi-lock in my needles. You'll be blown away by how much this seam will stretch! You can also use it in the bobbin of your sewing machine, both for general seaming and for topstitching. It's particularly fabulous when you are using a twin needle. It really gives the stretch you'll need when sewing swimwear.
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Pretty much no matter what swim pattern you are using, you're going to need some elastic. And swimwear elastic is put through a lot. It functions as an edge finish as well as holding the suit in the correct shape. It has to stand up to all the same environmental stresses that the suit fabric is exposed to, all while maintaining it's shape. If your elastic loses it's spring, you are going to be exposing body parts you may want to keep contained.
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There are two major types of elastic used in swimwear. The most common is cotton knitted elastic that has been treated to be chlorine resistant. This product looks much like regular elastic, although it is commonly an off white color. It behaves much like regular knitted elastic, so it is easy to sew. It is generally labeled specifically as "swimwear" or "swim" elastic, so be sure to look for that. The other type is rubber elastic. This is my personal preference for sewing swimwear, but not everyone loves it. It is made out of rubber (hence the name) and behaves a bit like clear elastic, but is much sturdier. Since it is made of rubber it is naturally durable and chlorine/sun resistant. Some sewists have also had good luck using clear elastic for swimwear, but I personally find it flimsy and more difficult to apply.
Image source - be sure to check this one out - awesome!
Even if you just put in a bit of a crotch lining, you'll need some lining fabric. Although it is perfectly acceptable to line a swimsuit with self fabric, you'll be cooler and more comfortable in lighterweight lining fabric. You can purchase swimsuit lining at many fabric vendors that also sell spandex. It's much less expensive than the fashion fabric, and it typically only comes in a nude-ish color. Remember that lighter colored fabrics particularly are prone to becoming sheer when wet, so a fully lined suit will make you feel more confident that your suit really is covering the topic.
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Another option, and one you'll see often in RTW suits, is Powernet (also called powermesh). This is a firm control fabric that acts like a sort of Spanx for your swimsuit. If you are concerned about jiggles or unsightly bumps, fully lining your suit with powernet can help control some of those things. It's also great used just in areas where you want a little extra support, like the bust area for a fuller busted woman.
Clasps and closures
While some suits are pull on or simply tie, many suits will require some sort of clasp or closure to stay securely on your body. These can be purely functional or decorative. There are as many clasp and closures out there as there are swimsuits.
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Bra cups or other bust support
If you are sewing a woman's suit, chances are you will want some sort of additional support for the girls. Bra cups come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are easily inserted into a suit. Another option is to build a bandeau style bra with lining fabric and plush elastic. We've a future post dedicated specifically to this subject coming soon, so I won't go into it further, but suffice it to say, these products are available to the home seamstress.
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So, where do you go to GET all this stuff? I find that vendors who cater to lingerie and swimwear sewing will have many of these products all in one place. I'm going to list a few of my favorite vendors of this type, but a google search for the product you need specifically will probably get you there as well.

SewSassy - This is absolutely my favorite source for my lingerie and swimwear sewing needs. They've been in business since they 80s and they really know their stuff. Don't let the archaic website put you off though. It can be a little tricky to find what you need, but the search is worth it. They even have Powernet.
Cleaner's Supply - It's a little random, but this site has amazing prices on tailoring supplies like thread and clasps/closures. They even have bra cups in a limited size range. Shipping is $4 flat rate and crazy fast. I generally get my order in 2-3 days.
Bra-makers Supply - Obviously they specialize in lingerie supplies, but they have a fairly comprehensive selection of cups, wire and even swim elastics.
Etsy - Etsy is one of my favorite places to find one of a kind notions. Interesting clasps, decorative elastics or lace and even bra making supplies can all be found here.

So, have you found a place that isn't on my list? Please share in the comments!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info - I'm learning lots and feeling more confident to take on this challenge.

I've sourced some clear swim elastic (I think it's like the rubber elastic you describe in this post) but I'm struggling with the lining - anyone know of any UK suppliers?

Unknown said...

I would love to know about UK suppliers. I have a pattern but thts it. I'm off n my summer cycling adventure soon so it will be July before I can do anything.Thanks for the info Katie

threedresses said...

Awesome post, Katie.

Joy said...

Newark Dressmaker Supply and Home-Sew (in the U.S.) sell cotton swimwear elastic.

dixie said...

Sew Sassy sells my favorite kind of swim bra cups! I've only had to use the clear elastic once. A pattern called for it to help keep some ruching in place which was good because you didn't want that area to stretch much at all.