Wednesday, June 19, 2013

SwimAlong 2013: Tips for a professional finish

Today I get a chance to introduce you to an amazing lady, whose swimwear sewing has been an inspiration to me for many years. I can't imagine that you haven't already come across her work in the blogosphere, so I hope you'll make Sarah of Musings of a Seamstress welcome. She's going to share with us some of her professional grade tips for sewing your swimwear. Read on, and fear elastic no more!

I want to thank Katie and Leila for hosting this SwimAlong and asking me to write a guest post. I wanted to share a couple of different ways to add elastic to your suit and a few other tips I have picked up along the way. I know this has been mentioned on the Twitter #FabricChats and on a few other blogs, but I think this is the most important thing when sewing swimwear (or any knit for that matter) and is worth repeating again. Are you ready?!? Okay, here it goes... Use bulky nylon thread, also called woolly nylon, on your bobbin! Go ahead, write that down, I'll wait. Why is it so important? Bulky nylon provides enough give when sewing stretchy fabrics that you should not be able to snap your threads when stretching it. They do sell it at Jo-Ann's in a variety of different colors, although it can be a bit pricey. I have not really shopped around for it online, so if you find it less expensive let me know! As a side note, when I serge any other knits I use a spool of bulky nylon for each of my two loopers. So, go get some right away along with some stretch needles before you start.
When I first started sewing swimwear for a previous job I was quite surprised to find out that everything was done with a zigzag stitch. No serging required!! Which makes sense, since the swimwear fabric is not going to fray or unravel. Before I start sewing a new suit, I test out my zigzag stitch in a few different widths and lengths to decide what will work best with the stretch of my fabric. Generally you want a smaller zigzag stitch for seams, so that when you stretch the seam you do not have any gaps. On my machine I find that a length of 2 and a width of 3 works best. Once you have settled on your stitch size you can begin construction. There are a few different ways you can use elastic to finish your edges. I choose to do a very basic suit so that I could show you a couple of those finishes.
Bound Elastic
First up is bound elastic, which is probably my favorite. I like to use this one because it adds a nice contrast to the body of your suit. I used it around the just the neckline of mine, but you can use it for all edge of yours. For this finish you will want to use 1/4" braided elastic around the neck. If you are binding the leg holes or armholes you will want to use 3/8" instead. You will also need a 1 1/2" long strip the entire width of your fabric. I prefer to cut this with a quilters ruler and rotary cutter to ensure that I get straight edges.
Start by placing your binding strip and shell fabric right sides together, folding the start of your binding strip about 1/4". This will give it a finished edge for when you turn it. Place your elastic on top of your binding matching the edges and zigzag through all layers. You do not want to stretch the elastic here, it is more for stability.
Next you will fold your binding strip over top of the elastic and end with the wrong side of your binding to the right side of your lining. Stitch on the right side of your fabric along the inner edge of the binding. You will want to hold the elastic taut from the front and back as you zigzag it down to make sure you are getting a clean edge.
Once you have finished that you can trim off the excess binding. I prefer to use embroidery scissors for this because I can get a close cut and not worry too much about cutting something I am not supposed to.
Here is what your finished result should look like from the inside.
This is what the finished binding should look like from the outside.
Gathered, Turned and Stitched Elastic
I think my name for this one pretty much says it all! But I have a few techniques to make this easier than you would think. I used this method for my armholes and leg holes. You will want to use 3/8" braided elastic for these. The wider elastic adds more support to your suit.
First you will want to measure around your opening and subtract 6". This is the length you will want to cut your elastic. Find the center of your elastic and mark it with a pin.
Next you will want to find the center of your opening and mark it with a pin too. For my leg holes, I used my crotch seam as my starting point and folded my opening from there. On mine the halfway mark was not at my side seam, it was about 2" away from the side seam on the back panel.
Then pin the center of the elastic to the center of your opening on top of the lining . For my starting point I overlap my elastic approximately 1/2" and pin. Your fabric will hang larger than your elastic.
For this, when I zigzag, I set my length to a 3 and my width to a 4. I want it to be just a bit wider than the zigzag stitch I use to construct the suit. Working with only half of your opening, you will want to stretch the elastic to fit the opening. Find your midway point and hold the elastic and fabric in place there.
When you start stitching you will want to stretch all layers from the back and the front of the needle.
Once it comes off the back and you release the stretch it will gather the fabric. This is important so that it will allow stretching without snapping threads or ripping your fabric. You will want to make sure your gathers look evenly distributed throughout.
Once you are satisfied with your gathers you will turn the elastic towards the lining and zigzag it down along the edge. Again, you will want to stretch from both the front and the back to make sure you are keeping the stretch. It is important to make sure this second row of zigzaging is on the inside edge of the shell. This will prevent your elastic from rolling to the outside.
This is what your finished opening should look like. To see my finished suit and a review of the pattern I used please visit my blog.

Wow!! Great tips, and I can't wait to try out that bound finish! It looks amazing!! Thank you so much, Sarah. Y'all, she got up off of her sick bed to write this great post for us, and I am so grateful. I hope you learned a ton. I know I did!


Lori said...

Thanks for the great tips.

Silver Bra Straps said...

Thank you so much for sharing this information.

Karin said...

This is so helpful! Thank you!

Scruffybadger said...

I've found this so interesting and useful, some great methods to try, thank you. I've saved it for hopefully trying in the not too distant future.

Edwina Sutherland said...

I'm going to try that one! Thanks!

Thread Riding Hood said...

Thanks so much! I'm in the process of making bathing suits for my daughters and this will help a ton! I've pinned it to my sewing Tips and Tricks board on Pinterest. ~Sherri