I want this blog to be a place for inspiration as well as a learning resource, but I thought it might be helpful to start from the very beginning and share some resources right away. I think things are easier to learn when you break them up into small pieces, which makes swimwear the perfect place for new sewists to start!
Another reason why I’m starting with swimwear is that I recently closed my eco friendly, handmade swimwear line Leahray Swimwear. It might seem sad but I’m not, I’m proud of what I built, my personal growth and everything I learned through the whole experience. When I started Leahray, I had my first collection made by a local contractor. I was too intimidated by the cutting and sewing to try and produce my line myself. I have been sewing since I was a kid and at that point had the skills but once I had graduated with my degree in fashion design and was working as a designer in the field, sewing actually wasn’t something I did that regularly anymore and I just didn’t think I could do it.
After my first year in business, I was left with a ton of leftover inventory. I had no more money to invest in a second improved collection. Instead of giving up, I got creative and this is where the real magic happened. I decided to invest in higher end machines, draft my own patterns and sew my new designs myself. I ran into some pretty frustrating problems that turned into great solutions and the more I kept trying and sewing, the better I got. If I can do it, so can you.
There are a lot of resources out there for sewing lingerie, but not as many out there for swimwear and I certainly could have used the help myself. So here is the first resource am sharing with you to help you learn how to sew swimwear like a pro!
1. High quality fabric- I used recycled content fabric from Italy exclusively in my line. Its thin, flat, buttery soft, has great coverage and is easy to sew. While you certainly don’t need to use this fabric to make high quality swimwear, you do get what you pay for. Cheap swimwear fabrics can be a nightmare to sew and your makes won’t last as long (ugh). I am adding all of the solids I have stocked up and some of my own exclusive printed designs to my new Etsy shop here this week:
2. Rotary Cutter- I typically don’t use scissors to cut swimwear fabric or really any fabric for that matter, its easier and more accurate to cut with a rotary cutter on a self-healing mat. You can find these at most craft or fabric stores, or you could pay less money for it and order it off of Amazon here (feel free to shop other options, this just happens to be the one I own):
You do need to replace the blades every so often depending on how much you use them, make a note of the mm the blade on your rotary cutter is so you get the correct size blade replacements.
4. Thread Snippers (Aka control Z for sewing mistakes)- If you plan on using a serger rather than a sewing machine, I recommend snippers over seam rippers due to the tangle of multiple threads you will encounter trying to undo your mistake. The ones in the photo are hand me down Ghingers from my grandma and I’ve had them forever. I’m not into replacing things I don’t have to which is why I’m recommending you a similar pair that won’t fall apart on you and that you can sharpen rather than replace once they get dull. https://www.amazon.com/Gingher-Inch-Knife-Thread-Nippers/dp/B001DEJLVQ/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1524101872&sr=8-6&keywords=thread+snippers
5. Loop Turner- Its true, this thing looks like a scary medical device but it will be your best friend when it comes to turning spaghetti straps and working with seamless construction where you need to turn your work inside out. https://www.amazon.com/Dritz-647-Loop-Turner/dp/B005570Z9O/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1524102274&sr=8-2&keywords=loop+turner
6. Straight pins & a place to keep them- I had a teacher in fashion school that used to screech at people that used pin cushions in class, she was adamant about pins not needing a cushion and it stuck LOL. I think she was really just a hater of “cutesy” things and didn’t like looking at all of the stuffed animals & dessert shaped pin cushions. https://www.amazon.com/Singer-00349-Dressmaker-Pins-500-Count/dp/B000PSFC46/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1524102766&sr=8-3&keywords=straight+sewing+pins
7. 1/4″ TO 3/8″ inch rubber elastic- This is the kind the pro’s use, not the pre-cut, packaged in too-small quantities that you will find at the big box fabric stores. It’s the texture of a rubber band and creates less bulky seams than standard elastic, also I think that since the rubber is in one solid piece it doesn’t break down as fast and produces a longer lasting product (YAY). This can be harder to find IRL but if I can’t make it to the garment district in LA, I order mine from a seller on Etsy here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/234128354/5-yards-of-white-14-wide-63mm-rubber?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=1/4%22%20swimwear%20elastic&ref=sr_gallery-1-1
8. Fabric Weight: Use these to hold your sewing patterns in place while you cut around them with the rotary cutter. If this seems extra, skip it and use some heavy books instead. I think its worth it for the ease of use if you sew often. https://www.amazon.com/lbs-Weight-Pattern-Cloth-Fabric/dp/B01DGZNWWS/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1524104452&sr=8-3&keywords=fabric+weight
If you can, I suggest buying any of these tools from a local business but if you don’t have a lot of options around you and you don’t want to over pay or if you’re a cranky shopper like me, I recommend Amazon and Etsy for all. I hope this helps you get started! Stay tuned for a tutorial on how to sew seamless swimwear bottoms up next!
* I am not affiliated with Amazon or any of the makers/sellers of these products.