How to Source Swimwear Sewing Supplies
Swimwear fabric is often hard to find in brick-and-mortar fabric stores, and it's sold in limited prints and colors. Compounding the problem is that many activewear fabrics are labeled as swimwear, when in fact they’re really not suitable at all.
Swimwear fabrics should have at least 60% four-way stretch and 100% recovery. If you’re not sure how to measure stretch and recovery of knit fabrics, Imagine Gnats has a great primer found here. The nylon/Lycra swimwear fabrics we carry are completely opaque, mid-weight, and matte in finish. When I’m shopping for swimwear fabrics, these are the characteristics I tend to look for as they’ve produced the most functional handmade bathing suits. My Nautilus Swimsuit and Bombshell bottoms shown below are both sewn in our nylon/Lycra fabric.
For most swimwear, you’ll also need to source some lining fabric. I tend to buy white or nude lining depending on the color of my swimwear fabric. Your lining fabric should also have four way stretch and good recovery, but will likely feel thinner and more flimsy than your swimwear fabric. This is normal.
I also source my linings from Fabric Fairy. They’re the only store I know of that carries black lining fabric and the quality is top-notch.
It’s important to use swimwear-specific elastic in your handmade bathing suits. Swimwear elastic is generally made of cotton that will hold up well in chlorinated and salt water. Furthermore, swimwear elastic has a bit more stretch than regular and clear elastic.
I use 1/4” Dritz Swimwear Elastic in all of my handmade bathing suits. If you sew a lot of swimwear, consider buying this elastic in bulk. You’ll need between three and five yards for most swimsuit sewing patterns.
Check out our How to Sew Elastic Into Your Swimwear tutorial when you get ready to sew!
Swimwear clasps are, in my opinion, the toughest swimming suit supply to find. Big box sewing stores typically carry only swimwear hooks (shown below), and they tend to measure less than 1" wide.
The Beverly Twisted Bikini calls for a 1/2” clip clasp. I've never been able to find an actual swimwear clasp at any fabric store. For a unique swimsuit closure like a swimwear clasp, a little online research will be required to find the perfect clasp. This site has a fun selection of clasps, though I’ve never ordered from them.
The Nautilus Swimsuit calls for a 1” swimwear hook. I used this metal hook, and while smaller than what the pattern calls for, it still worked great.
Some swimwear patterns will call for boning to be inserted into the sides of the top under the armpit. The boning gives the side strap some structure in that area.
Each sewing pattern will tell you what kind of boning to use in your swimming suit. I’ve had the best luck using Dritz Featherlite Boning, which is available at most big box sewing stores. If you’ve never used boning before, follow the patterns instructions carefully.
Because sewing your own swimwear requires some special supplies that you probably don’t have on hand, it can take a few extra days to source these items. Be sure to read your sewing pattern in full before you start to make sure you have all the items required.
But once you finish your handmade bathing suit, you’ll see that sourcing these hard-to-find materials was worth the effort. To make the process a bit easier, swimwear kits may be available from Indiesew next summer! Included in the kit would be everything needed to sew two two-piece swimsuits or one one-piece bathing suit. Stay tuned!
Happy swimwear sewing!
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