Last week we posted our quick guide to sewing clothes for children and babies. Another popular area which we are often asked for advice about is activewear and athleisure. As this covers such a broad range of items, we’ve decided to split it into multiple posts, starting with swimwear! We’ve worked with many customers who are passionate about making quality swimwear, so are always happy to recommend the best machines for the job! This quick guide should help you get started and advise you on some of the factors you may wish to consider when looking to branch into this area.
As with any other area of textile production, the fabric you choose will ultimately determine whether your swimwear is successful! Natural fabrics such as cotton are impractical for this application, as they absorb water and can become transparent when wet. Therefore, we would always recommend using fabrics which are composed of 100% man-made fibres. Polyester and polyester blends are frequently used, as well as nylon blends. These usually have 10-20% Lycra or Spandex knit which makes for a stretchy lightweight material which is strong and durable with a moisture-wicking finish. These man-made materials are also resistant to wrinkling and abrasions, so the swimwear will hold its shape well.
The fabric you use must be stretchy because swimwear is made with what is known as negative ease. This means that the pattern sizing is smaller than it would normally be for most apparel. The material then stretches to a perfect close fit when worn. Loose or baggy swimwear risks being uncomfortable and potentially revealing more of the wearer than intended! Fabric for swimwear therefore usually has either two or four-way stretch. Material with two-way stretch is commonly used for pieces such as bikinis, and four-way for one piece swimwear which requires more multidirectional stretch. Just be sure to check that stretching your selected material doesn’t distort the print or change the opacity of your swimwear!
It is important to line swimwear for additional comfort and modesty! Lined swimwear gives more support and coverage. Fabric such as Halenka (a nylon blend) are often used because they are soft, have 4-way stretch, and are transparent. Alternatively, neutral coloured swimwear fabric is a good option to use as lining as it adds opacity and makes the final piece more stable with a smoothing effect.
Elastic is important to give shape to your swimwear and ensure it holds firmly in place against the body. The elastic you use needs to be as durable and able to stand up to chlorine and salt water as the rest of the fabric. Traditional polyester elastic will deteriorate quickly and isn’t up to the task. Special cotton swimwear elastic is woven with rubber which makes it stretchy and strong. Rubber elastic can also be used which has the advantage of making less bulky edge finishes but it is slippery and can be difficult to work with.
Standard cotton thread is weakened by chlorine and salt water. So, most users prefer to work with a polyester or woolly nylon thread.
Is there an eco-friendly option?
Man-made fabrics like polyester are made from petroleum and are essentially just a kind of plastic. This means that unlike natural materials, there isn’t an organic option available! When washed in a conventional washing machine, these fabrics also release microplastics into the water. If you are concerned about reducing your environmental impact, we would therefore suggest looking for options such as recycled polyester (which is made from old plastic bottles). These are somewhat more sustainable. As these plastics don’t biodegrade when they are disposed of, the most eco-friendly option is to ensure that the swimwear you produce is durable and will last a long time instead of being thrown away after a couple of uses and becoming part of the fast fashion problem!
One way to prolong the use of your swimwear is by providing customers with advice on how to best care for their items. Encouraging people to rinse their swimwear after use to wash off chlorine, salt, etc. which can break down the structure of the fabric over time helps to keep items looking their best. Washing on lower temperatures, using gentle detergent, and even using specially designed wash bags, can help reduce the amount of microplastics released into the water. Ideally items should be hand washed (and never tumble dried!) to make them last as long as possible and minimise environmental impact!
Stretchy swimwear fabric can sometimes be difficult to work with, but we are here to recommend the right machines to make your life as easy as possible! Our team have developed features such as bespoke elastic tensioning devices for swimwear production to make producing even, high-quality seams much quicker and easier. You can speak to our team to receive recommendations tailored to you and you process, but this list will give you some suggestions based on the machines other makers we work with currently use:
Siruba 747 KS – A high speed cylinder bed overlock machine which is used for working around seams.
Juki MO 6814S – A 2 needle, 4 thread high-speed flat bed overlock machine which is perfect for working with stretchy materials for swimwear.
Juki MF 7523 C11 – A high speed, flat bed, top and bottom coverstitch machine which is used for adding collarettes on the openings. Ease of use is further improved by using the electromagnetic tape cutter.
Yamato FD62 DRY – 03MR/MS – A 4 needle, 6 thread feed-off-the-arm, flatseamer. The oil -free system protects against oil staining of the fabric, and it is ideal for attaching tape to the openings.
Juki DU 1181 N0– A walking foot machine with a powerful top and bottom feed mechanism, which smoothly feeds difficult-to-feed materials or multi layered sections to achieve consistent seam quality.
Juki LK 1900 BN – A programmable digital bartack machine. It has a dry head to prevent stains and can store multiple patterns to speed up the production process!
If you are looking for a machine to take your hobby sewing to a professional standard, planning to start up a new business, or even upgrading existing machines, we can help! We don’t just sell machines in boxes; our team build and them up set up every machine in a way which is tailored to you and your processes. We are also on-hand to provide advice and technical support to keep things running smoothly! You can contact our team directly through the contact form on our website or by emailing email@example.com