May 28, 2015

Dive into Swimwear with Boo! Designs

Those of you that follow my Facebook page will know that I enjoy making swimmers and this week I'm joining a bunch of other bloggers to talk about sewing swimwear. Today I'm participating in a blog tour all about swimwear. There are tons of great prizes and giveaways, and it is all being run by Nicole from Coles Corner and Creations to coincide with the northern hemisphere summer and the release of her fabulous new swimwear pattern. I get so jealous of the northern hemisphere at this time every single year. The world cannot spin fast enough for me during the winter months. Anyway, pop on over and have a look and follow along, its going to be a great week.
Here are some of the prize sponsors.

And the bloggers

I'm talking today about my sewing journey with Swimwear. I've been a long time sewer of knits for many many years, however had not thought sewing swimwear was really achievable until  last year when Kristie from Boo! Designs popped up a picture of a new pattern she was working on and asked if I wanted to test. I love learning new things and knew there was no better teacher than Kristie, so of course I said yes. I blogged about my original opinion of the pattern here for anyone that wants an extra read!

In terms of value for money, this pattern takes the cake for me. It has so many options
1. Togs as we call them here, or a one piece swimsuit
2. Tankini top
3. Crop top/ bikini top
4. Raglan rash vest, short and long sleeves (unisex)
5. Classic sleeve rash vest, short and long sleeves (unisex)
6. Elastic leg bikini bottoms
7. Contrast leg bikini bottoms
8. Shorties (unisex)

It is huge value for money. I have sewn loads since September last year, and quite enjoy sewing them now BUT it has taken me a while to understand how to get the best finish on my machines, so that's what I'm going to share with you today, in the hope that someone may find it useful. I'm also going to stick lots of pretty pictures in along the way to inspire you to have a try at sewing yourself.

First up - machines. Every sewing machine is different, and of all the fabrics out there, spandex/polyester is one of the toughest for your machine to sew through. It is essential to use the right needles, it is really hard for your machine if you don't. I personally use a big stretch needle size 90/14. And here in Australia at least - a stretch needle is different to a ballpoint needle. Whilst I use ballpoint needles for most knit sewing, for spandex, I always use a stretch needle. Its tip is shaped differently, and for me, that is what works best.

Stitch selection is very important with swimwear. Because the fabric needs to be fitted so closely to the body, swimwear fabric has a huge stretch factor to it. You must use a stretch stitch and every machine will be slightly different. Just have a play on some scraps - sew some stitching, pull it out and give it a good stretch and see if the stitching stretches with the fabric. For me personally, the stitch that gives me the most stretch is this one here - number 7, but my machine has several stretch stitches. Look in your manual to see which ones are recommended if you can't work it out. When sewing swimwear, I always machine stitch as well as overlock, as kids really pull hard at the fabric when it is wet to get the items on and off, and I have not found my standard overlocking to be strong enough. For hemming, if I'm not using my coverstitch machine, I really like stitch 30 - its got plenty of stretch and doesn't warp the fabric. Be sure to use good quality thread for this stitch though, mine tends to break if I just use cheap quality (I really prefer rasant thread).

In terms of the Boo! designs pattern, I would recommend starting off with the easier items to sew. Try a rashie and matching bottoms before attempting something else to get use to how your machine feeds the fabric through when sewing spandex, and to get more confident with sewing spandex. And by spandex, I mean swimwear material. It's nice to sew something that works well first up to give you some confidence and motivation, and here in Australia at least - kids really need to be covered up in the harsh sun, so they are incredibly practical.

For me, the most challenging part sewing swimwear is the elastic necklines and legs. This particular pattern uses a binding with elastic inside for the neckline and shoulder straps. I absolutely love the design, it is super funky and sturdy - it does not slip off shoulders, or slide down when diving and jumping, but it takes a bit of patience and practice to get a good finish. Do not try it for the first time on your favourite fabric and expect perfect results.

I have tried everything under the sun to improve my finish, and have come to the conclusion that the way the pattern describes the technique is by far the best way for those sewing with conventional machines. For me though, I have found I get better results when I use rubber elastic for the neck binding and straps. This is not true for the leg holes. So I use the swimwear elastic for the leg holes, and 5mm rubber elastic for the neckline. My overlocker is really on its last legs - I have had it for years and have been saving hard for a new one (just need to come to a decision about what to get) and  I have found basting the elastic onto the binding with my normal machine to be far easier than feeding it through the overlocker (you will know what I mean if you have the pattern). I feed it through the overlocker after that. This is machine specific though, so this may not be necessary for you, but if you are having trouble, try that first.

For flipping the binding over and sewing it down, my coverstitch machine and I have now come to understand each other, and I use it to sew the binding down. If sewing on your normal machine though, you can use a twin needle (use a stretch one), or just your normal machine stretch stitch. Playing around with different stitches here will help you - you'll find that different machines really handle the thickness of the binding better, and you are going to have to work with your machine a little. Don't forget that you can always baste and remove the basting after you have used the stretch stitch to sew down. A basting stitch is far faster and I find things don't slide out of place if basted first. Don't be discouraged by what I have just said - your sewing will be better across everything if you can come to understand it more, just recognise there will be a bit of trial and error. I also love clover binding clips to hold the binding in place prior to sewing. I find them much easier than pins, and I just remove them right before the fabric feeds through the machine.

For any stitch skipping on elastic legs and bindings, I would recommend that you try wooly nylon in either your bobbin, or your looper on your coverstitch machine. I have a Jamone CoverPro 1000CPX and I think they get a bit of a bad rap out there from people complaining about skipped stitches. A coverstitch is a relatively powerful stitch for a machine to do, and the Janome is really a base/lower model machine for this. It is often compared to a baby lock, and I have to say - the baby lock costs a heck of a lot more. It would want to do a better job! I have no problems with mine provided I use wooly nylon in the looper when sewing swimwear bindings and through elastic leg holes etc.

My sewing of swimwear has improved dramatically in a relatively short space of time from practicing. It's given me way more confidence in sewing. I made myself a rashie and bottoms from the Boo! Designs Tweenie Bikini pattern and it was so useful to have this summer. I fry in the sun, especially the Australian sun and it is essential that I cover up as much as possible. The tweenie bikini pattern is a fabulous option for older girls with developing figures. The bikini itself gives far more coverage, especially on the bottoms than the teeny tiny things you see in the shops.

I love adding a skirt to Zoe's togs and of course from a business point of view, people like ruffles, although I myself am not that keen on them. I will be writing a hack that will appear on the Pattern Revolution blog in the next few weeks, so keep your eyes out if you want to learn how to add ruffles.

I love this pattern and everything it has taught me about sewing swimwear. My kids live in the pool for about 6 months of the year and my swimmers have held up beautifully to the chlorine and sun, much better than the more expensive speedos. I cannot recommend it enough. Swimmers are readily available in the shops, and don't cost that mach for cheap ones, but I love the fact that I can make these to fit my daughter and I LOVE the full bum coverage the pattern gives. It keeps everything tucked away and safely hidden at all times. I also use the bottoms to make underwear from my cotton/lycra scraps. Learning to sew swimwear is particularly valuable if your daughter is mixed sizes and you have to size up for width or length normally. And once you master it, the possibilities are endless. I'm totally making my own swimmers this Summer!

So pop on over to the Boo! website and have a good look at the swimwear patterns and for anyone who wants to have a try but is unsure about spending money, Kristie has a free boys pattern you can download and try.

 Pretty much all my swimmers here are made from spandex that is sold exclusively through the Boo shop. Yes it is expensive, but you don't need that much and the quality is amazing - looks brand new after lots and lots of swimming in chlorine and drying in the sun.

Thanks for reading and good luck in your swimwear sewing journey!! And Don't forget to pop back to Coles Creations to join todays giveaway!!



  1. Great job!! I've been eying this pattern for awhile, now... I might just have to get it...!

  2. This is such a fantastic blog post, Marnie! Thank you so much for joining in with us. I love all those beautiful photos of the swimsuits, too. That flamingo one with the side ruching is my favorite.... or maybe the Batman!

  3. Wow, that's a lot of information and cute suits! Thank you for sharing. I especially love the galaxy fabric suit and the Barman set

  4. Absolutely adorable and you make it sound so easy! I may have to give swimwear a try...

  5. Great job, thanks for all the tips! Your bathing suits are so nice!!!

  6. Thank you for the great information. I'd love to try the ruffled one some day.

  7. Love all the tips for beginners!

  8. Thanks,Marnie. Lots of good tips.

  9. Great tips. And I absolutely LOVE that last suit. The fabric is totally awesome!!

  10. This has been one of the most informative posts on making swimwear I have seen. Great work!

  11. Lovely and cute swimwear for kids. Kids would surely love wearing this :D

    Swimsuits Direct

  12. Aloha! I was wondering if you'd mind sharing your tension settings for the janome 1000cpx? I've been sewing swimwear and keep getting skipped stitches, even with the wooly nylon in the looper. Ive tried multiple needles and threads and can't seem to find the right mix of it all!