Swimsuit sewing update

Swimsuit sewing is ongoing here. I basically just sew the same suits over and over again, so it hasn’t occured to me to blog about the new suits. However, I will share a couple of new pictures and my ongoing analysis of the suits and fabric.

Summer Swim League for my girls (all three of them this year!) is nearly ready to wrap up. Miss Nine has a few more bigger swim meets over the next fortnight before her season winds up, and I have national titles in Early August. After that, we’ll take a break from laps and spend the remaining weeks of Summer playing and splashing at the Kansas City pools. Our swimsuits have a LOT more Summer to get through yet!

I’m still perfecting the design of my own swimsuit. It takes a while because swimsuit fabrics can vary slightly in the way they stretch.  Also, I like to line my practice suits for longevity and the lining affects the fit too. I’ve purchased the same lining twice from the same vendor over the past year, and each time it’s been slightly different in terms of stretch and feel. I’m now making very minor adjustments to my pattern so that it will still work well across all these slight variances.

I’ve sewn more than a few suits since my last swimwear post. I tweaked the design on my last suit for a more secure back and a little more coverage, as you see in the photo below.

This has been my favourite suit so far. I thought it was perfect at the time, and it possibly was. I forget to take into account that my chest has grown a bit over the past few months, which may also be affecting swimsuit fit.

The fabric was from Tessuti Fabrics and I used black lining from The Fabric Fairy. I line ALL my suits with black as it means I never have to worry about the pale coloured fabrics fading. I thought I was being clever, but I recently purchased a RTW bikini from Jolyn (a label that all the cool and serious squad swimmers wear here in the Midwest). Jolyn lines all their coloured suits with dark grey too.

But back to my suit. I literally wore this suit to death, and it lasted very well. The green in the fabric faded from the chlorine before the fabric wore out. The lining held the suit together for a bit longer until I eventually had to retire it. The saggy butt look was not very attractive in the end.

Foolishly, I then started sewing another suit using the same pattern, but in a beautiful, (but completely inappropriate) fabric. The blue is fused lycra, so essentially two layers of swimsuit fabric fused together. It meant I could skip the lining, but the fabric also had less stretch than regular swimsuit fabric. The fit in this suit looks ok, but it’s like swimming in scuba gear (without stretch!). It’s amazing fabric for a bikini or recreational suit, but no good for practice at all. I wore it once.

I made a similar suit for Miss Nine using Jalie 3134. She rarely wears it, and I won’t make her as I know it isn’t very pleasant to swim in. The pattern design is good. I made a few tweaks to fit her better, but the fabric is unsuitable. Turns out, these are the only photos I have of her actually wearing it. Miss Seven is wearing one of my favourite little handmade suits, made to my own design.

Next up for me was a silver foil print version. It’s ok, but I feel like I need to increase the bust coverage a bit. I also made this version a little more high cut in the leg, but with the same back coverage (I just moved everything up a little higher). I love the higher cut leg. It definitely feels better in the water, and is more comfortable with leg motion. The back also fits a little closer over my bottom/lower back in this design.

I’m currently working on another suit for me, with a few pattern tweaks around the bust area.

Meanwhile, this leopard print suit nearly needs to be retired but I don’t have the heart to take it off her. The buzzy bee one  is also on its last legs (from love!). I actually made a second copy of the buzzy bees for another swim buddy. But I do LOVE the animal print fabric, and it held up beautifully in the chlorine and sun. I wish I had enough for myself, but I’m not sure I do.

My most recent make was a return to Jalie 3135 for Miss Five, using fabrics from The Fabric Fairy. She’s super cute in it. The design worked beautifully for here. I find the crotch in this pattern a little wide in the larger sizes, but the fit on my little one is not bad. Here are my three little mermaids in their favourite suits!

 

Swimsuit fabric round up

If you follow  me on Instagram or Snapchat, you’d know that I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time at the pool this Summer. And trust me, as an ex-swimmer, I do not use the word “inordinate” lightly.

I never intended for my girls to love swimming. I just wanted them to be able to swim. But perhaps my standard for what constitutes proper swimming is slightly higher than the average Joe. And it’s also possible that my passion for the sport has rubbed off a little despite my best intentions. In any case, Miss Eight is obsessed. It’s also been stinking hot in Kansas City, so in addition to the practice and the meets, we’re at one of the local pools most evenings for a dip after dinner. Our bathers are getting a serious workout.

Finding the best swimsuit fabrics has been a big learning experience for me and not one that can be evaluated overnight. Feeling the fabrics and sewing with them is one thing, but it’s not until you immerse them in chlorine, salt, UV light, and sweat twice daily that you really get a good idea of what works the best. In order of preference (the top three tie), here are my honest evaluations.

Tessuti Fabrics:

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Tessuti Fabrics (floral)

Oh, you all know that I have a fondness for Tessuti Fabrics, but it’s not without good reason. I don’t think they’re really known for their swimsuit fabrics, but they do seem to get in a few nice prints each year. I’m pretty sure the owner hand picks their fabrics personally on their annual buying trips, but I’m not really sure where their swimsuit fabrics come from. I’ve used at least five different swimsuit fabrics of theirs (paisley, red cherries, green cherries, floral, rainbow scales) and they’ve outlasted all of the other swimsuit fabrics so far.

I should also note that leotards in our house are not just used for gymnastics. They’re rotated in as swimwear for play (not practice) because they offer a better cover up from the sun (and sometimes we can’t be bothered to get changed!). Yes, the prints have faded, but that happens with all swimsuit fabric exposed to chlorine and UV light. Yes, their fabrics may be a little more pricey than other places (but they’re a great bargain as a remnant) and the fabrics last.

Spoonflower:

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Tiger fabric: Spoonflower / Blue fabric: Hancocks

This was my biggest wild card. All I wanted was a tiger print and I would have bought the fabric from anywhere. I couldn’t find what I wanted so I had to make my own. I can’t comment on other Spoonflower fabrics but I really do love their sports lycra. Like Funki Fabrics, the print is placed on white fabric, but the fabric is quite thick as far as swimsuit fabrics go. It may have a tiny bit less stretch that comes with the thickness, but the weight lends itself to a flattering fit, no sagging, or losing shape when wet. And it looks great without lining.

So far, the integrity of all my Spoonflower sports lycra is exactly as it was when it was sewn. This is most apparent when it’s been paired with other fabrics (like the blue of the swimsuit above) that has fared a lot less well. I will definitely buy Spoonflower sports lycra again. It’s not cheap, but the quality is good (which means it lasts longer). And I save on not having to fully line it. I’m very keen to check out some other prints. I feel like this will become my “novelty” swimsuit fabric favourite for my girls.

The Fabric Store:

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Left: Tessuti Fabrics (paisley) / Right: The Fabric Store

I’ve only bought a few swimsuit fabrics from here, mostly designer brands. They were also awesome. The fabric faded over the years, but it generally retained it’s original elasticity and is lasting extremely well. And the key word you should note in that sentence was ‘years’. If a swimsuit fabric is lasting years over weeks, then there’s something good going on there.

The quality of the fabric was really high which I suspect is due to the fact that they were designer labels, like Anna & Boy and Zimmerman. I keep meaning to investigate their new online presence. I used to love visiting the Fabric Store when I lived in Sydney but they fell off the radar for me when I moved overseas.

The Fabric Fairy:

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I’ve only sewn with their Limited Edition Solids and swimsuit linings. I love their swimsuit linings. They have good colour choices in the linings and they work beautifully under swimsuit fabrics. The linings are also a pretty awesome price which will keep me going back.

I have a slightly different view of the solids, which is not to say that I won’t use them again. The Solids come in an amazing array of colours, which will tempt me back when I’m after something specific. They are also one of the smoothest and most luxurious swimsuit fabrics I have ever felt. However, even the colours that appear opaque really need to be lined if they are going to get wet. I’ve sewn with a blue, green and a grey. They all feel fabulous dry, but they just look too thin against the body when wet. When fully lined, it is an entirely different matter. I love my Splash Swimsuit, but without the lining I think it would be unwearable for an adult.

I’d be interested to see how their prints work, since I know a print can disguise a fabric’s shortcomings somewhat. I’ll also continue to use their solids for dancewear for my girls, as well as smaller contrast sections in swimwear.

Funki Fabrics:

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I was given these fabrics for free a while back, but like I said in that earlier post, it’s very difficult to make a proper assessment of swimsuit fabric without actually swimming. I’ll stand by what I said about their variety of prints.

Their printed swimsuit fabrics are probably the lightest weight I’ve dealt with, but only slightly so. They are also white-backed with a digitally printed front. I chose light-coloured prints which really needed to be lined (but this would be expected with any light-coloured print swimsuit fabric).

These fabrics did not last very long compared to my girls’ other swimsuits. They were actually the first swimsuits I had to throw away from having worn out, rather then been passed down to a smaller sister first. I’ll admit that we’re all pretty rough on our swimsuits here. I don’t rinse out the chlorine… ever! But I was still a little disappointed at how quickly these fabrics began to disintegrate.

However, it’s also important to note that Funki Fabrics do sell more robust swimwear fabrics, but just not in the prints that we’re used to seeing from them. Unfortunately, their Perform range only comes in black or white.

Hancocks:

My experience here is extremely limited and not likely to improve anytime soon since they’re closing their doors. But I’d place their business in the same category as Joann or Spotlight when it comes to fabric. I picked up a shiny blue swimsuit remnant there for just a few dollars. It worked ok unlined (for kids bathers), but a lining would have significantly improved its appearance. This fabric also deteriorated very, very quickly.

I wonder if the age of the fabric plays a part in this. How do you know how old the fabric roll is that you’re buying from? It’s the elastic within the fabric that seems to dissolve/rot away and we all know that elastic is decayed by age, light and heat. I remember going through thousands of pairs of Speedos as a teenager (during my competitive swimming years). I’d generally get two months out of a pair of bathers before I had to wear two pairs together. And every now and again I’d strike out with a pair that would literally begin to deterioriate within a few weeks. Now I wonder if they were just made using an old or bad fabric batch.


So this has been my experience with swimsuit fabrics to date. I’ve been sewing swimsuits and leotards now for about three years. I’ve probably made over two dozen pairs, half of which remained in my ownership (3 girls, every year, Summer + Winter leotards + swimsuit = easy math). Of these, I’ve only thrown away about five (worn out) suits. The first two pairs I biffed were leotards where the metallic fabric (Mood) bit the dust. Next went the first swimsuit I ever made (the Tessuti Fabrics (paisley) which lasted through two children over 2.5 years, including being worn over clothes in Winter when swimming was not an option). The last two pairs I threw away were the Funki Fabrics duo, which sadly only lasted one season. Every other suit has been passed on to the next child or stored away.

Now, I’m not an expert when it comes to swimsuit fabrics. I’ve only shopped at five vendors and I haven’t tried all that they have to offer, but I still wanted to share my experience. I know there must be other places out there and I’m always open to new ideas. If your experience was different or if I should have tried a different product, speak up! I’d love to hear from you as my swimsuit sewing shows no sign of subsiding any time soon. Where do you buy your swimsuit fabrics from?