Swimwear Sewalong ~ Materials

Helen Cloke swimwear swimwear fabric swimwear sewalong

Sewing your own swimwear is incredibly satisfying.  The ideal result is togs (that's kiwi slang for swimwear to any non New Zealanders reading) that fit perfectly - both your style and your body and that's not always easy to achieve with ready to wear swimwear.

To make sure that your new favourite pair of togs are going to last the distance there are some specialty fabric and elastics that should be used.  These are the most common components used in sewing your own swimwear:


The most common types of swimwear fabric are polyester or nylon blended with spandex/lycra. 

Good swimwear fabrics are chlorine resistant, quick drying or low water absorbent, offer UV protection, and have strong, soft fibres.

The lycra content offers comfort and 4-way stretch.

I also stock a range of fabric that has all these qualities but with the added bonus of being recycled!  It is regenerated nylon fibre from pre and post consumer waste.  There are three solid colours that co-ordinate with three specially designed prints.


I recommend fully lining your swimwear to ensure opacity and to extend the life of your garment.  Swimwear lining is usually 100% nylon and is soft, lightweight, breathable and quick drying.  It most commonly comes in beige, black and white.

I find that beige works with a majority of swimwear fabric and colours.  However, for white based fabric patterns a white lining will keep the white of the main fabric, bright and pure.


There are a few different types of swimwear elastic.  My preference is a 100% rubber elastic, coated in silicone.  The silicone helps the elastic to grip to the fabric as you sew it creating a professional looking result.  This type of elastic is both chlorine and salt resistant.  Its narrow profile is nice and subtle and this also makes it easy to use when creating thin swimwear straps.

Foam and padding:

You can line swimwear cups with foam just like you would a bra.  This cut and sew foam is completely suitable for swimwear padding and works especially well if you are adapting a bra pattern into a bikini top.

There is also the option of pre-molded cups, these come in many different styles from a triangle shape for a non-underwire, triangle bikini to ones that give a fuller cup coverage and are suitable for underwires.  They are all sized differently based on different measurements so follow the directions for the particular cup you are purchasing.

In stock are these angled molded cups (sized by underwire sizes) that are perfect for the Mystic bra by Orange Lingerie.  Now that would make a sexy bikini! 

Stabilising lining:

If you are converting a bra pattern to a bikini top and the pattern calls for the frame/bridge to be stabilised then you can still use regular sheer cup lining.  I simply sandwich this between my outer fabric and the swimwear lining.

Connectors and Fasteners:

There are a few different ways that your one-piece or bikini top can be fastened.  The standard hook and eye found in a bra is replaced with a plastic swimwear clicker or a metal g-hook.  These are secure and durable.  Another option is to create some ties out of the swimwear fabric.

For adjustable straps I have found the standard rings and sliders hold up well in pool and salt water conditions.

Converting bra and underwear patterns to swimwear:

Have a tried and true bra pattern you'd like to use for swimwear but wondering what materials to buy?  Here's a general guideline:

Replace the cup, frame and wing material with swimwear fabric.  The same quantity again will be needed in swimwear lining.

Instead of lingerie elastic (picot elastic, band elastic) use swimwear elastic - so this will be used for the band, underarm and potentially upper cup.  Also for the leg holes and waistband of bikini bottoms or legholes of a one-piece.

Satin strap elastic can be replaced with straps made from swimwear fabric and swimwear elastic.

Select a swimwear clicker or g-hook instead of a hook and eye.

I'll discuss pattern adjustments more fully in an upcoming post.

I hope you'll join us for the swimwear sewalong - sewing starts on 10th Jan!  If you do be sure to tag any photos #swimwearsewalong

Happy swimwear sewing! 

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  • Amy on

    Hi Helen, this is a great information, thank you for posting 😊. I have only used woven swimwear elastic previously but do find it gets bulky around the seams combined with the fabric + lining. I will try some of your rubber elastic next time.

  • Donebyana on

    Really interesting. I’ll try one for next summer.

  • DoneByAna on

    Realy interesting I’ll try one for summer!

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