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SWIMSUIT – water aerobics

carolynfla | Posted in General Discussion on

Glad to be back in the forum, I’ve been away for several months. I’m excited to be back into the “sew”.

My second (fun) job is as a water aerobics instructor, and after paying $60-80 per suit, enough is enough!

What’s available (with support) here in Florida for middle-age instructors is nothing but yuck! WOW! Can you believe!

I desire better colors with excellent design – support and modesty during the aerobic activity. I know I can create this if I put my mind to it…. just think of the possibilities.

I’ve looked for patterns, Kwik Sew is all I’ve found. If I design two Kwik Sew pattern together they still don’t provide all that I’m needing.

I need a soft bra as this support is sufficient with what I’m purchasing now in retail suits (Speedo and TYR). However, for best support a back strap (positioned center back where your bra fastens) is mandatory. I prefer an elastic back strap, not a hook strap. I also desire a princess line front as this adds both more support and options for more color combos.

I’ve never sewn on lycra and any advice is appreciated. I am an experienced sewer and can create my own pattern. But, I do like a commercial pattern to use as a base, especially since this is a new “stretchy” sewing experience for me.

I plan to first make a test suit as I’m sure I’ll make many, many mistakes.

Thank you all for your help.



  1. mygaley | | #1

    I haven't sewn swim suits since my children were little, however, I read on Gatherings a tip that might help you (it might even have come from you!). The writer said to line suits with swimsuit fabric instead of swimsuit lining and I could just see the difference in support and opacity this would make. God bless you Galey

    1. carolynfla | | #2

      Thank you Galey. NO the message you refer to didn't come from me. And YES, I'm hearing from seamstresses here in Central Florida that they've also only made swimsuits for children... and here's the problem... I need a structured suit.

      There's a fabric store here that offers a myriad of linings and various strengths of lycra which can be used for swimsuits, etc. - though dance and theater costume are their main sales. A customer there (who had sewn suits for her child) strongly recommended to use a lining material called POWER NET, and she pointed it out to me. I looked at it and it definitely matches my SPEEDO lining... strong and tough.

      I'll keep my "asking email" out there for others to chime-in. Maybe someone can recommend a structured pattern for me to start designing from.

      Thanks so much for your advice. Carolyn

  2. GailAnn | | #3

    In the mid 1980s (when admittedly I had a bit better figure) I made swim suits all Summer, for my self and my young (at the time) daughter.

    There were bunches of patterns available back then and lots choices of fabrics.  I don't remember them as being difficult and they were very fun to make.  One in particular that I remember had the bodice sections cut separately with a knot between the cups, good support. 

    So just give it a try.  The more I made the easier it became to experiment with the next one.

    Seems there was a company in Minneapolis on Hennipen street that had a really good selection, OK, Well, they did 20 years ago.............Gail

    1. carolynfla | | #4

      Thanks Gail. Yes, practice will make perfect. And I'll keep checking the web for pattern companies... start-ups, and the like.


  3. LindaG | | #5


    I've made several suits for my daughter and, with less success, a few for myself. Here are some lessons learned:

    Challenge #1: matching the stretch and support of the lycra used for the commercial suit with my fabric. Even after a couple of experiments and comparing a purchased suit to my altered pattern, I was not completely pleased with the results. I don't have any good advice here, except maybe a very firm lining with the "fashion fabric" on the outside. A full lining makes the insertion of bra cups much easier, per the Threads article. At the same time, my one experiment with Power Net resulted in a suit that was way too tight -- whatever I used did not seem to stretch at all.

    For my next attempt (if I ever feel that want to be seen again in a swimsuit), I want to try some highly textured, high stretch swimsuit fabric to hide more bumps. I used a thick lycra (ie a fabric suitable for swimsuits) with sort of raised lines on it for my daughter's suit -- very nice.

    Challenge #2: adjusting leg hole size and shape. Can't go wrong with copying the shape of a well-fitting pair of panties.

    Challenge #3: edges. Don't use clear elastic at the arm, neck and leg holes. The rubberized swimsuit elastic is much firmer and can stand the stretching that's needed. After zig-zagging the elastic to the wrong side of the edges, turn under and sew from the right side with a stretch twin needle with wooly nylon in the bobbin.

    I've been able to make suits for my daughter that make both of us happy -- she's able to get the exact color and style she wants and have it long enough in the torso to be comfortable, and I get to avoid painful shopping trips and agonies about how much skin is appropriate for a young teenager to show.

    Good luck!

    1. carolynfla | | #7

      THANK YOU! Linda... Because I'm in class 3 nights a week I tend to run through suits. I want to try at least one attempt at making my own - but with scrap materials to be sure.

      Yes, the lining can be tight fitting. My Speedo is tight but I feel more secure (a trade-off I guess).

      To compensate for the tightness, I purchased a TYR suit (larger size for length) but was disappointed in the lack of stretch once wet. I felt my suit was "flapping in the wind" - but it wasn't.

      So, I guess it's a trial and error for ready-to-wear and if I sew... THANK YOU for your excellent advice.


  4. woggy | | #6

    Check out Stretch and Sew (has internet site). Company makes swimsuit patterns and you might be able to find out of print ones on Ebay.

    Also the Lycra Lady is a web base company that sells bathing suit material.


    1. carolynfla | | #8

      Woggy: I'm checking e-bay right now. And I've found an Australian auction site too.

      Thanks for the Stretch-n-Sew news. I'm off to search there too.


  5. nmog | | #9

    I completely understand! I've got a crazy long torso (I couldn't sit upright in 11/12 driver's seats when we were buying a car!) and no one needs to see my post-kids tummy. I'm also a DDD which causes havoc as well. I made a suit a few years a go which was just a modified Tank. I bought a cheap bra at La Senza (here in Canada) and cut off the back of it. I made the tank but cut extra straps where a normal bra strap would be. I also extended the regular tank straps to intersect with the others and then attach at the bottom base of the suit. The back looked like a big letter H. Adding the bathing suit bra strap (without the sides of the bra, which were already off)gave me the support I needed. I'm sure that this is as clear as mud!

    I have also bought regular bathing suits on clearance and then heightened the leg holes by about 1 1/2 inches. You take out the original serging and elastic, cut the hip higher, baste swimsuit elastic to the opening, fold the edge over and sew it with a small zigzag stitch. Raising the leg made a huge difference to how the suit looked - great improvement!

    I'm sure that my desciptions make sense only to me, so feel free to ask questions if I can clarify at all.

    Finally, I live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and there is a great fabric store here called Textile Outfitters. Their website is http://www.justmakeit.com. They will be able to help you with your questions, and they do a great mail order service as well. Good luck!

    1. carolynfla | | #10

      Oh no Nicole, you're not clear as mud, your "H" suit is exactly how the retail suits are structured. I can understand your descriptions.

      I'll also look over the web site you've offered. Thank you.

      Here in Florida the majority of suits for the serious swimmer (in the sports stores vs tourist-y beach shops) are for the active younger crowd. The 12-20 year olds with super high physical activity which burns off any sort of body fat ... thus yielding bust support unnecessary.

      All I can say is those days have long gone by...

      Thanks again Nicole, and stay warm!


  6. Tatsy | | #11

    I made several suits for myself back in the day. They're not hard once you get the hang of it. Two tips I would add: Make sure you use swimsuit elastic because it doesn't break down as quickly in chlorinated pools as the regular stuff does, and make a sampler of stitch-lengths, tensions, and needle sizes/types before you begin. Swimsuit fabric can really cause skipped stitches if you don't have the right settings. It's a pain to have to keep restitching.

    Also, the stretch lycra for swimsuits is usually heavier gauge than the fabric that's used for exercise and dance outfits. That may be part of the problems you're having with the stretch and opacity.


  7. kbalinski | | #12

    For an amazing selection, try Spandex House, out of NY.

    Good luck,


  8. sewelegant | | #13

    View Image Kwik Sew                           http://jalie.com/     View Image

    The Jalie pattern looks pretty generic and could be tweaked.  It is not princess though.

    I have a stretch and sew for plus sizes that has good support, but I did not see it in the pattern line up.  It looks very much like that Jalie, but with princess seaming and back support straps.The # is 506 and you may be able to find it via the internet sites mentioned by others.  Maybe they would even have it at the stretch and sew site in their archives. You could send an email and see.

    Edited 2/10/2008 8:50 pm by sewelegant

    1. carolynfla | | #17

      Thank you, I was unaware of JALIE pattern company.

  9. From my Stash.... | | #14

    There is an article in Threads issue 131 (June/July 2007) on making an "ultrasupportive swimsuit".  I was interested in the article because I also do aquaaerobics and go through a suit every three months (no matter how expensive or inexpensive).  I didn't make the suit, but my current suit is getting thin and I have to look around again.

    Hope that helps,

    1. carolynfla | | #18

      SUPER thank you... I'll check this issue out!

  10. sosewnem | | #15

    I have made swimsuits in the past for myself and my daughter.  They really are not that hard to sew, although I had some excellent help from a Threads magazine article from the early Threads magazines - June/July 1986 - #5.  This article was reprinted in a Threads Magazine book entitled, Fit and Fabric.  There are also a couple other books out about making swimwear.  Kwik Sew's is titled Kwik Sew's Swim & Action Wear.   I thought there was another one, but I don't remember the title.

    1. carolynfla | | #19

      Thank you, I'd bet FIT & FABRIC is a good book to have as reference for any fitting question.

      I'll search the book sights for other books that help with swimsuit fitting too.

      1. Teaf5 | | #20

        An interesting discussion!Since you are looking for a structured swimsuit, have you looked fat patterns of corsettes and corselettes? They're in the historical costume or bridal sections and have a lot of options for structure that you can get with piecing even if you aren't using boning. Let us know what ends up working for you!

        1. carolynfla | | #21

          woah! what a grand idea. I'll check it out! Thanks.

  11. MaryinColorado | | #16

    One Hanes Place online, has swimsuits that may fit your needs.  I know you are looking for a pattern but thought you might like to check these out for reference.  Mary

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