Sewing swimwear tips and tricks
We interviewed designer Tommie Sirena Swimwear who gave us some handy tips and tricks for sewing swimwear. With summer around the corner Tommie gives us her top tips and tells us all a little more about herself! We spoke about her journey as pattern designer, her workspace, and what gets her out of her creative slump.
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Can you tell us a bit about your designer brand Sirena patterns?
"Hi, I’m Tommie, founder of Sirena patterns! I’m a fashion designer with over 21 years specializing in swimwear design and construction. I started sewing at eight years old and loved creating my outfits since elementary school. Four years ago I created the only Puerto-Rican sewing pattern company, Sirena Patterns. Our patterns are designed for knits, and most of them are currently swimwear patterns."
Is it possible to sew swimwear only on a regular sewing machine?
"It is definitely possible to craft a swimsuit from beginning to end using a regular sewing machine. The most important thing is to make sure you do not use a straight stitch and of course, a ball point needle. Instead use various widths of zig or stretch stitch. Remember that an overlock sewing machine is an excellent addition but does not substitute completely a regular sewing machine."
How do you attach those little plastic grippy pieces to the edges of a swimsuit?
"Sewing elastics to swimwear can be very challenging, especially if you are a newbie sewing spandex fabrics. Regarding regular swimwear (not reversible one), I always cut the elastic 5% shorter than the area. For example, if the armhole area measures 15” (38 cm), multiply that amount by .95, 15 x .95 = 14.25” (36 cm). A good rule of thumb is to cut the elastic 1” (2.5 cm) shorter than the waist and legs areas."Shop Her Patterns
Is there an ideal type of fabric to use for swimwear?
"For sewing swimwear, I highly recommend nylon/spandex with at least 50% stretch or more in one direction. Make sure to test the fabric stretch before cutting the pattern pieces. There are other options, but nylon spandex is my preferred choice."
What would you say is the hardest part of using a serger on stretch fabrics?
"Sergers have a learning curve and since they have a knife, there’s a risk that you cut more fabric than you want. But once you practice a bit, a serger can be your best friend, especially when sewing spandex fabrics."
How do you finish the edges of a piece without a cover seamer?
"A coverstitch is another sewing machine that is excellent for sewing swimwear. It gives a beautiful, store bought finish when you hem the elastics. Sadly, it is an additional machine, and an expense. If you don’t have one, you can finish the edges with a medium zig zag stitch, I recommend 3mm x 3mm. Alternatively, you can use a ballpoint twin needle."
What’s a good style to start with if you’ve never sewn swimwear before?
"The Sharon one piece swimsuit is great for beginners! It is a fully lined one-piece swimsuit with an additional shelf lining. It has a low back, and medium back coverage."
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How was it the first time you made a piece of swimwear?
"I made my first swimsuit in 1998 and I have to admit it was a disaster. Wrong fabric, wrong elastics... But in the more than 20 years of experience, I’ve learned a few things. And that’s my mission, to give people shortcuts: sewing patterns with clear sewing instructions and illustrations that explain the process in an easy way."
What do you focus on in your swimwear when pattern making?
"For me the most important thing when making a pattern is the fit, that people can trust that the sizing is accurate and corresponding to the size chart. Providing a variety of styles, from more conservative one pieces to more revealing bikinis.
For me, Sirena Patterns is my dream come true. After being a fashion designer with a swimwear label for many years, I now have the opportunity to teach people from all over the world everything I’ve learned. This makes me happy and I want to be remembered as a teacher to thousands..."