Fabric Files, Sewalongs


Hey guys? Quit being amazing.

Last night I posted the Bombshell Swimsuit on Etsy and the avalanche of orders and goodwill and blogger love this morning made me fill up with joy. I’m basically the happiness equivalent of Violet Beauregard in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory after she turns into a giant blueberry, just minus the blue. And the spoiled sense of entitlement. Just a giant inflated ball of joy (this is a really tortured metaphor).

You can read all about the schedule for the Bombshell Sewalong here. If you are interested in participating and want to add a badge to your blog, you can grab it here:

Today I want to discuss the material requirements of the Bombshell Swimsuit. The Sewalong starts a week from Monday so hopefully you will have enough time to gather your supplies in the meantime.


Many vintage style swimsuits use non stretch fabric. The Bombshell is NOT one of them. You really need a lycra fabric that can survive the stresses of salt, sun and chlorine. This suit fits like a second skin and you want a fabric that has enough stretch to get on and off, and will hold it’s shape when wet.

I am calling it “swimwear lycra” but this material is also used to make skating and gymnastics costumes as well. What you want is a fabric blend of spandex and nylon (called lycra even though I believe this is a brand name of spandex, much the way we call tissues “Kleenex”). The ideal ratio is 80-90% nylon and 10-20% spandex. The nylon gives the durability and the spandex provides the stretch. This is the only material I can safely recommend for this particular suit. Unfortunately, natural materials like cotton or rayon knits are not going to work here.

My lycra store (the perks of living in a fashion capitol!) carries two kinds of swimwear lycra – a matte Italian and a “wet look” one. The “wet look” lycra can be used on either side; the “wrong” side has slightly less sheen. I find the lycra with the sheen slightly easier to work with but the matte looks fabulous on, especially in a solid colour. Some examples of the kind of lycra you are looking for can be found here.

As for the lining, you want a stretchy knit lining fabric, again in synthetic fibers like nylon or polyester. I used a nude lining in all of my samples but you can also get a black lining for darker suits. Anyone interested in making a white bombshell should take a look at the HOLY OMG AMAZING miracle that is Carolyn’s make. She lined hers with the same fabric she used on the outside. If you were still feeling nervous about nip slippage, you could do an extra lining at the crotch and bust in nude, just to be one the safe side. An example of lining fabrics can be found here.

A few of my pattern testers lined their fabric in the same material they used on the outside – this is totally a viable option but just keep in mind that the fabric is definitely thicker than the lining and you are adding a little bulk/weight to your suit, especially when it gets wet. But from what I’ve seen, it does not affect the way it looks on whatsoever.

Here is the amount of fabric you will need to purchase for your suit:


All these places carry a good selection of swimsuit material:

Internet shopping may be the way to go for many of you, but you should be able to find lycra at any large fabric store. Almost all of my favourite haunts in Montreal carry a few bolts of it.

A GREAT post on swimwear fabric from the SwimAlong series can be found here. All lycra questions answered!I will cover this later but if you want to be totally ready to go, you may want to pre-wash your fabric once it arrives. I say “may” because lycra is one of the few fabrics that rarely shrink. The advantage to not washing it (as I learned from the wise and wonderful Dixie DIY) is that the selvedges do not curl, making it easier to cut out. However, I just heard from one of my pattern testers that she used a cheap lycra that shrank AND bled dye. So maybe a cold wash is best to be on the safe side.


The type of elastic you chose to make your suit will have a huge impact on its lifespan. Traditional polyester elastic is not the best choice for swimwear. It breaks down in salt and chlorine and will ultimately not stand the test of time. There are two options for swimwear elastic.

Rubber elastic comes in white or black. The black rubber I used for all of my suits so far has slight ridges on it which make it easier to line up with your fabric edge when sewing it down.

“Swimwear” elastic
It is also known as “natural” or “cotton” elastic. It is generally made from mostly cotton and about a third of neoprene. I will be using this elastic for the first time during the sewalong, but I believe this is the more common elastic used in swimwear.

I specify 1/4″ elastic but I believe the “swimwear” cotton elastic is mostly if not only, available in 3/8″. If you use 3/8″ you will be fine.You can purchase elastic at lingerie supply stores like Sew Sassyor Fabric Depot, along with various shops on Etsy. Again, any big sewing store like JoAnn’s or Fabricville should carry it.

You will need 4 yds altogether.


Pretty simple. You want a high quality 100% polyester thread. I prefer Gutterman’s but whatever floats your boat. You will go through a lot of it, especially with your gathers and topstitching, so I would suggest getting at least 250 yds.

For those with sergers, I know that using wooly nylon thread in your loopers really helps with the stretchiness of your seams, but I haven’t tried it yet. I may give it a whirl for the Sewalong suit.


Anyone who has sewn stretchy knits on a traditional sewing machine has probably experienced the rage of skipped stitches. Last year when I first started sewing swimsuits I almost threw my machine out the window. Nothing was working.

You really, really need the right needle for this project. You want a needle with a ballpoint so it goes in between the weave of your fabric and catches the bobbin thread. Sharps are likely to give you a world of headaches. I tried “knit” needles but the only kind that guarantees me a nice even stitch are “Stretch” needles. Elona on a Pattern Review board says it best: “The [stretch needle] has a deeper ‘scarf’, an indentation that allows a longer thread loop to form, increasing the chance that it will be caught by the hook of the sewing machine, and that a stitch will be formed successfully on a difficult, stretchy fabric.”

Thanks Elona. Couldn’t have said it better. Now go get some stretch needles.


You can absolutely make the Bombshell sans serger but your machine must have a zig zag function. My first swimsuit was done using just the zig zag on my old Singer. Obviously, the guts of your suit will look a little less polished, but it can be done. I will provide help on how to do this as cleanly as possible.


If you need some support for your big naturals (thank you Sarah Silverman for the best way to describe tatas ever) you should probably pick up some cups. Now, I am a 34D and am TOTALLY fine without support in this suit. The halter version is especially supportive on its own. However, if you want additional boob cradlage or even just nip padding, cups are a good idea. I will be doing a post on how to add them to the two views. You can get these cups at any decent sewing supplies shop or wherever you are getting your elastic.

However, since I have not used these yet, I am going to cede some territory to Dixie DIY who did a great swimsuit sewalong last year. Here is what she has to say about cups:

My faves are these kind that I bought at Sew Sassy but I’ve also seen them on Etsy and other sites. They’re soft and flexible and provide more coverage and gentle shaping than “lift.” They come in several sizes.If your bust is on the larger side you can combine these cups with a shelf bra in the lining (elastic support under the bust with more room for the “ladies”) or you can use a bra-style suit or bikini top and use pre-moulded cups or Poly Laminated Foam as an interlining.

Poly Laminated Foam is often used in swim bras and sometimes regular bras. It is usually a 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick dense but flexible foam with a soft fabric layer on either side. In normal bras the tricot or power knit fabric provides minimal stretch while still supporting the cups. Although the design may be the same, in swimwear the fabric is way too stretchy to hold in the mounds (know what I’m sayin’?) so the foam gives structure and support without much bulk. You can cut the foam to fit your needs and make your own cups if you want.

Thanks Dixie! You can read her awesome materials post here.


Scissors or a rotary cutter and mat (I’m a rotary cutter girl myself. SO MUCH FASTER!)
Measuring tape
A ruler if you need to make modifications
A marking tool
That should do it for supplies! I suggest getting everything by next Monday so you can follow along. I am really excited to get people on the Bombshell bandwagon!


A strange full-circle feeling came over me this morning when I read Casey’s post on yesterday’s passing of Esther Williams… She embodied 1940’s and 50’s swimsuit glamour like no other. She was a definite inspiration when I drafted this suit and the coincidence of her death and the release of this suit feels weirdly symbolic.Hope there are pools in heaven, Esther.

(Someone quick – do a metallic lame version!)

  • Lise

    Alright, I already sent you a love letter about the suit and the sewalong! But since you posted the request for a gold lame version, I will share with all your readers a personal story. When I was a little girl, we lived ‘down the shore,’ where my Uncle Max owned a womens’ clothing store. Now, Max was a fun-loving man and a major practical joker. I was about five years old when he dressed me up in a gold lame bathing suit and stuffed it with bra cups. Yes, that’s right – I was a child channeling Esther Williams as I sashayed down the block in my gold suit and big fake boobs. I was DA BOMB and I was working it! Needless to say, all the adults standing on our front porch burst into peals of laughter, tears and howls, when they saw me strutting towards them. Ah, Uncle Max, if I ever get to heaven, I will kiss your handsome face and say thank you for giving me my own unique sense of fashion….

  • That’s the best story ever.

  • Sownbrooklyn

    Thanks for all of this info!!! I can’t wait to go fabric shopping!

  • Sownbrooklyn

    This is a great story!!

  • I can’t even deal with how much I want one of these swimsuits! Can’t wait to pick out fabric!

  • Vesperholly

    I JUST closed my tab on that gold polka dot fabric! You know that I need a cocktail swimsuit for lounging around some roof top pool bar down here in Hollywood!! :-p

  • JoJoSews

    Love love love your gorgeous swimsuit! It is heading into winter here down under… Whatever, I am in for the sew along in any case !

  • Jen

    Reading this was seriously the first time I’ve even had the slightest fleeting thought that I wanted to sew my own swimsuit. Can’t wait to follow along!

  • Laura

    I have the gold polka dot fabric already! Please be aware that it is white fabric with gold dots. The gold reflects onto the background in the picture. I didn’t read the description, obviously! I am excited to use it, though.

  • Katy

    This will be amazing, congrats on your first pattern! So exciting!

  • Joanne

    Your swimsuit is the perfect solution to my problem of not being able to afford an esther Williams swimsuit! The only problem is that I’d still consider myself an advanced beginner and have never worked with stretch fabrics! However I’ve been motivated by your comment yesterday that most people could tackle this and I really think I’m going to..the sew along has given me the confidence to give it a go! Thanks 🙂

  • Drool. That gold polka dot fabric is DIVINE. Very excited to see this through! (although being 6 months behind and all, I won’t be sewing along until the southern hemisphere summer)

  • sallieforrer

    Gold Polka dots!!! Must. Have. Now!!! Great materials post Heather! Even though I made the suit once already I’m still super interested to follow along with the sewalong! And so sad about Esther Williams… she was definitely on my mind as I was making my Bombshell. That lame suit… is killer. And I’m pretty sure they installed an Olympic size pool in heaven, just for her.

  • I think its totally manageable in the sewalong format… you’re not sewing in the void! I think stretch fabrics get a bad rep because it can be really trick without the right needle…

  • yes, it looks more creamy than white – but it will still be beautiful, I’m sure!

  • YAYYYY!!

  • Amy

    She’s on a roll! Oh my word, I second Sallie on the gold polka dots. Like I need more lycra, but it’s just too cool. I think I might have some competition for it, heh. Just a thought – most manufactured swimwear uses rubber elastic. I think it does last longer, but I know some folks like the uber flexibility of the knitted stuff.

  • veronicadarling

    OMG, have to save this post for as soon as the weather turns warmer I’ve got to make this! And for all my friends for their Christmas presents! xo

  • Marie Forest

    Great detailled post! I was supposed to stop buying patterns, and start to make more clothes… but I think I need your pattern! Do you have any suggestion of shop in Montreal to buy swimming suit fabric ? And what is your favorite fabric store in Montreal ? I will be back soon in Montreal (can’t wait!) and I need fabric for all those patterns! Thanks!

  • Jennifer Smith

    I’m so up for this as my first proper dressmaking venture. BUT, do you think it’s ok for an almost beginner? I can sew – I do quilts and soft furnishings. I have a machine – a lovely Brother one with various zig zag stitches. I have done a small amount of dressmaking, but I mean SMALL. Like, had a couple of lessons with a local lady and half finished a top before we had to stop cos she had arthritis. Thanks! Jen @ The Make Box (in the UK!)

  • stephanie u.

    Congratulations! It’s such an awesome pattern.

    Thanks for the fabric resources. I was going to find a solid red or blue and now I’m thinking I probably need a galaxy print suit. Eeeeh.

  • PepperToast

    I apologize for this rediculous question. This is the type of question that makes people roll their eyes. I am aware of that LOL. But I have a very round, very muscular bottom (thanks roller derby!) that looks full and firm on its own, do you know how the gathering in that area looks on that type of bottom? I’m not interested in making my derrier look any fuller or rounder.

  • First of all, CHAMPAGNE PROBLEMS. So much eye rolling over here with your bum you can bounce quarters off of… But seriously. I actually have the PERFECT visual response to this question.

    Exhibit A: http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/e0/a9/38/e0a9384fc7217a25936debca7510d5c4.jpg

    Has an ass EVER looked better in the history of time? No. It has not. So to you PepperToast, with your juicy peach of a bottom, I say: Bombshell that shit.

  • I really think a beginner could tackle this… because I was still a relative beginner when I made my first suit! I am sure you will have moments of frustration learning to manipulate the fabric, but this is how we build our skills! I will be walking you through it step by step and answering questions… Couldn’t ask for a better way to learn!

  • Stretchtext on St. Laurent is the best best place for lycra (http://www.stretchtextfabrics.com/contact.php). Check their hours. In that same building just up a few floors is my new favourite fabric place, Globetext – they have an amazing knit selection. Otherwise, I adore Marina’s (aka Marche du Textiles) on St. Hubert. She is a super duper sweetheart and has a small, always changing stock and great prices. The “everything under the sun” place is definitely Goodman on St. H. Amazing wools.

    For notions and supplies, there is a wonderful family run place called J&L Accessories de Couture at 4275 St. Laurent. All these mom and pop places are going out of business so I try to go there instead of Fabricville (BOOOOOOO!!!) when I need thread or whatnot.

  • PepperToast

    I LOVE your answer. LOL! It’s so awesomely sassy AND informative. Well done Heather Lou, well done. And thank you for the photo, that was exactly what I was hoping for.

    PS Perhaps I’ll be your next juicy bottom swimsuit example…ya never know…

  • Jennifer Smith

    Thanks Heather, I think I’ll just give it a go and see how I get on. You’re right, it’s the best way to learn 🙂

  • June

    Do you have any opinions about using “Lastin” elastic in this pattern? Just bought the pattern, am now eyeing fabrics…

  • That is the clear elastic, correct? I have used that in experiments in the past and I don’t feel it has enough heft for this suit…. It is generally recommend for swimwear but its so thin and flimsy. I worry it would break over time.

  • Cindy A

    I’m about 3/4 done now. A warning or tip is to either print out the directions in color or view it on a computer screen/iPad. I printed mine out in grayscale and I missed vital information regarding the elastic.

  • Good to know! Thanks CIndy!

  • Jude

    I’m in the UK and finding it hard to track down 6mm swimwear elastic. I can find the Lastin type quite easily, but the stuff you recommend only seems to be available at 1 online shop, and only in 9mm. Which would be the better bet for me?

    Also, my bust/waist/hip dimensions don’t match up with your sizing, I’m a tubby little thing – should I start looking at adjusting the pattern to suit my wider waist, or simply go with the size that fits best to 2 of the 3 dimensions, and rely on the gathering and stretchiness of the fabric to help me out?

    Bad enough having a tummy to deal with, but don’t want to end up with a saggy swimsuit drawing attention to it too!


  • 9mm is fine. I think “Swimwear” cotton elastic actually only comes in 9mm or 3/8″. I was working with 1/4″/6mm rubber elastic and didn’t realize. 3 mm will not effect the fit of the suit.

    I would start with your hip size and then grade from there. The size 10 for example, is 36/28/38. If your hip is 38 but your waist is 32, I would trace the pattern for the size 10 at the hip and then grade to a size 14 at the waist, and then grade back down to size 10 for the bust. I will cover how to do this in the sewalong!

  • Jude

    awesome! i really can’t wait to get started, i’ve taped all my pieces together so I’m ready to get going.. will order up the 9mm elastic too 🙂

    thanks so much!


  • Shawn Schumacher

    I just finished up the halter version what a great pattern. I am creativeinspiraciones on Flickr if you want to check it out.

  • Sew Meow

    Hey Heather! I got all my materials together and I’m soooooo excited to get started! I have one question though about the sizes. My measures do correspond to the bust/waist/hip ratio, but I’m exactly in the middle of two sizes. Should I go down or up one size for a good fit?

    My fabric is a bathing jacquard, so rather on the sturdy side I guess.

  • Go up one. The Bombshell fits snugly!

  • I saw it Shawn! It looks great! Love the fabric. Did you modify the front so it fits more like a traditional suit? Great hack!

  • Sew Meow

    Thanks for the quick reply! I will cut my pattern accordingly tomorrow and then I will be hanging on your lips for the next two weeks 🙂

  • Jeri Sullivan

    Can’t wait to start. My fabric is washed and my pattern is assembled. One question though…my measurements do not fall into your pattern (47-43-54). Will you be discussing how to grade up or do I need to do that now before the sew along starts?

    Also, I totally took your advice and will be doing mine in gold metallic 🙂

  • Hi Jeri! I was going to briefly discuss grading up but its nothing revolutionary. You could do it now if you liked. Because it’s so stretchy it’s a forgiving pattern to grade up without really distorting the pattern pieces. I think you could pretty safely add what you needed to the seam allowances and be okay.

  • Kari Wallace

    This pattern is beautiful and exactly what I’ve been searching for for months! Thank you! One question, as I’ve not worked with stretch fabric before: should we be looking for 2-way or 4-way stretch? Or does it matter as long as it is the appropriate spandex to lycra ratio?

  • Nixie dust

    Just purchased and awaiting for my pdf to arrive… first time making swimwear and using lycra, but super excited after seeing all the awesome reviews!! ^__^
    Wish I had those lovely bombshell hips though, will have to take the hips in an inch or two.. goddamn ironing board genes! 😛

  • Yas

    Hi Heather. The main swimwear elastic I can find in the UK is the transparent stuff. Do you think this will work or should I find some of the cotton or rubber elastic for better results? Excited to make my first swimsuit and so glad for your sew along, thanks!! Yas

    • Hi yas. Hmmm. I don’t think the clear stuff is as strong over time. If that’s all you can find, you may have to do it, but rubber and woven swim elastic will likely mean a longer lasting suit.

  • just wanted to say that Spoonflower now offers Sport Lycra and it’s great for swim! We can’t wait to try this out 🙂

  • Charlotte Divo

    I have bought last year a beautiful ice cream pattern swimsuit fabric (here : http://www.peekaboopatternshop.com/swim/?sort=newest ) and never used it because I didn’t know what I wanted to do – this pattern is perfect ! I can’t wait to get the elastic, needles and thread ! I’ve never used stretchy fabric before but I want to try ! 😀 I will post a picture when finished !