Nautilus Swimsuit
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How to Choose Swimsuit Fabric

With all of the amazing looking swimsuit fabrics out there, it can be a bit intimidating to actually choose a fabric. “What are the kind of things to look for when I buy swimsuit fabric?” you might be asking. Well, have no fear – I’m here to tell you! If there’s something you look for that I haven’t included, please chime in in the comments!

variety of swimsuit fabrics

Fiber Content: The first thing that I look for is fiber content. Note that there can be a fair bit of variety in the names used to label the synthetic fibers and many of them mean the same thing. Swimsuit fabric is almost always 80-90% polyamid, polyester, nylon, or another similar synthetic fiber. The other 10-20% is spandex, lycra, or elastane (all of which are different words for the same thing). It’s very important that your swimsuit fabric have at least 10% spandex as it is the spandex content that gives the fabric the stretch that it needs.

four way stretch in swimsuit fabric

Stretch: Swimsuit fabric should have quite a bit of 4 way stretch. This means that the fabric should stretch well when you stretch it parallel to the selvage as well as perpendicular to the selvage. Different spandex percentages and differences in how the fabric is made or embellished can affect how much stretch it has, so you should be aware that if you are sewing a muslin or making a pattern for the second time, variability in swimsuit fabrics can cause it to fit differently.

metallic and embossed swimsuit fabric

Swimsuit fabrics that are embellished (like the embossed fabric on the left) or have other fibers in them (like the metallic fabric on the right) may have their stretch characteristics affected. Both of these fabrics stretch noticeably better in one direction than the other. Whether the direction of most stretch is parallel or perpendicular to the selvage can vary, so you may have to alter the suggested cutting layout when using such a fabric. The direction of greatest stretch should be around your body. Note that you may need to add a bit of additional length or go up a size in your swimsuit if you are using a fabric like this.

stretching print in swimsuit fabric

Print: I adore a good novelty print. However, you do need to keep in mind that the awesome printed fabric will be stretched significantly when it’s in a swimsuit and on your body, so make sure that the print looks good when stretched and doesn’t show the base fabric underneath.


Selvage: Speaking of prints, when choosing how much fabric you need to buy, make sure you consider the selvage of your fabric. Most solids, whether they are died in the yarn or as a knit fabric, will have the color extend all the way to the selvage so you can use the full width of the fabric. Some of the more modern printing techniques do not print all the way to the end of the fabric so you are left with up to several inches of unusable fabric on either selvage.

shiny swimsuit fabric

Shine: Swimsuit fabrics come in matte or shiny. Either will make a beautiful swimsuit although some people find that the shinier fabric highlights lumps and bumps on the body. Additionally, you should keep in mind that shinier swimsuit fabrics are harder to sew as they slip around under your sewing machine foot more than a matte fabric. So, if you are new to sewing swimsuits, you might want to stick to a matte fabric to start.

choosing swimsuit lining fabric

Lining Fabrics: When choosing a swimsuit lining fabric, make sure you select a fabric with the same characteristics as your main fabric – namely, it’s just as important that there is 4 way stretch in your lining as in your main fabric. You can also line your swimsuit with your main fabric (or another swimsuit fabric not labeled as a lining), bearing in mind that you don’t want it to be too thick (so steer toward a cheaper, thinner fabric) and you want it to feel good against your skin (so steer away from embossed, metallic, or shiny). If you have a doubt about what kind of fabric would be suitable, ask the shop for advice.

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  1. “Some of the more modern printing techniques do not print all the way to the end of the fabric so you are left with up to several inches of unusable fabric on either selvage.”

    THIS. I’m loving so many of the new digital fabrics, mostly linens in my case, but I have found up to 7-8″ width not printed. Really good info to keep in mind.

    I have no need whatsoever for a swimsuit…but….the one piece is SO CUTE!! Especially the back. I need to get a grip – or maybe not ;)

  2. Hi Erin! I’m about to start making my first bikini for myself, and I’m so excited! I’ve made swimwear for my little girl, but never for myself.
    I’m curious about the type of facing that you would recommend using. I have always either used nude spandex, or lightweight swimwear lining (if the swimwear fabric is sturdy enough.)
    So for my suit, should I use the printed fabric on the outside, the nude fabric, and then a swimsuit lining material? I just want to make sure I’m following the instructions properly!

    Thanks!! ?

    1. Glad you got it figured out! I will chime with my take on your question, in case it’s still helpful. As with most questions, there is no one right answer. It will depend upon the weight and sheerness of your main fabric, the weight of your lining options, and how compressive you want the swimsuit to be. I’ve found that if I use a decent quality of outer fabric and a generic swimwear lining, I’ve never needed a third layer. If your fabric is particularly sheer or you are particularly concerned about minimizing visible lumps and bumps, you may want to add that third layer.

  3. HAHA… I found my answer! I obviously wasn’t reading the instructions properly. I’m good to go! ??

  4. What kind of fabric I hve to use if I want the swinsuit make me look a few inches less especially in the belly.?

  5. OH MY GOODNESS! that gator looking print is so cuttte!!! Would you mind telling me where it’s from? :)

  6. Hi

    Did you use the same fabric for the lining of the swimsuits?

    A lot of the nylon/ spandex comes in amazing colours but the body stockings are all quite plain!

    Is it acceptable to use the same outer material on the inner?

    1. You can use the same inner and outer fabrics though you might find the suit a bit thick to sew and wear if you are using a swimsuit fabric that is on the heavier end. Power mesh also works as a swimsuit lining. I like to use a lightweight nude swimsuit lining for my own suits.

    1. It depends on the size and style of swimsuit you are sewing as well as the width of your fabric. A starting point would be 1 yard.

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