Sewing leotards can save you a lot of money particularly if your kids are regularly competing in dance, skating or gymnastics. It is also extremely rewarding and really is much easier than you think. Once you have made a couple of leotards or swimsuits and learned some simple techniques, you will be confident enough to start creating unique costumes you will be proud of. If you are looking to sew some leotard or swimsuit patterns, here is a guide to get you started.
Sewing Leotards and Swimwear
First, you are going to need a leotard pattern. Once you have the basics mastered you will slowly get confident enough to hack patterns to make your own custom creations. If you are a first-time leotard sewer I recommend #4 for a leotard or #1 for swimwear as they are a great basic pattern with nothing tricky.
There are more to choose from in my pattern shop. Shop ALL leotard sewing patterns.
Buying Spandex and Lycra
If you are stuck where to buy Spandex and Lycra for your leotards and swimwear then why not buy online. Here is a guide to some great online shops selling stretch fabrics.
When starting, try and choose matt or satin finishes of fabric as these are easier to sew. Thicker fabrics are also better as they won't need lining and don't overstretch in your machine.
Further Reading: Buying guide for Lycra and Spandex
Always check that the fabric has a stretch factor that is suitable for your leotard pattern. The Treasurie leotard patterns use a stretch factor of 75%. This means that 4 inches of fabric will stretch out to 7 inches.
Sewing Leotards with a Regular Sewing Machine
STITCHES - You don't need a fancy serger or cover stitch machine for sewing leotards. Leotard seams can need the same amount of stretch as the fabric so that the stitches don't break with active bodies. A simple zig-zag stitch on a narrow width setting can create durable leotard seams.
Learn all the tricks and tips and best machine settings to get great results with just a simple zig-zag stitch and your regular machine.
Further Reading: How to sew Lycra with a regular machine
MACHINE FOOT - If you have a fabric that is a bit sticky, a Teflon Foot can prevent skipped or uneven stitches.
NEEDLES - You will also need stretch needles rather than your regular universal needles. For Lycra with lower stretch factor, ballpoint or jersey needles can sometimes be used but you will get the best results with a stretch needle.
Sewing Leotards & Swimwear
If you are ready to start sewing leotards or swimwear then read this basic guide to construction. This article will lead you step by step through the process and includes a sew-along video for leotard #4 pictured below.
Further Reading: How to Make a Leotard
Sewing Leotards Elastic
After you have constructed your leotard you will need to attach elastic to the legs and neck area.
Further Read: How to sew elastic in leotards to get a professional result.
Fold over elastic is also a great way to finish necklines and can be used for thin straps. My easy tutorial also has a video.
Sewing Leotards Binding
Binding is great for a pop of color on leotards and gym wear.
Read: How to sew binding in just a few easy steps.
Sewing Leotards Straps
Learn how to sew Spandex straps 3 ways - turned, folded with a zig-zag and folded with a twin needle.
Decorating Your Leotards
Once you have finished it is time to decorate! Here are some fun decorating techniques to experiment with.
- How to Sew Sequins – Hand Sewing Sequins
- How to Sew Sequin Trim on your machine
- How to Sew on Sequins – Scattered Effects
- Sewing Sequins by Hand: Overlap Method
- How to Sew Tulle
Sewing Leotards - In Conclusion
Good luck in your quest for sewing leotards and swimwear! I look forward to hearing about what you have been sewing.