Tips For Sewing With Spandex Elastane and Lycra

It’s swimsuit season! In our June/July issue, we talked to sewists who dared to make their own swimsuits. Many of them loved the experience and the feeling of accomplishment they got from completing an intimidating project.

Why is sewing swimsuits so scary? Personally, I think there are a number of reasons. There’s the challenge of getting the fit just right, of course — a badly-fitting swimsuit has the potential for worse consequences than many garments — but I think a lot of it is that the techniques are not the same ones we use in our normal sewing. Sewing knits can be challenging enough; where do you even start with something like spandex?

Sewing With Spandex PT photo 682x1024 Tips For Sewing With Spandex Elastane and Lycra

It turns out that, just like with any fabric, there are a few tricks to know, but once you know them, it’s not hard to sew with an unfamiliar fabric. Here are some suggestions, courtesy of Rhonda Buss, who did our Soma Swimsuit Sew Along in 2016.

  • Use a needle designed for stretch fabrics, such as a ballpoint, jersey or stretch needle. If you’re sewing metallic fabric and it’s giving you trouble, try a metallic needle.
  • Start the project with a new needle to avoid any existing burrs snagging the fabric.
  • The selvage on spandex can be wavy, puckered or distorted, so be sure to cut it off before you begin cutting.
  • Sew using a serger if available. If not, use a stretch stitch or a narrow zigzag stitch.
  • Use wooly nylon thread in the serger loopers or in the bobbin. This adds extra stretch to the stitches.
  • Make sure to test stitch on scrap fabric to perfect the machine tension before beginning construction.
  • If the fabric gets caught in the throat plate, change to a straight-stitch plate if possible (but not if you’re using a zigzag stitch for construction!)
  • Remember to cut the fabric so the direction of greatest stretch is going around the body.
  • If prewashing the fabric (and when laundering after construction), don’t dry the fabric in the dryer, as the heat can break down the elastic in the fabric. Air-dry instead.

Now that you know the tricks to sewing spandex, why not try making a swimsuit yourself? Check out for patterns and more helpful information.

Soma Tank 192x300 Tips For Sewing With Spandex Elastane and Lycra

Soma Tank Swimsuit

Soma Bikini 191x300 Tips For Sewing With Spandex Elastane and Lycra

Soma Bikini Swimsuit


The Soma Swimsuit from Paper Cut Patterns has several style options, making it very versatile. Bonus! Check out Rhonda Buss’s Soma Swimsuit Sew Along for more tips on making this swimsuit.

Swimwear Style Tips For Sewing With Spandex Elastane and Lycra

Swimwear Style, Sew It All Volume 9

 Download an episode of Sew It All TV featuring a easy beginner’s swimsuit, then find the pattern free on

Ariel  205x300 Tips For Sewing With Spandex Elastane and Lycra

Ariel Swimsuit

The Ariel Swimsuit pattern has a tank and a cute bikini version.

BurdaStyle Swimwear Sloper Kit 300x300 Tips For Sewing With Spandex Elastane and LycraLearn more about sewing swimsuits with the BurdaStyle Swimwear and Sloper Kit. The kit includes three patterns and a sloper that you can customize to your own body. If you’re not sure how to do that, two included videos will teach you how! The kit also includes three cover-up patterns for to-and-from beach wear, so you’ll be all set for your summer swim excursions.


Don’t miss out! Find more great projects and ideas in our newest issue, available on newsstands and at!

 Tips For Sewing With Spandex Elastane and Lycra
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3 Responses to Tips For Sewing With Spandex Elastane and Lycra

  1. Georgia D. says:

    Hi Janice,
    If the leg openings are encased elastic, try making a small opening in the casing and shorten the elastic, by cutting it to the length needed for your desired fit PLUS about 1 inch to overlap and restitch the elastic, then close up the casing again.
    Good luck !

  2. Hi Kate
    Omg, Never really thought about sowing like your own swimsuit especially with lycra. Do you do this full time or is it just a hobby? Would love to know how you start doing this. What tools can you purchase for people on a low budget?

  3. Janice Roybal says:

    I just bought a swimsuit, it fits really well except the leg openings, they are really big. How do I make them fit.