How to embroider on a swimsuit

By on March 31st, 2021
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how to embroider on a swimsuit
free machine embroidery designs

Now that it is officially spring, swimsuit season is just around the corner. I guess I must be hard on my swimsuits because every year, I have a few to throw out and replace. While it’s a bit of a bummer parting with the ones I love, it does present an opportunity to get creative on my embroidery machine. A basic tank or bikini can become totally custom with a bit of machine embroidery.  Sound scary?  It’s actually not hard.  Keep reading to learn how to embroider on a swimsuit.

Why embroider on a swimsuit?

Embroidery on a swimsuit is a quick way to elevate a very basic, bland and inexpensive item of clothing. Since swimsuits are comprised of very little fabric, a bold design or monogram can really have a major impact.

I have seen a few women’s swimsuits online with embroidered details and they are PRICEY! With an embroidery machine, you can replicate this look at a fraction of the cost.

Monogrammed swimsuits are a great gift to make for a kid, and something you can monogram guilt-free.  I always feel bad about monogramming kids’ clothing because you can no longer hand it down unless you remove the old embroidery. But, in my parenting experience, it seems like swimsuits rarely hold up long enough to get passed down from one kid to another. So, you can feel OK about adding a monogram, because, chances are, it will be worn out before you get that opportunity.

Where to buy a swimsuit suitable to embroider

If you are going to do some experimental embroidery on a swimsuit, you probably don’t want to pay a lot for it.  Fortunately, plain swimsuits are CHEAP!  I bought my ladies basic tank off of Amazon for around $20.  You can find simple 2 pieces as well for about the same price. A bandeau style bikini is a popular choice for a teenager, which are even cheaper than the aforementioned styles. But – if you are really wanting to score a deal – check back later in the season. The prices hit rock bottom around the middle of the summer.  Old Navy and Target are also great sources for inexpensive swimsuits, especially after July 1.

Swimwear for little kids is even cheaper than their adult counterparts.  There are just tons of options under $30. I love a seersucker suit for little girls as well a more sporty basic tank for older girls.  Little boys also look cute in monogrammed gingham and seersucker, and there are a lot of options for them as well.

What to embroider on a swimsuit

I would have to say that monograms are hands down the most popular choice for embroidery on a swimsuit.  A lot of embroidery shop owners offer seersucker and gingham swimsuits for little girls with a big monogram on the front.  And, I have to admit, they are pretty cute.  If you can’t find the suit on Amazon, check some of these other blanks suppliers, as I’ve seen quite a few that offer seersucker swimsuits for little kids.

monogrammed seersucker swimsuits
Photo provided by Colleen Freehill Hasselmann and used with her permission. Follow her on Instagram!

After seeing these suits, you may have a hard time imagining monogrammed swimwear for anyone over the age of 5, but a monogrammed bikini is a super popular look for teens and tweens.  Typically these suits are monogrammed right between the boobs or on the bottoms right at the top back center.

monogrammed bikini
Monogrammed bikini top. Photo provided by Pam Jones of Tic Tac Totes by Pam and used with her permission.

I, personally, am not interested in wearing my monogram between my boobs, and I generally prefer more conservative styles when it comes to swimwear. What I am most interested in is creating a more unique and interesting looking swimsuit than what I can typically buy off the shelf (especially for $20).  In fact, this is why I got interested in embroidering on a swimsuit in the first place.

Challenges of embroidering on a swimsuit

The reason why embroidering on a swimsuit is challenging is because the material stretches.  This is especially true for a woman’s swimsuit that has several curvy parts to fit around. Therefore, the best places to embroider on swimsuit are those spots that don’t get much stretch.  It’s also a good idea not to embroidery large, dense areas of embroidery, because stitches can pop out when the material gets stretched.

Little kids have fewer curves, so stretch is less of a problem on their swimsuits.  But, tons of embroidery all over the suit will likely not be very comfortable.

How to embroider on a swimsuit

For this project, I decided to make a cool swimsuit for myself. Last year I ordered a couple of basic tank swimming suits from Amazon which have been sitting in my sewing for months. Now that the weather is starting to warm up, I figured it was time to make them more interesting. So, I decided to stitch out my modern daffodil appliqué design on the bottom right front of the suit.

plain swimsuit
Boring tank swimsuit from Amazon.

Preparing the swimsuit

The first thing you need to do is to mark the center point of the design you are going to stitch out on your swimming suit with a pin.

marking center of design on swimsuit

Cut a piece of fusible poly mesh stabilizer slightly larger than the design. I went with a black fusible poly mesh since my swimsuit was dark.

cutting fusible poly mesh

Typically you would iron the fusible poly mesh onto the wrong side of the garment, but it’s probably not a good idea to iron a swimsuit. So, what I did, is sprayed the piece of fusible poly mesh with a temporary adhesive spray.

applying temporary adhesive on swimsuit

Stick the fusible poly mesh stabilizer onto the inside of the swimsuit where the pin is poked through, centering the piece over the pin that is poking through onto the wrong side of the swimsuit.

fusible poly mesh on inside of swimsuit

Preparing the hoop

It would be nearly impossible to hoop a swimsuit because the openings are pretty small.  But, it’s also not a good idea to hoop a swimsuit because you will likely overstretch the fabric which would cause puckering around the design after the it’s removed from the hoop.

Instead, you should float the swimsuit.  So, hoop a piece of sticky back stabilizer with the shiny side up.  Then, use a pin to score around the inside edge of the hoop.  This will create a small tear in the top layer of the paper.  Peel the paper away to expose the sticky surface.  Finally use a disappearing ink pen to draw the center point on the sticky stabilizer and extend the lines to the edge of the hoop.

hooped stabilizer
Prepared sticky back stabilizer, ready for floating a project.

Floating the swimsuit on the hooped stabilizer

Next, stick the swimsuit on the stabilizer, lining up the pin (marking the center of the design on the swimsuit) with the center point you drew on the hooped stabilizer.  Smooth it out, making sure there are no wrinkles in the swimsuit or the fusible poly mesh that is now sandwiched between the swimsuit and the tearaway.

slow down your machine before embroidering on a swimsuit
Slow down your machine!

I also think it’s a good idea to slow down the speed on your embroidery machine when you are embroidering on a swimsuit.  If something goes wrong, you can stop it before it does a lot of damage.

stitching out design on swimsuit

Because I decided to stitch out an appliqué design on my swimsuit, and because swimsuits are often wet, I was mindful of the appliqué fabric I chose.  My appliqué fabric was a lycra, so it was similar to swimsuit fabric.

This particular modern daffodil appliqué design was intended to be left with raw edges.  So, after I was done stitching out the design, I trimmed around the flower, leaving the fabric edge raw.  I tore the swimsuit away from the tearaway stabilizer and then trimmed around the fusible poly mesh left in the swimsuit.  And voilá  – I am done!

Not everything I make turns out great, but I have to say – I really love this swimsuit.  In fact, I think I’m going to add a couple of stemless flowers on the back to balance out the design.

Ready to create your own custom swimsuit! I think you will be surprised by how fun and easy this project is.

Happy stitching!



ready to embroider on swimsuit


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how to embroider on a swimsuit

2 thoughts on “How to embroider on a swimsuit

  1. My problem when I tried to embroider a swimsuit was getting the back out of the way. Especially a small child. I am very new to embroidery and I ruined a small girl’s swim suit the first time I tried it.

    1. It can be hard to embroider in small spaces. Check out my previous post about how to keep the excess fabric out of the way. Maybe some of these tips will help.

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