Swimwear fabric isn’t only for swimming – you’ll find it on the beach, by the pool, or lazing on a recliner on the lawn.

So choose your swimwear according to your requirements. Is it for tanning? Do you use it for swimming? For a dip to refresh yourself? Or just to look and feel great?

Perhaps you have different swimsuits depending on what you plan to do on a particular day… tan, swim, work out or look fabulous.

When you go on holiday, you’ll likely want to pack swimming outfits to suit every occasion. So make sure to choose different products made out of various fabrics according to your needs.

The most common fabric to swim in

When manufacturers choose fabric rolls for sewing swimming outfits, they need to make sure that the material will dry fast, won’t run when it’s in water and has some stretch.

It also has to be comfortable and snug, and it should not sag when it gets wet. For this reason, most swimming fabrics include some type of stretch fabric so that they fit well.

Since the 1960s, we've used elastane, a synthetic fibre also called spandex, for sewing patterns for swimwear. It gives these garments some stretch, is very soft and has a gloss or shine.

Usually, fabrics include between 10% to 20% elastane, which stretches but then returns to its original shape. We usually make the other 80% to 90% of the swim fabric out of non-stretch nylon or polyester.

Sustainability aside, there’s a very good reason we don’t use natural fabrics for sewing swimming patterns: cotton, wool and other natural fabrics lose their shape when damp or wet. You can certainly add a cotton cover-up for after swimming, but not for when you’re in the water.

They don’t dry quickly either, and tend to hold water. They’re really not practical options for sewing swimsuits patterns.

We’ve put together a great guide on kids swimsuits which you can view right here.

Polyester fabrics for swimming

These are the most hard-wearing fabrics to use for sewing swimsuit patterns; we usually blend them with elastane (or spandex or lycra fabric for swimwear).

There are so many sewing fabrics to choose from for patterns, and the way we tell them apart is to view the percentage of stretch fiber each one contains. These sewing fabrics also contain some form of sun protection.

You’ll also find that some fabrics are softer, and that the quality varies depending on the chosen fabrics. 

Benefits of polyester material for swimwear fabric

Polyester is long-lasting, keeps its shape when wet and doesn’t pill.

·       Soft to the touch: Originally, polyester wasn’t a smooth fabric, but now you’ll find it’s soft.

·       Colour-fast: When you wash polyester fabrics, they don’t fade.

·       Affordable: One of the reasons the fabric is so popular is because it’s known for its reasonable price.

·       Ideal for digital printing: At maake we print sustainably on polyester fabrics and when you view the result, you’ll notice it is always bright, clear, saturated colour. Check out our entire lycra range here!


Recycled Eco Lycra

·       There is a sustainable choice: A very popular and most sustainable polyester choice right now is Recycled Polyester (rPET), which is made from plastic bottles and other waste fabrics.

Nylon swimming fabrics

This type of fabric is very soft, with a more matte effect. One usually combines it with some form of spandex material  to give it stretch.

We often treat the fabric with a sun protection factor. This nylon lycra material is not as easy to print on as polyester fabric, this type of fashion swimsuit usually comes in solid colours, not prints.

Like polyester, this sewing material is also synthetic. It boasts a better stretch than polyester, so we often use it for patterns for water sports gear. Note: we also call this material Polyamide (PA).

Benefits of nylon swimwear fabric

·       Hard-wearing: These fabrics are strong. They are water-repellent and dry fast, but they are not as durable as polyester. They also tend to 'pill'.

·       Soft feel: The softer swimming fabric alternative.

·       Colour-fast: When you wash it, it tends to fade. For this reason, polyester is often the more popular fabric choice.

·       Affordable: Polyester can be a cheaper price, but this depends on the brand.

·       Not ideal for digital printing: Printers tend to print solid colours; you won’t view many patterns on this type of fabric.

·       No very sustainable alternative: Unlike polyester, this material does not have a sustainable alternative comparable to rPET. However, manufacturers are experimenting to find a sustainable nylon fabric choice.

Important note

Don’t forget to consider the following 2 points when choosing fabrics for swimming outfits for your brand:

1.    Weight: Swimwear fashion fabrics usually weigh between 180 and 200g per square metre.

2.    Blend: We’ve already discussed that the ideal material blend includes either nylon or polyester with 10 to 20% stretch fabrics like elastane or spandex, preferably a recycled stretch.

Here at maake, we have a selection of different fabrics to choose from ranging between 100 gsm- 500 gsm. This includes different fabric face finishes like matte and glitter. You can view the lycra fabrics here.

Let’s talk about chlorine

It’s a fact: swimsuits tend to fade when we use them mainly for swimming in swimming pools, which contain a lot of chlorine. For this reason, we treat a lot of swimming fabric so that it’s chlorine-resistant.

Polyester fabrics, especially those that are 100% polyester, are usually resistant to chlorine. Unfortunately, the more nylon or spandex there is in the fabric blend, the more likely it is that the fabrics will not fade.

UV protection for swimming gear

You’ll view on your swimsuits labels that these days, many fabrics used for swimming outfits contain UV protection, to protect the wearer from the harsh rays of the sun.

We add UV protection by treating fabrics with certain chemicals that make the fabrics absorb or block UV rays: these are commonly found in the dyes used to print the fabric.

This type of sun protection is called UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor). It’s a good idea to view whether the fabric you have chosen for swimming has this type of protection.

Unlike the SPF protection used on sunscreens, UPF is slightly different. The best UPF protection is considered UPF50 or higher.

Ideally, one should use both sunscreen and swimming fabric with UPF protection. UPF fabrics protect against UVA (Ultraviolet A) and UVB rays, blocking out up to 98% of the sun’s harmful rays.

Especially in the case of buying kids swimwear, all of maake's fabric and inks are Oeko-tex and GOTS 6.0 approved, to ensure safety in children's products. Our fabrics pass stringent EN71-3 certification & are formaldehyde-free too!

You can view our blog about sustainable fabrics UK businesses use for their products right here.

Excellent swimsuit fabric products for sewing from maake

Sample one of these:

  • Active Eco Lycra: A lightweight sustainable eco stretch fabric made from rPET and elastane. Ideal for activewear, swimwear and accessories.

This fabric is smooth and has excellent stretch. It’s a blend that also contains GRS-certified recycled polyester, which makes it a sustainable choice for swimming gear.

The stretch fabric pulls in every direction and springs back to shape easily. Both sides of the white polyester base fabric are alike and colours print vibrantly and strongly.

·       Eco Glitter Dot Lycra: Also containing recycled post-consumer polyester, this stretchy material is perfect for swimming costumes, activewear and accessories.

It features a silver foiled dot effect and its more sustainable blend makes it ideal for the environmentally conscious. The polyester base prints beautiful, vibrant colours.

Active Eco Lycra: A great swimming fabric choice with a smooth surface and excellent stretch. This mediumweight premium textile pulls in every direction and stretches right back every time. View how the colours print vibrantly on this material.

Printing on polyester stock at maake

At maake, we use no water when we print on regular and recycled polyester fabric stock. Also, the inks we use to print with all meet Oeko-tex requirements and pass EN71-3 certification.

View our full guide on certification of fabrics

Why not design your own fabric?


August 23, 2023 — Artemis Doupa