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Edge Binding Methods

Not Everyone Has A Coverstitch Machine!

I don't typically like to offer sewing tutorials as my website focuses on pattern making and there's lots of websites out there which do focus on sewing, but edge binding is one of those things which seems to cross over a little. If you want to try and apply binding and elastic to the edge of your swimwear you'd typically use a cover stitch machine with a binder attachment and elastic tensioner all in one ... this is how all the big companies do it. Below is one of my old cover stitch machines set up with binder and front elastic tensioner ... they're really simple devices and come in a number of widths ... you simply set it up like below and feed your fabric in from the front and it does everything for you. It's the absolute bees knees for swimwear makers. But what if you don't have one of these machines? Our very own Susan Esse has written the instructions below for how to sew edge binding without a cover stitch mache!

Instructions for applying binding to micro bikinis (by Susan Esse)

Welcome to the world of sewing simple, quick swimsuit pieces. The information that follows is basic steps to apply binding to swimwear pieces using same swimwear fabric as the swimsuit. These are simple, can be done just on a home sewing machine, or both sewing machines, serger/overlocker. This is the basics for all level of sewists.

Step 1


Choose your fabric, you can go with same color of fabric or have a contrast color or print. The importance is to have fun. For easy cutting, you can use self-healing matt, long clear ruler, rotary cutter (fresh blade is best) for cutting your strips of binding out. With that you will work with your spandex, width of fabric (147.3cm – 152.3cm, or 58”- 60”) selvage to selvage fold in half, then half again to make it easy to cut through four layers of your fabric quickly. This will work for those who have a small cutting area. You will make sure to have things smooth for accurate cut of your strip of binding, fabric weights are very good to use here, i.e., average binding width is (3cm, or 1 ¼”) wide.

Cutting Width for elastics:


  • 3cm/1 ¼” wide by WOF (width of fabric)    = 6mm/1/4” elastic.

  • 3.5cm/1 3/8” wide by WOF………………   = 8mm/5/16”

  • 3.8cm/1 ½” wide by WOF…………………  = 10mm/3/8”

  • 4.2-4.5cm/1 5/8”-1 ¾” wide by WOF….      = 18-19mm/3/4”

  • 5.4cm/2 ¼” wide by WOF…………………  = 25mm/1”

Note: These measurements are based on using swimwear silicone elastic in the thickness of 0.026” thick.


Step 2

Set up sewing machine with threads to match. Make sure to have your machine set for sewing knits, which includes to use a fresh needle, any other settings you need to do for your machine to stitch well on knits. Stitch that works the best is 3-step zigzag stitch for elastic application on sewing machines. Use your multi-purpose foot or elastic foot. If using elastic foot on your sewing machine set the tension to the lowest setting. As the goal is to sew with a 1:1 ratio of tension. Once you have things set up, you are ready to apply your elastic to your binding strips that you just cut, let rest a bit. (Serger/overlocker method- set machine to 3 thread wide overlock, length about 3.5mm, sew on the edge only with the elastic, no cutting off anything. Or use your elastic foot, again adjust tension to very light as this is also sewn with a 1:1ratio). Elastic is sewn on the wrong side of the binding strip. You will have the elastic flush to the edge of the right side of the strip to apply. Once the elastic is applied to the full length or strip cut, then you will be able to sew the created binding strip to the bikini piece. 


Step 3

Application of elasticated binding strips:

Sewing machine method

Now place right side of binding strip to wrong side of bikini piece, sew with your 3-step zigzag stitch, seam allowance is .05cm/1/4”, ratio on tension is again 1:1. Only time you may need to apply more tension on your binding strip is if you are working with a design curve then add just a bit of tension on your binding strip. This will be up to the sewist how much, but in general tension on application of binding is a 1:1 ratio. Never pull your main fabric.

Serger/overlocker method

Similar steps for the sewing machine for fabric. Set machine for 3thread wide overlock or stretch overlock length at 3.5 or 4mm long. Use your
standard accessory foot for the overlock machine, sew with the fabric edges flush with the wall of the foot. You are not cutting anything off. Seam allowance is still .05cm/1/4” wide.


Step 4

Take each piece of bikini cup or bottom with your applied binding strip, pin double fold binding piece to the front, then top stitch. Sewing machine method: Use either zigzag stitch narrow or use twin needle, on digital/computerized machines the lightning bolt stitch lengthened. You want your top stitching method to be a longer length than 3.5mm or preference of the sewist. You want to make sure your stitching with the needle stitching through on the left fold of the binding. There are accessory feet that will make this easy for you if you have a hard time sewing straight. We use a left edge top stitching foot, which has a groove to keep us stitching right in the same place. Once you have completed your first binding piece, then continue through each side of the cup, bikini bottom. See pictures for examples on how to overlap at the top of the cup or bottom of a G-string. If you have a cover stitch machine you can also use this method of top stitching you’re binding down.

Note: There are other ways to apply binding that we see in the industry. In the industry they use industrial machines that are specific to a technique for example elastic tensioners, cover stitch machines that have double and triple fold binder attachments, as well as the ability to add the elastic to the binding strip, sew on the bikini top or bottom in one step.

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