Three of the kids started gymnastics last week and, not surprisingly, my oldest girl outgrew last year's leotard. So I pulled out Jalie 2443, an out of print pattern. The leotards I made a while ago are here and here.
I experimented with a variety of stitching methods, hoping to determine what was easiest and what looked best. For the suit above, I used floral nylon/lycra from the swimsuit fabric scrap bin at Mill End Textiles and purple nylon/lycra from fabric.com. I stitched it per Jalie's instructions: first do a wide zigzag at the outside of the seam, and smaller zigzag 1/4" in. If you enlarge the picture, you can see that some of the stitching is visible where the fabric pulls.
For this suit I used polka dot nylon/lycra scraps from Mill End Textiles and black nylon/lycra from Spandex House. I stitched this one with slightly larger zigzags and I think the stitching is even more visible. The larger the zigzags, the more stretch you retain, but the stitching is also more visible. As I'm zigzagging the seams, I also stretch the fabric taut.
This one is made from tactel/nylon fabrics from Chez Ami. This is the best quality of the fabrics I've used for the leotards - it's beefier than regular swimsuit fabric and less shiny. I serged this entire leotard (except for the sleeve hems and the leg elastic), without stretching the seams. Serging is by far the fastest and easiest method - the serger is faster than the sewing machine and I didn't need to finish the edges in a second pass. However, the stitching still shows a bit where the fabric is pulling, but not as bad as in the suits with wider zigzag stitching.
Oops, I forgot to upload a photo of the solid teal sparkly suit (on the far right of the lineup). I dug this costumey stretch fabric from the scrap bin at Mill End. For the final suit, I stitched the seams with a smaller zigzag (still stretching the fabric) and am happiest with this method. It's still more time consuming than serging, but the stitches are less visible when pulled. There's still plenty of stretch. The one problem? Those sparkles are scratchy and Grace won't wear it until I replace the neckband with something soft.
Some further notes:
I mixed and matched styles to makes this crewneck version. After I cut out all the pieces for all four suits, I realized they were going to be a challenge to get on! So I widened the necks a bit and cut new neckbindings, making sure there was plenty of stretch.
About the leg elastic: I stitched the elastic into a circle. Then I zigzagged it to the inside edge of the leg hole. (I don't quarter mark, I just get the stitching started and then pull the leg opening and the elastic out to the side and estimate how much elastic and fabric should match up in the next stitching stretch. Does that make sense?) I pulled the elastic tighter around the back side of the leghole - the fabric needs to pull in there more closely than it does in the front. Lastly, I turned the edges under and zigzagged once more.
For the sleeve hems, I turned under the edges and did a narrow zigzag with no other finishing. In the past, I've done a coverstitch hem, but didn't feel like changing my coverstitch threads 4 differents times!
If you're scratching your head about sewing a swimsuit or leotard, try your hand at a Jalie pattern - they have good instructions with illustrations. Here's a link to the in-print gymnastics leotard pattern: Jalie 2792.
My swimsuit lining, which you can't see, came from Spandex House.
Sewing swimsuits and leotards is probably my biggest money saver. Each suit used less than a half yard - closer to a quarter yard and cost $2 or $3 dollars. The leotards for sale at our gym range from $31 to $39 and are not as nice, in my opinion (: