We know that sewing with knits and stretch fabrics can be daunting if you’ve not tried before so we asked Melissa Fehr of independent activewear pattern company Fehr Trade to share her top sewing tips and favourite place to source supplies. You can follow Melissa on The Fold Line here @fehrtrade.
Melissa’s top activewear sewing tips
There aren’t many times when we can truly save money over the shops by sewing our own, but activewear is one of those rare gems where, with a bit of forethought and practice, you can make your own for a fraction of the cost of the big sportswear brands. I’ve compiled a shortlist of my top tips for sewing your own activewear, learnt through years of combining my twin passions of running and sewing!
First and foremost, you should think about what sort of activities you’ll be doing in your activewear, and the sort of movements and environments you’ll be working out in. If your activity requires a wide range of motion, like yoga, or climbing, then you’ll want to look for leggings with a crotch gusset, for instance. Or if you’ll be doing a high impact exercise like running or gymnastics, you’ll need a top with a super supportive compression- or encapsulation-style sports bra. Riding a bicycle or a horse? Then look for patterns with an increased back rise suitable for long periods in a seated position.
Just like with casualwear, one of the best parts of sewing your own is achieving the perfect fit. I’ve lost track of the number of friends who’ve complained that their leggings are too short (or too long!), don’t have the right waistband rise, or require a drawstring waist because the elastic isn’t the right length for them! This is your chance to get your activewear fitting exactly as you like it, but don’t forget to wear your sportsbra underneath when fitting tops, as your bust shape will be different than in your day-to-day bra.
The availability of activewear fabrics has exploded in the past few years and you can now purchase high tech performance fabrics in just about every colour or print imaginable! For hot weather or long, intense sessions, look for wicking fabrics such as Supplex or Funkifabrics’ own Titan to keep you dry and comfortable. For cooler or shorter workouts, non-wicking lycra, bamboo, or breathable polyesters will do just fine – just be sure to avoid cotton at all costs, as it absorbs moisture like a sponge which can lead to uncomfortable chafing and even hypothermia if worn in cold conditions.
Some of my favourite activewear fabric suppliers:
You don’t necessarily need an overlocker (serger) to sew with stretchy activewear fabrics – you can still get great, robust results with your regular sewing machine. Set your stitches to a narrow zigzag with a short stitch length, and stretch some fabric scraps first to see if you can snap the threads. If so, shorten the stitch length until you can no longer break the stitching. Stretch needles can help prevent skipped stitches on stretchy spandex fabrics, and a walking foot can help prevent your fabric from stretching as you sew, which causes rippling seams.
My biggest tip, however, is to just sew up your first activewear garments in a cheap fabric (with similar weight and stretch properties to your “good stuff”!) and take it out for a spin! All of us are picky about what we wear and you can really only judge how a garment will move when you wear it for your usual activity. Check whether it moves around, rubs, or feel uncomfortable any way, make those tweaks to your pattern, and then dive right in to that gorgeous activewear fabric for your second version!