Created by: Trash to Couture.
When I saw fabric.com’s new athletic knits, they inspired me as a designer and runner to create my own athletic wear. You would think at first that this was a match made in heaven, but to be honest, for years I was intimidated to try such projects. As an athlete that consistently trains, the last thing on my mind is fiddling with what I’m wearing. It MUST be comfortable, supportive, and functional first and foremost. Bonus points are given for style and design.
Fabric.com’s athletic knits, are so fun and colorful that I just had to add them to my running wardrobe. Below, I am going to share with you some tips and tricks that I’ve learned along the way to successfully sew your own fitness apparel.
The keys to well-made fitness clothing:
Thanks to fabric.com, they offer athletic knits, made for performance wear with bonus points for cool prints and colors.
- Fabrics should have a 25% four-way stretch for comfort and ease.
- Quality fabrics should offer great recovery when stretched and compressed to last through repeated washings and wearings, as well as having full coverage.
- Fabrics should also offer thermal insulation depending on what climate you train in: staying cool in warm temperatures and warm in cold temperatures. Spandex, for example, is a popular material used as a base layer to soak up sweat.
- Athletic knits are mostly made with synthetic fibers like spandex, nylon, and polyester, though, we are seeing more made with natural fibers like bamboo as well.
My other go-to supplies:
Because fit, function, and support are the most important aspects of athletic apparel, make sure you find a pattern that is made for this and your size.
- Be prepared to make a sample and edit according to your body measurements. I know for me in making these leggings, I had to take them in a few times to get them to fit.
- Be sure to take notes along the way and edit the pattern accordingly. For example, if you had to increase the seam allowance or add length to the hem by 1”, mark this on the pattern for next time.
- Consider creating a pattern from your favorite fitness garments. This is done by laying the garment flat on a sheet of pattern paper and tracing it. This is especially easy for leggings that have just a front and back pattern. For a legging that has several sections (like mine), it could be a bit trickier, so try a pattern like this one here
Let’s dive into some of the sewing techniques used to make athletic apparel and show you how to do some of these yourself. If you notice on your athletic apparel, most of it is made with an overlock stitch. This usually done by a serger or coverstitch machine using most often the flatlock stitch. This is great for fitness wear because it offers strength and stretch with the least abrasion possible against the skin. This is done with a serger using 3 –needle threads. You can also use this technique for hemming the edges as well. The serger I have is a Brother 1034DX that works great for all my knit projects from fitness to ready wear.
When you sew a flatlock stitch, you will alter the settings of the serger and usually use three threads and the left needle. This stitch attaches the pieces together so they lay flat as if they were one whole piece of fabric. The top side creates rows of parallel lines like a ladder, and the bottom side is the typical overlock look. You can decide which one you prefer to be your outer seam by altering how you serge them together. I use both, and you can see in the below photo how I used them together. If you look at most professional athletic wear, they usually are done with a flatlock seam.
If you don’t have a serger, the zigzag stitch on your sewing machine will do the job. This is used on seams that need stretch so the threads won’t break when stretched. It can also be used along the hems as well.
For the hem, I like to serge the raw edges for a clean finish, and then use a twin needle to top stitch the hem allowance into place. This is how most clothing (fitness to ready to wear) is finished. A twin needle is used as a decorative stitch that produces parallel lines along the top and zigzag threads on the bottom to allow the threads to stretch when pulled (like pushing your legs through the pant sleeve or pulling a shirt over your head).
For my leggings, I wanted a pop of pattern and a solid navy/blue. I went with Supplex Athletic Knit in navy and this butterfly flutter athletic knit . I also wanted a matching top. This t-shirt with the open back was a pattern I made myself as well as the white tank with the mesh racer back.
Either way, don’t let the intimidation of making athletic wear deter you from going for it. You might find your own custom look is the key to looking great while doing a workout....and it might even make you work harder, too.