I’m a January cliché. I’m on a serious health kick (or I like to think I am, but I’m writing this whilst eating Kettle Chips…). I’m following this a-maz-ing 30 day yoga challenge, I’m doing dry January and I’m trying out pescatarianism (baby steps to saving the environment eh?). I play netball every week and I’m also trying Couch to 5K (although that stalled when I got ill after the second run… I’ll get back to it!).
Anyway, this is all to say that I am in serious need of activewear. In a moment of desperation, I bought some Adidas leggings late last year. As a sewist who makes basically all her clothes, it breaks my heart to say this, but they’re really good. The fit is great and I like that they have mesh panels; however they cost a fair bit and it troubles me I don’t know how they were made. Enter ‘Operation Sew Activewear’.
As a Christmas gift to myself, I bought Sew Your Own Activewear by Melissa Fehr. Melissa is the go-to sewist when it comes to activewear, so I thought her book would be a good place to start as a newbie activewear sewist.
I picked the yoga bottoms pattern which features a high waist and – crucially – a back pocket (something my Adidas leggings sorely lack – seriously where do I put my keys when I go running?!).
The book has you hack basic block patterns to make different items, so a good ream of tracing paper is a must. Overall the instructions for putting the pattern together are pretty straight forward, although the gusset took me a little while to understand… I think the hardest thing to be sure of was how big to make it, but I must have guessed right in the end based on the pictures in the instructions.
Finding activewear fabric was a bit of a puzzle. All my normal go-to shops (both in person and online) didn’t really have any suitable activewear fabric, or if they did, they didn’t have a massive range. Fortunately Melissa has put together a great list of retailers to look at and I ended up shopping at Funki Fabrics.
I ordered five samples (free of charge) because I really had no idea where to start and what sort of fibre to look for. I wanted fabric similar to my Adidas leggings – relatively thick with enough stretch. I ended up going with some black Perform fabric, which has worked well – plenty of stretch with a slight sheen.
I made most of the pattern with my overlocker apart from attaching the waistband elastic and the leg hems, where I used a three step zig zag. After the first try on of the leggings, I heard a few snaps where the overlocker stitching broke so I shortened the stitch length and it improved a lot.
The fit wasn’t simple. Based on the original pattern fit, it was really baggy around the knees and ankles but a pretty good fit around the hips. One of the reasons I love sewing is that I can make garments to fit me perfectly, so I shaved off a cm at a time on the side seams until I had the perfect fit. Realistically I think I took a good 5 cm out of each knee, and I should now really go back and transfer those amendments to the pattern block.. one of these days I’ll get round to it!
I had some difficulty fitting the waistband. The instructions say you need a piece of 2-inch elastic, 90% of your waist, which for me that would have been 59cm. When I tried to sew the elastic on, it was considerably shorter than the leggings waistband – I knew it had to be stretched a little bit, but this just didn’t seem right.. it was way too tight and pulled in the waist way too much. (maybe I measured wrong..?) I ended up taking the elastic off and making it slightly longer. It sewed in much better that way, although having worn the leggings a couple of times, perhaps I should have stretched it slightly more.
The other mistake I made was sewing the outer front waistband with the wrong side out. An easy mistake to make because the front and back are similar, but they’re not the same and in some lights you can tell. Ahh… but I only realised once it was all sewn up and hey, I’m not a perfectionist. A lesson learnt for next time!
I’ve worn these leggings for a yoga practice now, and they worked really well. There was one spot where the stitches slightly ripped because I’d used a longer stitch length – lesson learnt, use a short stitch length.
So, will I make more leggings again? Yes definitely. I might be tempted to try a different pattern just to see how the construction differs, but I really like the block construction method.