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How to sew your own activewear

What fabrics to use in activewear projects?

The choice of fabric for activewear clothing will depend on the specific activity you’re doing: think about breathability, stretch, moisture-wicking, durability and thermal warmth.

Here are some of the most common types of fabrics used for activewear sports clothing:

  1. Nylon: Nylon is a synthetic fabric that is similar to polyester, it’s lightweight, strong, and moisture-wicking. Nylon is also resistant to abrasion and snags, which makes it a popular choice for activewear clothing.
  2. Spandex or Lycra: Spandex or Lycra is a type of synthetic fabric that is known for its stretchiness. It is often used in activewear clothing to provide added stretch and support.
  3. Supplex: Supplex is a type of nylon that has a soft, cotton-like feel. It’s lightweight, breathable and dries quickly, it’s often used for activewear garments that need to be comfortable and breathable.
  4. Merino wool: Merino wool is a natural fabric that is moisture-wicking, odour-resistant, and thermal regulating, which makes it a great choice for activewear clothing.
  5. Bamboo: Bamboo is a natural and sustainable fabric that is soft, breathable, and moisture-wicking. Bamboo is also naturally antimicrobial, making it a popular choice for activewear clothing.
  6. Coolmax: Coolmax is a type of polyester that is designed to wick moisture away from the skin. It’s often used in activewear garments that need to be breathable and moisture-wicking.

Handling activewear fabrics

Sewing activewear or sportswear fabrics can be a bit more challenging than sewing traditional fabrics, as the main sportswear fabrics are designed to be stretchy and durable.

Here are 12 top tips and tricks to help you sew stretchy activewear fabrics:

Use a stretch needle: Activewear fabrics are stretchy and can be easily damaged by a regular needle. Make sure to use a stretch needle, such as a ballpoint needle, which is specifically designed for knit fabrics.

Use the right thread: Activewear fabrics are stretchy, so it’s important to use a thread that can stretch with the fabric. Use a tough polyester or slightly stretchy woolly nylon thread that is designed for stretch fabrics. A new product on the market Maraflex is a great new elastic sewing thread for household sewing machines. It produces elastic seams using straight stitch, with a seam stretch of up to 80%!

Use a stretch stitch: A stretch stitch is a type of sewing machine stitch that allows the fabric to stretch without breaking the thread. Use a stretch stitch, such as a zigzag or a triple straight stitch, to sew activewear fabrics.

Use an overlocker or coverstitch machine: If you have an overlocker aka serger, it can be a great tool for sewing activewear fabrics. This machine can quickly finish the edges of the fabric and create a stretchy, durable seam in a single pass. A coverstitch machine creates professional hems on knit fabrics for true jersey fabric enthusiasts!

Use a stretch stabiliser: A stretch stabiliser is a type of fabric that is placed behind the activewear fabric to help keep it stable while sewing. This can help to prevent the fabric from stretching out of shape while you sew.

Pin and baste: Before you start sewing, make sure to pin and baste your fabric to keep it in place. This will help prevent any shifting or bunching while you sew.

Be mindful of the stretch direction: Activewear fabrics have a stretch direction, which is the direction in which the fabric stretches the most. Be sure to lay out your pattern pieces so that the stretch direction is going across the body, not up and down.

Avoid using too much heat: Heat can cause activewear fabrics to shrink, so avoid using hot irons or steamers when working with activewear fabrics.

Test your seam: Before cutting your fabric, make a test garment by using muslin fabric and test your seam, this is important to check the stretch of your seam and make any final adjustments as needed.

Use a twin needle: A twin needle is a great option to use when hemming activewear. A twin needle will create a stretchy and durable hem that will not break easily.

Need extra support?

Why not choose S9620 by Madalynne. This pattern has a three part video sewalong to guide you through every step and provide even more expert advice on activewear fabric and construction.

Choosing the right size for your activewear pattern

Choosing the right size for an activewear sewing pattern is important to ensure a good fit and proper function of the garment. Here are our tips to help you pick the right size for your activewear sewing pattern:

Measure yourself

Before you start, take accurate measurements of your body. We have a detailed video guide for taking your measurements for all sewing projects.

Check the pattern’s size chart

Our activewear patterns have a size chart included. Compare your measurements to the chart to determine which size will be the best fit for you.

Consider ease

Stretchy activewear garments are commonly sewn with negative ease, meaning the finished garment measurements are smaller than your body measurements as the stretchy fabric will hug you for a close fit. This is already factored into the pattern by the designer so make sure to follow the next point on our list for a successful result.

Check the stretch percentage

Activewear fabrics typically very stretchy and stretch in both directions – this is called “four-way stretch”. Check the stretch percentage of the fabric you plan to use and compare it to the pattern’s recommended stretch percentage. Our stretch sewing patterns have the Pick-A-Knit guide printed on the envelope to ensure you choose the perfect fabric for the design!

Make a muslin

Before cutting your final fabric, it’s important to make a muslin, a test garment made with inexpensive fabric, to check the fit of the pattern. This will allow you to make any necessary adjustments before cutting your final fabric. Just make sure you use an activewear with similar stretch and properties as your final fabric!

It’s important to note it’s not uncommon for people to have to grade between pattern sizes, to get the perfect fit. It’s always best to take your time and make sure you are choosing the right size for your body and your preferences.

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