Sew active

Susan from Measure twice cut once has worked in the garment industry all her life. A simple conversation about cycling over dinner became an eye opening discussion about many aspects to sewing activewear from this one incredible lady. Susan is a sewing gem in my books. 

Here’s what she’s happy to share with us about making your own activewear. 

Grab a cuppa and read on…

Active wear – Where to start.

I work out/cycle/do triathlons but I want to make my own gear but sewing lycra is new to me.


What basic designs shapes should I choose?

Go with what you already use. If you wear a singlet and tights to run in then go with that. Reason being is you know how those clothes work for you. How long you like your tops so they don’t ride up, how loose or tight you like it across your chest.
This is very helpful if you are learning to work with some of the stretch and lycra fabrics for the first time. If you can try them on and go “oh wow this fits like the top I wear or those tights I do yoga in” then you have a great point of reference to start from.

If you are starting to work out and sew work out wear at the same time, then perhaps pop down to your local sports store and try some RTW pieces on. I may think running shorts are the cutest things ever but they look terrible on me and I feel more confident and secure wearing ¾ tights. That’s being realistic with your needs.

Go with what works for you or what ever will make you kit up and do your workouts. Sometimes cute workout wear is all the incentive we need to get moving! #smallsteps

Where do I find basic patterns to start with?

Sportswear specific patterns can be found at Fehr trade, Papercut patterns, Jalie and even in the big 4 ie Kwik Sew or McCalls.
Fehr Trade XYT top for everyday wear

Think about what you want? High performance for running, swimming or cycling or some tights and a top for walking or getting back into exercise? Choose what is going to suit you and what is going to motivate you to get going.

Fehr Trade XYT top

Also think about a regular pattern in an active wear fabric. Consider the possibilities in the patterns you already use just by changing the fabric. A simple t-shirt goes from a t-shirt to workout wear if you use a moisture wicking fabric like polyester knit. Try a merino jersey or bamboo knit for a natural fabric with many similar properties as a starting point.


Is all lycra the same?

Not all lycra is the same. If you are looking specifically for active wear fabrics look for fabrics that have moisture management or moisture wicking properties. These fabrics have been created to pull the moisture away from you. This keeps you cooler for longer meaning you can work harder for longer.
Kwik Sew 3567 top and McCalls 6404 leggings

Other common treatments in sports fabrics are

Sun protection – has a high SPF factor so you keep protected from the sun. Some super lightweight almost mesh like fabrics can have this treatment so sun protection need not equal thick dense fabric all the time. Be careful as the Sun Protection ratings can differ between countries and standards and it’s not the same as the sunscreen ratings we already know. If you aren’t sure then look it up, far easier than ending up sunburnt after a day out cycling.

Jalie 2796 skort for beach wear
Kwik Sew 2881 rashie

Anti Microbial, Anti bacterial – treated to help keep bacteria and microbes away, Not only high in general ick factor but these little nasties can be the reason you end up with stinky workout wear.

Silver or other metals. Silver has a natural antibacterial property and it can be knitted and woven into fabrics. Most often seen in things like socks it is available in some fabrics.
Fehr trade PB Jam leggings and XYT top

And possibly the biggest one to look out for is that not all-active wear has lycra. Plenty of cycling jerseys, run tops etc have no lycra content at all. They can range from mesh’s, soft knits and even super stretchy knits but don’t actual contain lycra. Non-lycra ones can be less clingy which is a slightly more forgiving look and depending on which weights are available to you can be cooler or more breathable.

If I want long lasting active wear, what should I look for in workout fabric? –

Long lasting active wear is not only about the fabrics you choose but how you take care of them. Try and get out of anything you work out in as quickly as possible. Warm and damp is a breeding ground for nasties, which will make your garments, smell and in some cases increase the rate in which they break down.

Get out your gear as soon as you can. Don’t ball it up and leave it. If it can’t go in the wash straight away try popping it into a mesh bag. It helps it dry faster, and the airflow will help reduce smell and bacteria build up.

Wash and if at all possible hang in the sunshine.  Be careful about fabric softeners/certain cleaning agents. Some active wear has been pre treated and certain cleaners can strip all of those treatments out of your fabrics.

Look for fabrics that have good recovery, so when you stretch them they bounce back quickly and not misshapen. This is an indicator that it will continue to recover after you wash and wear.

What lycra doesn’t show sweat?
Look for a polyester lycra or nylon lycra blend. Almost all cotton/lycras will show up sweat as the cotton holds onto the moisture, which creates sweat patches.
Look for fabrics that have been treated with moisture management or moisture wicking properties. These fabrics are engineered to pull the moisture away from your body.

What fabric helps keep me cool?

Certain fabrics are actually developed to help reflect heat and keep your temperature down, but for the most part keeping cool is about fabric positioning and layering.

Fabric position can be as simple as using 2 different weights of fabric. Higher heat areas will have a lighter weight fabric or even a mesh insert.

Layering seems counter intuitive when it comes to keeping cool but it works. Take a look at a professional cycling peloton and you will notice that many of the riders have a white singlet on, even on days when their jerseys are flapping open in the breeze.

This singlet is a base layer. Its tight fitting and highly moisture wicking. It pulls the moisture away from the skin allowing your body to stay cool and dry. When worn with a jersey it creates an air pocket between the base layer and the jersey, which helps the moisture, pull quickly to the outside of the jersey and dissipate. This double layer of moisture wicking ensures that the skin stays mostly dry. This feels cooler and more comfortable. Only on the very hottest of days do they go without (there are certain temps and humidity levels where the fabric technology struggles to work).

You may find a base layer works or even that a sports bra and then a top is cooler for you than a top with a built in bra.

Combine layering with fabric positioning for best results.

Are there special elastics I should buy for swimwear, cycling, running gear?

Certain garments are often made with particular elastics, but you can substitute so don’t despair if you can’t find them.

Rubber elastic is often used in swimwear and hems of some tops. Clear elastic is another one you will find in swimwear and some tops.

Cycling chamois from shop of goodies on ebay

The legs of cycling knicks or bibs and running tights sometimes have a silicon gripper on the inside. This allows the hems to stay in place and keep the fabric taught across the body and not wrinkle up. This is important in certain sports, as you don’t want the fabric creating rub points. These rub points can get incredibly painful after many hours and cause abrasions, sores and other problems. If you want silicon gripper but can’t find it take a look for the grip paint you use to paint small children’s socks with (for when they are learning to walk). This makes a decent substitute.

First attempt at sewing on silicon gripper elastic

Try looking at folded elastics for edges, wider soft elastics for waistbands and self-fabric binds and bands. Take cues from what you already know and like. Hate a waistband that cuts into your stomach? Then substitute elastic for a folded self-fabric in a yoga style band. It still keeps your pants up but can be more comfortable. Alternatively substitute a very wide elastic and remember to increase the waistband pattern piece for this larger size elastic.

Are there special zippers I should use?

The zippers aren’t special but there are a few things to consider

– Sportswear zips tend to be chunkier
– The zip pull is either larger, has a tab or special puller added
– Plenty of open-ended zips being used especially if it is an outer layer.

A right royal 6am mess ready for work out wearing Kwik Sew jacket, top and leggings.
All of these are pure function (and a little bit of aesthetics). You need to open your garment while you are on the move, so it needs to be a nice big zip that can open smoothly. You have to be able to grab the puller and just unzip, no fumbling, no looking down and consider that in cold weather or in certain activities you will be wearing gloves so dexterity may be impeded. You need to open the garment and get it off without having to pull it over your head as this would mean you need to stop working out to do this, an open ended zip solves this issue.

– Try exposing the teeth (especially if you can find a nice chunky plastic zip) for a different look.

– Try using zippers with contrast colours to draw in some colour to your clothes.
Activewear can be sewn on a sewing machine. 
What lycra is easy to sew on my standard sewing machine?

Pretty much anything can be made on your standard sewing machine. Use stretch needles and experiment with your stitching types and techniques. Find needles that suits your chosen fabric and achieves a neat, clean look.
Special lycra for activewear

Are there special trims I should look for and use or should I make my own?

Special trims would include things like reflective elements. Reflective trim is made from thousands of microscopic beads. These beads take a light source (like a headlight or street lamp) and reflect it back again. This creates the illusion of glowing and is one of the most effective ways of staying visible in dark and low light level conditions.
All sorts of reflective trims for cycling gear

Colour blocking, where you use more than one colour can be highly effective, look very sporty and use correctly can draw the eye to your strong features and cover up other areas.

Fluoro or Neon trim is very on trend and can really add a pop of excitement to your outfit. Look for piping, tapes or make your own using neon lycras.

If you want to see the most innovative activewear jacket for training at night, here’s a link to Melissa’s jacket.

Keep an eye out for Susan’s classes at Sew Make Create.

Minerva meetup or UK roadtrip

Being invited to be a Minerva Crafts blogger last year was a real highlight for this little Aussie sewer. Then when Vicki let me know about the plans for last Saturday’s meetup months ago, Mr V did the travel planning so we could be at Minerva. Mwah to Mr V. He loves all things travel.

So the journey to the meetup began a bit earlier.
‘What would the day be like?’ ‘What is this placed called Dawen?’
Mr V had us triapse through Dublin and Belfast (Westeros), before we flew to sunny and hot Manchester. 

We grabbed our car and made a quick visit to Manchester before meeting up with Sam and Winnie at Darwen for dinner. Karen Ball joined us and together we had a lovely and not so quiet dinner. You would have read Karen, Sam and Winnie’s reviews about this. It wasn’t the soccer on the tv that made it a rowdy meal;)

Thanks Winnie, Sam and Karen for meeting us on Friday night. 

Saturday at Minerva Crafts was an awesome day. Totally awesome. Here’s a link to the latest photos 

Minerva is a family owned and run business. Their love of crafts is infectious. The staff were on the ball all day and they have a wealth of craft knowledge.
There were a number of demos that I missed because there was so much to see and do.

Sam and I enabled each other assessing fabrics and ‘what could be’ our potential projects :)) 

Thanks Sam and Jordan. Jordan, a keen Minerva staff member, found a roll of fabric that we’d seen earlier but couldn’t find at the counter when we were ready to make our purchases. Thanks Jordan.

All the Minerva staff did a fantastic job on the day, that includes Jess.

Doesn’t Vicki’s dress look amazing?

The Minerva Craft group ran the refreshments and lucky draw. They meet at Minerva 3 times a week to craft and they’re a caring group. I petered out at noon so I was promptly given a seat to perch on with a cuppa in my hand and a sandwich. I really needed that!

There were workshops during the day which I didn’t do so the fabrics, crafts and chatting to everyone ‘knocked me for a sixer’. But it was all good.

Karen Ball gave her very first talk about her sewing journey and she was funny, engaging and everyone connected through their own sewing misshaps. Sometimes I don’t prewash fabrics and I’ve used my fabric scissors for paper. Doh.

The By Hand London girls spoke about how their business has developed and what their current challenges are. They have a strong creative vision that will soon become a strong brand in the near future. And they enjoy life too:)

Thank you to the ladies who said ‘hi’. I’m really pleased you did  and that you enjoy the sewing adventures I get up to:) 

The Minerva bloggers (aka Spoolettes) are so creative and true to their individual styles. Sharing their adventures and knowledge is very inspiring and also lots of fun to be a part of. They have lots of stamina and can really move on the dance floor. 
Everyone’s formal dresses made with Minerva fabrc, were great.

Vicki’s plans for the day went off splendidly. Bravo. Vicki made this an enjoyable day for everyone. The Minerva Craft group said how supportive Minerva Crafts is to encourage their crafting endeavours.

Vicki, I hope you can recover from such a great event and maybe we can look forward to next year’s meetup. I’m saving my pennies up now as I know that ‘all roads lead to Minerva Crafts’.

Alexa: a TNT tee

Alexa T-Top is a wardrobe staple and my new TNT tee by Tessutis. This comfortable t-shirt features self neckline binding, a slight flare at hips and 4 sleeve length options, short/cap, elbow, 3/4 and full length. 
I made the small size and used the petite length. I’ll use the normal length for winter tops.

The Alexa instruction book uses big font, real photos and the steps are in a logical order to achieve a no-fuss tee. The pattern is hand drawn and has a nostalgic feel to it.

My adjustments:
Roll shoulders
Sway back
Petite hem length

I traced off both the long and short sleeve lengths.

Basic Alexa 
This first version is the small size but uses the normal length hem. This hem length will be good for winter tops and the petite length is handy for my height.

Below shows the sway back centre back seam to give a nicer shaped fit to the back.

Neckline close up

I’ve used one of the striped sections to keep the black/white feature at my neckline.


This time Alexa has the petite length hem and a v-neckline from McCalls 6247.

V-neck close up has a ‘trekkie’ feel to it.

Centre back view with sway back again.

So then I used a trekkie type fabric…

Just for the fun of it.
Minerva meetup Hiya!
And speaking for about ‘for the fun of it’, a big hiya to all the Minerva bloggers, Minerva family and staff, Minerva crafting group and lovely locals who came to the Minerva Meet up on Saturday.

It’s taken me a few days for it all to start sinking in. #stillinawe

What a weekend! Photos to come but a huge hug to you all from myself and Mr V (Ross).
Forever grateful to have met you all!!!!

Minerva sewing – fine fabric tips

In anticipation of a special event, I love working with lace and sequins to make a gorgeous outfit (or frock as we say). So why not work with fabric consisting of both corded lace and sequins from Minerva Crafts

Here’s what I look for when choosing sequin fabric:

  • Sequins sewn in swirls. They’re not sewn on in straight lines. It isn’t as obvious if sequins come loose and fall off.
  • Sequins that break. These sequins can be sewn over it I overlook them before I sew a seam.
  • Sequin fabric that’s sewn onto mesh that doesn’t unravel. Then I can cut the fabric randomly to suit my needs. 

Do I use couture techniques?
Not in the real sense.
If I can line the fabric with everyday lining, I do.
If I can machine sew through the fabric, I will.
If I only need to interline the sequin fabric, that’s fine with me.

My sewing aim is to achieve a great fitting outfit and love the process.

I appreciate lining, interlining, underlining, hand stitching, hand picked zippers, boning techniques and I can apply these techniques when necessary. I’ve done all that for formal gowns and tailoring.

I work full time and so I have limited sewing time to work on amazing gowns. But I’m about to make an amazing gown so I’ll be using some of these couture techniques. I’m just not sure which ones I’ll use on Butterick 6582.

This time my dress will be made of fully sequinned fabric. Yum. 
The lighting in the house varies but the colour of this fabric is rich and golden.

Have a close look at the picture above. Can you see there’s more lace than sequins here?

I accidentally pulled an invisible thread and it rained sequins and I was able to fix this.

I finished sewing the dress and took the first photo as my sequin fix guide. 

Then I placed the dress on the ironing board and hand sewed the sequins in a similar configuration. Not the same mind you but enough to cover that area.

This took about 30 minutes to complete. As the fabric is interlined, it was much easier to resew on the sequins though the lace and the interlining.I have been collecting the dropping sequins (now a whole lot fewer) and I’ll be keeping these sequins for future hand sewing emergency situations. 

Jaywalk dress

Alexa tee from Tessutis is a versatile pattern and I’ve used it as the basis for this Jaywalk fabric dress.

I’ve used the black stripe for the neck and armhole bands. The elastic is encased in the joins at the waistline.

Lots of pins were used to keep the lines in place as I sewed this sweet Summer dress.

The pockets were fun to work out. I found a similar style to this dress and placed it on my stripe Pinterest board.

These patterns show the dropped neckline needed for this dress. While I’ve shaped the centre back pattern for an Alexa top, I kept the centre back on the fold so this dress top would billow.

My skirt workings are on the front top pattern piece. The skirt was basically my largest width dimension (hips) and then I added 20cm for walking space.

The top pieces are cut out and the lines align across the body.

I did test this pattern out on this remnant piece first. 

The trick here was getting the navy colour to be closest to my face and the largest red stripe to sit at my hips.

 The blue fabric in the pic below was the original RTW dress that was my inspiration.

 Here’s how the test dress came out.

And here is the Jaywalk dress.

 Billowing back top view 

 Side view to show how the stripes match.

It worked!




They do. There are lots of underwear patterns around and Susan of measuretwicescutonce blog has come up with a series of knicker patterns for wovens and knit fabrics. 
She’s a local star really.

I attempted to make the knit knickers – The Mary Knickers. All of these patterns come with a design manual. You get to be your own designer with these patterns.

DH had a good chuckle when he saw my first attempt. So I’ve got a lot of learning to do and maybe I need to work on my design skills a lot more.

He reminded me that sewing should be fun right?

These drawings were my first pattern alterations. The green marking is where I’ve traced the side leg on the knickers I already own, as a comparison.

So I tried again.

Used a basic beige to test out my alterations. This fabric is much easier on the eyes:)

Finished the gusset edges

Use the coverstitching for the leg edge.

 Then it was time to attempt the pink/fushia version.

This time I used the leg shaping and added elastic at the leg edge. 

And that’s a wrap for now.

Thanks Susan for developing these patterns. They’re all so cute and Susan’s knowledge of all things sewing blows me away everytime we meet.
Dear Susan, Please make a series of bra patterns. That’s another skill I want to develop in a class environment this time.Take care.


Jaywalk (Alexa/Avocado) hoodie

Here’s where my stripe hoodie inspiration came from

I love Lululemon jackets, Nike jackets even the Aldi jacket I bought last year.
Rhianna wore a cool version too.
Then I found this…so I had to stop researching and decide on what to make.

Then I made this.

This is a blend of Tessuti’s Alexa tee (body and sleeves) with Avocado hoodie (hood and sleeve cuffs with thumb hole).

Playing with the stripes and matching them kept me pondering for days. I had to keep putting this project down between each step.


I did plan and make the hoodie but placing a zip on zip off piece across the back neckline didn’t work. The hoodie stripes on the outside are vertical and on the inside they are horizontal, so when I wear it, it becomes a hood/cape/collar.

I drafted this to cover my neck.

Anita’s sleeves are a good fit and length but my idea is to wear this to the gym during the winter, hence the thumbhole sleeve cuffs.

After speaking all things activewear with Susan (measuretwicecutonce) and Joanne, it was really clear that zippered pockets in a seam line are the strongest. But I made these pockets not on the seamline. 

My RTW jacket has the pocket bag sewn into the hem and into the zipper, so that’s what I did.

Zipper tape:
I couldn’t resist this measuring tape trim #sewinggeek.

And that’s my Jaywalk hoodie:)