Recovery and activewear

My focus right now is on post-op recovery so of course, new activewear is a bonus outcome. Recovery ie, keeping your foot elevated, means I have a lot of time to research and plan in between  taking pain medication and napping during the day.

In between naps, I have enough concentration to review a couple of activewear books.

Book review

This post begins with a review of ‘Sew your own Activewear‘ by Melissa Fehr.

I’ve pattern tested many of Fehr Trade patterns after following Melissa’s blogs for over 10 years now. Melissa sent a copy of her ‘Sew your own Activewear’ book as a thank you for our support of her pattern development and online promotion.

My main activewear reference book had been and still is Kwik Sew’s ‘Swim and Action wear’. This book has been all I had as reference when I first started to sew activewear and I’ve kept going back to the basic patterns of this book. This book contains timeless block patterns that I keep using.

Kwik Sew's Swim & Action Wear: Martensson, Kerstin

Once blogging started (yes that’s how long I’ve been sewing), I started to search out more contemporary sewing techniques because the technology behind activewear fabric improved all the time.

My original project idea was to make the raglan tee from Melissa’s book. Marie had already posted her experience about making her loose fitting raglan tee. I changed tact when I did a pattern check and I already own raglan tee patterns that work.

Bear in mind that when I received Melissa’s book, I was in a lot of pain post surgery, so my concentration span was almost nil.

New activewear supplier

Next up, in Australia we have a new activewear fabric supplier – Sew Active Fabrics.
Activewear fabrics are a niche product so I was thrilled when I saw this new online supplier.
Sew Active Fabrics
Large fabric retailers like Spotlight and Lincraft locally supply standard poly/lycra fabrics which you can easily make basic activewear. These are fine while you learn to sew your own workout gear.

A couple of things caught my eye with the fabrics offered by Sew Active Fabrics.

Sew Active Fabrics sells wicking compression fabric.

This is a heavy weight knit with a very smooth feel and good recovery/stretch. You can read more about this fabric on Laura’s website.
Wicking Compression Spandex - Marine

The other goodie that caught my eye was their gripper elastic.

This elastic is 2cm wide and has two swirls of silicon on one side. When this is sewn to a hem, the silicon grips ‘you’ (your skin and clothes) and keeps the hem in place.
Gripper Elastic, Black

Now I’ve tried to sew previous gripper elastics by machine before and failed dismally.

When Laura sponsored me to make two activewear pieces while I was recovering, I automatically decided to make the cycling top and a pair of compression tights.

Local cycling gear designer

There’s a great local cycling gear brand called STeLF cycling.
“STëLF is … Designed in Australia & Made in Italy”
Have a closer look at how STeLF began.

STëLF Cycling
If I raced with a real cycling crew I would order my kit from them but I don’t so I decided to take some of the smart ideas used by STeLF for my own cycling jersey.

I’ve met the founder of STeLF and he’s a clever cyclist who is committed to designing good cycling kits with unique fabrics.

Cycling jersey
I chose the loudest print from Laura – Mint Madness – to make a cycling jersey. if you’re interested, have a read of the properties this quick dry cooling stretch fabric offers.

Quick Dry Cooling Stretch Polyester -

A bright cycling jersey makes it easy for drivers to see you when you’re training on the road.

Mint Madness has all over print. I didn’t need to be match the print on this jersey so I had fun pairing this print with bright zippers and reflective tape placement.

WIP back view
I did follow the sizing in the book and created a test jersey.

This jersey was too big on me. The shoulder line was too long so the sleeves were sewn off the shoulders. The neckband was sort of ‘ok’, but sort of ‘not ok’.

I was able to practice adding the reflective tape across the back of the jersey. Johanna Lundström’s book ‘Sewing activewear: How to make your own professional looking athletic wear’ suggests hand sewing in the reflective tape before sewing it and it worked a dream.

Don’t be afraid of this zipper insertion method.

This is such a no-nonsense method of sewing in a zipper again by Johanna Lundström.
I only discovered Johanna because her book was recently published.

I’ll show you the techniques I’ve been working through that Johanna has in her book. Johanna sent me her book to review hence my interest in her sewing work.

What you’re looking at above are the updated pattern pieces for the cycling top. It was worth testing with remnant lycra.  

It was also worth testing sewing the gripper elastic on a strip of fabric using a Teflon foot too.

The stitching on the left hand side was achieved by sewing with a Teflon foot.

By the time I sewed on the black gripper elastic I could see how the weight and composition of this fabric would make it perfect for cycling or running training.

The cycling jersey instructions in Melissa’s book to draft this jersey from the close fitting block patterns were good as were the construction notes. The notes for sewing gripper elastic was good too.

I couldn’t make the neckband on this pattern work for me so I decided to bind the neckline with a strip of lycra. You can go to the effort to make the neckband more fitted but I honestly didn’t have the concentration to work it out.

The main thing that would have made pattern drafting faster was to have 

– pattern pieces numbered separately and identified with each project
– a guide of what pattern pieces was on each pattern master sheet.

Compression tights

After looking at the designs offered in the book I decided to take a closer look at the compression tights that I’ve bought and work well for me.

There’s a Pearl Izumi pair of compression tights and 2XU pair that I love wearing when training for a half marathon. I wear compression long tights over short cycling knicks in the winter so I wasn’t going to try making cycling specific knicks with a chamoix. That’s never worked for me in the past.

I decided the easiest thing to do was to trace off the 2XU compression tights and use the compression fabric from Sew Activewear fabrics.

As you can see above, I made a test pair using lycra from my stash.

Here’s the top down view.

After making a test pair out of very average poly/lycra, I was able to make a brilliant pair of compression tights just below 2XU quality.

The finishing touch was to use a 32mm wide elastic in the waistband.

This 2XU pair has an internal pocket so I didn’t have to ‘faff’ around with a zipper.

There’s a lot to learn as I work through the techniques offered in ‘Sew your own activewear’ and practiced techniques from ‘Sewing activewear’.

Having access to really good fabric makes the outcome worth making.

It has taken time to build my knowledge of making the right pattern adjustments. I can now appreciate the technology behind good quality custom made gear and try to make my own activewear that works for my shape.

I’ll trace off the Pearl Izumi compression tights as the weather cools down and use another piece of fabric I bought from Sew Active Fabrics (precious quest) on sale for a different pair.

Growing your skills
Now that I’ve had all this time on my hands to recover from surgery, I realise that when you’re building new sewing skills, moving to sewing with knit fabrics is a hurdle. A worthwhile one.
However then to build your skills to sew your own activewear is another couple of hurdles.
There’s not just the skill involved to make activewear but also the fact that you have to accept your shape as it is and mould the pattern to meet your shape. Making activewear is really is all about you from a lifestyle perspective and your body shape and comfort. Having the time, patience and resources to make your own gear is satisfying and these aspects are hard to obtain when you’re a busy person.
Once you jump these hurdles there’s also the fact that you need to get good quality fabrics and notions to make your own activewear.
Today, I’m very thankful that we have retail suppliers who offer good quality specialty fabrics for activewear. 

Sew active fabrics supplied me with their fabric and notions for this review. I have since bought their ‘precious quest’ fabric and more gripper elastic because I know they are worth having ready for new workout gear.

Both Melissa and Johanna provided me with their books (thank you so much) and I will still do a separate post with the techniques that I’ve practiced from Johanna’s book.
When you sew, there are lots of basic activewear patterns you can practice on and start to build your skills. So I say, trust in your skills and keep developing them when you have time. When you’re ready to draft your own gear with guidance, Melissa’s book as well as Kwik Sew’s book are worthwhile getting your hands on.

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Summer motivation

Classic styles used with modern prints are what made me create this two-piece swimsuit.

Kwik Sew 3300 is a classic bra pattern that I’ve used and Kwik Sew 2689 is the bottoms pattern.
Most of the fabrics and elastics were bought from Pitt Trading.
While I chose to make this swimsuit on a whim this week, I could do this because I had everything.
What you see above is my placing the fabric patter so I’ve stuck with the dark parts of this pattern.
Pitt Trading has lots of swimwear fabrics and notions.

The bra piece has a bra cup in it. I’m looking to acquire proper bra cups for swim suits soon.
The bra bridge has the lighter colour print.
You can see that the bra has proper underwires and powermesh on the bra bands.

You’ll also notice I’ve used a bikini closure and the bra cups are fully lined with the lighter colour parts of the fabric.
By the time I finished making the bra, I was revved up to complete this whole set.
Making this two-piece swimsuit so fast was also facilitated because I had tested and used these patterns before.

Now my goal is to have a beach-ready body. 

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Soma bikini

Papercut patterns has a cute swimsuit style – Soma – that has a few cool swimsuit variation including the bikini style I’ve just made using Pitt Trading fabric – Turkish delight print.

This variation doesn’t need too many notions. 
I’ve used two fashion fabrics, lining fabric, cups and fold over elastic.
Without the straps, it’s still a lovely tanning suit.
Sewing fold over elastic was a nice design idea to finish off this bikini.
I usually use swimsuit elastic to finish the edges of swimsuits.
After trying on the bottoms, I’ll be raising the height of the side leg.
I’ll also be lowering the front waistline because it’s too high for my height.

The other adjustment I’ll be making is to raise the base of the top’s hem. I’ll be taking 2.5cm off the front hem.

Other than those small adjustments, this pattern is good to go.

Terrigal swimsuit

Making a splash

Friends who know me call me a designer so I took the plunge and used a holiday photo to design a digital print fabric through Contrado UK.
Contrado have a good range of fabrics and this one is their swimwear/activewear fabric. In fact they now have 98 fabrics to choose from Contrado so I knew this project would be heaps of fun.
Even now, I can’t believe I designed my own digital print fabric with a pic I took on my iPhone this Summer. Can someone please pinch me? I sew clothes and now I can design my own printed fabrics.
I sew anything so it made sense to try a couple of fabrics and be a ‘designer’ with Contrado.

This Terrigal swimsuit is one of three projects I’ve designed. I took this photo during the Christmas break unaware that I could use it for a digital print fabric.

Designing your own fabric
Without having any formal design skills or skills using a design app, Contrado’s fabric design makes this easy to do. This is my first time designing fabric and I was impressed that I could do this on my iphone as well as on my laptop.

They’ve thought this through from a user’s perspective so you don’t need design skills. I have none and I was able to get this fabric printed for my new cozzies*.
The fabric
I’ve used the Slinky Matt Lycra 210gsm. This fabric lives up to its name with its sexy and slinky form-fitting drape (#blushing).
This custom made Lycra has a smooth and slippy face, with a slightly softer inside. The firm, medium weight of this 4-way stretch Matt Lycra makes it a supportive fabric with an almost completely opaque finish. Highly elastic, it has a slightly firmer resistance than a lighter weight Lycra.
 For this project I printed 3 panels of this landscape on swimwear fabric. The panel sizes are 0.5m lengths and 145cm wide. I had no real idea what pattern I would use so it made sense to get 2 lengths.
A full size cozzie is about 70cm long so when the fabric arrived, I had a few options to make the most of this print.
You can kind of see the join from this inside view.

The key idea was to place the start of the sky just above my chest. The rest of the cozzie body had the dark landscape for a more flattering look.

Print tetrus was fun and I got the best option by overlaying some of the waves at the base and some of the sky on the shoulders.

The overlay markings are on the pattern pieces.
Would you believe I’m still thinking through a two-piece cozzie style that highlights this print? I’ll take any pattern suggestions you have. Just leave a comment and I’ll consider it.
Making my cozzies
Making these cozzies was child’s play (Kwik Sew 2962). I added powermesh lining for the bust shelf.

As it was important to try some pattern matching, I redrew the pattern pieces and placed them on the fabric to make sure the horizon was across my chest and balanced.

This fabric design was finalised on a Thursday and I received it on the following Tuesday. I enjoyed watching the delivery tracking online as this fabric made its way from the UK to Australia.
It’s only now that I googled previous reviews of Contrado and found that last year Katie ( and some UK sewing bloggers including Rosie ( visited Contrado last year. Have a read about their visit to Contrado.
When I ordered my fabric, I did this sight unseen. Other sewing bloggers received fabric samples. I relied solely on the website’s descriptions and I am really pleased with the fabrics I’ve received. 

If you have a particular fabric/project in mind, I would order fabric samples.
What else do they have
Well…Contrado also has a decent range custom clothing you can print on and homewares are being added. I was tempted to print on the kimono but I decided theimpact of the photo on it because you would be lost.
The turnaround time for this is between 2 – 3 days.
So what are you waiting for?
Try Contrado for yourself.
*cozzies is Australian for swimsuit.

Knot-maste yoga set

Melissa has branched into yoga with her new Knot-maste yoga set

This new set has been tested by a bunch of us and Melissa has used our feedback to bring you this new set. We (the tester group) had a lot of feedback about the test version and this version has a lot of changes to it. 

Yoga isn’t my thing but should be so I was in two minds about testing this set. I only pattern test things I will use so I thought I should try this set because I should stretch more. I should but I don’t stretch much.

The test pants are now very much lived in. The top is not my style so I won’t be wearing it. I know tops featuring backs, low armholes and flashing bras is a trend, I’m not embracing that trend.

The new version pants has a knot option on the capri version and a different waistband treatment. There is also a shorter top version with a knot on the side. 

With the Christmas season upon us and our stifling hot Summer, this pattern will have to wait until April to get into my sewing queue, but again I’ll make this set for others.

Melissa is offering discount to bring you this new set as all of her patterns are now 20% off
at through 26 Dec 2016 with code “NAMASTE”:

Valentine’s day collection

Sewing activewear is my addiction and White Tree Fabrics asked me to use Sewaholic’s Dunbar top and Pacific leggings using fabrics from their ‘Aladdin’ fabric cave.

I chose black and pink plus two mesh fabrics for my ‘Valentine’s day collection’.

Two Pacific leggings. Two Dunbar tops. One Dunbar sports bra.

These White Tree Fabrics fabrics have great two-way stretch and feels strong enough to sew compression wear. They’re not moisture wicking but are supportive and flexible.

During the week I practically live at the gym and now have a few new pieces to wear.

Pacific leggings

It’s the middle of Summer here and I train both indoors and outdoors. Dodging mozzies during sunrise training sessions outdoors is an ongoing challenge. At the moment I do long runs on weekends and I’ve found compression wear tights help me train stronger and recover well.

The bottom line is I need to train in supportive leggings. I wear lots of black or dark colour leggings but I splashed out and chose this strong Valentine’s day pink as a contrast.

Left to right: View A test leggings, pink mesh reflective View B and pink View B.

While I don’t run on the road, I do like to wear activewear with some reflective piping, so I’ve added some reflective piping to these leggings with the fine mesh overlay.

 Here’s the working photo prepping the mesh zipper and pieces of reflective piping.

The fine mesh is quite strong but isn’t as stretchy as the lycra. The mesh on pink fabric can look like purple so that gives me more wear options. 

The reflective piping has no stretch so I’ve learnt to apply it in small amounts and not have any piping in seam allowances. This creates bulk that can cause chafing or my overlocker to stop stitching.

Technical changes:

On the pattern pieces, I added 2cm to the centre back seam length and lowered the derriere curve. I also shortened legs by 3cm at the lengthen/shorten line. 

After making the test pair using View A or the ‘leggings basics’ pair, I took out more room around the knees. 

On both Views A and B I then took another 4cm off the leg length and some more room out of the knee area. 

On View B, I took the additional 4cm out of the lower leg panel rather than chop it off the lower panel length.

Sewaholic’s instructions are very straight forward. 

Sewaholic has put up a blog post about sewing in the gusset so you really can’t go too wrong. Sewing in the gusset took me a few attempts but I’m more confident now. I’ve shortened the gusset and made it slimmer.

Design play:

The beauty of Pacific leggings is you have 3 views you can ‘play’ with. In my case, the first pair (View A) used the plain waistband. The second version has the back zipper pocket and mesh and pink panels at the back. 

Here’s how the mesh pocket looks before constructing the waistband.

The third pair had no zipper but the back pocket had a 1.5cm overlap. 
This was my ‘bright idea’ and not part of the pattern.

Nice idea but it didn’t work.  
The pocket kept gaping open so I inserted a zipper and kept the original topstitching. 
Problem resolved.

I learnt a lot making these leggings.

Here’s the effect of the reflective tape piping. I dream about looking like a seeded runner wearing this pair. A girl can dream right?

Dunbar top

This top has all the ready to wear features I want in a sports bra and/or support tee. The colour pieces and the binding are great for more design freedom. The internal bra has insert pieces so you can add bra cups. I’m searching for the right bra cups now.

Left to right: The prints are test versions. Pink mesh top, pink crop and black top wear really well.

Technical changes
The test crop bra is a 10. I adjusted the cup curves and width for a better fit and it ended up matching size 6. I then made the test top as a 6 and that’s the size I kept using.

These are my test pieces.
I tried to add reflective piping on the back seam of the crop top.
The piping did work but as the width was too much, I resorted to taking out the width using the overlocker.

I didn’t use reflective piping on these tops but I will in future tops.

I used powermesh from my stash for the support layer.

Below is a closer view of the finer mesh on the top.

front view

This mesh is easy to work with.

back view

Design play:
This pink black version has a cool but not functional pocket on the back using the larger black mesh White Tree Fabrics has. This pocket idea is one I’d seen before so I thought it would be fun trying. 

Pretty mesh pocket

Sewaholic now has a blog post about sewing on the binding.

Sewing the mesh on the fabric before constructing was the only additional step I needed to for this top.

Work in progress to keep the mesh flat during construction

I misread the instructions and used normal elastic on the support bra panels. This elastic doesn’t cause chafing and it’s really firm so in effect, I have medium support bras built into these tops.

The second sports bra used the rest of the fabric remnants.

As I’ve said, sewing activewear is addictive. During this sewing frenzy, I decided to relearn how to use my coverpro machine watching free You Tube videos hence the neat top stitching on these pieces.

As a sewing addict, I sewed up the last pieces of fabric using New Look 6160 to make this top using the larger black mesh on the shoulder panels. 

Here’s a closer view of the mesh on the shoulder. 

I’ve used a touch of coverstitching in white.
I’m actually wearing the pink Dunbar crop top underneath this top as my sports bra.

This is my ‘ta da’ picture.

I still have plenty of the larger mesh fabric so I hope to develop a topper to these pieces soon.

While these pieces form a great collection, I’ll be wearing these with other gym pieces I already have so I don’t match all the time. But the beauty of this collection is I have a ‘gym collection’. 

Each piece fits me perfectly. 
Each piece is functional. 
Each piece is ‘one of a kind’.

That’s the beauty of sewing your own clothes – gymwear included.

Thanks White Tree Fabrics for encouraging me to undertake this project. I’ve had such a ball making each piece and having the encouragement to be creative.

I can honestly say Sewaholic’s patterns work and look great.

Hmm…the Sewaholic’s Seymour Cape is now looking tempting for Autumn.

See spot run

Or in my case run, jump, stretch, sweat, breathe, dodge mozzies, twist and hopefully not fall while running up stairs. Some morning workouts are far easier than others although I can’t think when this is ever the case.

I’ve used Fehr Trade XYT top and Steeplechase leggings with a few fabric stash pieces (#junglejanuary) and bit of fold over elastic on the top. The leggings has the built in pocket too.

Here’s the back view of this set in stretch mode with a bit of reflective tape piping on the top and reflective stickers I bought from Lightweights power reflectors last year.

The front view has no reflective bits. It’s quite Jungle January plain.

What I can say about the length of this top is when stretching or lifting weights above my head, my top is long enough that there’s not unsightly tummy flashing going on. Also because I’ve used the same fabric at the top of the leggings, nothing looks out of place.

See what I mean – no tummy flashing.

It’s the middle of Summer and I wear longs when I train because I prefer to have compression support for running etc. Believe me when I tell you wearing longs for outdoor training here doesn’t deter the local mozzies. They’re tough and will bite you through lycra.

Above were the original reflective stickers that fell off in the wash. I didn’t iron them on but I have for the second lot.

I’ve only used bits of the reflective tape piping I bought in Hong Kong as it has no stretch so a bit here and there doesn’t impact the wear of this top.

The Steeplechase leggings were a bit baggy at the knees. There were subtle drag lines, so I pinned out the excess and they now are more compression but comfortable. 

I have marked this change on the pattern but I won’t cut the next pair with this change if the fabric has more give.

After all that work sewing up this Jungle January set, I love this exclamation mark the most.