Hello! Today we have something special to share with you!
We recently went on a search for 3 seamstresses who work with knits to give you some tips and tricks on how to sew this sometimes stressful fabric. We have selected Kathy, Amber, and Meghan.
First up is Kathy who will be sharing with us she uses Activewear knits.
An supplex/activewear knit can be a mixture of polyester, nylon, and/or spandex. These knits are created to wick sweat away from your body to keep you cool. Perfect for making sports bras, work out tops, running shorts/skirts, etc.
Kathy is a seamstress and blogger living in Baltimore, Maryland. She has a background in arts marketing and a degree in Art Education but sewing has been a self taught adventure for the past 15+ years between work, school and life. As a stay-at-home mom these days, most of her sewing is done while her sweet little two year old naps. She goes between working with knits and woven fabrics but always concentrating on making useful, fun, wearable everyday clothes for herself and the folks she likes. About a year and a half ago she started running, and along with that, an obsession developed for making her own running gear. Kathy's blog is Kathy Sews.
I've been sewing for a number of years but it was just a few months ago that I realized that making my own running clothes was even possible. I require two things in my running gear: 1) They MUST be 100% comfortable-- I refuse to be tugging on my clothes mid-jog to make sure they aren't riding up or chaffing... and 2) They've gotta be fun and colorful-- why not?! I've now got a few tricks up my hand-sewn sleeves from making my own running gear these days.
What sort of fabric do I use for activewear?
My fabric of choice for almost all my activewear is supplex knit you can find on Fabric Mart's website. It is amazing for activewear! It's a high quality, four-way stretch, technical fabric made with nylon and spandex that sews up easily, and most importantly does its job of wicking sweat away from my skin and keeping me comfortable. I've also had wonderful results with other materials such as polyester/spandex, nylon/spandex blends or other lycras. Cotton/spandex blends are great for yoga gear.
What patterns should I use?
I like a close fitting design for my running garb. I chose a pattern from Jalie because their patterns are specifically designed for stretch knits and designed for movement. They also have directions for folks with regular sewing machines only. I used Jalie 2796 for my running skirt and 2563 for my sports bra. Really you can use any pattern designed for knits. If you choose a regular top as I did with McCall's 6435 or some everyday leggings, go down a size as I do for an even closer fit.
What equipment do I need for sewing activewear?
You need a regular sewing machine, a walking foot, ball point needles and a twin needle. A serger or coverstitch machine is great to have but you do NOT need them to sew knits! (If you have a coverstitch machine you likely won't need a regular sewing machine for much of activwear sewing.) I personally use both a serger and a regular sewing machine when making activewear. The serger sews up all the seams on the inside and my regular machine does all the visible top stitching along the seams and hems.
When using a regular sewing machine I highly recommend getting a walking foot. This is a specialty foot often used by quilters to help manage evenly feeding your fabric as it gets stitched... this is exactly what you need to help prevent the dreaded puckering, pulling and stretching of your spandex fabrics. To sew seams with a sewing machine use a zig zag stitch or a faux serger stitch if your machine has one (this looks like a zig zag stitch with a straight stitch next to it.)
What size should I choose for a serious compression bra? How about a lighter duty one?
I went down TWO sizes in the Jalie sports bras to get serious compression. I want maximum support and minimal jiggling as I move. If you are looking for lighter support for casual comfort or perhaps yoga stick with the suggested size on the pattern.
How can I make my own binding for necklines and sleeve openings?
A binding will help keep your edges stable give them a professionally finished look. For maximum comfort on my shirt I excluded the sleeves and cut the neckline lower and shoulder line inwards. Less fabric means less heat being retained on a hot day and more freedom of movement. I made my own sleeve and neck bindings because this pattern doesn't have them.
To make your own binding 1) Measure the opening 2) Reduce that measurement by about 15%, then add your seam allowances, this is your length 3) For a 1/2" wide finished folded binding, the fabric width is 2 1/4". The math: 2(1/2" + 5/8") This includes the seam allowance of 5/8".
Why should I use a twin needle to top stitch my all of my seams?!
One...for comfort and two... to make your garment look good... and three it's a flexible stitch. Once you have your seams sewn up, the seam allowance will flip around freely under your clothes with a greater possibility of being uncomfortable or worse yet...chaffing! Top stitching it with a twin needle will control the seam inside and make it lie flat. On the outside it will lay nice and smooth. I even top stitched my asymmetrical seams on my top. A straight stitch is not flexible but a twin needle stitch is. A twin needle creates a secrect zig zag stitch on the inside of your clothes allowing the fabric to stretch. I also use the twin needle to hem up the bottom of my shirts.
How can I get a perfect twin needle stitch every time?
Save your scraps or fabric as you cut your pattern. Use those scraps to calibrate your sewing machine's settings for your stitching. Every fabric needs a slightly different setting. With those scrap bits, replicate the layers of fabric you will eventually be top stitching on your final garment.
Slow down the speed of your sewing machine and go no faster then half the maximum speed. Use a longer length stitch and tighten up your tension a bit. For mine, I used a 4.0 stitch length and my tension was just above 4. I used a green thread on my scrap test. The front looks perfect! The back should have a lovely zig zag stitch. This zig zag allows the stretching and flexibility in the seam as you walk, run, bike or Zumba!
There are so many options in sewing activewear right now. There are even some super adorable vintage patterns from the 1970s when everyone and their brother was running or playing tennis. Everyone seems to be finally trying their hand at sewing knits right now... probably because it's way easier then everyone thought. I only touched on a few points when sewing activewear, so if you have any questions you can email me and check out my sewing adventures on my blog Kathy Sews to see all the other activwear and knits I've been working on.