Leg it!

Hi guys!

Firstly, I’m pleased to report that we did indeed survive last week’s mammoth cycle ride (almost forty miles in the end!), and we’re going out for another one this morning. This one’s slightly different though because we will be heading straight into four days of cycle commuting starting the day after 😨 We deliberately went for our first long ride when we had a week off from work afterwards, just in case it killed us 😂

But, we’re still alive and going back for more. Please continue to send good vibes ✌🏻

This week’s post is kind of (well, sort-of-but-not-really) related – I sewed activewear! Leggings! Gym leggings, not like Sunday-sweatpants-leggings. (Someone tell me that Sunday Sweatpants is a thing in their household too and it’s not just us? 🤪)

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I’d been eyeing up legging patterns for a while, trying to decide on the one I liked most, and eventually settled on the Avery Leggings from Helen’s Closet because of the high waist. Ain’t nobody got time for muffin top on gym leggings 😒 I had a little hiccup when I bought the pdf of these though – I paid, and got my Paypal payment receipt, but the pattern didn’t come through and I couldn’t download it from the website. I emailed and received a response the very next day with the files attached (by which time the pattern email had come through) but I’ve never experienced that sort of delay with any pattern purchased previously 🤷🏻‍♀️ Maybe it was just me. I’ve not bought from their website before so I’m not sure whether this is standard for them 🤔

avery leggings illustration

I choose this ‘dancewear’ fabric from Minerva (anything labelled as dancewear can be used for activewear), and was very pleased to see that when it’s stretched, it doesn’t go completely see-through like some of my ready to wear leggings, or indeed like some other jerseys I’ve had in my hands – Girl Charlee was the worst offender for this I’ve found, some black jersey that I bought from them went properly white when stretched! 😨 Needless to say I won’t be buying any of their fabrics ever again…

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The Avery leggings are meant to have negative ease – which means that the finished garment is smaller than your body measurements and it stretches to fit you. Looking at the size guide, I needed to cut a medium at the waist and graded to a large from the hip down. Once I’d cut the pieces, I saw that they were SO SMALL. I know this pattern is meant to be made with negative ease, but OH MY GOD. They were so small I could barely see them (okay, maybe an over-exaggeration. Maybe).

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I trusted the pattern (they’re a pretty popular pattern with a lot of successes, after all) and began the sewing.

I am lucky enough to have a coverstitch machine and tried to figure out if I could somehow use it to do a flat overlapped seam like you see on RTW activewear, but after a while I realised that there’s only one seam on the leg – up the inside – so I wouldn’t have been able to negotiate this seam through the coverstitch machine anyway. That idea was scrapped pretty sharpish (and it turns out you need a very expensive flatlocker machine for that kind of stitch anyway, which cost A LOT. Like, thousands of pounds).

So I decided to use my overlocker instead. As I wanted to use these leggings for spin class, I was very aware of the very real risk of chafe-age. I have some softer thread that I use in the coverstitch machine (it’s called Seraflock) so decided to move this across to the overlocker for the Avery seam. It’s a bit softer than regular sewing thread, so should help reduce the chafing potential.

Well, let me tell you, that didn’t go well. In fact, that’s putting it mildly. It was a total shambles. The fluffy thread knotted up like a bastard, the tension was thrown out the window and the whole thing was a damn great mess. I put the cotton thread back on and apologised to the machine for the trauma.

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In hindsight, I should have also threaded the machine in white thread, because man that black thread is fugly 👀

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The triangular gusset is pretty comfy – I checked out a pair of store-bought leggings that I own (just regular cotton ones, not sports ones) and the legs just meet in a cross at the crotch, there’s no gusset. But believe me, if you’re looking to sit on any sort of bike seat or similar, you do NOT want to be sitting directly on top of a seam.

When I tried the half-completed Averys on for the first time – legs only, no waistband as yet (thinking NO WAY are these gonna get over my legs, let alone round my ass 😂) – the seams appeared to be under a large amount of stress. So much stress that I would legit be nervous to wear these for anything that resembled squats 😨 I think I will defo size up for the next ones – L at the waist and XL at legs. My fabric had the required amount of stretch, so I guess the pattern just runs on the small side.

The leggings are sewn together with a stretch stitch, and then the edges are finished with your chosen method – overlocker (in my case), or zig-zag stitch – but I just don’t feel that they have as much strength in them as a flatlock seam.

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I moved on to sewing the waistband together – I ignored the guidance of 1.5cm wide elastic and went for the 1-inch wide stuff that I use for the husbeast’s boxer shorts. I prefer thicker elastic because the thinner stuff always cuts into my flab and makes me look like a caterpillar 😨 I did find some 1.5cm elastic in my Box Of Random Sewing Things, but it looked pretty thin so I went for the thicker 1 inch boxer elastic instead. This is where I possibly went wrong. The elastic is sewn level with the seam allowance, which means that when the waistband is turned right side out, its folded back on itself (so you’ve essentially got a small double layer in the first 1.5cm depth of the waistband). This makes for a pretty bulky seam, but worst of all it doesn’t allow the waistband or the facing to fold where it should. My elastic refuses to fold, it just forces the crease out so that it can lay flat instead. I don’t know whether I’m meant to use properly thin elastic, so the fold isn’t so bulky, or what 🤷🏻‍♀️

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The elastic is meant to fold on that line of stitching underneath the zig-zag stitch (so that the zigzag is on the inside of the leggings), but as you can see, it doesn’t wanna 😒

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The way they have you join the elastic leaves a pretty bulky seam, too – you’re meant to sew the ends together with an inch seam allowance, and then fold that one inch to the side and secure it down. This means that for that one inch section, you’ve got three layers of elastic…

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And then they expect those three layers to be folded in half, essentially giving you SIX layers in that one small section. Needless to say, mine did NOT lay flat and it was proper bulky.

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The waistband facing finishing leaves a bit to be desired – I just went round and overlocked mine (as is really your only choice) – but a fully enclosed waistband would have been preferred to make them look pretty on the inside too. I’m all about the pretty on the inside.

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I finished off the legs with the coverstitch – the one thing I could actually use that machine for 🤣 But you could also twin needle ’em or use a zig-zag depending on the level of effort you’re willing to put in 😬

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When I put the finished leggings on, I must admit that for a minute, I was completely, 100% sold. They were SO comfy. And they fit my waist AND my legs. This was a new experience for me, usually, I get a size 12 in gym bottoms and they fit everything nicely apart from serious bagginess around my waist. But these fit everywhere. It legitimately was like a second skin. BUT- that waistband was oh so tight to get over my hips – I was worried that I was going to rip the seam. Grading up a size all over (so a size L at the waist and an XL from the hips down) would probably help this a little, to give a bit more ease so that I can get them on with less drama.

I think if I made a size bigger, I’d feel a little bit better about wearing them to the gym, and a little less nervous I’d bust an ass-seam mid-squat. They would make a great ‘everyday’ legging too – like made from a cotton jersey, instead of technical fabrics – and this would get rid of the need for special, fancy seams. Regular overlocked seams would do.

Sewing these leggings has really opened a MASSIVE rabbit hole for me – flatseamers. Which are like mental expensive and realllly hard to find for sale (and the ones that you can find for sale seem to come from Chinese factories). I mean, it’s obviously the perfect machine for activewear because it’s what they use for RTW, but unless you’ve got a casual few grand burning a hole in your pocket, you ain’t getting one of these bad boys. They sew, like, to the side (as in, the line of stitching goes right to left rather than front to back), which is how they get up the insides of legs, and they also look mighty scary:

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I can’t shake the feeling that although these leggings look good, it’s a home-sewists attempt at making something which you really should have specialist equipment for (that elusive flatseamer), and no sports leggings I make will ever be as good as the RTW ones that I can buy, in terms of construction. You just can’t beat the anti-chafe, flat seams. Even using soft thread in the overlocker doesn’t come that close (that’s if you can actually appease the Overlocker Gods and get it to work, unlike me). I thought about different seam finishes, and running the overlocked edge through my coverstitch did come to mind – it’d keep everything nice and flat – BUT I can’t get that inside leg seam through my coverstitch… so that’s out the window.

I’m not sure whether I will pursue activewear further – I don’t want to sacrifice levels of comfort and/or stability just to be able to make my own. We’ll see.

But, to make up for all the drama, when I went to take photos of my leggings with ferns on I found a wall THAT HAD MATCHING FERNS ON 👀🌿 YAS!

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In other news

I had a bit of a wobble a couple of weeks back and thought about chopping my hair off. Like, short. Short-short. Like, some punky shaved-head kind of thing. Like Pink:

Pink 2014 grammys

I was fed up of the scratchy ends of my hair irritating my arms. Fed up of having to tie it back all the time so it’s not going EVERYWHERE. Fed up of it getting stuck under my armpit (yes, really, this is what I have to deal with 🤦🏻‍♀️).

And then I chickened out, because what if it doesn’t suit me and I hate it and it takes me another ten years to grow back my hair to how it is now? 😨 And then I saw that Riva (from Riva La Diva) chopped off her hair, and she’s totally rocking it! I wavered. I thought about how much less maintenance my hair would be shorter – it would be quicker to wash, dry and dye. And cheaper too, because I’d need less of all of those bottles of stuff. But – and this is the thing that eventually persuaded me not to do it – I’d need regular trips to the hair salon to get it trimmed and looking good. Which kinda offsets all those ‘savings’ I just mentioned 🤔

And then the husbeast dyed my hair for me a few days ago (it had faded quite a lot) and now it’s all shiny-shiny and vibrant colours and I love it all over again, so he’s under strict instructions to NOT LET ME CUT IT. Not even if I say I 100% want it. NO. JUST NO.

SewAndrew – if I call you up asking you to cut my hair, please hang up on me. Thanks 😘

Don’t worry guys, the hair is staying.

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[Fabric was provided by Minerva in exchange for a blog post, which you can read on their website here! (also contains links to the materials used)]

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Next week on the blog… I’m going back in time a bit with my first bash at the Deer and Doe Safran Trousers👖All the deets and the full lowdown can be delivered straight to your inbox, via the box below👇🏻

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24 Comments

  1. cassandrevhandmade
    September 22, 2019 / 7:37 am

    They look so good! Mine were definitely running very very small too, I think to be one size smaller at the waist than at the hips didn’t help but still, I needed 10 min to just put them on ^^’
    Now I have 2 of them one size bigger and they are so so good! 🙂

    • Sarah
      Author
      September 29, 2019 / 1:45 pm

      Thank you! 💕 Strange that they seem to run small, because my fabric defo had the right amount of stretch 🤔 But those seams were livin’ On the edge, for sure 😂 I will definitely go up a size for the next pair and it’s looking likely that they will be cotton jersey rather activewear fabric… I’m also slightly concerned that I’ll love them so much that they will become everyday wear for me and I’ll be THAT person living in ‘comfy clothes’ 😳😂😂😂

  2. Bren Holmes
    September 22, 2019 / 8:05 am

    Despite all the drama, those fern leggings look jolly fine on you. I’ve made several pairs of leggings now and find they’ve stood up to a couple of years of washing and wearing, although I don’t put mine under strain at the gym. I put all that behind me some time ago. I’d love to get back on my bike, but I got knocked off by a lorry when I lived in France and I’m still nervous. When I was working I often did a 40+ mile ride on a Sunday (with a pub lunch in the middle; I wasn’t too serious about it). In the summer I’d bike to work some days 19 miles each way. Now I’m a lazy butt that should do more, but prefer to put in my miles on the sewing machine.

    • Sarah
      Author
      September 29, 2019 / 1:51 pm

      Ahh thanks Bren! 💕 I think I will make some cotton ones for everyday wear… I’m thinking a nice comfy pair of leggings, thick socks, a toasty hand-knitted jumper and a good book. Oh, and a cup of tea as well. Heaven!
      It’s always so hard to get back on the bike after a knock – I find that the longer it’s left, the harder it is, but it still takes time to get over The Fear. I hope you’ve not got any lasting injuries from it 🤞🏻 It’s so lovely cycling in the summer isn’t it? I still don’t really mind the winter (I’ll commute all year), but it’s the rain that is the worst – nothing gets me miserable like a soggy pair of shorts 😨😂

  3. Emma Langhorne
    September 22, 2019 / 8:57 am

    They look soooo good! Dont people sew flat seams for jeans? Couldn’t you do it the same way? Could you try a different pattern?
    I love your memes!!! The cow with the hair!!

    • Sarah
      Author
      September 29, 2019 / 1:58 pm

      Thanks Emma! 💕 Yep, there’s flat fell seams on jeans, but I’m not sure how well they would work on stretch fabric as it will be hard to get a good press on it 🤔 I’m still thinking about the best approach lol.
      Glad you like the memes… that cow is a good one isn’t it 😂

  4. Zak
    September 22, 2019 / 10:16 am

    I am the least expert one could possibly be, I’ve sewed precisely one single pair of running leggings (they didn’t inspire me to increase my running as much as I’d hoped!). But I remember testing different seams and after a lot of faffing I ended up just going rogue and putting the seams on the outside. I’ve no idea if it’s an actual thing, but I made kind of a bit like a flat-felled seam: zig-zag the seam wrongside to wrongside, grade seam allowance, flop it to one side, zig-zag again to enclose the raw edge of the seam allowance. Flat seam, only needs a normal sewing machine, and only one, flat row of stitches on the inside in terms of chafing potential. It worked for me, I suppose it depends if you mind the visual of an outside seam?

    • Sarah
      Author
      September 29, 2019 / 2:11 pm

      Hey Zak! At least you had good intentions with the running tights even if it didn’t quite transpire how you hoped!
      I absolutely don’t mind an outside seam, so that’s a good idea thank you! The only thing is that the Avery’s have just one leg seam, up the inside of each leg, and it would be difficult (impossible maybe? 🤔) to get that final layer of flattening zig zag up the seam… hmm. It’s still something I’m thinking about so I’ll let you know if I get any bright ideas! 👍🏻

  5. September 22, 2019 / 10:52 am

    Great leggings 👏 bonus points for finding the fern graffiti wall! I’ll be sure to put my fingers in my ears if I hear the phone ringing 😂✂️💇‍♀️

    • Sarah
      Author
      September 29, 2019 / 2:14 pm

      Thanks! 💕 I was so happy that I found that fern wall 😂
      I haven’t had any more dangerous hair thoughts… (yet) so you might be off the hook lol 🤔😜

  6. September 22, 2019 / 11:11 am

    I’m with Zak- I’d ‘fell’ the seams too if they bother you. The leggings look good, but yeah, the stitches showing does imply a size bigger would be safer! I’ve seen so many weird ways of attaching waistband elastic, I jkust ignore it and always do my own thing. Definitely just overlap elastic ends and zigzag the raw edges down, flat and fast.,,

    • Sarah
      Author
      September 29, 2019 / 2:15 pm

      I feel like the flat seams would be the way to go, but as there’s only one leg seam to the Averys (up the inside of the leg) I can’t quite get my head around how I get that through the machine as a flat seam 🤔 Suggestions welcome! 💕
      Yep, defo sizing up for the next ones!!

  7. September 22, 2019 / 11:49 am

    They are amazing! Such a wonderful job! They fit you so nicely.

    • Sarah
      Author
      September 29, 2019 / 2:15 pm

      Thank you! 💕
      They really are so comfy, I’d like to make more!

  8. Cindy
    September 22, 2019 / 11:49 am

    I love them, the fabric is so so pretty and bright. They look so very good on you.
    You’re cycle achievements are totally fantastic, Tour De France here we come, my friend belongs to a cycle club and was asked to ride in front of the team on the last legs in paris, she was treated like a star cyclist, TDF helmet, cycle top and trousers and Nike cycle shoes… and a night in a hotel in Paris and a meal with the top 10 riders. 1,000 women only , come on girl power. So put in your application now for next time, 20 km it was . You can do that twice over.

    Take care, hope shops going well, get ready for the xmas rush.

    Cindy xx

    • Sarah
      Author
      September 29, 2019 / 2:18 pm

      Hi Cindy!
      Oh wow, that’s so cool about your cycling friend! I didn’t even know that was a thing… definitely signing up for that! 🚴🏻‍♀️
      All going well here thank you, yep preparing for the Xmas rush! Even though we have Fridays now to focus on the shop it still goes way too quickly and my to-do list doesn’t get any shorter! It always takes longer than I expect to get photography or new listings done 🤷🏻‍♀️ But still. It’s a day that we’re at home with the doggies, focussing on our own thing so I’m happy 😊

  9. kmpsews
    September 22, 2019 / 3:12 pm

    So 1. These look amazing, but I totally feel you on the scary stretched seams thing. I size up one size in these. 2. I’ve definitely never had to wait for a Helens Closet pdf like that. I think that was a weird fluke. 3. I’ve made probably 15 pairs of these (honestly not an exaggeration) and I’ve put elastic in precisely one of them. I just find it to be wholly unnecessary. If the fabric doesn’t have great recovery, I’ll size down the waistband (sometimes just the back piece, depending on the fit). But that’s always enough to hold it up. 4. I haven’t noticed any chafing at the overlooked leg seam during my spin classes, but those are only 45 min. I have done a coverstitch or single chain stitch down over the leg seams to make them lie flat, and that’s worked fine too.

    Making your own leggings is I think literally the only sewing that’s actually cheaper to make then rtw (esp when you include time!). I really prefer knee length leggings to spin in, and they’re weirdly difficult to find. I even have 2 more pairs cut out to sew today. I hope you give it another go!

    • Sarah
      Author
      September 29, 2019 / 2:58 pm

      Thank you! 💕 Yeah, they run REALLY small don’t they! 😨 Strange, because my fabric definitely had enough stretch. I don’t think I’d want cotton jersey ones put under that much strain, they’d be see through!
      That’s really good to know on the elastic – thanks! Perhaps I won’t bother with the next pair and see how that goes. I definitely feel that these could be a wardrobe staple! How do you manage to get the leg through a coverstitch machine to make the seam lie flat? I can’t quite figure that out in my mind!
      I feel ya on the knee length leggings too – I have a couple of pairs, but they do seem to be REALLY hard to find!
      I do think I’ll give the Averys another go, but in a cotton jersey I reckon 😊

  10. September 22, 2019 / 6:02 pm

    These look great! Confused as to your description of the elastic though- my Averys definitely do not have folded elastic anywhere and suspect that they shouldn’t! I wonder if using the 1” elastic made the clever insertion (so that the elastic holds the seam on the inside of the leggings) go a bit strange?

    • Sarah
      Author
      September 29, 2019 / 3:02 pm

      Thanks Heather! 💕
      I really have no idea what’s going on with my elastic, but even using their recommended 1.5cm with elastic and sewing it up against the raw edge of the fabric with a 1cm allowance results in the seam being in the middle of the elastic (and therefore folding it when the leggings are worn)… I really don’t know 😂 I’ll try the narrower elastic next time and report back! (And will document my process REALLY well so I can figure out where it’s going wrong lol)

  11. Pence
    September 22, 2019 / 8:01 pm

    Have you checked out African Butterfly clips (they are actually 2 combs with a web of beaded elastic between) for your hair? I’ve also got long thick hair and found them to be a gods send. Work to just pull the hair back – or to confine the whole lot on top of my head which is so welcome in hot weather.

    • Sarah
      Author
      September 29, 2019 / 3:03 pm

      Ooh, no I haven’t seen these! Thanks for the tip! They look really useful. Summer is the WORST isn’t it – I want to get all my hair out of the way but putting it up in a bun or ponytail just gives me a headache because my hair is so heavy 🤷🏻‍♀️🤦🏻‍♀️
      These could be my saviour – thank you! 💕💕

  12. Jo
    October 7, 2019 / 9:27 am

    I love this fabric! So fun.
    I’ve just started sewing activewear and made the Jalie Clara which have a similar elastic in the waistband but they specifically tell you to line it up with the fabric edge of the seam allowance, then when you fold it over it’s like a middle layer and doesn’t stick up. Terrible explanation but it totally works!

    • Sarah
      Author
      October 11, 2019 / 8:30 pm

      Ah, no I know EXACTLY what you mean! I think that’s what I was expecting the Avery’s to do, but they didn’t. I’m definitely going to make a cotton pair, so perhaps I’ll adjust the technique for those ones. The Jalie patterns are great for activewear aren’t they! I feel like they’re not as well known as they deserve to be 🤔

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