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? ?)
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 ?
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…
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).
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.
In hindsight, I should have also threaded the machine in white thread, because man that black thread is fugly ?
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.
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 ??♀️
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 ?
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…
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.
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.
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 ?
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:
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!
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:
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.
[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)]
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??