Activewear Sewing Myths

After years of sewing my own activewear, producing 13 patterns, teaching multiple classes, and even writing my “Sew Your Own Activewear” book, I can safely say that I am 100% on Team Activewear for #sewphotohop today. But I know not everyone is. So I’d like to address the activewear sewing myths I hear over and over again…

  • MYTH 1: “But I need a special machine!” NOT TRUE! You can make excellent and robust activewear using just your regular sewing machine. In fact, I teach entire masterclasses *just* using sewing machines and my students are gobsmacked with the quality of their activewear at the end. (I’ve got one coming up at New Craft House in London, or have a look at my “Sewing activewear without a serger” post)
  • MYTH 2: “But activewear fabrics are so hard to find!” NOT TRUE! I have a global list of activewear fabric suppliers, and believe me, I can barely keep up with all the new suppliers that keep popping up. And these days there are multiple places that will digitally print aaaaaaannnything onto a stretchy activewear base. Literally anything.
  • MYTH 3: “But activewear fabrics are so expensive!” NOT (necessarily) TRUE! Just like with other fabrics, there are a wide range of activewear fabrics out there at every price point. But seriously, activewear is one of the few places where you can actually save money over buying RTW. I know loads of ladies who run in the high end Nike/Lulu/boutique leggings that will set you back £90 a pop. Even if you buy the most expensive, digitally printed premium fabric for £35/m, and say you’re really tall and need 1.5m, you are still saving nearly £40 on each pair!
  • MYTH 4: “But what about chafing?!” Personally, I think many people think chafing is a bigger problem than it actually is. But there are lots of things you can do to prevent it, like flattening seams with topstitching, choosing the right fabrics (NO COTTON!), or shifting seams away from areas that might rub. Case in point: my Steeplechase Leggings are probably my most popular pattern because there are no inseams whatsoever – the seam runs up the back/side of the leg instead so there’s nothing to rub!
  • MYTH 5: “But I don’t exercise!” You don’t have to be a marathon runner to make great-looking and functional activewear. If you’ve got a body, you can exercise, and if you can sew, you can make activewear.

Sewing my own activewear has freed me from bland and boring designs and allowed me to express myself without hindering my ability to move and perform in a race situation. It’s brought me joy and creativity and given me the confidence to try new sports and push myself further than I ever thought possible.

What myths are stopping you?

13 Comments

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  1. 1
    JenL

    Totally agree on all points. I would add that sewing my own has allowed me to make custom fitting adjustments that I didn’t even know I needed with RTW.

  2. 3
    Anneloes Eek

    Somehow, you got me onboard after procrastinating for a year now. My next project is going to be your leggings!
    I’m going to run my first off-road trail in a couple of weeks. And I decided it has to be in my new me-made leggings!!!

  3. 6
    Kathleen

    I love your steeplechase leggings in the photo. I’m going to have to make a pair with the color-blocking like that. Is the model in the turquoise tank also wearing steeplechase leggings?

    • 7
      melissa

      Hi Kathleen. Yes, I’m wearing Steeplechase Leggings in the top photo, and the model is wearing them also in the purple geometric print (from Funkifabrics, if you’re after it yourself!). 🙂

  4. 8
    euphoricstimuli

    Myth: I’m uk size 20-22, I’d love to make my own activewear but last time I looked you -and most of the indie activewear pattern companies didn’t go up to my size. I don’t have the time and energy to redraft stuff to fit….. how do I even fit into this equation?

    • 9
      melissa

      Great question! And as much as I’d love to produce my own standalone patterns in sizes that would fit absolutely everyone, for a bunch of practical reasons (including the need to have multiple base patterns to grade from, doubling/multiplying the drafting/checking/development/testing time, increasing the page layouts, etc) I’m just not able to do so as a one-woman small business at the moment, and that disappoints me. So when I was writing my book, one of the starting principles was that I wanted it to be as inclusive as possible, and so made all the designs so that readers could use ANY block pattern as the starting point. Whether that’s a woman outside my usual size range, man, child, tween, non-binary person, or whatever! And I’ve had many people successfully use their own blocks, or take a well-fitting commercial pattern as the starting point. For plus-size sewists, Jalie goes up to a 53in hip, and Cashmerette’s activewear patterns go up to a 58in hip, so there are indeed activewear sewing options out there for bodies not covered by my own size range!

  5. 10
    M-C

    Just to point out that its not so much being tall that’ll cost you fabric, it’s being fat. I put around size 16 the point at which i had to start buying 2 heights of fabric, even 60″, to make pants. And that’s about half the US population.. Still, L70 is less than L90, homemade still fits better than Lululemon, and you’re not flashing people behind you in yoga class as a bonus

    • 11
      melissa

      That’s a good point! Though I tend to assume fabrics aren’t directional, and if your legging pattern is broken up into pieces you’ll have a much easier time fitting it into smaller lengths of fabric (another reason I’m a fan of having interesting seaming on my designs!). But yeah, if you’re doing the classic one-seam leggings, you’re either going to have to get creative with your layout or double the fabric.

  6. 12
    yoginileeds

    I’m a Leeds Girls Can ambassador, helping women and girls keep/get active throughout Leeds and it shocks me sometimes how the advertising of fitness wear reinforce unhealthy body images. I really appreciate how you use models (and yourself) to give a healthy view of your clothes. I’ve just started making my own fitness wear and it is mainly due to your book I’ve started. Thank you

    • 13
      melissa

      Thank you, that’s really nice to hear! I always try to use real athletes rather than models as I think it gives a more rounded view of the people who exercise in my designs, plus some added inspiration in hearing the stories of other athletes. 🙂

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