One of my most frequently asked questions is definitely “where can I buy fabric for yoga/running/exercise/etc?”, so I thought it’s high time I make an attempt at something like a global list.
In general, though, the word you should be searching for is “Supplex”. This is a brand name, though, like Lycra (whose generic term is “spandex”), but the generic alternative is something like “wicking spandex”, and generally isn’t used as often as “Supplex” in fabric stores, I’ve found.
If you can buy supplex at a decent price, buy it. It’s soft, has great recovery, wicks away moisture while you’re sweating, and stands up to washing without a ton of pilling. It can be hard to find though, and sometimes only comes in a limited amount of colours, but I wouldn’t hesitate to run a marathon in supplex – it’s great stuff.
If you’re running shorter distances, or in cooler weather, you can get away with exercising in any number of lycra/spandex jerseys, though. These won’t wick sweat away, but they come in a gazillion colours and prints, plus have a multitude of foil and sequin effects, and can be way cheaper, too. Ditto goes for swimsuit fabrics – you can certainly use them for shorter exercise sessions even though they’re not wicking. Personally, I wouldn’t mind running a half marathon on a cool day in lycra leggings, but your mileage may vary (pun intended!).
You can read loads more about the different types of activewear fabrics on offer plus what to look out for in this article I wrote for Seamwork magazine.
- Funki Fabrics – Their Flexcite base fabric isn’t wicking, but an unbelievable amount of digitally printed lycras that are suitable for swimming and activewear. They also stock supplex in black and white only (good quality, but twice the price of Tissu). I’d also recommend their “matte” Flexcite in solid colours for exercise, too. Update: They’ve since released their Titan activewear-specific performance base which I’ve personally tested (and run a marathon in!), so you can choose to print onto Flexcite, Titan, or a new recycled polyester base (which feels very similar to the Flexcite). I’d also recommend their fleece-backed Thermo fabrics (currently in solids only) for cold weather exercise.
- Tia Knight aka “In Fashion Fabrics” aka “Tissu” – Supplex in a limited range of colours, but by far the cheapest in the UK and also stock power mesh in a dizzying array of colours for adding colourful support to your workout tops
- Contrado (aka “Bags of Love”) – These guys will digitally print onto just about anything. They’ve got a crazy 98 different base fabrics including quite a few activewear specific ones, like an “Air Flow” Dri-Fit-a-like, “G-Mesh” (think basketball shorts), softshell jersey (for making jackets and outerwear), like four different types of matte lycra including a “Heavy lycra matte” I’m very keen to try, power mesh(!!), and even a breathable waterproof fabric!
- Fashion Formula – A London-based digital printing company with a wide range of prints to choose from – or you can upload your own. I can vouch for the “Active Lycra” base – it has great stretch and recovery in both directions, plus doesn’t have the “white show through” problem others have had with dark colours. They also have a new base suitable for swimwear or activewear that uses recycled polyester, too!
- UK Fabrics – Scruffy Badger has used their “Mock Eyelet” for running gear and recommends it! I also love their 2oz nylon and athletic mesh for Threshold Shorts, and their “high quality nylon lycra” for the rest of my patterns which require high stretch.
- Sewing Chest – stock a wide variety of power net/mesh which I use to line and give support to sports bras. I also love their Athletic mesh for my Threshold Shorts patterns, and they’ve often got great offcuts in the Sportswear fabric pieces section.
- Point North and Pennine Outdoor both sell all kinds of technical fabrics and haberdashery including softshell, wicking waterproofs, reflective piping and tape etc. Good prices on both. I have also bought technical fabric from UK Fabrics Online but their stock levels are variable. (thanks, Joanna!)
- Guthrie & Ghani Guthrie & Ghani have recently added some activewear fabrics to their lineup of great casualwear options. Also checkout their sweatshirtings and ribbings, which I’ve also used in the past.
- MacCulloch & Wallis The famous London fabric and haberdashery stalwart has finally begun stocking activewear fabrics, and their “performance jersey” in particular is exactly what you’d find in high-end activewear. They also stock a wide range of reflective bits and specialty zips (though beware of fibre content as not everything in this section I’d consider suitable for sweating in)
- Sew Me Sunshine – stocking a small but high quality range of solid and heathered supplex jerseys
Know any more UK shops? Tell me in the comments!
- Shelby (Finland) are an outdoor company, but stock several wicking base layer materials that are suitable for exercise
- Extreme Texil (Germany) “He has quite a few of the Swiss Eschler fabrics that are great for running, cycling etc. I have ordered from there numerous times and am completely satisfied.” (thanks, Vick!) I’ve since bee to their Berlin shop and can vouch for the incredible array of active and outdoor fabrics that they stock. The staff are hugely knowledgable so feel free to ask them questions, too.
- Aktivstoffe – I would add Aktivstoffe.de in Germany/Switzerland/Austria (they also sell on Amazon and as Activefabrics.co.uk for the UK). There’s plenty of tougher outdoor fabrics and microfleece but their COOLMAX® LIGHT is a great lighter t-shirt/hiking shirt option and their COOLMAX® Light Feinstruktur is perfect for stretchy workout tops … I wish they did better colours, but a grey base is perfect for any contrast lycra you want to throw at it. They also dispatched the very next morning before 9 a.m. (I ordered at 1 a.m. during a desperate late-night fabric hunt) and it was with me the next day. thanks, Christine!
- Les Tissus du Chien Vert (Belgium) – Mostly stocks casualwear and home dec fabrics, but also has swimsuit lycras and the largest selection of windbreaker fabrics I’ve ever seen.
- Stoff & stil (Denmark) – A good selection of wicking lycras in black, neon coral, and a few prints plus some sport wovens for running jackets and full waterproof fabrics, too. (thanks, Johanna!)
- Spoonflower (US/Germany) – While Spoonflower is a US-based company, they opened up a printing facility in Berlin in late 2015, which means that orders to European addresses will automatically be shipped from Berlin, which has cut down on the shipping time and customs charges considerably! Try their Active Lycra base fabric, which performed wonderfully in my 6hr ultramarathon in June 2016, but there’s a fair amount of white show-through for the darker colours when stretched, so get samples before committing.
- Dress Fabrics (Ireland) – They’ve been around for ages but have just started stocking activewear fabrics, currently some gorgeous printed softshell fabrics and a handful of print and solid lycras
- Stoff-BS (Germany) In addition to some shiny dancewear fabrics, this shop has got a ton of “superwarm” lycras for cold weather exercising and a selection of matt fabrics, too (thanks, Eve!)
- Active Fabrics (Germany) A great selection of outdoor fabrics like Cordura and CoolMax and they also have the largest range and variety of specialty outdoor softshell fleeces I’ve come across. (Despite the UK URL, they are based in Germany and all orders are sent from there)
Know any more European shops? Tell me in the comments!
- Bloomingdale’s in the Shanri-La Mall, Manila (Philipines) – “the only place I know of in Manila to get exercisewear fabric. The daughter of the owner is a tri-athlete so this is her special project.” (thanks, Karen!)
Know any more Asian shops? Tell me in the comments!
- Suzi Spandex
stock the KING of all supplexes, which they mill themselves, called “Suziplex”. I cannot stress enough how awesome this stuff is! You need to order over the phone (or buy in personal from their Montreal warehouse), but no matter how much you buy you will wish you bought more.Update: The Suziplex mill burnt down, and it’s been discontinued forever!! They still stock a staggering array of regular lycra/spandex prints for the dance and skating communities, though.
- Peak Fabrics – Supplex in some great non-traditional “sporty” colours
- Ann’s Fabrics “A great store that you should add to the list is Ann’s Fabrics in Hamilton, Ontario (even though their website looks like all they sell is sparkly spandex for dance/skating costumes). They will be upgrading their site this month.” Thanks, Lynda!
- Fabrics Etc – They’re the only retail stockists I know for Chitosante, an athletic fabric with a similar hand to supplex that is made from prawn-shells! I’ve personally run in some of this and it’s really nice. They also stock merino wool jerseys, too.
- Discovery Trekking These guys stock a huge array of active and outdoor fabrics, and Dawn has been singing their praises for her running gear for a while now!
Know any more Canadian shops? Tell me in the comments!
Australia & New Zealand
Know any more Antipodean shops? Tell me in the comments!
I only knew one or two places to buy exercise fabrics in America (since the shipping is extortionate to the UK, I can’t buy from there anymore), so I asked Kathy for help. oh em gee – she sent me back this embarrassingly long list of suppliers, which totally puts the rest of my list to shame! So consider this a bit of a guest-post from her I guess, and definitely go check out the exercise gear she’s sewn, too. Comments in italics are hers.
- Rose City Textiles aka “Fabricline” – Click on “wickaway knits” (see Katherine’s post for details of a ton of fabrics bought there)
- The Rainshed – Lots of wicking stretch fabrics, fleeces, and shell fabrics here, including a huge variety of reflective fabrics!
- Imagine Gnats – A small shop run by an avid cyclist and running specialising in knit fabrics with a growing Athletic Fabric section. I can vouch for the great quality of their (non-wicking) nylon/lycras and the terry-backed wickaway lycras, which are great for cold weather exercise and similar to Suziplex or Funki Fabrics Thermo.
- Spandex House – Supplex in a surprisingly wide array of solid colours
- Spandex World – They are much like Spandex House, are in NYC also, and have a brick and mortar store, too. They have supplex and a fantastic selection of spandex… duh!
- Fashion Fabrics Club – Watch out because they put a lot of non-supplex regular knits into the “Activewear & Swimwear” category – look at the fabric content and go for the ones specifically marked “Activewear”. (they also go by Denver Fabrics (I don’t know why?! It’s the exact same company.)
- Fabric Mart (They have a brick and mortar store in PA as well) I’ve gotten all of my supplex here, along with other activewear materials. They buy out fabrics from manufacturers so the selection varies from week to week, even day to day.
- Fabric.com – Mega online shop for fabrics. Folks in the US usually are generally well-acquainted with this site. It’s a bit difficult to find all the different varieties of activewear on the site, but search for “wicking” or “activewear” to get started.
- The Fabric Fairy – I got swimwear fabric here, but I also used it for running clothes because it’s nylon/spandex
- Girl Charlee – These guys are the sweetheart of the US blogosphere these days. They sell ALL knits. I got swimwear stuff here, plus I of course use it for running clothes!
- Fabric Depot – A great source for activewear and lingerie materials
- Sew Sassy – A source for really basic colors of material activewear/swimwear. (They do lingerie stuff, too) including power mesh for lining and supporting sports bras!
- Michael Levine – They have a brick and mortar store in Los Angeles. There’s a few headings here with several activewear related fabrics: athletic mesh and of course lames!
- Spandex By Yard – I JUST found these guys, so I don’t know much. They look to be an ideal place to shop for activewear material… I saw a heading for moisture wicking fabrics!
- Designer Alley Fabrics Also just learned about them, they look to be another hot source! And they list supplex!
- Seattle Fabrics> – “They have several different types of athletic and outdoor clothing fabrics including wicking fabrics and Gortex.” (thank you Norma!)
- Spoonflower now print onto a Sport Lycra base which has two way stretch and great recovery (note that their Performance Knit and Performance Piques bases have very little vertical stretch so are largely unsuitable for 4 way stretch patterns without adjustments). Beware that in my experience, the Sports Lycra has a lot of white showing through when stretched near to its max, so keep that in mind when looking at dark prints with compression-style garments.
- Rocky Woods I know you have a pile of US shops… but I keep forgetting to add this one. They have technical fabrics & outwear material plus patterns. They even sell Under Armour heat/coldgear, too. They are in Colorado are are geared towards the outdoor enthusiast.
- Pinecrest Fabrics – They supply several of the companies mentioned above with their prints.
- Green Pepper They not only have a fabulous selection of patterns for every outdoor sport, but also have fabrics and notions available online. Great customer service too! (thanks, Megan!)
- Zenith & Quasar – Tons of activewear fabrics including supplexes at two price points, the wonderful spaced-dyed Eclipse supplex and some reflective-print activewear knits! (Thanks, Sarah!)
- GreenStyle Creations Stock a good amount of activewear-focused fabrics with a variety of prints and solids
- Sew Dynamic This shop is entirely about recycled activewear fabrics and reducing microplastics. Most fabrics are black solids but the owner commissions custom prints onto a recycled activewear base several times a year. I’ve personally sewn one of these prints and then rode 100 miles in it and I was very impressed with the quality while sewing and wearing on the bike.
- The Styled Magnolia This shop offers a good variety of prints which can be printed onto an activewear brushed polyester base, or an SPF swimwear base (as well as others). They seem to operate on both a pre-order basis and periodic print-on-demand basis, too.
- Fancy Tiger Crafts – their jersey selection is mostly geared towards casualwear, but they do stock a fairly wide variety of bamboo jerseys which are perfect for looser yoga styles (like my Knot-Maste Yoga Set pattern)
- Etsy and eBay – Sellers do sell supplex here along with other activewear fabrics. Just plug in ‘supplex’ to search. I’ve never ordered activewear from either site so I can’t recommend any particular seller.
If you’re looking to buy cycling chamois pads (aka “butt pillows”) or silicone elastic for hems, I’ve got a separate list of suppliers in this post!
And if you want some inspiration of your own, why not have a look back through some of the exercise gear I’ve sewn for suggestions on patterns, finishing techniques, and even ways to refashion old race shirts?
Oh, and I launched a running site yesterday! Have a read through RiverRunner.co.uk!