Coverstitch binder attachment tips & tricks

Way back when I was making my first muslins of my new running gear, I realised that the methods I’d previously used to finish knit necklines (elastic, FOE, serged bindings, etc) were just NOT going to cut it on slippery exercise lycra. The results were awful and sloppy, so I allowed myself to be convinced by Pattern Review that a coverstitch binder was the way forward.

At £80 a pop, they’re not a purchase to be taken lightly, and they’re probably about the most expensive thing you can buy for your sewing room, short of a machine or a dressform! But I wanted to ensure the most hassle-free experience, so I went for a brand-name Janome attachment rather than one of the cheaper, much more hacky eBay jobs. I bought mine from Jaycotts and Janome shipped it directly to me:

Unlike a lot of the eBay binders, this comes with everything you need to get started – the big metal plate, the shorter foot, and a big set of instructions on top of the binder attachment itself. So it’s expensive, but you don’t need to then go and buy all the non-optional bits separately – but I can understand the allure of just buying the binder for your second or third if you’ve already got the plate, foot, and instructions!

A citron yellow Rest Vest

Thank you all for your comments and sympathy regarding the death of my father and my tribute vest. I’ve been sewing a LOT over the past few weeks while he’d been dying, but for obvious reasons I hadn’t felt like writing blog posts or taking photos, so I’ve got a bunch of garments to show you, completely out of order and with some photos taken recently and some from weeks ago (just don’t look at the length of my hair too closely!).

The first I wanted to show you is the Rest Vest from MadeIt patterns – a new-to-me pattern company that is also based in London! This is the pattern I used for my tribute vest, but this version today is the one I made first.

I saw the back view of this vest (British English for “tank top”, Americans!) in my Instagram feed and basically clicked buy then and there. It was still under its launch discount, too, which was just a bonus, but I love that the top wraps around at the back to create that upper back interest and the back wraps around at the body to shift the side seams forward. It feels like a design I’d draft myself, which is high praise indeed!

A deep scooped Sweat Luxe for summer

Since I’m in lockdown for the foreseeable future due to my medical history, all of my running has been on the treadmill we’ve (temporarily) set up in our (still under renovation) bathroom. It’s got a skylight for air, and I’ve got a great fan to circulate it, but it’s still far hotter and sweatier than running outside where you create your own wind just by moving forward. So I’ve been reaching deep into my activewear stash for those summery garments I’d normally only wear for a few weeks out of the year in the hottest part of summer, and recognising that I need a lot more summery running tops!

So naturally I reached for View B of our Sweat Luxe pattern since I’ve been wearing my fluorescent orange version a lot. But this time I wanted to play with the pattern a bit so I scooped out the armholes a little further in the back and narrowed the straps by a centimeter or so just for something different.

The “Sew Your Own Activewear” Crop Top

I briefly mentioned the Crop Top design last week when I showed you how to add bust support into the Vest Top, but this week is all about the Crop Top design from my “Sew Your Own Activewear” book! On first glance you might be mistaken for thinking it’s just a shortened version of the Vest Top, but it’s got a lot of unique features of its own.

London Marathon shorts and vest

This marathon has been entwined with writing my book since the day talks began with my publisher, as the deadline for the writing has always been the day after the marathon. Some people groan when I tell them that, but honestly, the day after is perfect. If the deadline was a week or two after the marathon, my head would’ve been full of all the things I needed to finish and stress on getting everything done. Having the deadline the day after meant everything was already finished, I could relax, and use the race not only as a celebration of all my hard training, but a celebration of writing a freaking book, too!

My publishers asked if I wouldn’t mind running the marathon in designs from the book to help with marketing down the line, and as it turned out, I was able to squeeze in not only a pair of shorts but a top as well! I’ve run all 6 of my previous marathons in me-made gear, but I usually wear a Run dem Crew shirt or vest on top. This time I wanted to both rep my crew AND show off my book designs, so I made my shorts and vest from modified designs which will appear in my book (coming out early 2018), and took the vest up to Big Teezar in Camden to get the RDC logo and my name vinyl printed onto the front.

The making of a Threads article

Thanks so much for all your congratulations on my activewear sewing article in the latest Threads magazine (issue 190). If you haven’t seen it yet, it should be on newsstands very soon – do go and buy it because (as usual!) there are a ton of really interesting articles included. Threads is a magazine I totally and fully respect, and I hold it in the highest esteem possible. When I started sewing, the information and techniques it included was something I was in total awe of, and even now, I learn something new from every single issue. It’s a magazine that doesn’t “dumb down” and is unashamedly not aimed at beginning sewists, which is refreshing in itself!

Open-backed Splatter tank top

It’s not quite a “Quick Knit Top” in my eyes, but I wanted to try out one of the running top patterns I selected in my Spring/Summer 2013 Sewing Ideas before I jumped headfirst into sewing another pair of jeans. I pulled out KwikSew 3672, which my mom bought for me a while back in one of the pattern sales you all get in the US. Otherwise KwikSew tend to be pretty expensive over here and I’d probably never got around to trying it!

Despite being a fairly recent pattern, it’s already OOP so act fat if you like the design lines! I’ve only made the top this time, but I think the skirt could be perfect for travelling if made in a hefty jersey. The splatter-print jersey I used here is from Minerva – it’s a bit 80s but I thought it’d do nicely as a test-top as its soft and has a nice weight. For the shelf bra lining I used a lingerie nylon(?) but in future I’d suggest something more supportive yet breathable like power net. Obviously for heavy-duty running I’d use a wicking supplex for the exterior, but for several reasons I’ll go into below, this pattern isn’t suited for running anyway.

I never trust Big 4 sizing any more so even though my measurements matched up perfectly with size Large, I still laid my jersey sloper over the nested pattern and ultimately decided Large was probably the best bet anyway.

Even though my fabric isn’t anywhere near as stretchy as the guide on the pattern envelope (who actually uses those, anyway??), the fit is still very nice, and as far as I can tell, very true to size considering I was smack-dab in the Large measurement range! I’d definitely describe this as close-fitting though, and the length feels just about perfect to me, too. The only fitting issue that surprised me is how high the neckline is in front! This feel seriously matronly to me – I’d normally have this at least 3 or 4 inches lower in a running top!

This pattern has an shelf bra, which contains the bulk of my problems with the pattern: the finishing of the under-bust elastic leaves exposed elastic against the skin (what?), an unfinished (albeit small) top edge inside, and unflattering and bad gathers that neither support nor make for clean finishing.

Bridge the Gap refashioned race tee

Following on from yesterday’s Boston Street Running refashioned top, I thought I’d show you the other refashioned race tee I made from my starting pile, the “BTG” one in the centre:

This one has a whole lot of meaning for me – the urban running crew I’m part of, Run dem Crew, has a bunch of sister crews all over the world with a similar ethos, so when we go to races in other countries, the host crew lays on parties, sightseeing, and pre-race hospitality. When crews get together like this, it’s called “Bridge the Gap”, and the Copenhagen crew even designed special shirts to commemorate the Copenhagen marathon weekend.

But I was a bit late to the Expo, and they ran out of Medium shirts, so I asked to be given the largest size they had, which was XXL! (Why they thought they needed to print any that big for marathon runners is another question entirely!). So this one was ripe for refashioning, and I had a lot of fabric to work with, which was great.


When I Bridge the Gap, I really bridge the gap!

The original shirt had the blue NBRO man on the front, with BTG and the date underneath, and the back had “The Peloton of Awesome” and all the participating crew logos across the shoulders. There were also mesh panels running down the sides, which I used in the Boston Street top instead. Unlike that top, however, here it was absolutely essential that I preserved the original designs.

Refashioned Boston Street running top

One practical aspect of being a sewing runner (or a running sewist) is that I can take all those oversized race tee shirts that seem to accumulate and refashion the nice technical fabric into something more suitable. Oftentimes I just trim down the front and back based on my knit sloper (like I did with my Paris race tee), but this time around I thought I’d change things up and use a Burda pattern instead of my usual sloper, since one presented itself nicely in the form of the “scuba set” in the June 2013 Burda magazine (or you can purchase as a pdf here).

I started by pulling out a pile of race tees I wasn’t 100% happy with (though in reality I only did two of these four)…

This particular shirt was always destined to be refashioned – I visited tons of running shops when I was in Baltimore in April, but my favourite was a small, very friendly shop run by a very enthusiastic runner, Boston Street Running (Baltimorians, it’s down by the big Safeway in Canton). I ended up chatting to him for ages about nutrition, races, running fashion, and he despaired that he only had one of their shirts left, and it was XXL with a printing mistake, as he really wanted to give me one!

I assured him I’d refashion it down, and send him photos of me wearing it in front of Tower Bridge…

One thing I really like about this pattern is that there are no side seams – it uses side panels instead!

My refashioned Paris race tee

As I mentioned earlier this week, one of the projects I wanted to work on was refashioning the free (but too large) shirt given out at the Paris half marathon a few weekends ago. Pretty much every race these days gives out a shirt, and usually they’re in nice wicking fabrics, but very rarely are they nicely designed, or vests. I prefer to run in vests instead of teeshirts (even if I’m wearing a jacket over top), so after I finished sewing my mom’s latest chic sweatshirt, I set to work on the race tee.

Here’s a “Before” shot, with my friend Daniel holding up his at the race expo (this is the “Medium”, but it’s massive, like a men’s large!)

I really like the Paris logo, so I wanted to keep that on the front, but I didn’t care about the adidas stripes on the sleeves or “boost” on the upper back (the new shoe they’re promoting). So the first step was to carefully cut along the sides of the shirt and sleeves, so I could lay the shirt out, folded along the centre front and centre back and pin my (self drafted but based on the Kristina Shin sloper) vest pattern pieces down:

I then cut the pieces out, with seam allowances at the sides and shoulders, but none at the neck and arm edges, since I planned to bind those with some of the black technical strips I used with the disco running top.

These were the only bits of the shirt I didn’t use!

First step is to use my little pizza wheel measuring device along the bound edges to work out what length strips I need…


I caught my mistake before binding – the neckline length needs doubling, as I measured both on the fold!