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Friday Chatter: Would you sew activewear?


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I’ve been getting a lot of wear out of my new swimsuit this week here in Palm Springs. I’ll be sure to share the photos when we get home again. Kenn got some good ones of me in the pool, right before I got out and was bitten by crazy ants (!).

Sewing it was a lot of fun too. I got to experiment with interesting fabrics I’d normally never touch (high spandex polyester and nylon, anyone?).

This has got me thinking about sewing other forms of activewear. Kristen and I are planning to run a half marathon this summer, and the idea of sewing our own running outfits for the occasion is awfully intriguing.

And did you know that Spoonflower even prints on technical knit fabrics? So we can conceivably design our own fabric for it too. Perhaps something with a cat theme.

I feel like sewing your own workout clothes my be a divisive issue. Either it sounds fun and exciting to you, or like a total bore. Personally, I get a kick out of making things that seem really prosaic like that.

Is making workout clothing something you’d attempt to do?

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

Comments 79

Amy W

I would do it. I would like to find a running skirt pattern to make.

Geo P

Check out Jalie 2796 :)

Amy W

Awesome!! Thank you! This is new to me so any advice on fabric choice is welcomed!

Geo P

I used supplex. Spandex House has it in many colors, but I think you can find it in many shops in the US.


Definitely! I’ve recently sewn myself two decidedly prosaic interlock nighties and they’re now in near-constant nightly use. Sewing the ‘boring’ stuff is oddly satisfying.


I would do it as well, as I hardly find comfortable and trendy yoga pants. Burda regularly releases activewear collections, and some of them have been on my to-do list for ages!


umm, yes!! I’ve sewn my own running gear for a few years now, and having run two full marathons in my own-sewn leggings, I went and started producing my own exercise sewing patterns because there were just hardly any out there beyond the boring basics.

Go check out my first two patterns – a tank with integrated bra and three back options, and a swirled leggings pattern with hidden pocket:

I’m nearly done with my third pattern, too – due for release next month!

Amy W

I found your website a while back and showed it to my running partner. I definitely want to try the patterns out.


Finished my first XYT Top and I am currently putting together my PB Jam Leggings. I can’t say enough good things about these patterns and how fun and easy they come together.

DO IT! Fancy running outfits for everyone!

Geo P

I started sewing running clothes this year, after FehrTrade released her two patterns and then I tried Jalie’s skort which is genius!! I am now officially hooked and I don’t want to buy workout clothing ever again.


Definitely. Running leggings, yoga trousers and comfy tops. Yes please!!


Honestly it’s just not my kind of sewing. I prefer all my exercise gear to have flat-locked seems and I haven’t found a decent technique to produce the flatlocks that I see on all the exercise gear I buy short of buying a special machine.


I prefer the flat locked seams as well and since I recently started running and went full on into it. First with a 10k and now a 1/2 and on to my first marathon I think I will stick to regular sewing for now :) I think I will watch and see what you do though. It will be fun as always to see what you come up with.


Activewear could be fun to make. I was looking at swimsuit patterns this week on Burdastyle and I like my yoga pants enough that I would consider making a pair. I also am trying to find a zippered or buttoned fleece jacket/cardigan with a feminine silhouette for cool conditions where I work during winter. So many of them look boxy or slouchy. The quest continues…..


Yoga pants were some of the first clothing I ever sewed, actually. The patterns are easy, and the knit allows fitting to be forgiving. I think I would love to try something more technical, now that my skills have improved!


I love sewing my own activewear. I use Christine Jonson’s leggings pattern, and add a little skirt over it. I’d love to see more feminine/flirty activewear patterns…and ones that don’t have so much negative ease built into them that I feel like I’m in a straight jacket!


I would love to sew active wear and I’ve always wanted to try sewing a swimsuit. I like the idea of making the workout cloths more my style!

Nancy K

I have been toying with this for years. I have wondered about the supplex. Does it really breath? I sweat a lot! The rtw yoga pants I’ve got are all cotton lycra.


The supplex I have got from and I found some at Hancocks have worked great in regards to the sweat factor! I just got some heatgear (under armour brand) from Rockywood fabrics but haven’t sewn it up yet, but the warm version (cold gear) works wonderfully!


Oh, yes, especially my base layer winter activewear. I have an awful time finding sports bras that fit (thanks a lot, Boob Fairy) so those were my first projects. Then light weight wool jersey long sleeve tees (which work as both base layers and as regular layering tissue tees) and leggings. Jalie and older Kwiksew patterns are my current TNTs, but they all took a lot of customization, and they’re definitely on the functional/technical side. But they do make me happy, in that sense of accomplishment.

My fitness is hiking, and I don’t stop just because weather. Treadmills are for last resort days — negative temps plus windchill plus blowing snow that equals a dangerous prospect.

Kathy Sews

Congrats on planning your 1/2 marathon!! I’ve been sewing my own activewear for about a couple years now… I am a runner and it’s quite fantastic to be able to create really crazy fun running gear! It’s addictive once you start because it’s really very easy. I think Colette needs to get on board with the activewear-making-frenzy some of us are in the middle of!!

The fabric options in the world are spectacular… here is a solid list I contributed to– it’s a thorough list of where to buy activewear/technical fabrics:

Of course Jalie is one of my top fave, I HIGHLY recommend exploring Fehr Trade’s activewear patterns, they are very well drafted and well thought out (I’ve used a number of commercial activewear patterns and these truly are top notch):

You can see a bunch of my own activewear garments (running and swimsuits) and the patterns that I use here on my blog

Can’t wait to see your bathing suit!


I would love to sew my own activewear! I’m planning to run a couple of themed obstacle races this year (including a superhero one) and it’d be great to make my own running costumes.


Yes! I feel so liberated after making just one pair of @fehrtrade PB Jam Leggings. I also want to work on flatlocking seams, and feel like there’s a sweet spot at which my serger’s 3-thread flatlock might do the trick–short stitch length and not catching too much fabric in the seam allowance (a foot with a guide can help). Anyhow, though fitting a top with included bra is an ongoing process, I’m finding the whole arena of activewear sewing really stimulating and satisfying!


I started sewing activewear back in the late 80s when I started cross country skiing, very simple stuff to start but at least the legs and arms we’re the right length. I moved up to using more lycra based fabrics when I started making tops for whitewater kayaking and even tried my hand at sewing 3mm thick neoprene (not terribly well either but at least I was able to shorten the legs on a wetsuit). I made a two piece swimsuit and learned that the fabric stretchiness is the key to a well fitting swimsuit. I’ve also sewn skiing baselayers with Polarfleece powerstretch using a very basic legging pattern, I can whip those up in about an hour including laying out the pattern, cutting, and sewing the entire garment. I’ve shortened a couple of pairs of RTW alpine ski pants made of Goretex type material and even taped the seams. However, when I found a place in Calgary that is authorized By Goretex to tape the seams on Goretex I started bringing my techinical wear there for seam taping, it makes a big difference. Sometimes you just have to know when to fold.
My next big project will be making a softshell jacket of Polartec Powershield using a pattern by Shelby from Finland, the nice thing is that it will have all the features that I want: pit zips, hood, pockets where I need them oh, and sleeves the right length for me.


I’m an apparel sales rep for an athletic activewear company, and seeing all of the technical details, the stitching, and fabric used for the apparel I sell, it makes it hard for me to imagine being able to replicate the same results with my sewing machine and serger. A lot of it comes down to the fabric too, that’s really the key to producing quality activewear that moves with your body, wicks away sweat, and has anti-microbial properties. And of course the stitching – I’ve tried to replicate the flatlock seaming on my serger and I can never get the super-flat seam that’s on my workout clothes.

With that being said, I do love sewing swimsuits and leggings! There’s definitely more of those in my sewing future.


I would love to make & sell my own activewear because it’s so hard to find in my size, but I think it would be too difficult to replicate on a home machine. I do triathlon so it’s critical that what I’m wearing be able to handle water, hours of wet wear, sweat, dirt, salt, and constant rubbing…all without chafing my skin or otherwise getting in the way.


Definitely! I have a Jalie sports bra pattern waiting for me to pay attention to it. I’d love to make my own workout pants, because I can’t fix gaping waistband problems with a belt, so I have to choose between yoga pants that fit in the hips or in the waist — both ways stink. I’d love to have a pair that just fits!


I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand I’m a fatty and have really long legs, so activewear/leisure(yoga pants) that fit would be nice. But I only have a straight sewing machine, little experience with knits, and the whole world of performance fabrics is totally uncharted territory for me. I’m used to altering patterns and sizing up for woven fabrics (although I need to work on trousers), but activewear… Major project that I’m maybe not in the right place for at the mo. (New baby etc.)


I live in the heart of Active People Land (Colorado), where everyone wears active wear as daily clothing. I might be in the minority here since I haven’t already climbed a mountain today.

I do actually participate in the frenzy as a runner and would like to make my own stuff. Nothing terribly fancy or technical, but enough to get me out the door fully covered (even good-quality cotton blend leggings tend to be nothing more than glorified tights with my underwear showing through).

My only hesitation is that I have only made ONE knit/stretch item on my regular sewing machine and it was difficult – although the result was nice. And I’m not exactly in the market for a serger right now.


I love to sew activewear! I have made yoga pants, and choli-type tops for dance. Now I have to check out the patterns you all have mentioned!


I would love to sew my own activewear (or knits for that matter). The only thing that is stopping me is the machinery. I want to eventually invest in a serger, but I feel a coverstitch machine is necessary for activewear. Maybe I’m being too much of a perfectionist!


I know other commenters suggested this, but Fehr Trade has some great workout patterns. I’m not sure if I’d be up for sewing it. For me, I have to be in love with the product category to find joy and motivation and I don’t think I can find that in active wear. Maybe you’ll prove me wrong.


I just started running again regularly this year, and while the idea sounds tempting, I find that I only need a couple of quality running outfits and I’m set for YEARS (granted I get to the laundry every weekend). I seriously still wear sports bras I bought in high school (c. 2000!). However, I also wear the same workout clothes to walk my dogs every day, and find that they’re not the greatest clothes for dog walking – I’d like to find some shorts / pants with more pockets for treats, bags, cell phone, etc., and have definitely thought about making them. I’d be interested to see what you and Kristen come up with for your run this summer!!


Activewear – like workout clothes – goodness, no. It’s the only rtw clothing I buy that actually fits. Plus, I only have a regular machine. I’d definitely try sewing a swimsuit, however.


Sewing my own activewear would be awesome!

1. Store bought doesn’t fit – I’ve only found one style of one brand of pants that come in talls.

2. It’s never in the color you want – especially now that neons are trendy. Some genius decided that ALL activewear should be neon, and not everyone likes/looks good in neon!

3. Ballet leotards! You can buy some really pretty ones for $50-60, but all of them have those ridiculous shelf bras. They do nothing, even for those with nothing up top. I’d like to be able to sew pretty leotards with an actual bra, instead of stacking a sports bra under a leotard with a shelf bra (which smashes the little I’ve got down to nothing).


No. I can get it at Marshalls. :) I don’t like the texture of most of the fabrics, and wear them only because they work for exercise, but the fabric just doesn’t please me to touch.
However I think I’m in the minority! :)


I sew activewear all the time. I play tennis twice a week and have you PRICED tennis outfits lately? lol. I swim, too, but Costco takes care of that, so far. I have a few swimsuit patterns but so far I’m sticking with tennis outfits…and ballroom dance practice, did I mention that those outfits also use activewear knits? I get mine from Fabric Mart, Spandex House, and a few other places.


My sport club has designed it’s own uniform, and the trousers a really really great and flattering even on bigger girls, the t-shirt is just a unisex “bag”.
Us more craft minded girls are doing some mock ups for the next year’s uniform.


Absolutely! I’ve made two pairs of workout leggings so far, with plans for more. I love wearing crazy prints on my legs instead of basic black. This way I can go as crazy as I like!

Katie Emma

I had the same thought when I saw Spoonflower’s technical knit fabric – I think it would be really fun to sew activewear, especially since it has become a lot more fashion conscious lately and seems to follow trends the same way street clothes do. It’d be fun to ride the neon running gear trend but know you’re the only one on the trail with something exactly like it!


I would and plan to in the near future! The only thing that is holding me back is having not figured out the flatlock stitch on my serger, and not easy to get some of the same fabric used by the name brand sports companies

Abby Larsen

Yes! The only thing stopping me is fabric. About 5 years ago, when I was regularly commuting 2 hours a day by bike, I spoiled myself with a few merino wool pieces from places like Ibex, Smartwool and Icebreaker. Wonderful stuff. Now I can’t go back to sweating in anything else. Those brands are expensive, though, so I would love to find a source of fine merino stretch yardage to make my own. I envy folks in New Zealand and Australia who seem to have better access to it. Also, I’m 5’2″, and I’ve yet to find merino activewear sized for petites!


NZ based The Fabric Store recently opened a branch in LA. They stock NZ merinos and are planning to start a mail order service soon.


I’ve just sewn my first swimsuit with success, and am interested in sewing activewear for yoga, gym workouts and my weekly tennis comp. the only bugbear is the availability of performance fabrics. You really have to go searching, which is a big of an impediment.


I’d give it a shot! I’m quite tall, so tops are often a bit too short, as are leggings. It’d be great to create custom pieces that will actually fit properly!


Absolutely, I’ve actually been thinking of designing a form fitting jogging jacket for both my husband and I with all the features we want in it, you’d be surprised how hard that can be to find for a decent price.


I’d absolutely sew my own activewear. I have little to no occasion to wear a swimsuit but I work out several times a week and while I have clothing that works, there are fit issues that I would love to address. There are a couple of nice Kwik-Sew patterns but I struggle to find the right fabric, so I haven’t attempted anything other than yoga pants for pajamas, so far.


I would! And I kind of sorta already did. A hoodie made with polartec fabric – that stuff is NICE! is where I bought my fabric, and I love reading the descriptions of each fabric since I learn so much. This one blocks wind, this one has extra stretch, this one keeps you warm, etc etc. And when I finally received my fabric, I spent hours pouring water on my fabric and watching it slide off my fabric and exclaiming “it isn’t wet! at ALL!”… i’m easily amused like that. Honestly I find it more fun to shop technical fabrics since it’s not just about how it looks, but how it functions as well.


Thanks for that link, Cathy!


Agreed, thanks for this link Cathy!


I cut up a great-fitting, worn out pair of yoga pants and used them as my pattern, and added a little skirt on the outside waistband–they looked just like these:

I used heavyweight cotton spandex fabric. It was so easy and they fit perfectly. I’m really still a beginner, though I’ve been sewing a long time, and those pants were a very satisfying project and a big confidence booster.


You bet I would. I’ve made outfits for girls showing horses for years, using spandex fabrics. I’ve made my own gym clothes, as I just can’t bring myself to pay $25 for a handful of fabric that gets all sweaty. It’s NOT hard. Just two words to remember…. walking foot. That is the most helpful accessory when sewing spandex.


Oh, and spandexworld and spandexhouse dot com are great sources for all kinds of stretch fabrics, in every print imaginable, with glitter, hologram, all kinds of finishes…


Few to none of the cute RTW yoga tops fit over my sports bras in such a way that actually hides the sports bra…one day I’d like to make tops to work perfectly with my bras. And one day I’ll try to make a swimsuit.


Yes, certainly, but I love wool knits to replace synthetics – wool is antimicrobial, wicks moisture and will biodegrade gracefully at the end of its lifespan. Plus it feels good and is breathable and never smells stinky!


YES! I ran track in high school and college, and sometimes a pair of neon leopard-print spandex shorts is the only thing that would get me excited about 6am practice on a Saturday morning. Making simple items, like shorts, leggings, or tank tops in a fun fabric is worth it, even if you can’t quite replicate RTW.

Sarai, if you design a vintage-inspired tank top I would buy it in a heartbeat.


I love activewear patterns. Knits are actually my favorite to sew because the fit is so forgiving. I have figured out strong finishes using just my sewing machine (zig zag the edges of the seam allowance, stitch and then use an “overlock” stretch stitch; Jalie also has an excellent video on their website about using a regular sewing machine on knits.) I would think the notoriously excellent instructions that you’re known to provide with your patterns would make people want to enthusiastically dive into a yoga pants pattern with a variety of leg shapes… ;)

Ants are such freaks. I live in Seattle and two summers in a row ants have invaded the innards of our two laptops. They seemed to be drawn to the batteries. We had to disassemble our laptops and brush them out. I finally figured out that we had to seal them in plastic when we weren’t using them so the ants would keep out. Weirdos.


I have made a few of my own workout tops for the gym. I just adapted a top pattern that I already had. I will definitely be making more – as with most dressmaking, the finished product fits so much better than the bought alternative! See my blog for pics :-)


Here is where Im at with sewing exercise clothes.
I can wrap my head around the post exercise fashion part pretty easily, and actually my team is cheering for more post ride clothing like this soon to be a-line skirt.

It would be a wonderful challenge to be able to learn to manipulate and modify garments made of spandex and the like. Since Im a cyclist, Ive always dreamed of making the perfect wool stretch jersey, and also making windproof nordic ski pants that fit my shape perfectly. We also find that our team requires zipper repairs on a number of our race kits and Im becoming the one who is enlisted in this repair. It would be awesome to have a strong expertise with this stuff.


I’ve never had any interest, but my niece needs figure skating competition dresses and I do wonder how difficult it would be.

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Kate Kilgus

I love to sew my own running apparel. My saucy black and white polka dot spandex running skort is a personal favorite. It is loaded with pockets — purchased garments usually never seem to have enough pockets.

Miss Crayola Creepy

One reason that I sew is to avoid buying clothing made in China/India/Malaysia. Unfortunately, a lot of activewear is sewn over there and I hate buying it! If Colette Patterns made patterns for work out clothing I would be the first person to sew them up :)


ABSOLUTELY!!! Activewear/swimwear and bras are amongst my favorite things to sew (next to knit tops). Please PLEASE! PLEASE! develop some patterns. I am especially interested in bra cup sized sport tops, as I wear a 34 G or H bra. I love the swimsuit design you created. I would wear a two piece like that!


PS – I also love skorts… and please consider that larger women also exercise and have a very tough time finding RTW .
Crotch gussets are very important for comfort and chafing reduction to any running short or pant in my opinion.
For tops, no side center seams – side panels that eliminate a seam directly under the arm are much more comfy, and offer better fitting tweak locations.


Definitely! One of my goals for this year is to learn to sew my own activewear- mainly yoga /walking wear and swimwear. Living in Florida I spend half of my time at the beach so I go through a lot of swimwear- especially rashguards and protective clothing. I’m working on a sports bra right now and hoping to make some new yoga pants this month.


would love to attempt it, but have very little experience sewing stretch. and i’d want what ever i sew to look very professional so would want a cover stitch machine $$$


Don’t forget bike jersies! I don’t think I’ll attempt the shorts as the price of the seat pads makes it nearly as expensive as purchasing ready made,but when I look at the tops, I think I could crank out several color blocked ones by mixing yardage and scraps. Maybe add a little embroidery down the sides? It’s just hard to find a pattern beyond the one from Green Pepper.

Donna Wyatt

I would love to sew more of my workout clothes, but finding the right fabrics is a challenge outside of the major Canadian cities. I love all the links and suggestions of other posts though, and will check them out. One of my earliest projects as a teen was a bathing suit in the 70’s, so I have been making ‘activewear’ for some time I guess. As someone with a ‘Rubenesque” figure, its hard to find flattering, comfortable activewear and I would like to feel as pretty and trendy as my Lululemon-clad sisters when we sweat together.

gabriel ratchet

rubenesque! yes, that’s the perfect description of me…. could be the name of a whole new pattern line….

Leslie has an amazing selection of active wear fabrics!! I’m headed to the NYC store next month and plan to make some yoga/running tights using the StyleArc Monica pattern.


Y’know what’s awful about women’s activewear? No pockets. Or stupid little shallow pockets that nothing fits in. And patterns for activewear don’t seem to feature appripriately optional pockets either. Actually women’s clothes in general don’t have good deep pockets, but the activewear is particularly bad. My keys and phone can’t fit in a 2-inch pocket!

So I end up unpicking my activewear to put in pockets (with zips!) anyway.



I would totally sew active wear!


Yes I would love to sew active wear. I am never entirely satisfied with the finish of my garments. I have done a line of tennis gear but have always given it to an outsewer for a professional finish. My skirts are woven but I have the freedom of choosing different fabrics and looks which are different to commercial wear. I am having trouble finding yoga / pilates wear as running gear has zip where you don’t want any.
I love your site just wish I had more time to sew. My new years resolution!!


Would absolutely love to sew activewear – would be great to find some tutorials on techniques for flat fell seams etc.


I don’t think active wear is my thing and doubt if I would sew them due to lack of a flat-lock machine. The few pieces I have are enough for me. Sorry.


thank you for sharing updute


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