Things I never thought I'd voluntarily do in a million years:
1 - sew active wear
2 - love said active wear, as in rate as one of my favourite projects ever
3 - sign up for 35km walk on 38th birthday and wear self made active wear
All of these things have come to pass in the last few months. It started when I caught up with an old friend from uni for lunch in late August (I wore my DVF wrap dress, in an utterly irrelevant aside - it's been such a fab garment). It was the end of winter, and I was feeling sluggish, bloated and very unmotivated to exercise. She mentioned she was doing a fundraising walk (the Bloody Long Walk, which fundraises against mitochondrial disease) with another uni friend but it was on my birthday.... I probably wouldn't want to walk 35km on my birthday right? But I was keen! I needed a goal and with a 10 week training plan provided by the walk's organisers I had the guidance I needed.
Within a few weeks I was feeling so much better. My rumpage had dropped down a size and I decided that I really deserved some snazzy new exercise leggings to wear on the walk and kick some mitochondrial disease arse. I never wear fancy exercise clothing. I've got 2 pairs of Lorna Jean leggings that I have literally flogged 3-4 times a week at the gym for the last 4 years. They're wearable but they're tired. So very tired. But what they taught me is fabric quality in exercise clothing absolutely matters (well, really fabric quality in all clothing matters but for longevity in active wear it REALLY matters).
I'd purchased the Ooh La Leggings by Papercut Patterns from Helene earlier in the year. This is the first time I've used a Papercut Pattern. As is often the case here at Chez Tragic I have formed some firm opinions about this pattern. I love them - I really do. But I think for a garment who's success relies so much on the stretch factor of the chosen fabric the guidelines for fabric choice are seriously lacking. "High stretch factor with good return" is the recommended fabric type. No mention of percentage stretch, minimum lycra content or 2 way vs 4 way stretch. Fabric type absolutely plays an important role in the fit of these leggings, at least on my body.
After my usual obsessive review reading it was clear they ran large and long. I made the 3/4 length a size small, the 3rd size in which fit my measurements nicely (but lets be real, my lower half isn't small). My wearable toile was made from a grey marle ponte with 2 way stretch from Darn Cheap Fabrics. I was really pleased with them but noticed a bit of crotch sag from the get go. The pattern came together beautifully - it's crucial to mark all those notches, and to take notice of fronts vs backs. I made no change to the pattern other than to trim about 5/8 inch off the waistline before attaching the elastic.
Don't I look the EPITOME of happiness in these photos? I was literally on my way to exercise - no make up and no sunglasses to hide behind. Grim. The things I do for you in the name of sewing science.
The instructions suggest pin tucking or top stitching some of these seams. I don't get it. I think the fastest way to make these look homemade in a bad way is to pin tuck a garment that's going to get stretched and yanked on and off the body. Those stitches will pop the second those legs get stretched. I really like the style lines, and I don't think faffing around with trying to highlight them any further adds anything. Like I said, firm opinions!
So on to version 2. I really wanted a wicking fabric, as the weather in Melbourne in late October can truly range anywhere from 10-30 degrees C. I also wanted something a little more interesting than basic black, but still monochrome. Choices in Melbourne in bricks and mortar stores are fairly non-existent, but I managed to find a cool range of space dyed Supplex lycra from Stage Zone, a dance supply company. I know they sourced it from Eclipse Textiles but I believe Eclipse is wholesale only. Anyway I went for this dark grey/cream combination and couldn't be more happy with the fabric. It's not a heavy compressive lycra like my RTW leggings - it could be used for tops as well as bottoms. It has 4 way stretch (meaning horizontal and vertical) with 9% lycra.
I've since found this website in Australia that stocks a small range of Supplex lycra, including something that looks pretty much identical to what I used. And rumour has it that Georgina, the lovely new owner of Sew Squirrel is looking at sourcing some active wear and swimwear fabrics.
The fit is so much better with 4 way stretch. Interestingly I had to remove an extra 1.5 inches of fabric from the waistline to get them to sit at the same spot as the ponte ones. And there is no crotch sag.
The fabric was fabulous to sew up. On both versions I used my overlocker for all the seams and for attaching the elastic, and I used one of my regular machine's stretch stitches for topstitching down the elastic waistband and the hems. I can't remember what it's called - maybe the feather stitch? Anyway I quite like it's appearance as it's quite sporty, and it's beautifully stretchy. No popped seams in sight!
I feel so good in these I'm even going to give you some bum shots.
Since finishing these I've been wearing them constantly - as soon as they're out of the wash I've got them back on for my next gym or pilates session (they hold up very well in both scenarios). They were great on the walk (which was epic BTW - my friend and I finished it in just under 6 hours thanks to her giraffe legs - from memory I finished about 370 out of 2000 entrants which pleased me greatly. Needless to say I was utterly spent).
Clearly I need another pair! I'd love to find a ponte with deecnt 4-way stretch for a full length version. And I'd like to work out how to add a pocket in the back for some keys and my phone.
Have you ever made something that has surprised you with how happy it makes you?