A review of Sew Your Own Activewear by Melissa (Fehr Trade) including details of my make and a few key takeaways for sewing your own gym clothes

Sew Your Own Activewear: DIY vest top

A review of Sew Your Own Activewear by Melissa (Fehr Trade) including details of my make and a few key takeaways for sewing your own gym clothes A review of Sew Your Own Activewear by Melissa (Fehr Trade) including details of my make and a few key takeaways for sewing your own gym clothesA review of Sew Your Own Activewear by Melissa (Fehr Trade) including details of my make and a few key takeaways for sewing your own gym clothes A review of Sew Your Own Activewear by Melissa (Fehr Trade) including details of my make and a few key takeaways for sewing your own gym clothes

So guys, here’s something a little bit different for you today – activewear!

You may be thinking why I may be swapping my precious merino for spandex and lycra. Good question! Not only have I recently been getting really into powerlifting (so odd, but so fun!) but my good friend Melissa (who also blogs over at Fehr Trade) has just published a book – Sew Your Own Activewear.

And guys, it’s good!

I’m not just saying that because she’s my friend. She really impressed me with her crazy knowledge of moderating patterns for movement at the Sewing Weekender back in the summer.

Look, don’t take my word for it – you can see a preview of the book here which is published by Sew and So. Plus you can see this top which…

… I drafted myself! Pretty nifty, eh?

Once you’ve been sewing for a while I think it’s interesting to find new ways of challenging yourself. And activewear is definitely a bit of a new frontier for me.

So sit back, grab a cup of something nice and I’ll talk you through the basics, including:

  • the pattern I used (and a quick run through of some other great patterns in the book)
  • the fabric
  • sewing it all up
  • a few lessons I learned (definitely read this if you’re thinking of sewing your own activewear)
  • and the final verdict

The pattern

So the book has an amazing premise.

You start with a basic block (provided via a download on the Sew and So website) then Melissa shows you how to alter it to make different types of clothing. So the basic close-fitting bottoms block can be turned into yoga bottoms, active leggings, or cycle shorts.

Honestly, I found it hard to choose between the different makes. The active leggings look amazing, and the split shorts speak to my obsession over all things 70s. In the end, I decided to make the vest top. I’m down to my last sports vest and getting bored to tears wearing it.

I made the vest top using the basic close-fitting top block in the book. I cut a S based on my measurements. In hindsight I might have gotten away with an XS and an FBA. Melissa helpfully reminds you how to do in the start of the chapter on tops – along with a whole heap of other alterations.

Sorry guys, there is literally no excuse for getting a badly fitting top. 🙂

The instructions for adjusting the block to make a vest are really clear and gave me the confidence to go a bit off piste. I altered the pattern to combine three different fabrics. I also wanted to try a racerback – much more useful for all those prone back lifts in powerlifting.

Also, can we just talk about that sweet side triangle. I really like how it looks and will definitely be using that bit of drafting again. Level up for me!

The fabric

Melissa has some great tips in her book on what to look for when buying fabric, but I also had a few extensive chats with Melissa about this (she is amazing like that).

In the end I went for a whole heap of fabrics from Sewing Chest, a UK based supplier of bra fabrics who also does a cracking line of sportswear fabrics.

I picked up some stretch aerated polyester (the dark green bits), some heavy elastane jersey (the black bits) and some wicking spandex fabric (the light blue bits). I also picked up some purple fold-over elastic – amongst other things (like bright neon stretch aerated polyester which I can’t wait to use).

A review of Sew Your Own Activewear by Melissa (Fehr Trade) including details of my make and a few key takeaways for sewing your own gym clothes A review of Sew Your Own Activewear by Melissa (Fehr Trade) including details of my make and a few key takeaways for sewing your own gym clothes A review of Sew Your Own Activewear by Melissa (Fehr Trade) including details of my make and a few key takeaways for sewing your own gym clothes A review of Sew Your Own Activewear by Melissa (Fehr Trade) including details of my make and a few key takeaways for sewing your own gym clothes

Sewing it all up

I was really interested to read all the different ways for sewing stretch fabrics which Melissa has written about in the book. I tried a few new techniques – like the mock flatlock. Though, in the end I ended up playing it safe and used my regular serger for the construction and finished off with my sewing machine.

All in all the pattern pieces came together really nicely – thanks to Melissa’s solid drafting skills (honed behind the scenes at the Great British Sewing Bee). I had some minor fit issues that meant I took the the side and shoulder seams in by 2 cms.

And then there was the arm hole edges. 

I tried elastic, but totally didn’t read Melissa’s tips on pre-stretching the elastic and ended up with baggy arm holes. Not a good look. So I cut out the elastic and finished the edges with fold-over elastic. This produced a much better fit, but I probably could have avoided it all if I’d not been so gun-ho!

Lucky for me Melissa’s book talks your through different finishing techniques (and also is super quick at replying to last minute panics!)

A few lessons

I mean, look, I want to start by saying that it may not be perfect, but guys I made my own sports top!

Being new to this type of sewing I’ve decided to be kind to myself and view it as a learning curve. Buttt… there were a few things I’ve learnt with this make.

  1. First, my racerback is decidedly not a racerback. I could have been way more ambitious with my curves. This pattern drafting is no joke people. On the plus side, now I have a base pattern that I can adjust to get the perfect fit and shape. So it’s not all bad.

2. Another thing I’ve learnt is that fabric selection is really important in activewear. It’s definitely something I hasn’t appreciated. If you look at the sides, there’s a bit of bunching, which I’m clocking up to using the black fabric – a heavier fabric with significant stretch – in the wrong place. That spandex really wants to pulled tight and I’ve used it in a relatively low stretch area. 

Verdict

I’m super happy with what I’ve learnt about pattern drafting, and have picked up a lot about of tips for future sportswear making (mental note: fabric weight and properties are really important in activewear).

I think Sew Your Own Activewear is a really great book for any sports nuts or gym rats (that’s me) or anyone who is keen to stretch their sewing skills beyond the usual.

I know I’ll definitely be trying out some more patterns from this book and am really excited about getting a bit more drafting under my belt.

Well done Melissa on a fabulous book! You can buy the book here.

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