This post may contain affiliate links, which means that while I am not paid to promote certain items, I will earn a small commission should you purchase items through these links. For more info, see my disclosure policy.
I made a goal TWO YEARS AGO to learn to sew dancewear and activewear in a way that holds up and looks professional. I put it off for two reasons: 1. I was intimidated and 2. Trying to source the fabrics and supplies felt expensive and overwhelming.
But I’ve done it, y’all! Activewear sewing has become a thing in the sewing world over the last few years, probably because more and more people are wearing these kinds of clothes for more than just the gym. My daughter Layla especially prefers activewear over jeans any day. SO, imagine our delight when Hobby Lobby seriously amped up their fabric department recently and added a section of beautiful nylon spandex fabrics for active leggings! More about the fabric in a minute.
First, let me just show you the leggings I made Layla.
I already had the pattern, Simplicity 8424 and I’ve actually made three of the four items on this pattern, so that’s a win in my book.
I’ve made these leggings for Natalie in the past, with a cotton spandex, but they weren’t quite up to the job of serious activewear. This time I wanted to make them function like true active leggings. Let me tell you, the Hobby Lobby fabric is truly incredible. It’s not see through at all, which was my number one criteria. It’s soft, and seems like it’s going to hold up well for a long time. Comparable fabric at JoAnn is crazy expensive even when it’s on sale, and that’s what was so prohibitive to me for such a long time, but this fabric at Hobby Lobby is $12.99 a yard and I used my 40% off coupon. I bought two yards and have already made these leggings, a ballet leotard (details coming soon!) and I still have enough for either some active shorts or another leotard. That’s a ton for less than $18 of fabric!!
I’ll try to round up the most helpful articles for you soon in another post, but for now, here are my two must-knows to get started.
1. Use a stretch needle. If you sew with knits, you already know this, but a stretch needle (also called a ball point needle) is an absolute must for sewing activewear.
2. Use the stretch stitch on your machine. My method for strong, but stretchy seams is to first serge them, then use my stretch stitch to top stitch. A lot of people use a zig-zag, but this looks more homemade to me. The stretch stitch looks like a lightening bolt and it allows the fabric to still stretch. I top stitch the side seams and the crotch seams.
I have a few more resources for you now, but I’m still digging in and learning, so I know I’ll have more to share later. For fabrics, if you don’t have a Hobby Lobby, you can order their activewear fabrics online (this is the black one I used). I’ve used three different ones as of today and all have been incredible. Also, I’ve ordered from Spandexworld.com in the past and had a good experience. The prices are good and I like how they add the thickness of the fabrics to the description. I also ordered power mesh and lining there for dancewear. A yard of each will last me a super long time.
Patterns won’t be hard to find, since activewear sewing is coming up in the world. Simplicity patterns were on sale last week, so i grabbed this one, this one and this one (try to see past the novelty fabrics to the line drawings). I already made Layla another pair of leggings using one of these and we got fabric to make a top from another.
However, I can’t say enough how much you can learn from Jalie patterns when it comes to sewing knits. They’re drafted to perfection and just know what they’re doing when writing instructions for these clothes, which are intended to be put to the test in all kinds of sports. More about Jalie will be in that upcoming ballet leotard post. Jalie even tells you how to sew their patterns if you don’t own a serger!
Layla wore her leggings to crossfit kids and got a compliment from her instructor :) She loves these leggings!
Have you sewn activewear? I’d love your best tips! I’m not sure why this felt so impossible to me for so long, but now that I’ve learned some tricks, I’m so excited to sew more!