Sewing patterns for activewear

by Jessie Kwak

Has your winter been weird, too? In Portland it’s been sunny-rainy-gorgeous-Snowpocalypse-sunny-rainy-repeat. I’ve gotten out on my bike a little, but mostly I’ve been staying close to home.

Bad weather days are great for tackling sewing projects, and I’ve been feeling inspired lately to make some more activewear. Maybe another pair of leggings and a different vest.

Y’know, change up my look.

(How many years in a row can I rock the exact same leggings and vest?)

Photo by Robert Kittilson

Photo by Robert Kittilson

Sewing leggings is a pretty simple matter (check out this tutorial), but I’d like to make some more complicated items.

It’s hard to find good sewing patterns for activewear, though!

Here’s a roundup of what I have found. Have you got anything to add? Sound off in the comments – I’d love to hear from you!

Lola Sweater Dress


This sweater dress, Lola from Victory Patterns, would make an adorable winter cycling dress! I’ve got a few yards of bamboo sweatshirt fleece, and some yummy merino jersey that might be great for it.

I first saw Lola on Lladybird, where Lauren has some good tips about her own adjustments, as well as sewing lightweight knits.

Minoru Jacket

Materials for a Sewaholic Minoru

Of course, the Minoru Jacket from Sewaholic is a great cycling jacket. It’s got a loose and comfortable fit, and you can make it out of waterproof fabrics.

I made a version last year, and reviewed it here. I wear it all the time in the spring and fall!

Green Pepper Patterns

Oregon biking shorts

Santiam vest

Green Pepper Patterns has some awesome-looking activewear patterns that I’ve been meaning to try. That Santiam Vest would be perfect with the silver quilted nylon ripstop I picked up a few years back, and I’ve always wanted to try my hand at a pair of padded cycling shorts.

They also have a mens and womens racing jersey pattern, as well as a lot more outdoorsy patterns for runners and hikers.

There’s a great post on The Train To Crazy reviewing the jersey pattern.

Jalie Patterns

Jalie sports bra

Jalie also has some good sports patterns, like this zip-front jacket and hoodie, a softshell jacket, and a racerback sports bra top.

The sports bra is on my list – I’d love to make something that’s truly comfortable, yet does it’s job well.

Fehr Trade

Fehr Trade running top

I was super excited to see that Melissa of Fehr Trade has released a pair of awesome activewear patterns. I love this great workout top (with a built-in compression bra!), and equally great blog post from Kathy Sews about making it up.

I may have to try making these running leggings, as well!

How about you? Are you working on anything sporty this winter?


Tutorial: Steampunk neoprene cycling gaiters

by Jessie Kwak

I held off on this tutorial last week because I was really hoping to be able to give you guys some feedback on how my new neoprene cycling gaiters performed—and it hasn’t been raining.

Not even a little! We’ve had an entire week of cold, misty mornings that slowly dissolve into brilliantly crisp (almost warm) afternoons.

Not even when Nalisha and I rode up to Cowichan Bay on Vancouver Island for a Trifecta weekend. (A what? I’ll write a post about it later.)

See! Pictorial evidence of how sunny it was:

Cowichan bay wine tasting

So without any further ado,

How to make steampunk neoprene cycling gaiters

Because you know you’ve always wanted some.

Cycling gaiters tutorial - finished2

I wrote last week about my solution for keeping my feet from getting sopping wet when I wear my Dr. Martens whilst biking in the rain (among other things). Not being content to merely buy a pair of cycling gaiters, I decided to make a pair of steampunk-inspired neoprene gaiters that would do the double duty of keeping my feet warm and dry, while still not looking like “bike gear.”

Initially I’d planned to make something that just zipped up the back, but when I Googled gaiters I came across all sorts of fascinating Victorian, steampunk, and military gaiters that just seemed So Much More Cool than what I’d planned to do.

I was in particular inspired by this tutorial at By Sidney Eileen about how to draft a fitted gaiters pattern, as well as this pair of antique gaiters I found on Etsy (click to see the listing):


Check out the fastener on those babies. Rather than using buttonholes, button loops or boot hooks, there’s simply a cord laced through a row of grommets. I loved the idea, so that’s what I decided to do with mine.


You’ll need:

  • About 15″ x 30″ of 2mm or 3mm neoprene (I got mine in the scrap bins at Seattle Fabrics.)
  • A pair of boots to trace
  • 3 or so yards of fold-over elastic trim (I got mine from Porcelynn Fabric Boutique.)
  • 12 grommets plus a grommet setter (I stole my grommet setter from my mom. Did you ever wonder where that went, mom? I have it. Let me know if you need it back, although you probably bought another one after all these years.)
  • One busted bicycle inner tube
  • 12 buttons

Make a pattern

If you’re feeling precise, follow the drafting instructions at Sidney Eileen’s blog. If you’re feeling like me, lay your boot down on a piece of paper, smash it so it’s mostly flat, and trace it to the best of your ability, adding about an inch for seam allowance and wiggle room.

Draw a line 1/3 of the way to the back, and 1/3 of the way to the front. You now have 3 pattern pieces in 1: the full inside piece, and the overlapping halves of the outside piece.

Cycling gaiters pattern

Cut your pieces out in muslin, sew the front to the front and the back to the back, then try it on for size. If you used the pattern drafting method, it probably fits pretty well. If you used the Bicitoro Method of Estimation, you probably still have some work to do.

Cycling gaiters tutorial - fitting

You can see in the photo above that although mine fit pretty well through the calf, it left something to be desired in the slope above the foot. I pinned out the excess, then stitched the seam again. Perfect.

While I was tweaking my pattern, I decided that instead of fastening straight up the side, I wanted the gaiter to swoop towards the back, like these Merrell boots I’ve been lusting after. So I cut out a swoopy piece, then sewed it onto my front outside piece.

Cycling gaiters tutorial - fitting2

Now you can see that not only does my muslin gaiter fit better, it’s also got more sass. That white bit near the bottom front is an extra little wedge of paper I fit in there to even out the bottom hem.

Carefully take apart your muslin, and use the pieces as your pattern.

Assemble the gaiters

Note: Sewing with neoprene is surprisingly easy. Make sure you have a sharp needle, go slow when sewing over any seams, and use a longer stitch length (I set mine to 4mm).

Cut out your pattern pieces, being sure to mirror them so you don’t end up with two left feet. Like me when I’m dancing!

Sew the front and back seams, then fell them by trimming away one side close to the stitching, then folding the other side down and top stitching it.

Cycling gaiters tutorial - seam

That gives you a nice seam that lays flat, without being too bulky.

Cycling gaiters tutorial - seam 2

Keep trying the gaiter on throughout the process to make sure no adjustments need to be made. Mine was a bit long, so I had to trim about a 1/2″ off the bottom.

When your pieces have been assembled, you can add reflective trim if you like. I just put a strip of it up the back seam.

Edge finish and fasteners

There are other ways to finish the edges of neoprene, but I think the nicest is to use fold-over elastic. Set your sewing machine on a zig-zag stitch, then go slowly, stretching the elastic slightly as you do. It takes a bit to get the technique down just right, so if you’ve never used fold-over elastic before I’d recommend practicing a bit on scrap pieces.

Cycling gaiters tutorial - edging

Finish just the vertical edges for now.

Add 6 grommets to each Outside Front edge, spacing them evenly. (Again, practice the grommets on scrap first.)

For the lacing, use a 2-foot-long strip of busted bicycle inner tube, cut to a width of 1/4″. You could use regular elastic, I suppose, but all I had was a gigantic pile of inner tubes. Lace it through as shown below, then tack the ends in place.

Cycling gaiters tutorial - before buttons

(You can see my chalk line on the heel where I need to trim it evenly.)

Mark the places for the buttons, but don’t sew them on just yet.


Finish the top and bottom edges with fold-over elastic. Sew the buttons on.

The last thing you need to do is to sew a strap to go underneath your boot, preferably in that place right in front of the raised heel. Try the gaiter on, and pin a 1″ wide piece of bicycle inner tube in place so that it fits well, but not too snuggly. Stitch it down.

Cycling gaiters tutorial - finished3

Viola! If anyone makes a pair of these, please be sure to let me know! I love mine–they’re super toasty, and I’m sure I’ll be wearing them all winter.

Happy riding!


Guest post: Top Tips and Tricks for Creating Your Own Cycling Jersey

by Jessie Kwak

It’s a gorgeous weekend in the Northwest! I’m traveling (which is why this post is late, sorry), and I’m pleased to report that the good weather Seattle was supposed to have is reflected throughout the Northwest. I was going to be so bummed if I missed 80-degree sunny days in Seattle only to get rained on in Newport.

Today’s post comes to us courtesy of Julianne Staino. Julianne is a NYC based runner/triathlete who can be found running and biking around town. You can follow her training over at rungerpains or, if you like puppy photos, you can get your daily fill by following her on Twitter (@JulianneStaino).

Thanks, Julianne!

On the pavement or blazing a trail, the thing that stands out most about a cyclist is the gear. A professional looking jersey will set you apart from the rookies. Whether you’re a seasoned roadie or mounting your steed for the first time, creating your own cycling jersey is fun and easy! So, lose the baggy t-shirts and hairy legs and use the tips below to create a professional-looking jersey and avoid looking like a Fred or Doris.

Source: www.shutterstock.com

Source: www.shutterstock.com

Step 1: Choose a pattern and fabric

For you crafty chasers, sewing your own cycling jerseys is the way to go. Jerseys are tight-fitting so keep that in mind when you choose your pattern. You can find patterns online and in some stores. Cotton allows the skin to breathe and cool itself naturally but holds the sweat, while synthetic material like polyester wicks sweat off the rider and dries quickly. Preshrink your chosen fabric in the wash. Chalk your pattern line and use a rotary cutter to cut through fabric. With polyester thread and a ball point needle, use an overlock stitch and a quarter-inch seam allowance.

Tip 2: Screen printing

Screen printing is one of the most durable ways to customize your jersey and though it’s a little more complicated to do it yourself, you’ll likely save a lot of time. Whether you’re just planning on riding your beater bike but want to look legit, or part of a cycling club or team, this method is ideal. Start by tracing your desired image onto a piece of nylon stretched across an embroidery hoop. Fill in the areas you do not want transferred to your jersey with Mod Podge and let it dry. Clip the hoop to your jersey and evenly cover the design with fabric ink. Carefully lift the pattern away, allow the paint to dry and then heat seal it according to the directions on your paint.

Source: http://craftgrrl.livejournal.com

Source: http://craftgrrl.livejournal.com

Tip 3: Iron-on Transfer

Weekend Warriors who want to look the part without shelling out the cash should start here. Print your image onto a transfer paper and trim excess paper and any part of the design you don’t want to transfer. Smooth any wrinkles on your jersey, place the transfer paper on top. With the steam setting off, run a preheated iron across the surface, allowing it to rest in one spot for 15 seconds at a time. Gently rub the whole design with a clean cloth for another few seconds and then remove the transfer paper.

Source: www.needlenthread.com

Source: www.needlenthread.com

Tip 4: Design a custom logo online

For a custom logo professionally printed, the best way is to choose a template from the jersey company website you’ve decided to work with and import it into a design program like Adobe Illustrator. You can lay out your design the way you like it. If graphic design isn’t your thing, you could always get a custom shirt online for your ride! Teams that are looking for a polished and consistent look for large numbers of jerseys will often ride this route.

Whatever your cadence, you’re going to be riding in style!

Source: www.shutterstock.com

Source: www.shutterstock.com


Guest post: The Right Knitting Stitch Pattern for the Job

by Jessie Kwak

UPDATE: the giveaway is now closed. Thanks!

I know, I know. Two posts in a row where I talk to you only in italics, then let other people do the heavy lifting. You have to admit that they’re pretty great people, though, right?

Like today, see, we have the fantastic Andrea Rangel to tell us about how to choose stitch patterns for knitting projects–particularly for items that are meant to be worn during active pursuits. She’s just released her first book: Woodsmoke & Ash: Knits for Men. It’s a really great collection with projects for every level. I’m particularly excited to make a pair of the Char gloves for myself. (Rob has enough gloves.)

Best of all (bury the lede!), she’s going to be giving away a copy of her book (make the lede bold!) to some random commenter on this post.

Comments will be open until midnight on Thursday the 21st, PST. Good luck, all.

Woodsmoke Final Cover

One thing I completely love about knitting is that we get to create our fabric as we go. Using just some string and a couple of sticks I can make an infinite variety of textures and patterns. Visually, this is really fun and it’s one thing that keeps me excited about knitting. But there’s more to stitch patterns than meets the eye. Changing the combination of knits, purls, increases and decreases doesn’t just change what the fabric looks like, but different stitch patterns can totally change how a fabric functions too. As a designer, this is almost as important to me as appearance. I’m constantly swatching to see how different fabrics behave, and the results help me determine how to use that fabric.

Some functions that may be desirable from a fabric are warmth or breathability, wind-resistance, durability, and resilience/elasticity. As knitters and designers (and sewists too, though I don’t know as much about that), we first look at fiber in order to attain those functions. For warm garments, we have our pick of animal fibers; for cooler garments, cotton, bamboo, or other plant fibers are more appropriate. For durability, we may choose to add a bit of nylon, and wool or elastic to provide resilience. Yarn construction can also help. For example, plied yarns are generally more durable than singles.

But one of my favorite ways to achieve a particular function is by carefully choosing an appropriate stitch pattern. All of the patterns in Woodsmoke & Ash have stitch patterns that not only make a fetching garment, but were chosen for their functional properties as well.

Because the garments in the book are designed for cold weather wear, each of the designs has some stitch pattern that adds to its warmth. One way to make a fabric extra warm is to use any stitch pattern that creates pockets where hot air can get trapped. This is the same principal that down jackets use; it’s not the down that’s keeping you warm, it’s all the spaces in between where the air, made warm from your body heat, can’t escape. Stranded color work, ribbing, and many textured stitch patterns like knit and purl combinations, slip stitch patterns, and cables all make those little pockets. So any garment that includes those kinds of stitch patterns is probably warmer than one worked in plain Stockinette or lace.

Stranded color work, such as that used in Traverse and Heartwood, also adds warmth just by creating a thicker fabric in those sections. Thicker fabric always has the added benefit of adding wind resistance. Of course you can get thicker fabric just by using thicker yarn, but stranded color work and ribbing are two visually-engaging ways to do it without thicker yarns. Knitted-in hems are also genius because they not only create a beautiful, neat edge, but double the thickness of the fabric, making a warm and squishy wind barrier. Working projects at a dense gauge, such as in Sphagnum, Resin, and Plantago, also creates more wind-resistant, durable fabric.

Heartwood is warm for a whole lot of reasons: The knitted-in hem creates double fabric right at the ears where you need it most, stranded color-work creates thickness and lots of places for warm air to get trapped, and the sample uses a woolen spun wool yarn, Brooklyn Tweed Shelter; woolen spinning makes yarn extra lightweight and warm.

Heartwood is warm for a whole lot of reasons: The knitted-in hem creates double fabric right at the ears where you need it most, stranded color-work creates thickness and lots of places for warm air to get trapped, and the sample uses a woolen spun wool yarn, Brooklyn Tweed Shelter; woolen spinning makes yarn extra lightweight and warm.

Stitch pattern can also have an impact on durability. Those of you who knit socks may be familiar with the slip-stitch heel. Working some stitches only every other row creates a denser, thicker fabric that is still comfortable against the heel, but resists wear. The Char gloves use a subtle waffle-like slip stitch pattern to create durability on the hand, and Stockinette stitch on the fingers and thumbs to allow for maximum dexterity.

Don’t forget that stitch pattern also has a dramatic impact on drape. Just hold up a lace swatch next to a Garter stitch one to see what I mean.

I never choose a stitch pattern for a design unless it achieves both the desired appearance and the desired function.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on stitch pattern functions. Do you look at stitch pattern when choosing a project to knit?


Guest Post: DIY Reflective band

by Jessie Kwak

Folks, I have a sad confession to make. I haven’t turned my sewing machine on in almost a month. The sewing room has become a place where I shove things I don’t have time to think about right now, so I’m not sure I could even get to my machine without a solid hour or more of cleaning. Which I certainly don’t have time to think about.

That’s why I’m oh-so grateful that Ms. Bethany Marcello is back to show us how to make reflective safety bands. You remember her–she’s an assistant editor at CraftFoxes who stopped by a few weeks back with her awesome waterproof booties tutorial. (Did you make some? How’d they turn out?)

Stay bright out there!

Reflective Band

Safe biking means being as visible as possible to everyone on the road, and as the proud (albeit scared) wife of a biker who’s been hit three times, these reflective bands go a long way towards promoting safety and visibility, which is particularly difficult with our brown-gray Pacific Northwest skies. Modify this easy sewing pattern to make arm bands, leg bands, waistbands or even to strap along a waterproof biking saddlebag.

DIY reflective band | Bicitoro

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