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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon

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Monday, July 16, 2018



Before I go into my own assessment on fabrics for leggings I would like to give you some links to some very practical resources on fabric possibilities.

The first of these is Patterns4Pirates (they are the Peg Leg company) easy to understand chart that also references what fabrics work with what pattern. Very handy.

And here is a quick guide to performance fabrics. Of note is that bamboo is UV protecting (50 times if you were putting it on the sunscreen scale).

And finally a tech sheet on Supplex, the fabric I will be using for several of my sew-alongs, specifically the maternity ones I am making for my DIL who really needs stretch and breathability.

I am getting my Supplex from Halo Fabric Addicts because they are one of the few Canadian suppliers I have found and Brit's customer service is amazing. I have a big order coming in (including my next batch of swimwear fabric) but Canada Post now says it won't be here until Tuesday, which sort of messes up my schedule so look for an extra post as soon as that stuff arrives at the door here.



I have made many leggings from a variety of fabrics and have narrowed it down to three choices for me. All are 4-way stretch and all need to be selected not just for the stretch factor described last post, and shown in the video, but for recovery factor. Recovery is bounce back when stretched and released. The direction of maximum stretch always bounces back a little stronger than the other direction and this is the one you want going around the body (in most fabrics this will be crosswise not lengthwise grain).

You also want to consider show through when stretched, in prints in particular. I saw a girl at the Superstore yesterday in leggings that reminded me of this.

1. Supplex: Feels like cotton, breathes but stretches and recovers like the best of swimwear. Expensive but sews well and wears even better. Generally can be cut in actual size pattern, would work for both the Claras and the Peg Legs.

2. Cotton lycra: This works fine when you aren't planning on working up a sweat because of course the fabric will hold the moisture it gathers. It is something I use for out and about leggings and when I want breathability at a decent price. The key here is to get a good quality CL as anything else just won't have a) enough stretch b) enough recovery. In general because of the nature of cotton fibres I would definitely size up the first time you make a pair to make sure you have enough room.

3. Double brushed poly: This is a cool fabric, relatively new and although I try to avoid polyester for leggings as polyester does not breath at all and can get stinky as a result, this baby soft fuzzy fabric works fine for what I would call fall or winter leggings of the walking around the house kind. Very stretchy too so adapts well to fitting in near to normal for you size range but definitely has more stretch crosswise than lengthwise so I would use it for less precisely close fitting leggings, the Peg Legs not the Claras for example.

There are of course lots of other activewear fabrics possible. Poly ones I am not keen on for reasons above, but nylon tends to be better and more moisture wicking (less clammy on the skin - theory is the fabric sends the moisture away from the skin to the surface of the fabric, which it should be noted is different than fabric that actually breaths. 

Some folks also use swimwear fabric, which of course is nice and stretchy but if you go this route think about thinning of the fabric when stretched and try to use a heavier weight for this reason.

Finally there is the issue of compression leggings. Just making things tighter actually doesn't have accurate compressive effect - you need more compression at the ankle and less as it goes up the leg for the blood to be properly kept from pooling - but that said if you are looking for mild compression you are probably a runner and want to make sure your leggings don't fall down. Firm fabrics with notable recovery in addition to high stretch will help with this, but you might have to fine tune the fit/pattern size to get it right.

Athletic mesh (a different fabric than Powernet and hopefully when mine comes Tuesday I can show you) can be used for design inserts and as a lining for the wrong side.

Finally some thoughts on mesh and construction sent to me by email from Brittany at Halo, herself and expert leggings sewer:

 For legging waistbands that are lined/elastisized it always
depends on your fabric weight. If it's thin and will show the elastic ridge then use micromesh! When top stitching the inner-upper edge of the waistband make sure your tension isn't too tight or that stitch will snap as soon as it hits your hips! Don't cheap out and use a 2-way stretch mesh for your band lining, you'll cause muffin top and it won't be supportive even though you did the extra work.

Athletic and Micromesh is NOT the same as PowerNet! If you're unsure of what you're buying online then ask the retailer, they've got the details. If they offer swatches then grab some since it'll save way more headache down the road.

If you want to build a triangle gusset into a standard legging pattern make sure you REMOVE the same amount of fabric from the rear inseam rise or you will have gathering in the upper thigh/crotch (and possibly has saggy crotch syndrome).

 If you want to stitch mesh into a legging pattern treat it like
delicate lace and really reinforce that seam. Do a narrow and
short-length zigzag twice to put those layers together. If you want to topstitch it make sure it's right-side facing up to ensure it's straight.



So that's it for tonight's instalment on getting ready to sew leggings. More throughout the week.

In the meantime please share your own comments and questions.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Flypaper thoughts Saturday night edition


  • I have been working at shirt sewing this week hard enough to really appreciate tee shirts
  • Looking forward to cutting out a few of those soon for my pregnant daughter-in-law
  • Front, back, sleeves and what's to fit?
  • Am making no baby name suggestions
  • We are re-entering unchartered territory again
  • If anyone had told me a few years ago
  • Otis, Walter, George and, according to my mother's friend, Kaiser
  • We are all date stamped by our names
  • I was in the sandpile recently and heard a mother yell "Barbara"
  • What a dumb of fashioned name to call a little kid I thought
  • Until I remembered it was my own name
  • At least the revival names have predictable spelling
  • Kaylee, Khayleigh, Calee, 
  • I even know a Jane who is Jayn and another one who is Jahne
  • No one is going to do that to Walter
  • I honestly think I am going to have to spring for bamboo knit for pyjamas
  • Some days when I get to the end of it, I am pretty sure I need them
  • How is it three kids cannot, between the three of them
  • Remember where the TV remotes and unit that controls the heat pump went
  • Except they remember they saw them and they were together in the same place
  • It's just the where was that place part that draws the blank
  • And they think I think they weren't involved
  • When I just found a jar of water, three granola bars, a roll of pink curly ribbon, and a stick of stain remover from the laundry
  • In the case that my dad's 70 year old typewriter was stored in
  • I can follow the bread crumbs guys
  • At least the ones the dog hasn't eaten
  • Who else is waiting for the study that says people who eat cake with mocha icing live longer?
  • Or that watching your bobbins wind is the same thing as meditating?
  • And just how is anyone with this much fabric supposed to empty her mind?
  • I don't need to explain this one because I already know you totally get it
  • I will get back at them
  • Who wants to see Babsie do a triple back flip with a twirl before she lands?
  • We do, we do
  • OK well first close your eyes
  • Ta da
  • You missed it
  • And how will you ever know?
  • Come to think of it
  • Why do I need a TV remote?
  • We have to mute the news when a certain world leader is on
  • Daisy runs away down the hall
  • What's with the internet?
  • Bloglovin' put in my inbox a link to a post to totally rev up your life?
  • Who wouldn't click on that?
  • Particularly when they have so many tee shirts to make?
  • Drink water, move, be mindful, sleep
  • Number five was undoubtedly eat fruit and vegetables
  • This is news?
  • This is beautifully photographed and everything is white and filtered
  • This is not news
  • But the mocha cake study?
  • For that one I would buy a new remote

Friday, July 13, 2018

Nice little video on how to determine stretch in fabric

From the folks at 5 out of 4 patterns this nice instructional video on stretch in fabrics.


Leggings sew-along: Fitting and fabric - part one of two on this topic

Hi folks.

This week I have had a number of messages/emails about legging fit so it seemed to me that before we got exclusively into fabrics it was important to discuss those in some detail first.

As always this is more or less my original take on things, based on my own experience.

Here are my thoughts.

I think the first adjustment that needs to be made is in our heads not in our patterns. For most of us who sew when we think of fit we think of patterns. This makes us go on the search for a pattern that fits, or we go to working thinking of what we have to do to that pattern to make it fit our unique bodies better.

My suggestion is that we take our eyes off pattern adjustments a little and think of what we are really working with here.

First off there aren't many places in a leggings pattern to make adjustments. To alter a pattern you need seams and fitting details to work with, and in a leggings pattern there just aren't many of those.

Consider this. 

There are no side seams. In a decent legging pattern the side seams have been eliminated for a smooth fit and the only long seam is the inseam.

The only other seam is the crotch seam. In the Peg Legs there are both a front and back crotch seam, the Jalie Clara only has a back crotch seam - the front is laid on the fold.

Length adjustments are still possible, and it makes sense to add/subtract extra inches to leg length if you suspect you need that and some length can be added to the front or back crotch seam top to fit over a full back or abdomen. However  I would also suggest you think about working with the wide waistband unit (which conveniently you can do on its own before it is attached to the legging unit) too to get the fit you want.

Also highly influential to fit, in fact I would suggest determining fit, is the degree of stretch your particular fabric is providing to the garment.

I really can't over emphasize this enough.

Fabric stretch provides extra ease, almost as if it were providing extra fabric.

Think of this with the analogy of a woven skirt.

One skirt in one fabric is 1" larger than your hips, another skirt in another fabric is magically 4" larger than your hips without changing the pattern.

Legging fabrics with different degrees of stretch can do this for you.

Look at these different shots of leggings made up in different degrees of stretch:

First Greenstyle creations Super G's made for athletic wear in fabric that has a suggested minimum stretch of 75%:


You can really see how stretchy these are by the fact that both a hand and a phone can fit the pocket and by the slight stress lines in the crotch. Fabric like this would probably make for extremely comfortable leggings with a lot of give but could easily feel too loose if they were cut in a size too large. You might also want to consider that this degree of extra ease/comfort delivered by a very stretchy 75% degree of stretch fabric (you measure this by taking 4" of fabric and pulling it along a ruler. If the fabric can stretch to 7" it has 75% stretch) to a pattern that calls for less than this as a minimum. For instance I have my extra weight here and there and so I am most comfortable in the Claras, which calls for fabric with a minimum degree of stretch of 60%, when I make them with a fabric with 75%.

I like to think of the degree of stretch like those weather forecasts that say it actually is one temperature but with the humidity feels like something hotter. A pair of leggings drafted for a minimum of 60% stretch will feel like they are 15% bigger when made with fabric with 75%.

Does this explanation make sense to you or are do you think I have lost it? Spent most of yesterday when I was taking care of the kids trying to figure out how to explain my own experience.

The other thing I should add, and this is really, really important, is that the bigger you are the more ease you need in clothes.

If I sat down and tried to figure this out I might be able to understand the why, probably has something to do with how soft tissue moves, but this is an absolute fact, as true in wovens as it is in knits.

In a woven pencil skirt for example a tiny person will have a nice smooth fit with on 1-2" of ease and a larger person might need 3-4+" more inches of ease to achieve a fit that visually looks completely identical. This reality is why it can be so hard to set down absolute guidelines for ease allowances in clothing.

To visually illustrate this further here is a shot again of the Claras and Jalie's sister pattern the Cora running tights made with fabric of 60% minimum stretch, note I suspect this fabric also has significant recovery (bounce back when released after stretching) as is typical of fitted, more athletic compression leggings when there will be a lot of movement and you definitely don't want the legging to shift too much in the process:



So to recap it is important to match stretchability to how you want the leggings to feel and to pay close attention to the degree of stretch requirements. Definitely any stretch fabric won't do to sew leggings.

The fabric has to be:

4-way stretch, when you bend you are going to need stretch vertically as well as horizontally

At the very least is as stretchy as the pattern suggests as a minimum (and for leggings I personally think 50-60% is an absolute minimum, for any all day wear, as opposed to heavy duty running which I don't do, I like a 75% )

Stretchier if you are larger.

Which brings me to something really important:

To find the right fit in leggings you are better off to play around with different pattern sizes than you are with adjusting the pattern pieces. There just aren't enough seams to fool around much and the fine tuning will be done by a fabric with the right degree of stretch in the compatible size for that pattern.

I in fact make the same pattern up in different sizes for different fabrics. For a really stretchy fabric 75% I will cut out a Clara in my actual measurement size. To make summer 3/4 leggings in a cotton lycra with only 60% stretch I go up two sizes.

The Peg Legs are drafted with a bit more inherent ease and are therefore less fabric sensitive but unlike the advice I would give in all for all other garment types, you know the ones with more seams, I would say when in doubt try the larger size and if necessary take in the seams later if you find they are too large.

Finally, and this is super important, don't forget the fitting/testing potential of the waistband piece.

In both of these patterns I will be using as in many others, the waistband piece is quite large and extends from just below the belly to up to the navel. This pretty much covers the area that most women find challenging to fit.

A tactic I use when trying to figure out how to match size to fabric is to jump in a cut and sew the waistband first. If the waistband in that particular fabric and size is too tight for example I am always glad I didn't waste fabric on a cutting out the whole pair of leggings.

Note too that having a more or less abdomen covering waistband means that so many of your fitting adjustments can be made right there - all you need to do is to remember to adjust the top of the leggings so it will fit into your customized waistband. I usually work with a waistband piece at least a size larger than the leggings themselves and use a combination of grading in out the top of the legging piece and stretching to fit to combine the two.

So a long post on this one but I hope it has given you some confidence to jump in a fit and will also help you produce not just a "muslin" but a wearable first pair of comfortable leggings.

More on fabric, and types next week!



Monday, July 9, 2018

Leggings sew-along: thoughts on patterns

There are a number of legging patterns available these days. Many produce a garment that is indiscernible from ready-to-wear.

Nearly every indie pattern company of any size has a leggings pattern, and the Big Four do too.

As a result I have decided for this sew-along not to start with a review of all the possibilities, and not, until the last session, to talk about design details - colour blocking, pockets, decorative cover hemming, mesh inserts etc.

Instead I decided it would be more useful to share what my own experience has taught me about legging patterns. 

Also I also am looking forward to hearing from all of you - on pattern recommendations, and on pattern characteristics you think are really important.

For the purposes of this sew-along I am going to be working along with you on two very different patterns Jalie's Clara and Patterns 4 Pirates Peg Legs. The Clara is Jalie's newest legging pattern, released this spring, and the Peg Legs are a free pattern, supplemented by a Peg Leg's add-on package (you need this for the gusset) and by a the maternity add-on  that I will actually be using to make some leggings for my DIL.

Both patterns will allow you to have a preview of the instructions before you commit. If you go to the Jalie site you can read the instructions right there and of course because the Peg Legs are free you can do the same.

I chose these two patterns for myself because I know them well and each offers a very different look and to some extent feel. They are also very basic patterns in terms of design details, plain leggings, and I also felt that this would help to keep the focus on construction, stitching, and fabric options, and on fit.

If I were to describe the differences between the two patterns I would say that the Claras are closer to a real workout leggings think Lululemon ( you really need a very stretchy fabric to get the right fit), smooth and minimal. The Peg Legs are more an everyday wear legging, not as closely cut and can be made in fabrics with a wider range of stretchability.


There two pictures I think articulate this difference:





This doesn't mean I don't use and like other patterns, it's just that for our purposes right now I thought  it made sense to keep the focus on the basics.

So if you want to sew-along and work with another pattern that's great too - some more information for us all to share.

When you choose a pattern however I thing that it is essential it has these characteristics, again based on my experience:

1. The pattern has to have a gusset piece. This IMO is completely non-negotiable. Why? Look at our bodies. Leggings fit like a second skin, in some ways even more so as they are negative ease garments, cut smaller than our actual measurements, counting on the 4-way stretch fabric to fit, and they have to be cut like we are built. 

And how we are all built is not 2-dimensionally like a paper doll. 

We are 3-D people and we have front to back through the middle as well as side to side. In other words we have a crotch and we need a little piece of fabric sewn into the seams at the top of our legs to cover and accommodate this crotch. A pair of leggings without a gusset will pull tight in the crotch area and likely split with movement (the garment attempting when it splits to open up a spot that will be remarkably similar in size and shape to the gusset piece)

There are different gusset shapes of course and the more pronounced the gusset the more movement you may feel in the garment.

The Jalie Clara's have a sort of triangular gusset piece because these leggings lack a front seam (the front is laid on the fold) and there are therefore only 3 seams to attach to it. This gusset shape contributes to the sleek lines of this design.




You can see this tiny but critical pattern piece (C) in the pattern layout below:


The base pattern for the Peg Legs, which unlike the Claras have a centre front seam, does not include a gusset. To have the gusset piece you will need  the Peg Leg add-on package to find this pattern piece.

The centre front seam of the Peg Legs also means that the gusset is the more familiar diamond shape. Here is a construction photo that shows how this piece looks inserted:


BTW none of the Big 4 legging patterns of those I checked out included a gusset piece.

2. I have tried all the different leggings waistband options and for the best fit, comfort and stay upability (coining some new words here) I have decided that when you are talking leggings there really is no substitute for a wide yoga style waistband.

Stitched in elastic or even a casing will just pull down and I can't imagine that being a wearing experience any legging wearer wants.

A wide waistband, particularly one that is contoured as is standard in the Clara and one of the add-on options for the Peg Legs, has the whole capacity of the 4 way stretch fabric working with you to hold the top off the legging up and, in the patterns I will be working with, having elastic sewn into the seam allowances at the top of the band is just added security rather than all you are relying on.

The waistbands can of course be wide up to the navel (as the Claras are) or can be narrower and set lower into in the body of the legging for a low rise look, up as far as the navel or even well past it as in the Peg Leg maternity add-on version. 

Here are some of those Peg Leg options for waistbands. Note in the base pattern the waistbands are simple bands that can sit at the navel or well below, but the add-on has a higher contoured band.







As to sizing well that's an interesting question for sure. In leggings the fabric itself, with the vast differences that exist in 4-way stretch fabrics, both in terms of degree of stretch and degree of recovery, can really define fit. And that's exactly what we will talk about Friday.

In the meantime please leave your comments, suggestions, and questions leggings patterns below.

I am looking forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

How to set in a zipper by hand

How was the weather where you were today?

Here it was hot from early morning, unusual in Nova Scotia where, being on the ocean, even our summer days are framed by cool air.

The kids and I had fun but by the end of it they were getting a bit ragged with the 3 year old trying to assert his position as boss of the world (a position I have more or less wrapped up) and his sisters doing various renditions of not being impressed by that.

So after a long hot day it seemed the best thing for me to do was to post one of my highly professional Youtube videos on how to sew in a zipper by hand.

This really is the easiest and most relaxing way to put in a zipper, sort of the sewing equivalent of sending your husband out to pick up a roast chicken and sides in the getting supper on the table department, something I have just done.

So here's to doing it the easy way:


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Leggings sew-along

Here we go. First leggings in July and then swimwear in August.

I figured it made sense to start with athletic type fabric first in a garment with fewer pieces and then work out.

For the first foray into something I have never done before, meaning a sew-along, not meaning the sewing, here is the schedule:


Monday July 9: thoughts on patterns
Friday July 13: fabrics
Monday July 16: thoughts on fitting
Friday July 20: stitching options
Monday July 23: gussets and seams
Friday July 27: waistband options
Monday July 30: customizing ideas and wrap -up
August - stay tuned for swimwear sew along!


I have tried to figure out a way to make this more visually interactive than only text comments so I have added some info onto Facebook page my husband set up a month a go for a project when he had an afternoon when he was excited the book came out. Like it an feel free to post your thoughts, ideas, questions and photos.

I will be posting text and pictures here, doing some of my slick high level production kitchen table Youtube videos in my Youtube channel, also posted to this page, and giving updates on Instagram @bemodi


The sewing part doesn't worry me, managing all this social media might get a bit bumpy. Bear will me, this should be fun.