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I am a mother, a 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 book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge was 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.


Bunny said...

Very informative post. Thanks for all your hard work.

Cindy said...

Great post, thank you.

Kamchick said...

Really learning about stretch fabrics and their different contents...when I think of nylon, I think HOT, but maybe not..I'll try it. Also when I think of cotton content, I think shrinkage and fading..but maybe not so much a factor when it is blended with other fibres. Thanks,Barb..

KS_Sews (Dressmakingbacles) said...

So helpful! I wanted to make leggings with the cool mesh inserts and bought powernet but realized that wasn't right when it came. Then I ordered something else that was more like the fabric for basketball shorts, which is also wrong! So good to know!

I just made a dress from double brushed poly. I love the dress and will wear it, loads. But I doubt I'll buy DBP again. Too thick/warm/sticky for my tastes. I cannot imagine leggings made from that fabric. Caveat: I run pretty warm.

Cynthia Nicole said...

Have you talked about rayon ponte knit? Any words of wisdom about using it for leggings?
I just got some to use for leggings. I've used it for yoga type pants and it seems to hold up well.

Unknown said...

Here in my area (and within an hours' drive) all the fabric shops are either quilting or Joann's-not happy with the quality of the fabric there. So where do people order online good quality cotton for leggings? I've bought from Girl Charlie last year but they run more to prints and I prefer solids. I used some GC cotton/lycra for my first pair of Peg Legs in full (ankle) length which because of not enough stretchiness are capri length when on! At least they're wearable :/