When I was asked to take part in Melissa Fehr’s blog hop to celebrate her new book release, I was a little taken aback. Activewear. Me. Active. Wearing tight Lycra on social media. Lycra. Activewear. Did she email the wrong SewPositivity?
There was some genuine laughter from my end because although I hide it most of the time in pictures, brave face it at meet ups and hide my walking aids when the camera is turned on I have a permanent chronic disabling condition called Ehlers–Danlos syndrome. I can dislocate an arm by trying to stroke my dog (which recently happened) and walking down the road is my version of a 10k.
I realized because I hide it, people probably just don’t know. I was going to turn down the offer of being involved, which really upset me as I don’t get asked to join in events as much as I once did. Disabled I maybe, but I am still very able and Melissa’s belief in me made me look at things in a new light.
Boom! Turns out I actually really needed some personalized activewear for my physio and the dreaded aqua sessions which had been causing me mounting anxiety. What can I wear comfortably, independently remove and still look the part in? The answer was inside Melissa’s book.
Unlike most sewing books I’ve got my grubby hands on, this had some exciting surprises up its lycra sleeve. The first is that the book comes with blocks to work from, not ready to go patterns. This might scare you if you’re a beginner but don’t let it.
I started my active wear adventure by making two toile garments straight from the blocks, without any design modifications (but all my usual fit mods) and they turned out great. The basic blocks consist of loose and close fitting tops with sleeve variations and loose and close fitting bottoms. (as seen above) There is also a hood pattern piece and (the thing I’ve wanted for ever on all my long sleeved tops) a thumb hole cuff pattern piece. So without even customizing you can make a variety of clothes to suit your lifestyle.
But things got really exciting when I started to follow the very clear and concise design modification projects provided in the book. The beginning of the book demystifies workout fabrics, the different hems, seams and machine stitches you may want to use but most interestingly it covers the concept of sport specific design considerations.
For me, the question was ‘how can I make my activewear more disabled friendly?’. I struggle to remove leggings. Something about those tight little buggers on my ankles makes me have to do the ‘stampy dance’ to remove them. So why not add some cool exposed zips? I also wear leggings in the swimming pool. Yep. You heard right. My condition gives me very thin skin meaning that shaving and waxing cause me to have ripped or cut skin that scars like baby Harry Potter after a meeting with Voldemort. Zoom in and you can just about see my leg hair making an appearance. Swim leggings mean I can be socially accepted in the pool. Wet leggings + zips = no stampy dance. WINNING!
When I am getting dressed I am forever putting leggings on the wrong way (I think this is a universal issue) so adding some a super bright and tactile coverstitching to the front inside seam not only looks the part but has a genuine purpose. Think I need this on all my clothes, to be honest.
Just look at that sexy sexy cover stitching. MMMMM. I am privileged enough to own a Janome coverstitch machine, but I have to admit that it’s taken me time to get used to it. I often opt to use a jersey twin needle on my sewing machine instead of lugging out the beast, but then I found out Sew Essential stock high-quality woolly nylon of dreams. It completely upped my sewing game. I used it for my overlocker in the upper looper and in my coverstitch’s looper (the very righthand spool) with normal threads reels for the other loopers/needles. I can confess to having another batch of colours on the way.
The leggings shown are Melissa’s ‘active leggings’ made from the close-fitting block and the top I made is the raglan tee created using the loose fitting block. Size wise I would suggest sizing down on the tight fitting block or doing a bit more grading than I did. My body is a twiddly thing and according to the finished measurements given I sat at the medium waist, large hip, small knee and extra small ankle, but my leggings ended up being a little bit baggy around the back of my knees and ankles. The top I sized down to a medium and she is perfect.
The raglan top has instructions to add a hidden pocket but as my leggings have FOUR super awesome panel pockets I decided I had enough. Melissa’s book shows you how to design your pockets to fit your desired items so I went with my phone (because Instagram and music) and my bank card (for fabric buying on the move). I know my priorities.
Talking about fabric, all the material and zips are active wear approved beauties from Stoff and Stil sports and leisure section. The brush stroke fabric is so pleasing to touch and feels like a second skin. I’m considering buying some more to make a work dress. Good for all those proposal meetings where I break out into a sweat. I found that the quality of the fabrics made a massive difference to the garment (surprise surprise) so consider this when you get the activewear bug. Also, they do a great collection of plastic chunky zips in varies colours and lengths.
This post has made me both tearful and super proud of myself. I ticked a collection of ‘I have never’ boxes making these two garments and one of the biggest is wearing such tight clothing since my body changed. Although I can’t pull the moves of the cover girl or win any marathons, to me I’ve beat my personal best. And in the end, isn’t that a major win?
Book provided free for me to review. I want to thank Stoff and Stil for sponsoring this post by providing the fabric and zips. Another big thank you to Sew Essential for providing the threads for me to test out. Your support is very much appreicated.
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