Where to find activewear sewing supplies in the UK

When I first came across Greenstyle Creations patterns (you may have noticed they feature rather heavily on here…!) I was pretty new to sewing stretch fabric, nevermind activewear fabric. I knew that my local fabric shops didn’t stock much in the way of what I tended to lump under the umbrella of Lycra, so I headed online.

It was then that I discovered the choice of activewear fabric in the UK wasn’t a patch on what was available in the USA where Greenstyle Creations are based. It’s not really that surprising as we’re a much smaller marketplace here, but it was still pretty frustrating!

Luckily, I quickly found Funki Fabrics and since then I’ve been on a bit of a mission to source the best fabrics and notions I can to compliment Angie’s wonderful patterns. Over the last couple of years I’ve learnt more and I would say the supply has also improved. I’ve bought together a list of sources I’ve found useful that I hope will be of use to those of you based in the UK. It’s not exhaustive so do share your favourites in the comments – I love finding out about new shops!

I hope this is useful if you’re just starting out. Once you hit on your own favourite suppliers you’ll be in Greenstyle heaven! Happy Sewing!

Firstly, if you know your stuff please skip ahead, but if you’re new to stretchy fabric (especially buying it online) it’s worth knowing Lycra content can be a bit misleading. You can have two fabrics with the same EA% and very different stretch and recovery. The knit of the fabric is what tends to make the difference. Getting samples where possible is worthwhile. Funki Fabrics will send you five at a time for free and Tia Knight are pretty good at sending samples as well.

Sellers

I know everyone has their favourite stockists, but the following are the shops I’ve had the most positive experiences of:

Funki Fabrics
They have a great selection of plains, prints, foils, meshes – if it stretches they probably have it. Here are some very limited notes on their fabrics (they have loads more!):

Flexcite: This is the cheaper print base. It’s 190 g/m2, which is enough for leggings and great for the skirt parts of the Pace. I know others have used it for Super Gs, but I only use it for Inspires and Strides as it can go a tiny bit see through with the stretch needed for Super Gs.
Titan: The other, slightly more expensive, print base is 250 g/m2 and has just enough stretch for Super Gs. It is slightly compressive and specifically designed for exercising in.
Life Recycled: This also works for leggings, but only just has enough stretch for Super Gs.
Perform: Muscular compression and hard wearing, with a lovely matt finish. I really like this for any of the leggings and Pace undershorts. I was worried about overheating, but I found it’s actually quite effective at keeping you cool in hot weather.
Meryl: This almost has a Supplex-like feel to it, but is lighter than most Supplex I have come across. It’s heavy enough for leggings though and also makes great tops. I have a couple of Pacific Pullover tanks made from it and have used it for the Lacy hooded top. It’s super stretchy and is chlorine/oil resistant so would also be good for swimming costumes.
Chine: This is a bit lightweight for leggings in my view, but I do like heavier weight fabrics for bottoms. I have used it for pockets in Super Gs and it was fine. It also makes great tops and I’ve used it for Green Tees, Xpress Tanks and Lilles. I think it would work well for a Lacy as well.
Supplex: It seems like this isn’t quite the same as the ones mentioned in the GS Facebook group from Phee/Z&Q etc in the States. It’s got enough stretch for strides, but isn’t brilliantly opaque at full stretch.
Peach: This has quite good stretch and is not bad on the opaque front as well as feeling nice. I’ve not used it yet though as I had lots of others I wanted to get first.

Tia Knight (I believe this is the same company as Tissu)
In my personal experience and opinion, the fabric quality doesn’t tend to be quite up to that of Funki Fabrics and they don’t tend to have as much heavier weight fabric. For example, their standard Supplex is lightweight at 98 g/m2, although they sometimes have 200 g/m2 (not heavy, but heading that way).  However, for tops they can be great and often have really good deals! I love their Tactel (although it does vary in feel colour by colour) and have used some of that for the shorts and waistband for a Pace as well as for lots of tanks. Their customer service has also been good.

TFG Fabrics
Casey stocks some lovely fabrics and is increasing her activewear selection. As of Feb 2019 I know she has some activewear prints coming in and has a few plain swim basics. She also stocks a good range of French Terry if you fancy a cosy Pacific Pullover or Studio to Street! She is really suportive and has a Facebook group that is worth checking out.

Harvey Jacobs
Tigs runs a great shop (and brilliant Facebook group) and she stocks some activewear, although some of it is a bit more ‘swim’ like so isn’t quite as breathable. The descriptions are normally enough of a guide to give you a sense of which is which. I have the Ferns she’s got at the moment – I have made 2 pairs of Super Gs and a Stride/Super G mash up from it, colour blocked with black Perform from FF, as well as a Lille crop top and a Pace – safe to say, it works really well!

WeLoveSpandex
This is an Etsy shop where the team behind Burnt Soul (who make festival outfits) sell off their excess fabric. You can often find some great job lots and interesting custom prints. Shipping is normally pretty quick (although I am only about 15 miles away…!).

Fashion Formula
This is a custom printing site similar to Spoonflower. You don’t have to do your own design, there are lots of designs you can pick from and then pick your base. They will send a swatch pack out as well to get a sense of the fabrics.
I have used the Active Lycra and although it’s slightly lighter weight than I’d normally choose it works well. I used it for the fabric I used when making a set of Christmas-themed Strides for a race. You can get 15% off if you put my name (Lisa Thrower) in at checkout and then I get a 15% voucher as well. 

Reflective Fabrics
Stretch reflective fabrics? Surely not? Oh, yes! The stretch tends to be around 50%, but that’s enough for most things. I’ve used it for accents on Strides and Pacific Pullovers. I’ve also used the stretch mesh for side pockets on the Pacific Pullover and as a hacked insert on the pocket of the Super Gs.

Sewing Chest
You never quite know what you’re going to find here as they source a lot of overstock fabric and notions. Primarily, they focus on lingerie, but have a good sports wear section. I’ve had some great deals on Supplex and compression fabric and have also got some great casual tank fabrics. It’s worth plodding through the pages of ‘pieces’ as there can be some gems.

MyFabrics
This company is based in Germany, but the shipping is quick and not too expensive. They don’t always have a massive selection of activewear fabric, but if you search by use you can filter for sport, swim etc. you’ll find some. They also sell French Terry and they also sell jersey bias binding, which I’ve not seen in many places.

Thread

Using woolly nylon in loopers was a great improvement for me; I don’t think I’ve had a popped seam since. My local shop sells Fujix Woolly Lock, which is lovely, but pricey. I’ve found it on Amazon a bit cheaper, but it comes direct from Japan so not a quick order (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fujix-black-woolly-sewing-thread/dp/B004WM56GU/). I also use Shan Woolly Nylon, which you can buy on Amazon (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Shan-Fashion-Colour-trends-overlocker/dp/B00ICVLCII/) or from the same people directly at https://c9store.co.uk/ They do multipacks on Amazon. It’s great for colour matching fun colours and prints and is nice to work with. For the needles I mostly use Coats Moon polyester overlocker thread, which I can get at my local market, but I also have bigger cones of black The cones are no longer stocked where I got them, but William Gee stock 5000 yard cones.

Elastic

Clear: I would avoid hemline (seems to be in most shops) and go for Vilene, which I get from William Gee – I get 5 packs at a time as I use so much.
Standard woven elastic: William Gee stock Prymm soft waistband elastic and I tend to go to Amazon for most of the rest.
Swim: Trying to find 1” Swim elastic is a bit of a unicorn hunt, but it occasionally comes up on Amazon. Alternatively, Fabric Land do 20mm swim elastic, which is fairly close.
Fold Over Elastic (FOE): As someone who is a bit too lazy for proper binding, I love FOE for Lilles in particular! Generally, this isn’t hard to find, but Sewing Chest normally have a good selection.

Zips

I doubt you struggle for zips, but thought I’d mention that I’ve got good deals from both https://c9store.co.uk/ and William Gee. Pennine Outdoor do good zips for more technical versions of the Sundance and Etsy is a good source for fancy colours and styles.

Powermesh/Foam

Sewing Chest has power mesh and alternatives for the Power Bra and foam for the Endurance (and I’ve used her for FOE before as well).

Another good bra notions supplier is https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/thebrashop. I have had foam and hooks from there (superfast delivery)

Evening Event

Wearing clothes that really fit when exercising makes such a difference! Comfort and confidence are so important when you want to focus on enjoying yourself and working on that perfect form. There are great brands out there, but we’re all different and if you don’t happen to fit into one size band at all measurement points the fit won’t be as ideal as you might like.

I started sewing a few years ago and got hooked on sewing my own running kit about 2 years ago. Since then, I’ve also made exercise clothes for friends and have built up a good set of patterns that work well for people of all shapes and sizes. I have also developed a bit of a fabric buying habit and now have a good range of material for different items/occasions.

Come along to try on some samples, see the fabric available in person, catch up with friends and meet new people, with absolutely no pressure to order anything!

Leggings, shorts, skorts, vests, t-shirts, hoodies and jackets are all available and I’m always up for having a go at turning your own ideas into reality. The samples will be women’s sizes, but I also have patterns designed for children and men so please ask if you have any requests. The samples will be available to buy on the night if you find something you like.

Myony has kindly offered us The Studio Gym, www.thestudio-bath.com , for the evening. When you sign up you’ll get more details on where to go!

If you plan to come along please fill in the RSVP form so I know how many people to expect (I will also send you an invite to the private facebook event so you can see what’s going on in more detail). If you know anyone else who would like to come please do share this page and if you have any questions just let me know.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Lisa x

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Evening Event Sign Up

Sewist’s Block…

….is a vast improvement on writer’s block 😉

I knew about drafting patterns from blocks – basic pattern pieces with an overall shape, but that can be adapted for lots of projects – but had never had a go myself. I’ve been a fan of pattern ‘mashing’ for a while, where I’ve taken bits of different patterns and bought them together to make something new. I’ve become a lot more confident at having a go at changing things and in the process have started to learn about how patterns are constructed.

Sew Your Owen Activewear by Melissa FehrThis made Melissa Fehr’s book Sew Your Own Activewear a great next step. I knew about Melissa from her Fehr Trade blog and pattern shop and briefly met her at the Great British Sewing Bee exhibition last year (very lovely she was too). I was really excited about the book coming out, but it arrived at a really busy time and I didn’t have the time (or nerve) to experiment. That changed this weekend when I decided I wanted to make a top to go with my new Greenstyle Pace (yes, another one!) and fancied a change from the Lille and Lille/Lacy mashups I’ve made of late. They are great, but I have a few!

I got stuck in with the Vest Top pattern, which uses a close fitting top block pattern as a base. Melissa guides you through the changes to make to turn this long sleeve tshirt into a colour-blocked, princess seamed, funky-backed racing vest. The instructions are easy to follow and I soon had a finished vest. Unfortunately, I hadn’t taken the time to make a muslin of the block pattern first so my on the fly adjustments were slightly off. I added some extras to try and make it look like a layered top and cover my mistakes and although it’s wearable, it may not often make my pick list – ah well.

It was the doing that was the best bit and it gave me an idea for a slightly different version. I decided to keep it really simple and just use the princess seams and make it slightly less form fitting. I know lots of people who don’t want things to cling too much so I kept it fitted, but without so much negative ease (where the flat measurements of the garment are smaller than your body measurements so the garment has to stretch to go around you and is tight).

 

The final version isn’t perfect, but I wore it for my race yesterday and it was comfortable and feels like something people might like. I’ve adjusted the pattern a bit more for next time and had a few more ideas for other design options. I have a feeling I am going to have a lot of fun with this book 🙂

Super Gs for the summer

A common complaint among the runners I know is that shorts are always too short! Chaffing is a problem for people of all sizes and for lots of us 5″ inseams aren’t long enough; meaning a long run can result in very sore inner thighs…

Of the skorts I’ve made, more than half have come with requests for longer shorts and 7-8″ seems to be the most popular inseam. It’s also a good length if you’re using the side pockets in the underskirt of the Pace skort as it means you can fit a smart phone in an be confident it won’t come out (priorities!).

I knew that a couple of friends were interested in shorts so I asked Jo if she fancied being a guinea pig for a shorts version of the Super G athletic tights. There’s not an official short cut length, but in the testing group a few people tried them out at different lengths so I thought they were a good shorts candidate. I went for view B (love the side pockets) and added in a waistband zipped pocket as well (using Sarah Connell’s  suggestion).

I used a super soft heather yoga knit from So Sew English, which also has 100% stretch both ways making it ideal for the Super Gs.

I think Jo looks amazing in them and fingers crossed that they’ll keep her comfy on plenty of her epic runs (tomorrow’s Cheddar Half Marathon being a short outing ? ).

Your Clothes...

If you’re looking for tips to create your own stretchy wardrobe for exercising (or just feeling comfy!) or if you’d like me to make something for you…