Sadly, when I wear any off the rack pants, I look like I’m waiting for a flood. I have to buy jeans in “long”, which is English for “more expensive than regular pants.” I’m a girl who loves a sale! Straight to the clearance rack for this one, except for pants. I have to tell myself they won’t EVER fit, even if they are just $11.99. I hope to one day venture into the world of jeans-making, but until then, I wanted to make a pair of yoga pants that I could actually wear in public without hearing that wonderful Martin Lawrence joke “Hey, you need to pull your shoes up!”
I figured that since I cant find any athletic pants in a long for any less than $50.00, I may as well make a pair that fits perfectly, and in a fabric I love. I knew I wanted a fold-over waistband and while shopping for fabric, it struck me how easy it would be to make a matching sports bra. I got enough black fabric for two pairs of pants and two different fabrics for tops. I made the first pair of pants a few months ago- a wide leg version, and I just finished the first sports bra. This post has pictures of the pants, but is really a tutorial for how to make your own sports bra. There a ton of blog posts out there on making yoga pants, but not many on a sports bra. And why not? They are very little fabric, and, therefore, pretty economical to make. You can make it to fit you perfectly, and you can cute-en your pattern up however you want. I kept mine pretty simple, but now that I’ve got a working pattern and have sewn one, I think making another one-even with a more complex pattern- will be pretty simple.
Step one: Gather some sports bras that fit you well.
Step 2 : Pick one and fold it in half to make a pattern of the front piece and the back piece. I like to use Kraft paper, which is thick and holds up well. You can also use rolls of kids paper, the back of wrapping paper, tissue paper, or even printer paper for a project this small. Use a Dressmaker’s tape to measure how long the binding and the straps are. This doesn’t have to be perfect. I cut a few inches more than I thought I needed for binding, just to have some extra to work with. For the neckline binding, I cut 2″ X 7″ and for the back and arm hole binding and straps, I cut a strip of 2″ wide fabric 60″ long, which gave me enough to add an extra strap. (I love asymmetry!)
Step 3: With a clear quilting ruler, add seam allowance. (I use 1/2 in.)
Step 4: Use the new pattern pieces to cut the fabric out. I used a double layer for the front and the back. You could get away with using two layers for the front and only one for the back, as well. A bit more top-heavy and looking for a lot of support? Go ahead and cut three layers. Make sure you’re using a performance knit that has good recovery after being stretched and is thick enough that it won’t be transparent at all. You don’t need that kind of attention at the gym!
Step 5: Sew the side seams of both layers. I used a hand stitch, but you can use a narrow zig-zag stich on your machine or overlock it if you have a serger.
I believe I’ll use my serger on the next set I do, but I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could make durable work-out gear using a hand stitch, because I haven’t seen any of that being done. (I gotta tell ya, if you would’ve told me a few years ago that it was even possible to hand stitch knit pants that would stay together, I would have said nay! But I’ve been wearing and washing these for the past few months, and they’re holding up great.)
Step 6: Top stitch the seam. (This step isn’t necessary if you are sewing by machine, but it would still be beneficial, and I like the look.)
Step 7: Stitch the bottom seam. I didn’t use a running stitch on this, since I needed optimum stretch. I did a hand version of a zigzag stitch which resulted in horizontal rows on one side and two lines of vertical stitching on the other.
Step 8: Sew a line 3/4″ above the hem, leaving an opening big enough to insert elastic. This will be your casing. I did use a running stitch on this one, just making sure I kept stretching the fabric as I went to keep it loose enough that it wouldn’t break when I put it on. Cut a piece of 1/2″ elastic to fit around your rib cage, where the bottom of the bra will sit. Using a safety pin, insert the elastic into the casing.
Step 9: Sew the ends of the elastic together and sew the opening in the casing. I tried it on at this point and decided I wanted the bulk of the gathering to go in the back, so I shifted the fabric toward the back, smoothing out the front casing to the side seams, and pinned at the sides. I stitched a vertical line through both side seams to keep the gathers from shifting to the front and also to keep the elastic from twisting. (Don’t you just HATE that?)
Step 10: Run a basting stitch through the top to join the layers. This will make sewing the binding on SO much easier!
Step 11: Fold the neck binding in half and iron. Fold each side into the middle line and iron. Open the binding up and put the neckline into it, pinning as you go. Binding is supposed to keep the shape of the garment, so it needs to be stretched a liitle as you attach it. If not, you’ll end up with a neckline that droops. Sew the binding on and trim any excess.
Step 12: Iron the long piece of binding the same way and put pins in it as you go; this will keep it from unfolding. Attach it to the bra, centering the middle of the binding strip at the center back of the garment.
Step 13: (You can skip this step if sewing by machine.) Hand-baste the binding to the top, continuing to baste the straps.
Step 14: Try the bra on to check for proper placement of the straps. You can decide whether you like them straight up and down, criss-crossed, asymmetric, or whether you like to make your hand look like a little ducky in the mirror behind you, which is apparently what I’m doing in this picture! 🙂
Once you know how long you need the straps to be, cut them if necessary, tuck the ends inside and sew the ends closed.
Step 15: If you’re sewing by hand, stitch the straps and binding in place at this point. Remove the gathering stitch.
Sew the Straps in place and sew in your tag in if you’re using one. (See my post below on how to make your own tags using bias tape and puffy glue.)
Side note: Why do I have a tank top on my dress form? I want fit to be very accurate, so I keep a bra of mine on the form. I stuffed it with old fabric scraps so it would keep its shape and I keep the tank top over it to be able to drape on the form smoothly, without getting fabric and pins hung up on the bra. This makes a world of difference, and I highly recommend it!
Decorative Stitching at Hem of Pants
The moral of this story? If the shoe fits, wear it. And if the pants don’t, make some!!