I recently decided to audit my workout gear. My activewear drawer had been packed full, but when I got rid of the things that didn’t fit, were damaged or just plain ugly, there wasn’t much left. The worst category was bottoms that could be used in a gym workout.
I was off to a good start with my Girl Power Shorts, but I also wanted to put together a long tight with some compression and at least one pocket. I landed on Greenstyle Creations’ Stride Athletic Tights PDF pattern. The pattern offers options for high and medium rise waistbands, different lengths, with or without pockets, and with or without a crotch gusset. For my first pair, I chose the long length, pockets (always!), medium rise, and gusset.
TIP: Use a gusset if you are planning on wearing your tights for yoga or activities that require a degree of contortion. You can leave it out if you are just going to use them for walking or running.
I had a piece of really nice medium weight black poly/lycra calling out from my stash. The deep solid black was the perfect base for decorative stitching.
Flatlocking is a seam technique where the fabric pieces are joined at the raw edges with a covering stitch. It’s particularly useful for thicker fabrics since there is no double thickness at the seams. It’s also great for activewear because the inside of the garment is smoother, reducing the possibility of chafing.
When considering a flatlock technique, you need to think about how the seam lines will affect the appearance of the garment. You will be stitching a stripe between all of the fabric pieces where they are joined. You can downplay the stripes by choosing a matching, or slightly darker thread. I thought it would be fun to play with it though, keeping the fabric simple and making the seam stripes the focal point.
I tested various types of thread, seam widths and stitch lengths. I tried wooly nylon, rayon embroidery thread and polyester embroidery thread. I liked the shine of both of the embroidery threads and chose the poly just because I liked the color better. I preferred the narrower 4mm flatlock with the “Seaglass” polyester embroidery thread.*
*Note: This was not a great choice… keep reading.
My next step was to make a plan for which seams I wanted to highlight and which I wanted to disappear into the background. I wanted to hide the gusset, inside leg seams, pockets and hem. My regular black serger thread worked well for this purpose.
Sewing a flatlock seam is really easy. You simply set up your serger for a 2 or 3 thread overlock with the knife down. (For most of my seams, I chose to do a 3-thread version for durability). Thread the needle with the thread for the underside of the seam. Thread the lower looper with the thread you want to show on top. Adjust the spacing so that the overlock extends slightly past the cut edge of the fabric. Stitch the seam as usual, right sides together. When you have chained off and taken your piece out of the machine, gently pull the two pieces apart and flatten. If your tension is right, you will have a nice, flat seam joining the two.
The PDF pattern includes easy to follow instructions, so putting the tights together went smoothly.
Since I was featuring flatlock seaming, I hemmed the pockets using black thread and a 2-thread decorative flatlock. I’ve seen this in ready to wear, but never tried to do it. The process is not difficult. Press the hem in place as usual, then fold over once more. With the knife down, stitch a two-thread overlock over the outside (or top) edge of the fold. When it is done and smoothed flat, the front has a decorative flatlock stripe while the back’s ladder stitches hold the hem in place. Neat!
I like that Clear elastic is used inside the waistband to add a flexible, invisible bit of structure.
I didn’t like pinning those curved seams!
I sewed my label inside the hidden pocket – no chafing! Also – hey, hidden pocket!
I had intended to do a coverstitch hem, then I realized that it would be impossible to work with the small diameter opening on a machine with no free arm. I ended up zig-zagging the hem on my regular machine.
Full disclosure: I messed up one of the decorative seams. It was close to the bottom of one leg, and could not be fixed. So I cut the ends off of the legs, saving as much as I could. My tights are capri length instead of long. Oh, well. We’ll just keep that between us, okay?
So, what was wrong with the thread? No stretch. The first time I put on the tights and tried stretching, the seams pulled right out in the tighter areas! I was able to repair them, but there is no way that I will be using my tights for anything more athletic than housework. I’m keeping the pattern, though. With a few changes, this could still be a great staple piece.
Lessons learned for next time:
- Modify the pattern for roomier thighs
- Try the higher waistband
- Use a fabric with more stretch
- Use a thread with some stretch