Sunday, 3 March 2019

Sewing Activewear on the Brother Innov-is F420

If, like me, you're attempting to get back into or perhaps start a regular exercise routine this year you might be intrigued by the idea of sewing your own activewear. Once you've got the hang of sewing knits there's nothing to stop you doing so. It can be a lot of fun working with fabrics and techniques you might not need for sewing everyday clothing and you don't even need an overlocker. I've sewn a fair bit of it in the past but desperately needed some warmer running leggings to encourage me to get out there on cold winter mornings.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sewaholic Pacific Leggings sewn in merino from The Fabric Store on the Brother Innov-is F420

I resorted to an old favourite pattern to make these; the Pacific Leggings from Sewaholic. I have about three pairs of these that have been going strong for a couple of years. I love the seam lines and the shape of the waistband sits really comfortably plus they have the practical bonus of a zip pocket at the rear. My other pairs are great for summer running and carry me through into slightly chillier weather but I needed a pair for frosty mornings so chose this lovely thick merino blend double faced fabric in black from The Fabric Store.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sewaholic Pacific Leggings sewn in merino from The Fabric Store on the Brother Innov-is F420

These leggings were one of the first projects I tackled on my new Brother Innov-is F420 machine and it was a great way to get to grips with the stretch stitches it offers. I've always sewn knit fabrics on a regular machine before finishing seam allowances with my overlocker as I like the aesthetic of the overlocked stitches but find my sewing more accurate on the regular machine. It was a real treat to have a plethora of stretch stitch options to choose from rather than just a shorter/longer, wider/narrower zig zag! I tested out a variety on scraps of my fabric before I began and chose to use a combination of stitches throughout the project.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sewaholic Pacific Leggings sewn in merino from The Fabric Store on the Brother Innov-is F420

I used the no.16 overcasting stitch on seams which could be finished together, such as the inside and outside leg seams. After testing all this stitches this one appeared to have the greatest amount of stretch in the stitch and responded well to being stretched around the leg and also along the seam as the leggings are pulled on. What I particularly love about this option is the stitching is not visible from the right side. With a zig zag, particularly a wide one, the gaps between stitches can look quite obvious when the seam is stretched out but this has a completely smooth finish like a straight stitch or what you might expect from an overlocked seam.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sewaholic Pacific Leggings sewn in merino from The Fabric Store on the Brother Innov-is F420

The seams to construct the waistband and zip pocket need to be pressed open to reduce bulk and for these seams I chose the no.7 triple straight stitch. This stitch looks like a thick straight stitch but is created by the needle going back and forth sewing three straight stitches next to each other. This back and forth motion gives the stitch some stretch in the same manner as a zig zag. It isn't super stretchy but perfect for these shorter seams which need some give and a lot of strength. The final stitch I used was the no.12 three step zig zag stitch to attach the elastic. The manual that came with the machine handily lists all the stitches and the purposes they are best suited to and recommend this stitch for the job.

I love that the machine picks the optimum stitch width and length automatically for each stitch but you can still adjust them if you want. When you do change the automatic settings it is easy to remember what these originally were if you want to go back as these are highlighted with a dark box on the screen as you scroll through the options.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sewaholic Pacific Leggings sewn in merino from The Fabric Store on the Brother Innov-is F420

One thing I will say about sewing with stretch stitches on the Innov-is F420 is that it has taken me a little while to get used to which stitches the seam allowance guide on the needle plates is accurate for. They are correct to follow when the needle is in the left hand position but if you move it to the centre or use one of the zig zag or decorative stitches this won't be an accurate guide anymore. The other thing to get used to is which stitches sew a backstitch and which stitches sew a reinforcing stitch on the spot when you press the reverse button. I've been carefully testing each stitch on a scrap and checking this and the seam allowance before I begin! Now I'm finding my favourite stitches and using them regularly I'm getting used to it. I've used pretty much only one machine for the last 7 years but the motions of using this new machine have become instinctive and automatic surprisingly quickly!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sewaholic Pacific Leggings sewn in merino from The Fabric Store on the Brother Innov-is F420

This merino is quite a thick fabric with a surprising amount of stretch but resilient recovery so I'm looking forward to working with some fine and drapey knits to see how the machine and stitch selection handles those. This particular fabric has a nylon underside so combined with the breathability of merino is a great choice for sports clothing. The dense structure and spongy quality makes it completely opaque even when stretched and it has proved to be a great choice for a supportive pair of work out leggings. You could technically use either side of the fabric as the right side but I used the smooth, nylon side as the wrong side as it felt nicer against the skin. Also this side gets a bit of a shine to it when stretched and I prefer a matte look on the exterior of my activewear. The pure merino side has more of a texture with an interesting almost slubby finish.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sewaholic Pacific Leggings sewn in merino from The Fabric Store on the Brother Innov-is F420

I used Maderia Aeroflock thread (similar to woolly nylon) in the bobbin to aid stretch in the seams. I've found my knit seams to be so much stronger since I've started using this thread, particularly helpful with close fitting activewear which sees a lot of strenuous use and washing. No popped seams on these yet! I find it works best when used in the bobbin for twin needle top-stitching. Which by the way this machine does a treat! For once I had no problems with tension and the detachable horizontal spool holder makes setting it up quick and easy. You actually select the twin needle function on the screen to do it which is great as the machine reminds you when you are not set up correctly to move on.

The success of this project and addition to my activewear wardrobe has certainly encouraged me to run a bit more. Although I must admit the desire to need and therefore be able to sew more activewear is what is motivating me the most! 

9 comments:

  1. These look really professional! I love the contrast red zip.

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    1. Thanks! It was a bit of a happy accident as the only zip I had in my stash of the right length but now I'm really enjoying that fact that they aren't plain black!

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  2. brilliant legging! Brilliant tip on the Maderia thread, I 'm going to order some today :D)

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    1. The maderia thread has completely changed my knit sewing experience, no more popped seams on close fitting clothing like these! I hope you like it as much as I do

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  3. They look brilliant, how are you finding the seams when wearing them? My concern ha been that my shop bought sports leggings have a seam so completely flat it is almost invisible.

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    1. Thank you! They are really comfortable. I was worried about seams rubbing when I first sewed my own activewear but I've been wearing verisons of these Pacific Leggings to run in for more than three years now and have never had any problems, even over half marathon distance! I think fabric choice helps but perhaps the placement of the seams on these leggings is good? I know Melissa from Fehr Trade has a pattern for activewear leggings that have no inside seam for comfort so you might want to take a look at those!

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  4. I've just taken delivery of the same sewing machine today and am glad to read you're pleased with yours. My old machine (a Singer) wasn't fantastic with knits and I had lots of problems with twin-needle sewing so I'm hoping for better results with the Brother!

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    1. Hooray! I hope you enjoy it as much as I have been enjoying mine
      Twin needles can be a bit tricky but this machine has a special function for it so hopefully you will be problem free!

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  5. Your leggings look fab! I read this article with interest as have recently got the same machine. Feel I definitely need to explore more with the stretch stitches on it- have stuck with my trusty zig zag at present!. I’ve found this to stretch out knit fabrics a bit more than on my old machine actually, so hopefully I can find a stitch that doesn’t (although recently sewed my first knit hem to use stretch interfacing which was a game changer!!). Good tip re: the thread, I’ll definitely have to try that out. Out of interest what setting do you use for twin needle? Thanks!

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I love hearing from readers of my blog so please feel free to leave a comment letting me know what you thought about this post/make! Any hints or tips to improve my sewing are always much appreciated too!