Some of the testers are on to me. They've clued in that when Sherri says "no" she's really taking the time to mull it over till the time is right. IF the time is right, I tend to cave. I said no every time someone asked me if the Tamarack tights would be moved into the junior miss size chart. And I meant it, actually. I didn't think I could do it, to be honest, and yet here we are and I feel like our first foray into junior miss tights is making me feel more confident. I need to remember these moments are part of a journey and what overwhelms me today may not be so intimidating in a year or so. Timing really is everything. But anyway, this wasn't supposed to be an inspirational post.
What this WILL be is a pretty informational post. I've included sewing tips for starting out with activewear sewing, 4 potential fit adjustments for you to consider for your own tights - any tights - and I've given a pretty lengthy list of fabric info on athletic knits I tried for this pattern and the shops I bought them from. Mostly Canadian - cuz that's what I can afford with this exchange rate - and one American shop that lured me in with a fabulous floral print and so I made sure to make my shipping worthwhile by adding some AK (athletic knit).
Miss Tamarack! What does it have?? Exactly everything that the girls' size range has. Nothing more. Nothing less.
- two waistband heights
- long-cropped length (also known as 7/8 length) or shorts
- optional upper leg piecing
- 1 or 2 piece ankle piecing
Our junior miss patterns are drafted for a 5'5" height and the inseam for our patterns is 30 1/2" from crotch to floor. This is a pretty tricky thing to measure by yourself, but I found a way to make this work. You need a measuring tape and something flat like a cutting ruler.
Place the measuring tape under the ruler (or whatever similar object you can find) and position the tape so the 10" or 10 cm is exactly at the edge of the ruler. Stand on the ruler to hold that tape in place and measure up your inseam. Subtract 10 from your final measurement and you're set! Easy, right?
GETTING THE BEST FIT
When it comes to fit, as usual, we aimed to find the best happy medium between the various body types to get a solid starting point, but you find out quickly when sewing that pretty much all garments need some amount of personal adjustments whether you need to adjust for length/height or perhaps your bottom is higher, lower, rounder, flatter.... you get what I mean. I've included some tips for fit adjustments in the tutorial. Specifically for how to blend sizes between waist, hip, and thigh. But I wanted to add this link for further tips. This link is shared with permission from Closet Core Patterns and it's very easily my favourite go-to blog for pant fitting tips. Now, this is written with jeans in mind, but I think it's worth a look and at the very least, it may trigger some useful thoughts for your own best fit.
I'm going to highlight 4 fit adjustments that a few of our testers needed to make for themselves and I'm sure this is going to help some of you as well.
First up is all about the importance of blending the correct sizes down the leg. (Note that this was a very early muslin and some of what you're seeing was addressed in the pattern already.) This pair was made using the hip size all the way down the leg. What you immediately see on the left is a lot of loose fabric starting right under the bum and through the knee. This continued right to the ankle. On the right you see the results of making some size blending choices.
In this case the sizes changed from hip to thigh to knee to calf to ankle. Yup, we weren't all created exactly to the numbers on a chart! Lucky for us, we know how to sew and can make some changes. We followed the instructions in the tutorial and slimmed out the leg to correct the sizes and immediately it's a better look.
Second point is pretty much the same thing as what we just looked at, but focusing in on ankles and you can see the difference it makes to adjust for size differences. This is an example of an ankle size that is 5 sizes smaller than the calf.
You might also have some bigger calves blending down to smaller ankles. While making sure to have room in the calf area, we need to also make sure to blend down to a nice fit around the ankle so our leggings are best tailored for us. In the picture below you can see how I layered my 2 ankle pattern pieces and then trimmed the sides down as if they were one piece. I went from calf size at the top to ankle size at the bottom. Think about how your own calf or the calf you're sewing for is shaped and consider where along that length you'll want to start curving the line. Just keep those lines smooth without any sharp curves. And I'd recommend doing any height adjustments BEFORE these width adjustments.
Third adjustment that we have for you is this sly little smile happening here.... awkward place to smile. When you walk past someone and they smile back at you, you want it to be because you were smiling with your face only!!! A-hem. So this situation was easily fixed by scooping out a bit more fabric on the deepest part of the front crotch curve. By removing that extra fabric it allowed the crotch area to lay smooth and prevented it from trying to tuck in there.
Now, there was one other scenario/fix for this smile issue that you might want to consider. In this case, the tester actually had a thigh size that was one size bigger than her hip. She sewed up a second pair and followed the tutorial instructions by extending her back crotch point out to her bigger thigh size and blending down from there. In that pair - no sly smiles! Except on her face.
Fourth and last adjustment for today is front rise. So here you can see that her fabric was settling and pooling a bit in the front giving a lot of extra lines across the front. She didn't want to lose the height for the back so she scooped some extra fabric away from the front and ending at the sides and gone are the lines!
All of these adjustments are easily done and are part of the process to finding the right fit for the body you're sewing for. It's worth the time to make these tweaks and then you have a pattern you can make again and again. And you'll want to because making leggings is addictive.
I asked our testers for tips in sewing athletic wear/fabric. Things they would tell a friend who was trying their hand at this particular area of sewing. Here's a bit of a list on what they said.
- Don't skip the elastic! It can keep waistbands from rolling and really helps to keep that waistband in place. (I'll concur since I ended up removing a waistband just to get in there and add the elastic after all.)
- Line the waistband with a power mesh to give more structure to the band. You might not want to have the elastic AND the power mesh though.
- Don't sew with too long of a zig-zag stitch. You need that stitch to be able to stretch out as far as your fabric does.
- Reinforce your crotch seams. These - especially the back - get a lot of strain and you don't want those seams busting open.
- Make a pair of plain shorts first to perfect the crotch curves for whomever is wearing them.
- Adjust the leg length by using the lengthen/shorten lines so the leg shaping still hits your knees/calf properly.
- When using a serger, make sure your left needle has a matching thread colour to your fabric.
Sewing machine/serger tension is pretty important when making activewear. I learned this fast when I tried pulling on a new pair of Tamaracks and heard all sorts of popping stitches. See, my hips are 2 sizes bigger than my waist which means my waistband has to work a little hard to get up and over. The higher waistband is even a bit smaller in width than the low waistline so that one needs to work even harder. So I went out to my wise testers and asked them what they do. This is what they shared with me.
Before sewing a new pair of tights, grab a scrap of your fabric and test out your stitch tension. You don't want your stitches to be limiting the fabric stretch capability. Sew a line at least 5" or 10 cm long and pull your fabric to see if the stitches pop. If they pop and you're using a sewing machine, try widening your zigzag and shortening your stitch length which should allow more stretch. If they pop and you're using a serger, try lengthening your stitches and give it another go. One tester mentioned that for the waistband she loosens the needle tension a bit on her serger. This is not something you want to do for the other seams (you'll start seeing the stitches from the negative ease pull on vertical seams), but could be something to test on the waist band. Some testers try adjusting their machine differential but did say they found they didn't need to adjust that by much. Just play around with your stitch settings and keep pulling on that fabric scrap until you find what works. For me, I was able to stop the popping by using a little bit of all three options: stitch lengthened, differential adjusted just a teensy, and needle tension loosened very slightly.
One serger tension issue (AKA "annoyance") with sewing activewear is that you need the stitches to have the ability to really stretch, but in order to get that, the tension is a bit looser and stitches start showing at the seams. I don't know if this something that is worse with certain sergers, but there seems to be a very fine line between high tension/popping stitches and low tension/visible stitches. The back seam on my bum and my calf area are always looking stretched to the max after I've worn a pair of tights more than a few times. To the point I can see my stitches all along those areas with the most stress. These are the areas that MY tights have to work the hardest. Yours might be different. So one thing I choose to do (sometimes - not every time) is to go back over the stitches on those areas with a stretch stitch on my sewing machine. It gives extra strength to those seams in a way that my serger can not. Reinforcing seams using a cover stitch is also a great option if you have it.
Fabric for this pattern.... it's drafted primarily for athletic knit fabrics and if you're new to athletic knits you should know that there are quite a few different ones out there! Some have a lot of compression and you might want to size up for those types. Some feel a lot looser and you might want to size down for those. There's an element of experimentation that should be expected when learning about your favourite athletic knits. The Tamaracks were drafted to the best of our ability to fit squarely between those 2 extremes for the most comfortable fit with the most AK types.
I've put together a rough collage of the different types of athletic knits I've tried. I am NOT a fabric expert. I don't know the science and intricacies of different blends. I just know that some feel different, stretch different, compress different, need different sizing.... I know enough to know that I can't just order "athletic knit"and assume it'll be exactly like the other stuff I had before. But I wanted to give you my take on these knits I tried. These are mostly Canadian stores because, well, shipping from anywhere else sucks AND our Canadian options are pretty dang phenomenal and I really don't need to go elsewhere! Also, these are not in order of preference.
1 - For this one I'm going to focus on the stripes and coral which are the "Butter Athletic" from Halo Fabric Addicts. This is a new company for me but after watching some videos on the FB page I was impressed by the level of knowledge about the fabrics they sell. My impression of this fabric was really good and thank goodness because it was also the most expensive of all the ones I tried. It's not thin and feels compressive though not extremely so. Of all my fabrics tried, this one is the most "slippery" or smooth feeling and I noticed that this pair feels strangely longer on me than all my other pairs. I have a bit extra fabric behind my knees on this one. (I did remove some pattern length since making this pair.) After talking with a few testers that have also used the Butter, I think it's safe to say that we love the quality and feel of this fabric and it's high on our list of choices. That said, I'm going to consider 2 things for my next pair. I'm going to use something a bit less slippery for the waist lining so it doesn't need tugging up as often. And I'm going to baste them in to a smaller size from the hip down and see if that helps hold it all in place. I might even remove some extra length, but that might come for pair #3 after I see what the first changes do. I'd put this as #3 on my personal preferences.
2 - The two fabrics I'll comment on for this pair are the print and the white piece. The colourful fabric is a custom Yoga base from Fabric Hens. Another new to me company and I really do love supporting fellow Canadian companies. I would say this is pretty typical of custom athletic knits. They are a touch slippery feeling and there is a bit of a "white out" factor when stretched to the max. You can see I very purposefully positioned the pattern so the light fabric was across the bottom. This way the white out isn't noticeable. I've never seen her underwear shining through as she wears this around the house, but she's also not bent way over a lot. LOL The white is a fleece-backed polyester spandex from Watertower Textiles. I have this is about 4 colours and I used it for skating tights for my girls. Of all the fabrics on this list, this was the least compressive. Very comfy, very soft, but I would probably size down for this fabric for myself. My girls don't really love compressive stuff so they were happy with this in their true size.
3 - This pair is all Luxesoft Athletic Knit from Sitka Fabrics. This is a tried and true Canadian fabric store that we go back to again and again. They don't do custom fabrics, which is a bit different from a lot of shops these days, but they search out amazing quality fabrics and I would recommend them every day of the week. This fabric is hands down my favourite of the bunch. Mid-range in price, amazing in softness, excellent compression (meaning it's my favourite type of compression - NOT that it's the highest compression). The only downside to this fabric is that it doesn't come in more colours, but the ones they have are all great. I've got the dark grey now ready for another pair of Tamaracks.
4 - This is a custom AK from Blended Thread Fabrics. This store is almost entirely custom fabrics. Every round has something that makes me want to order. I've only used these for my girls so I can't say how they feel to wear, but this fabric was one of the thinner fabrics from my collection here. As per usual with the customs, the white-out is definitely something to consider for any darker colours and you can see I chose a fabric that gave me the option to place a light section across the bum. Now, it's important to note that this was ordered before they switched to printing "against the grain". At this point, the designs are printed at a 90 degree turn because the vertical stretch has less of a white-out issue and still plenty of stretch. Personally, I still wouldn't choose a dark solid. I will continue to choose busy patterns or lighter prints so that the white-out isn't so obvious. I'll also consider if I'm going to wear them with a longer shirt where that won't even be seen. But that's me.
5 - This pair is 3 colours from the Flex AK sold by The Fabric Snob. This is another go-to shop for us. The selection is fabulous and the prices are great. Another one I'd recommend highly. I really liked the Flex selection for a good variety of colours and the price was one of the lowest. I'll order more freely for that reason for sure. The compression was on the higher end and I feel properly held together in this pair. Downside for this one was that of all the fabrics, this one has the roughest texture. It doesn't slip around at ALL, but it's also not something I want to pet.
6 - Another custom AK and this is from an American shop called Styled Magnolia. They have a pretty fabulous selection of prints that make you want to do jumping jacks just looking at them. They're so workout appropriate, in my opinion. This is another new to me spot to order and with the horrible exchange rate right now, you KNOW I must've really loved something to actually jump in and buy. This one was slightly thicker in feel compared to the other customs I've tried and has some of that slippery feel. The compression is really good. Not the most extreme I've felt, but on the higher end. You can see I ordered with the white-out factor in mind. Lighter and busier distracts from the white-out. I've layered a mesh over the top section in case you're wondering what that is.
7 - Last in line, we have the Yoga Stretch from Discovery Fabrics. This company appears to be very well known for high quality and high knowledge of activewear fabrics in general. They have fabrics that are comparable to big names like Lulu and apparently even get roll ends FROM Lulu though I can't say if that's actually true. That's a rumour that I'm fairly sure I trust. I would happily put this on the top of my list right behind the Sitka Luxesoft and only because this is a bit rougher in texture. The compression is super comfortable. I feel very well supported without feeling squeezed. I tried a waistband without the clear elastic and I went back in and added it so maybe keep that in mind. This is another option with a lower price point. The shipping was a bit higher than other places, but the quality is worth the buy. The colour selection was great as well.
I don't have pictures, but I will add that I've tried 2 other bases from Discovery. The solar stretch and the mid-weight scuba. The solar stretch is very similar in feel to the yoga stretch. I can't really tell a difference in feel at all. The mid-weight scuba I wanted to mention because of all the fabrics I've personally tried, this one is by far the most compressive. To the point of maybe wanting to size up. Depending on what you're wearing it for - actual exercise or just leisure. This one also has a very smooth texture like the Butter or the customs, but is thicker and compressive enough that I don't think it could slip if it wanted. I most definitely felt squeezed in and supported in this one!
That was a lot of info but I hope it was helpful. A well-fitting pair of tights just feel so good and is such a good item to have in your wardrobe whether it's for working out, lounging around, or layering for cold temps. Tamaracks can be any of those and my closet says I have room for more. Which is great because I've also got a growing collection of Clovers and Tundras to go with them. Did you see which testers also used those patterns to complete their looks?
Before I go, I'm going to mention that both Sofiona size ranges of the Tamaracks are available together for a bigger savings in the Tamarack Bundle. I leave you with some pics of both size charts being enjoyed together.
We always hope you enjoy our patterns and we get real joy out of seeing your versions. Use the hashtags #sofionadesigns #sofitamarack #tamarackinthewild #sofijuniormiss when sharing on FB or IG and hopefully we'll see your work. Adios and happy sewing!