Sewing Adventures: Racer Back Singlet – Activewear edition

By Susan | Comments: 11 | September 9, 2015


So I’ve made my first piece of activewear. Honestly I never thought I would. I’m more than happy with the kit I already use and I know the high performance fabrics available within the industry are far superior to what is available for home sewing purposes. So why then did I make the leap into making my own?


panda fabric

I love Panda’s and when Spoonflower had free shipping on offer I ordered up some activewear fabric and some of their cotton (not yet made). The pandas are designed by Andrea Lauren. I thought the pandas would look cute and it also references one of my favourite cycling moments when Dan Martin was racing Leige Bastogne Leige 2013 and as he came into the final few hundred meters a fan dressed as a panda was chasing him down. It was hilarious to watch and quickly spawned the tag of #pandapower. It also had the incredibly cool effect of the team then partnering with the WWF to help bring the plight of endangered species to a bigger audience.

2013, Liege - Bastogne - Liege, Katusha 2013, Garmin - Sharp 2013, Rodriguez Oliver Joaquin, Martin Daniel, Ans

2013, Liege – Bastogne – Liege, Dan Martin from Garmin Sharp, chased by the panda before going on to win the race

Overall I was super excited to be getting activewear fabric with pandas, it seemed to combine many of my favourite things. Then the fabrics arrived and it was well childlike? I was so disappointed. The scale is way too big for adults clothing and just looks juvenile and clunky. Perhaps ok if it was for a top or skirt but not the look I was hoping for with activewear. It was packed up and shoved in the stash and left for more than a year.

Despite the fact I genuinely enjoy exercise I’m neither as fit as I’d like to be, nor look as fit as I want to be. Thus I try, always trying. At the moment I’m trying to be more consistent with my running and want to add in some more things along the way to help be fitter and stronger so general day to day things like walking stairs and carrying groceries are easy (when you don’t own a car you realise how much the ability to carry your groceries home is really important).

I had finished some work, had a bit of time spare and spied the panda fabric. I grabbed it and  my racer back singlet pattern. The original pattern is designed for a fabric with more stretch so I measured my favourite RTW run top and adjusted the pattern. I cut a size 16 bust and out to an 18 at the hip to allow for the lack of stretch. I also added 4cm to the hem length to keep my top long as I didn’t want it riding up while running. Cutting out, proved to be the longest part of the process. Due to the oversize nature of the print I was in massive danger of having panda boob, something I seriously wanted to avoid. The only way I could manage it was to not centre the print. That way the pandas fell on the sides  and not directly over my boobs. Cut, overlocked and lightning bolt stitch down the neck, armholes, hem and I was done before The Englishman was home and it was time to run. Stitching wise it went through the overlocker with ease but the lightning bolt stitch was laboured. It really felt like the needle was having trouble piercing the fabric and it’s nowhere near as neat as I’d like it to be. It really disliked the twin needle too. Perhaps I should’ve cut a band or bind and finished it that way for a really nice finish?

Photos taken pre running (just outside the Art Gallery). I’m hanging onto my running jacket as these were really some quick snaps.

front panda

back panda

I was super curious as to how the fabric was going to perform? It was ok. I didn’t feel any dampness so the moisture wicking was decent but I could feel the heat building up in my lower back (below bra above waist) which suggests the fabric isn’t as able to handle warmer climate performance? It wasn’t super bad but I could feel it and normally I don’t feel that at all. The night was warm feeling but there was a cold wind. Just to be sure I checked the data against some other runs. The time of night was pretty much the same as my regular running time, the temperature was close to what I’ve been running in during the current season, my pace/intervals and heart rate was very close too. The only difference was my top. Obviously one run isn’t enough data to say for sure what is happening but the first impression is that the fabric is good for cold climates and cool weather running but I’m skeptical to how it would work in comparison to my RTW pieces in the heat and humidity of a Sydney Summer. I’m going to chart my runs with the top so I can report back with a more informed result later in the summer.

post run panda

Overall I like the length and size of the singlet, it performed moderately well to good, but it still feels super novelty and while that’s ok I’m not entirely sure it’s the look I want from my activewear?

Fabric: Panda fabric from Spoonflower

Top Pattern: Measure Twice Cut Once Racer Back Singlet

Alterations: Adjusted sizing for stretch difference cut 16 bust to 18 hip, added 4cm to hem length.

I tried to link to information about the actual performance fabric from the Spoonflower site. It’s really difficult to find and after a few minutes of searching I stopped looking. ** It’s too hard to find the exact specifications on their fabrics and then when you do find them they are nowhere near comprehensive enough and merely say “performance”or “active”. I see this way too often in fabric for home sewing and frankly it’s just not good enough. What makes it performance? is it moisture wicking? what are it’s exact fabric components? is the moisture wicking on the construction of the fabric or a finish that has been added? how many washes will it last if it’s an additive? what washing instructions are needed to keep the life of the performance fabric. It’s this lack of information on the specifics of performance fabrics offered by many within the fabric industry for sewers that frustrate me so when it comes to active fabrics. I want the details as one fabric and one set of performance criteria does not suit all sports. Perhaps one day I’ll write a series of blog posts on active fabrics and sportswear from an industry perspective so I can rant away about details and specifics then. Till then, happy running.

** With thanks to Robyn in the comments she found the page I was looking for and here is the link it does indeed contain the information I was looking for, including things like washing instructions. Very happy that someone was able to find it and point me in the right direction for the information I had thought was lacking but is indeed supplied. Many thanks to Robyn and Spoonflower for providing me with the details.



  • Cat
    September 9, 2015

    I totally agree with you on activewear fabrics for home sewers. It’s so frustrating that my fave brand (best fit and fabric quality) is changing to be more fashionable than functional so I want to sew my own but I need wicking fabric and don’t want to pay double the price to have it shipped in from overseas. My latest steeplechase leggings make my legs feel too hot so I won’t be wearing them in summer 🙁

    • Susan Goodwin
      September 9, 2015

      Shipping prices can be exorbitant and when the fabric specifications are non existent it makes me super hesitant to even give it a try. It’s actually easier to buy a trusted RTW brand where you know what to expect. Hopefully with increased demand will come increased information..or at least I hope that’s what will happen?

    • Helen R
      September 9, 2015

      I went in on an order of supplex from stretchtex. It’s fantastic stuff -wicks beautifully but only comes in plain colours. There was a miminim order of 5m but prices were reasonable – $16 pm I think. I have made a few tops & bottoms for the gym and use a bit of swimwear fabric for a pop of contrast. I’m thinking of putting a call out to see if there was interest for another order.

      • Susan Goodwin
        September 9, 2015

        Wholesale places like Stretchtex are actually really good as they supply not only quality fabric but also quality information about their fabrics. I wish that all places offering technical fabrics would give the level of detail that a wholesale supplier does.

  • Robyn
    September 9, 2015

    On Spoonflower, if you go under “Create” then “Products” you will find this page which has fibre content and links to pages with more information about all of their substrates. It may still not be in depth as you are looking for, but they did try!

    I think the top is super cute, but I can see how it might not be quite the style you’re looking for when running!

    • Susan Goodwin
      September 9, 2015

      Thank you so very much for proving me with the link, I have updated the post to include the link. So very happy to be proven incorrect and that the information I was looking for is actually supplied, that’s great!

  • Jillian - SewUnravelled
    September 9, 2015

    I’d be so keen to go in on an “activewear” fabric order anytime!! Honestly it is impossible to find locally and I agree that good performance fabric is needed in humid Sydney. I am loving those Pandas though 😉

  • Sharon
    September 10, 2015

    Amazing panda’s and agree that getting good quality activewear fabric is hard. First I need to work out some more!

    • Susan Goodwin
      September 10, 2015

      ha ha I know what you mean! I’ve picked up some amazing RTW pieces that sit in my drawer till I’m the right size. Always the way, hoping for the best outcome

  • Lightning McStitch
    October 17, 2015

    You can’t begin to guess how excited I wax to find a sewing blog post that referenced Liege-Bastonne-Liege. Woo!!
    Well done on your top. I like the idea of making activewear but I think I’d want access to an industrial flatlock machine. It’s that flatlock seam that the shop bought stuff has that I would love to recreate at home. Need lots of local stitchers to group buy one of those! 🙂

    • Susan Goodwin
      October 21, 2015

      haha almost all my sewing would reference cycling if it could!

      I’d love a coverstitch machine but sadly no space. Luckily I write technical specifications for so many brands I know when and where the flatlock is normally used and can work around it when sewing things like tops. For knicks or even run tights I’d really like to be able to coverstitch those. The biggest problem is finding fabrics that meet my standards, sadly most of what is available to sewers doesn’t the standard.

Comments are closed.




Hi, I'm Susan. A designer living in Sydney, Australia.

Here I share tales of my sewing, my pattern collection and insights into what it's like to work as a professional fashion designer.

Other recurring themes include cat photos and an ever changing hair style.



Friends and Affiliates

Free Delivery on all Books at the Book Depository