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Picking the Ideal Fabric for Your Next Workout!

Not too long ago, making activewear was something of a side hobby. Most pattern companies stuck to making the basics or modifying casualwear patterns, while a select few offered more specialized options. Activewear fabric selection proved even more challenging. 

Fortunately, the selection of technical fabrics available to the home sewer has grown substantially over the past few years, both at big-box stores and at specialty fabric shops.

The current issue is more the overwhelming variety of options in terms of names, weights, stretch factors, and colors. There are some materials whose names we simply do not know. Many well-known sports companies have their trademarks for these fabrics.

When shopping online, it can be hard to know for sure what you’re getting because some stores don’t list important details like the fabric’s exact composition, weight, or stretch percentage, let alone whether or not it’s been treated to repel water.

Natural or Organic Fibers

Remember only one thing about natural fibers: cotton is not a good choice for athletic wear (see sidebar). You can still find some fantastic options if you’d rather work out in natural fibers.


Although bamboo is incredibly useful in many ways, it has a potential downside: it can stretch out with time.

Incredibly, the same plant that provides food for pandas can be pulped and turned into a rayon (viscose) fabric that is not only gentle but also antimicrobial, long-lasting, wicking, and breathable. 

Recently, bamboo has gained popularity as a sustainable substitute for synthetic fibers. However, the processing involved in making the plant into the final textile has been the subject of some debate due to its questionable environmental credentials. 

Although bamboo can be woven into nearly any fabric, the most practical for athletic wear are jerseys (with or without added spandex).


Cotton is very slow to dry because it is so hydrophilic; it can absorb up to 25 times its weight in water. If you’ve ever worn jeans to a waterpark, you know that even by the end of the day, they may not be completely dry. 

Cotton causes chafing in hot weather and hypothermia, and death in cold weather when wet. It’s best to avoid cotton in all of your athletic gear, especially socks, which can cause blisters.

A Merino Sheep Wool

When it comes to casual wear, Merino wool is a tried-and-true option that is quickly rising in demand.

This fiber is perfect for working out in any climate, as it provides superior insulation, breathability, wicking, and antimicrobial protection. It’s less itchy than regular wool and can be blended with stretchy materials without losing shape. 

Jerseys and suiting fabrics have long made extensive use of it, and now it’s even showing up in more casual wear.


Many of us in the sewing community have an inherent bias toward fabrics made from natural materials. Memories of clingy, sweaty polyester shirts from the 1970s linger on in the minds of many people who work with synthetic fibers. 

Not all polyesters are indeed made equal, but synthetic fabrics have come a long way since then. If you look at the labels of the activewear you currently own, you’ll notice that the vast majority of it is made from polyester.

This is because modern technical fabrics are designed to “wick” perspiration away from the skin so it can evaporate at the fabric’s surface and prevent the wearer from overheating. 

Waterproof technical fabrics exist. Fabrics that are both waterproof and breathable exist; wearing one won’t make you wet but will save you from overheating after a day of hiking.

Most of us picture breathable, elastic textiles when we think about technical fabrics. However, this category includes a wide range of fabrics, from smooth or brush-backed jerseys to big or fine-holed meshes, piques, and rib knits. Technical fabrics exist for practically any pursuit.


All textiles are not made equal when it comes to athletic clothing. The fabric you select can significantly affect how you feel and how well it performs. Here are some things to consider when shopping for the perfect fabric for your next set of yoga pants or running shorts.

  • Take the weather into account first. If you reside in a hot area, you should select a fabric that is both lightweight and airy. A warmer and more insulating cloth may be preferable if you reside in a chilly region.
  • The next step is to visualize the task at hand. Select a fabric that can pull sweat away from the skin if you expect to perspire heavily. But if you just want something to lounge about in or wear to the gym, lightweight and breathable fabric will suffice.
  • Finally, keep your sense of style in mind. When practicality is paramount, you should also consider how you feel while wearing your workout clothes. You should shop for items in colors and patterns that make you happy, and that can easily be incorporated into your present outfit. There is no need to settle for anything less than the ideal Fabric For Your Exercise Routine when there are so many fantastic selections available nowadays!

Final Words

If you have access to a continuous supply of high-quality technical fabric, you’ll save time and effort when making subsequent items because you’ll know the fit will be trustworthy. When it comes to activewear, it’s easy to mass produce items with the same design. 

After finding the right fit, most people require multiple pairs to get through the week of workouts without constantly doing laundry. Once you’ve mastered the pattern and fabric, you’ll be able to work out with the full assurance that your handmade garments won’t impede your progress.

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