September 3, 2013

A consideration

Hi everyone, a question: Do you sew for exercise and/or serious outdoor activity? And do you think it's been worth your while?
I know Melissa makes her own running gear, and so do several other running seamstresses. The only blogger I know who sometimes makes outdoorsy stuff would be Carolyn.
Me? Well, to be honest, for most of the year, I'm not really the sporty type. I do indoor rock climbing occasionally (used to be a regular thing but when I and my climbing buddy moved from art school to working life, we couldn't match up our schedules anymore) but that's about it. When on holiday though, I love to be active in the great outdoors. Mostly hiking but I'm definitely open to other options. Climbing, caving, canyoning or rafting? Where do I sign up (often, I don't get around to doing as much as I'd like because we mostly go on holiday outside the peak season and sometimes move around a lot)?
I think the reason I never do stuff like that at home is the simple reality of the country I live in: the Netherlands just might be the flattest country on the face of the earth, with the most cultivated landscape. Just to illustrate my point: the Dutch kayaking championships are held at an amusement park's white water thrill ride....

So, where sewing is concerned, I make stuff for my every-day not-on-holiday life and odd things I just want to make. For my holiday activities, I have the necessary gear (hiking shoes, climbing belt and shoes), sometimes buy what I think I'll need (this year: a couple of sports bras) and otherwise make do with the more casual of my me-made clothes.

Here I am in a picture E took of me while we were hiking up the Eisk√∂gel (a mountain in the Alps south of Salzburg). We took this picture as proof we got all the way up to where the snow was. 

This is view from that spot. Any readers from countries with proper mountains of their own may laugh, but for flat-land-dwellers like we are, walking up this far is impressive.
On this hike, I was wearing my fitted black twill trousers, red V-neck top and, when we got high enough to get cold, my raglan sleeved cardigan.

I think these clothes worked well enough. We met a lot of other hikers who were wearing purpose-bought sports clothes. I can understand how soft-shell jackets may be lighter-yet-warm and how other sportswear may get less sweaty (which would be a good thing when hiking on a warm day). However, the weight of my cardigan is really not an issue (if anything, it's way lighter than our supply of drinking water) and I've owned sportswear in the past which was every bit as sweaty as any other type of clothing...
Specialist materials seem to be the key to a lot of the specialist outdoor and sports clothes. And despite Melissa's list, I don't think that's good news for the seamstress. Special fabrics are often hard to find, expensive and/or require special treatment...
And in my case, the question is probably: If I didn't sew, would I buy special clothes for those few weeks on holiday?


  1. Your problem is completely mine! I love sporting in the mountains, mostly hiking or snowboarding, but out here..

    Mostly I use normal clothes for these sporting activities, although since I started teaching snowboarding at an indoor hall last year I did dedicate some shirts that did not get too much wear (it's surprising how warm indoor snowboarding can be at -7). I do think the real outerwear would be worthwhile buying or sewing (for hiking as well), the trousers and shirts would not really be worth you time or money.

    I have been thinking about making my own snowboarding gear for a while, however it never got that far. What I do have is this guest post on sewaholic with usefull info:

    1. Oh I totally forgot to thank you for pointing out Carolyn's blog, it's lovely!

  2. I purchase most of my outdoor clothing.

    However, there are a couple of things I make that don't require special fabrics or equipment. Synthetic fleece is easy to find and I make neck gaitors, hats and sweatshirts with it. I also sew t-shirts and long underwear pants with synthetic blend knits as base layers.

    I've had the same gore-tex suit since 1997. I also have zip-leg pants/shorts from and sun-blocking hiking shirts from ex-officio. They both have lots of pockets and are perfect for travel. They dry in a jiffy after washing in hotel sinks. I've used them for 10-15 years and they still look and function fine.

    REI is a cooperative store that takes extra care in sourcing goods. They send out independent inspectors to their contractors' factories for unannounced visits. If there are any violations, REI pulls their contracts. One of the reasons I avoid RTW is because I don't want to support unfair or unsafe labor conditions. When I buy RTW, I seek retailers that share my goals. It costs a little bit more, but REI stuff lasts a long time.

  3. Half my stuff is sewn, half is bought. Thankfully there are a couple outdoor fabric stores here, and a couple discount stores that sell yoga and running suitable fabrics.

    The two things I still need to make are pants and a button up blouse with venting. I haven't done them yet because I'm lazy, to be honest. Most of the stuff I do I can wear running shorts, a tank top, and a knit skirt. :)

  4. Before I found out the wonders of wool, I had some rowing clothes made of synthetic wicking fabric. While I still use them, I prefer the wool for several reasons.
    1. You can wear wool several times without it developing its own, um, 'distinctive' personality.
    2. I machine wash my wool with wool wash on the gentle cycle and hang it or lay it flat to dry. The technical fibres I wash on the regular cycle with regular detergent and Borax, (but that doesn't always get rid of the 'personality') and hang them to dry.
    3. My lightweight wool jerseys dry faster than do the lightweight ones made of technical fibres.
    4. The wool is much cooler in the summer.
    5. The wool will decompose when I have worn out the garment.
    6. Sheep are cute!
    I've bought my wool t-shirts and haven't sewn much with wool jersey simply because it is very difficult to find here. I have to order it on-line -a nerve racking buisness since you don't know what the quality or exact colour will be until it arrives.
    As for sewing 'outdoor' garments, I tumbled to this woman's blog via Winnie (Scruffy Badger)'s blog a few weeks ago She does an incredible amount of all sorts of sewing for herself and her family.
    One more thing. A cold weather mantra from the outdoor crowd here; Wool is warm and cotton kills.
    Success on your adventures!

  5. Thank you for mentioning me Lauriana! and yes, making you own hiking pants, Tshirts, hoodies and anoraks should be a breeze for someone like you! If you are after more heavy duty sportswear, some other seamstresses who have made their own running gear using technical fabrics are kbenco and katherine h, and they have both provided info on their blogs about where they sourced the fabrics.

  6. I didn't sew exercise clothes (I walk, run and go to the gym), but recently I thought I might, when I learned how to sew jersey/knit fabrics. I'm not a proffesional sportsperson, just a running amateur, so I don't think I need all those expensive specialist fabrics.

  7. I only made one dance outfit and yoga pants. I go skiing in the winter and have noticed the difference between proper gear and everyday garments. That said I buy from decathlon a lot of that. Sourcing and sewing skiing gear is hard and expensive. Plus if you don't have the proper tools your project won't be successful. So no go for skiing ok for the gym.

  8. I'm not as active in outdoorsy pursuits as I used to be, but I still have (and use) a whole passel of my (high-end) outdoor tech clothing, and given the difficulty of finding the sort of specialized fabric that is often used, I would probably buy most of this stuff if I do need to replace it. (assuming I can afford it, should the time come lol)

    The only exception is fleece jackets, vests, and pants. Those are easy enough to sew, and also easy enough to find quality fabric

    treefrog at Pattern Review makes amazing outdoor gear - I think she's blogless, but her reviews are worth checking out.

  9. I end up buying outdoorsy/workout clothing, as it is difficult to find the specialty fabrics required. That said, I admire people who take the time make them!

  10. Contrarily to Jean, I make my outdoor clothes because I'd much rather they fit, even if it's hard to find the right fabrics :-).
    Some people who have done a lot in that domain: check out especially her trip to the Tour de France in 2010 the most sophisticated and ambitious on the net imho.

    A few sources of fabrics I've found in Europe:
    but also this source of Malden Mill fabrics
    is comparatively cheap, and not ruinous in the shipping..

  11. I made my kids fishing vests last summer (the many-pocketed kind). I confess I love them, especially now that they're worn in and grubby. Is that weird? However, they were really a lot of work for the amount of use they get, and while they're pleasantly unique, in hindsight it would've been a lot easier to shell out for the (not really) expensive storebought ones.