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Best Fabric Choices for Workout Leggings: Aila Sew-Along

Picking the right activewear fabric is hugely important when it comes to sewing workout leggings. So in order to succeed with the Aila leggings or any other sewing pattern for activewear leggings, we need to understand fabric properties and what type of fabric that is best suited for sewing leggings.

Optimal fabric properties for the Aila leggings

  • A mix of polyester or polyamide and Lycra(Spandex). A good ball-park for the Lycra content is around 10–15%. For compression tights, it’s not unusual to have around 20% Lycra, that said, a higher Lycra content does change the feel of the fabric, it becomes less soft and will venture into swimsuit fabric territory, which just doesn’t feel as nice when used un workout clothes in my opinion.
  • Lots of stretch in both directions. I recommend at least 65% crosswise stretch and at least 50% lengthwise for the Aila leggings.
  • Transports moisture. Which means that the fabric allows the sweat to pass through the fabric. This is huge since otherwise, you’ll end up feeling like you are working out in a plastic bag!
  • Holds the shape, i.e. doesn’t sag when stretched out. The fabric needs to recover after it has been stretched out.
  • Dries fast, especially compared cotton and other natural fibres.
  • Has some weight, opt for mid-weight rather than light, thin jersey. A good ball-park weight is around 250–300g/m²  (7.4–8.9 oz/yd²). You can go a bit lower than that if the fabric has great recovery, but I would not go under 200g/m² for the Aila leggings since it will likely show every bulge and not compress well. 

Learn More: Best Fabric Choices for Workout Leggings: Aila Sew-Along

Aila leggings sewing with an organic cotton/Lycra mix (92/8%). The fabric weight is around 230m/m² (6.8 oz/yd²).

Hey, what about using natural fibres for the leggings?

The leggings can also be sewn in cotton, wool or cellulose (rayon, bamboo, Tencel etc) based jersey, if the fabric fits the weight and stretch/recovery criteria listed above. I would also recommend using a fabric that has at least a 5% Lycra content to assure that the stretch and recovery is good enough. 

Wool-mix workout leggings by Kari Traa.

As for moisture transportation wool is the best choice when it comes to natural fibres and if you want inspiration for some really cool wool-mix workout leggings, check out Kari Traa.

More lengthwise stretch = longer leggings

Normally we just use the pattern inseam measurement as our guide for finding the best length. But when working with 4-way stretch fabrics, that principle becomes more complicated. The reason is that the leggings will be stretched lengthwise too when you put them on your legs, and you might end up with leggings that are too long. 

The Aila leggings are drafted with this in mind, which is why the garment inseam measurement might look a bit short compared to regular pants. That said, if the fabric is super stretchy lengthwise, the leggings might still end up a tad bit too long, since the choice of fabric will always influence the end result.

Learn more: Video: Sew Your Best Leggings Ever

Aila leggings, using a combination of the Spoonflower custom print Sports Lycra (fabric designed by me, and you can get it too!) and white Supplex (from AG Textil)

How to care for your leggings fabric

  • Use the ‘Gentle Cycle’ no warmer than 40°C (approx 100° F),
  • I personally don’t tumble dry my leggings since I find it can wear down the Lycra, but a cold cycle is supposed to be safe for most of these fabrics.
  • Let the leggings air dry as soon as you can after your workouts to keep the sweat from stinking. This makes a huge difference!
Aila leggings made with Spoonflower Sports Lycra, again the print is designed by me and you can shop it at Spoonflower.

So where can I find great leggings fabric?

Check out my big list of activewear fabric shops. Another helpful resource is the Ultimate Guide to Activewear Fabrics that I did with the help of activewear fabric vendors

Watch my video about activewear fabrics

If you want to learn more about different activewear fabrics I highly recommend checking out the video I’ve done about this topic.

Hopefully, this guide made picking the best fabric for your Aila legging easier! If you have any more questions, just drop me a note in the comment section.

Watch this video tutorial for even more sewing leggings tips!

Aila Leggings Sew-Along


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