DIY workout pants and tank top pattern tutorial

DIY Workout pants and tank top tutorial Sew Country ChickThe possibility of making my own workout clothes never really occurred me for some reason. But now that I’m on my ready to wear fast, I thought I would try it.

And do you know what? It was easy with the help of my new cover stitch machine I just bought. Once I figured out how to use it, that is. FYI, it’s the Janome CPX 1000. I bought it because it is SO easy to thread. But the jury is still out on it. I had some skipped stitches but it may be user error. I hope.

But first, I need to thank my dad for taking these photographs of me. Dad, you’re the best!

I used some existing workout pants and a tank top I already had and that fit me well. I traced over them, made a new pattern, then redesigned that basic pattern I created by adding new style lines.

I’d like to share a few things about buying suitable fabrics for exercise clothing , especially online when you can’t feel the fabric. When you buy workout pants at cheaper stores, they are often made from thinner, almost see through fabric and when you buy from higher end companies the fabric is thicker and gives better coverage. At least, it should be….Remember what happened with those Lululemon pants last year ? You see, the fabric was sort of see through, causing some embarrassing incidents on workout floors across America. The guilty pants were recalled. That fiasco, AKA “Pantsgate,” was caused by the unsuitable weight of the fabric. Cotton lycra and other performance exercise lycra combos and compression fabrics come in different weights. The flimsy stuff starts at about 7 ounces a linear foot and the highest weight is 16 ounces per linear foot. The 16 ounce weight fabric is classified as “luxury” workout fabric. So higher weight is better when it comes to workout cotton lycras you buy. I wouldn’t buy anything under 12 ounces for workout pants. So remember, higher is better to avoid your own personal Pantsgate. The lighter weight fabrics are fine for tops , but not pants! The problem is some online companies don’t mention the weight, but I’m sure if you email them, they can help you. It’s important.

Fabric : Black and pink cotton lycra 4 way stretch 12oz. weight, 2 yards

Pattern: Traced from my existing tank top and workout pants from the Gap. Instructions below.

DIY Workout pants and tank top tutorial Sew Country ChickToday I wore my new handmade outfit to the gym. My Total Body Training Instructor gave me a compliment on my outfit in front of class. “Thanks, I made it!”, I said. That always feels awesome, doesn’t it?

I am really hard on my workout clothes and wear them out to run errands after the gym sometimes. I’ve been working out more lately, about four times a week, and needed some new stuff!

Well, the  outfit held up throughout the class. I sewed everything with my serger, and the outside seams with my coverstitcher, then reinforced everything with the stretch stitch of my other new machine I bought that day, my Janome Magnolia. I bought it mainly for the automatic buttonholes. I have been sewing on a 1982 Bernina Nova I bought at the thrift shop, and the buttonholes aren’t very nice on it. Plus, the thread comes out of the needle every time I start a seam. Frustrating.

DIY Workout pants and tank top tutorial Sew Country Chick

DIY Workout pants and tank top tutorial Sew Country ChickYou can see where I used the coverstitch machine here on top of the inset seams I sewed. But the coverstitcher wasn’t behaving that well and skipped stitches. I hope I can get it all figured out. I wanted that store bought workout wear look, where the seams have that neat stitching on the outside.

WO1 I usually just throw on a sweater when I run my errands. I know , I know, it’s not exactly stylish to run around like this . But it happens. Stuff like that is fine in California where people wear their pajamas out in public.

DIY Workout pants and tank top tutorial Sew Country ChickTo make the top pattern, I traced my existing tank top then added seam allowances. I made sure I used fabric with a similar stretchiness. That is really important when tracing a pattern for stretch clothing.

DIY Workout pants and tank top tutorial Sew Country ChickI then traced the pattern I made onto another piece of paper. I wanted to save that first unaltered pattern to use on future projects. BTW, always write down any relevant information you can think of on your pattern when you are tracing it. The style , the size, even a little sketch.  And grainlines. I can’t tell you how many random pieces I have hanging in my closet that I didn’t write on, and now I have no idea what they are! I have a pattern hole puncher I bought downtown and I hang up all my patterns in the closet on little hooks.

My new design ended up having two side pieces with no side seam. I laid the side pieces on the fold instead. And it had two center panels. When changing style lines on a pattern, don’t forget to add seam allowances on your new lines you cut.

WOtute3I had a pair of workout pants that had a hole in the behind so I cut them apart to make a pattern from them. They were old style and a little flared so I made the bottom of the pants narrower. I saved the traced pattern piece to use as a pattern block for other workout pants I plan on making. Something I notice about workout pants in general is they always have a side seam. So they are different from leggings which don’t have side seams. They have more structure.

DIY Workout pants and tank top tutorial Sew Country ChickI traced the master legging pattern off onto another paper. I then drew in the style lines for the pink insets I wanted. I added seam allowances to those style lines once I cut them apart by taping some paper to the edges, measuring 1/2 inch and then cutting them out.

DIY Workout pants and tank top tutorial Sew Country ChickThese were the pattern pieces I cut out. There are 20 pieces of pattern to cut in all for the legs of the pants!

 I didn’t photograph the sewing but here are a few details about sewing up the patterns

  • I overlocked everything, then used the coverstitcher to go over the tops of the seam style lines. I sewed the twin needles on the wrong sides of the fabric so the bottom of the cover stitch seam showed on the right side of the fabric. I used the stretch stitch to reinforce the side seams and crotch seams .
  • When I made the waistband for the pants, I stitched some elastic inside of them to help keep them up while exercising.
  • I cut two inch wide pieces of ribbing and stretched them slightly when I sewed them to the tank top neckline and armholes. To create a ribbed binding, sew on the outside right side to right side with a 1/2 seam allowance. It’s very similar to sewing on bias binding.

DIY Workout pants and tank top tutorial Sew Country ChickHappy sewing!

Share Button


  1. says

    Reminds me of the workout clothing challenge from project runway last season! These look awesome — nice job, Justine!

  2. says

    Wowie! I’m super impressed! Great tips on fabric weight! Did I miss where you actually bought your fabric from? I hope to get a serger some time. 🙂 oh and great job working out!

    • says

      Hi Emily. I bought my own fabric in downtown a long time ago but I’m thinking its at least 12 ounces.

  3. says

    great job justine! i am learning my overlock too. its tricky but it can bring us to a whole new sewing world:) and gosh you look great!

  4. says

    Oh, well done Justine! I stopped making workout wear years ago because I could not find fabric. Your tips will help me to order online. I’m a little confused about what an overlock machine actually is. Does it replace your Bernina, or does it strictly do the stitching that you showed in the close up?

    • says

      have three machines I rotate when sewing knits . The over locker for basic seams . The regular machine to reinforce seams with the stretch stitch, and the cover stitch machine for hems and decorative outside stitches.

  5. says

    Ohh very nice! It was workout wear that stopped me from joining the RTW fast this year — I know for sure I am going to need some before the year is over, and I just wasn’t ready to commit myself to making it (and then having to wear it in public!). Maybe I’ll give it a go after all — you are quite inspiring!

  6. says

    I this Justine! I was just thinking while at the gym the other day that I should start making my workout clothes. They would be so much better made and last longer I think. I’m jealous of your new machines and can’t wait to see all you do with them 🙂

  7. Nabrina says

    Love this!!
    Where do you get your pattern/tracing paper? Does it come by yard, on a roll, etc? I can only find paper size sheets.