Thursday, 22 January 2015

Re-Cycle: Bike Shorts!

Black, short-mid thigh length bike shorts laid flat.

Crochet projects weren't the only projects this week–
the sewing machine got a run to turn a shabby pair of leggings into some neat bike shorts.

My daughter, somehow, always manages to wear holes in the leggings which she loves.

The top of the cut-off leg from a pair of leggings which had a hole in the knee. The close-up photo shows the knee holes and has been cut just above the holes.
These are the holes so lovingly made by my daughter.

Luckily, Mum came along with scissors and sewing machine to tidy them up. 
[Cue Jodie, that's me!]

It sounds simple, but stretchy fabrics have their own challenges. Do you think I could remember the best approach?  I don't sew that often and have never really considered myself anything more than an "advanced beginner". To call my skills "intermediate" would be kind.

Funnily enough, during the same week, another blogger was grappling with stretchy sports fabrics too–Alice Leadbeter from knitnrun4sanity and you can read about her adventures in her post "2 machines later……".

My main problem was finding the right stitch for the hem so that the fabric would be hemmed neatly but still stretch for comfort when worn.  

My initial attempts were too tight even though I had chosen a stretch zig zag stitch. In the other extreme, if I stretch the fabric too much as it goes through the machine, the edges flare out and look ugly!

Rather than unpick the tight seam, I just cut off another centimetre off the leg to start again.  In the back of my mind I was worrying that I might end up having to do this multiple times before I get it right and then what will I be left with? <uneasy laugh of uncertainty as I envisioned snip after snip>

So I grabbed the large leg offcuts and practiced hemming those, experimenting with stitch settings as I went. 

In the end I found an acceptable solution.

Close up of bike shorts leg hem. The stitches are noticeable in this photograph but when the shorts are worn and stretched out, the stitches are not noticeable.
Close up of bike shorts leg hem.
The stitches are noticeable in this photograph but when the shorts are worn and stretched out, the stitches recede back into the fabric and become invisible.

For the record, I used a blue tip needle and the settings on my sewing machine were:
Stitch: stretch zig zag
Stitch width: 2.5
Stitch length: 0.7

And here's the finished product:

Black, short-mid thigh length bike shorts laid flat.
These former leggings are now short to mid-length bike shorts.

The shorts are neat enough and do the job; quite appropriate to be doing them this week as the Tour Down Under bike race is in town.

I think it is kind of funny that when you turn leggings into bike shorts, it truly is re-cycling!  [you may groan now!]

I am still not satisfied that I know enough about working with stretch fabrics.  When I visited Alice's post, the mention of a 'twin stretch' needle had me doubting myself.  

I have one of those which I had used for decorative stitching in the past.  With a name like 'twin stretch' it shouldn't surprise me that it would be a good needle to use on stretch fabric. (Why didn't I think of that? Because I had never used the needle for that before.)

I felt rather stupid at this thought, but still, I cannot fathom how using two needles at the same time works with stretch fabric.  I like to know the whys and wherefores to have some clue about what to do in the face of problems.

Have you ever worked with stretch fabrics?  What is the secret? I would really appreciate any hints you can give!  Comments below or email to will be most welcome!

Happy stitching, sewing, crocheting, knitting, spinning, weaving, dyeing, painting, drawing, cooking, designing, shutter-clicking, home-making, running, teaching, gardening, farming and blogging!

Jodie xxx


Alice Leadbeter, crochet designer: 

Leadbeter, Alice, "2 machines later……", blog entry, knitnrun4sanity, 19 January 2015:

Tour Down Under bicycle race, 17–25 January, 2015:


  1. Well done - the shorts look great. I wouldn't presume to give any sewing tips!!

    1. Thanks Gillian. I am surprised that you have no sewing tips as you have stitched some beautiful items! I love your attention to detail and embellishments.

  2. Replies
    1. I knew it would make someone else laugh besides me! I couldn't help myself... ;-)
      But cycling is very big in Adelaide because the city is on a flat plain. It is very easy to ride for miles. Have a look at the Tour Down Under link if you have time. The whole city comes out to participate in some way and the towns decorate their streets etc. It's very much a party atmosphere.

  3. You did a great job. I have hemmed stretch fabrics with varying results! The last couple of dresses I shortened I just over locked a rolled hem!! I really must invest in a twin needle too!! Thanks for the tips. X

    1. Thanks Sharon, although I am not sure how helpful my post is since I am still learning myself.

      I'm grateful to have had offcuts to practice on. My local sewing centre will give informal tutorials when I am buying a new piece of equipment or want to know about a particular technique. I am not sure if they do that for everyone or just those who purchased their machines etc. there like me. Anyway, maybe your sewing centre will be able to give you advice on the twin needle when you purchase it.

      For decorative work, I threaded my twin needle with two different coloured threads and used it for top stitching. It is all trial and error to find a stitch that has a nice effect.

      Do you have a rolled hem foot? It has taken a bit of practice but I am finally getting the hang of using my rolled hem foot. It is great for fine fabrics, hemming tablecloths or hemming sheer fabrics to make a pretty scarf, or hemming lace. You feed the fabric into the foot and it automatically folds it over and puts the hem stitching right on the edge. Very neat! It is a lot less fiddly than manually ironing and pinning first. For me, that makes it worth the cost of a special foot.

      Thanks for taking time to share your experience. It is nice to be able to learn form each other in this way. Enjoy your sewing! xx