Thursday, October 15, 2009

Baby Work Out

I’ve recently started working out again. It’s been quite some time since I got any exercise and I’m starting to “grow out” of some of my dresses. Not good.

I joined the local gym and I’ve figured out ways of tricking myself into going on a semi-regular basis. Not even trying to get into the insanely crowded free parking lot helps, as does trying to make sure I’m in the gym and on a cardio machine before 4:45 pm. If I show up any later than that, street parking is impossible, I have to wait for equipment, and the stretching area is jam-packed. Trying to get out of work in time can be pretty annoying, but forcing myself to go is far better than feeling fat.

I've discovered that I like to sweat a bit and the attitude adjustment I get from working out is priceless. I haven’t lost any weight yet, but I am enjoying it. Just going to the gym makes me feel slim, so I figure its just a matter of time.

The only thing is, I’m wearing a bunch of really old workout gear from back when I was slim so its all a little snug. I should probably buy new stuff that fits but I'm not crazy about the standard workout clothes that you can find in stores. Ideally I’d like something like this 1940s gymsuit (from Vintage Martini)

I love it! This is something I’d love to have for wandering around Fogville on (our one or two per year) warm days. I don’t think I’d buy a vintage gymsuit for working out, though. I'm not sure that old fabric, thread, and elastic could stand up to repeated workouts and washings. Plus, I think there’s an advantage to more modern (stretchy!) fabrics for workout wear.

The interwebs didn't have much to offer me in the way of modern gym clothes that look vintage. So, I decided to try and make something. I ended up buying some black sweatshirt fleece and this pattern:

Cutting was kind of horrible. Sweatshirt fleece is stretchy and wiggly. It moves around when you try to cut it. I ended up with some pretty odd cut lines.

Assembly was kind of sucky too. ANY mistake was a major problem because I found it to be nearly impossible to unpick the stitching. The thread becomes totally invisible against the fleece, despite the fact that you can clearly see the seam line. Ugh!

The sleeve instructions made no sense so I just rolled the fabric over and tacked it down. I made a second seam near the raw edge of the fleece to keep it from rolling. I think it works fine.

I didn't bother with the waistline stay in the seat back. I need it to be able to really stretch as I move. Instead, I finished to top edge of the drop seat the same as the sleeve edges: I rolled it over and made two lines of (narrow zig-zag)stitching. This seems to hold everything together and looks pretty good.

The instructions for the ties confused me as well, so they were ignored. I folded the ties in half, right sides together, stitched along the edge and then turned them right side out. There is a small un-stitched gap between the ties and the drop seat, but because it's on the inside it doesn't really matter. I don't expect the fleece to ravel. (Fingers crossed!)

Along the neck edge, I stitched the neck facing down too far and then couldn’t pick it out again. This prevented me from putting the zipper in at the right height and the neckline ended up a bit low. I put in some hook-and-eyes so that I can close the neck but it looks a little weird.

I had to stitch down the outer edge of all of the neck facings because the fleece was rolling so badly. While stitching down the left facing, I created a bubble that pulls that side of the garment in a strange way. I can’t unpick it so I guess I just have to live with it. At least the bubble is mostly covered by the giant collar.

The collar doesn’t want to stay in place either. I discovered that ironing fleece is pretty damn near pointless so I stitched the collar points to the body with a decorative button. This helps keep the collars from flapping up into my face, but it looks weird too.

I put some elastic in the leg edge to prevent the shorts from riding up when I’m stretching. I think I should have used slightly longer lengths of elastic though. The legs are a bit bloomery.

The finished garment in no way looks like the pattern envelope. I ended up with something a little more like a (ill-fitting) 1920s bathing suit than I’d intended. I think I need more practice with knit fabric. Taking care that I’m actually following the instructions couldn’t hurt either.

Here are the pix. Thanks to bad lighting and the fact that black photgraphs poorly, you can't see many of the (crappy) details in the photos. Sorry! In fact, these snaps make the jumper look pretty good. You’ll have to take my word: it looks a lot goofier in person. At least it’s just for the gym.


and back.

Oh, and I forgot to pre-wash my fabric! We’ll see if it fits after the first washing. Yikes!

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For more information on vintage gym wear for women, as well as vintage workout routines, please see this article from Fuzzy Lizzy, and this post on The Painted Woman.


  1. You always find such fun things to make. The kitchen shots look adorable. Sorry the pattern gave you such fits. Facings are always such nasty creatures. Sometimes laying them flat on the ironing board and pinning them to death before sewing helps. If the facings are on a curve, you can use a ham to press and pin also. You might also try a walking foot. With fleece having such a thick pile, the top layer of fabric may have been pushed foward as you stitched causing the bubbles.

  2. Thanks Linda! And thanks for the tips too. I think you are right, I tend to be pretty "pin resistant" and I know that I really skimped on pins when I was banging this one out. I will use more pins next time and I will also see if I can find a walking foot for my machine. It's a pretty old machine so its sometimes hard to find feet/accessories. I plan on making more stuff out of sweatshirt fleece (It's so soft, its like wearing a cloud.) so it would be nice to have the right tools for the job.

  3. I just found your blog and I like very much!
    I think your suit is great! it doesn't look weird, it looks great!
    You know I'm looking for some clothes to use on the beach, in 15 days I'll go to the beach but I want something like this you show here! so, I'm gonna try to sew something like it but in another kind of fabric.

  4. Well, I surfed in your blog, and I have to say I REALLY REALLY REALLY LOVE IT!!!!!!!! I'm happy I found it! Me encanto ! de ahora en adelante esperare ansiosa ver tu blog! Sorry I wrote in spanish but sometimes I donno how to say them in english.
    How can I follow your blog? I don't see the "followers" icon.

  5. I think it's really cute! Of course, I walk the dog in the middle of the night so no one sees me skipping down the road (D's and jogging do not mix) and it's cold out there, so sweats and a tee are about all I bother with.

  6. Gaby - you are cracking me up! Vintage to the gym!!! I sweat far too much to bother... and lately I've been in the 5:30 am crowd where you basically are just rolling out of bed - bedhead and all.
    Ah, but knits are their own fun! now you will be saving to buy a serger!!!

  7. @ Lizzy: Thank you SO much for all your kind comments. Your blog is really neat too! I love the mexican pin-ups and movie stars on your pages. I have added the follow icon to my page, now so you should be able to click and follow me.

    @ Ducky: Thank you! I hear you on the Ds and motion thing. I recently took a dance class where we did a with a lot of jumping during the warm-up. I was NOT liking what I was seeing in the mirror. (D's and arm flaps. Sigh.) I can only imagine what the other (20yo, skinny, A-cup, dancer-sized) girls were thinking. Having a woman's body is a blessing and a curse.

    @ Tiff: I totally know what you mean. I marvel at ladies who can manage full hair and makeup at the gym and still look cute covered in sweat. That is mos def not me. I love the old fashioned gymsuits though. I like the zip-and-go feature, in particular, not to mention the instant cuteness.

  8. Thanks Gabrielle, now I follow your blog and I'll be waiting to see your next project! =)

  9. I can't wait to try this outfit out. Luckily I have the dusty serger my mother gave me in the closet. I feel inspired to make rompers that fit my D's and my tall frame. Storebought clothing always cuts me in half.

  10. Back in the day, when fleece first hit the scene, it really threw a wrench into the dear Becky-HomeEccy's world, so your frustration with that fabric puts you in good company. They published books, had sewing seminars and formed support groups (seriously). The end result? Sewing fleece is a different beast than 'real' fabric. It's got a totally different language. You have fought the battle well, heck it's wearable AND cute to boot!
    (if there is a next time, switch to a lighter weight flat knit that is more cooperative)
    p.s. Alpha Andy, you will need to follow that mid-hip horizontal line to lengthen the crotch depth, or your deep knee bends will hurt more than your knees!

  11. When I was in high school in 1952, I had a gym suit that looked very much like this. It bottoned at both sholders and you stepped into it. It was made of blue cotton and I hated it.

    You look darling in your gym suit.