Leggings, Tights and Long Johns - Oh My!

Leggings, Tights and Long Johns - Oh My!

Leggings are a favourite of many as they can be so versatile.  From workout to warmth, casual to dressy, choosing the right fabric for your purpose can sometimes be overwhelming.  Here are a few considerations to ponder when choosing your fabric.

Fabric Stretch

First and foremost, check your pattern's recommendation.  Leggings are typically form fitting and require negative ease (the finished garment will be smaller than your body measurements).  It is possible to use a fabric with a little less stretch than what is called for, but this usually means sizing up and does require some trial and error to get the perfect fit.

Fabric Recovery

A fabric's recovery refers to its ability to return to the same shape it started, after being stretched.  Leggings that bag in the knees are usually because the fabric does not have good recovery even though it has enough stretch.  High quality athletic fabrics should always remain smooth even after bending your legs.  A fabric's ability to recover is determined by its content, weight and knit construction.  Very lightweight fabrics often don't have enough spandex yarn weight to recover well.  Very lightweight knits may not be the right choice for athletic leggings as they are not opaque, but may be suitable for wearing under tunics or dresses.  Squat Proof is a term often used to describe a legging fabric that is opaque and won't show through when one is bending over.

Intended Use

Athletic leggings (for working out, running, yoga, etc) your best choices are synthetic fabrics such as Supplex nylon or soft polyester with a high spandex content.  Supplex is not an actual fabric, it's a treatment done to nylon to make it feel more like cotton.  An example of Supplex nylon that we carry is Yoga Stretch.  Synthetics are preferred as they are very often moisture wicking and quick drying.

Other features to consider are do you want a highly compressive athletic legging or a casual, comfortable legging for leisurewear.  Do you want warm and snuggly or lightweight and cool to the touch?  How about sun protection or durability?  You may not get every feature in any one fabric, but often you can get what is most important to you by reviewing our Legging Fabrics Matrix pdf as well as the Specs and Features tab on each of our fabric's web page.  Or, consider our Legging Pack as it contains cut yardage of four of our most popular legging fabrics!  For example, Midweight Scuba is very compressive, opaque, slick and cool to the touch while Yoga Stretch is somewhere between soft and durable, opaque, and matte lending itself to both workout or dressy pants.  Breathe Tek Athletic is buttery soft, opaque and has a high UPF rating.  Northern Lite Athletic has a brushed back for a little extra warmth.  Polartec Power Stretch Fleece Backed is cozy and warm.  There are so many choices available to customize your leggings.  In the pdf document, we also included a few fabrics that are suitable for long underwear bottoms (a slightly looser fitting legging if you will) as the lines between a true legging and long johns can sometimes blur, especially during the colder months!