The One Piece of Clothing I’ve Bought All Year

Remember my pledge at the start of 2011 to not buy any new clothing this year? I said if I caved and bought something, I’d share whatever item it was that pushed me to break my vow?

Well, I bought something new! Padded bike shorts. An essential purchase for bike commuting if you ask me!

You might wonder why I didn’t make a pair of bike shorts instead? Three reasons:

  • Knit fabric
  • High-tech construction
  • Padding

Knit fabric

You maybe know I’m not a fan of sewing with knits. Not only is this fabric a knit, it’s a super-stretch knit. It would be tricky to source this fabric for home sewing, I don’t even want to start looking. I remember from my days in the apparel industry it’s hard to find something with this much stretch that feels nice and won’t pill or bag out.

High-tech construction and materials

These are super-stretchy, compression shorts and they require special sewing! Stretch stitches need to be strong and not break when the shorts come on and off. (Could you imagine?!) The seams are better when they’re flat and don’t rub or dig in to your skin. Heat-transfer labels are flat and don’t scratch, either.

These shorts are smartly designed to be high-rise in the back (super high!) and low in the front. Definitely designed and tested by someone who cycles!

Supportive Pad

Also called a ‘chamois’ in the cycling world. Again from my days in the production industry, these things are also hard to source. And expensive, with high minimums. Trying to get one for a sewing project might be tricky, not impossible, but time-consuming and possibly expensive. They’re often made in Italy – and they’re really hard to sew in place!

Our home-sewing machines would have a hard time sewing through the thickness of the foam. And from my bike adventures so far, you definitely want the padding!

This time, I let the experts handle the sourcing, design, and manufacturing for my one pair of shorts. And I don’t feel guilty, like I should have made them myself, in this case.

Shorts by Sugoi (a Canadian company) from Jubilee Cycle in Burnaby. (Located right on my bike path – how convenient!)

What about you? I remember from the survey results there were things you’d never make. Does that list change, the more you sew and develop your skills? Would you ever try sewing something this high-tech?

How are you doing with your Sewing Resolutions for the year, if you made any? Tell me how it’s going!

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23 Responses to The One Piece of Clothing I’ve Bought All Year

  1. Rachel April 27, 2011 at 6:07 am #

    Hooray for bike shorts!

    My only goal was to enjoy the process and learn new things, i’ve definitely been doing the first, and a little of the second.

  2. karen April 27, 2011 at 6:07 am #

    As a fellow cyclist, I can concur that padded shorts are a must for commuting. I went for years without and now wonder what I was thinking of! They’re great for slipping on under a skirt, though I do get a bit fed up peeling off jeans in the work toilets to climb out of these after a bike ride in. I would never try to make something like this! I don’t think I’d try sewing running gear, but I wish someone could come up with genuinely flattering running tops for some of us rounder ladies. They’re extremely rare partly, to be fair, because that wicking fabric does tend to cling.

  3. Bellieshaker April 27, 2011 at 6:24 am #

    I always wonder , if we all know that Bike Saddles are so uncomfortable, why dont they make softer, cushier saddles?
    Also, would you consider making a super comfortable little cushion for your bike? that might look quite cute?

    Im currently making a dress to wear to a friends wedding, i promised to make a dress for the 2 weddings im going too, rather than buy them!

  4. woolcat April 27, 2011 at 6:35 am #

    I used to live right by Jubilee Cycle!

  5. karen April 27, 2011 at 6:35 am #

    When I first saw your title I misread it as “the one piece of fabric I’ve bought all year”, and I thought “no way, she is lying, how could any seamstress buy only one piece of fabric by April!”, then I read it right and laughed. As far as my goal, I sewed a pair of self drafted jeans! That was my big one, my other goal has been to make more casual wear. I have been doing it, but it isn’t as exciting to me. I like making dressier things, but I live a very practical life, so I am trying to find that balance between practical and what I love.

  6. Grace April 27, 2011 at 7:44 am #

    I don’t make bicycle shorts either, though I have made a couple of jerseys. I, too, support a local producer, Pearl Izumi. I’ve tried cheaper shorts, but all day rides really need higher quality chamois that is not available to the home sewer.

  7. jean April 27, 2011 at 7:55 am #

    When my husband started biking & running in a serious way, about 7-8 years ago, he decided that the technical gear was not in his budget & he could learn to make same. He took a serger course, learned about spandex, and went to town. He started with shirts made of flashy spandex for cycling, then went on to shorts. The slightly foamy fabrics for bra-making, purchased at Fabricana & Sundrop, were perfect for padding. After the first attempt at sewing them in place — slightly successful but tricky to be sure — he hit on the idea of attaching them with velcro. This way his biking shorts also made for great running shorts!

    He hasn’t sewn for a while, as technical fabrics and garments just keep getting so much better, but when he started they were not much better than home-made.

  8. Patty April 27, 2011 at 7:58 am #

    yay for bike shorts! I’m learning how to ride my new bike (it’s got three wheels, I never learned when I was a kid) and can see how lovely these would be!

    I’m not super interested in sewing functional wear such as exercise wear and bras onaccounta the difficult to source materials. We occasionally offer a yoga pants sewing class where I work and we have a hard time sourcing materials. A local designer we know who designs yoga gear said SHE even has a hard time sourcing due to the high minimums required that are hard on small shops and designers.

    And there is a THEME in the blogging world today!! I posted late last nigh about my inevitable submission to the need for comfy shoes for workouts (and the adorableness of womens golf clothing, which I only discovered after venturing in to the sports gear shop!) and then this morning Colette posted about a designer who designed tennis gear and now you have the bike shorts! It’s workout wear day!

  9. K2 April 27, 2011 at 8:23 am #

    They also make gel padded bike seats (saddles). I have one on my current bike and it helps a lot. Although, when I upgrade to a nice cruiser bike, it won’t have the gel padded seat and it won’t look right with one either. So, I’ll have to go back to the padded bike shorts again. Here is just one of the many examples of gel seats available – this one is from REI

  10. Darci April 27, 2011 at 9:07 am #

    I made a pair of padded bike shorts last year with the Kwik Sew 1727 pattern. I had access to a pre-made chamois and the proper fabric. I also added two more layers of fleece to make it extra cozy. With a serger, it wasn’t as hard as you might think. I don’t think I’d try it without one, tho.

  11. Alessa April 27, 2011 at 11:36 am #

    Very good decision! I wouldn’t attempt to sew bike shorts, either. I’ve found a convenient (and cheap) alternative, though, which is a gel-padded saddle cover (like this one: You just slip it on and, voil√†: instant comfy saddle. I just take it off and stuff it into my tote bag when I leave my bike. :)

  12. hbace April 27, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    I just bought a special gel saddle for women from my local specialist bike chop. Saddles for women are wider and support your wider pelvic bones. Then make sure your saddle is not too high. Oh, and don’t wear high heels when cycling. It’s downright dangerous. Also it’s easier to change your shoes when you get off, than your pants…..

  13. Sophie April 27, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

    Oh that’s funny! I too am ‘not buying any new clothes this year’ and I too ‘caved’ but my purchase was a totally unecessary but most beautiful blouse. I think we can definately excuse your necessary bike short purchase, but maybe not my blouse….!

  14. Corinne April 27, 2011 at 4:54 pm #

    I think this was a totally reasonable purchase. There are times even the most experienced seamstress can better spend her time than starting such a project. Of course, sourcing the fabrics etc. is a problem for both of us. Hope this softens your ride so to speak. Can’t be having aches and pains.

  15. A Sewn Wardrobe April 27, 2011 at 6:43 pm #

    Tasia – I agree with you – I’ll leave the technical sewing to the experts who have spent years perfecting the fit and fabric of these pieces.

  16. kaitui-kiwi April 28, 2011 at 12:25 am #

    I ride and sew as well and I completely understand this purchase. The seaming on bike shorts is so important to avoid them being uncomfortable and chaffing plus the chamois are usually made from special antibacterial foams and I’d have no idea where to get something like that :) The one you bought would be great for wearing under a skirt.

  17. Sandy April 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm #

    I just bought a pattern from Jalie for making running compression shorts after seeing it had really good reviews from some other runners! The price of compression shorts is ridiculous! I would like to get a bike soon! I saw a pattern for padded bike shorts as well but mmm now I don’t remember whose pattern it was, might have been Jalie? But yes somethings you just need when doing certain sports!

  18. Tasia May 2, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    @karen: Ha! Definitely not ONE piece of fabric I’ve bought all year – although I have been reasonably well-behaved and only bought what I needed!

  19. Tasia May 2, 2011 at 11:33 am #

    My saddle/seat is really comfy – but it’s just the sit-bones that get sore after all of the bumps. Even if my seat was a pillow I think I would still get sore! Plus, the bike shorts keep me from flashing the world, whereas a padded bike seat would only solve one of my problems :) And I’d have to take it off when I went inside anywhere or someone would steal it!

  20. Tasia May 2, 2011 at 11:35 am #

    And thank you everyone for your concern – I am NOT wearing my heels to bike in, don’t worry! I keep a pair of high heel shoes at the office to change into, and wear my keds for the bike rides. Safety first! :)

  21. Susan May 3, 2011 at 1:51 am #

    Hi Tasia,

    Great choice on the bike shorts they are so comfy and well worth the investment.

    I wear all kinds of clothes on my bikes from the full cycling kit to a dress and high heels. I even wrote a post about how to ride in heels (it’s surprisingly easy) and do a weekly column on looking chic while riding

    Good luck with your cycling and sewing adventures can’t wait to hear more of them!

  22. Peter W. Polack February 9, 2014 at 5:44 pm #

    I’m a cyclist who has ventured into sewing to repair my cycling clothing and other outdoor wear.

    I happened upon your blog while searching for instructions on how to sew-in a replacement chamois. I’m doing this right now and pinning the chamois to the shorts without the lycra bunching up seems impossible! It’s almost not worth the aggravation.

    I suspect when cycling shorts are manufactured the chamois is sewn in before the legs are sewn closed. This will permit the crotch area to lie flat and make installing the chamois a breeze.

    By the way, you can source chamois pads from two vendors: and

    • Tasia February 10, 2014 at 8:29 am #

      Thanks for the information! I’d imagine sewing a chamois would be a real pain. When I worked in the fashion industry, the company I worked for attempted to get a cycling short manufactured and it was a real challenge working with a factory that could sew them in properly. Most would place the chamois inside of the short and sew with a zigzag stitch all around the chamois. This is done when the shorts are fully constructed, so yes, it’s a real pain. I think it had to be sewn after the fact, that way it can fit the shape of the crotch curve.
      Thanks for the sources as well – and good luck! What you’re doing is not easy to do :)