Performance Fabrics 101

This blog is a guest spot from Jody Kappas, you can follow her at her home blog Argyle + Pearls

When it comes to sewing your own athletic wear, there are a ton of options out there in terms of fabric type. Making sure to use the best fabric for a given pattern is obviously important with any sort of garment sewing, but even more crucial with athletics since fit, comfort and performance are all dependent on making the correct choices.  Knowing the weights and properties of several of the performance fabrics in the shop will be helpful for getting the right one for your project! I have highlighted below several main categories of Performance fabrics found in the shop and provided a couple examples of finished garments in them when available!

325 GSM Brushed Performance

This category of fabric is a great medium-to-heavy weight fabric with a soft, brushed texture on one side and a smooth, cool feel on the reverse side.  This is a versatile fabric and you can use either side as the “right side”, meaning you could use the brushed side on the inside against your body for softness and an extra feeling of warmth like in a pair of leggings, or you could use the brushed side facing out like in a hood lining for softness against your face and neck. This is a matte fabric, with the brushed side being slightly duller due to the brushed texture. The weight of this type of fabric and its opacity makes it an ideal choice for workout leggings.  It has excellent stretch and recovery and is easy to work with since it doesn’t roll and has a lot of stability. It also works great for tops requiring a bit more structure like hoodies and bomber jackets for example. It also works great for sport bras and provides great support thanks to its great recovery.


This fabric is your quintessential performance fabric. It has amazing stretch and recovery, and offers excellent compression. It’s a matte fabric with an almost cottony feel to it, and therefore does not have a shiny appearance at all. The stretch is definitely harder or stiffer than some other performance fabrics and this is what gives Supplex a more stable feel.  It’s heavy weight (390 or 440 GSM) is perfect for leggings and sport bras! It can also be used for tops requiring stability or compression, but know that it does not have good drape. Because of the compressive quality, it can make your garments feel tighter than other lighter fabrics. This type of fabric also works great for waistbands on every day type leggings as well! 

Yoga Performance:

The fabrics in this category range quite a bit in their weight, but all of them are excellent choices for workout tops.  Tanks, wrap tops, basic tees and pullovers all work perfectly with Yoga Performance. Athletic skirts with a pair of attached fitted shorts underneath are also a great use of this fabric. Yoga performance fabrics will have excellent drape and are a little less matte than Supplex, but still wouldn’t be considered shiny.  They have a little bit more of a smooth and slippery texture to them. This category all has excellent stretch and recovery. There is varying weights of yoga performance, but most would not be compressive. (i.e they may show more lumps and bumps).  There are sub-categories within Yoga Performance, one of which is Brushed Yoga, which is a lighter weight, very drapey fabric with one side being brushed and therefore very soft and fuzzy! Although the fuzzy size would feel very comfortable against your skin as a pair of leggings, but the Brushed Yoga is best used for tops.

Swim and Swim/light performance:

Just as the name indicates, swim fabric is intended for swimwear!  The weights vary just a little bit on the swim, as does their overall look. (Some are completely matte and others have a bit of a sheen) Bathing suits and rashguards are a given, but some of the swim can also be used for regular activewear too!  Leotards, sport bras and accents on workout leggings are my favorite alternative use to “swim” fabric, but workout tanks are an excellent use as well. The weight of most swim isn’t going to be suitable for full leggings, but certainly usable as accents!  A sub category within the general swim/athletic category would be tricot, (pronounced tree-co, in case you hadn’t ever heard it said out loud!) which is suitable for both swimwear and athletic wear and has a slightly different texture and is generally more matte than regular swim.

Performance french terry:

If you have ever wondered what a high end performance fabric feels like, you’ve got to check out the Performance french terry. It has a luxurious feel, while still being completely functional for a sweat session!  The face of it is matte, similar in appearance to the yoga performance, and the backside has small, tight loops. It has wonderful stretch and recovery, and works equally well for both tops and bottoms. It is definitely suitable for leggings, absolutely perfect for joggers, and also makes great hoodies or bomber jackets!

Performance Mesh:  

The performance mesh is such a unique fabric. Based on the name, you would assume since its a mesh that it would be completely see through, but it is surprisingly opaque.  When stretched or held to light, you can see through the holes, but when it is placed against another fabric, you cannot see the other fabric behind it. It has great stretch and recovery and has a lot of fun uses!  It can be used as workout tops/tanks, accent panels on leggings, or as an overlay on an athletic skort or shorts with compression shorts underneath.

Various other Performance fabrics:  

From time to time, other performance fabrics have been stocked or come in bundles.  You may see some fabrics in bundles just labeled as “performance” and these are (in general) fairly similar to the yoga knits or a lighter weight supplex, and will vary in their weight.  Most of these will be great for workout tops and tanks, and some are also suitable for leggings. Sometimes there has been Tactel in the shop and in bundles, which is very similar in nature to Supplex. Tactel makes fantastic workout leggings  There has also been performance fleece which is like a supplex or yoga knit on the face and has a very soft and thick brushed surface on the back. Most performance fleeces have less stretch than other performance fabrics, so are better suited for hoodies or joggers.

I hope having some general info on several performance fabrics will give you the confidence to tackle making your own workout or athleisure clothing if you haven’t tried to yet!

Happy Sewing,


101325AthleticFrench terryJodyPerformancePerformance meshSupplexSwimYoga

1 comment

Carol Sweeting

Carol Sweeting

Is there an easy pattern for plus size leggings for a beginner to sew?

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