Discover how to source and sew tech fabric when sewing outdoor clothes.

Sewing outdoor clothing is a fun and practical way to marry two beloved hobbies: stitching (of course!) and hiking, camping, or general nature exploring. As a sewist, you’ve got the power to customize DIY outdoor gear. Special touches can make your time in nature more comfortable and last longer.

This guide demystifies sourcing and sewing recreational fabric and will help you choose your next (or first!) sewing pattern for outdoor clothing. You also will learn outdoor apparel construction techniques that increase comfort and functionality.

Having the right outdoor clothes can mean the difference between going home early and making your next outdoor memory. Let’s linger a bit longer in nature with our me-made outdoor outfits.

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How to Choose Outdoor Clothes Patterns

Your outdoor playground could look quite different from another sewist’s. HOWEVER, there are fundamental features of outdoor apparel every outdoorsy sewist should evaluate. When choosing sewing patterns for outdoor clothing, judge them on these qualities:

1.) Comfort

Choose comfort over fashion. A sewing pattern may look cool, but it’s important to assess whether it will:

  • Make you too hot and sweaty
  • Leave you consistently chilled
  • Get caught on brush
  • Be too tight and leave you breathless or chafed

2.) Range of Motion

Does this pattern let you easily raise your arms? What would it feel like if you crouched? Do you foresee lots of stress on a particular seam, pattern piece, or trim? Ease and recommended fabrics help you understand a garment’s range of motion.

3.) Protection

When you’re outside, there’s stuff that’s not inside, including:

  • The sun
  • The wind
  • The rain
  • Insects: dangerous (ticks) and annoying (mosquitos)
  • Plants: poisonous (ivy, oak) and annoying (burrs, berry canes)

Consider how a sewing pattern will stand up to the outdoor challenges of your adventure environment. (On a related note, that’s why hard-core backpackers don’t wear leggings for lengthy and challenging nature outings. Knit leggings can shred in rough terrain and are bad against mosquitos.)

4.) Layerability

You might start a hike in a sunny field and end up in shady woods. Can your clothes keep you comfortable in both environments? When I prepare for a hike with my sons, I tell them to dress in layers, because you can always take off a layer if you’re too hot (or add back a layer if you’re too cold).

Types of Outdoor Patterns to Sew

Now that we’ve got outdoor clothing features rolling around our brains, let’s examine specific patterns that might work for your shenanigans in nature.

Undergarment Patterns for Hiking and More

These bras and panties, sewn in wicking fabrics, will keep you cool and won’t rub you the wrong way.

Undergarment PatternWhy It’s Worth Checking Out
Ohh Lulu Sews Easy Bralette PDF PatternIf you are small of bosom, this underwire-free bralette easily could be made in a wicking knit for maximum hiking comfort.
Evie La Luve Mighty Sports Bra PDF PatternThis sports bra uses compression to support breasts. The pattern comes with some cool options for modification (e.g., mesh layers, wrap-around strap).
Bra Making Supplies Allie Sport BraThis pattern features four front views, two back views, and can accommodate busts 30 to 50 inches!
Greenstyle Creations No Show Brief PDF PatternThe only seams are along the bum crack and rear crotch. It comes in three rises, and the pattern includes a tutorial for a full tummy adjustment.

Outdoor Pants Sewing Patterns

These outdoor pants sewing patterns are big on functionality.

Pants PatternWhy It’s Worth Checking Out
Itch to Stitch Sequoia Cargos and Shorts PDF PatternThis pattern features a stretchy rib-knit waistband. The pants iteration has a leg strap to secure a rolled-up hem.
Green Pepper Sunset Bay Cargo Shorts and Zip Leg Pants Paper PatternYay, convertible pants! Unzip the lower pants leg and you’ve got shorts. This pattern features four flapped pockets.
Sew House Seven Free-Range Slacks Paper PatternThese pull-on pants were made into stylish hiking slacks by sewing blogger Meg of Cookin’ & Craftin.’

Outdoor Jacket Sewing Patterns

Shut out wind and water with a me-made jacket.

Jacket PatternWhy It’s Worth Checking Out
Jalie 4012 Maxime Three Season Jacket Paper PatternThis windbreaker is SO DARN STYLISH I can barely stand it. It features elastic cuffs and generous front pockets.
Jalie 4012A Maxime Hood Add-On PDF PatternSurprise! You can sew the hood expansion pack for the Maxime three-season jacket (above). The hood looks roomy and is lined (a nice touch in a hood, IMO).
Sewaholic Cypress Cape PDF PatternYes, it’s a cape, which is a little out of left field. But I chose it because 1.) It could be a great layering piece; and 2.) It offers a big range of motion.

Hat Sewing Patterns

Keep the sun off your face with these hat sewing patterns.

Hat PatternWhy It’s Worth Checking Out
Pattern Fantastique Lucent VisorI made this visor, and I can confirm its mega brim does an excellent job keeping the sun off your face. I’d like to make this again with a built-in sweatband.
BL Handmade Summer Bucket Hat PDF PatternBucket hats have made a comeback (because the ’90s have made a comeback)! This pattern features two different brim sizes.

Sewing Patterns for Shorts

These shorts sewing patterns can be sewn with quick-drying fabrics and feature a built-in liner. In other words, if your trail leads you to an irresistible body of water, you can jump in and cool off!

Shorts PatternWhy It’s Worth Checking Out
Gracious Threads Swim and Surf Shorts PDF PatternThis pattern comes in three different lengths and is finished with bias binding for a cool, retro vibe. I love this style of shorts!
Little Lizard King Halsey Shorts PDF PatternThese low-rise shorts feature an optional color-blocked back and invisible zipper back pocket. The wide waistband looks comfy.

Short Sleeve T-Shirt Pattern

Sew these T-shirts in wicking fabrics to keep your cool as you keep exploring.

Short-Sleeved T PatternWhy It’s Worth Checking Out
Sie Macht Cass T-ShirtThis free T-shirt is perfect for drapey athletic knits. The cap sleeves protect your shoulders from the sun, and the relaxed fit won’t cling to your body.
Fehr Trade Surf to Summit Top PDF PatternThis raglan top is designed to be form fitting in the upper torso and more relaxed in the waist and hips. You can sew it with a half zipper and back pocket.

Long-Sleeved T-Shirt Sewing Pattern

Sew these long-sleeved T-shirts in a fabric with sun protection.

Long-Sleeved T PatternWhy It’s Worth Checking Out
Fehr Trade Tessellate Tee PDF PatternThis pattern features unusual seams that reveal pockets! Lots of color-blocking opportunities. It also includes a clever ponytail hood.
Greenstyle Creations Waimea Rash Guard PDF PatternYou can sew this raglan T-shirt in three lengths — standard, long crop, or short crop. The pattern accommodates busts up to 61 inches.

Outdoor Vest Sewing Pattern

Stitch an outdoor vest sewing pattern — the ultimate layering piece.

Vest PatternWhy It’s Worth Checking Out
Dropje Hooded Vest PDF PatternThis pattern features fashionable darts that radiate from the collar. Topstitching highlights tidy in-seam pockets.
Twig and Tale Trailblazer VestThe princess seams give this vest a feminine silhouette. It can be sewn in different fabrics for different looks and applications; it’s even cute as a puffer vest!

Best Fabric for Outdoor Clothes

There are many recreational fabric options for sewing outdoor clothes. As you plan your sewing project, see what textile the pattern recommends. Discover if it calls for a fabric with stretch and whether you should use a knit, woven, or other type of material. After you’ve logged that data, here are some other qualities to consider when selecting a fabric for outdoor clothing.

Sun Protection

There are fabrics with built-in UV protection! Also remember that light-colored fabrics reflect the sun’s rays.

Bug Protection

Mosquitos struggle to bite through tightly woven fabrics. Consider avoiding fabric in dark colors, including black, navy, and red; dark colors make it easier for mosquitos to spot you. Ticks also are less attracted to dark colors. (P.S. You also could treat a finished me-made garment with Insect Shield permethrin spray, which was developed to keep bugs off the U.S. military. Please follow these safety tips if you use permethrin; do your research!)

Water Protection

Water-repellent fabric is treated with chemicals or manufactured in a way that it’s hydrophobic. Water-resistant fabric cannot be penetrated by water — to a point. Waterproof fabric is impervious to water. When it comes to staying dry, water repellent is good; water resistant is better; and waterproof is best. You might see fabrics labeled “DWR.” That means durable water repellent.

Wind Protection

Wind-resistant fabric is a barrier between the wind and your skin. Windproof fabric doesn’t let any wind get through it. Windproof clothing keeps the hot air around your body inside your garments.

Moisture Wicking

Most moisture-wicking fabrics are synthetics that are hydrophobic (wool also has wicking capabilities). Wicking fabrics take moisture (usually sweat) from the inside of a garment and pull it to the outside using capillary action. Wicking fabrics also dry fast so liquid can’t soak into them. The result is your body is drier and can better regulate its temperature.

Ruggedness

Depending on how you’re spending your time out of doors, abrasion resistance could be an appealing quality to you. Think about a fabric’s potential for snags, tears, pilling, and becoming threadbare. Outdoor fabric occasionally comes with a denier number (abbreviated with a lowercase “d”). Denier measures the thickness of the individual fibers that compose a fabric’s threads. The higher the denier, the more heavyweight the fabric is.

This table gives the high points of different performance fabrics.

FabricFiber Content & WeaveBest Sewing ProjectNotes
TricotNylon or polyester knitTops, bottoms-Wicking and quick drying
-Lightweight
-Strong in warp (grain) & stretch in weft
-Resists runs in fabric
-Affordable vs. Merino wool
-Can smell bad over time
-Warm/cool iron w/ no/low steam
MerinoWool knitTops-Soft & delicate
-Breathable
-Moisture wicking & reasonably quick to dry
-Not prone to retaining odors
-Expensive
-Low heat iron w/ little steam
CottonCotton knit or wovenTops, bottoms-Does not wick
-Can chafe
-Doesn’t dry fast; can chill you
-Evaporating sweat can feel nice in hot & dry conditions
-Loose cotton weaves let air pass through
-High/medium iron w/ steam
MeshPolyester knitTops, linings-Wicking and quick drying
-Prone to snags
-Low/cool iron w/ no steam
Compression GarmentsPolyester-, cotton-, nylon-blended knits with spandexTops, undergarments-Wicking
-Athletic knits often are warp tricot knit fabrics blended w/ spandex; fabric is stable & fits body w/ few seams
-Underwear knits for sports bras provide comfort, absorbency, compression
-Elastic power mesh for underwear dries fast & stays cool, thanks to air holes
-Low iron w/ low/no steam
FleeceSynthetic knit (stretches on crossgrain/weft)Pullovers/sweatshirts, jackets-Wicking & dries quickly
-Lightweight
-Holds body heat
-Look for anti-pill fleece
-Microfiber poly fleece is exceptionally soft
-No iron (will melt)
Windbloc FleecePolyester knitPullovers/sweatshirts, jackets-Breathable fleece – windproof on one side, water resistant on other side
-Same properties as fleece (above)
RipstopNylon woven (for the sake of a layperson’s understanding, nylon is made of strands of plastic yarn)Jackets-Lightweight & strong
-Wind resistant (sometimes water repellent)
-Does not breathe
-Medium iron w/ steam
Supplex (sometimes called Taslan)Nylon wovenJacket shells, shorts, pants-Engineered to feel like cotton
-Wind resistant & water resistant (DWR)
-Dries faster than cotton
-Breathable and wicking
-Iron with press cloth
Commander, Touchdown, Tactel, ChicagoCotton/poly or cotton/nylon woven
Jackets-Firm hand with body
-Wind & water resistant (Chicago is water repellent)
-Warm iron w/ no steam (hard to press)
Ultratex, Demoflex, Hydroflex, Gore-Tex, Eco Storm, GrouShellNylon, polyester, or blended wovenJackets-Waterproof
-Breathable
-Low iron w/ no steam
Coated FabricsUsually polyester or poly-blend woven coated with wax, liquid rubber, foam, or linseed oil (for oilcloth)Jackets-Coating applied as liquid, then heated or cured
-Frequently water resistant
-Frequently not breathable
-PUL (knit) is a coated fabric (cloth diapers, wet bags, rain jackets); PUL is breathable & waterproof
-Soft shell is a coated fabric; waterproof (coated) outside but fleece inside
-No iron (heat sensitive fabric will crack and dry out)

Sources for Buying Outdoor Clothing Fabric

Don’t be afraid to ask about a fabric’s qualities — wicking, ruggedness, use for a specific pattern or type of garment, etc. Purveyors of smaller stores with smaller inventories usually are incredibly familiar with their stock and what it’s good for. And there’s a good chance they’ve sewn with it themselves!

When you’re shopping online for these types of fabrics, don’t forget searches for recreational fabric, technical (or tech) fabric, performance fabric, activewear fabric, tactical fabric, and utility fabric. Or search for what you’d like to make (e.g., raincoat fabric).

My research for this article turned up these sellers of outdoor clothing fabric (in no particular order):

Fabric SellerDetails
Rockywoods FabricsSells fabrics and notions, including environmentally friendly fabrics, sun protective fabrics, and swatches.
Seattle FabricsOffers a large selection of fleece fabrics, outdoor gear sewing patterns, and swatches.
Denver FabricsSells fabric of all kinds (including home dec) and a competent selection of tricot, ripstop, and rainwear fabrics.
Outdoor Wilderness FabricsLots of outdoor clothing sewing patterns; many categories of fabric, from wicking baselayers to waterproof breathables to stretch fabrics.
Discovery FabricsFeatured products include insulating fabrics, activewear fabrics, and natural-fiber fabrics, including bamboo French terry and wicking micromodal jersey.
Quest OutfittersNot the prettiest website, but it features many coated, mesh, and fleece options, along with tons of fasteners (toggles, snaps, hooks, etc.).
Peak FabricsAnother old-school website; check out Peak’s variety of fleeces, shell and wicking fabrics, and an epic collection of notions. 
Fabric.comHuge selection of all kinds of apparel (and home dec) fabrics; try filters for “Usage,” “Fiber Content Range,” and “Product Features.” Use the top navigation menu to check out Purpose > Utility.
AmazonLooooots of fabric (because it’s Amazon); check out my guide to shopping for fabric on Amazon.
FabricvilleIn the top navigation menu, check out Fabric > Utility Fabric to start; has a big selection of PUL fabric.
MyFabricsUKCheck out the respectable collection of colorful, water-repellent softshell fabric; click Inspiration (main navigation menu) > Themes > Sports & Fitness to access activewear fabrics.
Mood FabricsMood’s specializes in the highest-quality textiles; from the three-line (hamburger) menu, click Fashion Fabrics > Specialty Fabrics > Performance Fabrics.
EtsyBuy outdoor fabric or sewing patterns from a small-scale seller.
Extremtextil.comBased in Berlin, this seller of outdoor trappings ships worldwide and has a respectable variety of fabrics, fasteners, patterns, and more. You can translate the site from German to English via Google!

Q&A: Sewing Outdoor Fabrics Tips

Because their fabrics feel “exotic” to many sewists, outdoor clothes have a reputation of being exceptionally difficult to sew. However, that’s (most) often not the case! Here are answers to frequently searched questions about sewing outdoor clothes.

Do I Need a Special Sewing Machine for Making Outdoor Gear?

A special sewing machine is not necessary when sewing outdoor gear. A standard home sewing machine more than likely can get the job done. In most cases, the correct combination of sewing needle, presser foot, and thread tension will let you sew recreational fabric. Before sewing outdoor clothes, test different combinations of needles, presser feet, and tensions on scrap pieces of your fabric (and interfacing, when appropriate!) to discover what works best. 

What’s more, sew more slowly than you normally would with technical fabrics, especially if you’re sewing a thicker fabric or several layers of fabric. Sometimes the feed dogs struggle for control when stitching thick fabric. Sewing more slowly lets the feed dogs and your machine create even stitches with no thread nests. It’s even OK to turn the handwheel manually if you see your machine struggling! (I often do this when stitching over bulky seams. On a related note, get a hump jumper for sewing over big lumps!) Sewing slowly is better than unpicking stitches, IMO.

As for presser feet, an even feed/walking foot and a Teflon/non-stick foot could be good to have in your toolbox. A walking foot is particularly good for knits and thick fabrics. (P.S. Walking feet are not made for fast sewing, so slow down!) A non-stick foot glides over fabric that has a tacky feel and would otherwise stick to the bottom of a metal presser foot.

What Kind of Needle Do You Use for Outdoor Fabric?

The kind of needle you use on outdoor fabric depends on whether the fabric is a knit, woven, or other type of fabric and how thick the fabric is. Use a stretch/ballpoint/jersey needle on knit fabrics, such as fleece or wicking synthetic tricot. Use a universal needle on woven fabrics, such as ripstop nylon or Cordura nylon.

Use a microtex (sharp) needle on coated fabrics such as oilcloth and PUL (polyurethane laminate). Microtex needles have a thin, acute point that creates the smallest puncture possible. Holes sewn in coated fabric are permanent; they can’t be rubbed out with a fingernail like you can do with most wovens and knits. If you’re working with a waterproof fabric, holes ARE NOT your friends! When you test sew on your intended fashion fabric, if the needle holes can’t be rubbed out or pulled together by tugging on the bias, a microtex needle could be a best bet.

The size of the needle depends on the thickness of the fabric. For a heavier-weight fabric, try sizes 90/14 and 100/16. For a medium-weight fabric, try size 80/12. For a lightweight fabric, try sizes 75/11 and smaller. I like to have a few multi-size packs of needles on hand so I’m covered for various fabrics. If you’re sewing a heavyweight fabric, your needle probably will be toast by the end of your project (if not sooner). If your stitches are going to heck, try a fresh needle.

What Kind of Thread Do You Use to Sew Outdoor Gear?

Along with walking, reaching, sitting, squatting, and more, outdoor gear must stand up to the elements: sun, wind, and water. That’s why the best thread for sewing outdoor clothes is polyester thread. Cotton thread can rot, especially if it gets wet. Rayon and silk threads are not usually used for garment construction. UV rays weaken nylon thread over time. To compare, poly thread is inexpensive, durable, and won’t shrink. Yup, all-purpose polyester thread FTW.

How Do You Press Synthetic Fabric?

You can press many (if not most) synthetic fabrics on a low temperature, no steam, using a press cloth. To set the seam, hold it under a clapper until the fabric has cooled. Further protect your garment by pressing on the wrong side. That way, if you make marks with an iron, they are on the inside of your clothes.

Before you sew a seam in your synthetic fabric, research how to press it, and test the pressing technique (with a press cloth to protect your iron’s soleplate!) on a scrap of the fabric. Some synthetic fabrics cannot be pressed AT ALL and literally will melt under the heat of your iron. Melted fabric stinks, it can damage your iron (or at least make a mess), and you risk damaging your me-made outdoor clothes.

If you’re buying fabric in person, take a photo of the end bolt to capture care instructions and fiber content. If you’re buying online, make note of care instructions and fiber content on the fabric’s product page. If you can’t find any care instructions or don’t know the fiber content, you might want to try a burn test, where you burn a swatch of the fabric to identify its fiber content. That way, if you know the fiber content, you can understand how to best press it.

When it comes to pressing synthetic fabric — and most recreational fabrics are synthetic — error on the side of too cool (vs. too hot), and use a press cloth in case your fabric makes like a grilled cheese sandwich and gets melty!

How to Sew Outdoor Clothes for Comfort and Functionality

Using these sewing techniques depends on your outdoor clothes pattern and fabric. I tried to think of pattern modifications that would improve a garment’s functionality and comfort. With a little imagination, these mods could turn a so-called non-outdoor sewing pattern into a hardworking piece of adventure gear.

How to Sew Non-Chafing Seams

When you’re running around outdoors, the last thing you want is a seam rubbing your skin raw. Comfortable outdoor clothes will keep your adventures rolling.

Exterior Seams

If you’re sewing a knit garment, consider putting the seams on the outside. That way the smooth exterior seam touches your body on the inside of the garment and the seam allowances face the world. (I suggest exterior seams for knit clothes because you almost never see woven clothes with exterior seams. With knits, seams on the outside feels like a design feature.)

Directions:

1.) Align pattern pieces to be joined wrong sides together.

2.) Sew or serge the seams, right sides facing out.

3.) Press to set the seam.

4.) Finish all seam allowances to your discretion — trimmed, sewn together, serged, etc. (Personally, I love the look of serged seams on the right side, like this sweatshirt dress.)

Flat-Felled Seams (Two Ways)

Another way to smooth out seams is to sew them down. Flat-felled seams are strong and good for wovens.

Proper Flat-Felled Seam

This is the seam often seen on the inseam of jeans.

Directions:

1.) Align pattern pieces to be joined wrong sides together.

2.) Sew the seam, right sides facing out.

3.) Press the seam allowances to one side.

4.) Trim the bottom seam allowance (closest to the main body of garment) to ⅛ inch.

5.) Turn under (wrong sides together) the raw edge of the top seam allowance and place over the trimmed bottom seam allowance.

6.) Pin the top folded seam allowance in place.

7.) Sew two lines of topstitching: one line close to the folded edge and one line close to the seam that joined the two pattern pieces.

Faux Flat-Felled Seam

With faux flat-felled seams, you create two parallel lines of topstitching on the exterior of your garment that sew down the seam allowance on the interior of the garment.

Directions: 

1.) Align pattern pieces to be joined right sides together.

2.) Sew the seam, finish its raw edges, and press both seam allowances to the same side.

3.) Flip the pattern pieces so that the right sides face up.

4.) From the right side, pin the seam allowances in place.

5.) From the right side, topstitch a scant ⅛ inch from the seam through the seam allowances.

6.) Sew another line of topstitching from the right side, parallel to the first line of topstitching. This topstitching will secure the finished edge of the seam allowances.

How to Sew Waterproof Seams

As you stitch water-resistent, water-repellent, or waterproof fabric, your needle creates tiny holes that can become susceptible to leaks. And what’s the point of buying and working with hydrophobic material if it’s going to leak? Sealing the seams to plug these holes will help keep you dry in your hydrophobic outdoor gear.

There are a few ways to seal seams:

1.) Sew with an anti-wick thread.

This anti-wick polyester thread is coated with wax that plugs the holes made by the sewing machine needle. Click here to watch a video that tests how leak proof the thread is. (Note: This is heavy-duty, marine-grade thread, so be sure to test needle-thread-tension-presser-foot combos before sewing!)

2.) Apply seam tape.

Gently iron on this waterproofing seam tape to keep out drips. Refer to How Do You Press Synthetic Fabric? for ironing tips; the product description for the tape encourages users to press with the tip of the iron vs. the entire soleplate.

On a similar note: While kicking around Amazon looking for the best seam tape I found these cute repair patches for outdoor clothes and gear!

3.) Use a seam sealer.

Paint on this seam sealer to create a flexible rubber seal.

4.) Wax it.

If you sew a jacket, backpack, hat, or more in a rugged natural fiber (e.g., canvas, denim), you can waterproof its exterior with Otterwax. (You don’t want the wax next to your skin on the interior.) Otterwax does wear off over time, so you’ll need to re-wax eventually. Apparently the application instructions on the Otterwax box aren’t the greatest; check out this Amazon review and continue your own research should you be interested in this natural waterproofing option.

How to Sew a Lapped Zipper Vent (Pit, Back, and Core Vents)

Playing outside can be a sweaty business. To this end, you can install vents in your me-made outdoor clothing to speed the evaporation of perspiration!

You can insert a zipper anywhere there’s a seam. And, if there’s not a seam, you can make one. For example, if you’d like a back vent, slash the back bodice horizontally. Add seam allowances at the slash on both pattern pieces.

You can add vents as the core, armpits, and back when sewing outdoor clothes.

Directions (assuming there’s a seam):

1.) Determine where you want your zipper and how long you want the vent to be. Mark the vent opening length on your pieces of fabric.

2.) Reinforce the seam allowance at the vent/zipper location with interfacing appropriate to your fabric. (Test the interfacing on scrap fabric.)

3.) Sew the seam, leaving the vent/zipper location unstitched. Reinforce stitches that abut the ends of the vent opening. Press open, including the unstitched vent opening.

4.) Choose a zipper that’s longer than the vent opening. (You’ll see why in a sec.)*

5.) Place the zipper face up, and place the vent opening atop it, face up. (The wrong side of the garment will touch the right side of the zipper.

6.) Line up the zipper in the vent opening. (It’s helpful to mark the vent opening on the fabric.)

Horizontal alignment: The right folded seam allowance touches the right side of the zipper teeth (the vent is not centered on the center of the zipper).

Vertical alignment: Place the bottom zipper stop at the end of one vent opening (marked on fabric). Next, pull down the slider about 1 inch into the vent opening. The top zipper stops will be beyond the vent opening; that’s OK, because we’ll be creating a new top stop as we sew over the zipper teeth. Pin or baste the zipper in place on the right folded seam allowance only.

Install a lapped zipper at core, armpit, or back vents when sewing outdoor clothes.

7.) Using a zipper foot, sew the right folded seam allowance to the zipper tape the length of the vent opening.

8.) Place the left folded seam allowance to touch the edge of the right folded seam allowance. Pin or baste in place.

9.) Starting at the bottom of the right line of stitching, sew across the zipper tape (under the bottom stop).

10.) Pivot and sew the left folded seam allowance to the zipper tape. When the needle is aligned with the top of the right line of stitching, pivot and sew across the zipper tape and teeth to connect to the right stitching line. As you sew over the teeth, increase the stitch length so you don’t hit the teeth with the needle. Sew forward and backward a few times over the teeth to create a new top zipper stop.

Here is how to sew a lapped zipper.

11.) Flip the seam-vent unit so that the wrong side faces up. Trim away excess zipper tape and teeth. Turn to the right side. Open and close the zipper, admiring your new vent and top zipper stops.

*You don’t HAVE to use a longer zipper if you have a zipper that’s the length of your intended vent opening (from top stop to bottom stop). I instruct using a longer zipper so you know you have the option to create top stops with stitching.

How to Add Elastic to Sleeves and Pants Cuffs

There are two main reasons to add elastic to sleeves and pants cuffs:

  1. To keep in body heat.
  2. To keep out insects.

This cuff technique calls for creating a casing and inserting elastic. Use a flat elastic that’s ¾ inches to 1 inch wide to create a robust seal between your body and the outside world.

Cut the sleeve/pants fabric pattern piece AFTER you’ve made the casing modification. This casing does not add to the finished length of the sleeve/pants.

Directions: 

1.) Wrap a piece of elastic around your wrist/ankle to your desired tightness. Don’t make it too tight because it will feel slightly tighter around your limb when it’s encased in fabric.

2.) Mark the elastic at your desired tightness and cut it. You’ll need two pieces for two wrists/ankles.

3.) To make the casing, we’re extending the length of the sleeve/pants leg. Here is some math for you:

Width of elastic + ¼ inch + hem allowance = casing height

For example, let’s say my elastic is 1 inch wide and my hem allowance is ⅝ inches. Here’s my equation:

1 inch + ¼ inch + ⅝ inches = 1 ⅞ inches = casing height

(If your fabric is particularly thick, you could increase from ¼ inch to ⅜-½ inch.)

4.) Trim the hem allowance off the sleeve/pants pattern piece. (We can do this because the hem allowance is in the casing height.)

5.) Add the casing height to the sleeve/pants hem. If the sleeve/pants pattern piece is tapered at the hem, you’ll need to add the casing height as a reflection of the taper, like this:

This is how to add a tapered casing for elastic.

Getting the reflection correct is kind of a mind bender. Play around with paper and the pattern pieces as much as needed.

6.) Cut out the sleeve/pants pattern piece in fabric. Finish the raw edge of the hem allowance. Sew as directed (the sleeve/pants hems likely will come last).

7.) Turn under the sleeve/pants hem allowance (wrong sides together) and press.

8.) Turn under the casing (width of elastic plus ¼ inches) and press.

9.) From the right side, pin the hem allowance in place.

10.) From the right side, topstitch the hem allowance in place, leaving a 2-to-3-inch gap to insert the elastic. Be careful not to stitch the elastic.

11.) Insert the elastic into the casing. You might find it useful to attach a large pin to the end of the elastic before you insert it. The pin is easy to hold as you fish the elastic through the casing.

12.) Pull both elastic ends out of the casing. Push away as much fabric as possible to sew together the butting elastic ends.

13.) Find a piece of woven scrap fabric. Place the elastic ends atop the scrap, with the ends touching. Sew together the ends of the elastic with a wide zig-zag stitch. Pass over the elastic joint a few times to secure the elastic ring. Trim away the excess scrap fabric. (Using a fabric scrap as backing eliminates the bulk and hassle of sewing through two pieces of elastic.)

This is how to attach the ends of two pieces of elastic.

14.) Tuck the elastic ring back into its casing. Laying the fabric as flat as possible, finish topstiching the hem allowance.

15.) Ta-da, your elastic is secure in its casing!

Your Outdoor Gear, Your Way

Sewing your own outdoor clothing puts you in charge of its comfort and functionality, whether you’re a backcountry backpacker or state park daytripper. The goal of this guide is to provide inspiration and information about sewing your own outdoor clothes. With your adventurescape and personal preferences in mind, you can DIY the ideal outdoor outfit!

Over to you: What’s your experience sewing outdoor clothing? What are your best tips for working with tech fabric? And where’s your favorite place to buy these fabrics? Please leave a comment! Thanks for reading.