Adventures with reflective fabric

A while ago my husband asked if I could make him a top out of high visibility fabric for running in the evenings. Not something I’d ever sewed with before. A bit of research revealed that stretch reflective fabric is seriously pricey stuff. So I started out buying a pack of samples from Hello Reflectives, whose website I’d bookmarked some time ago. I received a mixture of wovens and knits. There’s quite a range of weights and textures, but as you’d expect most of them have a plasticky hand and very little drape; I wouldn’t want to wear many of the types next to my skin. The knits with reflective prints are drapey but not super stretchy – it’s the nature of the printing. Fine for a loose fitting running top though.

We eventually decided on a printed knit in a design that didn’t come in the sample pack, and when I ordered it they threw in another, slightly different, pack of samples. So my photos are of a combination of the two sample packs plus a bit of the fabric I actually bought.

These are the wovens (except the perforated one). Mostly quite light weight, plasticky, very little drape. Think of oilcloth. They’d be good for things like raincoats or bags.

Mostly woven samples from Hello Reflectives, right side up, natural light
Mostly woven samples from Hello Reflectives, right side up, flash
Mostly woven samples from Hello Reflectives, wrong sides

These are the knits. The three printed ones are quite drapey and would be OK to wear against the skin. The fully coated knits are much heavier, have very little stretch, and don’t drape; they’d be good for outerwear. I quite fancy making a jacket in that silvery grey one, but I’m not sure I’d dare wear it.

Knit samples from Hello Reflectives, right sides, natural light
Knit samples from Hello Reflectives, right sides, flash
Knit samples from Hello Reflectives, wrong sides (except the circuit board print which I forgot to turn over, oops)

We picked the circuit board print in the end. They have a few other prints in the same silver on black effect but this design is their best option for an all over print in my opinion. Some of the other designs have pattern repeats with very obvious edges, so they’d be better as accents.

The fabric was supposed to be very narrow so I had to order two metres, but what arrived was so much wider than advertised that I was able to get two tops out of it. I was a bit concerned about washing the fabric – the website says not to wash it hotter than 30 degrees, but realistically you can’t be precious about exercise gear. I washed a sample on my normal 40 degree cycle and it came out OK. I’m guessing it will probably shorten the life of the fabric to keep washing at 40, but that’s life. So far it’s holding up fine.

The pattern is a tracing of an old t shirt that my husband likes the fit of. I was intending to use something from Burda, but would you believe in ten years of back issues there isn’t a single pattern for a loose fitting men’s t shirt.

Having enough fabric for two tops meant that I could treat the first one as a trial run. I had to reshape the neckline a lot on that version, but it ended up wearable. It’s certainly bright.

Reflective print t shirt back view, electric light
Reflective t shirt back view, flash

So overall a success. And they’re certainly getting a lot of wear in the current dark evenings.

9 thoughts on “Adventures with reflective fabric

  1. Would you believe I used the exact same circuitboard fabric for reflective panels on a pair of leggings in 2019? Great minds! I’ve still got quite a bit left from my 1m, too. Your teeshirt looks great!

  2. The t-shirt looks great and its really effective, so its a win – win. I think a silver jacket would look terrific and I suspect that eventually you will give in to that urge. I’ll be watching for it.

  3. Amazing bright! Much safer walking and running in the dark. I have been working late some nights and the walk to the car and then the drive home are challenging to be seen and to see others.

  4. You definitely need a reflective silver jacket.
    The T-shirt is great. I was hoping that was the fabric you chose as I was reading this post. Thanks for not disappointing!

  5. The fabric is so cool! Very fashionable and functional with the intended purpose of night running. I’m eyeing some of those other flashy fabrics – they look so cool with the flash lighting!

  6. Thank you for such great information. I’ve been wanting to make some sports outerwear for a while and my OH is after some cycling gear. This will be a great resource when I finally get around to it. the circuit board print was my favourite too!

  7. Great looking t shirt. Amazingly bright. i wish some of the runners I see along side the road at 5:30 AM, when I am driving to my own workout session, would wear a bit more reflective gear like that T shirt..

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