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Last week I showed you how to draft a leggings pattern from a pair you already have. Now I’ll show you how to use that pattern to sew your fabulous leggings. As with the pattern, I’m making them for my daughter exactly like the ones that I made myself a year ago (and I’ve been wanting to write these two tutorial for the past year!).
First let’s talk about fabric. If you’re sewing normal pants, you can use whatever fabric your heart desires, but for leggings you need a stretchy fabric,
like a jersey. (Edit: please don’t use regular cotton jersey for leggings because it won’t have enough stretch. [If you’re curious to see what happens when you attempt to use regular jersey for leggings, look at this sewing fail of mine.] Use a jersey with a high lycra/spandex content [5% is NOT enough], or else a viscose or other stretchy fabric.) I found this cut of fabric a few years ago in my town’s outdoor market and I just love it, even if it’s not 100% cotton. Look closely at the fabric. See those ribs? You’re going to want those to go up and down vertically on your garment. Another way to figure out how to orient your pattern on the fabric is to gently stretch it. Some elasticized fabrics have a four-way stretch, so both vertically and horizontally. You’ll want yours to stretch more horizontally. I think this rule is valid for any sewn project, but if you can think of any exceptions, do let me know!
One of the reasons I like using semi-transparent paper for pattern making is that you can see the fabric a bit through the paper and therefore better position it. It’s not so important for solid colors, but if you’re using a geometric print like this one, it’s better if the central part of the piece is straight vertically so that the outside of the legs is straight.
Fold your fabric, making sure that the print is straight on both front and back, and cut out your shape. This way you’ll get two pieces with a single cut.
If you prefer optimizing your fabric or if you have a piece that’s too narrow to fold over, you need to cut the pattern out twice. But be careful! The pattern isn’t symmetrical, so you have to turn it upside down for the second cut (as in the above photo).
And here are your two mirror image pieces.
Fold each one in half, wrong sides out, pinning together the two side edges up the leg til the crotch.
If the tips of the crotch match up perfectly, nice job! If they don’t, don’t sweat it. One of the nice things about stretchy fabrics is that they’re pretty forgiving of little mistakes!
And sew taking into consideration the seam allowance used in the pattern. I prefer using an overlock machine which not only snips off excess fabric but also makes a nice stretchy seam. If you use a regular sewing machine, use a stitch that will stretch, like a
zig zag. (edit 11/04/14: Since writing this post, I have discovered how wonderful the triple straight stitch is for sewing stretchy materials. It is a straight stitch but with stretch and if you use it with a ballpoint jersey needle, you will have wonderful results!) In theory, if you sew in the direction of the ribs, you can also sew a straight stitch. In practice, if you straight stitch, be assured that at some point, yanking your leggings up after having used the toilet because you hear the kids getting into some sort of mischief in the other room, you’ll rip those straight seams. Just trust me on this. I sewed my first pair of leggings like that and I ended up having to completely resew all the seams because they were all ripped open in various places.
Turn one leg right way out.
Slip the right-side-out leg inside the wrong-side-out leg, making sure you match up the two seams and pinning them.
Then join up the rest of the edges and pin away.
And then sew away, again with some sort of stretchy stitch. You will stitch over the ends of the first seams.
Pull the legs outside of each other and check it out! Something that actually resembles leggings! You can even try them on at this point to make sure the legs aren’t too wide or tight, but don’t pay much attention to the top part.
Now lets finish off the waistband and hems. I like using 2 cm wide elastic for this type of project.
There are two ways to do this, but the exact measurements depend on the seam allowances of the pattern. I ironed the edge inwards a little. (In theory it should’ve been by 5 mm because I’d added 3 cm in my pattern, but i actually folded in more.) The fold inwards again by 2 1/2 cm (if you’re using 2 cm wide elastic), iron and pin.
The lazy way is to finish off the edges with the overlock machine or zig zagging (or not finishing them off at all!)…
…and just do the second fold inwards, in my case by 2 1/2 cm, iron, pin.
Then sew. Here you definitely need a stretchy stitch. I like using a double needle which creates a nice double line of stitching outside and allows for a good deal of stretching. Here are the hems…
…and the massacred waistband. Don’t be lazy like me; always check thread tention, especially with stretch fabrics! If you don’t, your stitching will skip, won’t stitch at all, will be a big mess. Then you’ll just end up fixing the tention after all and redoing everything. (I sewed the waistband first, which is why it’s in this hideous condition while the hems are fine!) Anyway, even if you make the same mistake that I did, the important thing is to leave an opening in the back of the waistband for the elastic.
Measure the elastic around your waist and attach the ends with a safety pin, then mark off where the end hits the other side.
Take out the pin, stick it back into the end of the elastic and slip it through the sewn casing until it comes out the same opening again.
Sew the elastic so that the end comes up to where you marked it. Cut off the rest of the elastic.
Pull the fabric so that the elastic slips back inside the casing and sew the opening closed. I like to fold a piece of ribbon and slip it in under the fabric to make it easier to see which side is the back, but it’s not necessary.
And there you have ’em! The instructions were a bit on the long side, but it wasn’t that bad, now, was it?! 🙂
Now stretch out and relax, admiring your comfy new leggings!
Or, if you’re up for more work, you could take some of that extra fabric (especially if you cut out the pieces by folding the fabric in half, there will be a big piece from between the legs) to sew up a quick coordinating headband!
Ahhh! (I told you that I’d been wanting to write this tutorial for the past year; this picture is from a year ago, which is why my hair’s different here than in the current pictures of my blog!) Next up: refashioned leggings, without fabric yardage! Stay tuned!