How to sew leggings (Tutorial)

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Tutorial: How to sew your own leggings

 

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!).

Tutorial: How to sew your own leggings

 

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!

Tutorial: How to sew your own leggings

 

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.

Tutorial: How to sew your own leggings

 

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.

Tutorial: How to sew your own leggings

 

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).

Tutorial: How to sew your own leggings

 

And here are your two mirror image pieces.

Tutorial: How to sew your own leggings

 

Fold each one in half, wrong sides out, pinning together the two side edges up the leg til the crotch.

Tutorial: How to sew your own leggings

 

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!

Tutorial: How to sew your own leggings

 

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.

Tutorial: How to sew your own leggings

 

Turn one leg right way out.

Tutorial: How to sew your own leggings

 

Slip the right-side-out leg inside the wrong-side-out leg, making sure you match up the two seams and pinning them.

Tutorial: How to sew your own leggings

 

Then join up the rest of the edges and pin away.

Tutorial: How to sew your own leggings

 

And then sew away, again with some sort of stretchy stitch. You will stitch over the ends of the first seams.

Tutorial: How to sew your own leggings

 

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.

Tutorial: How to sew your own leggings

 

Now lets finish off the waistband and hems. I like using 2 cm wide elastic for this type of project.

Tutorial: How to sew your own leggings

 

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.

Tutorial: How to sew your own leggings

 

The lazy way is to finish off the edges with the overlock machine or zig zagging (or not finishing them off at all!)…

Tutorial: How to sew your own leggings

 

…and just do the second fold inwards, in my case by 2 1/2 cm, iron, pin.

Tutorial: How to sew your own leggings

 

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…

Tutorial: How to sew your own leggings

 

…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.

Tutorial: How to sew your own leggings

 

Measure the elastic around your waist and attach the ends with a safety pin, then mark off where the end hits the other side.

Tutorial: How to sew your own leggings

 

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.

Tutorial: How to sew your own leggings

 

Sew the elastic so that the end comes up to where you marked it. Cut off the rest of the elastic.

Tutorial: How to sew your own leggings

 

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.

Tutorial: How to sew your own leggings

 

And there you have ’em! The instructions were a bit on the long side, but it wasn’t that bad, now, was it?! 🙂

Tutorial: How to sew your own leggings

 

Now stretch out and relax, admiring your comfy new leggings!

Make a headband from stretchy fabric scraps

 

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!

Make a headband from stretchy fabric scraps


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!

15 COMMENTS

  1. Dio, no!! Guardando le foto si vede che non stiro quasi mai! Solo quando sia davvero importante, ad esempio quando faccio gli orli o girovita, in questo caso. Quando ho provato in passato a saltare il ferro, i risultati sono stati decisamente meno che soddisfacenti! 🙂

  2. bellissimo tutorial!!!!!!!!!!
    ti volevo fare una domanda….posso utilizzare il sistema di infilare una gamba dietro l'altra anche per cucire altri tipi di pantaloni??? perchè io ho molte difficoltà a cucire quella parte del pantalone..ed il tuo sistema mi sembra cosi' semplice e ben fatto!
    Cosa dici?
    grazie mille
    Ste

  3. Ste, sì! assolutamente sì! questa tecnica si può usare per qualunque tipo di pantalone con l'elastico (o con il cordoncino, facendo una asola per i bottoni nel girovita)! infatti, in questi giorni devo fare un pantalone dei pigiama per mio marito e li faccio in esattamente lo stesso modo, sia cartamodello che cucitura. fammi sapere come ti viene! 🙂
    p.s. ho appena riletto quello che hai scritto. si infila una gamba DENTRO l'altra, non dietro. giusto per evitare fraintesi!

  4. Grazie per il tuo tutorial! Ho appena ultimato il mio primo paio di leggins per mia figlia: lei è felicissima e io anche! Adesso il jersey non mi fa più paura e neanche l’ago gemello (è stata la prima volta che lo usavo). Grazie ancora: le tue istruzioni sono molto chiare ed effettivamente è stato facile realizzarli.
    Giuliana

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  6. Just caught your post on making hats from sweaters and thought how can I make a little girl’s leggings from a sweater as I have several old sweaters made of cute stripes and they would make great little girl’s leggings. It shouldn’t be too difficult to copy a pair that already fits, right?

    • Hi Rosemary! That’s a great idea to make nice cozy sweater leggings! If the girl is little enough, you could make them out of the arms and just use the original wrist cuffs at the ankles. (This is something I’ve done before and have been meaning to write a tutorial for for *years*. Maybe this is just the kick in the behind I need to actually do it!). Or you could just cut out the pattern pieces from the body of a sweater, sort of like what I did here. You wouldn’t need to hem the leggings if you use the sweater hem. You just need to take out the seam/hem allowance from the pattern where you match it up with the hems. If you need help with that, let me know!

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