I have been a little slow to the leggings party but I am completely converted! Leggings are cheap and plentiful, so it may seem weird to make your own. As a plus size gal, I find it hard to find leggings that are nice and fitted through the lower leg and a comfortable fit at the waist band. Regular leggings tend to be too low in the rise and tight in the elastic but plus size is often too big in both the leg and the waist. At least when I make my own, I can get the fit right. And I am free to make them in any fabric I can find. Crazy cat lady fabric included! But of course you could go with a more luxury fabric like merino jersey.
My best fitting pair of leggings were bought on sale from the supermarket for the princely sum of $7.50! I was cold and bought them to go under a half circle skirt. Unbelievably, they fit me perfectly and I went back and bought all the pairs in my size (four pairs). You can see me rocking them with various outfits above. Once I had a pair of leggings that fitted perfectly, I thought the best thing to do was copy them.
I wanted to make sure I copied them as accurately as possible, since fit it the whole point. Front crotch curves and back crotch curves are very different! Don’t think that you can make them the same shape and get a good fit. The best method to do that is to cut up a pair that fits well but I’m not prepared to lose a pair that fits! The method I use here allows you to copy the curves of an existing pair pretty accurately. That’s why I think this method is the best but you might need a second set of hands to help you trace. You’ll need some paper or pattern trace to draft the pattern on, a pen or marker, a straight ruler and if you have one, a French curve ruler is handy.
First you need to find where the outside side seam would be if you had one. Grab your existing leggings and line up the front and back seam at the waist and mark the halfway part on each leg (the imaginary outside seam) with a pin. Now tuck one leg inside the other so you can see all the seams. I found it helpful to throw in a few pins along the seams to keep things from shifting. Get a nice big piece of pattern trace (or taped together paper) that will be long enough and wide enough to fit the whole pattern and draw a straight line down the middle. Lay the leggings on top, so that they are lined up with the centre line.
Here’s is where a second pair of hands is helpful. You need to hold the centre seam to the centre line, while stretching the waistband (those pins in the imaginary outside seams) just enough that the fabric lays flat. While everything is in that state, trace around that whole half of the leggings. Now, flip and repeat for the other half. You’ll see that the back waist comes up higher and has a bit of a curve. Mark in the front and back and name of the pattern.
You’ll need to mark in some seam allowance at the waist, at least 1” or 2.5cm to allow for the ½” or 1.25cm elastic. While you are there, add some hem allowance too. I added seam allowance on the rest of the pattern too (just 3/8”) because my original leggings were super stretchy and I didn’t want my copy to be too tight. But some would say that seam allowance is unnecessary because you have traced the original seam allowance. I’d rather err on too big and take in but you can decide for you. Either way, this is a good time to smooth any bumpy lines, a curved ruler makes that easier. Ta da! Leggings Pattern is made!
Let’s talk fabric before we get to sewing. You really need a fabric that is nice and stretchy and has good recovery. And by recovery, I mean it snaps back into shape after being tugged. It should really have some spandex/Lycra/elastane content or things we get droopy and baggy real fast! Cotton blends are nice and breathable but will tend to fade. Nylon and polyester will wash and dry beautifully but are less breathable. And there are a whole new bunch of sportswear fabrics out there that have qualities from both camps. Whatever you choose, make sure it is as stretchy as what you copied and has good recovery. You’ll need about a metre or a bit more, depending on height. I am plus size (around an AU22 in purchased pants) and fitted mine easily with the fabric on fold. You’ll also need enough ½” or 1.25cm elastic to fit around your waist (or wherever your leggings hit you). This is an easy sew, so let’s bring this home!
Lay your fabric out, double layer, with your pattern on top and cut. Ensuring that stretchiest part of the fabric is going to be around your waist, not waist to ankle. Take one leg and fold it right sides together and pin from crotch to ankle. Repeat for second leg.
Now head over to the sewing machine and set it to a stretch stitch, I used the lightening bolt stitch which is number 4 on my machine. Sew up the inner leg seam, using the seam allowance you gave yourself on the pattern. Repeat for second leg.
Tuck one leg into the other, right sides touching and align the leg seam. Now pin the whole length of the crotch seam and pin. Sew around the crotch. I choose to double sew, as the crotch seam wears the fastest.
Pull the legs out to separate and there are your leggings. Now to add a waist band. Measure the elastic against your waist so that it is firm but comfortable. Overlap the ends and sew the elastic into a circle. I favour the square with an x inside. Use pins to divide the elastic into four equal parts. Do the same for the leggings (much like finding the imaginary seam in the pattern making stage).
Switch to a zig zag or a 3 step zig zag on your sewing machine. Align the seam in the elastic with the back seam of the leggings but just a few mm in from the edge of the fabric (this avoids the elastic edge irritating the skin later). Sew with a zig zag, so that the stitch falls of the elastic and onto the fabric, close to the cut edge. Tension the elastic to meet the fabric by aligning the marking pins. Sew all the way around and back stitch.
Flip the elastic in to the pants. I like to tuck a small scrap of fabric at the back seam. It helps me to find the back of my pants easily when I’m half asleep and getting dressed. Sew through the bottom edge of the elastic with a zig zag and tension the elastic so that it lays flat as it is sewn. Last stop is hemming and as you may know from other posts, not hemming is okay! But if you want to be my guest. Just be sure to use a stretch stitch so that your leggings can fit onto your leg!
And now you know how easy it is to make leggings! So easy! Even making the pattern is pretty easy, especially if you can borrow someone to tension your waistband while you trace (thanks Mum!). There is hardly any sewing and I reckon you could make a pair in perhaps 30 mins from cut out to wearing. I adore these cat print ones! They actually got pushed up the queue because of one of my #fabricresolutions and I’m so glad they did because c’mon, cat leggings! I vowed to use this fabric and not only did I make these leggings, I made Mum a skirt (tutorial is here and this is the pic of Mums skirt). I am super happy with how my leggings turned out and I love that I have a pattern for the next crazy pattern that comes along. It makes me channel my inner Peg Bundy, as you see! As usual, I’m keen to see what you have made, so share your pics xxxx
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