MakeIt Kids: Leggings

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Welcome to my first post!!

This is Ellery, my almost 2.5 year old.  About 5 or 6 weeks ago we potty trained, and unfortunately in London there aren’t too many days that are warm enough for “nudie legs” as we call them.  Her wardrobe is full of jeans but the thought of peeling off jeans after an accident wasn’t terribly appealing, so I decided to make up a quick pattern for leggings and was able to make 4 or 5 pairs in a jif.

If you haven’t ever made your own pattern, don’t worry – I’m going to go through it in-depth but it’s not actually very difficult.  And if you’ve never sewn with knits, don’t fear!  It’s scary at first and I find it a bit harder to take them apart if I’ve made a mistake, but generally knit garments are very forgiving so they tend to fit and look nice even if they aren’t perfect.  And contrary to popular belief, you do not need a serger / overlocker in order to sew with knits.  In fact, they don’t fray so if you don’t want to, you don’t even have to finish off the inside seams.

Here’s what you need in order to make your own leggings:

  • a pair of leggings in whatever size you want to make (if they’re a bit short or small, you can easily adjust)
  • sewing machine and matching thread
  • pins
  • stretchy knit fabric*
  • ruler
  • pencil
  • French curve or other curved edge you can use for tracing curves
  • pattern paper or freezer paper or any other lightweight paper
  • tracing wheel and tracing transfer paper
  • 3/4″ elastic
  • fabric scissors

*Make sure to always wash and dry your fabric before starting any project.

Let’s get started!

1. If your pattern paper came folded like mine did, give it a quick iron to make it nice and flat.  Just make sure to turn off the steam while ironing paper.

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2. Draw a vertical line down the center of your paper that’s about as long as the leggings or a bit longer.  Fold the leggings in half and press to make them nice and neat.  Lay the folded leggings on the paper with the straight edge of the leggings (where the side seam would be if there was one) up against the line.  Draw a straight line marking the hem of the leggings, perpendicular to your original line.

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(note: leggings should be pushed up right against those two lines – I just moved it away to give a clearer picture.)

3. Take your pencil and dot along the inseam and up the center front.  The center front is always lower than the center back, so make sure your last dot is the top of the lower edge of the leggings.  Also mark the top edge of the side of the leggings, which is where the leggings meet that first line you drew down the center of your paper.

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4. Flip your leggings over so the side is still lined up with the center line but so the inseam is now facing the other direction.  Mark the top edge of the center back with a dot.

Remove the leggings.  Connect the top center front dot with the top center back dot using a ruler.  (the dot marking the top of the side should fall close to or on that line)

Now take your French curve or other curved edge and connect the dots you made along the center front seam and inseam.  Just go a little bit at a time – no curved tool will hit all those dots at once so just do a few inches and then move the curved tool again.

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5. Now it’s time to add seam allowance.  Yes, I know you don’t have a center back and back inseam on your pattern yet, but just hang in there with me for a moment.  I added 1/2″ to the center front and inseam, 5/8″ to the bottom hem (just use 1/2″ if you’re not serging) and 1 1/4″ to the waist.

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6. Here’s how to finish the last side of the pattern.  Fold your paper along that line you first drew down the center.  Place your tracing transfer paper underneath the bottom hem and trace it and then follow along up the inseam and the center front seam to the top of your pattern, moving the transfer paper as you need to.  This will transfer your center and inseam to the other side of the paper.

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And when you open your pattern back up, here’s what it should look like:

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Cut out your pattern, making sure to use regular scissors, not your fabric scissors!

Make sure to make notes on your pattern indicating:

  • what the pattern is for
  • size
  • seam allowance
  • how many to cut
  • the grain line (even though there’s no grain on a knit, it helps line up the pattern with any printed fabric)
  • any other notes you may want to remember

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7. It’s time to start cutting!  Fold your fabric in half, placing selvage on selvage   Place your pattern piece on your fabric and use your clear ruler to line it up so the grain line on your paper is parallel to the selvage.  Pin your fabric down or use pattern weights and then cut all around, taking care not to move the fabric much when cutting.

(If you are serging, now would be a good time to serge the bottom hem just to finish it off before sewing the inseams.)

Once you have your pieces cut out, take each one and fold them, right sides together, matching and pinning the inseams (each leg is still separate – don’t put the two pieces together just yet).

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Sew down the inseams using a 1/2″ seam allowance and a stretch stitch on your sewing machine.  I tend to sew on my sewing machine and then serge the seams afterwards rather than sew using my serger, only because it’s easier to correct mistakes if I haven’t serged yet.

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Then press your seams open.

8. Take one leg right side out and put it inside the other leg, which should be wrong side out (so right sides are facing).  Line up the center fronts and center backs and pin together.  Sew around the “U” shape that’s created, using a 1/2″ seam allowance and a stretch stitch.

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9.  We’re in the home stretch!  Now they almost look like leggings, right?  Let’s do the waistband.  Fold the waist over 1/4″ and press and then fold over again 1″ and press to create a casing for the waistband.  There are other ways to finish your waistband but I’ll just go over one way for now and save the others for another post.

Stitch the waistband casing close to the folded edge using a straight stretch stitch and leaving an inch or two open to insert the elastic.

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Cut your elastic to the waist size desired + 1/2″.  Pin a safety pin to the end of the elastic and feed it through the waistband casing.  Once it comes all the way around through the other end, overlap the elastic 1/2″ and stitch back and forth on the overlap using a zigzag stitch.  Then close up the opening in the casing using a straight stretch stitch.

10. Fold up the bottom hem 1/2″ and stitch using a double needle or a straight stretch stitch.  And then guess what?  You’re done!  I know it looks like a lot of steps, but once you’re through with the pattern, it’s really quick to make a whole bunch of leggings.  And then take them out for a test-drive at the playground…

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