I made some leggings a while back, and posted about them on reddit’s sewing subreddit. Someone asked about tips, and I wrote a long post outlining my tips to make the whole process easier/more successful. So I’m adapting/recreating it here; hopefully someone finds it to be useful! (The post took longer to write than the leggings did to make. Talk about an instant gratification project!)
There’s no reason not to make leggings if you have a serger (or even a machine that can zig-zag, although I have run in to problems with thin jersey fraying over time with just a zig-zag). They’re way easier to fit than pants, and you can make them out of so little fabric that they’re actually cost-effective. You can source thicker fabric than those really thin, t-shirt-material leggings you find at Target (or not, whatever fits your style). Plus, all the fun prints!
My leggings came about when I was supposed to be getting a plain jersey to give a little friend-group masterclass on how to make maxi skirts. But when acid-color-animal-print foil is on sale… well, you gotta do what you gotta do.
Feel free to substitute in less crazy fabric if the thought of 80’s-era eye assaults doesn’t appeal to you.
Pattern Drafting Tips:
- If you have a pair of leggings or shorts you already like, you can stick one leg inside the other and use that as a template for the crotch curve.
- If you’re a curvy woman, I don’t suggest taking high and low hip measurements and then dividing in half, as a lot of beginning websites suggest; you’ll likely end up with a slightly tight butt and slightly saggy front. Which doesn’t matter for loose drawstring pajama pants, but looks a little funny in leggings.
- My personal legging crotch U is a little bit weird looking, because my high hip/pants waist measurement is 30.5″ and my low hip/widest point of my hips and butt measurement is 38″. Also I’m not tall, so I only have 4-5 inches to go out 7.5 inches and then back in. Less if my pants are low rise. And all the inches are distributed in the back/sides. So I end up with an almost straight front and kinda like an upside-down question mark for the back. Which creates a couple of wrinkles where the back piece of the inseam doesn’t quiiiite match up with the front leg, but you can’t see the wrinkles when you’re wearing them.Here’s a really bad diagram made in MS paint of what I mean:Imgur
You might be able to visualize that if you take point A and pin it to point B, the bottom hem won’t match up. But that’s OK, because stretch fabric! This is why stretch pants are WAY easier than non-stretch pants; you can pin A to B and then just gently stretch A side to match B side as you serge.
- I use a yoga-style waistband on my pants because it’s easy, comfy, and looks good: Cut a strip of t-shirt or self-fabric slightly smaller than the waist opening on my leggings, and twice as wide as you want your finished waistband to be. Fold the strip in half along the long edge, and serge the raw edges to the pants, stretching the waistband to fit. This takes a little bit of practice, but you’ll get it. The yoga waistband is awesome because it’s a double thickness of fabric; this makes it stretch less, and hold to your body much better than a single width, without having to use interfacing or anything.
Tips for fabric selection:
- Be mindful of which way your fabric stretches. I botched a pair of fleece shorts that I was helping my friend make because her fabric stretched way more in one dimension then the other. I had her cut it the wrong way because I wasn’t paying attention, and it stretched way too much vertically and not enough horizontally. That was a sewing nightmare, and took some crazy shit to fix. I did eventually fix them with lots of extra seams and stuff, but they’re not really acceptable in a normal social setting, only as comfy pajamas.
- Some stretch fabrics, especially ones that don’t have a lot of stretch, like the leopard ones, won’t snap back to their original size. Both the leopard and blue leggings were made out of half a yard of fabric; the leopard grew along the vertical axis to be full-length leggings and didn’t snap back. This reduced the fabric’s horizontal stretch. (With the result I can’t really do yoga in them, which was the whole reason I made them, but whatever.) A nice side effect is that I can wear normal underwear with them without danger of panty lines. The blue leggings can stretch to full length, but then they snap back to knee length. They are incredibly stretchy and will tightly hug the curves of any size woman who wears them. (Which also means panty lines galore.)
- Something like cotton jersey (t-shirt fabric) will probably have a happy medium; very clingy but not very sausage-y, and more drape, but less structure and strength. Leggings made from jersey will also be very soft. You won’t be able to wear normal underwear under them, but they won’t aggressively give you camel toe. One note with jersey is that it’s usually pretty thin and highly contrasting colors/all textures will usually show through. By contrast, with performance spandex, like the blue leggings, you’re fine with any color of thong.
- Have fun making all sorts of crazy leggings!