One of my big plans this past winter was to sew up some fleece leggings that I could wear under insulated skirts or skirts made from wool blankets. The skirts never materialized (maybe next winter), but the leggings did, and that’s what I want to share with you today. I suppose leggings can be kind of like t-shirts in that they don’t make for the most interesting of blog posts, but they get a lot of wear, especially when you are hanging around home and don’t have to see people outside of your family every day. Activewear as loungewear for the win!
There is an old post on the Etsy blog circa 2012 where Cal Patch, pattern drafter, author, and maker extraordinaire explains how to draft leggings (i.e. create a leggings pattern) from your own measurements. I tried using this tutorial before I started down the path of growing an immense pattern library, and it is a great one. I still have some of the first leggings I made, but my measurements have changed since then, so I thought it was time for an updated pattern.
One of the cool things about these directions is that they create just one pattern piece. Yep, that’s all you need to sew custom leggings with no outside seam. If you want to get fancy down the road, you could always chop your pattern up and add outside side seams or pockets or whatever, but for the basic leggings, you only need one piece.
After following all the directions, I tested out my pattern with some bathing suit fabric I had marinating in my stash from Fabric Mart Fabrics. I haven’t made a bathing suit from it yet, so I had plenty. Even if I didn’t, these leggings only take about 1.25 yards of fabric. I sewed up a test pair after determining that the fabric was opaque, and it was a success!
These will make great exercise leggings. I was careful to line up the pattern, which was not as hard as I would have thought.
Then it was on to my Polartec Power Stretch. So far, this is my favorite Polartec fabric that I have tried. It’s soft and fleecy on one side and smooth on the other with a nice stretch. In the past I have made a purple Sew House Seven Toaster Sweater and a Style Arc Josie Hoodie from it and both are still in my wardrobe with the Josie Hoodie being a firm favorite. I have gotten all my Power Stretch from Mill Yardage.
It took very little time to whip up two pairs of leggings from the Power Stretch. These dark gray ones have gotten lots of wear. Unfortunately, I didn’t do a test to see how opaque the ivory fabric was and…they are somewhat see-through, so they have been relegated to tights-only status, and I didn’t model them for you.
When sewing these, I used a zigzag stitch on my regular sewing machine with a 75/11 stretch needle for the bathing suit fabric and a 90/14 stretch needle for the Power Stretch. I used a stitch width/height of 4.5 and a length of 0.5 which made my zigzags tall and very close together. Not everyone likes this kind of stitch for knits, but I find it gives the seam lots of room to stretch. I tested this on a doubled scrap of fabric both on grain and cross-grain and stretched as far as I could to make sure the stitches didn’t pop before sewing on my actual garment. I kept my tension the same as usual, but set my presser foot pressure to the lightest it could go. I used a walking foot, woolly nylon in my bobbin, and Gütermann all purpose thread (100% polyester) in the top. This type of setup has been working well for me when sewing stretchy knits lately.
For my hems, I just folded the fabric up once and stitched, covering the edge of the fabric with my stitching when possible. Sometimes I even sew from the inside of the hem rather than stretching my hem over my free arm. This put the woolly nylon on the outside, but I didn’t care with these since it was close enough to the fabric color.
For the waistband, I use one inch wide elastic and try it on around my waist to find a comfortable snugness. Then I overlap it slightly and sew the ends together. Next it gets pinned onto the wrong side of the waist area on the leggings with the edge of the fabric going slightly beyond my elastic.
I stitch the side of the elastic furthest from the raw edge to the leggings and then fold it over so the elastic is enclosed in fabric and stitch near the raw edge, trying to catch the elastic as I go.
A lot of these tips I picked up from sewing Megan Nielsen’s Mini Virginia leggings. Megan often has really good ideas and ways of constructing garments that are new to me and which become my own preferred way of sewing.
And that’s pretty much it! I’m so happy to have these leggings in my wardrobe. I have worn them a lot.
If you want to get into very basic drafting, Cal Patch also has a book out called Design-It-Yourself Clothes that I found really fun when I first started sewing. I don’t know why, but it was completely amazing to me that you could learn to create patterns. I guess I never thought about how a pattern became a pattern before looking through that book.