Tag Archives: leggings

Self-Drafted Leggings, Thanks to Cal Patch

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Self-Drafted Leggings, Thanks to Cal Patch

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!

Self-Drafted Leggings, Thanks to Cal Patch

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.

Self-Drafted Leggings, Thanks to Cal Patch

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.

Self-Drafted Leggings, Thanks to Cal Patch

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!

Self-Drafted Leggings, Thanks to Cal Patch

These will make great exercise leggings.  I was careful to line up the pattern, which was not as hard as I would have thought.

Self-Drafted Leggings, Thanks to Cal Patch

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Self-Drafted Leggings, Thanks to Cal Patch

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.

Self-Drafted Leggings, Thanks to Cal Patch

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Self-Drafted Leggings, Thanks to Cal Patch

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.

Self-Drafted Leggings, Thanks to Cal Patch

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Self-Drafted Leggings, Thanks to Cal Patch

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.

Self-Drafted Leggings, Thanks to Cal Patch

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.

Self-Drafted Leggings, Thanks to Cal Patch

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.

Self-Drafted Leggings, Thanks to Cal Patch

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Self-Drafted Leggings, Thanks to Cal Patch

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.

 

Hits and Misses: T-Shirts, Exercise Top, Exercise Leggings

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I think it’s time for a little catch-up around here.  I took a break from sewing bathing suits after making my tests runs to try a few pattern alterations and to begin exploring exercise clothing.  My goals were to give my basic Alabama Chanin long-sleeved t-shirt pattern tapered sleeves and a boat neck, to turn a New Look dress pattern into a t-shirt with a curved hem, to make an exercise shirt, and to make some exercise leggings.

During the winter I had wanted a long-sleeved boat (bateau) neck shirt pattern.  I had some fabric in mind for it and I thought it would be a useful addition to my pattern library since it’s a style that is versatile enough to work in casual and more dressed up settings.  I took the basic t-shirt pattern with long, fluted sleeves from the book Alabama Studio Sewing + Design and, using the directions in Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing, tried to create a boat neck that would not be so wide as to show undergarments, but would still have that classic look.  I also decided to taper the sleeves so they would no longer flare out at the bottom.  I think the sleeve alteration went well, but the neckline needs to come together in a point at the sides rather than being a flattened oval.  Here is my test garment, made from knit sheets and sewn with yellow thread for contrast.

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

I’d call this a partial win because even though it doesn’t fit my entire vision, the sleeves are good, and my wardrobe desperately needed some brightly colored t-shirts for spring.  I can always come back and work on the neckline later.

Next is my alteration of New Look 0595 from dress to t-shirt.  I love raglan sleeve t-shirts and have been looking for just the right pattern, so I decided to experiment with altering this one.

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Because it has a lot of ease, and I would be making it with a knit fabric, I sized way down and made the 10 (going by my measurements, I should have made a 14/16).  I traced the curved hem of a button down shirt that I like to get the hem shape, and decided to bind the bottom edge a la Alabama Chanin by simply covering it with a folded piece of jersey cut on the cross-grain and stitching with a stretch stitch (in this case, a zig-zag).  Here is version one:

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Version one turned out shorter than I had planned and anticipated, so I added a few inches and came up with version two.

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Just right!

My too-short shirt and the sleeves of version two were made from some clearance fabric (probably poly/spandex).  I’m hoping it doesn’t pill too badly and get gross, but we’ll see.  Remember these leggings?  The fabric on them is pretty pilled/nasty now, so they don’t make it out of the house any more.  For the front and back of the second shirt I used some skirts from Old Navy that I don’t wear anymore and, by a happy accident, I cut an extra front and back, so I dug out the knit sheets again to add sleeves and got this second just-right shirt:

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

You can’t see it very well in these shots, but the skirts had some seaming on them that adds to the interest of these shirts and also makes me look like I did more work than I actually did.  Nice!

Version Two:  a hit!

Next up is my first try at an exercise shirt.  I was intrigued by PatternReview’s Activewear Contest (although I didn’t enter) and I love looking through the clothing and patterns on Melissa Fehr’s website, FehrTrade.  So, thanks to some wicking fabric and poly/spandex from Joann Fabrics and McCall’s 6848, I ventured forth.

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

This McCall’s pattern is one you may remember from when I made these shorts in a wax resist/Ankara fabric.  The pattern is actually for pajamas, but the shirt was perfect for the gym.

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

This was really fast and easy to sew.  Even though this pattern is for wovens rather than knits, I went with my measurements and made a medium.  I like workout tops that are a little loose for airflow.  This one feels great.  For the edges, I hemmed the bottom by folding the fabric up and sewing with a zig-zag stitch, and for the arm and neck edges, I cut strips of my back fabric cross-grain, folded them over the raw edges, and zig-zagged them on.  Since the knit fabric won’t fray, you don’t have to fold the edges of the binding under or double fold it at the hem (or finish any edges on the inside).  I love knits!

When I went to they gym to test it out, I felt like the coolest person there.  I would definitely make this one again (and probably will).

Workout shirt:  a hit!

Lastly, I made myself some leggings using the same wicking fabric I used for the front of my shirt (above) and a self-drafted pattern (you can see a post on that here).  This was a bit of a learning experience.  The pants came together quickly and easily and, while not as stretchy as the fabric I used the first time I sewed this pattern, I could get them on fine.  Here’s what they look like:

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Not too bad.  Maybe the fabric is a little thin, but it was a start.  I took them to the gym to test them out just by shooting some baskets–nothing too strenuous.

First, I realized this:

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Oops.  The waistband’s a little loose.  OK.  I could fix that.  I folded it over for the time being, and kept shooting baskets.  It was winter.  I was cranky.  I needed some form of exercise.

Then, I had this problem.  Can you see what it is?

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Hm.  My pants started to slide down a bit.  The crotch was getting lower and lower as I hopped around and chased the basketball.  Nothing indecent, but not what you want out of the pants you wear to exercise in.  Good thing I wasn’t on a treadmill!  I had to go through this sort of thing a few times:

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Pull up one side.

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Pull up the other side.

Hits and Misses (Pattern and Branch)

Make sure the front is pulled up and fold that waistband over again.

Hm.  Maybe this was more than an elastic problem.  Luckily, no one is really looking at you as much as you think they are, so it wasn’t like I was a spectacle or anything.  However, I started to think that maybe this problem had something to do with my inexperience and, um, my fabric choice.  I went back to Joann’s and looked.  This fabric only has about 8% spandex and definitely stretches more in one direction than the other.  So, these leggings got chalked up to “a learning experience” and they are going back with the other fabric to be reused in another garment.  I also bought myself the FehrTrade PB Jam Leggings Pattern to one day try exercise pants again.

Exercise Leggings:  a miss and a craft fail (but a good learning experience).

I’m hoping to finish one last project and then get back to bathing suits (and more!).  I really, really want to try adding underwires to the Soma Swimsuit while simultaneously turning Bikini Variation 2 into a tankini.  Even after plenty of online research, I’m not confident I know what to do as far as adding the support I want.  Any advice?  I think I’ve been avoiding it.  It could bomb or it could BE the bomb!  Stay tuned!!!

 

You CAN make your own leggings!

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You CAN make your own leggings!

Design-It-Yourself Clothes: Patternmaking Simplified by Cal Patch

When I was growing up and had just enough sewing skills to be dangerous (read:  knotting up my mother’s machine and messing up projects that I then begged her to fix for me), I always wanted to sew without a pattern.  You hear stories about people who can do that (my great-grandmother, for one), but if you are a basic, everyday American sewer, you don’t see it a lot.  Any time I would sew from a commercial pattern, I would mess something up (actually, that still happens, but it’s happening less as I practice more).  Then I started to read the blogs of people who made their own patterns.  MAGIC!  How does this happen?!  That’s when I discovered Cal Patch’s book Design-It-Yourself Clothes:  Patternmaking Simplified.

This is a great beginner book for learning to draft patterns.  It completely changed the way I went into Anthropologie (just as an example).  Instead of lamenting the fact that I didn’t have an endless amount of money to buy whatever I wanted, I started to study silhouettes and shapes of clothing and think, “I could make that!”  (By the way, this is a really useful phrase if you want to buy a lot of stuff, but can’t.  If you COULD make it, you don’t have to buy it.  It doesn’t mean you ever WILL make it, but once you feel like you COULD, it gets you off the hook and you can walk AWAY from the leather leggings or the hot pink cuckoo clock–that WAS what you were after, right?)

When I finally decided to go through the book, I made a comment on Cal’s blog, and she e-mailed and told me about a few draft-alongs happening on other blogs.  A little accountability and someone else working through the glitches can really help when you are in new creative territory, so I followed along and did the projects.  It completely changed sewing for me.  Now the sun was starting to shine into the “black box” of patternmaking and I could begin to see how things worked.

Imagine my excitement, then, when I found that Cal had written a tutorial on how to draft your own leggings on the etsy blog about a year ago.  I found some clearance fabric at Joann Fabric, and gave it a try.  My first attempt was definitely off.  The back was low and I had a few extra inches of fabric, so I went back a few more times and kept working on it, until I got a pattern that I thought would work.  And finally…SUCCESS!

Self-drafted leggings

In order to get things just right, I went to a few other resources.  Because the drafting instructions are for beginners, they don’t have a lot of confusing information on fine-tuning, which is great.  However, if you need to fine-tune, you’ll have to look in a few other places.  My main sewing reference is Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing circa 1976/1978.  I found this used online for a couple of dollars.  I think I got the recommendation from Cal’s book.  I also bought the Spring 2013 issue of Threads magazine, which was a best of Threads issue specifically covering fitting.  In the end, after some chopping and taping, my pattern looked like this:

Leggings pattern

Once I was pretty sure I had it right, I recut my leggings and tried them on…and they fit!  It was so exciting!

From my extremely limited drafting experience, I’ve found it easier to sew from the patterns I’ve drafted than from commercial patterns.  My trouble with commercial patterns, I chalk up to my own inexperience, but it really is easy to sew from the patterns you make.  Three seams, and these are assembled.  Add a waistband and maybe hem the bottoms, and you are done!

Self-drafted leggings

leggings: drafted and sewn by me; tuxedo shirt: Pierre Cardin, thrifted; jacket: Original Alphorn Trachten, gift/thrifted

If you are interested in sewing and learning to make your own patterns, here are a few blogs with lots of exciting projects, some that you can try, and some that will inspire you:

  • Sew Country Chick  Justine’s blog is the one I followed as I went through Cal’s book.  She has designed costumes, kids’ clothes, and adult clothing.  She also covers crafts, decorating, and more.
  • Esther-fromthesticks  This blog is beautiful and inspiring.  Esther is a young designer studying at Savannah College of Art and Design.  Check out her prom dress and bathing suit drafts to see what you can aspire to.
  • Male Pattern Boldness  Peter Lappin is constantly sewing and trying new things, which he shows you step by step.  His blog is funny and thought-provoking.
  • The Selfish Seamstress Elaine only wants to sew if she gets to keep the finished product, something I can totally relate to.  She does her own versions of designer pieces and, while she is selfish, she occasionally throws out a free pattern.
  • Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing  Gretchen Hirst is an amazing seamstress and pattern designer with a vintage flair.  She’s also the author of Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing.  She’s a great resource if you want to learn to take your sewing up a notch or if you just like to look at vintage-inspired designs.

This ought to get you started.  If you are feeling intimidated, you should know that at one time, these people didn’t know how to do this either.  If they can learn, you can, too!  If you run across any other amazing and interesting resources, let me know!