Monday, September 27, 2010

Tutorial - 20 Minute Knit Leggings for little girls (with regular sewing machine)

Remember here, I explained my trouble with sewing knits? Right – It just wasn't coming out OK with my Brother CS6000i. I tried all the different methods and tips and tricks out there in the blog land. Then one day, I decided to get another kind of knit and try the whole thing all over again. It worked! Not just worked, worked. Worked like a charm! I made a few pairs of Cotton Lycra® knit leggings for BN. 

I am loving the whole sewing with knits thing! I thought I could never do it, and I needed the right gear, and by right gear I mean a Serger. So when I could do it successfully not just one time, multiple times, I thought I owe it to the world to share my experience with this, so here it is. Here is the best part. Its super easy, won't take you more than 20 minutes and you will never buy leggings again, why would you, while you can make them yourself with fun prints and colors! 

How to make Cotton Lycra ® leggings in 20 minutes or less with/without a Serger
All fabric measurements here are what I used for BN, my 2 year old little girl. Please adjust measurements as per your sweetie's body type. FYI, BN is too tall and too thin for her age. 

There really isn't a need for a prerequisites section, everybody knows the tell tale stories of buying/getting appropriate fabric prior to sewing etc. But I figured, maybe there are some starters out there looking to conquer the fear of sewing with knits, and so here it is.

  1. Cotton Lycra® fabric, ¼ yard or less– (I got mine at Spandex World in NYC, $3 per yard, they sell in 1 yard increments only)
  2. 1/4 inch elastic (you will need approximately ¾ of your little girl's waist size)
  3. 75/11 Stretch Needle (or the stretch needle that your machine requires)
  4. Leggings pattern or (a pair of well fitting pants/leggings/tights and Paper to draft your own pattern)
  5. Polyester coated on Polyester Thread (Polyester has more stretch than cotton thread, very important, when sewing with knits)
  6. Sewing machine, pins, scissors, and any other fancy tools you can't sew without
The pattern
I used my daughter's Capri leggings she used this summer and drafted my own pattern. I know it fits well so I traced around it and added some length to it. As soon as I finish writing this, I am going to go and see if I can scan my traced pattern and upload for you. Can't guarantee, but will try my best. Here is a quick overview of what you need to do.

  1. Lay out your choice of drafting paper. I used the back of last year's picture calendar from work
  2. Flip the legs of a well fitting pair of tights/pants/leggings to the right and trace around it
  3. Now keeping the mid line as a guide, flip the legs to the left and trace around the left legs
  4. Adjust length based on your sweetie's body measurements and your preferences for this Fall/Winter

The Cutting
Now you need to lay out your home made or commercial pattern on the fabric folded to get two pieces and cut. Allow for seam allowances of ¼ inch if it's not already in the pattern piece. Cut with confidence, knits seem to have trouble cutting well in the bottom layer, especially if you show any hesitation to cut!

See that? I got 2 symmetric pieces

To the machine – Trip 1 

Now is the fun part! Flip your fabric right sides together. Now, you have to sew around the upper section of the leg, see picture below and you'll know what I am taking about. Please use the triple stretch stitch on a regular sewing machine (if you have a Serger, you know what to do). 

See that? Both sides are finished now. 

To the machine – Trip 2
OK, now we have to take the fabric and spread the legs apart (remember, it's still right sides together) so it looks more like leggings. See below. Now you have to sew around the legs, remember to use triple stretch stitch if you have a regular sewing machine. After that, I finished the edges with a stretch zig-zag stitch. You really don't have to finish the raw edges, but I liked the look. I am sure you'll too. 

See that? The edges look really nice! I didn't know I could do that with a combination of stretch zip zag and triple stretch stitch! A row of triple stretch stitch and finished the raw edges with stretch zip-zag (not the regular zig zag)

To the machine – Trip 3
Turn the leggings right side out. Slip ¼ of the leg openings inside and sew around it. I did not do this step as I know the fabric wasn't going to ravel, but if you like perfectly finished wearable's go ahead and finish the leg openings. 

To the machine – Trip 4
You are almost done. Now is the time to make elastic casing. Fold the waist raw end and sew a 5/8 narrow hem. Then fold it once again with a ¼ inch or more seam allowance and sew around the waist edge using the triple stretch, *do not* sew it closed, leave a little opening for us to insert the elastic. You really don't have to use the elastic, if: a) your fabric is a good 4-way stretch fabric b) you cut the waist a little narrower than it should be. If you pass the conditions a and b above, just sew it closed now, otherwise, we need to pass the elastic from one end using a safety pin and pull it out from the other end. Then you can sew the elastic together. Now you need to sew the opening closed. 

See how I measured ¾ of the waist? 

Final: Mark the back of the leggings
With the clothing items I make, I like to mark the behind with a tag. Now I really don't have a brand name for the things I make. So what I do here is, use a nice thin ribbon, strip a piece of it using the pinking shears and attach it to the back of the waist band or neck band, so it's easy for everybody to know which is back and which is front. We adults can probably figure that out, but kids need little pointers that help them along the way. I don't have a picture of it, but I am sure you can do it.

All done! Yay! It took me less than 20 minutes, with the second one it took around 15 minutes. 



  1. I'm so mad I bought this pattern and you have a very clear simple tutorial right here!

  2. Found your blog today while looking for fellow crafty people.