February 23, 2011

leggings for a skinny minnie: a tutorial

So Evelyn has a pants problem. I can't even say pants, because pants she cannot wear. Never found a pair that fit her. Ever. It's really a leggings problem. Remember when I was grumbling about it last week? Well, when she once again wanted to wear leggings without a skirt this weekend I decided to try out my newly acquired lack of fear of sewing knit and try to make some.
(We both went down with the stomach bug yesterday so she wasn't feeling very modelish this morning)

I know there are leggings out there by the million, we just seem to have a proportion issue. Waist and bottom wise the girl, at nearly 5, is about an 18 month size, but length wise she's a 4T or even a 5T, which presents a problem. Occasionally I do find some that fit and aren't skinny at the ankles and then I buy a ton, but she's shot up another inch it seems so everything is now even shorter than it was. So miss tall and thin (I know, rough, I wish that was my problem) has bare ankles, which isn't so bad when it's 60 degrees out, but when it's back to 20 degrees after teasing you for a week with spring weather, well, bare ankles don't cut it.

So out came the sewing machine and I'll be honest, I think it might be just as fast to make a pair as it is to drive to Target and buy one, if they had any that fit. Which they don't. Because I just looked (again). Instead of making an elastic waistband for these I decided to use the folded waist instructions from the skating/yoga skirt that I wrote about here. You can find those original instructions at Sew Mama Sew but I'll repeat them below and explain how I used them in the leggings. These skirts have remained a favorite mostly because of the comfy waist I think, although Evie tends to wear it unfolded to cover her belly because she says it's cozy. Because of that I made two versions of the leggings, one with a folded waist and one without to see which she liked better. (So far the pink are winning out, but that may be because they are pink)

Skinny Minnie Leggings


Knit fabric - measure the length of the leg and add a few inches to get the yardage. You want the stretch to go across the leggings, not down the length. For Evie, this was about 3/4 of a yard

Pair of leggings or pants that fit in the waist and bottom, legnth doesn't matter, but if you have a pair that fits perfectly, use those.

Fabric scissors, pins, sewing machine and notions

Cloth measuring tape

Lay the leggings out on the fabric, making sure that the stretch goes across them instead of down them. You'll need to make two cut of two layers each. Fold the legging in half so that the inseam is curved out. The inseam on the front and the back of the pants should be different so you'll want to cut one set and the fold them the other way before cutting the other.
Starting at the top, cut about an inch higher than the waist and along the sides to the mid-thigh point.If the leggings aren't long enough or wide enough at the ankles for your liking then measure how long you want them and cut about 1 inch longer than that, widening them at the ankles if you want a bell bottomed shape, tapering for a tight ankle. For my first pair I used some leggings that we long enough but not wide enough at the bottom for my pattern, the second time around (shown) I used the result of that first go since they fit perfectly.

Measure around the waist, subtract 3 inches and then divide that by 2 to find the waist band width. For a double fold waist you'll want to cut two rectangles that are this width by 15 inches high, for a non folded waist, the height should be 7 inches. The waistband is going to look way too skinny but will stretch to fit and feel snug with out being tight. This also needs to be cut across the stretch (so it stretches :))
OK, time to sew. Place each pair of leg pieces right sides together and sew up the inseam using a zig zag stitch. Unless, that is, you have a serger, and then use that you lucky dog. Now lay the two pieces (the front and back) on top of one another, still right sides together, and sew up the legs on both the outside and the inside. Now you pretty much have pants, all they need is finishing.
Lay the two waistband pieces on top of one another, right sides together and sew up the sides (that's the 15 or 7 inch side) to make a tube. I told, you, way skinny, right? Don't' worry, it will work. Fold the waistband in half so that both the inside and out are the right side of the fabric.

Stitch a basting stitch all the way around the waist of the pant and pull the bobbin thread to gather it slightly, until it's the same size as the waistband. Now, tuck the waistband, raw edges up, into the waist of the pants so that all the raw edges line up. Stitch all the way around using a zig zag stitch. Once the waistband is attached, pull the basting stitches out.
Have your skinny minnie try on the pants before you hem them so that you can get the right legnth, just make sure you double fold the hem to enclose the raw edges. You can either hand stitch them hem or just zig zag all around (I used a contrasting color on the pink pants for fun!)
And presto, pants. The pink pants were made with a ribbed knit and the black pants were just pain jersey. I wasn't sure I would like the rib on pants but it was the only knit in pink and someone was very insistent about the color, so I went for it and I actually like it better than the plain jersey. It looks a little more substantial on those little chicken legs.

It might seem like a lot of steps but really, they were fast. And the second time around it was even faster because I knew where I was headed. I'm kind of thinking tights might be a good thing to try next. What do you think? DIY tights?