Best to have some basic sewing skills with woven fabrics before trying knits. When you’re ready for it, leggings can be a good first garment choice for sewing knit fabrics. Although activewear fabrics are very stretchy, they are basically quite stable unless they are pulled on, so they are relatively easy to use. So it’s just a question of finding the best way to sew seams and hems that stretch.

I don’t wear leggings. With negative ease (garment smaller than body, stretch fabric makes it possible to get into them), they show off all the extra lumps on my legs.
I do wear ponte pants, patterns for them have a little positive ease. My preference is in the direction more of slim fit knit patterns than skin tight styles.

With slight changes, there are several closely related styles :
leggings and yoga pants are skin tight,
slim knit pants and joggers (add ankle cuffs) have a little more ease.

Patterns

There are many free legging patterns on the web.
Also many pattern companies have their own pattern.
And there are classes on drafting your own pattern from personal measurements, or by taking a pattern from a pair of leggings you own.

Two types of pattern :
– ‘one seams’ have no side seam – so very quick to sew. Many be best for people who have little body shaping.
– with side seam – easy to adapt the fit to your waist, if you think that might be necessary.

I haven’t done one of my huge reviews of possible patterns. Here are a few options.

Typical basic patterns

The Anything but Basic leggings pattern by DIBY is free, and an example of the simplest type of pattern. With a choice of leg length and waistband width.

The Cashmerette Belmont pattern shows that the difference between leggings and yoga pants lies in the width of the waistband.

The Sewing Workshop Pencil Pants are definitely slim rather than skin tight.

If you’re looking for true ‘activewear’ patterns rather than ‘fashion’ patterns, Fehr Trade patterns have several.

Some patterns with videos

Crafty Gemini has a free video on making your own leggings pattern by copying a pair you already have, then sew.

Jennifer Stern Designs has a set of free videos about making her yoga pants pattern (ultra short crotch extensions).

Made My Wardrobe Della leggings is a one-piece pattern (no side seams) with 3 leg lengths. The video is here (free or make a donation).

These are not free :

Meg McElwee of Sew Liberated patterns has a detailed yoga pants video, including in-seam pockets, in her Craftsy class on learning to sew knits, pdf patterns included.

At Creative Bug, Cal Patch has a couple of video classes :
– on drafting your own leggings pattern to your measurements,
– then sewing up the pattern.

Sew Liberated patterns have a more expensive video which has a generous level of personal help.
The Limestone leggings pattern from Sew Liberated includes a sports bra. The ‘learn to sew knits’ video class includes this pattern.

(Sirena patterns Elizabeth leggings is another pattern with panelled legs, pockets in the side panels and a zip pocket in the wide waistband.)

Sew Over It Huby leggings have a wide waistband. There’s a video in their Stitch School.

The Sewing Workshop Maison top and joggers pattern has a workshop for the joggers.

More unusual patterns

There are 2 schools of thought about the crotch of leggings patterns. Some pattern makers tell you to use much the same crotch curve for knits and for wovens. Others think stretch fabric allows you to have short crotch extensions (which saves fabric). As I have a deep torso those are not for me.

The Avery leggings from Helen’s Closet have a crotch gusset, which can help if leggings feel tight for you in that area.

Apostrophe patterns claim to supply a leggings pattern to your personal measurements. Many side seam and waist treatment style options, plus an optional crotch gusset. You buy access to the software, not a final pattern, so you can get patterns for many different styles, and for people with different body measurements, all from one purchase.

Using a domestic sewing machine

There are many free internet videos about sewing leggings.
Nearly everyone who teaches how to sew knits on a conventional domestic machine recommends different needles and stitches. So try several and find what suits your machine and fabric best.

Everyone needs to use polyester thread, as these seams get much abuse.
Not to worry about seam finishing, most knit fabrics don’t fray !

Your machine only does straight stitch ? try a stretch thread.

You have only zigzag as an alternative to straight stitch ? not to worry – many teachers suggest using zigzag to sew knits. Best if you can adjust the length and width.

All the facilities of a modern machine ? My machine has several stretch stitches and overcast stitches. After trying several samples I found I get my preferred result by using a walking foot and triple stitch with a ball point needle. But there are many simpler possibilities.
triple stitch

Using a serger/ overlocker

It isn’t at all essential to have a serger/ overlocker to sew knits. But if you know how to use one, you may find you can make leggings in less than an hour.
Cut out the fabric, sew the inseams and crotch seam, attach the waistband. A serger/ overlocker sews more quickly than a conventional sewing machine – so how many minutes is that πŸ˜€

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Published September 2021, revised January 2023

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