Mood DIY: Custom Fit Leggings

Posted on August 2, 2016 by Katie Straker

Today in Mood DIY we (you and me!) are making made-to-measure leggings. If you've been hoping for another tutorial like last week's bodysuit post, you're in luck, because we're going to draft our own pattern again. If you found the bodysuit pattern intimidating, don't fret, because leggings are simpler. They're a great beginning project for both pattern making and working with stretch fabrics. Why spent $80 and upward for designer leggings when you can make your own for the cost of a yard of fabric?

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Fruit salad!

Materials needed:

I'm using the same awesome performance tricot that I used for the bodysuit, in a fun seasonal watermelon print. As noted last week, this fabric is a moisture-wicking tech blend that provides compression and SPF 50 UV protection, AND it has aloe vera in it (don't ask me, I don't know how that works). It's a nice, thick weight that remains opaque when stretched. (As you'll see in the photos, the print also remains vibrant and undistorted when stretched!)

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Ok, enough overtures to textiles. Let's get to patterning!

Step 1: Measurements

You will need the following measurements (provided in handy worksheet format):

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Finding correct negative ease: As you can see, you'll take all of your circumferences and reduce them by some percentage, to provide negative ease. I went over this last week, but I have some additional tips this week for calculating the correct percentage. Every fabric is going to be different. As such, there's no convenient shorthand for calculating negative ease (though personally, I always start with 10%). How do you know you're coming up with measurements that will work, then?

Make a tube to fit a body part and see how it fits! Measure around your desired testing site (I used my calf so that I would be able to photograph it) and cut a strip of your fabric to that length + 1". Sew it into a tube, with a 1/2" seam allowance. Try it on. How's it look?

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Terrible. If you got a good fit, congratulations, you don't need to calculate negative ease. Just go with your unaltered body measurements.

If you had a poor fit, pick a percentage of reduction and shorten your fabric to that length. I jumped straight to 10%, because I've used this fabric before and I know it's very stretchy.

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That's more like it! I found it a comfortable second-skin fit.

For the sake of testing, I increased to 15%. At this level of negative ease, the fabric is beginning to provide some compression—which is desirable, as this is a compression fabric—but it is still comfortable and the print is undistorted. So take the percentage that you liked best (or default to 10%, as the worksheet already provides) and calculate your measurements.

Doesn't look much different - a good thing, since we don't want distortion - but feels different. Important consideration or athletic clothing!

Doesn't look much different - a good thing, since we don't want distortion - but feels different. Important consideration for athletic clothing!

Final notes on measurements: If you are unsure how to measure, use this chart. For your waist measurement, measure where you'd like the waist of your leggings to sit. You'll note, you do NOT reduce the ankle measurement by a percentage. Just subtract a half an inch from your measurement. This is so that your foot will fit through the hole.

For rise and rise depth: measure from crotch to wherever you'd like your waistband to sit. Record separate measurements front and back. The rise depth I'll explain when we draw it in the pattern. For now, just take your thigh circumference and subtract half of your waist measurement. Take this number, multiply by .33 to find your front rise depth and .66 to find your back rise depth.

Step 2: Pattern Drafting

In the middle of your paper, draw a line equal to the length of your outseam. (As with last time, we are drawing actual size; seam and hem allowance will come later.) All of our subsequent measurements are going to be centered along this line. Draw your ankle at the bottom. If your knee to ankle measurement is 18" (to use a random, made up number), you'll measure 18" up and mark your knee measurement there, and so on, up to the waist. Important note: add 1" to your waist-to-hip measurement. (I forgot to note this in the diagram.) This is to allow for your elastic casing, when sewing.

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Connect the lines to make the sides, curving slightly along the thigh line.

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Now we're going to tackle the rise. 2" above your thigh line, mark the front rise depth on one side, and the back rise depth on the other. Draw a curve connecting the end of the thigh line into each point, up to the waist. You'll have something looking a bit like this. (On an average figure, the front rise curve will be much straighter/flatter than the rear. If you're, say, making these as maternity wear, the rise will be very different looking! Just trust your measurements.) Make sure you mark on your pattern which side is the front and back.

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Lastly, we just need to mark the rise height and contour the waist. Measure up both the front and back rise curves you've drawn and mark the correct height for your front and back rise. Draw a gently curving line connecting these two lines, making sure you have right angles under your waist line (otherwise your waist will come to a point in front and back).

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The hard work is over! Cut your paper with a half inch margin all around, for seam allowance.

Step 3: Cutting

No real trick here. Be sure that your pattern piece is laid out with the grain. If you have a 4 way stretch fabric, the leg can go lengthwise or crosswise with the grain, if you want to change the direction of a print. If 2-way, you must go with the grain, because your fabric will only stretch horizontally.

Cut a single notch in the center of your front rise edge, a double notch in the center of the rear side. This will minimize confusion when sewing the legs together.

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Step 4: Sewing

To start, sew up each individual leg, inseam to ankle.

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Turn your legs right side out (or not; whichever way you find easiest to pin together), pin the two legs together (right sides together) and sew up the crotch/rise seam. When you pin, be sure that your inseams and notches match.

Right side out, turn under the 1/2" hem on the ankles. Sew with a 3/8" seam allowance. You want to sew with the right side up, so that you can guarantee a neat, straight line of stitching. Now, unless the arm of your sewing machine is very small, you might find it a challenge to get the ankle under your sewing machine. This is the only tricky part of sewing leggings (in my humble opinion), so take your time.

You DON'T want to stretch the ankle around the arm like this:

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No!

If your machine will even feed the fabric, you'll end up with a stretched out ankle. Not good.

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See how the right (hemmed) side is all stretched out? The stitches locked it in stretched position.

This is how you'll work it:

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Remember, if your fabric begins to stretch/bunch while stitching, especially over bulky places such as seams, lower your needle into your fabric, lift the presser foot, and let the fabric relax. Put the presser foot back down and keep going. You might have to do this every half inch or so if your fabric is sticky or uncooperative. It is well worth being patient and going slowly.

Turn under an inch and a half along the waist. (If you're using a fabric that might fray, make it a double fold—first a half inch, then an inch) Get everything laying evenly, and sew ALMOST all the way around. Leave about a 2" hole, so that you can insert the elastic.

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Attach the safety pin to one end of your elastic, and feed the elastic through the casing. Sew the ends of the elastic together.

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Pull waist taught, and then stitch up the opening.

You're finished! Go stretch.

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