Putting my self-drafted leggings to the test
I remember quite plainly saying I did not see the point in making my own activewear. Where’s the fun? It’s just boring and functional. And let’s face it, there are plenty more interesting and fun things to be sewing up!
But never say never! I did a rain-check on the RTW pieces I already own – after one pair pretty much disolved, despite various fixing attempts – and realised not one single pair of bottoms actually fit me properly. Mostly the rise is the problem but also the waist elasticity.
I spent the best part of an afternoon perusing patterns online. There are heaps! And I’m sure most of them would work a treat. But I would undoubtedly have had to make adjustments to said patterns and so I figured I may as well draft my own if it wasn’t going to work straight out the packet.
I followed instructions from Winifred Aldrich’s Metric Pattern Cutting for Women’s Wear – a firm fave in the sewing community. And it didn’t take long at all to draft the one single basic pattern piece.
In fact it took longer for me to decide how to finish the waistband!
I sewed up the leggings in a lightish weight very stretchy lycra. Took minutes on the overlocker with 4 threads. I didn’t even need to substitute stretch needles.
A quick try-on confirmed the fit was OK apart from quite a lot of ease at the waist – the back waist in particular. I didn’t really clock the excess at the thigh at this point. I was poised to take the waist in, before making a casing and threading elastic through – that totally would have been the quickest waistband solution – but then I visualised some gathering at the waist where the elastic waistband would have cinched it all in. I didn’t like how it looked (in my head!). So I set about another solution.
I measured the depth of the waistband from one of my existing pairs (10cm) and then measured the circumference of the leggings, 10cm down from the natural waistband. I halved that measurement to make a rectangular pattern piece that would ultimately be cut on the fold of the fabric.
I marked top edge, fold and side seam on the pattern piece.
To avoid all the gathering at the waistline I marked 10 equidistant slash lines from top to bottom and closed up the top edge until the top now-curved edge measured approximately 80% of the bottom curve.
I then traced the now-curved rectancle onto another piece of paper to add 1cm seam allowance all round apart from the fold edge.
I pinned the pattern to the folded fabric and cut 2 fabric pieces. With each piece right sides together, stitched the short edges to make 2 circular bands.
I placed one band inside the other, right sides facing, and stitched along the top (inwardly curved) edge.
I remeasured the top seamed edge of the waistband and cut some narrow (7mm) elastic to that same measurement with no overlap allowed so it would be a wee bit tighter still.
I then overlapped the elastic by 1cm and sewed the ends together to form a circle. I made quarter point markings along the finished top edge of the waistband. And with corresponding marks made on the elastic, I pinned and lightly stretched to fit as I zigzagged the elastic to the seam, making sure the edge of the elastic didn’t go past the actual seam line.
I trimmed 9cm down from the top of the natural waistline of the leggings (to leave 1cm seam allowance) ready to attach the waistband.
Before attaching I gave a quick press to the waistband, right sides out, to shrink the elastic a bit and make sure both pieces were aligned accurately. Then I attached the bottom two edges of the waistband to the top of the right side of the leggings (right sides together). I aligned the seam of the waistband with the centre back seam and clipped the band all round the top of the leggings. There was no need to stretch to fit this time because both measurements were the same. The clips worked a treat by the way, because the pins kept catching on the fabric.
A quick zoom round on the overlocker, and it was clear that all that care taken for accurate positioning paid off.
Now I wouldn’t normally volunteer a photo of my rear end, but I’m so chuffed how those two centre back seams lined up and how nicely that deep waistband hugs my hips and dips into the small of my back!
The last thing to do was hemming. Believe it or not I found this bit the most tricky! With everything else going to plan and so quickly, I decided to get the twin needle out and do it properly rather than employ my usual lazy zigzag treatment.
I dug out my barely used Millward stretch twin needle and rehearsed a twin stretch stitch on a scrap piece of the fabric. Took a while to perfect before I sewed for real. But then it messed up before I finished the first round. Sooo annoying! I dug out the manual to see if I’d set it up wrongly and the only thing I did was not to use the needle supplied with the machine, doh!
So I changed up the stretch twin for a regular Brother twin needle and tried again on some scraps. Again, seemed ok until I went to sew the real hem and the same thing happened again. It just got jammed and sucked into the feed dog with the bobbin threads all tangled under. I unpicked and managed to re-sew over the last bit but still, sooo annoying!! I’m totally sticking to zig-zagging next time!
First test of the finished leggings was at my Zumba class. And I was so chuffed that they didn’t end up round my ankles. However I could feel how loose they were from the knee up the inner thigh and I really didn’t like the wobble factor as I was dancing! I’m so much more used to sturdier fabrics holding me in place!
I’m going to take them in but decided to shoot them as general day wear with heels as inspired by @paulalovestosew! They are entirely fine as… well, tights really!
And now I am on the hunt for some heavier stretch fabric. Thank you to everyone who have given some brilliant suggestions. I now appear to have too much choice!!
From not wanting to ‘waste time’ making my own, I can see how making these will quickly become addictive. So… absolutely… never say never!