A sewing blog about building a functional, cohesive handmade wardrobe, one garment at a time.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

TUTORIAL: Leggings to jeggings, Part 1

My four-year-old recently began to profess a preference for tight pants.  As in, she refuses to wear pants that aren't tight (and soft).  Skin-tight.  She likes leggings and jeggings.  And that is about it.

The problem, though, is that it is very hard to find RTW pants - any pants - that fit her decently.   At 44", she is tall for her age and needs at least the length of a size 5, if not a 6.  But her 19" chest falls into the 6-12 month size on most of my sewing patterns.  She looks ridiculous in store-bought leggings - anything long enough falls right off her skinny little hips.  So it's a good thing I like to sew.

During KCW I made her a pair of Oliver+S Playtime leggings with the addition of back pockets.  She liked those, as they passed the tightness test, but wanted to know where the front pockets were. Apparently simple leggings aren't going to cut it anymore.

So I decided to turn my beloved Playtime leggings into jeggings.  I know jeggings are jeans+leggings, and this pink polka dot knit (which I just could not talk her out of) is not denim like.  But since these pants have jean-like detailing, I think it is ok to call them jeggings.  I added front and back pockets and a faux fly, and some jean-inspired topstitching on the dark pair.  Strictly speaking, I think jeggings have fake pockets, but she wanted real ones, so there you go.  The front pockets turned out a little shallow on my first attempt.

N put on the pants, stuck her hands in the front pockets, looked at me and said, "The pockets are kind of small."

Then she took off on her bike.

The outfit, by the way, is all her own styling. 

After I made N's pants, Z decided she wanted a pair.  This worked out well because N's 3T was a bit baggy on her, so I decided to give Z the size 3 and make N a size 2 (plus lots and lots of length).  I know I'm a bit hypercritical about fit, but poor N looks ridiculous in RTW leggings - if I'm going to sew her clothes I want them to fit really well.  I tried out making a separate waistband for the second pair.  On my first attempt, I miscalculated a bit and the rise was a touch high.  Erm.  Urkel-high.

No waistband on the left; waistband on the right.  Don't worry, I won't send them out with their shirts tucked in; this was only for photos!
I tried again, this time using honest-to-goodness jegging fabric.  Much better.

Cool, not-nerdy-at-all jeggings with a separate waistband and cute pocket detail.

Does your kid love to wear jeggings? For that matter, do you? It's ok, I won't tell.

But if your kid (or you), like to wear jeggings, you may have noticed that there aren't a ton of patterns out there for this polarizing wardrobe piece. That's ok, though, because it's really easy to draft your own from an existing legging pattern.  I'll show you how to do both versions - separate waistband and no waistband.

OK, let's get started.

I used the Playtime legging pattern for my jeggings, but this will work with any legging pattern that has only one pattern piece.  If you happen to have a pattern that has two pieces, a front and back leg, this will work for that, too - just skip over the first step.

(Note: The Playtime pattern includes 1/4" seam allowances.  I changed them to 1/2" throughout and made all of my new pattern pieces with 1/2" allowances - this is just a personal preference).

First we will make our pattern pieces.  Take your existing pattern piece and trace around it.   Then, draw a line down the center of it.  I did it two different ways - the first time I measured between the points of the crotch seam and found the center, then drew a straight line along that center, from top to bottom.  The second time I found the center of the waist and the center of the leg, and connected those dots.  I'm sure one method is more "right" than the other (or maybe there is another "rightest" method that I don't know about) - but both methods worked fine for my purposes.


Consult your pattern to see where the top of the finished pant will be.  On the Playtime pattern, there is a 1" allowance for the waist elastic casing.  Draw a dotted line along that line so you know where your pants should end.  Sorry, it's hard to see the dots on this picture but they are there, 1" below the top.

Now you have to do a little math.  You need to figure out how tall you want your finished waistband to be.  Take the desired width of your waistband and subtract your seam allowance.  Then draw a line that amount below your dotted line.

Clear as mud?

I wanted mine to be 1", just like the elastic casing in the legging pattern.  I wanted a 1/2" seam alllowance.  1 - 1/2 = 1/2.  So I drew my line 1/2" below my dotted line.

(Ignore the top row of dots in this photo.  The lower row of dots is the one we drew above).

Cut off the pattern piece along the line you just drew. 

Set the pant legs aside for now, and position your waistband piece on another piece of paper.  We have to add the rest of the waistband (ready for some more math?).  Since I want my finished waistband to be 1", I want to be able to fold over 1.25" on the wrong side of the fabric so that there is some extra fabric to catch in the top stitching. So I will trace the piece that I cut off my leg pattern piece, and add another 1.25" to the top.  This makes my pattern piece 2.75" wide.

If your legging pattern already includes seam allowances, you won't have to add any to the sides of this piece.

OK, we're done making our waistband pattern.


Now cut your leg pattern piece down the middle.  You will have to add seam allowances to the straight side of each piece - either by re-tracing or by taping some paper to the pattern pieces.  I made my seam allowances 1/2".  

Next we have to make our front pockets.  On your front leg piece (the one with the shorter rise), scoop out your pocket.  I marked a point 3" down and 3" across, then connected them (the solid line).  Then I added my 1/2" seam allowance (the dotted line).  

OK, cut along the dotted line. Then take the leg piece with the cut out and lay it on top of another piece of paper to trace that curve, like so:

To make the pocket lining, make a mark parallel to the top of the curve, to the right.  I made mine 1.5".  You can vary your width if you want, just make sure that it doesn't cross over the crotch seam. Then make a mark below the curve on the left side, as deep as you want your pocket.  I made my first one 3" but the next two 4" and that was better.  Draw a curve to connect the marks.  Add your seam allowance.  I don't think I explained this very well, so look at the photo:

Now we need to make our pocket bag. Trace the pocket lining piece, but instead of tracing around the curve at the top, extend your line on the left side all the way to the top.  You will be drawing a U shape:

Cut that puppy out.  Now let's make our back pocket pattern.  I drew mine directly onto the back leg piece so that I could be sure that it would not interfere with seams, etc.  Basically I made a square 3" by 2.75", and then drew a dot centered 5/8" below the bottom of the square.  Then I connected the dots to the bottom corners of the square, to make a pentagon shape.  Below is what it looks like on my leg pattern piece.  To make the pocket pattern itself, I traced this pentagon onto another piece of paper, then added my 1/2" seam allowances on all sides.  I checked the pocket placement on my daughter before I drew it on, and found that I wanted it to start about 2" above the crotch point.

Now you should have five pattern pieces if you chose the no-waistband option, and six if you chose the waistband option.



OK!  Check back tomorrow to learn how to sew up the jeggings. (Click here for part 2 of the tutorial).


  1. Thank you for a wonderful tutorial. My daughter loves leggings (and I am sure she would love jeggings too). I love the details of what you made. My son actually has the problem of pants falling right off him. Maybe I should start sewing his pants?

    1. Pants aren't the most exciting to sew (at least in my opinion), but I do think they are among the most rewarding if you have a kid who defies RTW sizing. Try it!

  2. Those jeggings are super cute! What a blessing for them to have a mom who listens to their likes/dislikes with their clothes. I see she is still enjoying her purple coat you made. Very cute outfits she puts together!!

  3. Oh my, it just HAS to be a four year old thing- that's when my lily mae started to refuse jeans as well. She also has eczema that can get really gnarly at times, so maybe it IS that. Though she doesn't like wearing anything but leggings/jeggings even when she hasn't broken out, so who knows. Other thing I found funny- Lily is also very tall and skinny. I usually use a 4t width with a 5t length to get a good fit, but even a 6 in length may be necessary as she's nearly six years old now. I have found the only lotion that puts a dent in her outbreaks is the neosporin eczema ... we find it at walgreens but I'm not sure if they have that store available where you are. It's medicated so the store had it separate from the other lotions. I would definitely recommend trying it. A friend of mine told me to use it years ago and I didn't take the time until we were on vacation in california and her skin broke out so terribly that she was crying. We stopped to get it and in only a couple days her skin looked so much better and the tears were gone! <3


    1. Oh man, I'm sorry you guys have the eczema too. It is the WORST! I will have to check out the Neosporin stuff when we get back to the States. We have actually had really good success with some mineral baths here in Georgia - last summer we took her to these mineral springs that are actually supposed to cure eczema, and though her eczema is not gone, it is way better. I really do think that the tight/soft pants preference has a lot to do with comfort.

  4. Thank you for the pattern. I, too, always had to adjust my patterns for my girls and now I have to do the same for my grandkids. I do have a question though. How do you determine the grain line on the leg pieces. Thank you.

    1. I'm so sorry for the delay in responding to this question! I just today found all the comments that Blogger had been hiding from me. Anyway, as I didn't change the shape of the leg, just divided it in two, I use the same grain line that is already in the pattern. I hope that helps.


Hi! I am so happy you came by. Thanks for your comment!