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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Monday, July 9, 2018

Leggings sew-along: thoughts on patterns

There are a number of legging patterns available these days. Many produce a garment that is indiscernible from ready-to-wear.

Nearly every indie pattern company of any size has a leggings pattern, and the Big Four do too.

As a result I have decided for this sew-along not to start with a review of all the possibilities, and not, until the last session, to talk about design details - colour blocking, pockets, decorative cover hemming, mesh inserts etc.

Instead I decided it would be more useful to share what my own experience has taught me about legging patterns. 

Also I also am looking forward to hearing from all of you - on pattern recommendations, and on pattern characteristics you think are really important.

For the purposes of this sew-along I am going to be working along with you on two very different patterns Jalie's Clara and Patterns 4 Pirates Peg Legs. The Clara is Jalie's newest legging pattern, released this spring, and the Peg Legs are a free pattern, supplemented by a Peg Leg's add-on package (you need this for the gusset) and by a the maternity add-on  that I will actually be using to make some leggings for my DIL.

Both patterns will allow you to have a preview of the instructions before you commit. If you go to the Jalie site you can read the instructions right there and of course because the Peg Legs are free you can do the same.

I chose these two patterns for myself because I know them well and each offers a very different look and to some extent feel. They are also very basic patterns in terms of design details, plain leggings, and I also felt that this would help to keep the focus on construction, stitching, and fabric options, and on fit.

If I were to describe the differences between the two patterns I would say that the Claras are closer to a real workout leggings think Lululemon ( you really need a very stretchy fabric to get the right fit), smooth and minimal. The Peg Legs are more an everyday wear legging, not as closely cut and can be made in fabrics with a wider range of stretchability.

There two pictures I think articulate this difference:

This doesn't mean I don't use and like other patterns, it's just that for our purposes right now I thought  it made sense to keep the focus on the basics.

So if you want to sew-along and work with another pattern that's great too - some more information for us all to share.

When you choose a pattern however I thing that it is essential it has these characteristics, again based on my experience:

1. The pattern has to have a gusset piece. This IMO is completely non-negotiable. Why? Look at our bodies. Leggings fit like a second skin, in some ways even more so as they are negative ease garments, cut smaller than our actual measurements, counting on the 4-way stretch fabric to fit, and they have to be cut like we are built. 

And how we are all built is not 2-dimensionally like a paper doll. 

We are 3-D people and we have front to back through the middle as well as side to side. In other words we have a crotch and we need a little piece of fabric sewn into the seams at the top of our legs to cover and accommodate this crotch. A pair of leggings without a gusset will pull tight in the crotch area and likely split with movement (the garment attempting when it splits to open up a spot that will be remarkably similar in size and shape to the gusset piece)

There are different gusset shapes of course and the more pronounced the gusset the more movement you may feel in the garment.

The Jalie Clara's have a sort of triangular gusset piece because these leggings lack a front seam (the front is laid on the fold) and there are therefore only 3 seams to attach to it. This gusset shape contributes to the sleek lines of this design.

You can see this tiny but critical pattern piece (C) in the pattern layout below:

The base pattern for the Peg Legs, which unlike the Claras have a centre front seam, does not include a gusset. To have the gusset piece you will need  the Peg Leg add-on package to find this pattern piece.

The centre front seam of the Peg Legs also means that the gusset is the more familiar diamond shape. Here is a construction photo that shows how this piece looks inserted:

BTW none of the Big 4 legging patterns of those I checked out included a gusset piece.

2. I have tried all the different leggings waistband options and for the best fit, comfort and stay upability (coining some new words here) I have decided that when you are talking leggings there really is no substitute for a wide yoga style waistband.

Stitched in elastic or even a casing will just pull down and I can't imagine that being a wearing experience any legging wearer wants.

A wide waistband, particularly one that is contoured as is standard in the Clara and one of the add-on options for the Peg Legs, has the whole capacity of the 4 way stretch fabric working with you to hold the top off the legging up and, in the patterns I will be working with, having elastic sewn into the seam allowances at the top of the band is just added security rather than all you are relying on.

The waistbands can of course be wide up to the navel (as the Claras are) or can be narrower and set lower into in the body of the legging for a low rise look, up as far as the navel or even well past it as in the Peg Leg maternity add-on version. 

Here are some of those Peg Leg options for waistbands. Note in the base pattern the waistbands are simple bands that can sit at the navel or well below, but the add-on has a higher contoured band.

As to sizing well that's an interesting question for sure. In leggings the fabric itself, with the vast differences that exist in 4-way stretch fabrics, both in terms of degree of stretch and degree of recovery, can really define fit. And that's exactly what we will talk about Friday.

In the meantime please leave your comments, suggestions, and questions leggings patterns below.

I am looking forward to hearing from you!


Jenerators said...

I pulled out my Clara pattern yesterday for the first time and today I own four pairs of Clara leggings (two are capris because I didn't have enough length in my chosen fabrics, three are view A with the added on waistband and one is view B). I LOVE THEM. They are so easy and quick you make (about an hour from go to woah including laying out and cutting) and I can see more pairs in my future!

Catherine Edwards said...

Hi. I'm wondering about which size to select. I alas have a fat stomach and for the Jalie pattern, my waist measurement is size Y but my hips are between S and T. In the Patterns for Pirates pattern, my hips are S and my waist is XL! Do you have any advice for which size to cut when you have this much of a discrepancy between hip and waist size? I know the usual advice for trousers is to pick the hip size and enlarge the waist. Does that apply to leggings too? Thanks for any advice you may have.

Kathleen Meadows said...

I bought the Clara leggings pattern the first week it was released so I for one am totally looking forward to your tutorial! I'm in the process of making some knit shorts for summer and have been working with the Jalie swim shorts pattern but it's getting more complicated than I really need so I'm thinking the Clara is more in line with what I'm looking for :)

SilverMom said...

I agree completely about the need for a gusset in the crotch of leggings*, and that leads me to a request that is off-topic for now, but I would love to see it addressed in a future post. I.e., there is another "crotch" on our bodies, and that is where the arm connects to our torso. Logically, then, a gusset is needed there, too. Since no pattern I know of provides an armscye gusset, I'd love to have guidance on drafting one, or even better, on drafting a "cut-on" gusset. (David Page Coffin refers to this in his Shirtmaking book, but I haven't been able to figure out his diagram.)

*And not just leggings! My DB, who was a big guy in a very physically demanding job had Mom insert gussets in all of his jeans. He even learned how to do it himself, knowing that Mom wouldn't be around some day.

KS_Sews said...

I made S8414 work for me as an everyday legging, but I have been astounded by how difficult is for Big4 and even BURDA! to get the fit of leggings correct. So much extra room throughout the leg and no gusset! Especially in a workout pant...especially shocked by Burda! LOL!

I have planned to get the Jalie Cora since my first foray into making leggings and now have to decide between the Cora and Clara.

I like those wide waistbands too. So much more comfortable.

Janet said...

Hello Barb, I am a member of the AS Guild. Kathleen,also a member, whom you may know, made leggings several years ago using a Cake pattern. I think she has made several pair using this. I ordered the pattern, bought fabric, & it ended there. Perhaps I will follow along. When you say navel where do you men? I don't think all of our navels are in the same place. I could use some shorts, maybe I will do that. I will check the Cake pattern for a gusset piece. Janet in Halifax

bbarna said...

So glad you talked about the add on for the Peg Legs. I went and got it right away, as didn't realize the value of having it. Looking forward to the rest of the sew along.

Marcia Swanston said...

This will be fun. I already had t he Jalie pattern and just picked up the P4P leggings from Print101, so I'm ready to go!

Kathrynsb said...

I have resumed Pilates with private Pilates lessons after a hiatus of 8 years. I made leggings out of an active wear 4 way stretch using the patterns produced to my measurements by Bootstrap Fashions. They are gargantuan. The legs are way to big, the waist is way to big. Plus the fabric slips and i slide on the equipment so I'm going to do something else. Meanwhile, I'll try to figure out where Bootstrap went wrong.

I have bot the patterns you are working with. so here goes

RebeccaHoward said...

Mmmmm. Leggings. They look so simple - stretch fabric - surely it just stretches to fit you right? Wrong. I am on the hunt and have been for some time, to get a pair that fits straight out of the packet (or off the printer in my case). Of course this is pretty dumb because we all know that is never going to work because my body doesn’t look like any body that is on the line drawing of any pattern. So I have decided to just stick to one pattern, get the changes right, then use bits and pieces of other patterns for mashups and inspiration. I love the Cora and Clara from Jalie but these look sooo bad on me (with the Clara it looked as though I had grown an, ahem, appendage between my legs - not the look I was going for). I have decided on the Avery pattern from Helen’s Closet but am using the very helpful video on the Jalie website regarding the Cora leggings for instruction help. 2nd try is wearable providing I don’t want too much blood flow to my ankles. Will be joining in enthusiastically to your future leggings adventure - thanks Barb:)

Anne B. said...

Great post! I am sooo excited to be working with the Clara pattern! I have only worked with the Avery leggings pattern by Helen's Closet (made 2), which turned out fine. These will be my first Jalie leggins, which I am looking forward to sewing up and using for working out. Not sure how much negative ease is in this pattern. I wouldn't want anything too tight...Any suggestions on size selection? Should we go true to size (as per size chart) or size up? Thanks!

Kamchick said...

Hi Barb,

I am working with the Avery pattern - have made one pair and they turned out well. I look forward to your tutorial so that the next pair(s) will be even better! Thanks for doing this with us - a great learning experience.

Anonymous said...

Has anybody considered tracing an existing well-fitting pair of leggings? Then you know what you’re getting from a fit standpoint. There’s a tutorial for this on the Angry Chicken website, and probably multiple on YouTube.

Anonymous said...

I know of one "Big 4" leggings pattern that does have a gusset - it's a Kwik Sew pattern (I count them as part of the Big 4, sort of the stepchild, so to speak; I'm not sure of the pattern number) that I bought specifically because it did have that gusset, which I've seen recommended elsewhere as well. I have yet to make them up, though. I bought the Clara leggings pattern on your advice as it looks exactly like what I'd like to make for leggings. So tired of the "leggings" that are really just loose everywhere but my big calves! :-D

Lynn said...

I got the P4P Pegleg pattern (that's a lot of Ps!)despite my vow never to tape together patterns again. Looking forward to this!

Tampa Bay Lisa said...

Off topic - I am sitting at the airport in Ottowa waiting on my flight, about to put my phone down and start reading my new book. I bought it at Chapters as one of my souvenirs, because it was written by an awesome blogger I follow, and she's Canadian! It looks awesome!!!

Laceflower said...

Has anyone found stretch fabric that has wicking properties? I used to make all my exercise leggings and then bought a pair on sale that were wicking and now never wear me - made leggings as they are too hot.
Also, Barb, I get no sound from all your videos; don't know what the problem can be but I've fiddled with all the sound options and still no go. Don't have problems with other You Tubes or any online content. Am I the only one?

Margaret Delong said...

I see the Sewaholic “Pacific” leggings include a gusset- I haven’t the tied them but I’m such a huge fan of her patterns- they are always just such amazing quality sewing patterns!

Barbara said...

Laceflower the sound works for me and no one else has contacted me about this so not sure what the issue is. Is there a mute button turned on somewhere? As to the fabric I will talking about that tomorrow but I am myself going to be using Supplex fabric from Halo Fabric Addicts on Etsy and FB that is wicking. Agree with you on needing to have fabric that breathes.

sallygardens said...

I’m planning to sew the Clara, but I might decide to do both. I tried out the Clara recently and the waist comes up too high for me. I prefer the wider waistband version so wonder, could I take out some of the length? Also I found choosing a size puzzling since my waist size is four sizes larger than my hip size.

Jenerators said...

I found some online and blight done in blue and some in black a while ago. Haven't actually used it yet and I'm sorry but I don't recall where I bought it!

Jenerators said...

Just a follow up on my earlier comment: of the four Clara leggings I made last weekend, the centre back seam opened between the gusset and the notch on two of them. Not sure why and highly embarrassing but I will remember to overlock that seam from now on!