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!