Sew Leggings From an Existing Pair

by Elise
3 Hours

Want to sew some new leggings but you don’t have a pattern? No problem. I’ll show you how to make a pair of leggings using ones you already have as a guide. These have a yoga waistband.

Intermediate sewing project

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  1. Pair of pull-on pants or leggings
  2. Pins (affiliate link)
  3. Tailor’s chalk
  4. Fabric scissors (affiliate link)
  5. Ruler (affiliate link)
  6. Tape Measure
  7. Knit fabric
  8. Sewing machine needle for jersey or a ballpoint needle

I chose a fairly soft and slinky knit fabric for the main fabric and a heavy knit fabric for the waistband, but you can use the same fabric for both. Make sure your fabric is washed and dried prior to starting your project, otherwise the fabric may shrink in the wash. It also softens up the fabric.

I recommend Tru Earth laundry strips (affiliate link) – instead of a big plastic jug you can use eco friendly and convenient strips of detergent delivered to you – much easier if you use a laundromat too!

You can do this on paper to make a pattern, or draw right on your fabric.

You have two options for this project: You can make a pattern from your existing leggings directly onto fabric, or if you think you will want to do this again and revise the pattern, you can make it on paper. The pattern making process is the same for paper or straight to fabric. If you make it on paper first, you will just have to trace the pattern on the fabric and cut when you are done the patternmaking step.

Trace your leggings to make a pattern

Turn your pants inside out and lay flat on top of your fabric or pattern making paper. (I usually use brown paper rolls from the post office or dollar store). Make sure that it is laying smoothly and that the crotch point and waistband is sitting correctly. Pin in place.

Pants pinned directly to fabric.

Trace around the pants, with seam allowance included. Measure out your seam allowance from the garment – I recommend 1/4″ for the inseam and outseam if you are going to serge the pant leg together. If you are not using a serger, use 1/2″ (or a different seam allowance of your choice) for the inseam, out seam. For the crotch seams I usually use 1/2″ and 1/4″ for the waistband and waist. For the hem, I like to use 1″ hem allowance and do a 1/2″ double turned hem. These seam allowances are guides. You can use the same all over if it is easier for you. If you want to adjust the length of your pants slightly, do so at this step.

When you are tracing the front of the pant, make sure to trace the top of only the front waist- you will have to move the higher back rise out of the way to trace the lower front piece. We will make a separate waistband in a later step, so only trace to the seam of where the waistband is and add your seam allowance. (In other words – don’t trace to the very top of the pant! Just to where the waistband seam is, plus seam allowance).

Once you are done tracing the front, unpin the pants from the fabric or paper and flip them over and trace the back. This time make sure to trace the back part of the waist (with the higher rise). Use the same seam allowances as before. Label your front and back pieces (but if they get mixed up, remember the back has the higher rise). We will cut the waistband after we assemble the pants.

Cut the fabric for the pants.

You can either: 1 – fold your fabric in half (selvages together) and place the pants pattern so that the pants are on the straight of grain, trace with tailor’s chalk and cut through the two layers of fabric at one time OR if you prefer to cut them out one piece at a time, make sure you flip the pattern over after you trace the first leg to make sure you have a right and left leg, for the front and back.

Pants pattern pinned to fabric. There is a front and back pattern piece, and the fabric is folded with selvadges together.
Sew the leggings pieces together

After your fabric is cut out, we are ready to sew the legs! Match the front legs to the back legs, right sides of the fabric together. Pin matching the crotch seam first,down to the bottom of the inseam. If there is a small discrepancy, it is easier to even it out in the hem allowance than the crotch. Then sew the outseam, again starting at the top and going to the hem. You can use a serger (4 threads) or a small zig zag stitch if you don’t have a serger.

Match front to back pant legs and pin.

Turn the legs right side out, and match the crotch seams. Pin and stitch together with a half inch seam allowance.

Two pant legs for leggings.

Try the leggings on now to check fit. If you want to make any adjustments, do it at this stage before we make the waistband (next). I ended up wanting to take it in a bit at the waist, so took 1/2″ in at the side seam, blending the new seam into the stitching of the hip. If you have a paper pattern, mark any changes on your pattern to make it easier if you use the pattern again.

For the yoga style waistband, cut a strip of fabric 1″ smaller than the waist of your pants (measure the waist of the pants after you have tried them on and made any adjustments), by 5″ wide. Match the narrow ends together and sew with a 1/4″ seam allowance. Now you have a loop. Fold the loop lengthwise with the seam allowance of your stitched seam facing in. The folded edge of the loop is the top of the finished waistband.

Fold waistband in half and sew edge where pinned.

Next you will pin the waistband on. But first, a few tips! The waistband is smaller than the pants. That means it needs to be eased in. The easiest way to do this is to have 4 pins on the waistband at equal points. Fold the waistband in quarters and put in the 4 pins.

Pin the waistband in 4 equal sections.

Place the waistband on the pants with one pinned point on the side seams, another on the front and back seam. The waistband needs to be outside the pants, with the folded edge down and the raw edges of the waisband matching the raw edge of the pants. Stretch the band to match the pants and put another pin in between each anchor pin to help you ease it in evenly.

Pin on waistband, easing it in.

Starting at the centre back seam, stitch the waistband on. You will need to stretch the waistband as you sew. You want the waistband and main fabric to go under the foot of the machine smoothly. This will likely be the trickiest part, so give it a stretch and take your time. If you have a serger, serge the seams after you have sitiched it. If you are experienced at knits you can just go straight to serging it together, but I prefer to machine baste the waistband to the pants and then serge. Oh and don’t sew over your pins! Take them out when you get close.

After the waistband is on and you are happy with it, topstitch the edge of the pant underneath the waistband – you want to stitch the pant fabric with seam allowance from the waistband, so the seam allowance stays pointing down.

Waistband on leggings.

Now you just need to hem your pants! I did a 1/2″ double turned hem and topstitched. If you have a twin needle on your machine, use it here.

Finished leggings!

You now have a new pair of cosy pants! I’d love to know how it went, leave a comment or reach out to me on Instagram.

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