Tutorial: Make a pattern from your leggings, and get the crotch right

Leggings are a staple of my little girl’s wardrobe.  She wears them in the fall and winter under dresses and tunics.  In the warmer months, she wears bike shorts under her playdresses so she can climb on the monkey bars without showing off her panties. 

I’m not opposed to buying them, but we never seem to be able to find them in the colors and prints that match the dresses I make.  They’re actually super fast and super easy to sew, but you’ve got to start with a good pattern.

I always have best luck when I trace a pattern from clothes I know fit.  Most of the time it’s just a matter of folding the garment in half and tracing around the edges.  But with leggings, it’s a little tricker.  If you look closely of a pair of leggings, you’ll see that the back crotch is deeper than the front.  When you fold the leggings in half, part of the back crotch wraps around to the front, making it difficult to see how each piece is shaped.

The other day I stumbled upon a way to fold the leggings just right so you get a true picture of what the front and back crotch seams look like.  I made a test pair, and they fit the little girl PERFECTLY.  Yay!!!

And so a tutorial is born…

There are three parts to this tutorial – getting the leggings folded right to trace them, actually tracing them, and then sewing them up. 

First off, let’s get them folded so we can see how they’re shaped.

1.  Turn your leggings inside out.  I find it’s easier to get everything lined up right when the seams are more visible.

2.  Turn one of the legs right side out.  Now you have one innie and one outie.

3. Starting at the ankle, smooth out the legs, lining up the seams as much as possible.  You’ll still have a jumbled up mess at the top, but we’ll take care of that in the next step.

4.  It’ll take some fiddling, but get your front and back crotch seams lined up on top of each other.  If they have side seams, line those up as well.  If your leggings don’t have side seams, it’ll take a little more fiddling to get them to lay straight at the sides.  Adjust the crotch so there’s a good clean point (no seams wrapping from one side or the other). 

There!  Now you have a perfect cross-section of a pair of leggings.   Notice that the back crotch is longer than the front.  The waistband on mine sticks up about an inch taller at the back and than at the front.  There’s also a difference in the curves, with one generally being a deeper curve than the other.

Now to trace them.

If your leggings have side seams, they’re most likely curved at the hip some.  Trace the pants as two separate pieces.  Easy enough.

If you leggings don’t have side seams (i.e., each leg is cut from one piece of fabric), then follow these steps.

1.  First, use a ruler to draw a long straight line down the middle of the paper you’re tracing on to.

2.  Line up the straight side (the one that DOESN’T have the seam) of the leggings with the line you drew, and trace around them.

3.  Now, flip the leggings over to the other side, again lining them up with the straight line.  Trace around the leggings.

4.  Add seam allowances to the sides, hem allowances at the bottom, and a large allowance at the top for a waistband.  (I like to use 3/4″ elastic, so my allowance is 1 1/4″ at the waist.) 

There’s your basic legging pattern! 

The line down the middle can function as a grainline when you cut them out of your knit fabric. 

What? You want to make some right now?  They’re SOOOO easy!!! 

Here’s how to sew them up into leggings:

1.  First things first, cut out your leggings.  Make sure that the pieces are mirror images of each other.  You don’t want to have two left legs in your leggings!  The easiest way to do this is to cut both of them at the same time, with the layers right sides together.

The ones I’m showing don’t have side seams.  If your leggings do have side seams, then you’ll need to sew those before following the steps below.  I should also mention that the photos are for a much shorter version of the leggings – a pair of bike shorts, to be exact.  They’re made exactly the same way, though.

2. Sew the front and back crotch seams.  I used my serger because the fabric is stretchy, but you could also use a zig zag stitch on a regular machine.

3.  Flip the leggings so the front crotch seam is lined up on top of the back crotch seam.  Verify that the legs are even at the bottom.  If they’re not, trim them up. 

4.  Hem the  bottoms.  I just serged the edge, folded it up, and zig zagged for a stretch stitch.

I suppose you could wait until the end to hem the pants, but I’ve found it’s waaaay easier to hem them while they’re still flat.

5.  Line them back up the way you had them, with the crotch seams aligned.  Sew the inner seam of the leggings, starting at one ankle and going up to the crotch and then down to the other ankle.

6.  All that’s left now is making the casing.  See my tutorial on elastic casings to see how to do that.

Leggings!  (or bike shorts)


  1. Heather C says

    Thank you! I was going to recklessly trace front and back the same but this is so much nicer. I have made one pair capri length and it turned out well. It took me a couple of times to figure out how to position the leggings to trace but after that it was smooth sailing.


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