Leggings are, to quote Mugatu, “so hot right now”! Even if they go out of vogue for the adult fashion set, they’ll always be practical for children. You can use them for play wear, costumes, or pajamas, and they’re smart in the Northwest where layering clothes is de rigueur for our capricious weather swings.
Leggings come in about three fits (your terminology may vary): loose, fitted, and footless tight (or negative fit). The Riviera leggings in the Farbenmix book are pretty much just what you might understand by the book’s photos – that is, a legging in between loose and fitted. This makes perfect sense for children’s garments when you want them to last more than one season. If you were sewing these leggings for an adult, he/she might not like such a relaxed silhouette.
Knit fabrics that work well for fitted or footless tight style will have a sufficient bit of “spring” to them. This isn’t rocket science, and you can test it in the fabric store. Simply pull aross the stretchy grain and release: you want to see a bit of “snap”. You can certainly sew leggings up in something with less elasticity but they may bag slightly during wear – and if sufficiently un-springy (like a 100% cotton), they may retain a knee-shape (this reason is why I hate stretch jeans – even with a tiny bit of spandex in them, they are significantly looser at stress points by the end of one wearing).
Leggings are usually made with one pattern piece, roughly a six-sided kite-shape. The top and bottom represent half the waist and the full leg hem, resp. There is a front and back crotch curve at the top of each piece, and the long “kite” leg sides of the piece represent the inseam.
Here is my general methodology for leggings: reinforcing all construction seams, I finish each leg first (hems and all), then turn one leg inside out, slip a right-side out legging into it, and sew them together at the crotch. I then construct the waistband, which is the trickiest part. I will detail in the following paragraph but – don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed, as a method will likely be detailed (with pictures) in any pattern worth its salt.
To construct the waistband. I first make a tag in the back of the leggings (otherwise simple pants, without a fly or pockets to guide you, can be tricky to tell front from back). I cut elastic to the comfortable waist measurement (either using my intended, or taking a waist measurement minus an inch or two), stitch the elastic together at the short ends, and mark both the elastic and the pants hems in quarters. I slip the elastic “loop” into the pants and pin at the quarter marks, pinning the stitched-together elastic at the back seam of the leggings (below photo, tag included). Then I stitch the top of the elastic to the raw edge of the leggings with the legging fabric against the feed dogs, stretching the elastic as I go (I first take a few stitches before stretching to secure the seam). You can use a simple zig zag or a three-step zig zag for the waistband stitches. After the elastic is secured at the top edge I simply fold the whole business down to the inside of the pants, then stitch again, stretching the legging fabric again. Easy – especially after you’ve practiced a bit.
My methodology is more or less the methodology outlined in the Farbenmix book. The waistband recommended for the Riviera leggings is sport elastic. I used the 1 1/4″ channeled sport elastic I use for sewing the kids’ boxer shorts. It’s very soft and supple and easy to work with.
Sewing elastic to knits is easy and, once you get the hang of it, very fun. For instance, the dress Sophie is wearing in the finished-garment photos is a GAP size 0 rayon number we purchased for $5 at Pure Clothing in Hoquiam. The dress, being an adult size, was too large in the chest and strap length. I sewed the straps shorter, cut off the excess, and added some 1/4″ elastic to the top of the dress. These alterations took about fifteen minutes together and now Sophie has a stylish playdress (if you want to watch a tutorial on sewing elastic to stretchy knits, Brian Remlinger, my favorite sewist to stalk, has an excellent tutorial of a fast, effective method).
I made only one ruche (pronounced “roosh”) on the leggings. This is because I still do not have a rolled hem plate for my serger (my local vendor keeps forgetting to order me one) so it’s not all that fun to finish edges of fabrics that require slender hems. I simply did a zig-zag; the fabric isn’t going to ravel or anything. The busy pattern of the fabric also hides any less-than-professional stitch-business:
My daughter loved the leggings – once she saw they were ready she changed into them. They fit her perfectly both in size and in attitude.
You can read more details of construction at my Riviera Flickr tagset.