In this instructable I'll be showing you how to make some quick and easy button-up sweater leg warmers. Sorry if the colors might seem a tad strange, but it's part of a larger ensemble for a steampunk-style costume based off a shiny flygon that I have been working on for an upcoming convention. (I know the colors are very un-steampunk-like, but that's what you get sometimes when you put your fandoms in a blender on puree. Also while I am an utter nerd and do have a shiny flygon of my own, the image that you see isn't my particular dragon, which is appropriately named "Goggles"....that was probably too much information. Eh.Also, don't bother trying to read all that chicken scratch on the outfit design. I know my actual handwriting is terrible. Aren't you happy I'm typing this instructable instead?)
Please note that I will be expecting anyone interested in making these to have at least a little sewing knowledge. I will not be telling you how to thread a machine or stitch button holes. (Frankly I'm not the most practiced seamstress so you probably wouldn't want me trying to tell anyone how to make the sewing machine do what they want it to anyways.)
Things you're going to need:
- one very large sweater (Make sure it's wide enough to wrap around one of your legs with just the front side, or the back if you prefer. Also keep a sharp eye out for different knitting styles and sweater materials. I liked the cable-knit pattern so I was looking for that in particular. Perhaps you're more of an argyle person?)
- buttons, lots of them (I used 12.)
- extra sewing needles (This is optional, but I broke two when making the button holes due to snagging. Sweater knits aren't the most friendly things to sew.)
- fray check
- seam ripper (just in case)
Optional stuff (see last step):
- clear bra strap
Step 1: Acquire a Large Sweater
Depending on the length you want to make your leg warmers, you will want a very large sweater. My particular leg warmers are just over the knee, and I ended up using almost the entire front panel for one and most of the back panel for the other. I managed to get a petite ladies plus size sweater.
The first thing I did was remove the arms, seeing as they were of no use to me. If your sweater is big enough that you can simply take off the arms, hem them and have leg warmers, kudos to you! Now you can make two I guess...
Step 2: Prepare Your Fabric Panels
- Cut up the sides of the sweater so you have two panels. You can use a seam ripper if you want, but frankly you'll have to cut some of the side fabric off just because the arm holes curve inwards. Let's not create more work for ourselves if it doesn't have to happen!
- You may want to use a seam ripper to nicely take the tag off if it's attached under the collar and you want to use that fabric.
- Cut just enough away from the top so that your panel is flat all the way across. You will have to do this with both sides, but keep in mind that the front collar always goes lower than the one in the back. Use the front panel as a template to make sure the back panel has the same amount trimmed off the top.
- Trim the excess fabric under the armpit areas.
- Lastly I just wrapped one of the panels around my leg to make sure I was going to have enough fabric. On the plus side sweaters tend to have a good amount of stretch so if they're at least touching but perhaps not overlapping, you may still be okay. (Do your best not to panic!) If all else fails, you may just have to turn your panel sideways and have shorter leg warmers. Being able to improvise is a plus for every creative person.
Step 3: Hem the Thing
Luckily, as long as you decided to use the bottom hem of the sweater, you'll only have three sides to hem instead of four. I only folded my hems over once, seeing as I couldn't afford to lose much fabric. In the event that you have lots of excess fabric, you'll want to measure how much you will need for the widest part of your leg and cut the fabric down to size before hemming. If you want, after finishing the hems, use fray check in order to make sure nothing will unravel.
Step 4: Add the Buttons and Buttons Holes
- Sew the buttons near the edge of your fabric on one of the sides. If you're lucky enough, like I was, your button holes may be large enough and the right distance apart so that you can cheat and machine sew them on. (Otherwise, now would be the perfect time to pop in a movie or two!)
- A zig-zag stitch with a stitch length of 0 will be what you want if you're willing to try machine-sewing the buttons on in order to avoid over and hour of hand-sewing. Make sure to test the width by hand-cranking the needle up and down into the holes or else you will end up with broken needles!
- When you sew the buttons onto your second leg warmer, make sure to sew them onto the opposite side. This way when you wear your leg warmers the sides with the buttons will mirror each other in the way they close.
- Use fray check on the thread holding your buttons in place. It will help ensure that your buttons stay attached better.
- Sew holes for your buttons on the opposite side from your buttons. Once again this is easier and faster to do with the machine. I will admit that I suck at machine-stitching button holes so I'm not going to be the one to instruct you on that, but I managed to get them all done after breaking two needles. (Sadly I broke more needles on this than I did sewing leather belts onto vinyl accessories!)
- I will warn you that sweater material is not the easiest to work with, especially with making button holes. The fabric may be thick enough that it hides your stitches fairly well, and because of the stretch your lines may veer a little.
- I wish you the best of luck! If you find yourself getting frustrated, don't be afraid to take a break before the sewing machine discovers it has been cast upon the ground outside your window.
Step 5: Be Style-ish?
You have now finished your leg warmers! They should stay up well enough on their own as long as they are fairly snug, but if you find out that you are having problems with this very thing you can try adding elastic near the top or sewing a clear bra strap on the back. Also, don't be afraid to use your super sewing prowess and doing some variations of your own! Get creative by adding lace, letting them lay extra-baggy like you see in 80s fashion, etc- honestly don't let anything hold you back! Enjoy your new sweater leggings!