Introduction: No-Sew Braided Leggings

About: Costume and experimental fashion designer and artist. Maker of clothing and accessories for time traveling cyborg superheroes, and lucid dreamers. Interested in fusing couture design and leatherwork with weara…

Turn a plain pair of leggings into exciting statement legwear with this unbelievably easy slash and weave technique! I've seen this method used on a lot of T-shirts, but when I saw it recently on a pair of leggings I thought it looked so good that I decided I had to try it out. It isn't technically a braid, it's more like a crochet stitch, but either way, I was honestly shocked at how easy it was and how good it looked. It has exactly the kind of biomechanical aesthetic I love, like stylized spinal column or snake skin made of cloth. I will now have to restrain myself from attacking all my clothes with scissors, and giving them little spines!

All you really need to create this look is leggings and scissors, but a few other things help, and there are a lot of design options to play with. In this Instructable I'll show you what I've discovered so far.

Step 1: Supplies

Leggings to mod - Almost any leggings will work, but if you want to run this detail down the side of the leggings, it's better to use a pair that doesn't have a side seam. If your leggings do have a side seam, you can just create your detail on the front and back of the legs. Also, this detail will look best on leggings that are not super tight and have a good amount of stretch.

Scissors - make sure they are sharp enough to cut fabric well

Tailor's chalk - chalk that will wash off your fabric (unless you want to freehand your cuts)

Ruler - I find an 18"x2" clear ruler to be an absolutely indispensable tool for patternmaking and sewing, in fact I go pretty crazy if I don't have one, but you could do this without it

Step 2: Weaving Options

Before I made my leggings, I tested out a few different weaves, varying the size of the slits and the way they were woven to see what I thought looked good.

I tried two weave styles: the basic weave and the twist. The twist (two samples in the top right) is done by twisting each strip before you pull the next one through (you'll know what I mean after step 6). I didn't like the way this looked as much, but I'd be curious to play with it more.

I settled on using the standard weave with 3/4" wide strips that varied from 4" down to to 1" long (top right hand sample). I think varying the length of the strips makes this detail even more interesting and can allow it to compliment the contours of the body.

Step 3: Mark Some Reference Points

To make sure your details end up where you'd like them, it's a good idea to try the leggings on, and mark important places with your chalk. I especially found it useful to mark my underwear line, and my knee, but you could draw even more detailed guidelines for your details while wearing your leggings.

Step 4: Design Your Cuts

If you are creating a detail on a straight line down the side of your leggings like I did on my grey pair, you can just lay them out flat and mark your cuts down the folded edge. Make each line half the length that your want the entire slit to be since you will be cutting through two layers here to create each slit on the fold.

If you are making a detail with a more complicated curve like I did on my black leggings, first draw a line to define the "spine" of your detail then mark your cut lines along this line. I started my detail on this pair up near the front waistline, then swooped down along the thigh, around to the back at the knee and down the back calf. On both pairs I varied the size of the cuts from larger along the thigh and calf, to smaller at the knee and ankle.

Step 5: Cut Your Strips

Now use your scissors to cut along each line you've drawn. On the gray pair, this was a simple matter of just snipping along the folded edge.

On the black pair, I had to carefully cut through just one layer. With one hand inside the leg to separate the layers, I would snip a tiny hole in the cloth from the outside then slip my scissor blade into this hole and cut the rest of the slit. It was slightly more time consuming, but still really easy.

Step 6: Weave the Strips

To weave your detail, lay the leg of your legging out with the strips lying flat.

Reach under the top-most strip, grab the second strip down with your thumb and forefinger, and pull it up under the top strip and out through the top hole.

Now reach through the new hole created by this strip, grab the third strip down and pull it through.

Keep repeating this process all the way down. Don't be fussy about how the detail look as you weave, it will all get straightened out later.

See the video above for a good visual of how this is done.

Step 7: Tie Off the Ends

When you reach the ankle of your leggings, take your very last strip before the hem, cut it in half, and tie it in a knot around the hem.

You could also sew this end in place if you have a sewing machine or know how to hand sew.

Step 8: Try Them On

Your modified leggings will look like a bit of a mess until you put them on, so don't even worry about trying to straighten out the weave before you have them on your legs. Once the fabric is stretched around your body, the details will mostly fall into place naturally.

Also, one of the great things about this technique is that you can keep modifying the detail even after you've woven. I tried my leggings on and looked at the patterns I'd created to see if I liked them. Where some of the slits seemed too small or uneven, I cut them further into the fabric while they were on me. Be careful doing this, of course. You want to cut the fabric, not yourself.

Now that you know the basics of this technique, you can experiment with varied weaves and detail placement. There are a lot of youtube videos that show how to do different kinds of weaves as well. I'd love to see what other awesome legging styles everyone else comes up with. Please post an "I Made It" if you try this project :)