Technical Mogans (legwarmers)




Introduction: Technical Mogans (legwarmers)

What are mogans you ask?

Mogans is the term in Gaelic for what we'd call legwarmers. They were worn in about the fourteenth to eighteenth centuries in the Scottish Highlands; although there are a few slightly more modern references in the Lowlands to "Moggins" being worn by fishermen as a sort of felted footless sock.  Historically these were either a loose tube slipped on or a strip of fabric wrapped about the calf and tied on with a bit of string. And for the technical aspect; they are designed with modern fabrics for more extreme conditions.

And why on earth would you need these?

I wear kilts year round, and I live in sunny Minnesota.  In case you aren't familiar with my home state; for about half the year it is below freezing and can often get well below 0F (-18C) for days at a time.   I like being out of doors and in January this can be brisk.  While gaiters offer some protection, they're generally not really insulated, or getting anywhere close to the knee, so I needed something more suitable.

Part of the impetus behind these more technical mogans (I have a few pair that are just fleece or wool) was that I was going to be working on the Art Shanty Project, which involves (for simplicity of explanation) not only building a shed in an unheated warehouse but then installing it on a frozen lake.  This meant I would not only be in the cold for long stretches, but also kneeling on ice, or, at one unanticipated point, in pools of near freezing water atop ice. 

These mogans not only kept me warm and dry, but actually kept my legs toastier than my core in my winter shell when the wind picked up on the lake.

Step 1: What Are We Making?

I opted for the wrap style as it affords more adjustability, can be put on or taken off over boots, and is easier to size.

These are a piece of wind blocking fleece, which is half covered with a water and wind resistant shell material with a waterproof durable knee pad, all secured by three webbing straps with buckles.

The fleece wraps around my calf (widest point) twice for insulation.  

The shell fabric covers the outer layer of fleece to shed snow and water, but allows the fleece to wick moisture and breathe as one unit.

The knee pad allows me to kneel in slush (and water) without saturating the water resistant shell and fleece, and provides significant abrasion resistance against ice and rocks.

The straps secure the mogans to me.  One at the ankle to keep snow out, one below the knee to hold it up, and one above the knee to hold the top of it in place.  The top two straps have a bit of elastic incorporated to allow for the shift in size of the leg as the knee is bent.

I chose to wrap from the inside to the outside ending with the outer edge just behind the centerline of my leg so that as I walk the free edges don't meet.  I also located the buckles on the outside of the calf so one leg doesn't bump the other and pop one free.  As extra length of the straps trail to the back they don't snag on things.

Step 2: Tools

No pictures, sorry, these should all be clear enough.

Sewing machine
with Denim needle (or heavier needle and thimble) for sewing

Straight Pins for assembly

Tailor's Chalk to aid in assembly

Scissors  for cutting out fabric and snipping thread

Cloth Tape Measure (or string and a yardstick/tape measure) to figure out how big you are

Optional items: (these are notes for advanced users of things I didn't use, and am not going to explain extensively, but can be very useful)

Iron and Ironing board for pressing seams flat

Iron-on adhesive for getting synthetics to lay flat and hold a pressed edge while you attempt to sew it while it slips everywhere.

Stout or Porter for seamster profanity reduction- may decrease stitching accuracy.

Step 3: Material List

Try as I might, I couldn't get a really useful picture out of all of the black bits of fabric and straps that I used. 

You want about a yard of fleece, 3/4 a yard of shell, and 1/3 a yard of knee pad, 4 yards of strap, and half a yard of elastic, but you're probably a different size from me, so here's how to sus it out for you:

Hand your cloth tape measure to a friend and stand up straight, with bare lower legs.  You're having a friend measure because unless you're *really* bendy you'll alter your pose to get the measurement and change things for the worse.   (If you haven't a cloth measuring tape, use a piece of *not* stretchy string, and compare it to a yard stick or tape measure)

Have your friend measure from about 2" (5cm) over the top of your knee to the top of the arch of your foot.  Write this down and call it "Height"  Now measure from the same point above your knee (if you write and they measure, they don't have to remove the tape)  to about 3" (7cm) below the knobby lump right below your knee, and write that down as "Knee"

Have your friend measure around your calf at the widest point.  Write this down and call it "Half_Width"

Have your friend measure from about 2" over the top of your knee (where "Height" ended,

You are going to need the following.  (Details to follow in the next step)

Fleece:  (2)  of  [Height] x [ 2 * Half_Width]  

Shell material: (2) of  [Height + 6"] x [Half_Width + 4"]

Knee material: (2) of [Knee + 2"] x [(Half_Width/2) + 2"]

1/2" straps: (6) of [Half_Width + 3"]

1/2" Elastic: (6) of 3"  (18" total )

Buckles: (6)

Thread: (1) spool

How you get individual pieces of fabric out of the yardage will depend on how you want patterns to layout and how wide the fabric is.  If you can find remnants that work you'll save money, so think in individual pieces rather than one big one.  Selvedges (the funny bit along the edge of the fabric) don't really matter, but you can include them anywhere as they'll sewn under or hidden as long as they're not more than half an inch wide or so.

Nota Bene:  measurements are approximate, and based on 3/8" seam allowances with some fudge for the thick and slippery fabrics, and should get you a functional and sharp looking set of mogans.  Getting the pattern dead on for you will probably require some trial and error.  I recommend cutting everything a few inches too big, and then folding fabric and holding it in place with masking tape to confirm your measurements, draping in place as it were.

Step 4: Choosing Your Materials

I opted for hitting up a fabric clearinghouse, but most fabric stores will have something along the lines of what you're looking for.  Again, no pictures because there is no telling what your fabric shop will look like or what you'll end up with exactly.

Fleece: There are a *lot* of flavors out there, I went with Polartec Wind-Pro because it was wind resistant, breathable, and available in the weight and color I wanted.  (heavier and black)

Shell:  I found a nice water resistant treated, tightly woven, synthetic of unknown fiber, fabric, but ripstop nylon, or anything sold for wind breakers should be fine.  Note that the slipperier the fabric, the more difficult it is to sew, so keep that in mind if you're a worse seamster than me which isn't saying  much.

Knee Pads:  I opted for what I believe to be a urethane-coated, heavy duty, nylon canvas, possibly Cordura.  Look at the luggage fabrics, this stuff will take a beating.

Straps: 1/2" wide nylon webbing.  Failing that go for 1/2" or 3/4" wide synthetic grosgrain ribbon  (1.3-1.9cm)  When you cut this wave the edge in a flame to melt and seal it to keep it from unraveling.  You don't need to melt a lot to keep this from happening.  Be careful as the melted plastic will be hot.

Buckles:  I used "Plastic Cam Buckles" for 1/2 webbing, but if you can't find those "Strap Adjusters" are a less convenient option, or you can even go with 2 "D-Rings"  which is a better option for grosgrain. 

Elastic: 1/2" wide flat elastic.  In a pinch, any width that will fit through the fixed/attachment end of your buckles will work, around here each fabric shop seems to stock 3 random width of elastic in 1/8" increments from 1/4-1"    Cut this to length just before you use it so it doesn't unravel.

Thread: Heavy Duty or Upholstery, you want some burlier stuff here.  One spool is plenty.  Cotton will wick moisture more so synthetic is better, but not a must.

--OK.  So, I'm at the store and none of this is labeled "breathable" or "water resistant"... what do I want?

In an ideal world, there are all spec sheets telling you what everything is, but you've probably got a teenager who can kinda scrapbook telling you where the fleece is and that some of it's blue. 

Test for wind resistance:  Hold a corner of the fabric to your mouth tightly and try to breathe.  If you can breathe easily, the cold wind will go through just as easily.   If it's a LOT harder to breathe than through a shirt or say jeans denim, but you still can feel a little air, it's wind resistant.   If you really can't get any air, it's probably wind proof.

Test for water resistance:  Pour a few drops of water on it, and rub it in.  If it beads off it's water resistant, if it soaks in it'll get wet and heavy.  If you put a piece of pale fine cotton behind it and don't see any water moving through when rubbing hard on the water, it's probably water proof , in which case it'll be impossible to get any air through too.

Step 5: Layout

For clarity, since my mogans are all black, I've used some scrap fabric (much smaller) in several colors so you can see how things go together.  I've also used red top thread, and black bottom thread on the sewing machine so you can see which side was face up when I stitched it, and how things fold.  These demo pieces are not to scale, but are close enough that you can get a good idea of how things go together.  (I didn't have the right needle for the scrap fabric, so some of the stitching is a bit rough.) 

Nota Bene:  Use as few pins as you can throughout the whole thing, as pins will put holes in your waterproof fabrics allowing water to seep in.  This is more critical around the knees, but still something to be mindful of.  Anywhere I tell you to pin a folded edge, you can press it flat with an iron, or glue it flat with heat tape, but some materials don't like to be ironed, so only do this if you know the material's properties.

Getting started:

Take the pieces of fabric you've cut out and lay them out on a flat surface.  You're going to be making a left and a right, so things will be mirrored as you lay them out.

Place the Fleece (white) so that the "Height" side is up and down from you with the width spreading out to the side, and the other piece several inches away in the same orientation

Place the Shell (light blue) atop the Fleece so that the height measurement is going up and down, and allow the top and outside to each overhang the fleece by about an inch.

Place the Knee (denim) atop the Shell so the "Knee" is in line with "Height" and align the top and outside with the Shell top and outside edges.

You should have something similar to the picture. 

Mark each of these pieces in a fashion that will allow you to sort out orientation, and their relation between each other with the tailor's chalk.  Exact measurements are not critical at this point.  Knowing where each bit is going to end up on the left mogan is important, and which edge is for the inside or outside.   For this I used one, two and three marks of tailors chalk (in white and blue since I was clever and chose scrap that's the same color as my tailors chalk.)  You may want to do 4-6 marks on the other leg, or use white on one and blue on the other.

"Inside" refers to how you wear it, not where everything seems to come together. 

Step 6: Knees to Shell

I'm only going to explain this once, so pay attention.  You'll have to do it twice, although I believe I've managed to make this confusing enough with "inside" and "outside" instead of left and right.  "face up" will always refer to the finished outer surface you want showing.

(Image 1)Pick up a knee piece face up, and fold the inside edge back under about 3/8 (1cm) of an inch.  Pin this in place.

Stitch this flat about 3/8" (3mm) from the edge. (or leave flat if glued) then replace it where it was on the Shell (Image 2)

(Image 3) Flip the Knee piece down along its bottom edge (one mark).  Next measure down from the top of the shell piece to 1" less than the height of the Knee panel, and scoot the knee piece up to this mark.  Pin flat there.

(Image 4) Now stitch across that pin line 3/8" from the bottom edge (currently near the top)

(Image 5) Fold the Knee up, and you should have a Knee facing out in the correct orientation on the Shell.  It may be a little bit higher or lower than the shell fabric at the top.  This is fine.

(Image 6) Stitch just along the edge of the Inside edge of the Knee to secure the second edge to the Shell.

Step 7: Shell to Fleece

We're going to do something very similar to how we attached the Knee to the Shell to attach the Shell to the Fleece.  We want an inch (2.5 cm) or so on the interior of the fleece to keep snow out, but we want the shell folded behind. 

(Images 1 & 2) Lay the Shell piece (with Knee) on top of the Fleece where it will end up.

(Image 3)  Flip the Outside edge of the Shell around behind the Fleece.  That's what we're going for.

(Image 4)  Flip the Fleece over so it's Exterior down, and lay the Shell Exterior down on top of it, half an inch from the Outside edge of the fleece. 

(Image 5)  Stitch the Shell to the Fleece 3/8" from the edge of the Shell.

(Images 6 & 7 )  For illustration, I've flipped the whole thing over, so the Exterior side of the Shell is up.  (Interior of Fleece is up) and you'll see you have about an inch of Fleece that's folded behind the rest of the fleece.  We want the Fleece to lay flat, and the Shell to wrap around and protect this 1" edge of Fleece.

(Image 8)  Flip the Fleece Exterior up (notice the chalk marks)  and smooth out the edge that the Shell is stitched to.  The Shell will resist folding over a bit, but you want to force it to fold, and not let the Fleece be flipped back.

(Image 9) Fold the Shell over the Fleece so that the edge of the Fleece is kept flat.  You should have a 1" wrap of Shell around the Fleece now. 

(Image 10)  Pin this so that the fleece is held within the Shell.

(Image 11)  Stitch down the edge of the Shell 3/8" from the edge.  If you want you could add a second row of stitching just along the edge.

Step 8: Shell Edges Onto Fleece

We're now going to attach the other edges of the Shell to the Fleece.

(Image 1)  Place the Shell Exterior down and flip the Fleece towards the Outside.  Fold 1/2" of the Interior of the shell over.

(Image 2)  Pin down this folded edge.  Pinheads should be on the Inside edge of the fold  (not on top of the Shell, but free)

(Image 3) Smooth the Fleece over the Shell.  The Fleece should be all in one flat piece with no folds.

(Image 4)  Fold the Bottom edge of the Shell up 1/2"    Pin this with pin heads on the Bottom of the edge. 

(Image 5)  Fold the overhanging Bottom edge of the Shell up onto the Fleece.  It should come up about 2-3 inches depending on how accurate things ended up.  This provides protection for the Fleece from your boots where the strap rubs against them.

(Image 6)  Pin this folded bottom of the Shell down.  Once the edge is attached to the Fleece, you can pull the pins that held the folded edges over.

(Image 7)  Repeat the folding and pinning of edges and then folding the overhang that we just did on the bottom on the Top overhang of the Shell.  Pin this to the Fleece. 

(Image 8)  Carefully flip this over, and Pin down the Inside edge of the Shell to the Fleece. 

(Image 9)  Now stitch the Shell to the Fleece close along this edge.

(Image 10)  Flip the project over so you can see the reverse of the last seam.

(Image 11) Stitch down the along the edge of the Top and Bottom overhangs up to the last seam.

(Image 12)  The competed fabric portion.

Step 9: Straps

Lots of little black bits really were not clear to photograph, so I've put together a horrid little iconic image of the straps.

These straps will be attached to the mogans, although you don't have to.  If you'd prefer to have them free, omit the little tab and the second bar tack.  Take up the extra elastic in the loop.   

Take one of your Webbing lengths (blue), one of the Elastic lengths (grey) and one of your buckles.

Thread the elastic through the buckle's attachment loop, and double it back.  Fit the end of the strap through the loop formed by the elastic, and have it overhand about 3/8" on top and an inch on the bottom. 

Using a bar tack, or zigzag stitch, sew the Elastic onto the Strap.  (larger red bar.)

After you've put together six of these you're going to attach them to the mogan (yellow) using the little tab and another bar tack (shorter red bar)

Step 10: Go Play in the Snow.

Wrap the mogan around your leg starting with the fleece and ending with the knee pad.  Twist it until you've got the knee pad in front, and fasten it on with the straps. 

I've pondered adding a boot strap around the heel of my boot, but with my insulated tanker boots I haven't had them creep up.  We're on towards spring and I'm looking towards the garden, so maybe that will happen on the Mark II next year. 

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    6 years ago

    These are great. I will have to make a pair for myself. do you notice any issue with them riding up at the ankle? If so a strap running under the boot near the heel may solve the issue.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Wow! No zippers, eyelets, grommets, or laces and easy on/off over boots! I've made knee high gaiters in the past and it's been a problem to get them large enough to go over boots and then when on, small enough not to be in the way. It never occurred to me to make them wrap. Thanks for posting this!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    very nice. next year im moving back to the cold north and will be needing something like this to let me where my kilt during the winter