Introduction: Transform Tight Leggings Into Fun Stretchy Shorts

About: Currently obsessed with creating, singing, playing, studying, and enjoying music. Besides that, I love all sorts of crafty endeavours, from sewing and embroidery to knitting and crochet and occasionally cookin…

I made these shorts for my sister's birthday as she requested them. She had one pair of knit shorts and found them very comfy. Available as fabric were 2 leggings that she no longer fitted around the waist. As I started sewing, I realized it was so easy that this would be a perfect project for someone working with knit fabrics for the first time. It's also a good way to reuse clothes that don't fit anymore.

Step 1: Material & Tools

  • 2 tight leggings, or 1 pair of tight leggings and some other stretchy fabric (preferably with a hem)*
  • needle & thread
  • measuring tape
  • chalk (or other marker)
  • pins
  • scissors
  • optional: seam ripper

I made fun shorts out of a pair of leggings that was a plain grey colour and added some details from a striped, colourful pair of leggings. I will refer to the leggings I used for the main part of the shorts as leggings/pair 1, and the leggings for the side strips and pocket as leggings/pair 2. The measurements in the next step may look a little complicated but trust me, they're not. The measurements don't have to be precise, except for the waist - make sure it fits.

*You could also make these shorts with a pair of leggings that actually fits. You will then need to cut a few cm (1 - 2 in) off each side to create space to add the strips of leggings 2.

Step 2: Cut, Cut, Rip

Initially, I was planning to cut the side strips from the waist part of the striped leggings (pair 2). However, I realized that that portion would be useful for another project, so I used the legs instead. You could even make 2 sets of these shorts, with inverted matching colours!

Cut leggings 1 to shorts length, remembering to leave some space for a hem. Cut the sides open. The front and back will still be attached by the inseam and crotch point. The leggings I used had the elastic in the waist sewn to the waistband so I didn't need to worry about that. If the elastic is free within the band, sew it to the edge of the waistband. Cut the legs of leggings 2 to the same length as the shorts. Cut them open close to the seam or rip the seams open to minimise fabric waste.

Take or calculate the following measurements as follows (mine are given in italics as examples):

Measurement A: The waist of a pair of perfectly fitting knit shorts (if you measure your own waist, you may have to remove 1 or 2 cm (up to 1 in) so the elastic stretches slightly when you wear it): 68 cm (26 ¾ in)

Measurement B: The waist of leggings 1 minus 4 cm (1.5 in) for seam allowance (should be smaller than measurement A): 52 cm (20 ½ in)

Measurement C: (Measurement A - Measurement B)/2 + 2 cm (¾ in) seam allowance: 10 cm (4 in)

Measurement D: The diameter of one leg of fitting shorts: 56 cm (22 in)

Measurement E: The diameter of one leg of legging 1 minus 2 cm (¾ in) seam allowance: 36 cm (14 ¼ in)

Measurement F: (Measurement D - Measurement E) + 2 cm (¾ in) seam allowance: 22 cm (8 ¾ in)

Using the full length of each leg of legging 2, cut 2 trapeziums. The width at the top (with the original hem) should be Measurement C and the width at the bottom (the cut side) should be Measurement F (see image). More width is added to the bottom of the shorts because we want the legs to be roomy.

Step 3: Sew Together

Pin the side strips (leggings 2) to the shorts (leggings 1) with the right sides together. Match the hem of leggings 2 to the waist of leggings 1. If your triangles are unsymmetrical, place the more angled of the long sides towards the back to allow room for your bottom. Sew in place. (I sewed by hand, using a backstitch.)

Step 4: Optional: Add Pocket

From a scrap of leggings 2 (I used part of a leg that was left), cut out a square measuring about 12 cm (4 ¾ in) by 12 cm (4 ¾ in). Fold over 1.5 - 2 cm (¾ in) from the top and stitch in place to create the hem for the open side. Folding the other 3 sides under, pin the square to the shorts where you want the pocket to be. Sew neatly in place; these stitches will be visible.

Step 5: Optional: Hem the Bottom

You can leave the bottom of the shorts as they are; knit fabric does not fray. Alternatively, you can hem the shorts as I have done. This part doesn't carry much weight so I just used a single thread rather than a double thread, just like with the pocket.

Step 6: Done!

These shorts are super comfortable, flexible, and suitable for just about any activity!

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