A huge thanks to everyone who posted their Saunio cardigans at the weekend! It seems as though lots of you were pleasantly surprised by the versatility of the pattern. I'm excited to see how everyone uses their fabric choices to make this pattern their own in March.
I am delighted to have Beth from the hugely popular SewDIY blog advising us on how to sew the Virginia Leggings. Here's what she had to say about fit, fabric, equipment and about sewing them up.
The Virginia Leggings pattern has two views, version 1 sits at the natural waist and version 2 is low-rise and maternity friendly. Plus, there are tall and petite inseam lengths. The size range is XS to XL and you’ll need to know your waist and hip measurement. My hip measurement is between a S and M so I cut the pattern right in between the two. The great thing about a simple pattern like these leggings is that there’s not a lot of fitting to worry about. Plus the fabric is stretchy and forgiving.
I’ve made leggings about five times before and in my experience the most important thing is the fabric selection. More than once, I’ve selected fabric that looked really cool but just did not have enough stretch. I still wear those leggings sometimes but they are nowhere near as comfortable as the pairs that have sufficient stretch.
So, why do leggings need to be so stretchy? Well, they are designed with negative ease, meaning that the fabric is cut smaller than your body and when worn stretches for a skintight fit. The pattern recommends fabric with 40% stretch. That means if you have a piece of fabric 10” wide, it needs to be able to stretch to 14” wide. I also recommend a fabric with 4-way stretch, meaning it stretches crosswise and lengthwise. If you’re determined to use a fabric that has less stretch than is recommended, you might consider going up a size. You can always take in the seam allowance if they are too big.
When fabric shopping, I recommend feeling the fabric and doing a few tests. I like to put my hand under one layer of fabric and hold it up to the light to see if there’s any see-through. For leggings, you’re going to want something a little thicker than you would for a t-shirt. Pull the fabric crosswise and widthwise to see if it stretches and hopefully you remembered to bring a measuring tape to check the percentage of stretch. Also note how well the fabric recovers from that stretching. If it doesn’t return to its “before” state, your leggings may end up with baggy knees after a few wears.
I’ve been sewing for a lot of years and one of the most challenging lessons to learn has been how to select the right fabric for a particular project. If I’m really unsure about a fabric, I think about ready to wear (RTW) garments (in this case leggings) I’ve seen and ask myself if the fabric has similar qualities. If it doesn’t, then I’ll look for something that is better suited. Obviously, don’t let RTW trends stifle your creativity but you can learn a lot about what works or doesn’t from studying other garments. The way I look at it, the fashion industry has spent a lot of time on fabric selection, so we might as well observe what they’ve done and take note.
Sewing knits is a little different than sewing woven fabric. If you made the Toaster Sweater and Saunio Cardigan for months one and two of the challenge, then you’re probably already up to speed but it doesn’t hurt to say it again. The most important thing when sewing knits is that you want the stitches to be able to stretch with the fabric. A regular old straight stitch won’t stretch so you’ll need to use something a bit more fancy.
If you have a serger/overlocker, lucky you! You can use it for all of the seams of the leggings and they will have plenty of stretch. If you don’t have a serger/overlocker though, don’t fret. You can still use your conventional machine. You’ll want to use a ballpoint or jersey needle and (if you have one) a walking foot. If you don’t have a walking foot and are having trouble feeding the fabric under the needle, you can place strips of tissue paper between the fabric and the feed dogs as you sew. Stitch right over the fabric and paper and gently tear away the paper after stitching.
When using your conventional machine, you can use a narrow zig-zag stitch or a stretch stitch (aka lightning stitch). The lightning stitch is very sturdy stitch that still has lots of stretch. The only drawbacks to it are that it’s kind of slow to sew and VERY hard to unpick. Refer to your machine manual and do a few test stitches on a scrap of fabric to find the stitch that works best for you. Remember to stretch the test stitches and see how they behave before making your selection.
SEWING THE VIRGINIA LEGGINGS
The pattern provides great instructions so I only have a couple of things to add. After you thread the elastic through the casing, secure the ends together with a safety pin and try on your leggings. This will let you test how you like the fit of the elastic before sewing it in place. Some elastics stretch differently than others, so I always like to test it and see if it should be shortened or lengthened.
After the elastic ends are stitched together and your casing closed up, you can topstitch your elastic. This will help prevent the elastic from twisting and bunching. Usually we don’t want to stretch our fabric while stitching but this is one exception. The waistband and topstitching will need to stretch over your hips when you put on your leggings so if you don’t stretch it while topstitching you’ll end up with broken threads (I know this one from experience). Try to stretch the elastic and fabric as evenly as you can as you stitch around. Uneven stretching will result in uneven stitching (I also know this one from experience too). You can use your left hand to stretch from the back and your right hand to stretch from the front.
I’m really excited to see everyone’s Virginia Leggings this month. I really love this pattern and wear my leggings all the time. In fact, I made a second pair to prepare for this post and have not taken them off since I finished sewing them.