I’m a little behind on my March participation in Project #SewMyStyle. But, as they say, better late than never!
For this installment of the yearlong sewing challenge, we were tasked with sewing leggings. My relationship with leggings is complicated (and sewing these leggings actually further complicated things).
Strap yourself in for an epic post about leggings, pajamas, BurdaStyle, crotch flowers, Instagram, mullets, and more. I’m playing things fast and loose. Giddy-up!
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A leggings backstory
When I was heavily pregnant with my second son, John, in late winter 2015, I had this vision of wearing Manila leggings and an Olso sweater during my maternity leave. Stretchy and cozy — check and check. I printed and taped together the Seamwork patterns. I even took note that the Manila leggings are drafted for a 5-feet-7-inch human, so I shortened the pattern pieces two inches to accommodate my 5-feet-5-inch height. I was ready to get my leggings on.
And then, I just got more and more pregnant. Tired. Crabby. I could barely make it to 8 most nights. My sewjo shrank as my belly grew.
Anyhoo, I had John and gradually gained back my sewjo. I sewed Olso and moved on to Manila.
The fabric I chose for my first Manila leggings was a disaster. It was a heavy-ish mystery knit with not enough stretch. I could barely pull them over my knees. When I gave them the final heave-ho, I heard an epic tearing sound. I started to laugh, peeled them off, and threw them into the darkest part of my sewing closet.
Time to tackle leggings (again)
I’m not much of a leggings gal outside of working out. Leggings as pants isn’t my jam, and I don’t have many bum-covering tops that work well with leggings.
When I saw that March’s Project #SewMyStyle pattern was the Virginia leggings from Megan Nielsen, I decided to make Manila work instead of buying another leggings pattern. And because leggings (usually) are a fast sew, I committed to making a coordinating top for the monthly challenge, too. That’s how this pajama set was born.
Leggings make great jammies, and jammies are a great way to go nuts with colors and patterns, which I love. And what grown-up lady doesn’t need more pajama sets in her life?
For the top, the navy-and-white spots fabric is an organic cotton interlock knit. A patterned front is ideal because of the bra situation — or, rather the lack of a bra situation. I’m not one to sleep in a bra. No bra = free nipples. Free nipples are much less noticeable (if not invisible) in a dark shirt with a pattern.
In the back of the top (ha, that sounds weird), I opted for white polyester stretch mesh back to keep things cool — and sexy. It’s a party in the back. From henceforth, they shall be know as my mullet pajamas. The mesh is smoother on one side, so I put that side closer to my body. I have a fair amount of mesh left over, so I’m thinking about making a gym-class-style pinny for my sons so they can play shirts-vs.-skins games. (Not really, but that joke cracks me up!)
I wanted a finer mesh for the back (see pic above), but I bought all my fabric from Fabric.com, and the white was the best option. Real talk: I didn’t want to pay shipping on a small amount of fabric from a second vendor.
The leggings are a cotton-spandex knit from Art Gallery Fabrics and designed by Like Flowers and Butterflies blogger Katarina Roccella. The knit is from the Skopelos collection, inspired by the Greek island of the same name. I started scheming this PJ set by choosing the leggings fabric first. The knit is lighter weight than I normally like for leggings, but the pattern distracts from slight transparency. These are pajamas; I can deal with lightweight.
I did a fairly decent job of matching the rough stripes on the leggings across the front and butt, where it would be most obvious if the stripes were off. I gave myself a pass on matching on the side and inseam because the stripes aren’t super sharp. If you like wearing stripes but don’t like matching stripes, this could be a good fabric for you!
Another note about cutting this fabric: I made an effort to avoid too many flowers over my private bits (i.e., no explosion of red and pink crotch flowers), and I was mostly successful. Don’t phone it in when it comes to pattern placement, sewing friends!
Let’s talk about the top: BurdaStyle knit v-neck pullover 04/2014 #109
I never know exactly how to write the name of BurdaStyle patterns (as a former copy editor, this drives me batty!). On the BS website, this top is listed as knit v-neck pullover 04/2014 #109. I got this pattern from the spring 2015 U.S. edition of BurdaStyle magazine. In the mag, it’s 109.1-022015-US knit v-neck pullover. (Psst… you can search for back issues of BurdaStyle on eBay! Score!) I think I covered all my bases if you’re interested in learning more about this pattern!
I wanted my PJ top to be relaxed and simple, and this top pattern fit the bill. It’s only two pattern pieces, which made tracing it off from the magazine a relative breeze. In case you didn’t know, BurdaStyle magazine layers its pattern pieces, so they look like this:
This IG post led to a vigorous convo about how the layering actually is IMPROVED from how it used to be in BS mag. Can you imagine? My online sewing pal, Johanna Wu of The Last Stitch blog, shared a side-by-side comparison of BurdaStyle magazine patterns in 1987 and 2017. Now, I don’t want you to be totally turned off by Burda patterns, because a lot of them are really cool; they just take some concentration. Johanna did a sewing vlog with her top tips for tracing BS patterns; check it out before you pick up a pencil!
Back to MY BurdaStyle top. I traced a size 38 and added an inch to the length. I wanted the shirt to have better bum coverage in its pairing with the leggings.
When I cut the shirt, I raised the neckline about 1 inch because I thought it looked low. But after basting the top together and trying it on, I discovered the neckline was too high. I lowered it an inch and was happy with the alteration.
This shirt was a breeze to make, but I didn’t really follow the directions, especially when it came to the binding instructions. Check them out here:
I was not interested in handstitching or understitching, so I skipped those directives. For bias binding, I reached for the leftover T-shirt bias binding I used when sewing my Prefontaine shorts last summer. I sewed the bias binding to the neckline, right sides together. Then I pressed the tape to the wrong side and topstitched it in place. The bias binding was wide (about an inch), so after it was sewn in place, I trimmed it. I finished the armholes the same way.
For the bottom hem, I turned it up and topstitched.
Let’s talk about the bottoms: Seamwork Manila leggings
Let’s focus on the good stuff first. These leggings are fast to sew up. They’re only four pattern pieces (front, back, waistband, cuff). The petal cuffs are darling.
What was less than good in my second experience sewing Manila was the fit in the calves. I don’t have wide calves — I’ve never had a problem with skinny jeans or tall boots. As a runner (I’m currently training for a half-marathon) I do have well-defined calves. But the calves on these size small leggings were seriously too tight. The stripes and flowers on the fabric were stretched to the max, and I had to be careful not to rip the stitches and fabric.
Because the fit was otherwise fine in the hips, thighs, and knees, I lopped off 6 3/4 inches from the bottom to make them into cropped leggings. Not my first choice of length, but, in the words of St. Timothy Gunn, I made it work.
The new knee-length opening is one inch wider than the old ankle opening, so I added one inch to the cuff width. I could have added more width — maybe another half-inch — to increase the cuff overlap. When my knee bends, the cuff doesn’t look as nice as it could, but it’s not worth cutting another set of cuffs and cuff linings.
The other modification worth mentioning is I used a 1/4 inch seam allowance on the waistband instead of the recommended 3/8 inch. I reduced the seam to avoid sewing the waistband elastic into the seam allowance. If you’re thinking about reducing the SA to avoid the same problem, it works just fine.
Troubleshooting Manila leggings
When I ran into the calf problem, I turned to Instagram:
#sewing hivemind, I need your help! I’m making #seamworkmanila leggings, and the calves are waaaaay too tight. Do I slash and spread the front and back leg pieces to make the calves wider? Or do I trace off the pattern pieces a touch wider below the knee (like grade to a larger size from the knee down)? The fit above the knee is just fine, so I’m worried slash/spread would interfer with what’s already working. Anybody out there @seamworkmag care to weigh in? If you’ve sewn these leggings, I’d love to hear from you! Help me, please! Thanks! #sewcialists #sewist #sewistsofinstagram #slowfashion #memade #sewingwithknits #leggings #manilaleggings
A few sewists (including Seamwork magazine) said I should grade out in the calves, so that’s my plan for my next version of Manila. I want a TNT leggings pattern. Even though I’m not a leggings person, I’m warming to the idea of wearing leggings under skirts and dresses during cold months. Could this be a style evolution at Sie macht?
I will update this blog post with my calf adjustments; stay tuned!
Over to you: What’s your favorite style of pajama? How do you approach coordinating patterns? What’s your TNT leggings pattern? Where do you stand in the leggings-as-pants debate? How often do you turn to Instagram for help? Please sound off on these questions and more in comments! Thanks!
P.S. This is my first blog post with pics from my new camera, which I talked about in my first sewing vlog! In my vid I talk about some recent sewing purchases, including the Closet Case Patterns Sew Your Dream Jeans online class. Check it out!
P.P.S. If you like this Project #SewMyStyle post, here are the installments from January and February:
January: Sew House Seven Toaster Sweater #2: The stylish sweatshirt
February: Named Saunio Cardigan: Harder than it looks
P.P.P.S. Want to read about more Seamwork stuff? Check this out: Why I canceled my Seamwork magazine subscription.