Upcycling leggings is an excellent way to get some extra life out those leggings you never did end up wearing. I was given this pair and Hannah loved the look of them. They were much to big for her and too small for me not that I thought I would wear them anyway.
After I was given these leggings to upcycle I had a brain wave for a quick and easy upcycle idea. Since these leggings are quite small and a nice floaty knit fabric (viscose elastane) I thought they would make great Harem pants for Hannah. The only things I need to alter is the waistband and the length. Let the Upcycling Leggings project begin!
For this tutorial I used my overlocker and sewing machine, but you can easily get away with only using your regular sewing machine. Just use a zigzag stitch and the knit fabric should not fray anyway!
This upcycling leggings project sure made some cute pants are definitely comfortable and stretchy!
What you will need to begin Upcycling Leggings
- Leggings! The size will dictate how much gather and how loose the finished harems will be. If your leggings are way too big you can always take in the inseam a little to narrow the legs
- Elastic – I am re-using the elastic from the original leggings
- Unpicker – a.k.a Seam Ripper, or Quick Unpick
1 – Unpick or Cut Off Waistband
You will need to remove the waistband. There are two ways to do this unfortunately your leggings will decide which options you have! If your leggings are smaller you will need to unpick to save the length between the waist and crotch. Lucky you if you have larger or higher waist leggings as you can just cut the waistband off!
2 – Reattach Waistband Elastic
You can either reuse the elastic from the leggings, or if you prefer use a new piece. We will attach the elastic using the overlocker or zigzag stitch on a regular machine.
Measure the desired waist length and remove a couple of inches (a little less if really small and a little more if really large), this is because the elastic will stretch as it is sewn to you fabric. Hannah has a 23” waist so I cut mine at 21”. Now you will need to join your elastic into a circle, I am using the slight overlap method on this one due to the elastic not being sturdy enough for the edge to edge join (see joining elastic tutorial here – wow that is an old one think I will update that soon!). Once your elastic is joined making sure there are no twists of course, fold the join and mark the opposite side with a pin (see last photo above).
Lay your elastic inside the waist of your leggings, lining up the join in the elastic with the center back seam and the pin with the center front seam. Now pin the rest evenly in between. You will need to stretch out the elastic to get the fabric to lay flat (see this tutorial for all the steps if you need to).
Then overlock ( or zigzag) the edge taking care not to cut the elastic with your blade.
3 – Finish the Waistband (Optional Add Label)
If you want to add a label/tag now is the time to do it! See the photos above for the steps. As you can see the back is not overly tidy but this will be sewn into the seam and won’t be visible. This step is really to hold the label/tag securely in place while the waist band is finished.
Fold over and pin the waistband in place. Zigzag along the original overlocking (zigzag) stitch line from the inside of the fabric. You can sew from the right side if you want to but it is much easier to be sure you are catching both layers from the inside. You will need to stretch the waistband as you sew to keep it flat.
That is the Waistband all finished!
*TIP!!! – Now is a great time to write your child’s name on the label/tag or even just on the inside of the waistband. I leave a pen and marker in my sewing desk drawer especially for this. If I don’t do it straight away I find it much harder to remember later on, and I don’t know about you but I am so over checking the lost property in the mornings for all the lost items!
4 – Reducing the Leg Length
If you originally cut the waistband off you may need to remove less, so please try them on first! Hannah is very tall for a nearly 8 year old, and with the tight fitting ankles on this pair of leggings I didn’t need to take them up at all! But I will show you how to easily take them up by turning the excess fabric into a cuff.
As long as you are sure they are too long, you can go ahead and cut the existing hem off.
You’ll have to imagine I cut the hem off in the first picture! At the rate this child grows I want to keep them as long as possible. If your leggings are too wide at the bottom you will need to sew in the side or inseam to narrow them first.
Fold the excess fabric over as in the second photo then fold it back over so the cut edge lines up with the folded edge. Pin in place and overlock or zigzag on this edge. I again sew this on the inside of the leg rather than from the outside. To see what the finished result will look like you can check out my Holes in the Knees Tutorial these have the same style cuffs.
And that is it! I hope you have enjoyed upcycling leggings, and now you have an easy to make and oh so comfortable pair of Harems for the child in your life!