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Old Sweater into Cozy Leggings

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Is your weather changing? You’re either turning warm right now (hello my Australia friends!!) or the wind has become crisp and your long sleeved shirts have come out.  (Okay, maybe not if you’re down south. Your chilly weather won’t come until, oh, December? We remember our warm winters in GA!) But if that chilly weather has started creeping in, start digging through that sweater box.  I know you have a sweater or two that have never really fit right but you have kept anyway.  Maybe hoping you’d get another use or two out of it the next fall/winter.  Ha… I right? ;)


Well, it’s time to tell them goodbye.  Because there are chilly little legs out there that need some cozy sweater leggings to cover them up!



Especially during this in-between weather, when it’s not quite cold enough for snow pants but those little legs just need a little covering from the brisk air.



And what good are those sweaters doing, going unworn up in that sweater box anyway?!!  (However, If you can’t bear cutting through one of your beloved sweaters, take a trip to the thrift store.  There’s plenty there to choose from. That’s actually where I bought these two.)




Thinner/tighter woven sweaters work best.  They are easier to sew and they don’t have gaping holes like a loose knit sweater does.  Plus, they are all sorts of comfy! 



And choosing a sweater with a cinched in waist band gives a nice snug bottom to the leggings.  (And makes it so you don’t have to hem up the bottom of the leggings.…..which would truly be a pain on a cut up sweater.)



And wait, before you get nervous…….this is officially a lightning fast project! 


One pair of leggings is just 2 pieces of sweater and 1 elastic band.  No hemming, no casing, and pretty darn forgiving.  Hallelujah!



So go on and find some great un-loved sweaters and give them a new life.  Even if the sweater shape is awkward and terribly unflattering, the design or pattern may be perfect for some leggings.  And then don’t blame me if you pass out when you slide them on your little girl and you see how blazin’ cute they are!!  Holy smokes……I could eat my little Chloe right up!  (I should have taken a picture without the jumper on.  They are just as cute with just a top on!)



There you go Little Miss…..2 new pair of leggings!  Should we dig through daddy’s sweaters and see if we can make more? ;)

**And yes, Chloe is doing so much better than last week.  She decided oxygen was no fun and kicked that ol’ tank out the window! ;)



Would you like to make a very simple pair of sweater leggings?

I thought you might. ;)


First of all, and like I mentioned above, a thinner/tighter woven sweater works best.  Tighter knitted (or machine woven) sweaters are easier to sew with because they don’t unravel much.  Also, a thinner sweater will be easier to slide under your needle and will be more comfy on a little one’s legs.  Now, you don’t have to choose a T-shirt thin typ sweater material……but just try to stay away from gaping holes and thick cable knit type sweaters. And, remember, if you have a sweater with a tighter knit waist band, it creates a fantastic bottom to the end of the leggings.  It keeps it snug on the legs and also lets you skip the step of hemming the sweater at the end of each leg.  Which is something I don’t recommend.


Then, make a pattern piece by using an old pair of leggings as a guide.  Check out my Simple Leggings tutorial, where I explain more thoroughly how to make your own pattern piece.



Now, if you want to keep it really simple, skip the casing for the elastic at the top of the leggings and use some one inch wide exposed elastic at the top.  (Or if you’d rather, go ahead and create a casing just like the tutorial I linked to above.)


But if you skip the casing, you won’t need as much fabric at the top of your pattern piece.  Just cut your pattern piece straight off at the top, and don’t add that extra 1 1/4 inch of extra fabric, like explained in the simple legging tutorial above.  And if you use 1 inch wide elastic like I did, you will actually need to cut your fabric about a 1/2 inch shorter at the top, because the elastic adds to the height.


So, go ahead and cut up that sweater.  And when you’re cutting through the waist band at the bottom, pull it a little so that it lays flat as you’re cutting.  Then when you let go, it will pull in a little bit.  But don’t worry, it will just create a nice and snug bottom to each leg.


Then, sew your 2 legging pieces together just like the legging tutorial.  (**HINT: If your sweater is really pulling excessively while sewing, increase your stitch length just a bit.  This will help the needle hop over more of the sweater at once and will eliminate some of that stretching and pulling.)  Also, I didn’t use a double needle to make these but you can if you want to.  I just knew there would only be a few stitches and no hemming, so I wasn’t worried about making a pretty double seam.  So I didn’t bother switching out my needle.  But I did sew each line with a straight stitch and them used a zig-zag to finish off each edge…..which is very important while sewing an old sweater together.


Then, if you’re doing the exposed elastic band like me, zig-zag all the way around the top opening of the leggings.  And if it stretches and waffles just a bit, don’t worry, the elastic will fix that.



Then, cut a piece of 1 inch wide elastic that is the same size as your subject’s waist.  Then overlap the ends by one inch and then zig-zag the ends down.  (I share tips on elastic and where to buy all sorts of colorful wide elastic on my Elastic Band Skirt Tutorial.)


Then, divide the elastic band into equal fourths and do the same with the top of the leggings.  Match up the pins and then overlap the elastic by a half inch over the outside of the leggings.  Then add more pins if needed. (Need more help and pictures for this technique?  Check out my Elastic Band Skirt tutorial for more instruction.)


Then sew the elastic band right to the top of the leggings, pulling the elastic a little bit as you go, to match up with the sweater fabric.  Be sure to use a zig-zag stitch (about an 1/8 of an inch from the bottom edge of the elastic), so that it will stretch when your subject pulls the leggings on and off.




And that’s it………some Simple Sweater Leggings. 


Ready to keep some little leggies nice and warm!!







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Ashley Johnston
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Ashley Johnston

Owner at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with the craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!
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  1. Jordyn says:

    These are perfect with cloth diapers if you use a wool sweater!! Thank you for this awesome guide!

  2. agdy says:

    …now I finally know what to do with old sweaters, love it ;)

  3. koewan pride3 says:

    cute future house cleaner

  4. lissa says:

    That’s really a great idea that old sweaters can be turn into leggings and even cute sweaters. I wouldn’t think about doing that cause I like to buy new clothes but i know i have alot of old sweaters hanging around its neat on how old clothes can always come in handy cause people rarely give away there old stuff. That’s was a cute idea to make leggings like that your idea is something. I can use to make my only daughter. Some leggings like that. Keep up the great ideas.

  5. emily says:

    Love this idea for little ones! Angie’s posts from last year has me thinking of trying to make some for myself using the leggings I have already have as a pattern. Just need a big stretchy fabric source. HHmmm any suggestions?

  6. Elva says:

    Thank you so much for your legging tutorial! I had the hardest time finding cute bike shorts for my daughter to wear under her tunics this summer, and the ones I actually liked at a certain Swedish store were expensive and they didn’t offer much variety. I’m looking forward to making all her shorts next summer!

  7. Mandi says:

    Very cute idea! I think I will cut up some cheap t-shirts from a garage sale.

    What do you think about finishing of the edges on sweaters that fray?

  8. Kira K. says:

    Thank you for posting this tutorial. What a fabulous idea!

    I saw the cutest sweater leggings at Target the other day while shopping for my girls and immediately remembered this post. I am definitely going on the hunt for some sweaters to cut up this weekend!

  9. Hollie says:

    Can your blog be pinned? I subscribe (thanks to word of mouth from a friend) but I know a few Pinterest friends that would love this idea! And others in your blog. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Ashley says:

      Yes, go right ahead. And thanks!!


  10. skelly says:

    Love this! I buy long-sleeved tees and cut them into short sleeves (for myself). I saved the sleeves thinking I could use them for my 3mo old and this tutorial pushed me to try it … they’re fabulous and free! Got a couple of $7 shirts for myself at Target, cut the sleeves off, made pants for my little girl … what a bargain! (Gotta love a twofer!)

  11. Angie Hales says:

    I love this! I have two boys so don’t get to make these. Maybe I can find some giant sweaters and make them for myself; since I’m only 5’1. ;)

    1. emily says:

      Did you ever make these for yourself? Seems like a good idea :)

  12. Kathleen says:

    I am just now finishing up the second pair of leggings from your older post. So easy, and while I wasn’t able to find fabric to match her little dresses and tunics, I could find shirts at the thrift store! I might have to go try and find some sweaters next. Although, I would love to figure out how to also reuse the sleeves on the tops…I feel bad throwing that part away! Well, I kept it all for now since you never know what project may come up next :) Perhaps a little baby cardi or shrug tutorial using the leftover sleeves and fabric from the sweaters?

    1. Mama of five says:

      I second your shrug or cardigan idea! Imagine how adorably coordinated that would look together! And how cuddly warm it would be too.

  13. Rosalyn says:

    These are so cute, perfect for my little granddaughter. Thanks so much for sharing.

  14. Tracy says:

    I just have to say how adorable your children are! And how much I love your blog! I love these leggings. My girls are almost 4 and 19 months, and are in need of some of these sweater leggings. I love how these leggings will be warm and cozy unlike the spandex ones from the stores. I dug through my pile last night but didn’t find any cute old sweaters like the ones you used… off to the thrift store we go! I am so happy to hear that your little one is doing better too!

  15. Helen says:


    Blue Eyed Beauty Blog

  16. Eva Scott says:

    Uber cute! I’m in FL so definitely don’t need these yet unfortunately but saving this for December. {wink}

  17. susan says:

    Too cute. Glad to hear chloe is doing so much better

  18. Rhiannon says:

    So excited for this! Been dreading the cold weather and keeping baby girl warm and still stylish! I’m not a big pants on little girl kinda momma.

  19. Anonymous says:

    omg, your daughter is the cutest thing ever! and the leggings is just like the icing in the cake. glad shes doing better

  20. MoMo says:

    Adorable! I love that you take the time to show us “slower” sewers how to do every detail! I need it! Your daughter is such a sweet little bug- glad she’s doing much better!

  21. rebekah says:

    I wouls like to add that just cutting off the arms and sewing them togther can make great little pants. I often do this with sweaters that have a high wool content that I find at the thrift store. After I lanolize it it makes the best diaper cover! Even my husband likes using them and prefers my homemade longies to aan expensive diaper cover.

  22. Megan says:

    Yes, really cute leggings but that little Chloe is quite adorable!! So glad that she is feeling better.

  23. HokieKate says:

    I have that argyle sweater, but mine is a medium, not XL. I admired the Hokie maroon and orange for weeks before my husband convinced me to splurge. As cute as the leggings are, I’m not quite willing to sacrifice it yet. Maybe for the next baby.

    1. Sara says:

      I thought they were a good play on Hokie colors too :) Good Hokies recognize what’s important :)

  24. dannyscotland says:

    Amazing. But best is that Chloe is doing better. She is so stinking cute.

  25. Evgenia says:

    Super!!! They seem amazing!

  26. meaganne says:

    I just made some baby leg warmers out of a sweater today! Didn’t even think of making leggings…great idea! Thanks:)

  27. Melissa says:

    These are too stinkin cute!! What a great idea and thanks for sharing!

  28. Anna-Leigh says:

    What a great idea! I’m right with a previous commenter…we’re in Sc and won’t need them for a while, but I definitely want to try and make some. Your little one is so cute! Love the sassy-ness!

  29. palak says:

    so cute! I’m so glad that your little one is feeling better!

  30. sheila miller says:

    REALLY Cute and I’m gonna make them soon. Here in SC we don’t need them till later – like Jan.
    One suggestion – I took all of the elastic waistbands from my grandson’s many, many pairs that were in perfect condition, just too small, and cut the bands out. Perfect for making waistbands and no need to use your other. I love how the Fruit of the Loom words show up too. Retro, recycle, upcycle, deconstruct, reconstruct….it’s all good and fun!

  31. brenda says:

    These are adorable and so is your cute little girl. Can’t wait to try them.

  32. LindaC says:

    These are ridiculously cute! Glad to see your little one is doing better.

  33. Dana says:

    I love this :) I have a few sweaters that I think I’d use but they are all dry clean only. Would it be terrible to treat baby pants (cause that’s who they’d be for–a non-mobile baby) like I treat my sweaters and clean them less than every wear (unless of course, they get something gross on them)?

    1. Kathleen says:

      Since you probably won’t need all the fabric from your sweater you could try washing it and then see how bad it shrinks. I HATE dry cleaning and think it is all a conspiracy with clothing manufacturers ;) A lot of wool can be “blocked” after washing so it doesn’t shrink as much. I never have the guts to try this with my nice sweaters but something you are going to cut up…

    2. Mama of five says:

      I wash a lot of dry-clean only items in cold water, and they come out just fine. Make sure you’re drying on a low-heat cycle too. Kathleen’s right–you might as well experiment with the sweaters you want to use and see what happens. You might find you don’t need to go to the dry cleaner’s much anymore ; D

      Oh, as for not washing baby pants as often? All it takes is one poopy diaper to make you change your mind on that…

    3. Dana says:

      ha, can you tell I’ll be a new mom? i am so clueless…i think i’ll make the pants, let the baby wear them, wash when needed and if they get ruined, they get ruined. thanks for the advice :)

  34. ashley says:


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Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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