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Turn Leggings into Capris {3 different methods}

I’m really excited about my newest sponsor, World Wide LabelMostly because about a year ago, I searched and searched for clothing labels that were affordable AND durable.  I finally found World Wide Label and was so happy with them.  (Remember my post about them here?) And ahhhh, I love my little labels…….I attach them to everything.  At World Wide Label, you can send them your own design (which I did) but they’ll also design it for you.  For FREE.  They also offer printed or woven labels (which I love), and their correspondence and delivery was awesome.  Anyway, so happy to have World Wide Label sponsoring Make It and Love It.  They really make it fun to add your “signature” to all of your hard work! :)

Turn leggings into capris {3 different methods}
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Turn leggings into capris {3 different methods}
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Turn leggings into capris {3 different methods}
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Kindergarten starts for my little (big?) Elli in just a couple of weeks.  Wow.  We went to Target last night and picked up all of her school supplies.  She was excited to gather everything up from the supply list in the colors and assortments that she wanted.  (I didn’t know so many memories would flood back for me.  I wanted to buy cupcake notebooks and #2 striped pencils for myself too.)  Then we stopped by the big-girl clothing section and I asked her to pick anything she wanted, put it into the cart, and then we’d scale it down and see what she actually wanted/needed…………and then put the other stuff back.  (That’s what I do when I’m shopping for me and it makes my husband nuts. :) )  After a while, I noticed she kept throwing in skirts and dresses, skirts and dresses.  I reminded her that she’s gong to be playing on the playground and going to P.E. and running around chasing boys.  (Yes, she gave me a really confused look.)  So I told her that she needed shorts or capri leggings to go under those skirts/dresses.  But we couldn’t really find any.  Then, I suddenly remembered the pile of outgrown leggings she had at home and told her, “go for it, get all the dresses and skirts you want!”.


When we got home, I pulled out that stash of old leggings that were getting too short and would surely be way too short when the cooler weather came around this fall.  So I hacked them off. And played around with 3 different techniques to turn them into capri’s.




And depending on your comfort level with your sewing machine, you can pick your favorite method. 





Each method is a pretty quick fix.  And I kinda like all 3.  Especially how nice and neat that double seam looks.  (Have you ever used a double needle? So cool.)  But oooh, the raw edge is so fast.  And that ruched look is so darling.  Aggh, see?  That’s why I say I like all 3.





3 pairs down, about 4 more to go.  Yeah, this girl has plenty of leggings.  (She wears them all winter under dresses/skirts.)  And now they get to see another season.




Oh, by the way, I get asked a lot where I buy my girls’ leggings.  Well, anywhere I see them, I snatch them up.  Even if I’m not sure they’ll go with anything.  Because, eventually, they will.  But I see most of these fun colors and prints at Target, Old Navy, and Baby Gap.  Sometimes I find some at Carters and sometimes at Wal-Mart.  I find thick cute tights at the same places.


But rarely can I find capri leggings.  That’s no longer a big deal. :)





And in case you’re curious how those ruched leggings look on…….cute, right?  Makes me want some for me.






Now her little undies won’t show while she’s hanging from the monkey bars.  Problem solved.




Would you like to turn some long leggings into capri leggings?



To get started, find some leggings you’d like to chop off.  Don’t have any in your drawers?  Check the clearance racks at the stores.  Or the thrift store.


If you still can’t find any…….make your own from scratch.  And use this tutorial if you need it.





Okay, first up…….the raw edge.


This is a pretty simple method.  Measure how long you’d like your leggings to be.  Then cut.



Now, you can stop here and just let them be because knit doesn’t fray and the bottom edge will be just fine.  However, you just cut through the inner leg seam and it can start to unravel after some time.  So, turn the leggings inside out and reinforce that seam, right at the new-cut bottom of the leggings.



I just sewed a one inch section and zig-zagged at both ends……starting and stopping right where those arrows are.  (Sew over the inner most edge of that serged seam.)



And that’s it.  Turn right side out and enjoy.




Next up………the Double Seam Edge.


Now, before you skip this method because you’re nervous about that double seam, go here and read up on the double needle.  It can be used on any machine, as long as as you have a zig-zag foot (that has a nice wide opening for the zig-zag to make it through).  And I promise, you’ll love it. :)


First, cut off your leggings a half inch longer than you’d like them.  Then fold under your raw edge a 1/2 inch and pin in place (shown on left).  Then, use your double needle and sew in place.



Remember to keep the rest of the leg opening out of the way while hemming with your double needle.



NOTE:  You don’t want to sew a seam with a single needle and then sew another seam again, to get that double seam look.  A single seam doesn’t have any stretch to it and leggings are made to stretch and be fitted. The under side of that double seam (sewn with the double needle) is a funky little zig-zag and will stretch as it’s pulled.  If you don’t have a double needle, then do a regular ‘ol zig-zag stitch if you want to hem your leggings.  And then hurry and buy a double needle for next time! :)


***Tip: I usually increase my stitch length a bit while sewing on knits.  It helps jump over more of the fabric with each stitch and eases up on the pulling and stretching of the fabric while sewing.  PLUS, I always iron and steam my seams flat.  This helps them to shrink back into place and not look all pulled and stretched out.


And that’s it.  Your Double Seam capris are all ready to go!



Last up…….the Ruched Capri


To make this ruched look……I used theshirring/smocking technique.  Again, don’t be afraid.  Use this shirring tutorial.  And practice on some scrap fabric.  And if it doesn’t work on your first time, that’s normal.  Adjust and try again. :)


Okay, to begin, lay your leggings flat and decide how much of a ruched section you want.  I found that (for my size 6 wearing 5 year old daughter), cutting the leggings about 2 inches longer than the length that I wanted, worked well.  And I also figured that shirring up the bottom edge 6 inches on both sides would be perfect.  So I placed pins on the opposite side of the seam along the inner leg…….to use as a guide.  The top pin is placed 6 inches from the bottom, because that’s how far up I wanted the ruched section to go.    The pins stayed there to show me where to sew…….but I think next time I would mark that side with fabric chalk.  It would have made it even easier.  (I just couldn’t find any!)



Then, add your elastic thread to your bobbin and increase your stitch length (just like the tutorial linked above) and back-stitch at the very bottom of the leggings…..right where your bottom pin (or chalk) is.  Then begin sewing up the side of the pant leg.



Be sure to keep the rest of the legging out of the way and manipulate it around the presser foot every few stitches or so.  Keep aiming for your pins (or your chalk line) and continue on up the side of the leg.  Once you reach that top pin, backstitch a few times again and then you’re done.



Now, make another another 2 shirred seams, on either side of that first seam.  (I made my rows about an 1/8 of an inch apart.)  Again, be sure that the rest of the legging is out of the way.  You’ll need both hands to help keep it flat.



Trim your thread and then steam your seams (like explained in the linked tutorial above).  And now you should have 3 nicely shirred seams.  (I’m stretching it out to show you.)



Then do the same thing on the other side of the leg, right along the inner leg seam.  I sewed 2 rows on one side of the seam and 1 row on the other side.  And while sewing next to the seam, be sure to not sew through that inside serged (most likely) seam.  Push it out of the way while sewing.  (Otherwise it will keep your elastic from pulling the fabric in.)  Steam these seams too and they should pull in even more for you.



Repeat with the other leg.


And that’s it.  A nicely ruched pair of capris.



 Now choose your favorite method.  And enjoy.



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  1. Elly says:

    Hi there,
    Thanks for this tutorial! I am wondering if the raw edge will work with fleece libed leggings as well or will that material run? Thanks

  2. Georgina Santos says:

    Thanks a lot for sharing this tutorial, great for beginners :)

  3. Linzy says:

    I wish I could use a double needle in my machine but it’s so old it isn’t wide enough on the bottom for it :( it just hits every time I try to make a stitch. Do you use regular cotton thread or do you suggest something more heavy duty?

  4. Delores Isaac says:

    I was cutting off some flannel sleeves from men’s shirt’s the other day and thought…those would make great kiddy jammies……just cut the upper sleeve part for the crotch area of the jammies….leave the cuffs or put elastic in them.

  5. Shari @For the Little Doll In Your Life says:

    My oldest has a new summer sun dress that she loves, but it’s rather short and sheer, so it’s really going to need something on the bottom. I figured my hopes of finding capri leggings at this point in the summer in size 12 were probably slim to none, but now I can expand my search to include full length leggings too. Thanks!

  6. Jenn says:

    I have been sewing for many, many years, and could never figure out how to get the thread to stretch on knits! I have examined those hems on t-shirts and wished I had their super-expensive-industrial sewing machines that would make that stitch. Now I know (And I feel a little silly). A few bucks and I’m there. THANK YOU!!!

  7. Amanda says:

    What a great idea, often leggings are simply too long for my girl, and I can do this for both winter, and then again in summer. And, apparently we shop at the same store!

  8. Ana says:

    “Be sure to keep the rest of the legging out of the way and manipulate it around the zipper foot every few stitches or so. ”
    Do you always use a zipper foot for the shirring?

    1. Ashley says:

      Sorry Ana, that was an error……it supposed to say “presser” foot, not “zipper” foot. And no, I don’t use my zipper foot while shirring. Sorry for the confusion. :)


  9. Lindy says:

    I love these I have done this before to my little girl pants like this and she just loved them.

  10. Leslie says:

    Wow, you’ve solved my problem as well! I’m so excited to try this, and my little girl will be too! Thanks!!

  11. Jen says:

    So fun, we cut a few with holes in the knees into “bike” shorts for skirts this summer. Funny story I just told my little guy who is going into Kindergarten this year that he would be chasing little girls around the playground. I got a funny confused look from him too!

  12. marisa says:

    Thank you so much for this! Our last baby is in Kinder this year already and she loves her skirts and dresses. This is exactly what I needed!

  13. Jess at SewSet says:

    I love that you shared this! Turning leggings that are too small into tights is something we do all the time, perfect way to extend the life of an old pair! Your three different ways are perfect!

    I hope you will consider uploading a photo of this into SewSet, a new on-line sewing pattern and tutorial search engine – so others will be able to find your tutorial when searching!

    Thanks so much for sharing! Love your site, as always.
    – Jess,

  14. cucicucicoo says:

    that’s so funny, i did the same exact thing a month or so ago for my little/big girl! i tried ruching first but it didn’t work out (I think because it wasn’t the right type of elastic thread), so i just chopped and hemmed, once with a simple zig zag and then with the double needle (which i discovered a while back thanks to your tutorial!). then with the extra fabric i made two little pockets for the front because my daughter always wants to carry stuff along with her! :) lisa

  15. Teresa says:

    I have never shirred and from what I hear it isn’t to easy on brother machines. Do you think a person could just use some 1/4 inch elastic and strech it from one point to the other and sew in place to get the same type of look as the 3rd pair?

    1. Julie Snow says:

      Yes! This is the way I have done it before – although I love Ashley’s method too :) – Just stretch some 1/4″ elastic and stitch it with a zigzag to the inside seams. It ruches up and looks great. The only thing about Ashley’s bobbin is you get to see those 3 cute rows of stitches on the outside.

  16. kreativkäfer Andrea says:

    oh that´s great, thank you for the tutorial!
    kr andrea

  17. Tami says:

    Hey there,
    What a great idea! I am curious though, did you use the elastic on the bobbin, as well as the top?

    1. Ashley says:

      Nope, just in the bobbin. Check out this tutorial for instructions:


  18. kara says:

    Love this! I’m not very good with a sewing machine just yet, but as soon as I find the time to teach myself — I plan on trying this out for my daughters!

  19. Becca says:

    I’m totally making a pair or ruched ones – for myself!

  20. Carmela says:

    Awesome! Can you repost the link for the “shirring tutorial” that you mention. Thanks!

    1. Ashley says:

      Sure, I forgot to link it in the tutorial, didn’t I? Sorry about that! :)


    2. Carmela says:

      Thank you for that link!

  21. jackie says:

    I live the ruched leggings. They are all so adorable, what a great way to make outgrown clothing last longer! You are one clever lady.

    1. jackie says:


  22. LindaC says:

    I think this is a really cute idea. Thanks for sharing. I don’t know if you were sewing with your items right-side out just to show pictures, but if you turn the leggings inside out, you can sew around inside the tiny circle so much easier. You don’t even need a free-arm sewing machine. :)

    1. Ashley says:

      You know, I always remember that it would be easier to sew in a circle with it inside out AFTER I finish manipulating it right side out. (sleeve hems, leg hems, etc.) Dummy me! But yes, you’re right, it would totally be easier to do the second method inside out (but sewing on the right side of the fabric). Thanks for suggesting that to those who may want to give that a try. :)


    2. Ana says:

      But if using a double needle, wouldn’t the two lines be inside then and the funny zigzag on the outside?

    3. Ashley says:

      No, though I understand your confusion. If you turn the legging inside out and then slide the opening of the leg under the needle, you will actually be sewing on the “right” side of the fabric. Then it will roll around the presser foot as you sew, and you won’t have to adjust the fabric as much. But YES, you want the two lines on the “right” side of the fabric and the zig-zag on the “wrong” side. Hope that helps! :)


  23. Brooke says:

    I wish I could use a double needle, but I seem to have a machine that can’t use one (a bottom of the line Brother) since there is no place to put a second spool of thread… These look really cute!

    1. Ashley says:

      Hmmm, if you load up two bobbins and then fit them both up top on the spool holder, that may work for you. But just watch it to be sure the two bobbins don’t tangle. Otherwise, buy a skinny wooden dowel and tape it to the side of your machine standing up straight, and place the second spool on that. As long as that spool is free to unwind, you could totally make it work. It’s worth a shot, right?! :)


    2. Tiffany says:

      I also have a cheaply brother and I pull the spool holder all the way up, put a bobbin of thread on it first and then my spool of thread, run the both through the thread track and then through each needle. It works fine. Good luck!

  24. Michelle says:

    Oh these are so cute! Love all your ideas for re purposing old cloths :)

  25. Anonymous says:

    Cool! great way to re purpose!

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

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