Hello curvy sewing friends!
I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect pair of leggings for a while now. In this post, I’ll compare four different leggings patterns to find my favorite(s).
Note #1: For an apples-to-apples review, I’ve made all of the samples up in a compression spandex from JoAnn. This is their new line of Athleisure wear and I love it! This thick fabric is completely opaque, with great stretch (thank you, 18% spandex!) and recovery. You can use either side of the fabric (one side is a little shinier, one side has more texture), and it’s a generous 58″ wide. It is expensive $25/yard, but if you wait for one of their 60% off coupons, it’s totally worth buying 6 yards of it at a go! They currently have 5 colors, I think — black, gray, turquoise blue, coral pink, and (maybe?) white. Anyway, go get yourself some — you won’t regret it.
Note #2: My body type gets more “apple” every day (44″ waist, 54″ hips). I have relatively short arms/legs, with a nice round tummy. My butt is biggest at the “high hip shelf” and rapidly shrinks to a flat pancake at the bottom. If you are my body double, rejoice and follow my recommendations below! If you have a different body type, take my review below with a grain of salt.
Okay, back to the review…
My dream leggings pattern would satisfy the following criteria:
- Super high waist, so that I don’t have to worry about them rolling down when I’m doing Crossfit (which requires a lot of bending/squatting movements). I will always add elastic to the inside top of the waistband for extra support, but bonus points if the pattern includes that step.
- Works with a variety of fabrics, so that I can make versions in high-compression performance spandex (for exercise) as well as everyday cotton lycra (for daily casual wear, under dresses, etc.)
- Inclusive sizing, because fat girls need leggings too! I like to be in the middle of the size range (which gives me more confidence that the “block” is meant for curvy women). I’ll also take being the largest size in the range. I prefer not to have to grade up. (See my tirade about grading up here.)
- Options, beyond just cutting the legs a bit shorter for different lengths. (Thanks, pattern designers, I can figure that one out on my own.) I want options for color blocking, gussets, different leg styles (tights vs flares, etc.), and different waistbands.
Patterns for Pirates Peg Legs
I started with the Patterns for Pirates Peg Leg pattern, which was free when you joined their mailing list. (Or was it Facebook group? I can’t remember). They have since released an updated version with a ton of options, but I was going with the original — one view, 1 piece knit waistband, different cut lengths (long, capri, knee and shortie. I’ve made about six of these versions after tweaking the fit — raising the front rise about 3 inches and adding fabric to the center front (a faux large tummy adjustment). It was my go-to pattern in spandex and cotton lycra. Here’s how they looked:
- They basically fit.
- The length is right.
- They are free.
- I didn’t have to grade up (I think I was the largest size)
- They are being pulled pretty tight (so shiny!!) — except around the knee, where I have some weird bagginess.
- There is some wrinkling on the back of my inner thighs — this would normally signal that I need more room there.
- The waistband is pulling down in front — I think this is actually a style option (remember I already added 3 inches to the front rise!), but I would prefer a more level waistband.
- Because the waistband is a single piece that is flipped in half, there is no easy way anchor elastic to the top of the waistband, to keep it from slipping down.
Jalie Cora Leggings
Next up, I tried the Jalie Cora Leggings. Overall, I really like the Jalie drafting — they are one of my favorite pattern companies and they have a great variety of activewear and dancewear. Here’s how they looked:
What I liked:
- Nice high waist, and 2-piece waistband with THE BEST directions for attaching elastic to the top seam allowance (which I have subsequently used for every other pair of leggings) for a clean finish.
- Cool seam lines for a variety of color-blocking options.
- Gusset for additional range of motion, and a “forward” inner leg seam that prevents chafing in the crotch region
- Built-in back pocket big enough to hold my phone/keys (see blue center back patch in photos below)
- Didn’t have to grade up
- Two views (leggings and bike shorts)
- The fancier seam lines means this is not an “everyday basic,” (even if they are awesomely sporty).
- Drafted with a 30″ inseam, so I had to DRASTICALLY shorten them for my 27 inch legs. Shortening was hard with so many different pieces.
- Jalie uses a 1/4″ seam allowance, which I find fiddly.
- Sparse instructions might turn off a newbie.
- I sewed the largest size (FF), so some curvy sewists might need to grade up. (Again, because there are so many pieces, grading up will be a pain.)
Cashmerette Belmont Leggings
Cashmerette recently released their activewear collection, including the Belmont leggings and yoga pants. I am an unabashed Cashmerette fan (and often pattern tester, although I didn’t test this particular pattern) and was super-excited to try these out. Here’s what they looked like (leggings, with gusset):
What I liked:
- Super high waist — at first I was worried these were too high, and then I came to my senses. These babies are NOT going to roll down.
- Sleek fit at the waistband — these will layer beautifully underneath other clothes, without a bulky waistband showing through. The 2-piece waistband also provides a nice grip for inserted elastic.
- Multiple options — while I have only sewn up the leggings, I’m excited to also do the capri-length yoga pants (with a kick leg) for when the weather warms up a little.
- Gusset options — for both the yoga pant and the leggings, you have a completely different set of pattern pieces for “with gusset” and “without gusset”
- Because Cashmerette designs for curves (sizes 12-28), I’m right in the middle of the pack — I don’t feel like I’m teetering on the edge of “too fat to wear this pattern.”
- While still snug, these leggings felt the least restrictive of all the leggings patterns I tried.
- Fantastic “everyday basic” that I can see wearing multiple times each week.
- Outer leg seam is not as smooth as 1-piece legs. Definitely feel more like pants than tights.
- Some weird wrinkling/twisting at my knees — I think I might need to shorten the legs above the knee, but it also looks like I might need a knock knee adjustment.
- Some wrinkling at the front crotch means I need to scoop out the front crotch seam a bit — this is super easy (and a frequent adjustment for me).
- Although this is a fantastic “everyday basic,” I miss some special details like color-blocking options, pocket for phone/keys, etc. that I got with the Cora leggings above.
Helen’s Closet Avery Leggings
I was about to publish this review as is, when another contender came on the scene: the Helen’s Closet Avery Leggings. I’m head over heels in love with my Blackwood Cardigan, so I thought I’d give the Averys (Averies?) a go. Here’s what they looked like:
What I like:
- Two rise options — I love the high-rise version, but may make a medium-rise version for lounging around the house.
- 2-piece waistband, including a curved front piece, really fits nicely, and is drafted for elastic at the top.
- Best gusset — the triangle gusset shape is easy to sew, with the best directions of this cohort.
- 1-piece leg gives a smooth look — looks and feels like tights.
- Best fit around the knees — no wrinkling, no bagginess
- I had to grade up. This pattern goes to an XXL, and I needed an XXXL. Because there are only 4 pieces, it was easy (e.g. less than 10 extra minutes total) but, again, you know how I am about having to grade up.
- This pattern calls for a fabric with 70% horizontal and 70% vertical stretch. That is pretty unusual (the other patterns called for 50% – 60% stretch) and limits the fabrics you can use — although you can always go up another size for fabric with less stretch.
- The horizontal waist seam hits at the “high hip” which can show through when layered under other clothing. I will almost always be wearing a top the hangs below that seam line, and I’m not super keen about it showing through.
- It looked like I need to scoop out the front crotch curve and lower the back crotch curve just a smidge. So I did, and here is my second go-round:
- Proving you just can’t win, the fit at the crotch on this second version of Avery leggings is perfect, but now I have a little weird wrinkling around the knees. I think I just didn’t have the legs pulled all the way up, but I’ll have to investigate the next time I wear them.
Okay, so now I have a slew of leggings in my dresser, all made from a similar fabric. Which ones are my favorites, and which ones will I made in different fabrics? Let’s award some winners:
- For feeling “sporty” I love the Cora leggings. I will probably only wear them in athletic situations and in athletic fabrics. It definitely makes me feel like I can rock a workout with ladies who are primarily shopping at Athleta and lululemon.
- When I’m looking for basics, I will vacillate between the Belmont and Avery leggings. I’ll probably choose the Averys when I want a smooth leg (e.g. no outer seam) and the Belmonts when I want a smooth tummy (e.g. a discreet waistband).
- I’ll need to experiment and see how these patterns do in a more everyday fabric (like cotton lycra or bamboo jersey). I’m leaning towards the Belmont leggings here, because they require fabric with less stretch 50%, vs. the Avery’s 70% stretch requirements), but also because the Belmont’s sizing is more inclusive and it will be easier to go up an additional size for a fabric with less stretch, if needed.
- While the original Peg Legs have served valiantly in the past, I will be retiring them as they wear out and I replace them with other options. A moment of silence, please, for those original patterns we initially think are awesome, only to discover later what we were missing.
Oh, before I go, some disclaimers and additional notes:
- I got a free PDF copy of the Belmont Leggings because I tested the accompanying activewear top. I also got the Avery pattern PDF for free from Helen’s Closet, when I emailed her about being included in this round-up. All opinions are my own (and fair, I think).
- Gillian recently got some sass from a commenter about showing her butt in a leggings review post. First of all, ain’t nobody got time for body shaming and if you have any comments about my photos above that deviate from GET IT, GURRL then please pass on by. Second, check out Gillian’s post to see the Belmont and Avery (and Espresso) leggings on a different body type.
Thanks everyone for playing along — I know there are some other curve-friendly leggings patterns out there that I haven’t tried. If you have a recommendation, please leave it in the comments!