Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Hack Your Leggings Pattern into Bell Bottoms! A Tutorial for Sewing Flattering Stretch Flares

Several months ago, I started to venture into the rabbit hole that is Facebook sewing groups. You join one and a month later you find yourself a part of 30. Fabric groups, pattern groups, sewing advice groups, it never ends! I am now a member of so many that I had to create a list for myself to stay organized! The bonus though, is that you suddenly have access to amazing indie patterns, inspiration, beautiful fabrics and a plethora of sewing tips!

Unfortunately though, I've struggled to locate a pattern for bell bottoms that I like. Either the flare patterns are entirely too wide, or they just don't have the fit I'm going for. I've dreamed of bells that fit like leggings in the hips and thighs while flaring nicely from the knee down.

So I decided to just attempt to hack my favorite leggings pattern on my own, transforming them into bell bottoms. This hack is really easy! It can be altered based on the amount of flare you want, and where you want the flare to start on your leg.

  • Your favorite leggings pattern :: For my tutorial, I used Patterns for Pirates Peg Legs, however you can use any one of your favorite leggings patterns. The instructions to alter the pattern are really the same across the board. 
  • Your measurements :: Measure yourself as required by your pattern.
  • Fabric :: You are going to need extra fabric than your leggings pattern calls for. For my pattern & my measurements, I used 1.5 yards of 60" fabric. I always suggest doing a "muslin" or test pair, so getting some extra fabric for your tester is a good idea.
  • Extra blank printer paper :: This is to add length to the bottom & sides of the pattern. This will work if you use a PDF pattern or a paper pattern.
  • Tracing paper or lightweight interfacing (optional) :: This allows you to save your peg legs pattern that you taped together (not cutting it), creating a new reusable pattern just for your bells. This is optional, as you can always reprint your Pegs if you want leggings.
  • String (optional) ::  If you do not have a curved ruler or measuring tape, try to find some string. This will help you make the curve of the bell hem, and also measure your inseam when locating the knee of your pattern.
  • Quilters Ruler & Curved Pattern Ruler (optional) :: You can get by without these, but they make creating the flare so much easier! I use these every time I sew, so it's worth the investment if you don't have them.

Print off and piece together your leggings pattern following the instructions. In my Patterns for Pirates PDF Pattern, the instructions are really clear, with photos, & extra support is provided within their Facebook Group.

Because leggings are made to end at the ankle, you need to add an extra row of paper so that your ankle length can extend to the length of your choosing. I turned 3 sheets of printer paper on their side, and glued them to the bottom. If you are taller or want longer bell bottoms, you may want to add more paper.

You may also want to add more paper on the sides, depending on the size of the flare you want. I measure into a large in the P4P Peg Legs, and I did not need to add any extra paper on the sides, just the bottom.

Using your highlighter, trace your legging size on the pattern itself. I printed this in black and white to save ink, but the PDF pattern is in color. Now is the time to make any edits to the rise, or crotch seam, of your pattern. I like high waisted leggings, so I always take the rise up to the largest size.

    Grab your measuring tape (or a string if you don't have tape) and measure the inseam. Bending from the waist, measure from your crotch, down to the top of your knee. TOP of the knee, not the middle. It makes a difference when determining where your flare will start. If you used a string, hold both ends securely, and take it over to your ruler or yard-stick to measure. 

    Knowing where the top of your knee starts is essential to making this hack work! After measuring, the length of my crotch to the top of my knee, I found it was 12" (crotch to top of knee). Write this down on a piece of paper next you so you don't forget.

    Go to your printed pattern, and measure from the crotch seam to where the top of your knee should fall on the pattern. For my measurement, this fell about an inch below the bike short line on the pattern. Most leggings patterns will have different cut lines, and the P4P pattern has a bike shorts line that makes this hack pretty easy. 

    I chose to start my flare at the Bike Short line, because it measured about an inch above the top of my knee. If your knee measures differently, you will want to go ahead and draw a line across the pattern (how the "bike line" looks in the photo), an inch above where that measurement is.

    Now, we have to curve the hem and add the flare! The curved hem is essential. Think of it this way: on a bell bottom, the portion below the knee mimics a 3D cone shape. If you were to fold the base of a cone in half two dimensionally, it would create a curve. 

    On my finished bell bottoms, if I fold one leg in half, seam to outer-edge, the width from point to point measures about 13.5". You can always add or subtract width, but keep in mind, taking away is much easier than adding back!

    We need to alter the hemline of the pattern to create the flare. So using your correct size, measure the mid-point of the ankle hem. For a large on my pattern, this hemline measures 9.5", with 4.75" as the midpoint. Mark this with your pen. 

    Using your ruler, draw a perpendicular line from your knee line (for me it was the Bike Shorts line) to the hemline. You are basically drawing the middle line of your pattern. This may seem like an added unnecessary step later on, but it's helpful. After you cut your pattern out, you can use this line to fold your leg in half, checking that your hem curve matches on the left and the right. 

    Now, you want to add length to your hemline, by continuing that midpoint line you just drew, down past the ankle hemline of the leggings. If you didn't do this step, you would have bells that stop at your ankle! I added 4 inches to the hem, but you can add more or less. Again, it's best to add more now, then hem to the length you want, instead of trying to estimate the length you want on the paper pattern and being too short. 

    Next, measure up 2" from your midpoint. Mark this point.

    Take your ruler, and measure out 14" to the left of that higher line, & mark. Then measure 14" to the right of that middle 2" line, and mark.

    I chose 14" out, because it was the right proportions for my size large. IF you are taller/shorter or measure larger or smaller than me, you may want to play with this measurement. 14" may work perfectly for you. The finished flare, when folded in half, will be about 13.5" or so. If this size flare works for you, then use 14". If you want a larger flare, I would go out more. It all depends on the look you are going for. I recommend playing with it, and doing so on a practice pair. 

    You should now have three points added to your pattern at the bottom: the middle line of the new longer hem (4" in my case), and the two marks to each side that measure 28" apart.

    Now you want to create your curve. To do this, I used my curved pattern ruler (and I use this ruler for almost everything!). However if you don't have a ruler like this, you can eyeball it (what I did for my muslin), and check your curve by folding your cut pattern in half to be sure both sides match. You can also get your string out again, and lay out a curved line, then trace along that line.

    Now you want to connect the knee to the bottom outer point. Draw a line from the knee to the outer dots on your hem, on each side. Line your ruler up from the knee mark you made earlier, and carry it straight out. For me, this was the bike shorts line. Depending upon your knee measurement, this may be higher or lower for you. There is no need to create any kind of small curve where the flare line meets your pants. Trust me! The angle lays just fine when your pants are finished. 

    Cut out your pattern with regular scissors! It will look kind of funny.

    Layout your fabric on your cutting table, right side up. If you have a pattern, take time to be sure your pattern placement is flattering to your body and the actual shape of the bell bottoms. I always give myself extra time to be sure that where the seam meets at my crotch and my bottom, there aren't any weird pattern formations that are unflattering! 

    If your fabric is so large that it drapes over the edge of your table, don't leave it this way! Be sure to roll up the edges, if possible. With stretchy fabrics, cutting your fabric pattern while the fabric is stretched out, will cause issues. 

    Both legs, together, took about 1.30 yards of fabric. The actual altered leg pattern for a size large measures 27" wide and 43" long. So to recap, I used 1.30 total yards of 60" wide fabric, folded open, to cut out two legs. Plus extra for the waste-band.

    The waistband calls for a 7 x 26.5" rectangle, for a size Large. Your pattern may call for something different. I like my bells to be high-waisted, so I added 3 inches to the length of the band, and made them 10" x 26.5". The band hits me right below my bellybutton (and I love it). 

    Make sure your grain-line is parallel to the selvedge when you lay out your pattern. Add your pattern weights to the top of the pattern (or pin) & cut! I use a rotary cutter and a self-healing cutting mat, which decreases my cutting time! Don't forget to flip over your pants leg pattern when you cut the second panel!

    Now it's time to sew! This is the easy part. You will simply follow your pattern instructions from this point forward. I prefer basting my seams first, before committing to a serged edge, so start by basting your leg seams, right sides together.

    After baste stitching, try on one of your legs. This gives you a chance to see just how wide your flare is, and gives you the ability to take it in a bit if it feels too wide. Take in your flare with a baste stitch, and try on again, doing this until you get the flare of your preference. 

    After basting each seam, take your fabric to the serger. I generally baste the legs then serge, baste the two legs together at the crotch then serge, baste the waistband then serge. When sewing the crotch seam, I always serge, then disengage the knife and serge the edge again. It helps reinforce the seam, in my opinion.

    So I wind up swapping back and forth between my regular machine and my serger the whole time. Again, don't forget to follow the directions of the actual pattern when inserting the waistband, or adding other detials!

    Once you finish sewing on your waistband, put these new bells on! Proceed to look at yourself in the mirror and admire what a great job you did! Maybe do a dance, grab your hula hoop, pat yourself on the back. I rewarded myself with s mini-photoshoot in my backyard. I am so happy with how these came out, and can't wait to sew up some more. It's such a quick pattern, and the possibilities with these bells are endless! 

    I chose not to hem these, but if I get sick of the unfinished hem (it's rolling a bit), I may just do a 1/4" turn and sew. You are welcome to hem these, or leave the edge like I have. You can do a shorter hem and add a bit of crochet lace, or shorten the hem for sandals. A longer hem will allow you to wear your bells with boots in the fall or sandal wedges in the summer.




    1. I have a daughter who would go nuts over these. I might try some for het birthday.

      1. I'm so glad to hear this! Let me know if you try them for her birthday, and if she likes them! :)

    2. A great tutorial! Thank you very much.

    3. Thank you what a great tutorial can't wait to make some :)

      1. You're so welcome!! If you end up making some, let me know how they turn out! :)

    4. I will be making a pair today to wear to the Hippe Fest in NC tomorrow. Should fun!!

      1. Perfect pants to wear to a festival! I plan on making some to wear to Beale Street Music Fest in a few weeks. Nothing better than making your own clothes!! Have a great time!!

    5. Wow! These are so trendy! I love wearing patterned and mesh cut out leggings a lot. I don’t take a second thought about it, I just buy those. You look fab in these leggings, I am sure it will look amazing with my tops as well. I am grateful to you for sharing this post.

      1. Thank you Gianna! What kind things to say! Now that the weather is starting to change, I'm tempted to make a pair or two for spring. With the serger, they are so quick to make! I get so many compliments on them when I wear them out. I think bell bottoms look great with so many style tops, loose or fitted. Thank you for your comment!


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