I am beyond excited to share this project with you all. What feels like ages ago, I decided I really wanted to sew up a whole bunch of leggings patterns that I owned and compare them as accurately as possible to determine once and for all which would be my staple go-to pattern. I had made a few of these before and attempted to modify minor fit issues on my own, but ... well, they never quite worked out as perfectly as I wanted. I figured there MUST be a pattern that's truly a best fit for ME. Let me tell you all that I learned so much!
First, the details:
I ordered myself a whole bunch of Sparkling Cosmo Hybrid athletic knit fabric so every pair could be viewed exactly the same. This fabric is 300 GSM made from 46 % Nylon, 42% Polyester, 12% Spandex. According to my personal measurements, it has approximately 50% stretch both horizontally and vertically which is appropriate for all the patterns I used except for one which recommended 75% stretch. More on that one later ....
The first five patterns I tested are all single-piece leggings patterns, meaning they all have an inner leg seam but no outer leg seam. The sixth pattern does have an outer leg seam and the 7th pattern is what I'm calling a Wild Card. Not traditionally sold as a "legging" pattern, I had previously used the Nash Yoga Pants pattern from Petite Stitchery and modified the traditional bootcut leg to be tapered at the ankle more like a legging. It was a simple modification and most of the pattern was left unaltered. I've been using this as my primary leggings pattern for a while because I really like the unique side pocket. Plus, it was the first pants pattern I had worn in forever that had little to no pulling or bunching fit issues in the front. Nonetheless, I was still curious so I set out to do some leggings experimentation.
For every pattern, I chose the size and graded every part according to my measurements and using the size chart. Some patterns included only waist and hip measurements while others included thigh, calf, and/or ankle measurements. I also shortened according to the stated inseam or drafted height and my own inseam/height. My fit preference is for a fairly snug legging that comes up to my natural waist.
The patterns I used are:
Bella Sunshine Designs - Eden Leggings (Free with code from their Facebook group)
Before I get into the details of which patterns I prefer for myself, I thought this image would be really helpful to share. This is a tracing of all five of the single-piece legging patterns that I used in this experiment (it was a bit harder to accurately place the differently-shaped patterns that have an outer leg seam, and not entirely necessary to demonstrate this point). If you start asking in various places for a leggings pattern recommendation, you're bound to get multiple very enthusiastic responses of people all insisting that the pattern they like is THE BEST! That is absolutely not what this blog post is about. In the end of my experiment, I found a pattern that I prefer for my unique shape and it may fit others as well! Certainly, any of the patterns I tried could be made to fit me better with some small modifications. But more importantly, our bodies come in so many different shapes and sizes that recommending just one pattern as a "best fit" universally has never really made sense to me. As we can see from this illustration, leggings patterns are all so different!
Leggings need to fit perfectly at so many points: waist, high hip, full hip, thigh, knee, calf, ankle. If a pattern was too snug around the calf for me but your calves are proportionally slimmer, it might be a better fit for you! If a waistband hit me in a weird spot but your torso is proportioned differently, it might be a better fit for you! Your fit preferences or wearing needs may be different than mine and those might lead you to choose a different pattern as well! My hope is that observing overall fit differences on my body will help others determine which might work best on theirs.
#1: Bella Sunshine Design - Eden Leggings
This is the pattern that recommended fabric with at least 75% stretch so I was concerned that they might be too tight because my fabric only has 50% stretch. However, the pattern pieces themselves are among the largest so they actually fit quite fine. The rise hits where I like it too, there's not really a lot of awkward lines or wrinkles. I do think I could shorten a little more as I have some extra fabric at my ankle. Though it may not be a true fit issue, I also noticed this pattern is the least "smoothing" around my lower stomach area - likely a combination of the fact that it's a more relaxed fit and where the waistband attaches to the pant in the front. My personal preference is to have this area a bit tighter as I feel it helps them stay up on me better and I also am more comfortable with pants that are snug in that area since like the feeling of just a touch more "support". Overall, totally wearable pants though!
#2: Patterns for Pirates - Peg Legs
These leggings are tight! I'd consider these much more like workout pants than casual everyday leggings. I can even see in the photos that they're stretching my fabric to its max. I might size up if I was using this pattern. I like that there's no extra fabric or creasing in the front crotch area and the contour waistband is a great shape for my curves - just more snug than I prefer. I will note though that the instructions do include a measurements chart for high hip, full hip, thigh, and calf - which allowed me to grade the pattern for all areas of the legging and I can see that my fit is consistent in all areas (no awkward pooling behind the knee and they're the same amount of snug everywhere).
#3: Sinclair - Penny Leggings
The Penny leggings are by far, the loosest feeling legging I tested. They're not falling down or anything, but they are for sure a more of a casual legging than, say, the Pegs which felt like compression tights for exercise. The two-layer waistband is nice and tall. I can't quite decide how I feel about it though as the seam where the band connects to the pants cuts straight across the largest part of my stomach and it's not the most comfortable. I'd personally prefer it either higher or lower by just a touch. I also notice some fabric pulling in the front crotch, which means that the crotch curve shape of the pattern isn't ideal for me. I used the petite height pattern piece and probably should have shortened even more since I have a bit of extra fabric at my ankles as well.
#4: Ellie & Mac - Urban Leggings
These are my favorites. Hands down. They appear the smoothest with no visible fit issues anywhere and passed the test of staying exactly in place all day without needing to pull them up at all. The Urban Leggings have a uniquely curved leg shape to the pattern rather than a straight line tapered from the hip to ankle. Additionally, they offer a size chart which includes thigh and calf measurements so I was able to grade appropriately in all places which gave me a perfect fit all the way down. When leggings are too tight in one spot and/or too loose in others, that's when you'll experience them riding down and find yourself shifting or pulling them back up throughout the day. For me, this was the pair that fit spot on with making zero adjustments to the pattern.
IMPORTANT NOTE! For some reason, the tutorial instructions for this pattern only include the standard size chart of bust/waist/hips. The more detailed leggings size chart which includes measurements for thigh and calf is only found on the pattern pieces themselves. So, if you're making the Urban Leggings, please do look at the pattern pieces in the download file first to find that additional size chart and determine the sizes you might be grading before you select your layers to print.
#5: Everything Your Mama Made - Get Moving Leggings
This pattern includes waist, hip, thigh, calf, and ankle measurements in the size chart as well as crotch curve length, rise measurements, and detailed inseam lengths so you can hopefully get the ideal fit! Still though, I think that the overall shape and proportions of the crotch curve on this pattern aren't quite right for me and I somehow didn't shorten enough despite taking off several inches. Looking at the pattern and my shape, my guess for the pulling in the front is that the back curve isn't deep enough to accommodate my booty - I'd guess that this pattern would work better for someone with a flatter behind.
#6: Eunoia - Luna Leggings
I really like these too! The fit is really similar to the Ellie and Mac pair. They're a little bit looser though so I might make an adjustment to the waistband to suit my own preferences and I also think I could shorten a bit more for my height. However, overall I really like that they're smooth with no drag lines or pulling at the crotch, back of thigh, or knee which are classic trouble spots for leggings. This pattern has an outer side seam on the leg making it even easier if you do need to grade in some specific spots to get a perfect fit or if you're looking for a bit more traditional "pants" look.
The measurement chart includes waist, hip, and calf measurements. The pattern also includes separate petite, standard, and tall pattern files as well as a flare leg option and maternity cut line/band!
#7: Petite Stitchery & Co. - Nash Yoga Pants
Ok, so no ... these are not actually a leggings pattern. But this was my experiment so I decided to throw in a wildcard. The Nash Yoga Pants have a fit up top that is very similar to leggings but are designed with a more straight leg from the knee down to ankle. They also have a unique side hip pocket with a triangular inset rather than a full rectangular pattern piece running all the way down the side from hip to ankle. Personally, I really dislike the rectangular stripe pocket style so the unique pocket originally sold me on trying this pattern. All I did to change it was taper the pattern piece to my preferred ankle measurement from about the knee on down. Unlike some other pant and leggings patterns, the shape of the crotch curve with the Nash gives me a nice smooth look around all of my curves. I can see that the waistband is coming up a bit high on me in the back, so I'll probably make an adjustment to that before making more of these.
If I don't *need* a pocket or side seam on my leggings (let's be honest, sometimes I just want a faster sew or am working with limited fabric or plan to wear leggings underneath a dress), I'm going to choose the Ellie & Mac Urban Leggings. I've got Eunoia Luna Leggings for my side seam option and Petite Stitchery Nash Pants for my pockets. I have options now and I can also feel confident when I make them that they're the best possible use of my favorite hoarded fabrics.