About a month ago, my mom posted a link to a video of people dancing in pants made from sweaters. And I mean, dancing. In sweater pants. In public! They were invented by a textiles savant named Stephen West of Westknits. Leave it to an expat Midwesterner to invent such fun and warm pants.
I fell in love. We made some swants. And they were good. Check out Stephen West's tutorial. He's brilliant and generous, and I love Westknits. His site has more fabulous pictures of swants and textile projects.
However, I wanted to put my own spin on the fab swants. I wanted sweater pants that were more fitted, like leggings. So, I devised my own version of swants.
How are your sweater pants different from swants? Are you too good for swants, you piggy-backing thief?
No! I love swants. LOVE SWANTS. My sweater pants are different, thus: instead of placing the sweater arms directly over the legs, with the collar/neck hole beneath the crotch, my pants cut the sweater in half and place the collar to the outside of each leg.
While I was making swants for my mom, it was awkward to try to shape the crotch (hey, Mom! How's it hangin'?). The result of my swants was a saggy crotchal area (crotchal is a technical term, fyi). My pattern take that fitting outward, toward the hips. Anyway, let's start with the tutorial, shall we! It's easier to show you.
DIY SWEATER PANTS
Time: 3-ish hours
Audience: Everyone! Women, men, children. This project is easily adapted for pregnancy.
Materials: Sweater, thread, needle, scissors, safety pins, and shorts that fit you comfortably for sizing
Optional: 1" or wider elastic waistband or belt, sewing machine
Tip: Like any project, read through the directions and look at the pictures before starting. It goes a lot faster if you have an idea of where you are going.
What kind of sweater? That's up to you! As Stephen West says in his blog, a medium-weight knit is best for ease of sewing.
The arms of the sweater should fit comfortably over your legs/thighs. Too loose is better than too tight.
So, you've cut your sweater into three pieces. The first piece will be the waistband. The second cut results in the two legs of your pants. Arrange the two halves so that the collar holes are at the hips.
This is where the magic starts! Take the two sweater arms and put them on, one at a time. Tuck the tops of the pants into your shorts. This will make pinning the center easier. If you want, have a friend or someone you trust help you pin this area. It doesn't have to be perfect.
Remember, it doesn't need to be perfect. We'll go back to this area once we've gotten the hips sewn. Use a running or whip stitch to do this. Don't know your stitches? Download and print this handy guide.
What your quickly-sewn seam should look like. Starting to look like pants! Squee!
Before you put your pants back on, turn them inside out and use your well-fitting shorts as a guide to pin the hips. This will make the fit a little easier and more even. I tried putting the pants on first, then pinning… not recommended. It will skew the center line and leave your panties in a literal bunch.
Once you've gotten the hips pinned, slide your pants on and check the fit, tightening or loosening where necessary.
Trim the extra sweater bits and using a whip stitch or a blanket stitch, sew up the edges of hips. Keep the stitches close together and snug, but not so tight as to pull out the weave of the sweater. A 1/2" seam is safe. If using a sewing machine, use a stretch stitch and not a zig-zag stitch, which can make the seams lumpy. On your machine, if it has a key, the stretch stitch looks like a bunch of equal signs that got smushed together, or maybe a I Ching symbol. NO ZIG ZAGS. No.
Now that your hips are sewn, you can go back to the center of the pants to tighten up the crotch/butt area by cutting out the extra fabric and sewing it back together. This can be a bit of trial and error.
If you're wanting to do lots of high kicks or would like a nicer fit, I recommend placing a diamond-shaped gusset at the crotch. I didn't photograph this step, but here is a link to a blog that has photos of the gusset technique. Not sure? Do a couple of high kicks and your pants will make the correctly shaped hole for you.
Remember that lonely bit of sweater we cut off in the first step? We are going to use it to sew a fold-down waistband onto our pants! Now, if by some chance you have a really large sweater and no need for extra fabric at the top, skip this step and use your sweater bit as a neat infinity scarf. However, most sweaters will need this step.
Slip the ring of fabric around your hips. If it is too tall, cut it down to the height you would prefer. If it is too wide, pull the ring snug, but not tight, around your hips. Pin the fabric, cut off the extra, and sew up the edge. Replace the waistband, sliding it down so that the band and your pants are at a similar height on your hips.
Your pants will not be the right height, most likely longer in the front than in the back. Use the waistband as a "leveler" and pin it to the pants. Trim the extra material that sticks out.
Once you're pinned the waistband, slip off the pants and whip or blanket stitch the top of the pants. The photo above shows the waistband after it has been sewn onto the pants, and unfolded. If you are pregnant, sew the waistband on so that the seam is on the inside when it is unfolded.
And, you are done! I hope that you have fun with your new sweater pants. Feel free to post questions about the construction, if you have any, and I will do my best to answer.
And finally, gratuitous photos of me posing in my sweater pants, with my son.