Friday, January 24, 2014

diy sweater pants

Are you cold all winter? Do own sweaters that languish on a shelf in your closet because they are too big and busy? Let's put those threads to use!

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. 


Skill: Basic
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. 


  1. many many blessings upon you :) I have been trying and trying and trying to wrap my head around how to make pants out of sleeves after the kids grew too tall for the legs out of just the sleeves cut off and into a pant shape and now I can SEE it :) thank you :)

    1. You are welcome! I still feel like the instructions could be more clear, so I plan on posting an updated version soon.

  2. Replies
    1. :* Thank you! And thank you for taking the time to leave me a comment!

  3. Well laid out and the outcome fine. thanks to the excellent pattern

    1. Thank you for your feedback! I am planning on posting up an updated set of instructions, as well as a pdf with drawn instructions that people can use no matter what language they speak.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Excuse me for my bad english (i am french). Thank you for this tutorial, i love those pants. I made one with 2 sweaters, a pink and a purple. The result is very nice, warm and comfortable. It looks like if there were greaves on the pants because the purple sweater had a more thick wool on the neckband. I would have been pleased to show you the result but i don't know how to do.

    1. Bonjour! Merci for the message! I would love to see your results. If you would be comfortable to email them to me, my email is sade.reed (a) gmail dot com. I would like to make an updated post with photos of other people's creations using my instructions, so if you would be okay/not okay with me sharing the photos, please let me know. Bonne journée!

  6. Hi Sade!
    I am thinking of buying sweaters for my family to make for gifts this year, what would you suggest as far as sizing for ranging from short females to nearly 6 foot males?

    1. Hmm, this is a tricky one to answer, as I've only made swants for people once they tried the sweater arms onto their legs. A general rule of thumb is to purchase a sweater that is 1-2 times bigger than their normal sweater-wearing size. For instance, I weigh about 150 lbs. and I'm 5'4". I used a women's size large sweater to make my swants that fit like leggings. If I wanted to make the swants with a bit of room, I'd have gone with an XL. Also, using a men's/women's sweater make a difference; women's sweaters are almost always smaller, so I'd go up 2 sizes if you're using a women's sweater.

      For a man that was in the 6 ft./200lb. range, I'd use an XXL men's sweater.

      I hope this helps, and makes sense. Let me know if I should clarify more!

    2. Also, if you are sewing swants for a man, remember to leave more room in the crotch for their dangly bits.

  7. It’s nice sharing! You can buy the fasion sweaters on . This is a special store selling all kinds of fashion clothes, fashion, new, cheap.It is the good choice of your shopping

  8. Gee cute very good instructions thanks for sharing

  9. You can find many more excellent tutorials from this site:

  10. I love this idea and you showed a lovely tutorial. Sadly I'm a large girl and can't find any sleeves that will fit my thighs.

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