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No School Like the Old School – DIY Leg Warmers


Leg warmers are the secret ingredient to my biking wardrobe that laughs at freezing temperatures, and yet allows me to pedal freely under my rain/mud pants. I rarely venture out without them. Grown up since their 80’s Flashdance roots, fluorescent pink giving way to mellow earth-toned leg warmers and interesting textures and fibers. Coupled with wool socks my feet and ankles want for nothing, even while pedaling me through freezing rain.

As a family, our rule of thumb is “nothing new” which usually means buying used, but in this case it meant repurposing a thrifted wool sweater vest. I love the nubby texture of the fabric, the brown has little blue highlights in it. I prefer 100% wool, natural fiber over synthetic, but I HATE factory farming… so buying used removes the animal-product guilt from my conscious. The vest cost me less than a dollar. Homey covered buttons on the sweater worked great for trimming the leg warmers.


Supplies: Old sweater or sweatshirt. Fleece and wool work well.

                 1 yard 1/2″ wide elastic (optional)

                  Buttons for trim (optional)

                 Measuring tape

Measure: Hold the sweater up to your leg, with the waist ribbing at your ankle. I like mine to cover the top of my shoe and stretch over my heel in length and either thigh high or calf high depending on how much fabric I have. Wherever it reaches, measure your leg’s girth.

Make the Tube: Turn the sweater inside out, keeping the right sides together. Match the ribbings at the bottom and stitch up from the bottom closing off the arm holes.

Use 1/2 your leg measurement plus two inches for seam allowance and ease to measure the top width. Pin or chalk a line down to the ankle. You can either taper slightly if you want them fitted at the ankle or flare for a more generous fit. Match the ribbed edge again and stitch.

Cut: Cut off the sleeves and excess material, leaving about an inch seam allowance. (Keep the sleeves if you want to make some gauntlet style texting gloves later!) Cut the top of the tube open (along the shoulders)


Stay stitch along the cut edges to prevent unravelling. I zig zag, but if you have an overlock machine that would be awesome. If hand stitching, whip stitch around the edges.  (If you are using fleece skip this step as you will not have any unravelling issues).

Finishing: Turn the leg warmers right side out and try on. Depending on the weave and fit you may need to turn the top edge over 1″ to the inside and topstitch 3/4″ from the fold to make a casing for an elastic band. Leave a 2″ opening to insert the elastic (thread thru with a safety pin). Try the leg warmer on again and adjust the fit and elastic length as needed. Stitch the elastic ends together and stitch the casing closed. I skipped the elastic step and just hemmed the edge as mine were snug and stretchy enough to stay up on their own but have another pair that are loose enough that renders the elastic vital.

Trim: I stitched the little buttons on at the ankle but there is really no end to the ways you can embellish; embroidered whimsy and crochet trim are both on my to-do list. If you wanted extra warm you could line with flannel or fleece – just allow for extra bulk when you measure and cut.


So there you have it! If you make these please let me know, comment and share!


If you have any other great ideas for keeping warm on the bike or cutting up old stuff and making it new, please comment below and let me know!

About Sarah Beth

Living the mind-full life. Less is the new more.

6 responses to “No School Like the Old School – DIY Leg Warmers

  1. Tony ⋅

    I am not able to go car free, but I bike plenty. Very nice piece on the leg warmers!

  2. Stacy

    Thanks again for typing this up. If you do it again, would you send me more photos please? I am having trouble visualizing where you cut from the sweater and how you stitched it closed to make the gathered bottoms. Maybe I need to read it through when I am not so exhausted!

  3. polythenepam ⋅

    Fame! I’m gonna live forever….

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