How to make zero-waste leggings

Zero waste leggings

Last week’s zero waste leggings are finished and I can happily report success!  In fact, I am very pleased with them.

If you feel in the mood to sew something different, you might like to make yourself a pair.  Here’s the draft:


Zero waste leggings instructions


Fabric: The leggings require a stretch fabric that stretches in both directions.  A one-way stretch is no good because the waistband and cuffs are cut longways and you won’t be able to get the leggings on.  The degree of stretch can be variable because you’ll be doing a fitting and will be able to adjust the fit according to the stretch (and how tightly you like to wear them).

I used a remnant of cotton lycra with 30% stretch (ie 10″ stretches to 13″), but many lycras have about 50% stretch (10″ stretches to 15″).  These are fine to use.  The most important thing is that it stretches in both directions.



Zero waste leggings instructions step 1

Step 1. These are the measurements you’ll need to draft the leggings.  Hip/seat is around the biggest part of your bottom.


Zero waste leggings instructions step 2

Step 2.  You can draw the pattern straight onto the fabric (folded double, as shown) as I did, but you might prefer to make it on paper.


Zero waste leggings instructions step 3

Step 3.  Mark in the 1/2 waist, knee and ankle.  It helps to mark in a central line first.    If your ankle is less than 10″, mark it in as 10″.


Zero waste leggings instructions step 4

Step 4.  Draw in the crotch and inside leg, both sides the same.  The crotch curve needs to be very shallow; you can scoop it out more later if need be.


Zero waste leggings chalked out

Mine looked like this. 


Zero waste leggings instructions step 5

Step 5.  Cut out and sew up for a fitting, using matching thread, a stretch needle, a long stitch and a 1.5cm seam allowance.


Zero waste leggings cut out

Important: keep the offcuts whole, because you need them for the waistband and cuffs.


Step 6. Try on the leggings and take them in where needed.  Use some safety pins instead of regular sewing pins.

You’ll need to take them in more if the fabric is very stretchy or if you like a tight fit.  Note that the back waist will sit quite low but the waistband will fill that in.


Zero waste leggings back view

Here’s the finished back view of mine.  You can see how low the back seam will finish but the waistband is higher at the back to compensate.


Zero waste leggings safety pinned seam

I only had to take my leggings in at the thigh.  The fabric wasn’t very stretchy (30% stretch) and the rest fitted fine.


When you’re happy with the fit, you don’t need to unpick the long stitches; just sew directly over the top.  You can sew the permanent seams with a 4 thread overlocker, or if you don’t have an overlocker use a mini zig zag on your regular machine.



Zero waste leggings instructions step 7

Step 7. Sewing the waistband.  Depending on how stretchy the fabric is, make the waistband smaller than the waist.  I made mine 1 1/2″ smaller than my waist measurement, and stretched it onto the top of the leggings.  I originally tried 2″ smaller but that was too firm to get on easily.  Important: sew the waistband onto the leggings with a long stitch and try them on before stitching permanently.  I needed to make my waistband 1″ narrower because it sat up too high.


Zero waste leggings front waistband

Here’s the finished waistband, front view.


Zero waste leggings back waistband

The back looks like this.


Zero waste leggings instructions step 8

Step 8. Sewing the cuffs.  The cuffs are made from the side scraps either side of the crotch curves.  Trim them as shown so they’re symmetrical.  This will make them slightly off-grain but it doesn’t matter.  Sew the cuffs on overlapped in the same way as the waistband (but don’t need to make them smaller) and use a long stitch first so you can check the fit before sewing permanently.


Zero waste leggings cuff

Here’s the finished cuff.


If we’re being picky, these aren’t really zero waste since I did trim off some bits in Steps 7 and 8, and there’s a spare strip on the side of the fabric (which could be made into a headband?).  However, it’s pretty close and was an enjoyable challenge.


PS, did you hear I’m on Instagram now?




  1. Hilary Catron on April 19, 2018 at 7:48 am

    I love that waistband, thanks!

    • lizhaywood on April 19, 2018 at 9:41 am

      Thanks, Hilary. Did you make a pair?

      • Hilary Catron on April 19, 2018 at 4:38 pm

        Not yet, I want to use some rayon/lycra ponte knit fabric I bought last year and have carefully aged. Lol

  2. Melania McLaughlin on March 8, 2021 at 1:56 am

    Hi Liz, I have a question: how do you determine the size of the rectangle (is it the hip measurement…) ? Thanks!

    • lizhaywood on March 8, 2021 at 10:29 am

      Hi Melania, you measure around the very top of your thigh (see Step 2).
      Best wishes, Liz

      • Melania on March 8, 2021 at 5:29 pm

        Oh I see, thank you. Will make them ASAP as I need a new pair of leggings and report…

      • lizhaywood on March 8, 2021 at 7:42 pm

        Recommend using fabric that’s equally stretchy in both directions – the brown pair in this post have a snug waist because the fabric wasn’t as stretchy in that direction.

  3. Soha on November 27, 2023 at 6:54 am

    Hello Dear Liz,
    Greetings from Egypt.
    Thank you so much for sharing this awesome method. I want to ask if there is a background for the formula used for drawing the crotch level (1/4 hip circumference- 1 1/2 inches).

    • lizhaywood on November 29, 2023 at 8:26 pm

      Hi Soha, greetings from Australia 🙂
      I did this pattern a long time ago and I would guess I made up the formula! I’ve only tested them on me and they are more like a starting point for making a leggings pattern, but I hope they work well for you.

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