How To Sew a Leotard from Scratch (without a leo pattern)

These leotard posts sit on the back burner for a while before I post them.  I finish a coat or a normal top?  I usually photograph it and post it the same week.  This leo has been done for probably a month and a half though.  I need to work on that…especially if the giant pile of spandex I just bought from JoAnns is indicative of what I’m going to be sewing soon…

  I went back and forth on how I was going to photograph it.  It’s a leotard, so part of the functionality is that it attaches between the legs like a bathing suit, so it feels a little bit like cheating taking a picture in it while wearing jeans.  On the other hand, you guys have already seen the bottom of one of the leos I made, and I’m a little concerned it’s not going to be a sewing audience I’m going to wind up drawing if I start posting all sorts of pictures of my thighs on here.  I put off doing the pictures with the excuse to myself that maybe somebody at the gym would take a shot during my aerial class and I could use that…but it just didn’t happen.

So here we are.  Moody shot on a cloudy Saturday, wearing jeans.  We’ll pretend it’s the early 90s and it’s a rocking bodysuit.

If this is looking vaguely familiar, it should.  It’s McCall’s M6288, that I used to make this top not long after R was born.

To turn the pattern into a leotard, I used the same basic process as I did when I was modifying the tank tops into leotards.  Essentially, I left an extra amount of length at the bottom hem (though since this shirt was long to start with, it wasn’t much), created the shirt, and then modified it to fit at the bottom in the same way.  I used an existing leotard to give me an idea of how long I was going to need beyond the pattern’s bottom edge.

This is actually the first project I completed using my cover stitch machine, and I love the results.  I did a lot of detailing using the back of the stitch, to get the flat, sporty seams you see on a ton of workout wear.  Some of the details turned out better than others, but, of course, every machine has a certain level of learning curve involved.

A few notes about this:

I did not use a 4 way stretch knit for this particular leotard.

If you want to make a traditional, going to cling to the body and not-bag-out-anywhere-when-you-move leotard, you want spandex, and you want 4 way stretch.  Fabric with spandex is easy to find.  4 way stretch, not so much.  Give your fabric a good tug along both grains.  Pretty much any knit will stretch fairly well from selvage to selvage, but up and down, towards the raw edge, it may stretch or it may be pretty stable.  For a leotard, you ideally want it to stretch.  But, this was for me, and frankly, I liked the colors, and didn’t really give a damn if it fit exactly to my body 24/7 or not, so long as it kept me from getting silk burns on my lower back.

Keep in mind you’re probably going to have to alter your side seams

I used a contrasting color for binding the sleeves and neckline on this leo, and thought it’d be super cool to run a line of it up the side seam as well.  I had already made quite a few alterations to the side seams when I attached them, but having them there kept me from messing around and tightening up the sleeves after I put them on like I kind of wanted to.  I’m really happy with the side seam bands, but if you decide to add them, make sure you have your fit right before you add them!

Remember that you have to fit through the neck!

Being able to modify any top pattern into a leotard opens up a whole lot of possibilities, but keep in mind, no matter how cool that keyhole detailed neckline might look as a leo, if you can’t fit your hips through it, it won’t be wearable!



  1. Oh, but if I ask for the picture to be taken I'm still going to be awkwardly posing 😉 It only works if the picture gets taken when I don't know about it…or something. I at least have an excuse for looking awkward anyway!

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