Saturday, May 16, 2009

Baby Leg Warmers

Baby leg warmers have been pretty popular the last several years particularly with the cloth diapering set. They are a boon to parents especially at night time so the baby can wear a simple onesie (making diaper changes easy) while still staying warm. Even though I cloth diapered for some reason I really never tried them out with the boys. I finally decided to sew up some before the baby was born to have easy dressing options and especially with something new to me - dresses on babies.

Turns out I loved them and kicked myself for not having made more. I finally had a chance to sew up some socks I'd bought last month at Target. Since there's more than one way to skin a cat you'll find many tutorials for making these on the web. I make mine based on a tutorial by a fellow mom posted a while back but no longer available on the web. To Amanda, many thanks for the inspiration.

First you'll need some women's knee high socks. Not stockings, but socks. They usually come in solids and funky patterns that appeal to the too-cool-for-you teen & tween set. Little do they know moms all over the globe are stealing their thunder by coopting for the diaper set. Muahahaha. (that's as far to the evil genius side as I get, I'm too lazy for conspiring).

Okay back to those socks. If you use knee high socks you'll have a good one size fits most for the older baby/toddler group. However, if you use ankle high socks you'll have a great size for newborns who are swallowed by the regular size. Here are the first three pairs I made the baby while pregnant and nesting.

First the two newborn sizes. They are only about 7" long and made with the ankle height socks. She wore them for about 3-4 months.

These are the cheshire cat larger baby/toddler size I made with knee high socks.

So, grab your socks and your favorite scissors or rotary blade. Slice off the toe of the sock, then the heel as shown. Make the cuts straight in reference to the main part of the sock and the middle of the foot area.

Set aside the toes and heels. If you like making sock monkeys, these are perfect parts to have around. You are left with the legs and straight parts of the feet.

Grab one foot and cut up the side with your scissors to open the tube. This will form the bottom cuff of the legwarmers.

Before you unfold the foot section, slice off a 1/2" through both layers (which means you've taken off 1" from the full size of the tube). The cuff will hold the legwarmer in place at the ankle and needs to be a bit narrower than the main body of the legwarmer.

Turn the foot portion on its side and cut it so that the total length is 4". I like a pretty short cuff since it looks a bit more finished this way. Next, cut the foot section into two equal 2" sections. Now you have two cuffs ready to be sewn up. Open the cuffs and then fold them back up right sides together.

You now have a choice. You can make these on a regular sewing machine using a stretch stitch. A stretch stitch is a 3-step zig zag, a regular zig zag or even one called a stretch stitch that goes forward, back, then forward again for each visible stitch. The last one looks like a regular straight stitch but has built in stretch. Another option would be to use both the sewing machine and the serger. Later you'll see why I use both.

Serge or sew the cuff inside out.

You'll see that using a large patterned sock has a unique twist. If you use only one foot section you end up with two cuffs that have a different pattern repeat like my first cheshire cat pair. This time I noticed so I cut up the second foot section to have two pairs of cuffs that matched and just picked my favorite.

After you've sewn up the cuffs, turn them right side out and then fold them in half so that the two raw edges meet at the top and voila! A cuff.

Grab your cuff, one sock body and your pins. Turn the sock body inside out. Keep the sock body folded along the creases it had in the store (the side creases). Once you wash the legwarmers they will naturally keep folding at these creases and it also makes for easier pinning of the cuff.

Tuck the cuff inside the bottom of the sock body. Then pin the cuff in four equal sections to the sock body. The easiest way I've found is squish the cuff flat like I did in the picture and pin the sides to the natural creases in the sock body. Then pin the front and back of the cuff's edge to the halfway point of the sock body. I keep the seam of the cuff that I serged earlier to the back of the legwarmer. It looks nicer that way.

Right about now I was supposed to be taking a picture of the cuff pinned in four places but the baby fell in love with a porcelian doll my mom sent her that I've been storing in my sewing room. Whenever in the sewing room she scoots to the doll under my desk and begins to drool and love on it. I'm sure she's plotting a way of getting to the doll inside, which means I'll be introducing her to dolly sooner rather than later.

Anyway, imagine the cuff pinned in four places. Set your sewing machine to your favorite stretch stitch. I chose the 3 step zig zag pictured here.

Place your cuff/sock body sandwich in the machine as shown. The presser foot will actually be inside the legwarmer and you'll hold the leg warmer with both hands in front and behind the presser foot as you sew. This is a great trick to use when you're sewing small circumference items and don't have a free arm small enough. I started sewing right after one of the pins and lined up the edge of the fabric with the edge of my presser foot.

Stretch the cuff slightly so that it is the same length as the section of sock body you're sewing. Do this by holding the sock taught both in front and behind the presser foot. This is why you pinned the cuff in four separate sections, so that the cuff gathering the legwarmer body would be even. Remove the pins as you reach the end of each section. Oh and watch your fingers.

As you reach the serged seam of the cuff, take it slowly going over the bump to avoid skipped stitches.

As you approach the end of the seam and where you first started sewing, clip your beginning threads if you haven't already done so. Best way to avoid a thread nest.

When done sewing the seam, finish it by either using your lockstitch function or clip the threads and tie it off. The cuff is sewn and you could leave the inside like this. I however, am both lazy and OCD. I didn't bother cutting the edge of the cuff and sock bodies precisely because I was going to finish my seam with the serger.

Position the legwarmer in the serger just like you did in the sewing machine (with the presser foot inside the legwarmer). The sewing machine stitch line helps hold everything together without pins. Since the serger has a very sharp blade cutting off the fabric edge no camera shots. Have to keep all the digits intact.

The finished serged edge.

Tie the serger tail off, clip and turn the legwarmer inside out.

Repeat seven more times and your baby now has a pretty modest lineup of legwarmers.

Layer them under dresses and skirts like the easiest and cutest tights ever. Use them with onesies for the baby equivalent of the jeans and t-shirt look. Or, pair them with wool covers in the wintertime. I'm seriously jealous of her hot pink apple set.

But the argyle looks so cute and preppy.

No comments: