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leg warmers from old sweater sleeves

I’ve decided that leg warmers are kind of cute. Before you scream for me to be cast into a vile pit of fashion mistakes and other torments of the 1980s, hear me out.

I love boots – I feel they balance out the bottom of the legs a bit, especially on women like me with wide hips or thighs. And they add something interesting to the bottom half of your outfit. Leg warmers basically do the same thing, while allowing you to wear your ballet flats and such as the weather gets warmer, or as you simply get tired of wearing your wintery boots.

As an added rebellion against the weather, this particular project turns old sweaters into leg warmers. No better way to stick out your tongue at Winter than to cut up your cold weather clothes right under its nose. Live in senselessly optimistic faith that the temperature will rise and the sun will come out and you won’t need that sweater for your upper half anyway. So there!

And really, there ought to be something a person can enjoy from the 80s other than cheesy TV shows and an internet trolling meme.* I choose leg warmers. As with all repeated fashion trends, we take them and make them new to the era they’re being recycled into, which in this case means we can do away with the seizure-inducing neon hues those crazy frizzy-haired, scrunchie-wearing 80s folks loved, and inject a little sanity into our modern leg warmer colour choices. Today, you can wear leg warmers without looking like an attempted imitation of Workout Barbie. So thank heavens for that.

*I’m not sorry. If you actually clicked on that link, you totally deserved it. :P 


What you’ll need


  • old sweater or shirt (well, the sleeves of one, at least)
  • thread – same colour as your sweater sleeves
  • elastic
  • [optional] ribbon, buttons, beads, etc. for embellishment


  • fabric scissors
  • straight pins
  • sewing machine


Putting it all together

1) Lay one sleeve of the sweater out flat, and cut it off in a straight line across the top portion of the sleeve. The longer your sweater sleeves, the taller your leg warmers can be, and/or the more bunched up. Different types of sweaters will give your leg warmers different looks and tendencies as to how they sit, depending on the size, bulk and material of the sweater.

2) Lay the other sweater sleeve out flat, and place the cut off sleeve flat on top of it, matching them up exactly. Then cut the attached sleeve from the sweater at the same place the first, cut-off sleeve ends.

3) Pull one of the sleeves onto one leg, and see where it comes to. You’ll probably want it to fold and crease and gather a bit along your leg, so don’t pull it all tight and straight.

4) Grab a length of elastic, and circle it around your leg at the place where you want the top of the leg warmer to come to.  The elastic should be snug around your leg, but not digging into it.  Let the elastic overlap itself half an inch, and cut it off there. Use this to cut another piece of elastic exactly the same length for your other leg.

5) Turn the sweater sleeves inside out. Take a piece of elastic. If the elastic is half an inch wide, place it half an inch below the unhemmed end of the sleeve. If the elastic is an inch wide, place it an inch below the end of the sleeve, and so on. Fold the sleeve’s end down over the elastic, and pin in place.

Continue pinning all the way around the top of the sleeve, overlapping the ends of the elastic by half an inch. If the sleeve end is bigger around than your elastic is long (which is likely), you’ll have to gather the material over the elastic a little bit in places.

6) Set your sewing machine to do a stretch stitch (note that stretch stitches use up considerably more thread, so make sure you’ve got lots on the spool and the bobbin). Stitch all the way around the pinned end of the sleeve, removing pins as you go.

7) Repeat with the other sleeve, and you’re finished! Add a button or some beads or other decorations at the top. I liked the look of little felt flowers on either side, which you can find the tutorial for here. (Funnily enough, I mention neon leg warmers in that post, which I wrote a year and a half ago.)

Leave a comment


  1. Mom

     /  February 17, 2012

    What do you plan to make from the rest of the sweater? Oh, and perhaps I should point out that YOU are a product of the 80s ;-P.

    • Tally

       /  March 30, 2012

      That may be true, but I’ve aged immensely better than neon lycra and scrunchies. :P

  2. Thank you for the tutorial, it’s simple and very well explained!!
    You could make a skirt for you or a jumper dress for little girl with the rest of the sweater … or several caps…!
    I love your blog geek :D I will put a link on mine (if you agree!)

    sorry if my sentences are bizarre : I translate by google

    • Tally

       /  March 30, 2012

      Merci Fitz! J’aime bien l’idée d’utiliser le reste du pull en faisant une robe de jeune fille (si mignon!) ou un chapeau.

      Je n’ai aucun probleme si vous voulez mettre un link sur votre blog! :)

      (Je vous demande pardon si j’avais fait des erreurs en francais, mais ça me fait bien de pratiquer.)

  3. Brittney

     /  March 17, 2012

    an idea that you could do with the rest of the sweater or sweat shirt is make it into a bag by just sewin up the sides that the sleeves were on, use your neck as your opening and attach some type of strap :) just a thought

    • Tally

       /  March 30, 2012

      Another good idea! I might have to try that. :) Thanks Brittney!

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  9. Theresa Bos

     /  October 22, 2018

    i was born in the late sixties and have decided that i want leg warmers again.I should never have spoken this outloud because…..well, talk about requests.
    Your sweater idea is funtastic. I go to second hand shops every where and I’ll betcha within one day I could find at lest 20 good, fun , snazzy, ugly, cute, native, retro,sweaters to get me started. And the other idea about the rest of the sweater made into bag purses? I hear the road calling to me. gotta go, got things to do. Thankyou thankyou thankyou.

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  13. Alicia Hursley

     /  July 28, 2022

    This was such a fun project. Okay so a little back story. My mom is a hoarder…like has hoarded everything from our childhood. This last week we had to bring in a dumpster rental to get rid of all the garbage that’s accumulated through the years. But I found a lot of my old sweaters. I didn’t want to just throw those away (maybe I’m a bit of hoarder too?) and I wanted to find a way to repurpose them for my daughters. They’re really into ballet right now so what better than a pair of leg warmers for practice? They turned out amazing and I can’t thank you enough for sharing this idea.

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  1. Sweater Sleeve Leg Warmers « The MAKESHOP Show

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