Tutorial: Make baby tights

This tutorial will show you how to make a pair of tights by tracing another pair.  Don’t have a pair on hand to trace?  I’ve made a PDF baby tights pattern in size 3-6 months (with 6-12 months size modifications) that will be available soon (UPDATED: PATTERN HERE)! These baby tights can be sewn with either a serger OR a regular sewing machine.  Stretchy knit jersey or old t-shirts make the best materials, and you’ll also need some 3/4″ wide elastic.  I’ll talk about fabric selection, needles, and sewing techniques, so here we go…

Step 1: Get some fabric

For baby tights you’ll need very little fabric. An 18″ square of fabric will probably do it if you’re making tights for an infant, obviously more if your baby is larger.  The type of fabric needed for these tights is lightweight knit jersey with lycra/spandex.  Jersey is different from interlock as it does not look the same on both sides and tends to curl on the edges.  Interlock is the same on both sides, doesn’t curl or stretch as much, and will not work as well for this project. Some ribbed knits might work, but most ribs tend to stretch mostly in one direction. When you select your knit, make sure it is thin, it is very very stretchy, and that it stretches in both dimensions (called 4-way stretch).  This is why the addition of lycra/spandex is helpful.  One way to tell if a fabric will work is to take the fabric in your hands and try stretching it widthwise and then lengthwise.  It should feel pretty stretchy both ways, even if one is a little less than the other.  If it is significantly less stretchy in one direction, it’s probably not a good choice for these tights.

So where can you find such a fabric?  One of the easiest places to get it is from stretch t-shirts.
Most t-shirts from the major brands (JCrew, Gap, BR, Old Navy) are made with lots of stretch so recycling your old t-shirts is a great option.  Notice I’m not talking about the traditional screen-printed “beefy-Ts” which are too thick and won’t have enough stretch.  Here’s the tag from the grey t-shirt I used for the grey tights I posted yesterday so you can see the ingredients (a cotton/lycra blend):

And just in case you’re wondering, here’s what I used from left to right in the top photo:

  • aqua: bamboo/spandex blend jersey from Joann (worked great! very stretchy!)
  • red stripes: cotton jersey knit from Pacific Fabrics (wasn’t quite as stretchy as I wanted, but pretty good!)
  • grey: old Banana Republic stretch t-shirt (worked great! very stretchy!)
  • green stripes: cotton jersey knit from Pacific Fabrics (pretty good!)
  • sky blue: thick cotton knit t-shirt (this really did not work well…too thick, not very stretchy)

If you don’t have t-shirts you can recycle, look for knit jersey with cotton/lycra or bamboo/lycra blends.  Here are some places online that I found bamboo-blend jersey:
Fabric Fairy, Pacific Fabrics (they don’t have the striped cotton jersey online but you might be able to call them and order it?), Field’s Fabrics (I have some of that peach, it’s dreamy), Sewzanne’s, and Hart’s.

Of course, you don’t have to use bamboo blends, cotton/lycra blends will work fine too.

Step 2: Check/change your sewing machine needle

You need to use a needle that will work with knits.  I use Schmetz Stretch needles which work with all of my machines (Bernina, Singer, Brother).  Sew a small sample of the knit before you begin.  If there is any thread catching or wonkiness going on inside your machine, DESIST and CHANGE YOUR NEEDLE.  It’s not going to get better the longer you try.  You’re just going to get more frustrated and emit swears/big fat baby tears.  You might need a stretch needle for a different weight fabric too (like size 11 instead of 14).  If ballpoint or stretch needles aren’t working, try using a basic Universal needle.  You might be surprised at what works.  I do not use a walking foot for sewing knits because I am cheap and the walking foot for my Bernina is expensive ($150), but I understand that can also help.  By the way, I do not change the needles on my serger, just my sewing machine.

Step 3: Make your pattern

Trace around the outside of the tights 1/4″ from the edge (for seam allowance), ending at the center seam.  Make the outside edge as straight as possible even if the tights “turn”.  Yes, my real name is Rachel.  Isn’t it fun what secrets you learn when you read the whole tutorial?

and then connect the center seam line:

And add 1″ to the top of your pattern for the waistband (shown in next photo for Step 4).

If you’d like to make a pair of tights the next size up from the ones you have, add 1-2″ to the bottom of the foot and 1″ to the top to size it up.

DON’T HAVE A PAIR OF TIGHTS TO TRACE?  My tights pattern for 3-6 months is here for you to download.  It’s got modifications for 6-12 months, but that’s as much as I can help you with.   It’s finished, but I’m having some printing size problems with my new version of Adobe Reader. Argh. I’m giving up for now. Will work on it tomorrow.

Step 4: Cut out your fabric

Place the long edge of the pattern on the fold of the fabric and cut out your fabric.  You’ll get the best results if the stretchiest dimension of the fabric goes top to bottom on your tights.

Hint: The first pair of red-striped tights I made ended up being a little too small because the striped jersey didn’t stretch as much as I expected.  If you don’t have a super-stretchy jersey, add an inch or two to the top and bottom of the pattern.  You can always make them smaller, but not larger.  And remember to line up stripes if you’re using striped fabric!

Your pieces should look like this:

Step 5: Sew the center seams together

I did this on a serger, but you can also use the overlock stitch on your regular machine (I’ll show you that in just a minute).  Place right sides together and sew only the center seam using a 1/4″ seam.  DO NOT KEEP SEWING DOWN THE LEG!

Step 6: Sew Inner Leg Seam

Open tights up and line up center seams.  Starting at one toe edge, sew the inner leg seam together, again with 1/4″ seam.  On a serger it is helpful to pull the legs apart like they’re doing the splits as you cross the center seams.

Here’s what it looks like if you use the overlock stitch on a regular machine (the stitch that looks like a combination between straight and zigzag stitch). I backstitched a few times at the crotch (sorry!) to strengthen the seam there.  That’s where they’re most likely to split apart.

Not as pretty as a serger, but it’s going to be on the inside so don’t sweat it.  I’d recommend using matching thread though; when Clementine wears these they look slightly bumpy along the seams and the white thread shows a little.  Oh well, they still look great.

Step 7:  Turn tights right-side out and try them on your baby.  Make adjustments as needed.

As I mentioned in Step 4, after I tried the pair on the left on Clementine I realized this fabric wasn’t going to stretch as much as real tights, so I added two inches to both the bottom and the top, and tried it again (right).  If you use jersey blends with spandex or lycra, you shouldn’t need to do this.

Step 8: Cut and sew elastic waistband

Take a 3/4″ strip of elastic and cut it a half inch larger than your baby’s waist.  Clementine is 7 months old and her waist is about 16″ so I cut a piece 16.5″ long.  I used knitted elastic because it’s more stretchy than woven but I’m not sure it’s really that important.  Overlap the ends by 1/2″ and use a zigzag stitch to secure ends together.  This makes the elastic slightly smaller than their waist, but I find it stretches out when you sew it in the next step.

Step 9:  Pin elastic to tights

Find the center of the elastic and pin it to the inside of the front center seam, folding 1/4″ of the fabric over the elastic.  Pin the overlapped part of the elastic to the center back.  The tights are still right-side out, by the way.


Step 10: Stitch elastic to tights

This part’s a little tricky, but it’s not going to show.  With the 1/4″ of fabric directly under the needle as shown, place the back center seam under the presser foot.  Pull that pin out so it won’t get in the way of the needle.  Sew the jersey-elastic-jersey sandwich together with a zigzag stitch, stretching the whole thing as you go.  I use my left hand behind the needle to pull the elastic through and my right hand to fold the knit over the edge of the elastic and stretch it out.  It helps to stop and restretch/refold as you go.

It will look like this when you’re finished:

Step 10:  Zigzag around again.

This will hide your elastic entirely.  Fold the elastic under once more and zigzag around the whole thing again, stretching as you go.

Finished! Huzzah. Now go take a picture of that darling baby in her new tights and send it on over!

And still more blah-blah…
I’m really curious to see if this sort of thing works for bigger tights (non-baby sizes).  It would really depend on whether the material selected had the same amount of stretch as real tights.  Definitely comment if you experiment with this; I’m sure others would love to know as well!

I’d also like to refer you to Built By Wendy’s Sew U Home Stretch if you don’t have much experience with knits.  I found this book immensely helpful (and it has great patterns in it) and much of this information probably came from her in some way.

Thanks for reading this whole thing.  I realized after I started it that even though this is a really simple project, there are so many tricks for working with knits that I’ve learned over the years that I felt needed to be explained.  I hope despite it’s length that it will make sewing baby tights simple and easy for you!

113 thoughts on “Tutorial: Make baby tights

  1. so so cute! Now I need to find a baby to sew some for. I used to have that same blue ruler, maybe I still have it. cool… 🙂


  2. thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I have been thinking and musing and pondering baby tights for weeks now! I always want some colors and patterns that just aren't available – especially in the 0-3 month size. I am so excited to try this tutorial out, I am bursting!

  3. Ooh, I love this tutorial. I have made jammie pants for my wee ones using this same method. I never thought of sewing the pants all enclosed to make them into tights. You are a genius! Thanks for the tip on sewing in the elastic waist band. I am definitely doing that the next time I sew stretchy pants.

  4. Wow! Yet another one of those things I somehow assumed just *wasn't done* at home. Great to know, because I can never find cute/non-pink baby tights!

    The previous comment made me think of Nacho Libre.

  5. Thanks for a great Tutorial – now I need to find a little girl to make them for – or just make a big pair for my miss.

  6. Awesome sauce 🙂 (I used to have a ruler like that, way back in grade school! I wonder what happened to it? Bet it's still at my parents' house 🙂 I wouldn't have guessed you could make these without forming a foot. You might have just convinced me that my basic layering tees (Modbe), that I have worn nearly constantly for years, ARE IN FACT WORN OUT and must be turned into tights. My daughters thank you 🙂

  7. Oooo I have some old t-shirts of mine that will be perfect for this! Super excited to try it out. Thanks!

  8. Oh, that looks great.

    I finally realized that the pattern you're adding w/the tutorial isn't the gorgeous dress. Now I need to go hunt down something similar because I found fabric I wanted to use already.

  9. Excellent tutorial! Now (speaking as a mom of 6 boys) I need someone to post a tutorial for making a baby girl. Please?

  10. Nice job Rae. My grade school favorite was personalized stickers.
    My baby girl is 3, so I will have to wait and see what my sister is having this fall, and maybe I'll give it a try. Target socks make cute leg warmers for her though.

  11. Those are so great! I can't wait to try them. I love the red striped tights! Too cute! Thanks!

  12. I had that exact same ruler (only with my name on it, of course). I loved it! I wonder if my mom still has it somewhere…

    Anyway, these tights are super cute! Unfortunately, I don't have a little girl to make them for. Nice work!

  13. I love your comment on #2 My daughter says she learned all the bad words in my vocabulary on those "fun mother daughter sewing days." I say this as I am blushing at the confession. This is a great tute and I hope I can make some to go under all those great dresses I made off you pattern. Huge IF I can figure out a 3T size and have time before we fly to Ecuador to go get new Daughter 2B…. it seems like it just might happen!

  14. Yay! Thank you! I have a stretchy tee sitting in my sewing box that will be perfect for this! Also I definitely appreciate all of the tips and tricks of sewing with knits (say that 10x fast)! Hopefully I'll have a pair made tonight!

  15. An excuse to purchase some FOE! (I'm thinking that would make the top of the tights even more cute, no?)

  16. Thanks for all the details!!! Tights are SO expensive…I might have to try these for Ming Wai!!

  17. Love it!!! Thanks so much! Can't wait to try it out. In fact, I was just going through my closet yesterday getting rid of some of my shirts. I think I have a few that might work for this…we'll see. Thanks again!

  18. oh my word, the second my daughter goes to bed i'm grabbing her tights and making and pattern and attack one of my shirts. LOVE it! thanks rae!

  19. How wonderful! Thanks for the tutorial. I'm totally going to look out for some cute knit! LOVE the green stripes!

  20. i have a 6 month old girl and a 2 year old!! i am going to have so much fun makeing these for my girls! thanks for sharing!!

  21. Thank you thank you thank you!! Love your tutorials Rae. I've just posted a link to it too. Brilliant!

  22. You are brilliant! I just need to find a shirt big enough for size 2 and 4. Footless perhaps??? Thank you for sharing.

  23. These are super cute! Would old non-bulky sweaters work as well too for the winter months? I have a little boy so I wouldn't make too many of these, but I might for my niece. Just a thought.

  24. Those are so cute! If my girls ever let me sew again I'd love to make them. 😉 In my experience you can't use woven elastic and stitch through it. It will lose all stretch. So unless you are going to make a casing knit elastic is the way to go.

  25. Rae, you are brilliant.
    Absolutely, positively…..brilliant.
    I learned so much reading through this! You explain everything so well! Man, I really want to make tights now….
    THANK you for sharing this!

  26. Whoo-boy! I *love* baby tights, but I just can't buy them for $10. So I'll make hoardes of them for my chubby little baby. I'm stoked. Lookout, old t-shirts.

  27. Very, very, wonderfull nice idea!!!
    Perhaps I'll use the same method for adult 🙂
    Thank you very much for your tuto!

  28. Oh! I'm going to find a shirt in my closet and make a pair right now! Thanks for the awesome tutorial!!

  29. I just LOVE this idea!
    I am going to have to make a ton of these!
    Your blog is a constant source of inspiration!

  30. Awesome tutorial, and so cute! I posted a link to it on my 'crafty' blog. Thanks for the great tute!

  31. aw cool! I want to try to make them for my son- yes, my son. I think they'll be cute under his little boy onsies!!!! I don't think this has to be a pink girly thing!

  32. Hey, love the baby tights, so cute! Just wanted to let you know I featured you 🙂

  33. great tutorial

    i'd love to see this made with FOE and your thoughts on using foe instead?

  34. AAAHHH! Thank you Thank you Thank you!
    I am a mom of 5 boys! lol but I have two nieces and I love trying to make fun things for them. I can't wait to put some together for the girls.
    You're awesome! Thank you for sharing!!
    Cristina P

  35. Thanks so much for this! I'm making legging, instead of tights, but your info about what kind of stitch to use and how to do the elastic is a big help. I've sewed a lot with woven cotten, but not much with knits. I put you in my list of "projects to do" on my blog and I'll link to you in my post when I finish the leggings and get the post up.

    Thanks, Polly @ Helping Little Hands

  36. This is awesome! I really could have used these when my little one was crawling. Well, number #2 is on the way, and this tutorial/pattern will most definitely come in handy! Thanks!

  37. THANK YOU SO SO SO VERY MUCH! This is one big help with my problems sewing stretchy knitted fabric. My twins are 4+ now so I am thinking of trying to make leggings for the coming winter. Thanks again for the great tutorial!

  38. This is WONDERFUL!!! I just found you via Homemade By Jill & I'm so excited because I've been desperately looking for cute leggings for Samster with no luck. I'm going to use your method but without the feet, I'll let you know how it goes & will be sure to link back to you. Thanks!

  39. My nieces are 2 and 4 years old and love to be matching. the only tights my sister buys are black and white.

    I think it would be SOOO fun to have colorful choices that match! Do you think this pattern could be modified for bigger sizes?

    Love your blog!

  40. Thanks for posting this! I was directed here via the BBC community and I'm so glad to have found this tutorial.
    I know you cloth diaper, as do we- you haven't had any problems with that length covering the top of the fluffy diaper butt? Every pair of shorts or pants I make at I home I usually have to adjust the pattern to "fit" over our cloth dipes!
    Thanks for the tutorial again. And now I feel special knowing your REAL name LOL.

  41. Great tutorial! I made a pair for my daughter this morning and wrote about it at homemadelovely.blogspot.com. I linked back to you. Thanks!

  42. Cool idea! I wonder if some puff paint on the feet would make them nonskid…my daughter is very anti-shoe right now and its so cold!

  43. I'm with Tricia on this one…you are able to fit over a cloth diaper bum? I must have used the wrong fabric. I added extra and there is no way I can stretch this over her fluffy bum. But, determine to buy more fabric and do again!! It had never occurrd to me to make tights! Thank you!!

  44. Thanks for posting this tutorial. It's so cute and it gives me an excuse to make baby clothes for my friends' babies without having to go out and buy more fabric. Wonderful!

    Emily x

  45. just wanted to say thank you, not only for this post but for all your great posts. What an inspiration. I have made several pair of these tights already, with matching hats or headbands. Love it! Thank you.

  46. Oh, awesome tutorial!! And I just happen to have some perfect fabrics simply waiting to be made into something cute for the little noodle in my belly. Thanks for sharing:)

  47. Love it Rae!!! The weather is getting hot here in Australia and I couldn’t bear to wait a whole year to make these so I used capris leggings and they worked out great!! Anyway thanks for the cool tutorial

  48. This tutorial was so timely! I need a pair of lime green leggings. If tights are this easy, so are leggings. Thanks for the inspiration. Love it! Upcycling at it’s best….

  49. I just found your site tonight when I searched for pants for my cloth diapered baby. Thank-you so much for explaining everything in detail…it’s the simple steps that throw off inexperienced sewers like me! THANK-YOU!

  50. These are so cute I almost wish I had a little girl… but alas my youngest girl is 4 and the baby is a boy! Do you think i could make tights for kids the same way?

  51. I just tried this, and it worked great! Well, the first pair came out too short in the legs but then I looked at how the original (pattern) stockings fit her… hehe, they were a bit short too! I adjusted my pattern and #2 was perfect.

    So anyway, guess whose little girl has a brand-new pair of *AWESOME* burn-out velvet stockings? My girl! 😀

  52. LOVE your tutorial! I made these and a matching headband out of old shirt last night for my 1 month old! They turned out so freaking cute! Thank for making it easy! 🙂

  53. I think the link will take you to the picture of my finished tights. It was so much fun making these, thank you so much for the tutorial!

  54. Brilliant thank you so much you have saved my day, (trying to find some baby tights for my mini pumpkin, in time for Halloween!) has been uneventful should have just looked on your blog first, will know better next time

  55. Very good idea for the grandaughter and for the grandsons, maybe a thermal weave with no feet and an exposed cute elastic waistband for Long Johns

  56. Thank you for posting this! I sew for charity and these will be so nice to add to the clothing boxes.

  57. Hi,my daughter is 15 and last year we finially had her baptized at easter vigil and then she made first holy communion with the little kids in may.for her baptism at easter vigil,we dressed her in the traditional white,poofy,mid thigh length baptism dress with a matching bonnet,white tights and white mary janes..I didnt have to make her tights as i bought them at a store.since the girls wear a cloth diaper and rubber pants under the tights,i got her the white rubber pants and sewed the waist band of the rubber pants to the waist band of the tights,that way they would be all in one.i made her cloth diaper by sewing one package of ten gerber cloth diapers together to make one diaper out of them.when i dressed her in the outfit,i pinned the diaper on her then put the tights with the rubber pants in them on her.the tights and rubber pants completely covered the diaper and she looked just like an infant.i then put her under shirt on her and tucked it in between the rubber pants and diaper.i then put her dress,bonnet and shoes on her and brought her out and showed her off the the rest of the family.i told some of the other moms at easter vigil what i did and they thought that was a great idea as some of their daughters had the problem of the tights sliding down over the diaper and rubber pants.most told me they were going to sew the rubber pants into the tights for their daughters to wear with their communion dresses.my daughter wore the tights with the rubber pants sewn in under her communion dress,but did not have the diaper under them.

  58. Baby shoes are in great demand, now more than ever. From styles and colors to shapes and design, just about everything is available in the new, booming baby footwear market. It is important however, to choose the shoes that best suit your baby to ensure that your bundle of joy experiences no discomfort or pain at any point of time.-

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  59. i just stumbled here through “you&mie” and just have to say that I absolutely LOVE this turorial!
    I´ll definately try it! ^^
    Thank you~

  60. Thanks very much for this. Like a few other posters, I wonder if this needs to be majorly adjusted for cloth diapered babies. If so, how?

    Thanks so much!

  61. Hoo- Rae, Rae, Rae! I know this is an old pattern of yours, but it is timely for me. My daughter is expecting ANY MINUTE, and asked if I could make some little leggings for her baby girl. I found a free pattern (not yours, regrettably), and they took about 20 minutes to make. Adorable, in B&W stripes. I sent her a pic of them, & she says, “Where are the feet, Mom? I wanted them to have feet.” Erg. So, scurrying to find how to add feet to leggings, I found your leggings pattern with the link to the tights. Hoo-Rae! Thanks for saving the day, once again. Your patterns are sweet!

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