Combining my favourite hobbies – finished Espresso leggings

23 Sep

This post is going to go some way to explaining my intermittent presence on this blog over the last few months.

Those of you who sew will understand how it can be so completely all consuming – you spend all your free time (that you can get away with without neglecting the other half too much) sewing, and your un-free time thinking about sewing.


Nothing like starting a post with a nice arse shot…

So, I recently started playing roller derby, which, as it turns out, is just as all consuming as sewing! If you don’t know much about it, roller derby is essentially a contact sport on roller skates, and it is SO MUCH FUN! I first came across it when I saw the film Whip It a few months ago (if you haven’t seen it, go watch it!), and I joined a beginners’ course run by Oxford Roller Derby about 3 months ago. I had never skated before, but through lots of encouragement and support from the awesome girls of ORD, I can now skate pretty fast, weave, jump, skate backwards (sort of…) and various other things I never thought I’d be doing on wheels. Stopping is something I’m still working on…


Seems I managed to get very few decent photos of myself in this lot…

Anyway, it is awesome fun (if you’re in Oxford and interested, there’ll be another beginners’ course running shortly…), but I stopped spending my days at work thinking ‘I’d rather be sewing’ and started spending them thinking ‘I’d rather be skating’. For a while I was like ‘arghhh, I don’t have time to have two major hobbies’, but I’ve got the balance back a bit now, although I am training 3 times a week, so it cuts down on sewing time a bit…I just need to start being more efficient with the time I do have, and combining my two new favourite hobbies, by sewing kit to wear for roller derby!


I decided to start with leggings (although the Pneuma tank is high on my list as well) I ummed and ahhed a bit over which leggings pattern to use. I do this – I majorly overthink the simplest decision, Marcus will attest to how long I can spend stressing over what is actually a very trivial issue! The two patterns I was deciding between were Megan Nielsen’s Virginia leggings and the Cake Patterns Espresso leggings. I read a few reviews on each pattern (I told you I overthink these things!), didn’t really come across anything bad on either of them, and decided on Espresso mainly becuase I was intrigued by the whole creating a pattern based on your measurements idea.


I bought the fabric from the Man outside Sainsburys in Walthamstow market. I think it was £2/m, and I bought it mainly because I’m a sucker for anything turquoise. To be honest, it’s not the best quality fabric. It’s more of a cotton jersey than a lycra, and it doesn’t have great stretch recovery. But turquoise! And a print that is a little more interesting than I usually go for – I don’t think I’ve ever worn an animal print before in my life!


Erm, I don’t really know what I was doing…living out the animal print??

I went along to watch a bout that my roller derby team were playing in. When I got home, I walked past the door to my sewing room and saw this fabric sitting there. I suddenly realised that it matched our team colour perfectly and set about turning it into a pair of leggings.

The one measurement I struggled to work out exactly how it needed to be measured was the rise. I thought I had it, but in hindsight, I think I must have got it a bit wrong.


My pattern piece ended up completely flat across the top, as opposed to higher at the back like the diagrams, but I figured that was just individual variance. When I had them all sewn up, bar the waistband, I tried them on and realised that the back of the leggings was sitting way lower than the front. I think the back was more where it should be, although could have done with being a bit higher – it was a bit of a struggle to get it all turned over etc at the back, and I could maybe do with them being a bit higher there. The front on the other hand came up about 3 inches too high.


This mismatch made sewing the waistband a bit tricky. I think it probably took me as long to sew the waistband as it did the whole rest of the leggings. It was made much harder by the fact I couldn’t just fold the waistband down my the same amount all round, but had to work out how much I needed to chop off the front, while trying to eke out my waistband from the back.

I’m not convinced by the method of sewing the waistband either. In my head, it would make more sense to sew a channel and then thread the elastic through, rather than sewing with the elastic already in place, but I did it as per the instructions. I have a feeling that I might have then realised why the instructions say to do it that way, but I can’t now remember what that reason was!


I was a bit discouraged by all the comments I read on this pattern of people saying that they made the leggings in 45 minutes. I think it took me about 4 hours or more in total. I had a bit of a ‘ugh, I’m so slow at sewing, I can’t even manage a pair of leggings without it taking me forever’ moment, but don’t worry, I’m over it. I know people work at different paces, and I am a complete and utter perfectionist, which probably slows me down somewhat!

All in all, I’m pretty happy with how these leggings turn out. The slight annoyances with them are more to do with the fabric than the pattern – the stretch recovery really is not great, and being cotton, they don’t wick moisture away very well. After skating in them for a couple of hours, I find that my knees especially, where my kneepads are, are pretty soggy and a bit saggy, but that doesn’t stop them looking good when I’m wearing them :) I think the wrinkling you can see in the photos is also due to the fabric not really having as much stretch as would be ideal. I want to make another pair, in better fabric, and re-doing my measurements to make that waistband easier.


I wore them to training the other week, and when my teammates found out that I made them, they all declared that they wanted some and could I make team leggings! I am not averse to this idea (hopefully I can improve on 4 hours per pair!), but I need to find some better fabric. I really need to find some decent lycra to make these out of, and I need something with a funky, turquoise print – anyone have any suggestions for where I can source some awesome legging fabric?

I could also do with some pattern advice – is Espresso a suitable pattern to use when trying to make multiple pairs of leggings (we’re talking 20-odd pairs here…), or is the having to draw different patterns for each person going to be a nightmare? I might just have to give them all homework to trace the pattern in their size themselves! Awesome as personally sized leggings are, am I better off just using a legging pattern that has a number of sizes and making up however many pairs in each size, and allowing the stretch in the fabric to cover the fitting? What do you think?


I also made myself some nice little sweat absorbing pads for my knee/elbow pads and wrist guards. These are made from a flannel shirt I got from a charity shop, and filled with a mixture of silica gel and bicarbonate of soda, to absorb moisture and odour, and so far they’re working pretty well! Derby is definitely a sweaty sport!


I was going to leave you with a photo of me all kitted up, but this is the only one I have…for future reference, trying to stop one of those swings when your feet have wheels on them – not easy!



10 Responses to “Combining my favourite hobbies – finished Espresso leggings”

  1. Linda of Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!! September 23, 2014 at 21:25 #

    I didn’t think learning how to stop was important! Just run them I over! I would guess that small, medium, and large might be easier! Then get a good material to work with! Sounds like a big job to me though! Good luck!

    • Kelly September 29, 2014 at 12:38 #

      Knowing how to stop does come in handy unfortunately…Yeah, I think I’ll just make a few different sizes and get people to try them on. It’s just a case of finding some decent (and funky) fabric!

  2. gilliancrafts September 23, 2014 at 22:16 #

    They look great! SHame about the back rise, but at least it’s easy to fix next time. :) I’ve made 10+ espressos, so I can definitely testify that they get faster!

    As for making for your team… Maybe you could group together anyone that is similar sized, and use one pattern for them.. then if there is anyone significantly bigger/smaller/taller/etc, you could do a custom pattern for them. If you use a pattern like Virginia, that’s basically what you are doing anyway, right? Using a generic size that fits most people. I think Espresso is great for anyone outside the norm – for me, I’m really short but on the cusp of plus-size, so Espresso is great for getting the right fit. I’d say stick with the pattern you know! :) Your team is lucky!

    • Kelly September 29, 2014 at 12:40 #

      Thanks Gillian! Yes, will definitely remeasure myself next time. I’m glad they get faster – I had hoped that they would. Get a little production line going!

      I think I will take your suggestion on the sizing – make a few pairs up in 3 or so ‘average’ sizes and get everyone to try them on, and make a special one if necessary.

  3. Vairë Gwîr September 25, 2014 at 09:11 #

    They look great on you! And no worries about how long it takes to sew them. I am incredibly slow (like… embarrassingly slow) but there’s no need to rush anyway! This is a hobby after all, so the more time we spend on it the better!
    I hear you on trying to balance two hobbies (plus work, plus social life, etc.), but ultimately it amounts to what you enjoy doing at any given moment. You know that I feel having a blog sometimes puts that extra pressure of having to have things to show on a regular basis (hence my strict ‘lurk and comment only’ policy), but the truth is that we all have times when we simply don’t feel like sewing (or rather we feel like doing something else), and that is absolutely fine!
    BTW, I had never heard of roller derby and it sounds great fun!

    • Kelly September 29, 2014 at 12:42 #

      Haha, yes true! But I want to spend lots of time on it and make LOTS of things :) I don’t worry too much about my blog – I post when I post – occasionally I would like to do it more often, but I don’t meet myself up about it!

      Roller derby is awesome fun, you should come and give it a go ;) or at the very least, come and watch a bout next time the team plays in Oxford :)

  4. Daniela September 25, 2014 at 22:11 #

    Beautiful leggings! And It really doesn’t matter how long it took you to make them! The result was worth all the time and fiddling it took you. You actually inspire me to make myself a pair :) as for your new hobby, I hadn’t heard of roller derby before but checked some clips on you tube. It looks like fun and I’m astonished that you learned skating so fast.

    • Kelly September 29, 2014 at 12:47 #

      Thanks Daniela! I do really like them, I just wish the fabric was better! Yes, make some, I look forward to seeing yours :) Derby is amazing fun, more than I ever imagined it would be! Ha, I am still astonished I learned skating so fast!

      You are coming to the SewBrum meet up on Saturday yes? I look forward to seeing you then :)

  5. Rehanon September 29, 2014 at 12:33 #

    I love these leggings. What a great fit! And an awesome colour too. We have roller derby in Brighton. The Brighton Rockers and they’re apparently meant to be v good. I must go catch a match. Well done you for having a go at something new :)

    • Kelly September 29, 2014 at 12:49 #

      Thanks Rehanon! I love the colour – it’s the reason I couldn’t resist buying the fabric! Yes, go along and watch a bout, it’s such a great game to watch! I haven’t done anything like it before, and I’m so glad I gave it a go!

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