Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Stripey Leg Warmers - Tutorial

Look at me, world!

Striped Leg Warmers
photo by Vivian Aubrey

I wear skirts year-round. I also get cold easily. I needed something special to wear with or without boots... you know, like knee socks. Hard truth, I was a wee bit burned out on knitting knee socks, as I made about four pairs in the last year. (!)

I was actually craving some cozy, cheerful leg warmers. I wasn't really up to knitting them, so I got creative. One of the things I Know To Be True, is if you aren't afraid to put scissors to knitted fabric, the world is really yours for the taking. If you're curious, I'll tell you how I made these happy leg warmers. It's really too easy.

You'll need some supplies. Here is what I used:

  1. Striped GAP sweater from Goodwill ($5)
  2. Scissors
  3. Knitting needles appropriate for your gauge. I used US size 00 (1.75 mm) 32" circular needle (or double pointed needles or 2 circulars, whatever method you like for small circumference knitting in the round)
  4. Yarn of similar thickness to sweater yarn, just under 100 yards. I used Brown Sheep Nature Spun Fingering in five colors (there were eight colors in the sweater but I compromised in the interest of sanity) bought here.
  5. Tapestry needle for weaving in ends

Step 1: Cut the sweater

cutting the sleeve
Deep breath!

After I was really, really sure this was what I wanted to do, I put the sweater on the table and took the best scissors I had to it. Luckily, this was a striped sweater so I had a cutting guide. I started at the place where the sleeve connected to the body and cut along one stripe all the way around. I did this on both sides.

Nothing bad happened.

Step 2: Pick up those live stitches

A Fine Tangle

After congratulating myself a few times I started to get the sense that the real work was still ahead of me. I picked up the knitting needle and started finding all of those live stitches along the top of the sleeve. I counted what I had (97) and found the number was almost divisible by four, so I knit two stitches together at the end to get there. (96 stitches total)

I worked a 2x2 (knit 2 stitches, purl 2 stitches) rib all the way around in a comparable striping sequence to the rest of the sleeve for about 2.5 inches. I carried the different colors up the inside except when the distance was too great (red and pink) and in those cases I cut the yarn and re-attached later.

It was messy and somewhat unpleasant, if I am being honest. The balls of yarn tangled around constantly and I enjoyed cutting the yarn when it was time. Tangles be gone!

Step 3: Finishing

knitting the cuff
Are you kidding me?

I bound off using Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off which created a perfect edge that was both stretchy and elastic. Success!

Then it hit me that I had 14 ends to weave in, on each leg. That made 28 ends in total! I tried not to ponder the ridiculousness of that many dangling threads in such a small cuff and made it through while watching Murder She Wrote streaming on Netflix and eating Trader Joe's dark chocolate bar with caramel and black sea salt.

The result:

Striped Leg Warmers
photo by Vivian Aubrey

I put them on immediately and haven't really taken them off yet. They are a nice break from my usual grey wardrobe. They are warm. They make me smile.

Step 4: Show them off

Striped Leg Warmers
photo by Vivian Aubrey

I'm pleased with the result, and they were (amazingly) completed at the right time of year. Already the transition into the drizzly dark cloudiness has hit Portland. I'm prepared. I have sunshine on my legs.

The only question left is what to do with the sweater body? 

If you made it this far, thanks for reading! Special thanks to Vivian, who knows how to turn a sludge-infected alley into a cozy secret passageway through her magical photography. She literally knelt in garbage-water to take these pictures. Love her! (She took the first picture and the last two, in case it isn't obvious)


Loca4crafts said...

You could make the body of the sweater into a purse. I know I've seen it done before.

Caitlin said...

What a great idea! I love how they turned out :)

Anonymous said...

These are awesome and totally inspiring. I can't wait to go thrift shopping! You are so clever!!
xo Moma Ewe

KERaven said...

LOVE them! I could use some stripey leg warmers too. And I can handle knitting just the cuff! Now to find my way to the thrift store....ooh, maybe ebay!

Smallest Friend said...

If the sweater is wool you could consider felting it and making a pillow.

Davitron said...

unbearably cute! I love NatureSpun Fingering OR sport. so good. Also, how cute are your shoes!

Merinoredhead said...

Yes, those GAP sweaters felt up amazingly well. Make a bag or felted house shoes. I love the leg warmers!

erin32mc said...

Those turned out really cute! And I love your shoes.

pati said...

wow! what a fabulous idea - luv, luv, luv them!

duniknits said...

you are a goddamn genius! i can't wait to try this.

pasqwal said...

So very clever - it's one thing to come up with the idea and still another to execute it. You are amazing!