How to Knit Leg Warmers for Ballet Dancers - Free Pattern
Why Knit Your Own Legwarmers?
If you are a dancer or have a child who dances, you know a lot about leg warmers. In dance, they are used for warm-up exercises. They help to keep the muscles warm before any serious exercise begins.
My daughter was a serious ballet dancer, and she's gone through a lot of leg warmers over the years. I made some, I bought some, and they all worked, but some of them became her favorites and were used more than others.
My favorite place to buy them was Discount Dance Supply, always a good buy for a reasonable price. Sometimes it was even cheaper than the yarn I would use to make them. Of course, I did buy a few over time.
However, her favorite pair was one that I hand knit for her. Not because I'm her mother, but we "designed" it together, to make sure that they didn't slip on her tights during warm-up exercises. Most leg warmers would slip down on tights. Since in ballet she always had to wear tights, this was a challenge that I decided to help her with.
There is something special about hand knit legwarmers, even if you make it for others, not your own daughter. I had made some for dance friends and was paid $40 for a pair. They just look better, feel better, and you are able to customize them. Also, they are very easy and relatively quick to make. So if you knit at all, even as a beginner, it is a great project.
You can knit them short or you can knot them long, whatever your dancer prefers. You can knit them in the round, or you can knit them flat and sew them together, whatever is more comfortable for you. I prefer knitting them in the round, because I just dislike sewing pieces together. But if you are not comfortable with knitting in the round, it is very easy to just knit a flat piece and sew it together.
My Pattern for Pointe Work Legwarmers in Blue
Instructions for Pointe Work Legwarmers
I named these "pointe work legwarmers" because they are designed to fit over pointe shoes and stay up during pointe work exercises.
I used cotton yarn, since I noticed that over time acrylics or any wool blend tends to slip over tights. Because these leg warmers are cotton, and knitted very tight, making them is a bit difficult on your fingers. However, but for serious ballet dancers they are worth it, since they stay up even during exercises. This pair had been Leanne's favorite until she grew out of them and lost them.
However, the pattern itself is very easy, and you can use your favorite yarn to make them. Sock yarn works great as well.
Skill level: Beginner
Knitted in the round.
Needle: US #3 set of double pointed or two circular
Yarn: Peaches and Creme 100% cotton, 2 skeins.
Alternately, you can use any sports weight yarn you like.
Child size Medium.
Rib stitch: 6 sts/6 rows = 1"x1" .
- CO 36 sts, equally divided to 3 needles; 12 on each. (or divide into two same size circular needles). PM and join to knit in the round, careful not to twist.
- Round 1-23: rib stitch: [k1,p1]
- Round 24: BO 16 sts, then [k1,p1] to end
- Round 25: CO 20 sts, [k1,p1] to end
- Rounds 26-41: [k1,p1] to end
- Switch to stockinette stitch: knit each stitch.
- Continue until legwarmer measures 21".
- Switch back to rib stitch [k1,p1]
- Knit in rib st [k1,p1] for the last 20 rounds.
- BO in rib stitch.
Legwarmers Knit Flat
If you are not comfortable knitting in the round, or just simply prefer not to, here is a pair of similar legwarmers knit flat and sewn together in the end.
For the following pair of leg warmers I used a wool-acrylic blend of yarn, and size 4 needles. The flap on the bottom was knit separately, too, and added in the end. I also shaped the legwarmers below the knee and again, at the top, for thighs. A pattern is running down on the outside of each legwarmer.
Basically, after casting on the right amount of stitches, instead of joining and knitting in the round, you turn and knit the wrong side of the legwarmers, too. Start with rib stitch, then change to stockinette stitch and add a pattern if desired.
It is helpful to increase about 2-4 stitches around calf length, depending on the type of yarn used, and if the legwarmers are made for young children or teens/adults. Only increase 2 stsitches in one row, and if more are needed, increase again two rows later.
Another place where increases are helpful is at the thighs if the legwarmers are very long. Again, increase 2 sts in a row, then repeat in the next right side row.
When almost reached the desired length, switch to rib st again, and BO in rib to keep the legwarmers from falling.
When done, just sew them together.