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How to Knit Leg Warmers for Ballet Dancers - Free Pattern

Updated on October 27, 2017
Emese Fromm profile image

When she's not traveling, reading or writing, Emese knits and designs knitwear. Some of her designs have appeared in Knitcircus Magazine.

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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

Leanne's Legwarmers. Knit in the round.
Leanne's Legwarmers. Knit in the round. | Source

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.

Instructions

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.

Gauge:

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.

Pointe Work Legwarmers
Pointe Work Legwarmers | Source

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.

Legwarmers knit flat
Legwarmers knit flat | Source

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    • Emese Fromm profile image
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      EmeseRéka 4 months ago from The Desert

      Hi, Eva,

      For either one of these leg warmers, two skeins of yarn should be enough for any size.

    • profile image

      Eva 4 months ago

      HOW MUCH YARN DO YOU NEED TO USE TO START THIS PROJECT?

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      Jan Finke 10 months ago

      I am poor at math. Do you have a pattern for sm, med, lg?

      Thank you

    • Emese Fromm profile image
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      EmeseRéka 18 months ago from The Desert

      Hi Terri, I just answered above, let me know if it helped. You start out the round by binding off 16 stitches, then keep knitting till you get to the point where you started BO, keep going by casting on another 20, using one of the above-mentioned methods, then after the 20sts, keep knitting for the rest of the round. Hopefully you figured it out. Let me know if you have other questions. Thank you for trying out the pattern.

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      Terri 18 months ago

      Hey, thanks for the pattern. I am having trouble with the co 20 stitches for row 25. Any advice?

    • Emese Fromm profile image
      Author

      EmeseRéka 18 months ago from The Desert

      Hi, Terri,

      Thank you for trying out the pattern.

      I found this video that shows you the method I used: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LFRNiNoyxQ .

      There are a few different ways to do it though. If you crochet, you can just make a chain of 20 sts, and knit into those, if it is easier for you.

      Hope this helps.

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      Terri 18 months ago

      I am a fairly new knitter and would like to make these for my granddaughter. I was doing fine until row 25. I am lost. Which needle am I doing the co 20 stitches? Thank you for the pattern and your time.

    • Emese Fromm profile image
      Author

      EmeseRéka 23 months ago from The Desert

      Hi, Nasa,

      Thank you for commenting; sorry it took me so long to reply; I didn't see this comment earlier. I think you might have figured it out though by now; you would need to cast on probably between 70-80 stitches, depending on your yarn; you might need to do some math or even better, try it on as you go; the length is much easier to adjust, just keep knitting until you reach your desired length. Hope this helped.

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      Nasa 24 months ago

      Hi Emese, I am not sure if you are checking the old posts. But I just came across your pattern and am so excited. I have had a trouble finding the leg warmers that are long enough and warm. I am a beginner knitter, and just wanted to see if you had any advice for converting these for women size (I am 5'6 and 135 lb), so I was hoping to make them about 30 inches long. thanks in advance, Nasa

    • Emese Fromm profile image
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      EmeseRéka 2 years ago from The Desert

      @kschimmel: Thank you so much! I appreciate you sharing it.

    • kschimmel profile image

      Kimberly Schimmel 2 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      These are wonderful! I appreciate that they go over the foot with the opening at the heel. These would also work well for wearing with boots in the winter. I will definitely share!

    • Emese Fromm profile image
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      EmeseRéka 2 years ago from The Desert

      Thank you! :) You really are a great supporter and a real friend! Is there a place to nominate you for best supporter of newbies? I am planning on participating in your writing challenge, by the way. It inspired me. I won't have time today (sick kids and dr's appointments), but hopefully everyone will be back to school tomorrow and I'll have time for it.

      As always, thank you for your support!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Obviously this isn't something I'm going to do, but I still wanted to give you some support, so a job well done!