When she's not traveling, reading or writing, Emese knits and designs knitwear. Some of her designs have appeared in Knitcircus Magazine.
Why Knit Your Own Leg Warmers?
You know a lot about leg warmers if you are a dancer or have a child who dances. 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, which was 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.
My Daughter's Favorite Leg Warmers Were the Ones I Hand-Knit
However, her favorite pair was one that I hand-knit for her. Not because I'm her mother, but because 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 leg warmers, even if you make them for others, not your own daughter. I had made some for dance friends and was paid $40 for a pair. They just look and feel better, and you can 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.
A Versatile Pattern
You can knit them short or knot them long, whatever your dancer prefers. You can knit them in the round, or knit them flat and sew them together, whatever is more comfortable for you. I prefer knitting them in the round because I dislike sewing pieces together. But if you are not comfortable knitting in the round, it is very easy just to knit a flat piece and sew it together.
Instructions for Pointe Work Leg Warmers
I named these "pointe work leg warmers" 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 blends tend to slip over tights. Because these leg warmers are cotton and knitted very tight, making them is a bit difficult on your fingers. However, 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.
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
- Method: Knitted in the round
- Size: Child size Medium
- 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.
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 leg warmer measures 21".
- Switch back to rib stitch [k1,p1]
- Knit in rib st [k1,p1] for the last 20 rounds.
- BO in rib stitch.
Alternate Method: Leg Warmers Knit Flat
If you are not comfortable knitting in the round, or you just simply prefer not to, here is a pair of similar leg warmers knit flat and sewn together in the end. The flap on the bottom was knit separately, too, and added in the end. I also shaped the leg warmers below the knee and again at the top for the thighs. A pattern runs down on the outside of each leg warmer.
For the pair of leg warmers shown in the photo below, I used the following:
- Wool-acrylic blend of yarn
- Size 4 needles
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 leg warmers, 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 leg warmers are made for young children or teens/adults. Only increase 2 stitches 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 leg warmers 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 leg warmers from falling.
When done, just sew them together.
Questions & Answers
Question: Will this knit leg warmer pattern fit my 13-year-old granddaughter?
Answer: Yes, they should
Question: You also mention 2 skeins of yarn. Is it the 4 oz size?
Answer: Yes, it is the 4 oz size.
Michelle on January 03, 2019:
My daughter and I love your pointe work legwarmers, so I'm trying my hand at making a pair. They worked great and fit well through the rib stitch on the foot and ankle and the initial few rows of the stockinette stitch, but after about 3 inches of stockinette, we can no longer get them over her heel to pull them up. They don't seem to stretch enough in the leg part to accommodate having to pull past the heel. Is there a trick to pulling them on? I'm afraid if I pull all of the rows out and redo them, adding more stitches to accommodate pulling past the heel, it will then be too big on her legs. Any suggestions?
Emese Fromm (author) from The Desert on July 12, 2017:
For either one of these leg warmers, two skeins of yarn should be enough for any size.
Eva on July 11, 2017:
HOW MUCH YARN DO YOU NEED TO USE TO START THIS PROJECT?
Jan Finke on January 22, 2017:
I am poor at math. Do you have a pattern for sm, med, lg?
Emese Fromm (author) from The Desert on May 24, 2016:
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.
Terri on May 20, 2016:
Hey, thanks for the pattern. I am having trouble with the co 20 stitches for row 25. Any advice?
Emese Fromm (author) from The Desert on May 20, 2016:
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.
Terri on May 20, 2016:
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 (author) from The Desert on December 29, 2015:
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.
Nasa on November 27, 2015:
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 (author) from The Desert on January 29, 2015:
@kschimmel: Thank you so much! I appreciate you sharing it.
Kimberly Schimmel from North Carolina, USA on January 29, 2015:
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 (author) from The Desert on January 28, 2015:
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!
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 28, 2015:
Obviously this isn't something I'm going to do, but I still wanted to give you some support, so a job well done!