Boxy Pleat & Leggings Chic

SusanK 0369 Red Velvet Muse

SusanK is our Red Velvet Muse today, be sure to check out her post on for all the usual Muses specs!  Susan has been working hard on the Red Velvet Collection behind the scenes as Cake’s editor.  She challenged me at many stages of the development process, turns around edits quickly and I really enjoyed the work we did together.

One of Susan’s first challenges to me was over the “boxy” pleat.  Pleats have the reputation of adding extra visual weight, but in the case of the Red Velvet Dress I wanted to create a smooth, sleek design feature.  And it is!  You can see above that the pleat lies flat and smooth, and the folding creates a really cool effect on Susan’s ombre stripe jersey.  (Looks like the striped dress on the pattern envelope, it’s built into the pattern!)  See more about Susan and the pleat in her writeup Nobel Pleat Prize.

Leggings Chic

5555 Front pdf

click for instant download from Etsy

The last clothing I bought retail (as far as I can recall) was a pair of black rayon leggings from Target a couple of years ago.  I remember thinking I was holding more than $6 worth of fabric in my hands, which was the purchase price.   I thought of the person who stitched them and wondered how much of that $6 went towards their wages.  I don’t guess it was much, and I remember thinking I *should* make things like that myself because they’re so simple.

click to zoom, see more!

click to zoom, see more!

Years later, I finally got around to it.  The Espressos were born a few weeks ago while I was fiddling with the Red Velvet Dress pleat and getting nowhere.  I needed a palate cleanser, and my legs were cold.  I googled leggings drafting for ease guidance and found this excellent tutorial on Etsy.  My first pair of self-drafted leggings were made from this tutorial.

Then I realized I could plot the measurements and tweak the process to create a template as a shortcut for those seeking a simpler path to great fitting leggings.   In testing, we refined some details but magically Espresso seemed to work on everyone I sent them to!

It’s very important to take good measurements for the Espresso Leggings, so I put together a measuring visual reference for you. Today I uploaded a mini visual reference about tagging, too. (more nitty-gritty fabric and technique posts from next week!)  I like the tagging, it helps me put my leggings on the right way, and it’s pretty cute.  The Espressos are quick to sew, even the first time when you make the template.  They’re extraordinarily comfortable because they’re made for your own shape (no sizes)!

I’m really proud of the Espresso Leggings Template and I look forward to seeing your makes in the Espresso Flickr Sewcial Group.  Like a shot of espresso with a slice of cake, the Espresso Leggings a great companion to all Cake Patterns– not only the Red Velvet Collection.  Espressos in a printed jersey send a jolt of energy through your wardrobe, livening up plain dresses and skirts.

Sewing leggings I know will fit is so addictive, now every jersey I see with a hint of spandex in it is a potential pair of leggings!

Trendy, crazily printed leggings can retail for $80 (Black Milk is a thing here, have you heard of them?) and are often produced under questionable ethical circumstances.

I say we take back fast fashion, sewists, and make our OWN custom-crazy legs because we can. 

Take That, Fast Fashion Espresso Leggings

Hear that, Fast Fashion?  We can sew.  We can do whatever we want.  And it’s fun.

click for instant download from Etsy

click for instant download from Etsy

Some of the links in the Red Velvet Collection instructions are not yet live, I just wanted to say that they’re going live over the next week!  It’s all in the schedule… As soon as I post new content on sewingcake, I tweet and link on Cake’s Facebook page, too.

Red Velvet Collection

Thank you so much for your support of the Red Velvet Collection, 51% of sales in the past 48 hours have been for the full collection of patterns!  I wasn’t expecting that, but I’m terribly pleased you like the little dress-universe we made for you!


  1. Hey Steph, Love your pink and chocolate striped leggings. Actually on my computer screen it reminds me of a Cherry Ripe bar. I also like your beach leggings and recognise the fabric and from which store that the fabric was bought.
    I know you workout, but your beach abs have REALLY developed very quickly. All of the contestants in the INBA bodybuilding competition this weekend at Chandler, would be green with envy and probably insist that you be tested for steroids!!!!! Nice photos.

    • They do! I love the way they look as part of a regular outfit, too… The vertical stripes are really fun.. :) The blue and green fabric had little sparkles all over it that fell off rather quickly, I wasn’t exactly heartbroken. :)

      HAhahaha! :) That’s all Stephen’s work..

  2. I love those leggings! The ‘stained glass’ ones have an undescribable degree of fabulosity!

  3. I’m loving those cobalt blue velvet leggings. That first photo could be the book cover for a modern take on Alice in Wonderland.

    • Oooh, I think so too. Neat! That one was unplanned, I had to climb in a window to get in the house when we were locked out one day… The velvet is really delicious to wear, too, more than I expected.. :)

  4. So, this may be a strange question, but when you have custom-fit leggings, do they stay in place better throughout the day? If so I’m sold. I love how warm tights/leggings are under skirts in the winter. But by around midday it seems like the crotch seam is somewhere around mid-thigh, I start to hobble around a bit until I can hike them up . . . pretty funny actually. It never occurred to me to custom-fit something so stretchy and “simple”, have you noticed any other benefits to your self-made pairs?

    • Yes, they absolutely do. I mean, if you have a front rise of like 4″, then they’d probably go fugitive during the day… The thing I’m liking about my Espressos is that I put them on and forget they’re there. It’s excellent, that’s what good fit does. No riding, no sinking, no cutting, no muffin tops (because the waistband is cut to fit snugly and not tightly, and you control the waistband length… It’s very nice.

  5. What a hoot you two had on the beach! Love the leggings photos :D. I’m so looking forward to making them for myself. Good quality ones are really hard to find here, especially in the bigger sizes.

    • We did! Stephen built it all, it was super fun even if leggings arent really beachwear. That said, there were several runners who went past while we were there, all clad in leggings…?

      I think that leggings in good fabric with a decent fit are pretty hard to source anywhere… One of those weird things!

  6. Hi Steph, I don’t recall a time that I’ve ever had leggings that fit. And now, thanks to you, I already have two pair!! I’ve been wearing them to death. Time to make another pair. :)

    • I am so thrilled! Are they more bootcut yoga pants like the first ones, or did you also try it as regular leggings? I’m so thrilled for you, it’s exciting to find good fit!

      • Hi Steph, I made them similar to the first pair: it was the same fabric, just in black, so I figured I would just refine the fit, e.g. scoop out more of the front curve and make the back rise longer. Magical how easy it was! I also got to use the coverhem function on my serger to attach the elastic and to hem the pants. No one can tell these are homemade! :) Oh, I posted a picture to the flickr group so you can see.

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