Green Stockings Craft & Design

November 21, 2010

The Easiest Knitted Legwarmers Knitting Pattern In Plain English

Filed under: Crafting — GreenStockings Craft & Creative Events @ 8:55 PM

This is the first pattern we’re recommending for the Knit-it-Before-Christmas workshop. It involves 4 skills: long tail cast on, knitting, purling, and casting off. If you want to get fancy about it, you can flare the bottoms of the legwarmers using the “make one” increase, and add a draw string around the top using an i-cord.

Materials required: 640 yards of medium weight (#4) yarn (use this if you’ve knit before!). 1 #10/6mm circular needle, 16″/40cm long.

OR 320 yards of chunky or bulky (#5) yarn (use this if you’ve never knitted before!). 1 #9/5.5mm circular needle, 16″/40cm long.

Recommended inexpensive and widely available (in Montreal, the land of no Michael’s) yarn choices:
For medium weight yarns: 4 balls Bernat Satin. You can choose the same colour, or two different colours (you’ll need two balls of each colour). Two different coloured yarns held together and knitted at the same time, give a tweedy kind of look. Make sure that you like the way they look together.
For chunky yarns: 3 balls Bernat Softee Chunky.
ANY MEDIUM WEIGHT, OR CHUNKY WEIGHT YARN WILL WORK. If you have the opportunity to support a local yarn shop, please go talk to these amazingly friendly and helpful people and give them your money and not to Zellers or Walmart – they need it a lot more. They will help you find the right yarn for you!

Make sure that no matter which yarn you choose, the balls all come from the same dye lot. This will ensure that your whole project is EXACTLY the same colour.

*A note about tension/gauge: Because this is a beginning project, we chose one that will not be too affected by gauge. Every individual knitter is going to knit slightly differently, and that will affect that the end result size of the project. The approximate gauge we’re going for is for an inch of the unstretched knitted section to be about 3.5 stitches across.

*A note about video tutorials: There are hundreds (thousands?) of knitting video tutorials on the internet. I’ve chosen as wide a variety as I can, though most of the video-makers linked here have videos explaining each of the techniques used. If you find that the video that I’ve chosen doesn’t explain things in a way you understand, I highly encourage you to look up the technique on youtube and see if different explanations help you to better understand.


Directions are for a women’s medium/large. Instructions for other sizes will follow at the end of the pattern.

If you are using two strands of medium weight yarn held together, follow all instructions with two pieces of yarn. If you are using all the same colour, you can unwind the yarn from both the outside and the inside of the same ball of yarn. If you are using two different colours held together, you will need to pull one strand from each ball. Be careful that with each stitch you are knitting into both loops of yarn, and that you are using both strands to form each stitch. A common mistake is to accidentally knit into only one of the strands, and then into the other strand, making an extra stitch where there shouldn’t be one.

Cast on 42 stitches using the long tail method. Don’t pull the stitches too tight, so that we make a stretchy top that will easily open up to fit around your calf.

Because we are working with a circular needle, we can join up the beginning and the end of this first row of stitches to make what will become a tube. Spread out the stitches evenly around the needle, straighten them all out so that the line of stitches isn’t twisted. When you stretch out the needle, all of the stitches should be flat and you should be able to see the cast on edge at the bottom of the work already.

To join the end of the row of stitches to the beginning, hold your needles so that the end that is attached to the ball of yarn is in your right hand, and the very first stitch that you made is in your left hand. Knit into the very first stitch you made with the right hand needle (and remember to knit with the yarn that’s attached to the ball of yarn, not with the end left over from casting on!!). You’ve now made the beginnings of your cylinder!

Knit that very first stitch, and the next one. Purl the third and fourth stitches. Knit the next three stitches. These seven stitches are the basis of your pattern. Repeat this pattern until you get back to the beginning.

After you’ve gone all the way around your legwarmer for the first time, you will have six sections of five knitted stitches, separated by two purl stitches each time. This is called 5×2 rib. For knitting keeners, in a knitting pattern this would look like this: K2, P2, K3.

And that’s it! You now know how to knit a legwarmer! Sure, we’re going to get into some more details, but you can basically take that and run with it!

Repeat the five knitted, two purled pattern until you have knitted 54 times around (yes, this can be a pain in the arse to count). If you are making straight down legwarmers, knit another 54 times around, and bind off your stitches.

If you are making flared legwarmers, on your next row (after #54), you’re going to add three more stitches to your tube. In the middle of the first, third, and fifth section of knitted stitches, you’re going to increase the number of stitches by one, using the what is called the make one increase. When you come to the end of this round, you will have three sections of knitted stitches with five stitches in them, and three sections with six stitches in them.

Without increasing any more, knit 17 more times around.

In round #73, you’re going to do the same make one increase in the middle of the remaining three sections that have just five stitches. By the end of this time around, all of your sections of knitted stitches should have six stitches in them.

Without increasing any more, knit 17 more times around.

In row #90, we’re going to add three more stitches to the first, third, and fifth sections, just like we did in the middle of the legwarmer. Now three sections will have seven stitches, and three sections will have six.

Without increasing any more, knit 17 more times around.

Your whole legwarmer should be 108 rounds long. It’s time to bind off. You will work your way all the way around the bottom of your leg warmer until all of the stitches are cast off. Now it’s time to put the finish on your legwarmer.

You will need to weave in the ends at the top and bottom of your leg warmer.

If you ever run into the situation where you’ve come to the end of the ball of yarn and need to join a new one in, the simplest method is by knitting in. You can also just stop knitting with one piece of yarn, and start knitting with the next, and leave the ends long and weave them into the fabric of your knitting as in the tutorial above.

Depending on the size of your thigh, the legwarmer may be snug enough on its own. If it’s a little on the loose side, you can make a knitted drawstring called an i-cord. You will need an 3-stitch i-cord about 18″ long to make a nice bow. You can knit an i-cord on a circular needle, too!

About 1 1/2″ from the top of the legwarmer, work your way around, threading the i-cord through the gaps in the stitching. Your work shouldn’t be so tight that you can’t wiggle the i-cord through. It will probably be easier to pull the cord through the purl sections than the knit sections.

Congratulations! You’ve made a legwarmer!

For a size small/medium: Cast on 36 stitches. In your first round, knit the first two, purl the third and fourth, and then knit the fifth and sixth. You will have six sections of 4 knitted stitches separated by 2 purl stitches. Increase for a flared leg exactly the same way, but ignore the number of stitches I’ve told you you will have in each section – you will have one fewer in all cases.

For a size x-large: Cast on 48 stitches. In your first round, knit the first two stitches, purl the third and fourth, and then knit four more. You will have six sections of 6 knitted stitches separated by 2 purl stitches. Increase for a flared leg exactly the same way, but ignore the number of stitches I’ve told you you will have in each section – you will have one more in all cases.

Happy Knitting!



  1. I can’t wait to try this! I’ve been looking for a legwarmer pattern that I can use magic loop. I want to make it for my 5 year old daughter. It looks like your cast ons are multiples of 6. Could I go down to 24? It looks like if I cast on 30, I’d do: K2,P2,P1. Would it work to go down to 24? I’m not sure what my pattern would be then! I’m not sure how big a cast on of 30 would be!

    Thank you for the walk-through. It looks fantastic!

    Comment by Mrs Ickes — January 4, 2011 @ 12:31 PM

    • Hi Mrs. Ickes! I think you could definitely go down to 24 stitches. The 42 stitch cast on is based on 6 groups of 7 stitches, but to go smaller I would make the pattern *K2, P2, K2* (which will give you 4 groups of 6 stitches).

      If you wanted to do it with a single strand of yarn in that small a size, I would use a bulky yarn, and go down to a 4.5mm or 5mm needle.

      For a child, I would make a straight down (not flared) legwarmer – their legs aren’t really long enough for the shape to be worth it. I would measure it against the child’s leg after about 35 rounds, and see how much more length you need.

      I’d love to see how yours turn out!!

      Katharine of GreenStockings

      Comment by greenstockings — January 6, 2011 @ 12:21 PM

  2. One more question 🙂
    Does I need to do it double stranded or will single stranded work as well? Do I need to make any adjustments?


    Comment by Mrs Ickes — January 4, 2011 @ 1:17 PM

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