This past Saturday was the start of a new chapter for our daughter in her pursuit to be a dancer. Since she was little she has always loved twirling around and dancing through the house as most young children do. Just before her 3rd birthday, we talked about enrolling her in dance classes but she became extremely anxious and scared of the thought that parents weren’t allowed to be with them while they were in class. Long story short we decided against it and instead signed her up for gymnastics class, where the waiting area was in the same room as the kids. She thrived here and did excellent and really seemed to love it. But over the past three years while continuing gymnastics she spoke often of taking ballet lessons. I entertained her desire but always said we would think and talk more about as we waited for the next school year to enroll. That desire never went away, as a matter of fact it intensified and I had my answer when we took her to go see The Nutcracker at the Clemens Center in Elmira, NY this past Christmas.
She was in wonderment as she watched the beautiful dancers float across the stage and sat amazed watching the professional dancers in lead roles jump to the ceiling. She kept saying “Momma, I want to dance so bad!” Every day after this she would put on “ballet music” (classical), put her ballet slippers on and dance away. I didn’t want to get her hopes up because I knew a lot of dance studios only take new students at the beginning of each school year but I began searching for a dance school. I knew her time in gymnastics was ending soon because it was a struggle to get her to class – often times she didn’t want to go. It’s a fine line; I didn’t want her to give up on something she had worked hard at for 3 years, but I also didn’t want to force her to go if she no longer enjoy it. After discussing it with her, laying out all the pros and cons, I left the decision up to her and she decided she was done with gymnastics.
The morning after The Nutcracker I was reading the program book over breakfast and I realized that most of the performers were members of a local ballet school. I hopped online and checked it out, and thought “boy this would be something to get her into wouldn’t it?” not really even giving it a chance. But at the bottom of the ‘about’ page was a video clip which I watched, and then sent to my Mom.
It was the owner and director of the school, Mr. Rafael Grigorian, speaking about himself, classical ballet and teaching. Everything he said really resonated with me, specifically this part: “Perhaps these kids will not become professional dancers. The world will not suffer from a shortage of good dancers, but it will suffer from a shortage of good people. That is why every time I enter this room, I realize that I deal with people; and it is important how I enter a room, and what I talk to them about. And after this, they will not only be good dancers, or good teachers… they will be better people.”
I put in a call to his school of ballet and left a message inquiring about classes for Rhilyn. A couple days later I was sitting at the computer and my phone rings. I answer and Rhilyn overhears me and comes running in. She knew instantly who it was (even though I hadn’t told her I had called) and the look on her face, gosh I wish I could have a photo of that face… just pure joy. She was jumping up and down and squealing as I’m speaking with Mr. Grigorian, setting up a time for her to come take a trial class. She could barely stand her excitement and I was so happy for her.
This past Saturday we went to her trial class at Rafael Grigorian School of Ballet in Elmira. This snap is of her after class feeling super proud and happy. She tried out in a class where the girls have already had a class under their belt but due to conflict with my work schedule we couldn’t make it to the pre-ballet class so the teacher had to decide if she could succeed in this class. Turns out she can and she is ready to head back this week! (That didn’t take much convincing).
After class we stopped at a craft store so I could pick up some yarn. she found a pretty pink yarn and asked if I could make her leg warmers. Why, yes. So that evening I sat down and made some leg warmers from scratch. They’re super fun and easy and I wanted to share the pattern with you as well! I thought it would be neat to provide a “recipe” so that you can make any size leg warmer based on some basic measurements. OR you can take and use my pattern, just know that they were made specific to my daughter’s leg measurements and may not fit your little one’s legs exactly as they do mine.
First of all, if you’d like to skip to the pattern and my specific instructions, scroll down to where it says “THE PATTERN (4-6 yrs).” To get started, we need some basic measurements so grab your tape measure and your kiddo and measure these:
A) Lower thigh circumference, just above the knee.
B) Ankle circumference.
C) Height from measure A to B.
Choose your yarn and the needles appropriate for that yarn. You can either use DPNs or a long circular needle for the magic loop method. I suggest worsted weight yarn (I used Big Twist Value) and US 7 circulars. Create a gauge swatch and measure your gauge: cast on some stitches like 20 or so and work in stockinette stitch for 20-30 rows. Measure how many stitches equal 2″ and how many rows equal 2″ and write it down. This is called your gauge and you’ll need to know this to calculate how many stitches you need to cast on. Don’t worry, it’s simple enough and I’m going to try to explain it the best I can so you can follow along.
To figure out how many stitches to cast on, all we need to do is divide our thigh measurement by the gauge measurement and multiply it by the stitches we counted. See my example below based on my numbers. My Gauge: 8.5 sts & 14 rows = 2 inches.
The pattern begins with 1 x 1 ribbing so we need to make sure our cast on number is an EVEN number, so round to the nearest even number. For me that was 44.
BEGIN LEG WARMER
Ribbing is always looser tension than stockinette, so you’ll want to use needles 2 or 3 sizes smaller than your gauge needle. I used a US4.
-Cast on your number of stitches, join in the round on DPNs or magic loop method.
-Work in 1 x 1 rib (k1, p1) for 2 – 4 “, whatever you desire for ribbing length.
-Once ribbing is done switch to your gauge needles (US7 for me) and work the first round as follows: k1, place marker, k all sts until 1 left, place marker, k last st.
-Knit 2 rounds.
We need to decrease every so often so that the leg warmer is tapered down to fit the shape of the leg. Now we will figure out how many sets of decreases down the leg you need. Have your measurements handy (measurement B and C).
So your leg warmers need to end with around 27.6 sts. Round to the nearest EVEN number (I rounded down to 26 sts). Next we have to figure out how many decreases that takes so simply subtract 26 sts from 44 sts.
So now we know how many decrease rounds there are, but how often should we do them? This is where Measurement C comes in handy.
So based on this calculation, you will need to work a decrease round (2 decreases per round) every 1.1″ in order to end at the ankle with appropriate stitches, and therefore appropriate measurement.
k1, slip marker, k2tog, k to 2 sts before marker, ssk, slip marker, k1.
This is what you will work every decrease round. So here’s the pattern:
-Work decrease round.
-Work the number of inches calculated above (1.1″)
-Repeat these two steps until the number of decrease rounds is reached (9 rounds).
You’re almost finished. All you need to do is to make the ribbed band at the ankle and voila! First leg warmer is complete. Change back to your smaller needles and work 1 x 1 rib for about 1-2″ or your desired length. Bind off loosley in pattern.
THE PATTERN – 5-6 YEARS OLD
1 ball of worsted weight acrylic yarn such as Big Twist Value
US 7 DPNs or long circular needles for magic loop (or needle that gets gauge)
US 5 DPNs or long circular needles (or two sizes smaller than gauge needle)
Scissors, tapestry needle, tape measure
8.5 sts & 14 rows = 2″ in stockinette stitch
co – cast on
sts – stitches
k – knit
p – purl
k2tog – knit two together
ssk – slip, slip, knit
Instructions – Make Two
1) With US5 (or smaller) needles, CO 44 sts and join in the round.
2) Work 1 x 1 (k1, p1) ribbing for 2-3″ or your desired length for ribbing. The ribbing is meant to sit above the knee.
3) Change to US7 (or gauge) needles and work first row as this: k1, place marker, k all sts until 1 left, place marker, k last st.
4) Knit 2 rounds.
5) Begin decreases: k1, slip marker, k2tog, k to 2 sts before marker, ssk, slip marker, k1.
6) Knit for 1.1″ (approx 7 rounds, based on your tension)
7) Repeat steps 5 & 6 nine times total.
8) Change to US 5 (or smaller) needles, and work 1 x 1 ribbing for 1-2″ or your desired length.
9) Bind off in rib pattern.
I really hope you enjoy this little pattern and have fun playing around with the math and creating your very own warmers. One thing to keep in mind is, because of gravity and also yarn stretching out over time these leg warmers will inevitably fall down off the legs especially if they’re not snug on the legs. You could try holding a strand of thin round elastic together with the yarn for the ribbing or part of it so that it helps hold the shape. Or you could choose to use a yarn with a lot of memory and stretch, something like a high twist merino wool. Just some ending thoughts. Thank you for reading!