Cashmere Long Johns

The sweater socks I made for DH a few weeks ago turned out so well, I’m excited to be doing another sweater craft project, that of turning a sweater into a pair of long johns!

I got the idea from Kris’ blog ‘Resweater’, which I’ve followed for years. I love seeing all the different things she makes from wool sweaters! Back in 2010 I bookmarked this post about how she made running pants out of a merino sweater. But it wasn’t until DH recently ran our snowblower for several hours despite the -2 F windchill. . .

409-1 DH running snowblower

that I decided I would make him a pair of long johns. . . out of a cashmere sweater. Why not? Cashmere sweaters are readily available at our local thrift stores and are even warmer though less bulky than wool.

I got DH to try on three different cashmere sweaters at Sal’s, but not in the usual way. No, I had him turn each sweater upside down so its hem became a waistband of sorts and then he tried to put his legs down into the sweater’s sleeves, er, the potential long johns’ legs. We thought this bright green one “fit” the best of the three.

409-2 green cashmere sweater

I immediately offered to dye it a more masculine color, but DH said he doesn’t care about the color since he and I – and now all of you, lol – are the only ones that will ever know he’s wearing long johns, let alone Bright Green ones!

I took the time to record all the sweater’s measurements. These will be helpful if I should ever want to buy a sweater to make a second pair.

409-3 diagram of sweater

Kris’ tutorial starts with making a paper pattern from an existing pair of shorts, which looks pretty simple to do, but DH doesn’t have any close-fitting shorts, so I looked around the web for other tutorials on how to a sweater to long johns. I found two that I think are especially good. Except this one is meant just for making kids’ long johns. I think it would probably work for me too, if I could find big enough sweater, but it definitely wouldn’t work for someone as tall as DH, so. . . I’m going to follow Nikol Lohr’s detailed directions at for making “Any Size Long Johns From Sweaters” instead.

Nikol also writes a blog all her own, The Thrifty Knitter. Sounds like my kind of place – I’ll have to check it out later!

Hey, I just realized that having all the measurements of the finished long johns could come in handy too! I’ll take notes as I go along.

O.K. – let’s see if I can do this without accidentally trimming any of the fringe on our dining room rug. lol. The first cut goes from armpit to armpit.

409-4 cut #1 - pit to pit

Then I cut from the side of the neck down to the center of the chest, on both sides.

409-6 cut #2

Those two pieces are going to become the long johns’ legs. First I experimented sewing with a medium width and length zig-zag stitch on the sweater’s neck scrap

409-7 zig-zag testthen I turned the sleeves inside out and extended the sleeves’ seams down to what had been the center of the sweater’s chest. The seam will now goes down the outside of the long johns’ legs.

409-8 sleeve/legs

DH tried the legs on inside out. They fit him surprisingly well!

409-9 trying on the legs

The tutorial uses a sweater’s ribbing for the long johns’ waistband. Since my sweater has a plain hem, I had to make a few things up on my own. I cut 3 1/2″ off the bottom of the sweater. That piece will eventually become the waistband.

409-10 cut off hem

My sweater was quite a bit bigger around than DH so next I measured around his hips and then trimmed and sewed the body of the sweater to fit snuggly.

409-12 trim body to hip measurement

This next step wasn’t very clear to me when I read it in the tutorial, but made sense once I’d actually made the cuts. I laid the long john legs on top of the body piece so the top of their inseams touch each other at the center bottom of the body. We’re about to turn the body’s “tube” into a panty-shape.

409-13 align body and legs

Then I cut off the bottom of body right at the top edge of the legs. See what I mean? Now it makes perfect sense, doesn’t it.

409-14 trim bottom of body

I just reread the tutorial. I think I may have missed the direction to “Trim the front side angles only so they’re about an inch shorter than the back angles.” Oh, well.

I definitely turned the body piece inside out and upside down, pinned it to the tops of the legs, which I had turned inside right, and then sewed them altogether. Hey, hey! This looks like a real pair of pants!

409-15 body sewn to legs

There’s going to be a dart that runs down the center front of the body so it tapers in as it goes up to DH’s waist. This dart’s going to measure 2″ on the fold at the top of the body and decrease down to nothing at the bottom. The numbered edge of the yardstick represents my sewing line.

409-16 pln for front dart

I sewed and then trimmed leaving a 1/2″ seam allowance.

409-17 trimmed dart seam

Hoping that I hadn’t just made a mistake by trimming away that dart fabric, I had DH do another try on. We thought the front dart was just right. . .

409-18 trying on inside-out

but wanted to add a little center back dart. That’s not in the tutorial, but it will help the fit, so why not? Sorry to confuse you, but this time my sewing line runs along the plain side of the yardstick.

409-19 back dart

I trimmed away this miniscule amount, again leaving a 1/2″ seam allowance.

409-20 trim back dart

Just the waistband left to do! I wrapped the 3 1/2″ wide strip around DH’s waist and pulled it quite tight, then marked how much I could cut away. Sewed the new side seam.

409-21 trim waistband

Put the upside-down and inside-out waist band right-sides together with the top edge of the pants. Matched and pinned the side seams. Then matched and pinned the center front and center back. Stretching the waistband slightly as I went, I sewed all the way around.

Ta-dah!! DH’s new cashmere long johns!! I love how the lines of the sweater’s faint vertical lines now go this way and that, such fashionable styling. lol.

409-22 cashmere long johns

These fit DH closely enough that I didn’t put any elastic or a drawstring in the waist, but if they should stretch out over time I can always add one or the other.

Please Note: Nikol’s long johns do not require felting the sweater before cutting and sewing it. To keep the cut edges of the sweater from unraveling I used a medium zig-zag stitch for all the seams and then once the long johns were finished I pushed the seam allowances to one side as I top-stitched every seam for extra strength.

I thought it would be fun to compare the cost of ‘real’ cashmere long johns to the cost of DH’s.

409-24 price tag - $3.99

The closest I found were these merino wool ones for about $50.00 with a discount. Pish! And they’re not even available in Green, only boring black and denim blue. lol.

My completed diagrams are ready for cashmere sweater shopping, slashing and sewing!

409-23 diagrams

I need to start looking for another sweater immediately because DH has already asked if it’s o.k. if he sleeps in these. I wonder what color his next pair will be!!

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4 Responses to Cashmere Long Johns

  1. wow, such incredible reconstruction! I’m deeply impressed – it looks like a lot of work. (Thinking about DH trying the jerseys on in the shop had me falling off my chair!)

    • Since this was the first time I followed the tutorial it did take some time, most of the afternoon, but it wasn’t difficult and I know the next pair will go much faster!. . . Of course, taking all those pictures took up alot of the time.

      The sweater/jumper try-ons were quite funny – the bright red one with tight cuffs that were difficult to get on/off over his Big feet was especially good. At least the dressing room, although small, was big enough for me to be in there with him so he didn’t have to come out for me to see how they each fit. ROFL at the thought. There is No Way he would have done that!! – not even for cashmere long johns.

  2. Anastacia says:

    This is wonderful, Linda! Of course I did get to see these in person but all the great photos will be helpful if I ever manage to find a cashmere or alpaca sweater that’ll fit us. I’m always cold, so I’m dying for a pair or three of these

    • You’re about the same size as me, so I bet you’ll easily find one. As for your hubby, I don’t know his height or girth, but considering DH’s height and the amount we cut off the side of the ‘body’ piece for his, I’m sure you can find one that will him too – as long as he’s willing to wear Granny Smith green or the like. lol.

      For myself, I’m wondering if I could tolerate a less luxurious fiber, not for long johns to go under pants, but for leggings.
      Wouldn’t fair isle leggings be great fun?!?

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