Swants Tutorial

by stephen on November 4, 2013

The time has come for Swants aka Sweater Pants! Your booty deserves to be just as warm as your torso so here is a step by step tutorial to transform woolly sweaters into sassy pants.

Selecting a Sweater
Don’t spend too much money on your first couple pairs of swants. You will be cutting and seaming them and it will probably take a few tries before you master the art of Swantsing. Pick a sweater you are not emotionally attached to for your first pair.

I prefer Sweater fabrics that contains natural fibers like wool or alpaca (super warm btw!) and a stitch gauge that’s easy and quick to sew by hand (fingering to worsted weight). A lot of machine knit and fine gauge acrylic sweaters can be trickier to sew by hand because the stitches may unravel as you cut and work with the fabric. Try different kinds of sweaters to learn which styles and materials feel best for you.

Drop shoulder sweaters are excellent Swants candidates because they have a less fitted and more boxy shape. Your legs go through the armholes so the waist is worn upside down on your torso. Set in sleeves and fitted armholes may be too tight for your thighs depending on your size and shape. The waist is often too wide to achieve a close fit. Sometimes I overlap the waist, wear a belt, and fold the excess fabric over the belt to keep my swants up. This method results in a bulkier waist line, but I’ll share other fitting and seaming ideas at the end of the tutorial.

1 sexy sweater
1 tapestry needle
~10 split ring markers or safety pins
Waste yarn for seaming
If you want to get super professional, you can use a serger or sewing machine to reinforce the seams.

Okay, let’s start Swantsing!

Step 1
Take off your pants.

Step 2
Put the sweater sleeves on your legs. If you fit into it, you can work with it.

Step 3
Cut the neck out.

Start cutting at the shoulder seam, next to the edge of the collar.

Cut the front of the sweater shorter than the back. This will give you more fabric in the back (booty room!). Cut approximately 8″ / 20cm straight down the front and 6″ / 15cm down the back on both sides of the neck edge. Then cut horizontally across to completely cut out the neck piece. You’re basically cutting out a dickey which you can totally use later for a matching Swants and dickey ensemble.

Step 4
Seam the crotch.

Join the 2 shoulder seams and pin them together. This will be the center of the crotch. Seam approximately 4″ / 10cm using mattress stitch (2″ / 5cm on either side of where the shoulder seams meet). I like to leave about 1″ / 2.5cm of seam allowance. I usually work one mattress stitch approximately every half centimeter or so.

Step 5
Seam the front.

Try on the sweater and make sure you have it on the right way, where the back doesn’t have as much fabric cut out from Step 3.

Yellow Line = Front flap fold
Blue Line = Existing armhole seam from the drop shoulder sweater
Pink Arrows = Direction to coax the thigh fabric to meet the front flap at an approximate 90 degreesISH angle.

There is extra fabric so you need to pleat and fold the excess fabric origami style to get a fitted effect. Start by folding the front flap until it’s at the height you want. I like to hike up my Swants so that the crotch isn’t too baggy. Then I can do my splits and high kicks without bursting the Swants seams.

Pin the folded front flap to the crotch seam and coax the fabric on the thigh in the direction of the pink arrows. The direction of front flap stitches and thigh hugging stitches will meet at an approximate right angle (90 degrees).

Pin the folded front flap to the thigh hugging fabric and seam them together using mattress stitch.

Step 6
Seam the back.

Fold and seam the back in the same way as the front. Again, you want to pull the leg fabric in the direction of the arrows for a nice fitted shape. You can get creative with how you fold the front and back flaps. You can fold them so you get more of a straight across line or fold the flap at a downward angle (as pictured above). How you fold the fabric can result in seams that give the illusion of shorts or a skirt.

Step 7
Weave in all your ends and cut out any excess fabric from the insides.

I don’t reinforce most of my Swants seams with a machine and they’ve been fine as I strut and dance around town. If you have a sewing machine or serger handy, you can reinforce your seams for a sturdy Swant that will last forever and ever or you can substitute machine sewing throughout the whole process once you’re comfortable with the construction.

Step 8
Strike a Pose.

This colorful Swant is worn with a wide belt to keep them up and the waist is folded over.

A pair of swants a day keeps the chilly chills away.
Your bum will thank you and friends may spank you.
Envelop your thighs with cozy knit stitches.
You’ll be the envy of all in your stylish new britches.

Swants require courage, attitude, and spunk.
Every pair you wear is a bingo, yahtzee, slam dunk!
Strangers may sneer, but have no fear
Because you are a pioneer discovering a new frontier.

Swants Modifications
The above Swants tutorial is your basic quick and simple sweater to pants transformation, but there are many other things you can do to customize your Swants. Here are a few ideas…

For a more fitted waist, take in the sweater’s existing side seams so you don’t have to wear a belt to keep them up.

Use cords or string for a drawstring waist.

If the waist is too long, cut it shorter and hem the top.

Insert an elastic waistband for a comfy stretchy sure-to-stay-put Swant.

Select an extra long sweater and attach shoulder straps for high waisted overall swants.

Find two indentical sweaters and seam the sweater together with the Swant for a Swonesie (Sweater Onesie).

If the cuffs are too tight, cut the outside cuff seam so it easily fits over your ankle or calf. Finish the cut edge with some embroidery and/or colorful crochet details.

Pose and dance out and about with your friends.

Use #swants for posts on twitter and instagram

More fancy swantsy photos and videos coming soon!

Swants Tutorial Model: Steve May
Swants Tutorial Photographer: Kyli Kleven
Swants Tutorial: Stephen West

The Sweaters in these images are from Sputnik in Reykjavik. The photos were also taken in Reykjavik.

Hungry for more Swants options? Here are some Swants photographed in Amsterdam earlier this year. The crazy colorful patchwork sweater was a Christmas gift from my mom several years ago. The color blocked intarsia sweater and white cabled sweater were 5 euro acquisitions from my favorite market in Amsterdam, the Noordermarkt.

Photography: Jarrod Duncan
Models: Jessica Jeanne, Stephen West

And finally, a Swants Dance brought to you by the Westknits Fun Squad!

Please send photos of your Swants creations to westknits@gmail.com or post them in the Westknits Facebook group.
Take off your pants and put on some Swants!

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{ 203 comments… read them below or add one }

Marcella December 30, 2014 at 6:39 pm

Hey Stephen, I’m hyping up a swants-making-and-dancing party that I’m hosting–do you know what the largest number of swants made at a single event is?

stephen January 8, 2015 at 4:38 am

I’m not exactly sure, but I’ve seen photos with at least 15-20 swantsers at a time.

Linda January 10, 2015 at 8:26 pm

Bought a sweater at the resale shop before x-mas & am finally constructing it right now & taking pics & notes along the way. I cut the crotch of mine like a v shape instead of square. took the sides in so they don’t fold over & going to make front pockets sewn in mine. They are coming along nicely cannot wait to wear them, freezing here in Chicago! Wonderful idea thank-you!

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