Projects for Knitters (or Knitters-to-be): Ballet Shorts and Knee Warmers

Having envied knitters for years, I finally motivated myself to learn by starting with small and useful projects: ballet shorts and knee (not leg) warmers. Despite admiring the look of delicate chiffon ballet skirts over leotards, I have always been a shorts person. I don’t mean long sports shorts, like basketball mesh shorts, or tight booty shorts, though. Over my leotard I wear either yoga shorts or my own hand-knit ballet shorts. My original inspiration was this lovely pair but I decided to try the pretty pointelle pattern at the leg hem another time.

After Googling variations on search terms like “knit ballet shorts” and “ballet shorts knitting pattern,” I found these basic “Studio Shorts”  — a pattern accompanied by photo of a ballerina on pointe! I downloaded the pattern, focused on the “dance” version (instead of the looser “lounge” version), collected a few needed items (same-size circular needles of 2 different lengths and yarn) and went to work. You can adjust the pattern to make the legs, ribbing and waistband as long or short as you wish. In ballet class, I found myself studying other students’ knitted shorts to see how long their legs’ ribbing was … only to quickly explain what I was doing so they would not think I was just staring at their behinds.


 Using medium weight acrylic yarn, I knitted these black shorts but realized that the shorts ended up a little thick and heavy. For my second pair, I am trying softer baby yarn that hopefully will yield lighter shorts. In fact, I am using heather gray just like the shorts knitted by Nicola Lynde of the most recent Beginner Ballerina Profile  Her DIY shorts pattern looks like a great item to try.

During this cold winter, I decided to make knee warmers – not full-length leg warmers. A ballet classmate gave me this idea when she wore a pair of children’s knee warmers that were short and just fit over her knee (extending a little above and below the knee).  I liked this pattern for its cute checkered texture to allow for the knee to bend easily. Using light pink baby yarn, I quickly fashioned a pair of knee warmers for class. The only drawback I found is that the checkered area in front of the knee creates excess wrinkling when I stand straight – looking a little like small kneepads.


Nonetheless, they do keep my knees cozy during barre so by the time I move to the center, my knees are warmed up enough for me to take the warmers off. The first time I wore them in class, my teacher noticed them during plies at the barre and commented, “Helen, I see you have new knee warmers.” I proudly nodded and was about to tell her I knitted them myself when she said, “If you have knee issues, don’t grande plie in first. Keep it in demi.” Well, she may not have been admiring them, but at least she did not say they looked like football kneepads … and as any adult ballerina should appreciate, she was looking out for my safety.


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