There are probably a hundred tutorials already out there for this sort of thing, but I get requests almost daily for a tutorial posted here, so hey, I’ll add mine to the pool. I’ve been specifically asked to detail the waist elastic, so I’ve done my best. I hope it’s helpful! There are no restrictions on using this tutorial, but please exercise your good internet manners! If you’d like to share this method with others, please do so using the link to this page rather than copying and pasting my text and photos into an email or another blog post. Thank you!
- A pair of pants that fits your baby or child well.
- Fabric from which to make the new pants. Yardage will vary depending on what size you’re making. I can get 3 kids (sizes 3T, 5T, 7) from a single fitted sheet. I use about a quarter of a yard for infant pants with plenty left over to do something else with.
- Elastic — you can get away with using 3/4″ elastic on infant pants, but you’ll want regular non-rolling waistband elastic for older kids. You can buy yardages of this at a fabric store, or big box places like Walmart carry smaller packages. Yardage will vary of course depending on the size and quantity of pants you’re making. You want enough to go comfortably around your child’s waist without stretching, plus about an inch for sewing.
- Couple of safety pins, medium-ish.
I’m using a serger / overlocker for the main seams in these photos, but please note, a regular sewing machine that just does a basic straight stitch is all you need to make these pants. A zig zag stitch is helpful to finish seams if your fabric is the fraying type (most woven fabrics will fray, knitted stretch jerseys (t-shirt material), cotton interlock (stretchy) won’t fray. Neither will fleece if you’re making wintery pants.)
Gather your supplies. I like using a pair of pants that lay pretty flat… pants with big bulky cargo pockets are sometimes a pain to flatten out for use with this method.
Fold the pants in half matching up the inseam seams. The inseam is the seam that runs from ankle, up to the crotch/stride , and down the other leg to the other ankle. When you do this, the crotch will tend to bunch up and hide inside the pants a bit. Be sure to pull that out with your fingers so you can see the curve of the rise seam as shown in the photo.
Fold your fabric in half (or fold it just enough to fit the pants on the fold so you’re not wasting a bunch of fabric) and lay the pants lined up with the fold of the fabric as shown above. You’ll need enough fabric to do this twice.
If you want to trace the pants or hold it down with some weights (spoons work in a pinch) or even pin it down, that’s fine. Either way you’re going to cut out a shape like this half pair of pants. Be sure you allow for that gathered waistband. Imagine what it would look like stretched out and cut your seam accordingly. DO NOT cut right up next to the pants, you want to leave some room for ease and seam allowance. I’m usually pretty generous when cutting out around an existing pair of pants, especially for a baby… it’s hard to fudge these up too much.
Be sure to leave plenty of space up at the top and hem as well. I make sure to cut about an inch and a half “taller” than my existing pants so I’ll have enough room to fold the fabric down and make a casing for the elastic.
Do not cut the folded edges!
Crud, I’m missing a photo. You want two pieces cut on the fold as demonstrated above. After you’ve got them cut out, open them up. They look really weird if you’ve never sewn pants before. They’ll look something like this:
Put the two pieces right sides together and stitch up both curved seams like so:
(Hint: it’s always a good idea to iron your fabric before you begin. Ahem. Also, I made an adjustment here to allow for a bigger cloth diapered bum… I elaborate on this a bit more at the bottom of the tutorial.)
If you’ve never made pants before you might be wondering just what on earth I’m having you do. These don’t look anything like pants yet, do they? Here’s where the magic of pants-making lies. You’re going to pick up your sewn together pieces, hold them by the top (the longest straight edge) and open them up so you’re looking down a tube. Re-fold them so the stitched seams are matched up at the top, and voila, you’ll see something that looks like legs appear:
Step… I don’t know what step we’re on. Next step.
You’re going to now match those legs up the best you can and sew from ankle up to crotch, and down to the other ankle. Thusly:
Oh see now, I told you we were making pants! Bravo you. Now, if you’re using a regular sewing machine and not a serger, you might want to sew back and forth a few times through the crotch area just to reinforce it. That’s only important if you have a crawler/walker/scooter/runner/skid down the stairs by the seat of their pants kid. Babes in arms don’t really need reinforcing in that area.
Now fold your waistband (since you can now see where the waistband is) over an inch or so and press. If you’re sewing with a serger, serge the raw edge first. If you’re sewing with a regular sewing machine, first press the fabric towards the wrong side about 1/4″, then again about an inch or less. This will lock your raw edges inside and prevent fraying.
Next do the same only smaller on the hems of the pant legs. Well, you can do a big hem if you like. I do sometimes because it looks cute rolled up. If you want a bigger hem, don’t taper the pants so much, the more tapered it is, the more trouble you’ll have making a smooth hem larger than about a quarter of an inch or so.
Stitching the waistband
Okay, I like to stitch the waistband down first VERY close to the top edge. This keeps elastic-waisted pants looking neat and it keeps the waistband elastic from rolling or twisting.
There it is all done. Now, we’re going to stitch the bottom part of the waistband. When you make pants like this, they don’t really have a back or front, but I just pick a side to be the back and insert a bit of folded ribbon into the waist seam. Littles that are big enough to dress themselves will like knowing which way to put them on even though it doesn’t really matter. I think I got the ribbon idea from the Oliver and S patterns.
Start on the back seam and sew close to the edge of your serged or folded under edge. If you want to be all fancy about it, you can make the casing just a little wider than the elastic you have for the waistband. Then it ends up looking pretty tailored. Just make sure you don’t make the casing too small for the elastic you have!
When you come back around to where you started, stop stitching about an inch or so from where you started. This is the hole where you’re going to thread the elastic in. You’ll close it up later. Here’s how it looks from the right side, see how my stitches stop?
hem those puppies
Alrighty, now hem your pant legs. They’re already pressed so just stitch it all down. I like to line up the folded edge of the hem with a spot on my presser foot so the stitching looks nice and straight even if I’ve ironed it a bit wobbly.
Elastic can be intimidating, but never fear, this is easy-peasy. Take your pre-measured elastic and attach a safety pin to one end.
You’re going to thread that safety pin into the hole we left in the waistband. See?
Now, the only tricky part here is making sure you don’t accidentally pull the OTHER end of the elastic through the hole before you get to the other side. It’s a huge pain to fish out. So, if you’re nervous or if your casing is really big and allows for the elastic to glide through pretty easily, you might want to take another safety pin and pin the other end of the elastic to the outside of the waistband so you don’t lose it.
Guide that safety pin through the waistband by bunching the fabric of the casing over it and moving the pin forward.
Ah now, here we’ve got the elastic coming out on the other end. Huzzah.
As tempting as it is to spread the casing out and see how everything looks, again, be careful not to lose the ends of the elastic. Overlap them a bit and stitch them together before they can escape.
NOW you can spread the casing / waistband out over that elastic and get the stitched end up inside. We’re going to stitch the hole we left shut now.
Trim all of your loose threads, and drum roll please, because you are all done!
Shut up! You made pants! How awesome are you?
I got interrupted about forty thousand times while photographing this process and a million more times while trying to write about it. So if any of the steps do not make sense, please don’t feel stupid, just give me a holler and I’ll try to sort you out.
If you want to try sewing on some patch style pockets, knee patches, trims, do that BEFORE you stitch up the curved crotch seams or inseams. It’s much easier to sew those things on flat than try to get the tiny pant legs to fit onto your sewing machine’s free arm.
You can use this method to make capri length pants, or shorts as well.
Tip: you might want to trace your pants onto a piece of brown grocery bag paper or freezer paper if you settle on a shape that really works for you so you can make them again and again.
You can use this method to make all sizes of pants, even grown up pants (though this style works best for pajama bottoms or lounge pants as they aren’t very shapely. If you want to allow for a bigger adult or teen bottom OR even a baby’s bigger cloth diapered bum you can. Trace the pants onto a folded piece of freezer or kraft paper first. Cut it out, but then lay half of the pants pattern over a fresh bit of paper. You’re going to draw a new line, making the curve a little deeper and the point a little larger, tapering back into the pant leg. Like so:
Tape the new bit of paper onto the original pattern and you’re good to go. Just be sure to mark the back of the pants with a safety pin when you cut the fabric out so you don’t forget which side is which and sew a bit of ribbon into the back as previously mentioned.
Alrighty then, have fun and send me pictures if you use this tutorial, I love to see what you come up with!