Damn near perfect!
After my initial, tentative success with sewing toddler pants
, circa January of this year, I've hashed out a couple of additional pairs, and met with only semi-satisfactory outcomes. The fact that I actually don't know how to sew or read patterns, am at heart a die-hard imperfectionist
(measure anything? Bah!), worked from a sub-par tutorial to begin with and immediately decided, after that first pair, that I knew the pants-making process by heart and no longer needed instructions at all... has resulted in a few pairs of weird-fitting -- if wearable -- variations on the pants theme, and many a ripped out seam. Now, it probably wasn't wise to begin some of these sewing projects -- which require thinking about what items will look like when attached to each other and turned right-side-out -- on weekdays after midnight. Also, since I clearly sew recklessly, and with little knowledge -- which requires the aforementioned ripping of seams and, in my case, some literal cutting off of mistakes -- it would probably have been best to approach the learning curve with inexpensive fabrics. But, had I heeded these (arguably obvious) acts of prudence, I wouldn't have encountered the various frustrations -- and their funky outcomes -- that have culminated today in 1) a thorough understanding of how toddler pants are sewn, simply and without a traditional pattern (plus, where it's okay to cheat); and 2) a damn near perfect (finally!) pair of Kaspar trowsers... If I may say so myself.
I'll just put it out there candidly first that these pants almost didn't happen at all. I meant for them to be pants all along, having bought their fabric for that purpose, but my first attempt at pants this past week (after several months of not sewing at all) did not pan out as planned... and my first thought this morning was that I should perhaps turn the Buddha fabric into a pillowcase and abandon the pants thing altogether. As for the first attempt, I'd tried to make decent pants out of some cute mustache fabric, but had made every single one of the mistakes mentioned above, and -- through sheer force of will (the one benefit of sewing recklessly with expensive fabric is that you'll be far less likely to just throw your half-finished travesties away) -- ended up with an acceptable pair of pajama
pants that will fit Kaspar when he's... six? They're not terrible, but I certainly wouldn't have paid $30 for them as they are... and I had wanted to make pants, not pajamas, as thin as the line between those items may be. Have a look:
Not so much! (Sleepwear it is.)
I guess it was the same stubbornness that forced those pajama pants into at least making the sleepwear cut, or maybe my inner psyche knew I had a really good daytime-wear pair within me, but -- for whatever reason -- I did decide to give pants another go with the Buddha fabric today. Having the mustache pair and its arduous process fresh in my mind, I knew what major mistakes to avoid. And remember Jenn
from my first (fairly successful) foray into pants-sewing? The one who's sewing machine I inherited? Well, girl is good sewing juju, cuz she came over today, too, and look what happened. Pretty good pants. She was working on a project of her own, but she pep talked me through one stressful, almost-ruined-the-whole-thing moment (and said, tactfully, "Wow, you're brave" when I reflexively cut off some fabric that probably should not have been chopped), and otherwise made the morning fun and relaxing, which is how sewing and crafting and that kind of thing should be. I'm pretty sure it makes for better results, too. (Thanks Jenn!)
After finishing the pants, I wished I'd taken photos throughout the process of sewing them so that I could break it down here on the blog for y'all. There are only a few good pants tutorials out there, but they're far between, and they're not made for reckless sewers who don't know what they're doing (aka people like me). So, photos or no photos, I'm going to break it down for you anyway, and I've even created some little illustrations to help make it all the more clear. (HAHA. Okay, drawing's not quite in my wheelhouse, but I gave it a shot.)
What follows is a tutorial for making cuffed toddler pants with a contrast-fabric lining, for people who don't know how to sew. If you do know how to sew, you may find these instructions confusing, because I'm not using sewing lingo, or maybe I'm using some sewing lingo improperly. I wouldn't know.
- 1-2 yards each (probably one yard each, if you have a tot) of whatever two fabrics you want to use. I'll call your main fabric (the one you want to see the most of -- in my case, this was the Buddha fabric) "Fabric A". I'll call the other fabric -- your lining, cuffs, and waist fabric -- "Fabric B."
- Sewing machine and thread, pins (basic sewing supplies)
- Scissors (I used cooking scissors. Most people will advise reserving your various pairs of scissors for their respective purposes.)
- Enough elastic to fit around your kid's waist
The pre-game: Make your "pattern"/template
Choose a pair of your kid's pants that fit well. Lay them out on a few piece of scrap paper (I used three, lined up vertically), tape the paper together, and trace the around the pants pretty generously. Get the basic shape. Add some length to the legs to allow for cuffs. And add some height between the crotch and waist; all of the pants I made before the Buddha fabric pair barely allowed for Kaspar's butt to fit where it should, and he had to constantly hike them up while playing. Honestly, even the Buddha fabric pair is borderline skimpy on crotch-to-waist distance and could have handled a few more inches of fabric. If it looks weird, remember that you're going to fold the waist over -- so you need the extra fabric there. Here's the pattern I created, laid out under the pants I "traced." I gave a lot of extra wiggle room since those pants are 2T, and K is quickly coming up on 3T. The final product pants actually fit him perfectly right now without much room for growth, too, so I again could have gone bigger. (Don't go totally apeshit with this instruction, or you'll end up with pajama pants for three years from now. Just be generous, especially length-wise on either end, while tracing.)
You want the shape of your paper pattern to look like mine, with that little point and everything. That's gonna be the crotch seam. (If you go too crazy with that little point, though, you'll end up with a weirdly wide crotch, a la the mustache pants.)
Steps 1 and 2: Pin your pattern/template, cut your fabric
Fold Fabric A over onto itself (maybe by a third) and place your pattern along its folded edge as shown, i.e. with it's straight edge along the fabric's folded edge. The side with the little crotch point is NOT along the folded edge. You probably want to pin it in place. Cut around the pattern/template as shown. (Leave the folded edge alone... you're gonna unfold once you have your shape cut out.) Then do this again with fabric A. Then repeat these steps with fabric B. You will end up with four cut pieces of fabric.
Step 3: Pin and sew
Unfold both of your pieces of Fabric A and lay them onto each other, printed sides together (so you'll see the faded sides). Their shape will look a lot like the shape below. (Trust me, this will look like pants soon.) Pin from the crotch points to the waists, then sew as shown (where the dashes in my drawing are). Do this again with Fabric B. Don't forget to put the printed sides of the fabric pieces together.
Step 4: Look! Almost-pants! A little more sewing.
Open up your sewn pieces (you now have two pieces instead of four) and adjust them until they look almost like pants (as below). Lay them flat. You'll see it. Pin the inseams (I think that's what they're called?) and sew one continuous line to close that sh*t up, as shown. Just where the dashes are. Do this for Fabric A and B.
Step 5: Insert your lining
Turn your Fabric A "pants" right-side-out, so the printed, more vibrant side of the fabric is now visible, and your stitching is not. Keep your Fabric B pants inside out. Insert your Fabric B pants into the Fabric A pants. You're inserting the lining. Shuffle things around with your hands until the two pants fit relatively evenly together.
Step 6: Sew your cuffs. With a few (optional) reversible pants notes
Sew your two pairs of "pants" together at the cuffs. But don't sew across the cuffs in a way that will sew your pants SHUT at the cuffs. Go ahead and open those babies up, and sew in a circle. Like, the cuff is a tube. Keep it that way. Just make those fabrics stick together. I tried to render this below, as per the parenthetical "pant leg" and its copy, which reads "Ignore the phallic nature of this drawing. It's a 3D pant leg! Sew the 2 fabrics together at the opening like so -- all the way around." Follow the dashes, people. That's all you have to do. You don't even have to do any fancy folding to hide your work, since you're going to fold the whole shebang into cuffs anyway. BUT, if you want to make reversible pants, this is where you will do things a little differently. Go ahead and Google that. OR don't, because you'll probably still be rolling cuffs up when your kiddo wears the pants, and no one will be the wiser as to where your stitches show. If you've provided enough length in the legs, you'll be able to rock a double cuff roll and pull this off.
Step 7: The waist. A necessary evil.
For your final step, you're going to fold the pants (both fabrics together) over at the waist so you like the look of things, pin in place, and sew almost all the way around. I just let my stitches show here, sewing along the outside, over all that folded fabric, and toward the bottom of the waist's... cuff... Leaving room between the stitches and the top of the pants for an elastic.
Which brings me to the elastic. Once you've sewn almost all the way around, thread your elastic through the waist-cuff tunnel. I stick a safety pin on one end of the elastic and then just shove this into the 'tunnel,' and push it through a little bit at a time (this is a trial and error, feel-as-you-go maneuver), being sure not to let the other end of the elastic disappear into the tunnel, too. Your elastic should be shorter than your tot's waist is measured around, since you want it to stretch and hold the pants up. Once you've threaded it through and have both ends in hand, sew the elastic onto itself (I overlap its end pieces by several inches before sewing together), and then do your best to sew up the rest of the waist cuff nicely so the elastic is totally contained in the (now closed) tunnel.
Things might look a little crazy at any number of points in this process; this is where I chopped off a chunk of fabric and almost ruined the Buddha pants. But, it might also be a piece of cake. (I've had easy times of it before.) If it's rough, you can improvise. My elastic was too long and my waist got wiley on the Buddha pants. I had to repin and then deal with my missing fabric chunk after cutting fabric off without thinking it through. I added belt loops (and sewed a makeshift belt thing) to account for any looseness. The loops also covered a few weird-looking waist spots well. (The pants are not "damn near perfect" if you really get down to investigating.) It all worked out in the end.
And there you have it! Toddler pants! If you're an impulsive and stubborn type like me, go ahead and make your first pair with too-expensive fabric so you'll see it through. Or, if you're wise and more normal and have read through these instructions before actually embarking on your project, get some less-expensive fabric and learn the ropes. After you get the hang of them, toddler pants are easy. Let me know how yours turn out!