17 October 2011

hack your pants: adult-to-kids' redo how-to.

hack your pants: top-down adult-to-kids pants redo

well!  my kcwc got pretty hectic at the end--I have a couple more pieces to share, but I didn't get to be nearly as diligent as I would have hoped.  Most of the distractions were good (first grade class trip, neighborhood party), and one of them was a flooded bathroom.  Because when you are a master of chaos, why not use the wastebasket to bail the bathtub onto the floor?

At any rate, I am back now and excited to bring you this pants-refashioning tutorial!  I have made several pairs of elastic-waist kids' pants starting from the bottom hem of a pair of adult pants: Dana's method is a good one; I also like Meg's variation.  But last kcwc I got to thinking that this approach leaves out what are usually the most interesting features of a pair of pants--the pockets, pleats, and closures that come at the waistband.  Wanting to save those features as I transformed a pair of women's pants into trousers for my son, I came up with these:

dancing pants.

This fall, I was able to successfully repeat the process and make these:
rainy day kcwc photoshoot.

It was pretty fun to see my own (ahem) "outgrown" pants take on a new, ultra-stylish, life on my kids.  This kind of upcycling brings you both the savings (environmental and financial) of reuse and the fun of having sturdy, unique clothes for your kids. 

Before I go any further, I must first share two disclaimers:
1) this process is a bit of a hack.  While I am super happy with the results both times I have tried this, I should say upfront that the nature of the project (turning something into what it is not) leads to some unfinished edges and a little bit of wonky sewing.  Purists beware.
2) this refashion is great for making clothes for older kids, but it will not turn any size adult pants into any size kid pants--that is, the pockets and closures on a large size men's pant would never fit onto a six month old baby.  Be sure, when selecting adult pants to cut into, that you read through the full tutorial and look at where details line up on your template kids' pants--if you are trying to make too drastic of a size change, you will end up cutting through back pockets or having a ridiculous overlap in the front. 

Still on board?  Let's sew!

Gather Your Materials

You will need:
--The pair of pants you will re-fashion.  If it seems like the pants you have on hand will be too big to successfully downsize for your child (see disclaimers above), you can easily find small and extra-small size adult pants at the thrift store or the sale rack of your favorite adult stores.   Since not as many people wear those sizes, they often land on the clearance rack for cheap.
--A pair of your child's well-fitting pants to use as a template.
--Some 3/4" or 1" wide flat elastic
--A hair tie or other piece of thin elastic you can use to make a button loop.
--1 1/4" wide fabric or ribbon scrap to use for a "tag" at the back.
--Sewing machine fitted with a new needle of the appropriate weight for your fabric.
--Thread to match your pants.
--One or two buttons.
--Pins and whatever other sewing notions you normally use.

Cut the Pants
(wrong side)

(right side)

1.  Start by carefully cutting the adult pants up the center seam.  On the rear of the pants, you can cut all the way through the waistband, but on the front of the pants you should stop cutting when you get to the fly.  Leave side seams intact and spread the pants open, as in the photos above.

2.  Turn your template pants (child size) inside out and fold them in half.  Lay them on front half of the adult pants, aligning side seams and waistbands as in the picture below:

3.  Carefully cut along the "crotch" side of your template pants, adding seam allowance at the bottom of the legs for a hem and any additional allowance you would like for the center seam.

4.  When you reach the fly area, go ahead and follow the curve of your template pants, cutting away the zipper.  However, when you get to the waistband you are going to STOP cutting and leave the button area intact, like a long tab:


5.  Now flip your template pants to the other side.  Again aligning side seams and waistbands (see below), and adding seam allowances at the bottom for a hem (plus any additional you'd like along the center seam), cut the adult pants along your template.  If your template pants are elastic waist,  be sure to stretch them out to get the full width at the waistband.  In general, err on the side of a little extra width at the waistband since you'll be adding elastic and/or a new seam. 

6.  You'll end up with one side of your pants that looks like the picture below.  Flip this over and use it as the pattern to cut the other side of the pants, again maintaining the long tab at the front waistband.  Press both pieces.

Assemble the Back Waistband
1.  You now have two pieces of fabric (with fancy waistbands, beltloops, and pockets already in place--score!) which will become the right and left legs on your new pair of pants.  Let's start by adding the elastic to the back waistband.  Lay one side of the pants out and cut a piece of elastic about 3/4 of the length from the center back cut to the first belt loop, like this:


2.  The adult pants waistband should provide you with a ready-made casing for the elastic, which you can now access through the center cut.  Using your fingers or maybe the eraser end of a pencil, nudge the elastic into the waistband.  Line the end up with the beltloop and pin, like this:

3.  (This is the wonky part!)  You are now going to wedge that thick waistband+elastic under your sewing machine foot and stitch it down.  Be sure to push the beltloop aside so you're not actually stitching through it--the idea is to hide the seam underneath the beltloop so it's not noticible. 

4.  Reach in and pull the elastic out so that it's sticking through the opening at the center seam, gathering the waistband.  Stitch this end of the elastic about 3/4" in from the center seam and trim any excess.  It should look about like the photo below.  (The vertical seams are the ones I stitched, those smaller dots you see near the bottom of the waistband are from the tag on the original pants.)

5.  Repeat steps 1-4 for the other side.


Sew the Pants

1.  Fold each leg of the pants in half longways, right sides together.  Pin and stitch from the bottom of the pants legs up to the crotch, reinforcing seams in the manner you prefer.


2.  Turn one pants leg right-side out and insert it inside the other, aligning seams at the crotch and pinning around the U-shaped curve:



3.  Starting at the back of the pants, stitch around the crotch.  Stop and backstitch about 1" before you reach the front waistband.  This is to leave a little room to pull the tab snug in the front.  You'll have a small unfinished area where you stopped stitching--on the first pair of pants I just left it alone; on the second I pressed it under slightly and stitched it down.  Your choice.

4.  You'll now have a bulky seam at the back waistband.  On the first pair of pants I pressed it open and topstitched it down, but on the second I just trimmed it close and covered with a square of grosgrain ribbon to make a "tag," like this:
(I should mention that my kids are not tag-picky, but I can see how a kid who was might find this annoying.  Maybe you can find a more elegant solution--I'd love to hear suggestions.)

7.  On the front waistband, pass the button tab over the buttonhole tab so they lay flat, as in the photo for step 6 above.   Depending on your original pants, the button may or may not fall past the first beltloop. 

8.  On the inside of the waistband, mark where the buttonhole falls and hand-sew a button there for an inner fastening point.  If you're feeling fancy, you can add a second button for adjustability:



9.  Finally, you are going to add a loop of elastic to the front of your pants to catch the button tab.  I used hair ties but any thin elastic will do.  Just lay your button tab flat, catch the loop of elastic around it, and pin/mark where you need to tack it down--then stitch across it several times to be sure it's secure.

For the first pair of pants, I was able to hide the stitching under a belt loop and trim the back half of the hair tie away, like this:


But for the second pair of pants, I ended up keeping the whole elastic and adding a "dummy" button to make it look like some kind of fancy closure:


pants detail.

That's it!   Hem the bottom of your pants and you will be all done.  I promise the process is easier than I may have made it sound, and I know you'll be happy with the look and construction of the parts of the adult pants you've been able to save.  Please enjoy this tutorial for personal use only, and do let me know if you give it a try!


Emily said...

I saw your red autumn Popptalk photo contribution and it made me smile because I have that red shirt, and the poetic caption underneath made me visit your lovely blog. And, hey, I'm so glad I did. Happy autumn. - Emily

Kan said...

You are amazing. And O's toenails rock.

Little C and Little J said...


rachael said...

this is really fantastic! i saw your pics in the kcwc flickr group and i'm glad i hopped over to read the full post. i'll be back :)

small + friendly said...

I cannot wait to try this! Thank you!

Mama G said...

Found you via KCWC on Flickr! I love this idea! I'm adding it to pinterest =)

mama-pan | mary frances said...

thanks so much, everyone!! I am really excited to see others' results with this process.

Kan, it's funny about the toenail polish... they both like the attention of it, I think. I usually try to steer them toward blue or orange or something I feel is more a more typical "boy" color--but he picked the dark red, and I think it really suits him!

nest full of eggs said...

fabulous idea ! bravo !

Crafty Beth said...

I have been using the legs of old pants to make pants for my boy for quite a while, but just tried something similar to your method and loved it! Your way seems a lot less hacky than mine--I'm picking up some tips for the next time :) Here's how mine turned out:

grady williams said...

congratulations guys, quality information you have given!!! best sewing machine

Albert einstien said...

The post is utterly fantastic! Countless of great details and encouragement both of that everyone really needs! stitcheasy

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Ho Jack said...

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