Stretch Pants for Kids

My son’s dance school was really late getting their recital costumes out this year, and unlucky us, his pants were way too big!  With just a week to get something workable, I decided to sew him a pair of pants myself.  I had a bunch of black lycra that was very similar to the fabric of his costume pants, so all I needed was a pattern.  He had his pants that he wore to class which fit him perfectly, so I decided to use those as a template.  Here’s what I did:

  1. Lay out whatever your going to use to make your pattern piece.  I use Do-Sew, but you can use news paper or any other product for patterns making.
  2. Fold the pants that your using as a template in half, on leg on top of the other.
  3. Trace down the side of the pants that is not just straight up and down.  In this picture, trace down the right hand side.  Make sure not to trace right next to the pants, as you have to add a seam allowance.  If you are going to be sewing with a sewing machine, you’ll probably want to add 3/8ths to 5/8ths of an inch.  If you are going to be using a serger, you can get away with leaving only 1/4 inch.
  4. Trace across the top and bottom, remembering to add extra space for hems and elastic.  The pants I was using had a fold over knit waist band, so I had to do a bit of guess work.  It always better to leave more, as it’s very easy to cut off from the top after you’ve sewn your pants and tried them on your little one.  I left an extra 1.5″ at the bottom to allow a 3/4″ double folded hem.
  5. Make a small mark on the left side of the pattern as well so that you know where to place your pants once you’ve flipped them over.
  6. Now this is the part that’s a lot easier to demonstrate than describe, but I’ll try my best.  Your pants should be lying on a table folded in half, one leg over the other.  Without lifting them off the table, unfold the top leg so that your pants are laying out flat.  Now lift the pants up and fold the leg that was on top under the other leg.  Lay your pants down again.   This is just so that you get the “front crotch” and the “back crotch” shape traced.
  7. Line up the straight side of the pant legs with the small mark that you made on your pattern piece and make sure to line up the top and bottom.  If you’re laying your pants out like I did in my picture, you would now trace around the left side of the pants.  Remember to leave the same seam allowance that you did on the other side.
  8. You now have to extend your top and bottom lines to meet up with the left side of the pattern that you have just traced.
  9. Now cut out your pattern piece.  It should look something like the picture on the right.  The deeper curved portion will be the back of the pants.  I know that at this point it does not look like it will make a pair of pants, but trust me, it will.
  10. Lay out your fabric and fold it over so that you can fit your pattern piece on the folded part.  This will allow you to cut out two pieces at the same time.  It is easiest to fold it over so that the right sides of the fabric are together.  This just saves you from taking them apart later.  It is very important that if you have fabric that only stretches one way, or has more stretch one way, that the stretchier part goes across the width of the pants.  They will be tough (or impossible) to get on if you have the stretch going to length of the pants.
  11. Pin down your pattern piece on the folded part of your fabric.  Make sure it is not touching the folded edge of your fabric.
  12. Cut out around your pattern piece.  You now have your pattern piece and two fabric pieces all pinned together.
  13. Take off the pattern piece, but leave the other two pieces pinned together.  Sew up both the crotch seams.  I would normally recommend matching your thread to your fabric, but this was a rush job and I couldn’t find four black serger spools, so I did it in white.  The good news is that the thread shows up really well in the pictures for this tutorial 🙂
  14. Again, this part is easy to demonstrate, but tough to describe.  I’m hoping the pictures will help.  Visualize the smaller of the two seams that you just sewed as the seam that goes up the front of the pants.  The bigger of the two seams is the seam that goes up the back of the pants.  With that in mind, lift up your pants up by the waist and line the two seams up so they are smack on top of each other.  When you lay the pants back down you should have what’s pictured on the right.
  15. Now you have to sew up one leg and down the other making sure your crotch seams line up.
  16. This is when you want to have your first fitting to make sure that the waist is going to sit where you want it to sit.  Cut off extra fabric at the top if you need to.
  17. There are two ways to do the waist.  The way that I am going to show is how to do it if you have a serger.  If you have a sewing machine, you’re going to want to do a casing method.  Here is a neat little video tutorial on how to do that.
  18. Measure your child’s waist to figure out how much elastic you need.  I take the measurement and add 1/4″.  I find this works well because although I overlap by a little more than 1/4″, this serging method tends to stretch the elastic.
  19. Overlap your elastic by 1/4″-1/2″ and use the zig-zag stitch on your sewing maching to tack it down.  I go up and down several times to make sure it’s sewn together really well.
  20. Now mark each quarter of your elastic with a pin.  I do this by laying my elastic out folded in half.  Put a pin at each of the ends.  Now lay the elastic out folded in half, but with the pins lying right on top of each other.  Put the remaining two pins at the new ends.  You now have four evenly spaced pins.  Attach those pins to each quarter of the waist band on your pants, making sure to pin the elastic to the inside of the pants.
  21. serge the elastic and pants together around the top of the waist band making sure to stretch the elastic as your sewing so that you don’t have any bunching at the the places that you’ve pinned.
  22. Now roll the pants to the inside over the elastic to form your casing.  I did a double fold, but a single fold will also work.  I find it easiest if you press the waist at the stage.  I also find it helpful to pin because with stretchy fabric it’s easy to stretch one piece more than another if they aren’t pinned together.
  23. Sew along the bottom edge of the elastic using a zig-zag stitch on your sewing machine.  I tried to take a picture here, but the black stitching on black fabric doesn’t show up very well.  The best shot was one of the hem on the legs.  It’s the same stitching as at the waist.
  24. Have your child try the pants on again to figure out how much you need to hem.  I pressed up about 1/2″ and then rolled it again and pressed.  I then just sewed around the bottom using my zig-zag stitch.  The reason you use a zig-zag is so that the seam will stretch with the pants.  A strait seem on a regular sewing machine has no give, so especially at the waist, it is very important to use a zig-zag stitch.
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