For a few years, I made baby and toddler pants for a living. I’ve also made and modified lots of pants for my daughter and her friends. I find that baby and kid pants patterns often need a little tweaking. Once you get it right though, you can use the same pattern over and over. Here are some tips for modifying commercial pants patterns:

  • You probably won’t really know how well the pattern works until you try it out at least once. If you don’t want to waste nice fabric on a trial run, use inexpensive muslin.
  • Once you’ve sewn the garment and tried it on the child, take a look at the waist, the depth of the crotch and the overall fit in action–bending, running, climbing.
  • To make modifications, I like to trace the original pattern onto wrapping paper or butcher paper, then draw the new cutting lines.  Sometimes I even use poster board for patterns that I know I’ll use many times.

Although anyone with real pattern-drafting skills will probably gasp at my suggestions and terminology, here are some modifications that have worked for me. (The green part of the image is the original pattern shape, and the brown line is the new cutting line.)

Not Enough Room in the SeatOver the years, infant and toddler pants patterns have changed to accommodate trimmer disposable diapers. If you are a cloth diaper user, you know that there just isn’t enough ease in the butt of most patterns (or store-bought pants for that matter.)To add more room, you need to add more fabric. Draw a line to reduce the curve of the back piece.
Not Enough Room in the FrontAgain, if you’re using cloth diapers, you might need to increase the fullness in the front as well as the back. You might also need to add more fabric to the front of the pants if you have a little one with a round belly. Draw a line to reduce the curve of the front piece.
Rise is Too LowSometimes the rise of the pants doesn’t seem high enough. The crotch cuts in, or the diapers and underwear are always showing at the waist line. (Is it just me, or does anyone else think low-rise is a bad idea for babies?)  Add a little depth to the crotch by drawing a new line parralel to the original waist line on both the back and the front pieces. (Make sure you add the exact amount to both back and front or your seams won’t match up.)
Pants are Too Wide Through the Hips and ThighsIf your little one has narrow hips, you might notice bunches of extra fabric at the outer hips and thighs. You can easily trim down the outside seam of both the front and the back pieces. Remember that you’ll be sewing the pieces together, so if you take a 1/4″ off the pattern piece, you’re taking a 1/2″ off each side and a total
of 1″ off the waist.
Bottom is Too BaggyMaybe your child has a flat butt, or maybe they just made the move from diapers to underwear. (Patterns with a “T” in the size are cut for diapers.  2T, 4T…) Reduce the fullness of the pants by cutting into the curve of the back of the pattern. An “L” shape is good for a really flat bottom.
Pants are Too ShortYou can only lengthen tapered pants so much before you get peg legs. For toddlers and older children, you should lengthen the pant by measuring to the knee, and then extending straight down, or drawing a slighter taper than the top portion of the pants. Make sure to duplicate the length and angle on both the front and back pieces.

With these little tricks you might be able to use the same pants pattern for several years.  Good luck and by all means, let me know if you have other suggestions!