Modifying Pants Patterns for Babies and Kids

on September 27 | in Sewing + Quilting Tips, Sewing Tutorials + Patterns | by | with 24 Comments

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!

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24 Responses to Modifying Pants Patterns for Babies and Kids

  1. Sue says:

    Perfect! I just found a pattern I like for my DS, 18months, and it fits pretty well over cloth nappies, but I want to use it to make PJ pants – his nighttime nappies are HUUUGE, so I’ll try your tip for adding more room in the bum!

  2. MrsHaley says:

    I never knew “T” sizes were intended to fit over diapers! What a good tip to know!

  3. renee says:

    Thanks for these tips! I’ve been frustrated with patterns as the clothes usually turn out too big. But the problem is usually having the effect of balloon pants so these tips will certainly come in handy!

  4. Ashley L says:

    This tutorial is so helpful, I went to work last night modifying a pattern. I’m hoping I can better fit my long-legged, long-torso and cloth diapered toddler now.

  5. Alicia H. says:

    I agree…low-rise is absurd for babies. My flat-bottomed, round-bellied daughter thanks you for this post!

  6. Amy says:

    Thank you so much! I could have really used this when my little ones were in cloth. Awesome to have it all in one place :)

  7. laeroport says:

    Great suggestions! My son was out of diapers at 2 1/2, and has suffered the baggy butt on many occassions. Thanks for giving me a remedy. :)

  8. Jean says:

    This is great! I have not yet tried to make pants for my little ones but was just about to get started on some pj bottoms! Does anyone have suggestions for making the little under the dress bloomers for babies and toddlers?

  9. Danielle says:

    What a great round-up of tips. I just got quite a stash of fabric and really want to attempt to make some pj pants for my little one. It would be my first attempt at any piece of clothing. Wish me luck (and skill, of course!).

  10. Celeste says:

    Thanks for these tips, Kristin. I’ve been dabbling with the Rookie Mom’s tute for toddler pants and now I know how to adjust them to better fit my son!

  11. kirsten says:

    this post is brilliant! so easy, yet such practical ways of altering the pattern.
    thank you!

  12. Linda Lehn says:

    Thanks for the tips. These are good things to know!

  13. claudine says:

    Thanks so much for posting this! I’m new to sewing clothes, so I appreciate tips like these.

  14. Becky says:

    Thanks so much for this info. I have been sewing for years but this is always something that has confused me.

  15. so timely! i’m getting ready to make some fall pants for my little one and was pondering how i would ever figure out the necessary changes to make room for the cloth diapers. so many thanks!

  16. Kate says:

    Thanks for the tips on modifying for those in cloth diapers – I have been having such problems trying to make them fit right.

  17. Kristin says:

    What do you think? Have you any experience or advice on making for plus size girls you can share or offer?

    Bernie, I don’t have much advice. Have you looked at any pants patterns in her size? You might want to check with Jen at Big Crafty. She covers women’s patterns, but might have some suggestions for girls. Good luck!

  18. Craftybernie says:

    Hi there

    I’m in the process of making a few items of clothing for my niece. She’s almost 8 and is a plus-size. Her mum has been having trouble buying clothes for her, even more so as she gets older. So I offered to make her a skirt for her birthday as she doesn’t really have any appropriate clothes.

    This week I found some plus size kids patterns on line and have asked her mum to buy one. I don’t mind giving my time to make some clothes for her but I would like her mum to be involved in the process too.

    So far this week I have made a simple tiered skirt and a tiered patchwork skirt. Now I feel ready to progress onto a pair of trousers. I’ve made plain trousers for myself in the past – two pieces stitched together down the front and back seat/crotch and inside seams. I thought it would be easy enough to convert my pattern into one that fits my niece but it’s proving to be more difficult than I originally thought.

    I’ve measured her but I can’t seem to accurately translate these measurements into my pattern. She’s a solid 36″ around her waist and hips, yet she has very skinny legs. I don’t want to taper the trousers in, as it looks like it will leave a bunch of fabric that balloons around her tum when she sits down. I was thinking that maybe parallel leg or bootcut trousers would look good on her. Maybe even some 3/4 length trousers which button/fasten below the knee?

    I guess it’s possible that trousers may not suit her at the moment and I should probably stick to making her dresses and skirts until she stretches up a bit and develops a waist and hips.

    What do you think? Have you any experience or advice on making for plus size girls you can share or offer?

    Thanks so much! Best wishes..Bernie

  19. Sarah says:

    Very helpful resource!

  20. Beth H says:

    OH, this is just what I was looking for. I, by chance I’m sure, made my first pair for the boy and it was wonderful…now I can’t seem to reproduce it for the life of me. Each pair is all wonky and I spend more time altering than it really should ever take to make 3 pair. Thanks again!!

  21. Thank you SO much for this! I make pants for my boys, and have encountered some of these issues…my only tip is that I like the wide-legged look, so I widen the angle of the leg straight down from the crotch – plus it works great for pajama pants!

  22. This is great, Kristin! Very thorough! Each of my kids has one of these problems (each of them different), so this will be very helpful.

  23. andrea says:

    I am still too intimidated to try clothes. I just bought a pattern for pajama bottoms and cannot figure it out… that should be easy right?????

  24. cathygaubert says:

    how happy i was to see this post. i just sewed up jammie pants for my almost-4 and almost-2 year olds from patterns that i made from pre-existing pants, albeit with a bit of cursing and ripping/cutting! you have saved me a lot of time and irritation with your tips. i think i will draft new patterns today…thanks! :) cathy

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