Monday, April 20, 2009

Tutorial Sewing Pants From a Sweater Part 1

Have I ever told you how much I love sweater pants for my girls? You know the soft, ribbed, stretchy, comfy kind?

I LOVE LOVE LOVE (really love) ribbed sweater pants for my girls!!! Here are some of the reasons...
1. They make warm pants (great to wear in our old drafty farmhouse)
2. My girls think they are comfy and I think they look cute.
3. They make wonderful PJ bottoms. They fit snug so no worry about loose clothing in flames if a fire started in the middle of the night AND they keep my children warm on cold nights. My girls often kick off covers and make me worry about them during the night. Sweater pants has taken my worry of cold children at night away. I can sleep better knowing they are warm.
4. They are wonderful play pants.
5. They are so SOFT (I love the feel of old GAP and Old Navy sweaters).
6. They work great for dancing, exercising, and other very active play (easy to move in).
7. They are very easy to make (can make a stack in a few hours).
8. They are CHEAP (often free) to make. I know I found a stack of old sweaters in my closet when I went looking. Ask around I am sure family members would be thrilled to clear out over stuffed closets so you can sew cute things for your little ones (I bet most grandparents have a large amount of sweaters they are not wearing hiding in closets).
9. It is good for the Earth. Recycle (upcycle old clothing instead of tossing it a landfill).
10.THIS IS MY FAVORITE REASON!! They are perfect for leggings! They keep my girls legs nice and warm when they wear dresses and skirts. They also keep my girls bums covered. Demi loves to wear twirl skirts and dresses and does a lot of flips, rolls, headstands, and such. Because of that I love leggings. She is not exposed at all so I don't have to say keep your dress down or don't play like that with a dress on.A friend of mine had a pair of stretchy ribbed pants on her girl last fall. They looked so warm and comfy I quickly became obsessed with them. I couldn't afford to go out and buy them so I had to find a way to sew them. All I did was take the directions I found online on on how to make wool leggings (diaper covers) out of arms of wool sweaters. I use cloth diapers but don't use wool diaper covers so I switched the wool sweaters to soft cotton GAP sweaters and fell in love with sweater pants. At first I was afraid that this wouldn't work because the directions I followed 3 years ago (I think original directions I followed might have been this one to make my first wool pants but that was years ago so I am not positive) said to felt a wool sweater first so they wouldn't fray. I was worried that a knitted sweater might fall apart before I got it sewn together. I am so glad I gave it a try because my girls now have 30+ pairs of leggings and have been wearing some of them for over 6 months (I started making them in Sept). The only problem I had with any of them is Zee grew out of a few smaller ones and Demi got grass stains all over one of her's. I know that stuff happens with everything my children wear so I must say they are the perfect pants for us.

Because I have such a love for handmade leggings (sweater pants) I think I should share how I figured out how to make 2 pair of leggings from one adult sweater.

Part 1 making toddler pants using an adult sweater. Part 1 will be of me using the arms of a sweater to make a leggings for my youngest girl (about size 18 months). Part 2 I will be showing how to use the rest of the sweater and how to add extra if your sweater isn't large enough to make leggings for my 3 1/2 year old (about size 3T).

This is the 18months size leggings.

Here is the size 3T made into jogging pants.Both made from this sweater.

All you need to make this is an adult sweater, elastic, sewing machine (or needle and thread), a pair of scissors and a few minutes of free time (free time is the hardest part for me). I dig into my old clothes, my husbands old sweaters, and check the thrift shop for pretty colored sweaters in nice shape (and soft to the touch). I buy 100% cotton so it is soft and washes nice (you can use any kind of adult sweater you like).

I like to use old ribbed sweaters (GAP ones are my favorite) to make my girls leggings but any sweater, long sleeve top, or a long sleeve T-shirt will work. I can get 2 pants out of one ladies sweater and 3 pants out of men's XL or XXL sweaters. Ribbed sweaters have a lot of stretch so you don't need as much in the width as you need to sew children's jeans.

First take your sweater and cut off the arms along the seam.

Take a pair of jeans, PJ's, dress pants, or any type of bottoms that fit your child, turn them inside out then stuff one leg inside the other. lay the pants on the top of the sweater arms. Line up the bottom of pants with the wrist of the sleeve. Then snip down the center seam of the sweater to match the crotch in the pants. It is OK to have a lot of extra fabric that is longer than the jeans at the waist! If you don't have a pair of pants and you want to make a size 18 months you can try using my daughter's measurements. She is an average height chunky 15 month old. Her legs in sweater pants are about 9 inches long. I used about 6 inches for the crotch and another inch to fold down and hold the elastic. So I needed 9 inches uncut at the bottom for the legs and 7 inches cut to give me 6 inches to go over the bum and tummy with an extra inch to fold down over elastic.

Below you can see the pants lined up at ankle with the sweater wrist and how I cut right down the seam to match the jeans.

Another view.Put one sweater arm (soon to be a leg) inside the other with right sides touching. Make sure they are lined up at the bottom end (wrists). Double check your seams before you sew to make sure right sides are together.

Sew the V shape to connect both layers. A straight stitch will work but a zigzag will work a bit better. I used my serger but that is NOT needed. It isn't much sewing so even hand sewing will work.
Cut off the top to even it all out.

This is a good time to open them up and try them on to make sure they fit and you have an extra inch to fold over to hold the elastic. If you don't have enough room you can sew a few inches of a stretchy material at the top to give you the room you need. If I didn't have enough room in this case I would have used the turtleneck for the extra length. I had plenty of room using this size medium sweater arms to make pants size 18 months so I didn't add any extra at the top.

Fold the top down about 1 inch. Raw edge lays on the wrong side of fabric as shown in photo below. I stuck my elastic right in the fold (I used a very long piece of elastic). I sewed right along the elastic. My presser foot layed right along the elastic and I use my finger to check that my elastic stays along the presserfoot (make sure not to sew on the elastic). I used a zigzag stich. Again this is not much sewing and would be easy to do by hand if you don't have a machine. Leave an inch or two from starting/finishing points to sew elastic ends together.

Now all we need is to sew elastic ends together at the right length and sew the hole shut. For my chunky gal I use about 18 inches of elastic. That is about 9 inches across the front. I hold the short end of elastic and pull the long end until the waist across the top measures 9 inches. In the past when she was little and growing fast I would put the pants on her and mark the elastic or measure her around the tummy if I had a measuring tape handy. She has been the same size for a long time now so I don't bother to double check her size anymore.

Sew the ends together by laying the one end on top of the other forming a non twisted loop. Snip the loose elastic ends and threads. Last step is to sew the opening closed to hide all the elastic.
Here is the first of two leggings. I will post part two in the next couple days.

1 comment:

Landry said...

Thank you for such a great step-by-step explanation!!!