Saturday, June 27, 2015


Toddler pants are the bomb.

They are my hands-down favorite thing in the whole world to sew, and one of the few clothing items that is immediately, objectively “worth it” to make yourself instead of buying. Because you can buy new clothing so cheaply, often it is only “worth it” to make clothing from scratch if you are looking at it from the emotional side (“I made you this with my own hands! It is a labor of love!”) or the ethical side (“Instead of supporting sweatshops in another country, I’m going to have a sweatshop of my very own right here! Instead of paying a worker a dismal wage, I’m going to work myself for a similarly dismal wage!) or occasionally the aesthetic side (“This is the perfect shade of blue to match Junior’s eyes! I’ve never been able to find a shirt this color; now I’m going to make him one!”) or if you’re really talented, the quality side (“Beautifully tailored clothing costs a fortune, so I’m going to do it myself!”).

But it really is economically worth it to make toddler pants.

Toddler pants still have elastic waistbands, which make the pattern super easy. None of this complicated “fit” business. If they are large enough for the child to get into them and short enough that the child doesn’t trip, they fit. Basically. More or less. Maybe take that last with a grain of salt. But they are supposed to be on the roomy/baggy side because they have to fit over diapers and chubby little toddler legs.

So what I do is, I make pajama pants out of non-pajama fabric. And it’s awesome. Awesome, fast, and cheap. The trifecta of home sewing. Sometimes if I’m feeling fancy I’ll add patch pockets or topstitching to mimic a fly. Sometimes I’m out of elastic and I do a drawstring instead. But the basic pajama pant pattern is 1 pattern piece. Cut out two pieces, sew the hems. Sew the pieces together down the front and back. Sew the leg seam. Fold the top down to make the waistband and sew. Insert elastic or drawstring. Bam! A piece of real clothing. It takes me up to an hour to make a pair of toddler pants, including cutting out. (I am not a particularly fast seamstress.) When I am organized enough to cut out several pairs at a time and make them assembly line-style it’s even faster.

If you pay about $8 for fabric and it takes you an hour to make them, that’s a reasonable “wage” for your time compared to buying a new pair of toddler jeans for $18-$24. And if you reuse handmedown or thrift store adult size jeans, your wage gets even better. You just take a pair of scissors (don’t bother with a seam ripper) and rip the jeans going up and down the inside seam. Spread the jeans flat, lining up the outside seam if there is one, lay down your pattern, more or less centered over the outside seam, and cut them out. If the hems of the jeans are still in good condition, you save even more time. Line up the hems carefully, lay down your pattern so that it extends 1 ¼”-1 ½” beyond the hem, and cut out your pants.  With some men’s pants, you can even get a pair of pants and a pair of shorts out of the same pair. 

I made these pants out of hand-me-down scrubs. The brown and purple pants used to be tops, so I reused the hems, and the green and khaki pants used to be adult size pants, so I reused the waistbands.
Because scrubs are so thin, and I wanted the boys to be able to wear these in winter, I lined them. There was no real need for these to be fancy, so I just laid my lining on top of my scrubs material and treated them as one piece of cloth. Result: sturdy, double layered pants. The brown ones are lined with a large soft scrap I happened to have, and the purple ones are lined with an old dress shirt of 'Stache's that had worn out down the front edges. 
Now, let’s be honest. These are not the be-all and end-all, last word in toddler fashion. But guess what? I’m fine with that. These are basic clothes, designed for non-discriminating little people who have mastered neither the finer points of self-feeding nor the basic tenants of the use of a toilet, and who have only recently started to dress themselves. High fashion is not what I’m looking for. Simple, sturdy, slightly baggy jeans will do just fine.

And if toddler pants are the bomb, toddler pajama pants are truly the motherload of awesome. All those fabulous things I said above about pants, only these are made out of flannel*!!! Soft, so easy to work with, easy to hem, great pattern options … I’m a fan. Also, if you’re going for the drawstring option on the waistband, you can just make it right out of the flannel for the pants! (If you think a moment, you will realize that this is not really an option with jeans. Denim drawstrings tend to be a non-starter. You’re much better off using a wide shoelace.)

Last Christmas I went a bit nuts and made 9 pairs of kids’ pajama pants in one go. This sounds crazy. It was crazy. It makes me sound a bit obsessive (fair assessment) and maybe even neglectful of my kids. What was I doing, churning out all these pajamas? But no, flannel pajama pants are so awesome and so fast that even 9 pairs didn’t upset the applecart of family life too badly.

Toddler pants. They’re the bomb.

(I feel like I might have mentioned that before.)

Munchkin in his purple pants and his fish vest that my mother knit him. He would wear this every day of the week if I let him. The pants are a little long, but I'm sure they'll be the right length by fall.

Ooo, pockets.

Who needs pants when you're this cute?

*For winter pajamas, I like to use 100% cotton flannel, which has not been pre-treated to make it acceptable by the powers that be for children’s sleepwear. All of the children’s sleepwear that you buy in a store must, by law, be soaked in flame-retardant chemicals. Most of the children’s sleepwear that you buy in a store is also made of polyester, aka plastic, which when not treated by the above mentioned chemicals, melts in the presence of flame. This would cause horrible burns if it melted onto someone’s skin, above and beyond the damage caused by the flames themselves. As cotton does not melt when set on fire, I feel like the benefits of soaking cotton flannel in a flame retardant bath are outweighed by the potential hazards of the chemicals themselves, right next to my children’s skin for 8 to 12 hours a night. These are just my reasonings, however! This is a question that you should weigh for yourself and decide what you think is best for your family. My opinion means nothing. 

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