Sewing Baby Pants from a Toddler Tee

LB loves being active at home and wearing knit pants like sweatpants or jersey ones work best for that. Flexible pants to roll around on the floor in have become the standard attire here at home. A while back, we found a perfect pair in happy green stripes on jersey fabric and I used them to make a template to make more pants. Best of all, I can adjust as he grows by making it longer and a little wider (mostly longer). You know me well enough to realize I like projects and upcycling, so you won’t be shocked to know I make the pants from toddler tee-shirts. Here’s how! The photos are from the first one I made so LB is much younger than he is currently.

Start with a toddler-size tee shirt. To decide which size is best, measure your baby’s length from belly button to tops ankles. You want the tee shirt to be 1 inch longer than that length – measure from the lowest part of the neckline scoop to the bottom of the shirt’s hem. The shirt’s hem and the sleeve hems will be all be used so do not rip those seams or cut them off until that part of the process. If your baby is about to have a growth spurt or if you are planning ahead for the next size up, base this decision and all future measurements on baby’s current size PLUS 1.5 inches in all directions. This is an approximation – all babies grow at different rates in different ways.
NOTE: I chose a tee-shirt with a medium design on the front and placed it to be on baby’s posterior. So, the printed jersey front of the tee-shirt was being used as the back of the pants and the plain jersey back of the tee-shirt is the front of the pants.


Take a pair of jersey pants that fit your baby and lay them over the inside-out tee-shirt. Use tailor’s chalk to outline plus one-half inch on all sides for the seam to be sewn. Use pinking sheers to lessen the curling up jersey tends to do when cut.




Sew along the sides of the pants just in from the pinking sheers cut. Do this from the top all the way to the bottom, then turn the garment around and do it again. The sew the inseam, twice. The extra row of stitches is just to prevent them from coming apart if ripped or pushed to the limits by an active wearer.

Sewing the inseam

Trim the hems off each sleeve. You want to make your first cut (use straight fabric scissors for this) into the sleeve hem to one side of the underarm seam and to one side of those stitches. You want the entire hem to be cut off so avoid cutting any of the hem’s stitches in the process. Do this with each sleeve. Measure the width of the hem which is now your drawstring. Keep this handy for the next step.

No see drawstrings are cut from the hem of the sleeves

Cutting the drawstrings from the sleeve hems

Drawstrings from the hems of each sleeve of the original tee

In the exact center of the front of the pants, two inches below the top cut (which will be folded down to form the waistband), cut a rectangle from the center as tall as the width of the sleeve-hem drawstring and about one-third to one-half an inch wide using straight fabric scissors.

Cutting opening for drawstring

Take quarter-inch side plain elastic and cut it one to two inches shorter than the circumference of the waist. Make sure there are no twists in the elastic then wrap it around the waist so each end is one-quarter inch on either side of the drawstring opening you just created. Use fabric glue, iron-on hemming tape, or pins to hold them in place. Then stitch a rectangle around the drawstring opening TWICE. Next, stitch two lines to either side of the rectangle that secures the waistband elastic.
NOTE: I turned the pants right-side-out for this so any messy stitches could be on the inside of the garment.

Opening for drawstring reinforced with two rows of stitches

Reinforcing the drawstring opening

Arrange each drawstring on either side of the front of the pants to line up with the opening and elastic. Have the end with the raw cut beside the outside pants seam. Sew each side into place twice. Pull the drawstring ends through the opening.

Fold the waist band over and iron it so the waist is even. Push the drawstring and elastic against of the top fold and pull the ends of the drawstring to the top to make sure they are away from the needle as you sew the waistband together all the way around. You can use tailor’s chalk or pins or even a basting stitch if that helps mark where to sew or just dive in and stitch around. Stay an even distance from the top of the pants for a finished appearance.

Stitching the waistband

Waistband with drawstring

Turn the pants inside out and admire your work! If it all went well, the pants should look a lot like this. And best of all, no bottom hem needed because it is the original bottom hem of the tee-shirt.

Front of pants

Back of pants

Original tee hem now posing as leg cuff hems!

Finished pants

A few action shots to show how they fit on an actual baby. LB was kind enough to model his new pants for the camera. These are perfectly proportioned for him but just a little too big – so PERFECT for him when he grows just a wee bit more (I like to plan ahead).

On the move in the tee pants

Front of pants

Posterior view of tee-shirt pants

Drawstring detail

Have you tried upcycling tee-shirts for baby clothes before? What did you make? I’ve also used them to make oversized burp cloths.

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