Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sewing Baby jeans (Capri) from a boys long sleeve shirt tutorial

I am posting this now for a friend to look over my instructions. I know I will need to do some more editing over the next week. I do plan to redo the cuffs and waist so I can get more pictures of how I did them but I will not have a chance to get that done in the next few days. I would like to add a drawstring waist and pocket instructions to go with this pair of pants but I might save that for another tutorial to keep this one simple. I have a tutorial of a similar pair of pants but stretchy ones in the works. I just need to finish writing it up. I will get to that sometime next week.

This tutorial will show you how to turn a boys (size 6/7) shirtsleeves into baby Capri pants (size 9-12 month). If you use an adult shirt you can make pants for an older child.

Picture #1
Picture #2

Picture #3

The pictures above are all of the same pair of pants. Picture #1 is pants made from only shirt sleeves. Picture #2 is pants after I cut off the shirt cuff and added a little fabric for trim at the bottom this would be an easy way to add length if you wanted longer pants. Picture #3 shows pants with added waistband an easy way to make pants roomier in the bum.

Story behind how this project got started...

I was doing some spring cleaning/sorting out clothes for season change. I came across this shirt in my son's dresser.

He wears a size 9 BUT this shirt is a size 6/7. WAY TOO SMALL and it is very worn. It isn't in good enough shape to give away (has holes in it) but I didn't want to toss it out. My first thought was to use the shirt to sew a fitted outfit for one of my little girls (using the button front of shirt). I was running short on sewing time so I decided to just use the sleeves (I will share what I did with the body of the shirt when I get some free time to finish that project up).

This is a project simple enough for someone who doesn't know how to sew to do! All you need is a sewing machine (it's simple enough you could hand sew it), thread, scissors, some elastic, and an old shirt. I have a TON of pictures to help make this as clear as I can. If you don't understand something feel free to comment or email me at

First cut off the shirt arms.
Once I cut them off I noticed how the sleeves just above the cuff look like the bottom of Capri pants. That is why I decided to make them in to baby Capri pants.

Because I wanted to use the area just above the cuff for the bottom of the jeans I placed them on the table like this.

If I wasn't trying to make Capri pants I would have set them on the table with the double stitched side seam on the out side. If you want the traditional blue jean look just run the seam showing in the center of the above picture on the edge where the button/cuff part is. That will move your seam from the front of the pants to the side.

Take a pair of pants that fit your baby and turn them inside out. Then stick one leg inside the other.

Set pants on top of sleeves. Line up bottom of jeans with how you want the bottom of pants t0 fit. If you don't want to add an extra band for the top of pants make sure you have lots of extra room at the top. For a thin waistband have your sleeves extend 2 inches past waistband on pants you are using for a pattern. Take a pencil, pen, chalk or marking pen and mark the crotch J on sleeves (the way I have it laying it is a backward J shape). This doesn't have to be perfect! Baby clothes are very forgiving! Extend your J shape to the cut off place on your sleeves.

You should have something that looks like this. I ran this red line 1 or 2 inches beyond the top of my pattern pants.

Cut out J's in both sleeves. I have them turned around in this picture. It just shows the red pen mark from above picture cut out in both sleeves.

I am sorry I didn't remember to take a picture of the jeans laying on top showing room for waistband below I drew a line to show the extra fabric needed at top to hold waist elastic if you don't plan to add an extra waistband. If you don't have this extra room it is OK I will show a fix for that later on.

THIS IS IMPORTANT (very simple but you need to follow this step exactly).
Turn ONE sleeve inside out. Stick the other sleeve (one that is RIGHT SIDE OUT) INSIDE the sleeve that is inside out.

When you double check, you should have an arm inside an arm, the outside one will be wrong side facing out. The inside arm will be right side up and a nice big lined up U shape should show (this is shown below in next 3 pictures).


Below is another view of what you should have. On the left side of the picture, I have opened up the layers so you can see I have them right sides touching each other.

Sew the large U shape you now have. Start at the top of the left side and follow around to the top of the right. I used my machine foot on the sewing machine as a guide for my seam allowance.
Turn them right side out and you should have two legs of what is looking like a pair of pants. I don't take measurements or use patterns so I like to use my children to make the clothes. If your child is around try them on to check to see how they are going to fit.

Fold down the top making sure you have enough room to fit your elastic AND are high enough to fit baby. If they are not tall enough in the waist that is OK! You can add on some fabric to make them longer. I will show that step later on. If you can't try them on your child you can use the pants you used before as your pattern for this step.

I like to sit her up to check the fit in the back. To me it seems the room needed in back of pants changes when checked laying down and sitting up so I like to check both ways. I don't think this step is necessary but I feel I get a better fit by doing this step. I use this method when my baby is awake (if she is sleeping I use another pair of pants as a guide).

Either hold the fold or mark it with a pen before you take them off the child. AFTER I took them off her I put a pin to hold the fold down. In the picture below I put the elastic on top of the fold so you can see I have enough folded over to sew the elastic inside. Remember, if you don't have enough room, I will show a solution to that later on. Notice, I made the back higher than the front on the pants. I did that to make room for my baby's cloth diaper bum.

Again, I don't take measurements so to get elastic length I use my baby's tummy! I marked in red the place the end of the elastic touches once it goes around the tummy.

I don't like to fish the elastic inside a long narrow tunnel so I like to take a very long piece of elastic and lay it inside the fold sewing it in as I go. If you do it this way be VERY CAREFUL NOT to sew on the elastic! I use my finger to feel that the elastic is far enough inside as I am sewing. I put a mark in red so you can see how my needle does not touch the elastic. If you are new at sewing you might want to mark all along the elastic line and keep peeking inside the fold to make sure you elastic doesn't slip under the needle. When sewing along you might find places that the fabric doesn't seem to want to follow along the fold at top. It will seem like the inside of the fold (cut edge) is wider than the fold. That is because it is. I just add a couple tiny tucks (2-8) when I am sewing. I couldn't get a good picture of this so I drew a line along my tuck. See the slanted line near my thumb? Just add one in whenever the fabric on the raw cut edge gets loose compared to the fold. The top line shows the hidden elastic and bottom one (slanted line) marks a small tuck. If my finger wasn't holding down that tuck you would see a large open hill. The fabric wouldn't lay flat.

I left about 3 inches open from the start and stop elastic tunnel.

HOLD TIGHT the short end of the elastic. If you haven't done this before or you are in a hurry you might be better off pinning the short end so it doesn't slip inside the pants. Once you have a good hold of the end slide the long end of the elastic (elastic from the place you quit sewing at) scrunching back the fabric to expose the length mark on the elastic.
Sew the elastic together. You should double check to make sure the elastic is not twisted before you sew. In the picture below my pants are in front of me just below my fingers.
You should now have something that looks like this.
Snip the end that is not part of the waist loop.

Close the open space so the elastic doesn't show at all. I used narrow elastic and I didn't want it to twist up so I tacked down the elastic in a couple spots. I sewed my tiny tacks a lot longer than I normally do just to show it better. It is a small spot of stitching just above the large jean seam. Normally I like to hide them in the side seam stitches (ones just below the place I put it) but if I did that you wouldn't be able to see it. Making 2-4 of them around the waist will keep the elastic from getting twisted.

Here are the finished pants

Action shots!
I now wish I would have buttoned up the cuffs and even rolled them up and shared pictures. I knew I was going to cut of the cuffs so I didn't think to do that when I tried them on her.

Here is a close up of a worn spot in the cuff. This is the reason I didn't pass this shirt on to a smaller child and felt good about cutting it up to make baby things.

So to fix the hole in pants problem I cut of the cuff.

I opened up the fabric and added some fabric over the cuff. I didn't take picture of this step. Here is a closeup of the fabric on the bottom.

The fold marks at the bottom cuff you see in this picture will fade or go away once the pants are washed.

The pants fit my baby well but if you don't have enough room in the waist, sewing on some fabric to add height to the waist works well. I used the seam ripper to take out my old elastic tunnel so I could show this part. Just cut a rectangle long enough to go around the entire waist and wide enough to add the amount of room you want to add to the rise of the pants. In the picture below I added two inch of fabric (folded with elastic inside) and attached it all around the top of the pants. This added over one inch to the top of the pants and a bit more color. More could have been added but I didn't want to make the pants so big they wouldn't fit my baby.

View below is of the pants inside out taken right after I finished sewing on the new waistband The elastic is inside the rainbow colored fabric. The white thread you see in this picture (on the bottom of the rainbow fabric) is because I serged the ends of this fabric. It was a strip of fabric I was using to set up my surger. I like to my scraps when I can so this scrap became a waist.

Here they are, on my baby, with the added fabric to the top. If a piece of fabric from the original shirt body was added to the top instead of this rainbow fabric it would blend in and look exactly like the rest of the pants. If you didn't want to add elastic a draw string would be very simple to attach.
Here is a back view. It is hard to see how roomy the extra waistband made the pants.

If you are new at sewing and this project didn't turn out exactly how you wanted feel free to email me for help. Don't get upset if the fit isn't perfect! The wonderful thing about using old worn out clothes to sew with is making a mistake on something that was going to be trash is no big deal! Look around for some more very worn clothes and try again.
If you try this project I would love to see or hear how it turns out!
I used all white thread on this project because #1 it was already in my machine. #2 I was just playing around. When I play around at creating things with fabric scraps or old clothes I don't always change the thread (often want to kick myself for doing this when my experimenting projects turn out real cute). #3 (the big reason) White thread showed up well in my pictures. I wanted you to be able to see my stitches.


Janis said...

How adoreable! Great idea. Yes. The directions and pictures are very clear.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful idea!!! And they look so cute! You may be able to get me sewing yet.

Amber said...

Janis, Thank you for your kind words! I have lots of fun crafting with old stuff. I plan to share a lot more over the next few weeks.

Your so kind! If you ever want I could show you how or if you have old clothes around and not ready to sew bring them over and together we can design new stuff to make and I will do the sewing for you!

Dee said...

Dee says ......that this is really a great idea and that the little toddler in the picture is so cute in the pants.
Granny says she needs plenty of cuddles for being such a great model.

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