Toddler Pants with Knee-Pleat and Owl Patch

Last week I attempted to make a pair of toddler pants with a knee pleat detail copied from one of Eli’s out-grown jeans. Unfortunately I forgot to add seam allowances when I traced an existing pair of his pants for the patter. In the end the pants were salvageable, but I didn’t think they were worthy of putting out there in tutorial form.

That, however, was LAST week. THIS week I made another pair of pants complete with the beloved knee-pleat detail and feel perfectly confident about sharing the process.

Warning: This is a lengthy post.


First, trace a pair of pants that fit your child well. Add 1/4 inch seam allowance to the sides and around the seat and crotch. If you will be hemming the pants add extra length for your hem. I use a denim skirt for the material and just used the existing hem. Add 1 3/4″ in length to the front pattern piece only. (I know my pattern says 1 1/2″ but I found later on I needed just a bit more fabric in the pleat. You’ll see why.) You do not need to add any extra height for a waistband as you will be making that with a separate piece of fabric later.

I like to draw pattern pieces on freezer paper because then you can just iron it to the fabric you will be using and it doesn’t shift about as you cut it out.
I also like to use fabric from old clothing. You’ll save a LOT of money, keep clothing discards out of the landfill, and if the old clothing had sentimental value you can keep it around that much longer. My friends, family and neighbors keep me supplied with more fabric (for free!) than I can even store well… hence why the blogosphere will most likely NEVER see a shot of my dragon’s lair crafting space. Unfortunately, it is in what was formerly the dining room and is a fully visible part of our home.  I think I may have overheard my husband and Eli discussing whether to call that Hoarders program on me. But I digress.For these pants I used this old denim skirt. I liked how the stitching became an added detail to these pants. I was after a random effect, but needed to cut out the pattern pieces so that the existing seams in the fabric wouldn’t end up making the seams in the pants too bulky. In the end I got stiching stripes down the middle of the front and back of each leg. Not very random, but it I liked the end result anyway.Lay out one of your back pieces with the corresponding front piece on top, right sides together. Match up the points at the crotch then match up the bottom of the legs. The front piece is longer so there will be extra fabric.  Locate where the knee will be in these pants. Eli is between sizes 2T and 3T right now. The knee on these pants falls 7″ up from the bottom.After measuring to find the location of the knee, turn the ruler perpendicular to the pant leg. smooth the fabric from the bottom up until the bump of excess fabric is stopped at the ruler.

Remove the ruler and iron the excess bump of fabric down, first folded up, then down.

Push the excess fabric straight down from the middle so that it is equally distributed over the pant leg above and below the pleat.

Iron it down well to create very crisp folds.

This is what it should look like when you turn the pant leg over.

Here you can see the knee pleat on the inspiration pants. It is sewn on each side. Measure in 2″ from each side. Then mark a line on your fabric 1 3/4″ long both 1/4″ above and below the pleat opening on both sides of the knee. Connect the end of each line to the mark you made indicating the point 2″ in at the side. Sew along this line on each side. (This is where I found I needed the extra 1/4″ in length as sewing on the line would not quite catch the folded fabric underneath. I ended up sewing just inside the line I drew and it worked, but it would have looked a little bit straighter and neater if I had been able to just follow along on the line as I sewed.)

Pin the pant leg front and back together along the outer seam and sew.

After attaching the 2 pieces I added 2 lines of top stitching. One of these days I’ll try using a double needle but they kind of intimidate me. Here you can see the sewing on the knee pleat as well.

Repeat these steps with the 2nd pant leg.

I wanted to add a little decoration to these pants so I took some fabric from an old shirt sleeve and embroidered an owl.

I used 2 layers of fabric, both to give the embroidery stitches more stability and because I planned to leave the edges raw and wanted them extra fuzzy.

When I was done embroidering I cut out the owl and pinned it to the side of the pant leg just above the knee, more or less where a pocket on a pair of cargo pants would go.

I sewed around the edges 1/4″ in.  My sewing line is a little wonky, but it won’t really show after the next step.

I embroidered a border line over the machine stitches.

Then I trimmed about 1/8″ of the excess fabric around the owl detail and picked out some of the loose threads. It will get fuzzier after washing and with time.

Now I pinned and sewed up the inside seam of the legs.

Turn one leg inside out and insert it over the right side out leg so that the right sides are together. Pin around the opening, lining everything up from the midpoint of the crotch. When you sew go back and forth a few times where the seams converge in the crotch.

When I make a pattern for a pair of pants with this style of waist band I don’t spend much time worrying about the top of the pants. It just doesn’t matter. Now that they have come together, turn them right side out and trim the top so everything is even.

For the waist band cut a strip of fabric long enough to go all the way around the waist plus 1/2″ for seam allowances. It should be double in width. Since these pants were 11 1/2″ side to side, I doubled that (23″ ) and added 1/2″ (23 1/2″). I wanted a casing for 1″ elastic so I made it 3″ wide (folded in half 1 1/2″ leaves room for 1/4″ seam allowance and 1/4″ ease for threading through the elastic.)

Iron it in half the long way. Open it and join the two ends. Pay attention to the seam allowances being hidden when you fold it in half again. Pin the folded ring of fabric around the top of the pants with the folded edge down.

Top stitch down the seam allowance. I pinned it first.

Open up the seam where you joined the ends of the waist band loop. Measure around your child’s waist and add an inch to determine the length of your elastic. Thread through your elastic. Attaching a large pin to the end of the elastic helps. Overlap the ends of the elastic about 1″ and sew back and forth many times to attach them securely.

When finished feed all of the elastic back into the pants and hand stitch the waistband opening closed.

I restitched the hem of the pant legs.

I didn’t wait until after washing these to photograph them so the chalk lines at the knee are still there.

Here’s the side view.

Here they are being worn by Eli.

I was featured!

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Here’s where I’m linking up.


Sew Much AdoFrugally SustainableThe Shady PorchTea Rose HomeLil’ Luna,

Sweet Peas & Bumble BeesMom On TimeoutSomeday CraftsPassionately Artistic, Blue Velvet Chair


Mom On TimeoutSomewhat SimpleThrifty DecoratingBear Rabbit Bear,

The Crafty BlogstalkerThe Shabby Creek CottageFun to CraftHouse of Hepworths,

Sorta Crunchy, Delightful OrderSaved by Love CreationsA Glimpse Inside,

Between U & MeHappy Hour ProjectsAnything Goes Linky Party,


Simply DesigningWhipperberry,  Happy Hour Projectskojodesigns,

Joyful StamperMaking Lemonade BlogThirty Handmade Days,

Release Me CreationsNaptime CraftersRomantic HomeFinding Fabulous,

Shabby NestChic on a Shoestring DecoratingFrench Country Cottage,

The Charm of HomeThe Grant LifeAt the Picket FenceFingerprints on the Fridge,

Stuff and NonsenseOne Art Mama2805


The Gingerbread BlogToo Much Time On My Hands,

Six Sisters StuffSerenity YouBe Different Act Normal


LambAround,  Homemaker on a Dime,  I {heart} Naptime,  Flamingo Toes,

Petite HermineMy 1929 Charmer Blog,


{aka}/ designGet Outta My Head PleaseMad in Crafts, Skip to My Lou,

The Gunny SackSew Can Do, Singing Three Little BirdsEtcetorizeDittle Dattle,

C.R.A.F.T.,  diy home sweet homeCraft-O Maniac, Sew Chatty, Artful Rising,

Sarahndipities Just Winging ItEverything Under the Moon,

The Cure for the Common Monday,


Shwin and ShwinAt Home With KThe Creative Itch Boutique,

The Kurtz CornerKammy’s KornerMy Uncommon Slice of Suburbia,
Funky Polkadot GiraffeHope Studios


  1. Kelley said,

    January 25, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    Sigh. These are so sweet Karen! I love love love them! You are so talented!

  2. ReStitch Me said,

    January 25, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    Great tutorial! The owl patch is really cute!!! 🙂 I like how the waistband coordinates with the patch.

    • January 25, 2012 at 8:33 pm

      Thanks! I had a lot of fun making these pants. It’s put me in the mood to make more owl themed stuff. 🙂

  3. kelly said,

    January 25, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    Oh these are adorable! Great job 🙂

  4. Maysem said,

    January 26, 2012 at 7:44 am

    Too cute! I’m a sucker for owls!

  5. Melanie said,

    January 27, 2012 at 11:02 am

    The owl patch is too cute! Happy you linked to Things I’ve Done Thursday!

  6. Camille said,

    January 30, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    These are so cute! I’m a novice sewer, but I really prefer this kind of project to the store patterns (which never turn out for me). Now I need to scavenge some hand-me-downs!

    • January 30, 2012 at 12:40 pm

      I’ve never had success with a store pattern. I’m pretty novice myself. What’s great about this sort of project is that if you mess up it wasn’t made of expensive fabric, but rather with clothes you were getting rid of anyway. Takes a lot of the pressure off, for me at least.

  7. January 30, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Love the patch and can I just say, kudos to you for having the patience to accomplish the pleat! Thanks so much for sharing at Taking A Timeout Thursday!

  8. Kelley said,

    January 30, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    Ps Karen… Thanks for linking up to Financial Friday 🙂

  9. Six Sisters said,

    February 1, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    This so cute. I will try and get my mom to do it – she is the seamstress in the family. Thanks for linking up with “Strut Your Stuff Saturday.” We loved having you and hope you’ll be back next Saturday to share more terrific ideas! -The Sisters

  10. mom2Twowonderfulkids said,

    February 1, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    Thanks for visiting my blog. You are so talented. You have so much boy stuff here, I am always on the look out finding stuff to make for my son. I will go through the wonderful projects you have here and may be try some. Have fun.

  11. February 2, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    love the owl patch! I’ve seen heart ones, but not owls – how adorable!!

    • February 3, 2012 at 7:29 pm

      Owl can adorable-ize just about anything, I think. 🙂 Thanks for your comment!

  12. Jessica said,

    February 3, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Oh, I’m so glad you grabbed a feature button! 🙂 I really loved this post and your blog is amazing. Thanks again!

  13. February 3, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    Very cute pants and I love the owl patch!

  14. Ali said,

    August 17, 2012 at 6:11 am

    Love the details, you have much more patience than me. It’s amazing the way the material of the owl ties in with the waistband, and I give you props for hand embroidering, as well as encasing the seam on the inside! You thought of it all!!!
    You’re giving me so many ideas and inspiration, thank goodness it’s almost the weekend so I can get busy!

    • August 18, 2012 at 5:00 pm

      Thanks for your comment! Eli has almost grown out of these pants now. I’m going to miss seeing him wearing them, but we have another baby on the way so I’ll be saving them.

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