Shamelessly Lazy Toddler Jeans

I came into possession of this pair of adult jeans with a busted out seat. Not a whole lot could be done to restore them, but I liked the pocket design and the wear pattern of the denim. I decided to see if I could make a pair of pants for Eli with them without first creating a freezer paper pattern. I figured if I truly botched the experiment I was only out a pair of pants destined for disposal anyway.

First I took a pair of Eli’s current pants and folded them in half showing the back pocket. I laid this on the sacrificial donor jeans and traced around them with my trusty soap sliver.

I then added a seam allowance… here I would remind you to refer to the title of this post… no measuring, I just moved over a bit and marked a new line. I also extended the length quite a bit for good measure.

After cutting this piece out I flipped it over upside down onto the other leg, traced around it and cut it out.

I repeated the process with the front side of the pants. Refold current well-fitting pants to front side, place, trace, added seam allowance, cut, flip to other side, repeat tracing and cutting.

Now I sewed the front and back pieces of the pant legs together. They didn’t match up too well at the bottom, but I had included enough fabric down there that in the end it just wouldn’t matter.

I chose brown thread to match the brown trim on the pockets but found after I top stitched the side seams the I didn’t have enough thread for the rest of the project. Why didn’t I run out for more thread, or redo the top stitching with other thread? How soon you for get the title of this post!

The pockets from the original jeans were then pinned in place on the side of the pant legs. These were then sewn on following the wear lines left by the original thread. I realized here I was glad to have run out of the brown thread; the natural color is much nicer!

Sew up the inside seam of the pant leg. In your rush don’t forget to sew on the second pocket first. Being lazy (or at least distracted and forgetful, a.k.a. sleep deprived) can result in double the work. Hello seam ripper!

Turn one leg inside out and insert one leg into the other so that the right sides are touching each other.

Trim the legs so they are even. I lined up one of the guide lines of the ruler with the side seam to get a straight across cut.

I grabbed another pair of Eli’s pants to find the length. I matched up the four corners point of the crotch seam and then marked where the leg ended on the new pair of pants. See, no tiresome measuring!

This is the point where I appear to have forgotten to take pictures. (See what happens when you choose to learn from a lazy person? You have no one to blame but yourself!)

Ahem… Anyway, I turned the pant legs inside out and then turned up the leg until the soap mark appeared at the very bottom edge. Then I tucked the raw edge in so that it appeared that it had been turned up and then turned up again. This way there is enough material that as Eli grows I can take these out and lower the hem a bit. That and I wasn’t made to measure. Then I sewed around making sure I caught the raw edge on the inside. The second leg was then sewn to match the first.

Now onto the waistband. I use 1″ elastic. In this case it was elastic I salvaged from an old pair of shorts some time ago which meant I spent nothing on these jeans! I cut the waistband strip out of fabric from an old dress… 3″ wide and I got the length from the width of the top of the pants doubled and with 1/2″ added for seam allowance.

This is the one time that being exact with the seam allowance mattered as these fabrics don’t have much stretch and need to match up to be sewn together. I’m loving this handy-dandy tool I bought during my quilting days and recently rediscovered.

Once joined fold the loop in half by bringing the top edge down to meet the bottom edge leaving the seam allowances on the inside.

Since I did no math or measurements in the beginning I now had to adjust the height of the pants with the added waistband. The original height of the fabric went up to the top of the waistband of the pair of pants I traced onto the blue jeans, but I had added no extra fabric for folding over and inserting elastic into as I knew I’d be adding this type of a waistband. I decided to trim off the inch that would be the new added waistband, but leave 1/2″ for seam allowance where they would be sewn together. (In the end, the pants don’t quite rise as much as I think they should. In an effort to avoid old man pants I ended up with something closer to Joey Fusco, Jr.pants… well, not quite THAT bad, but next time I think I will not trim and just add the waistband to the existing height of fabric.)

Thankfully, the diaper underneath rises higher than the back of the pants. Don’t want my boy learning that it’s normal to feel a breeze that low when you bend over!

Once again I forgot to get pictures for a brief interval of time in which a fair amount ws accomplished. In my post on Knee-Pleat Pants I have this part well described and photographed if the following steps leave you feeling befuddled.

Pin the folded ring of fabric around the top of the pants with the folded edge down. Sew all the way around. Zigzag or serge the raw edges. Top stitch just below the waistband.

Open up the inside seam of the waistband to pass through the elastic.

Attach something to the elastic to allow you to easily pass it through the waistband. My usual trusty diaper pin was no where to be found so I used this key chain thingy instead.

Overlap the ends of the elastic by about 1″ and sew together. Check first to make sure the elastic isn’t twisted  inside the waistband. Sew up the back seam of the waistband and the Shamelessly Lazy Toddler Jeans are finished!

He finally wore himself out chasing his wagon down the hill and then pushing it back up. I didn’t ask him to lie down on the sidewalk, but when he did I was able to get some not-so-blurry photos.

It lasted for a moment.

And then the moment was over.

The final analysis? I’m pretty happy with the way these turned out. I’m very happy with how easy and quickly they came together. Oh, and you can’t forget that delightful quality of being free! Next time I will make the pants have a higher rise at the waist and be a bit less full in the front. Neither of these are super big problems with this pair of pants though, especially as his shirts generally cover both imperfections. He’s getting plenty of wear out of them already!

Thanks for reading!


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  1. Kerri said,

    May 14, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    These are great. I like the way you used the pocket. I had three boys and remember making jeans, too. Fun!

    • May 14, 2012 at 5:05 pm

      Thanks, Kerri! Thank you for liking my posts recently. I haven’t had time to respond until now. Thanks so much for stopping by. 🙂

      • Kerri said,

        May 14, 2012 at 5:14 pm

        I’One of the things I like most about blogging is seeing what other people are doing… there are so many talented people online and I get ideas and learn all sorts of things from others.
        And thank you for visiting my site.

  2. mamacravings said,

    May 14, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    They are really adorable!! Well done! 🙂

  3. May 14, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    These are adorable – and great way to use old jeans. Ive never considered making a new pair out of an old pair before – we’ve handed them down until they get cut up into shorts, but this is a great idea.

    • May 14, 2012 at 7:44 pm

      It’s especially useful in cases like this where the hole was in the seat of the pants, rendering them useless as future shorts. Or for pants of a size or style that doesn’t lend themselves to much use as shorts. I’m glad you like these. Thanks for the comment. 🙂

  4. ReStitch Me said,

    May 15, 2012 at 7:08 am

    These turned out great! I love the heavy stitching on the pocket–and that is hard to re-create with a home machine–so these definitely don’t look “home-made”.

    • May 19, 2012 at 7:13 am

      The heavy stitching was just a happy mistake. The thread I used was hand quilting thread which I grabbed forgetting the horrible snarls of thread I got in my machine last time I made that mistake. Having recently had the machine serviced worked in my favor here, I think.

  5. Kelley said,

    May 15, 2012 at 11:19 am

    Super cute Karen! I love how you re-purposed them for little Eli! Hes so stinkin cute too 🙂

  6. dawnhbrady said,

    May 15, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    What a great idea!

  7. etcetorize said,

    May 15, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    What a smart idea! I’m kind of kicking myself right now because I JUST gave away a bunch of jeans. Will have to try this with the next load of ‘donor’ jeans though. Thanks for sharing at Etcetorize!

    • May 19, 2012 at 7:16 am

      Thanks for your comment. I’d love to see how you’re jeans turn out when you have the chance to make these.

  8. May 16, 2012 at 9:26 am

    Lazy but awesome! Cool use of that pocket, and it’s so great you’re able to reuse something that was going to be thrown away.

  9. rosyragpatch said,

    May 16, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    Nice work. Well done!

  10. Evee said,

    May 16, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Great tutorial!

  11. Inder said,

    May 16, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    Cute!! And totally FREE! Win!

    I’ve had that issue with the pants being too low in the back and bunchy in the front. It can be fixed best by changing the curve of the crotch a bit, so that it’s a lower and wider curve in the back piece and a steeper curve in front. That adds length the back of the pants, but not the front. Am I making sense? I could draw you a picture, but WordPress doesn’t really facilitate that in comments. 😉

    But like you, I still put Joe in his plumber-crack pants all the time, and whatevs, the diaper covers the crack and they are still super cute!

    • May 16, 2012 at 4:25 pm

      I think I can follow what you are saying. What is weird to me is that the pants I trace fit just fine, and I made these just as high… But anyway, I’m getting ready to give it a new go and after I trace out the pattern I’ll adjust like you recommend and see what that gets me. On these pants I think as soon as they are washed again I’ll try sewing again along the front seam just a little farther in to see if that takes care of the bunching. I figure if it makes for a worse problem I’ll just pick out the seam and go back to how they are now.

      • Inder said,

        May 16, 2012 at 4:51 pm

        That’s a good idea! Yeah, my guess would be just that it’s hard to get a perfect tracing of that curve from an existing pair of pants. Since the back piece is bigger than the front, it’s hard to trace them perfectly without losing some of the differences between back and front. But also, type of fabric, etc. can make a huge difference. Who knows? I just know this is a really common problem for me in sewing pants for Joe, even from patterns. There is actually only one pattern where I feel like the seat fits perfectly on him and the rise is just right.

      • May 16, 2012 at 5:07 pm

        I could go back through your posts as you most likely have mentioned it, but which pants pattern is that?

      • Inder said,

        May 16, 2012 at 5:10 pm

        The Oliver + s Sketchbook Shorts. I have made so. many. versions. of that pattern. Shorts, pants, you name it. All because it looks nice and flat in the front and doesn’t give my boy plumber crack. I know different children are shaped differently, so that pattern might not be the gold standard for all little boys, but it has consistently worked for Joe since I started sewing it in the 12-18 month size. I know you don’t normally work with patterns (which I respect and admire!) but I will say, O+s patterns are a dream – the instructions are wonderful and they hold your hand through every step. They are great patterns for beginners or people who are not used to working with patterns.

      • May 16, 2012 at 5:15 pm

        Sounds like a great one for me. I don’t use patterns only because they intimidate me and the one time I did it was a horrific experience that never turned out right. The pattern or me? Who knows, but once bitten twice shy. I’d like to learn to work with patterns as there are so many incredible things out there for those that do. I just need a recommendation like this so I know I’m not headed back into a nightmare, unless of course, I am the problem. Then at least I’ll know. 🙂

  12. May 16, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    These are wonderful! And so is that little man modeling the pants! Keep up the great work…

  13. May 17, 2012 at 8:13 am

    Oh how wonderful! LOVE these jeans! Pants are next on my agenda (I made asian style wrap pants before, but never fitting ones) I will certainly put your blog on my blog roll! So glad you left a comment for me and I found your wonderful bog!

    • May 19, 2012 at 7:23 am

      I’m glad you liked the jeans. Are you planning on sewing pants for yourself or a little tyke? I’m glad we found each other’s blogs too. 🙂

      • May 19, 2012 at 7:29 am

        I was planning pants for myself! My kids are both teenagers, and nobody in my circle of family and friends has little ones at the moment, so as much as I am tempted to make cute little pants like the ones you made, I won’t have a chance…..(Well, maybe I WILL make some and just wait and hope one of my friends is going to have a baby :D)

      • May 19, 2012 at 7:33 am

        I’ve done that… Get inspired, make something I have no use for, then wait around for a gifting opportunity. It’s especially easy to fall into such behavior with itty bitty new baby things, I’ve found.

      • May 19, 2012 at 7:39 am

        Ooohhhh yes! Guilty here! 😀 Usually I would grab my knitting needles, but I really want to get more into sewing and with all this inspiration around.. I’m afraid! I’m very afraid hahahaha

  14. May 17, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    Wow – I’m quite impressed! I like your eye for denim. 🙂

  15. May 18, 2012 at 2:56 am

    Great job! Jeans are hard…especially little bitty toddler jeans. I love denim!!!

    • May 19, 2012 at 7:26 am

      Thank you, glad you liked them. These were actually pretty easy. The “jean-ness” of the original pants is what carried off the look, I think. Making them from scratch would have been much more difficult, I think.

  16. Ruth said,

    May 18, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Awesome! I would never even havbe thought of this. Little boy jeans sound so hard. but I might be tempted to give it a try now….

  17. Wendy said,

    May 20, 2012 at 5:23 am

    Wow, that is genius! I’d never be able to do something like that!

  18. May 20, 2012 at 7:16 am

    Great recycling! The final product looks great 🙂

  19. etcetorize said,

    May 20, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    I like your project so much that I’m featuring you at tonight’s Make it Great party! I hope you’ll stop by to pick up a featured button from the sidebar and link up again~ (

  20. May 20, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    Thanks for dropping by my blog, love the way you recycled your jeans. It is so nice to give a favourite article of clothing a new chance at life, I had to get rid of old jeans the fabric is usually lovely and soft by then.

    • May 21, 2012 at 6:29 pm

      I agree! So much more comfortable than stiff new denim… if it isn’t falling apart yet it’s a shame not to use it.

  21. May 21, 2012 at 8:29 am

    How fun! I’m definitely going to try this with my little guy. I have tons of worn out jeans, and my little guy needs some shorts for Summer. This is perfect! I’d love for you to link it up to Crafty Cousins.


    • May 21, 2012 at 6:28 pm

      Thanks for the invite, I’m all linked up! Also thank you so much for leaving this comment. When I visited your blog I read about the hand surgery and the fact you are typing with 2 fingers! I really appreciate you typing out a comment in spite of the difficulty. I hope you heal up and can type and sew again comfortably real soon!

  22. May 21, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    These are so awesome Karen!! Your lazy approach is right up my alley. The pockets on the pants are the best accessory!! 🙂

    • May 21, 2012 at 6:31 pm

      Thanks, Karah. 🙂 I wish I could find a pair of sacrificial pants big enough to make a pair for myself, but I know that will NEVER happen.

  23. May 21, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    That is an awesome way to up-cycle maternity jeans that no longer fit!

    • May 21, 2012 at 6:09 pm

      Yeah, as the end result of the need for those pants is an incessantly growing little one who will quickly grow out of each and every size you sew!

  24. Maysem said,

    May 21, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    I don’t call that laziness… I call it being fearless;) Great job on the jeans….I bet they will become Eli’s new favorite pair of jeans!

    • May 22, 2012 at 6:47 am

      Thanks, Maysem! He is wearing them a lot, but as he doesn’t have much opinion about his clothing yet it’s more a case of them being my favorite from among his jeans and he doesn’t have any objections. 😉

  25. May 22, 2012 at 10:15 am

    I like your laid back approach on this project, the result looks great and you recycled what otherwise would have been disposed!

  26. May 22, 2012 at 10:50 am

    […] Did you tear the seat of your jeans?  Make them into Shamelessly Lazy Toddler Jeans! […]

  27. 'Becca said,

    May 22, 2012 at 10:50 am

    Great idea! I linked it to my big list of ways to reuse things. I really like your use of the pockets.

  28. May 22, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    What a great idea, I have some mens jeans that I have been thinking I need to do something with, this project is perfect! Thank you for sharing.

  29. growingslower said,

    May 23, 2012 at 7:52 am

    I love how you do your projects from found objects or things you already have on hand. Sewing can be an expensive hobby, but you’ve found a way to do it frugally! I always wonder whether I should save worn out clothes or get rid of them. I will definitely try to find new uses for them using you as inspiration!

    • May 23, 2012 at 9:47 am

      I’d never get much sewing done if I had to buy all new fabric. I especially like using old fabric if it comes from a piece of clothing that was previously mine and well loved. I can get quite attached and have trouble throwing things away. I also hate seeing stuff go to waste and filling up the landfills so this works for me on so many levels. I’d love to see what you make with your worn out clothing!

  30. deedeemallon said,

    May 23, 2012 at 7:59 am

    You are a seamstress after my own heart! Love the use of soap, key chain as tools! Love that you don’t measure and rely on your eye. And — they came out great!!

  31. roxannemasching said,

    May 23, 2012 at 9:23 am

    Wow very cool! I have not seen this done before, so many possibilities. I don’t have kids but i might try to make myself some leggings if I can find old jeans that are much larger than my size? Add that to my list of things I want to try 😉 thanks!

    • May 23, 2012 at 9:43 am

      Let me know how that works out for you. I’d love to see anything you end up making. Thanks for the visit and the comment. 🙂

  32. The Sisters said,

    May 23, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    You are so talented! And he is so cute!! These are awesome! Thanks for sharing your ideas on “Strut Your Stuff” Saturday! We hope to see you again! -The Sisters

  33. May 24, 2012 at 7:21 am

    Great job on these! The side pocket is so good for young ones 🙂

    • May 24, 2012 at 7:25 am

      Eli gets frustrated trying to get things in and out of the pockets of most of his pants, but he can utilize these independently. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! 🙂

  34. books494 said,

    May 29, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    do you know I can’t even sew!!

  35. piecedgoods said,

    June 8, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    I love these and that you reused the pocket! I think I beat you on lazy on toddler jeans – I made the side seam of the big jeans into the in seam of the toddler ones. One less seam to flat fell! I love reusing stuff!

  36. ourlegacy said,

    June 18, 2012 at 3:51 am

    Wonderful idea! The pocket placement is great! Thank you!

  37. Ali said,

    August 17, 2012 at 5:59 am

    Yup, this is now on my “Upcycling” board on Pinterest! Love, love love. What an amazing way to make an unwearable pair of jeans new again.
    BTW – I love when little boys have plumbers crack… it cracks me up, so maybe I won’t try to fix that when I attempt it 🙂

    • August 18, 2012 at 4:55 pm

      I’m glad you like and find this useful! Nothing is quite as thrilling as getting something basically “new” but paying nothing for it, and knowing your keeping stuff out of the landfill as well.

      Funny how cute plumbers crack is at 2 and how cute it isn’t later in life!

  38. May 5, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    […] an ingenious way from Folk Haven, to make a whole new pair of toddler jeans from grown-up ones, all with no […]

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