Saturday, February 08, 2014

Wee Woolen Pants and How to Make Them

I made a couple pairs of soft wool pants for the baby recently and thought I would share how I did it.

First, you have to collect sweaters. I buy them secondhand when I come across really good ones. The best for baby clothes are the thin and unbelievably soft merino wool sweaters often imported from Italy. (Many are apparently dropped off at the thrift shop after minimal wear.) Sometimes I will cut such a sweater apart at all the seams and turn it into fabric. Then I can use a pattern on it like any other fabric. For these pants, though, no pattern is needed.

These pants are not to be used as a diaper cover. They are much too thin to be effective. When I use them, it will be over another (wool) diaper cover. If you want to make thicker pants, you can use thicker sweaters, but I prefer to make diaper covers more trim and put pants over if baby needs them.

You may have seen and tried tutorials where you cut the sleeves off sweaters and sew them together with a triangular gusset between. I have never liked those. But whatever method you're using, my advice when working with sweaters is to choose only the very best wool- something you'd wear panties made out of. If it bothers you even the tiniest bit, don't put it on baby. If you are exceptionally sensitive to 100% wool, you can also find wool/silk blend sweaters just like this one if you keep looking.

You should wash and dry the sweater before cutting so that your finished product will be machine wash and dry-able. 
Many of these kinds of sweaters have nice ribbed necks. To make pants just like I made from this one you'll want a sweater with a ribbed neck (not buttons or v-neck), but you can easily modify this tutorial to use ribbing from the waist of the sweater or just fabric from the body of the sweater. In that case you might make measurements of the baby. 

The sleeves. Cut them as high as you want depending on the pant size you desire. The little triangle of fabric can be cut after. In the two pictures before you'll see how cutting the slanted edge of the sleeves straight from the desired rise will make these easy to sew together. You can measure baby's rise to decide how long the sleeves need to be, but I suggest you err on the side of too long in the rise. You want plenty of room for diaper and wiggles.
Here they are next to one another.
Just laid over over another to show the finished size. Remember this fabric is really forgiving and stretchy. I didn't use a measuring tape once, I just 'eyeballed' them. 
Here is the neck above the sleeves. It will become the waistband. The smaller ribbing will make these pants fit better longer and stay up without elastic. I cloth diaper my babies, so a large rise like these pants have is a must to fit over diapers. Because the rise is so high, you don't have to make a front or back to these pants. 
Turn one sleeve inside out, then slip the other (right side out) inside of it so the two right sides face and the crotch seams line up. 
Sew the deep "V" this arrangement makes, but don't sew the waistband of the pants. 

Use a stretch stitch. I've used a zigzag. 

Voila! Yes, I sew barefoot. 

Here is the waistband over the waist of the pants. My ribbing was two layers. How handy! If yours is, you can do what I have done and open it up as one big piece. Put right sides together with the pants. (If your ribbing is single layer, don't worry. Just put it raw edges together, right sides together, over the waist of the pants.)
I try to line up one of the back seams of the pants with the seam in the ribbing, just for neatness. 

Because the ribbing is so much smaller than the waist of the pants, it is best to use pins. Pin the ribbing at the back, then find the front center of the ribbing and match it with the front seam of the pants. Then find the sides and match them to the sides of the pants. This way, you can stretch the ribbing and pants as one and sew them with an even amount of stretch all of the way around. 
It doesn't have to be pretty. Use a stretch stitch again. (If you had single layer ribbing, you're done. Just trim the excess wool around your waist seam, wash and dry the pants again- to pull them in tight after so much stretching- and enjoy!)

I had two-layer ribbing. When I put my pants right side in again, they looked like this. 

So turn them inside out and fold the ribbing back down. 

You can machine sew the ribbing down, but it doesn't look very nice. I prefer to hand sew this part for looks and also because it makes the inside of the waist softer. 

I find it easiest to sew down if it is stretched out again. Here, I used a book roughly the same width as the waistband of the pants, fully stretched. 
Sew away! You don't have to fold the raw edge of the ribbing under here because it is wool. It won't unravel. I like to catch a bit of the zigzag stitch with each hand stitch. 
There you go!

Lovely, soft, and warm! I expect these to fit from about 2 months until they're shorts. I just love the amazing durability and stretch of this fabric.

After making these you still have a lot of soft merino to work with from the sweater. (You can make a matching cap, shirt, or sleep gown.)You might be making these for your own baby or for a shower gift, but either way you have a beautiful, valuable product. How much did you pay? How much do people pay for similar woolen pants for babies?

Here is a link to an Amazon search for similar products.
baby pants merino wool

Thanks for reading! Please leave a comment if you have questions about making these pants.

 Joining Nicole for Keep Calm Craft On.

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