Turn a Shirt into a Kid’s Pants

I always keep my once-nice, now-unwearable sweaters to craft littler things from–but I never thought about it for shirts. I love the idea of repurposing a favorite old shirt into something for your kid to wear–the well-worn fabric is soft and imbued with memories, it’s a sweet thing.

There’s a lovely book by Amanda Blake Soule, The Creative Family (Trumpeter, 2008) that has fabulous instructions for turning unwanted adult shirts into children’s pants.The following instructions are for a pair of toddler’s pants. A large men’s shirt can make a pair of pants for a child up to about the age of 3 or shorts for a child under 10.

What You’ll Need

• One adult’s shirt, from your closet or the thrift store. (Flannel, knit, or cotton all work well for this project. Keep in mind that knit jersey will stretch quite a bit as you sew.)

• A pair of elastic-waisted pants or shorts that are the apropriate size for your child. (These will be used only for tracing the size.)

• Waistband elastic, 3/4-inch width. (Length should be your child’s waist measurement plus 1 inch.)

• Needle, scissors, thread.

What to Do

1. Lay the shirt out flat. On top of it, place the pants to be traced, folded in half, with the outside leg of the pant along the side seam of the shirt. Place the hem of the pants along the hem of the shirt (this will save you from hemming the pants). Pin in place.

2. Cut around the pants, allowing 1/2 inch extra for seam allowance. At the top (the waist), leave an extra 2 1/2 inches for the waistband.

3. Repeat this process on the other side of the shirt. At this point you can trace the piece you just cut, rather than using the pants as a guide. This will ensure that the pieces are exactly the same size.

4. Open out the two pieces, and place them with the right sides together. Pin in place. Sew from the top (waist) to the crotch on both sides.

5. Open up the pants so that the crotch seam you just sewed is now in the center, and the two “legs” are on each side. Pin the pant legs together, matching up crotch seams and bottom hems.

6. Beginning at one hem, sew up the length of the pants to the crotch, and then down the other leg to the hem.

7. To make the waistband, fold down the top edge of the pants 1/4 inch and press. Fold down another 1 inch and press again. Sew this down, close to the fold, all the way around the waistband of the pants, leaving a 2-inch opening at the back center to insert the elastic.

8. Using a large safety pin, insert the elastic through the opening and thread through, being careful not to twist. Sew the two ends of the elastic together where they meet.

9. Stretch the waistband to close the elastic opening. Turn pants right side out.

Your reconstructed pants are ready to go!

By Melissa Breyer, Senior Editor, Care2


Tim C.
Tim C4 years ago


Fawad Jamshed
Fawad Jamshed6 years ago

great idea, like old days Asian (indo-pakistani) grand mom job HA HA

William P.
Past Member 8 years ago

These are totally awesome!! I made my daughter’s from her uncle’s old buttoned shirt and instead of cutting the pieces from the side seams, I cut them from the front and back so I got one side seam (on the pants) from the placket (with the buttons). It adds a nice detail at no extra effort :) ……I think I am going to go on a pant sewing spree.
digitaler bilderrahmen

Rachel Simon
Rachel Simon8 years ago

this is such a cool idea :D

Anne D.
Anne D.8 years ago

do you have any photos? oh yes they'd be a great help! :)

Darlene B.
Darlene B8 years ago

I was trying to figure out what to do with old adult jeans that have been worn in spots that seem impossible to fix.

Yee Chuan Mayhew
Yee Chuan Mayhew8 years ago

To turn a collar on a shirt you need to unpick the collar along the seam that joins the collar to the neck - turn it so the top side is underneath and restich along the neck and collar seam. This was done when the turn down bit of the collar was worn away from rubbing along the back of the neck and the scrubbing that was necessary to make it clean - no biologicals in those days! - My husband's grandmothers also used to cut the sheets in half lengthways and resew them so the middle was on the outside and the tuck in bit was in the middle. It meant there was a seam down the midde but at least no danger of putting your foot through the worn out bits!

Yee Chuan Mayhew
Yee Chuan Mayhew8 years ago

Another tip for using old shirts is to make children's paint coveralls. Cut the collar off so you are left with a 'grandad' style neck. Cut the sleeves to the right length plus one and half inches to make a casing and thread through thin elastic, enough to pull the sleeve into a cuff but not too tight so that marks are left on the wrist! - Put the shirt on the child back to front so the buttons do up at the back. - We made lots of these when my children were at school so all the children in class had coveralls for painting and baking and any other messy lessons.

Daniela Razetti
Daniela Razetti8 years ago

add a picture, please!!!