I love working in my garden but I hate the way knee-pads never fail to cut off the circulation in my legs and leave the backs of my knees itchy, red and sore. I had a light-bulb moment while shopping at my favorite thrift store last week: what if I had a pair of 'pants' that had knee-pads built in?"
Well, I've never actually seen such a thing, but that didn't mean I couldn't make them a reality!
I found a soft older pair of capris, conveniently brown on colour so that they wouldn't show stains, grass or dirt as easily, and after a quick stop at the dollar store, I was ready to get creative!
Before I begin, let me just say that my sewing machine and I have an on-again/off-again relationship and we only really see each other at holidays and during fashion emergencies. In other words, I am NOT a sewing enthusiast, and for this reason you will note that my sewing skills border on primitive. Since I am making a 'not-really-fashion' -ish project, I'm not concerned with raw edges showing or seams being wobbly. I have no doubt that someone who is much more familiar with their sewing machine will be more comfortable finishing edges, etc.
Don't judge me because I'm lazy. ;)
Step 1: Materials
In order to make a pair of chaps that are comfortable and easy to wear, I bought a pair of capris one size larger than I would normally wear. Then I got a set of dollar-store knee pads and thread to match the colour of the capris.
Depending on how wide you need the leg ties to be, you may want to get a full-length pair of pants so that you have enough fabric to make longer ties. With the capris, there was barely enough material for short ties.
Step 2: Snip, Snip, Snip
You'll be using the waistband and front of the pants for your chaps and material from the back of the legs will make your knee-pad pockets and leg ties.
Cut off the backs of the pant legs, leaving the side seams attached to the front half.
I wanted to make full use of the capris' pockets so I cut across at the bum level to leave the back pockets intact. If you don't want a 'backside' on your chaps, cut up to the waistband and across the back of the pants leaving the waist intact (when you put them on it will fit like a belt).
Step 4: Positioning the Knee-pad Pockets
To determine how deep the pockets need to be in order for the pads to fit into them deep enough that they won't fall out, put the chaps on and, holding them against your legs, kneel down and mark the tops of your knees on the front of the chaps.
When you stand up, check the depth of the mark by holding one of the knee-pads comfortably against your knee and place a mark about 1 inch below the bottom of the pad. (Since my capris were already just below knee-length, I didn't need to mark the bottom of the pad because it was equal with the bottom of the capris anyway.)
Do this for both knees.
Step 6: Cut the Pockets
If you are using capris like mine where the bottom mark is actually the bottom of your pants:
Line up the hemmed bottom of one of the back-of-the-leg pieces to the bottom of the capris, measure up to about 2 inches above the top-of-the-knee mark and cut across the fabric. This will be your knee-pad pocket.
Repeat for the other leg using the other back-of-the-leg piece.
If you are using longer carpris or full-length pants:
Line up the hemmed bottom of one of the back-of-the-leg pieces to the bottom-of-the-knee-pad mark, measure up to about 2 inches above the top-of-the-knee mark and cut across the fabric. This will be your knee-pad pocket.
Repeat for the other leg using the other back-of-the-leg piece.
Step 7: The Pocket Upper Edge
Take one of the pocket pieces, fold over 1/4 inch of the top edge, press, then fold over another 1/4 inch and press. Sew a seam close to the bottom edge of the fold all the way across, and then sew a second seam close to the top edge - this will make a sturdy top edge for your pocket and prevent the fabric from unraveling or fraying.
* If you are using full-length pants, you will need to fold over the side and bottom edges of the pocket 1/4 inch and either press or baste them.
Step 8: Attach the Pockets
If you are using capris like mine, attach the pockets in the following way:
Lay the pocket with it's right side against the wrong side of the pants, lining up the bottom of the pocket with the bottom of the capris leg, and the top (newly-sewn) edge with the above-the-knee-mark.
Sew around the sides and bottom of the pocket, using a 1/4 inch seam allowance, then sew a second time giving another 1/4 seam allowance from the first stitch line.
This will give your pockets extra reinforcement for all the pull and tug you'll be putting them through.
Repeat for the other leg.
* If you are using full-length pants:
Place the pocket on the front of your pant leg, both right sides up, lining up the bottom of the pocket with the bottom-of-the-knee-pad mark on your pants, and sew around the sides and bottom of the pocket with a 1/4 seam allowance. Sew another seam 1/4 inch inside the first to reinforce the pocket. Repeat for the other leg.
With the capris, when you have the pockets sewn, turn them inside out and flatten the corners and seams. Now you have knee-pockets on the bottoms of your chaps!
Step 11: The Leg Ties
To determine how long your leg ties should be, measure loosely around your leg beginning at the front of your knee, going around the back of your leg to the front again. Add 2 inches to this and it should give you a sufficient length for your ties. My leg measured about 6 inches loosely and I made my ties 8 inches long, which was long enough, although they could be a bit longer.
From the remaining fabric you have, cut four strips about 1.5 inches wide and as long as your measurement (plus that extra 2 inches).
Fold and press each strip 1/4 inch twice to make a flattened 'tube'-like strip. Sew along the raw edge, and then sew a second time to reinforce the tie and prevent the fabric from unraveling.
If you are more patient than I, you can sew your ties properly, folding the fabric in half, right sides together, and sewing flat along the raw edge and one end, then turning your tube inside out and pressing it... but my way is less hassle for someone who has very little patience when it comes to fine details. ;)
Step 13: Finishing
Once you have all four ties sewn, it's time to position them.
For maximum comfort, you want the ties to be more around your calf than around your knee so that the ties won't bunch up behind your knee in the crease when you are kneeling. Put your chaps on and place a small mark at the edge of each side of your leg at approximately mid-calf.
Do one leg first, sewing a tie on each mark at the sides of your chaps leg.
Because this placement on my capris is the hemmed bottoms of the pant, the material in this spot is quite thick so I used a 4-ply strand of thread and sewed the ties in place by hand making an 'x' over 1/2 inch of the end.
Try on your chaps and check the position of the ties, comfort, etc. in case you need to adjust the positions.
I found that I could just tie a loose knot and they still stayed in the right position when I knelt down, so it isn't necessary to tie them tightly.
Depending on how large the pants are that you have used, you may even want to add a second set of ties around your mid-thigh to prevent the chaps from sliding sideways around your leg if they are too loose.
Once you're happy with the placement of the ties, finish sewing the others in place. Finally, slip your knee pads into the pockets and you're ready to go!
They fit very comfortably over both my shorts or my track pants and I love the convenience of having extra pockets on the front and back to tuck my gloves, seed packets, plant markers, pen, etc.
Plus it's great to be able to pull out the knee pads and wash the chaps. Knee pads will last a lot longer this way too!
I hope you find this instructable useful. Please feel free to comment or ask questions if any of the instructions are unclear. If you make your own pair of garden chaps let me know how they turned out! Happy Gardening! :D