Introduction: Make ALL the Pants!

About: Hi! I'm Amelia! I like to make things and also teach people how to make things.

Have you ever wanted to make a really cool funky pair of pants but haven't been able to find a pattern? Maybe you saw some really cool stretchy fabric at the craft store and wanted to turn it into an amazing pair of dance pants but weren't sure where to start.

In this instructable, I will teach you that the sky is the limit when making PANTS. The key is to find a great sewing pattern for leggings and alter it to your liking.

A few notes before we get started:

  • You should have some experience using a pattern. I won't be going over how to measure a body or cut out the right pattern. It shouldn't be too difficult though since there will just be one to two pattern pieces. Yay pants!
  • You should have some experience sewing knits. Fabrics have different weight and stretch. You MUST use stretchy fabric for these pants. I’ve made a ton of pants out of all different types of fabrics using this basic template. Some fit different than others merely because of the fabric I chose. Be flexible and allow yourself the freedom to make adjustments.
  • You will need a sewing machine but a serger is recommended. While you can use a regular sewing machine to sew knits and other stretchy fabrics, a serger will make it much easier. I won't be going over what thread to use or how to choose the right settings on your machine since they are all so different. I made my first 3 pairs of pants with a regular machine and was successful but getting a serger changed my world. I recommend the Brother 1034d as an inexpensive entry level serger if you're in the market for one.
  • You can use any of the alterations I present in this tutorial on their own or in conjunction. It's kind of like a choose your own adventure instructable meant to inspire and enable.
  • I've made a bunch of pairs of pants using this method and I'm happy to share it. As such, I'll be relying on some older pictures for some examples.

So, lets go MAKE ALL THE PANTS! I can't wait to see what you come up with!

Step 1: Make a Template

  1. Find a leggings pattern in your size. I purchased a McCalls Pattern (M6173) for leggings in my size.
  2. Cut out and make a pair of leggings.
  3. Make sure that you like the overall fit before continuing. Write down the things you would change & mark the points on your pants for reference.
  4. Mark the points on your pattern where you wanted to make adjustments, measuring from the nearest edge. Simple examples of this are adjusting the rise (how high they were in the front and back) or the inseam.
  5. Complete your pants. Finish the bottom hem if you're into that sort of thing; I often leave my unfinished. Make note of any issues with the waistband.
  6. Trace your pattern onto another piece of paper to serve as a master template. I used to save brown kraft paper that was used in packing things and iron out the crinkles. I also recommend Swedish tracing paper since it's much easier to work with but costs more than free.
  7. Mark the front and the back of the pants; the front crotch will be less severe of a swoop if you get them mixed up.

Step 2: Alter the Length

Sure, you could make a pair of leggings, put them on, mark how short you want them to be, pull out the scissors and and toss out what you've just cut off. But, why? Make your pants (er, shorts) whatever length you want! Make capris, bike shorts, hot shorts, etc. I typically like to finish off my shorter options with some frilly fabric.

  1. Put on your leggings and mark a few different lengths for your body using safety pins on the inside and outside of one leg. Mark a bunch of lengths at once if you want.
  2. Take them off and measure the distance from the bottom of the pants to your safety pins
  3. Using your pattern template, note on the edges and center where you want to make the alterations.
  4. Connect the dots (edge, center, edge) using a ruler.
  5. Create a new pattern from your template for your new length of leggings.

Step 3: ​Alter the Waistband

I hate elastic waistbands. Given the popularity of elastic-free waistbands, I know I'm not alone. My waistbands use one piece of fabric and have a seam running up the back of the waistband.

  1. Take a piece of your fabric and stretch it around your waist, approximately where you would like your pants to sit. Make sure you are stretching parallel or perpendicular to the grain. I've done both with success, depending on the type of fabric I'm using.
  2. Mark the length of fabric used to circle your waist. Ex: 25". Add 1/2" to allow for 1/4" seams. Total: 25.5"
  3. Determine how high you want the waistband. Ex: 3". Double & add 1/2" to allow for 1/4" seams. Total: 6.5"
  4. Make a rectangular pattern. For example, you could make it for a 6.5" x 25.5" rectangle but I recommend halving it for simplicity. In this case, the pattern would be a 6.5" x 12.75" rectangle.
  5. Cut on a folded edge, consistent with the grain direction noted before.
  6. Sew the short ends together on the backside of the fabric to create a large loop.
  7. Fold the loop in half by matching up the seam you just sewed on the inside of the loop. This is your waistband. Try it on for safe measure.
  8. After you have created the legs of your pants, mark the back center of your pants using tailor's chalk.
  9. Place the waistband upside-down on the outside of the pants. Line up the back center of your pants with the seam of the waistband and pin. Sew the waistband onto your pants.
  10. Remove pins and enjoy!

Step 4: Alter the Leg Width - Part 1

Once you're comfortable making basic alterations, consider what type of alterations can be made to the legs. Some options I've played with are straight leg, wide leg, and a more flare bell bottom leg. I usually measure the leg opening of pants I already have come up with a new pattern.

Since the leg alterations we're covering increase the leg size, we need to begin by breaking our single pattern into two pieces. This creates a front and a back. Remember when sewing that you will need to cut out two pieces of the front and back, to cover the left and right sides.

  1. Mark the front and the back as well as the center grain line. The vertical center of the pattern is very important. Not only does it run along the grain line, it will be where we will separate the single pattern piece into two pattern pieces when we make alterations to the pant leg. If you're having trouble transferring this line to your new pattern, try measuring halfway between the ankle of the leggings and bringing it up perpendicular from the base.
  2. Split your pattern in half. Using the center line, cut your pattern into two pieces.
  3. Trace your leggings patterns onto a new piece of paper, allowing for adequate space on each side of the leggings.

Step 5: Alter the Leg Width - Part 2

For each pattern (front and back), there is an inside and outside. The inside is the side of the pattern near the crotch. Use these tips as starting points for making adjustments. For whatever measurements you decide upon, make sure to do the same to each side.

  1. Measure out from the ankle points and connect the lines at the point marked. Keep in mind that the fabric you use will change the way the leg falls.
    1. For straight legs, add 3" to the inside and outside. Connect at the hip (~9" from the top) on the outside & 4.5" below the crotch on the inside. Smooth out lines.
    2. For wide legs, add 4" to the inside and outside. Connect at the high hip (~5" from the top) on the outside & 2" below the crotch on the inside.
    3. For flare legs, add 5" to the inside and outside. Connect at the knee, smoothing out the lines a bit. If you smooth the pattern up from the knees about 6" vertically, you will have a wider bell leg.
  2. Consider the length you're looking for. Since we're altering a leggings pattern, we will need to make the pattern for a wider leg pant longer. This is my rule of thumb:At the ankle, measure 1" below the center point of the leggings pattern. At the sides, measure 3/4" below your new points. Create a curve of the 3 points.

Step 6: Belly Dance Pants

I have a pair of fancy flare belly dance pants that have fun serged seams. If you're not familiar with the style, google image search: "melodia dance pants" and see what you get. They take quite a bit of fabric but are worth making yourself. I've made a pair using stretchy white lace fabric that I usually layer with leggings and/or a skirt.

  1. Trace your leggings patterns onto a new piece of paper, allowing for adequate space on each side of the leggings.
  2. Mark a point 1" below the bottom of the inside ankle. Use the leggings pattern to create a straight line.
  3. Using the outside ankle and our new point for the inside ankle, measure 13" on both sides of the outside ankle.
  4. Mark a point 4" below the bottom of the outside ankle. Use the leggings pattern to create a straight line.
  5. Connect your new inside and outside points to create a large curved bottom for your pants.
  6. Bring the pattern out 1" on the inside at the knees.
  7. On the inside, use a straight line to connect the new inseam bottom to the point 1" out from the knees.
  8. Smooth the line into the curve of the pants.
  9. On the outside, make a big curve to connect the outside knee point to your new bottom.
  10. Sew inside seams (crotch & between legs) of pants together.
  11. When sewing the outside seams (down hips), stop at the knee point and leave open.
  12. Serge edges of the bottom seam and the open knee.

Step 7: Tiered Pants

I was eyeing a pair of tiered frilly pants for a while before deciding to try myself. I started with a pattern for shorts and added some layers. You can add as many layers as you'd like and they can be as tall or wide as you'd like. You must be comfortable gathering fabric.

  1. Trace a shorts pattern onto a new piece of paper, allowing for adequate space on each side of the leggings. A 6" inseam is a good starting place but totally dependent upon the look you are going for.
  2. When aiming for a 30" inseam, I will need my tiers to make up 24" of height. For example, I will make 3 tiers with a height of 8" each. Note that I will want to make these 9" to include a seam allowance.
  3. Measure what the leg opening is for the inseam you've chosen. In my example, my leg opening is 18.75".
  4. Map out how your layers will work. In my example, I'm going to add 5" to the first layer, 6" to the next, & 7" to the last.
  5. Create a large pattern for your pieces & cut them out. Sew your layers together by gathering the next larger piece together and sewing it together. I usually sew together my tiers before attaching them to my pants.
  6. Once you turn your shorts into pants, sew together the inside legs and crotch. Woo!
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