There's No Such Thing As Leftovers - the Sleeves to Pants Tutorial




When repurposing or refashioning an item, there is no such thing as leftovers in my house. After having so much fun making dresses from men's shirts, see "in bloom". I created these pants from the sleeves & collar to utilize all the pieces of the shirt.

I decided to try my hand at making a tutorial for all of you as part of the "newbie sewing series" on my blog This is my first tute, so please be kind with me, I am still learning as well, and don't worry, the dress "in bloom" is coming next. I decided to use the pants as my trial run.

During the process of making this tutorial I decided to have a little fun with it. What you are getting is the actual step by step of the very first time I tried these pants. That is how things work when we really sew - some things fail, some things succeed, and sometimes we make errors. These pants started out in my mind as being capris, they aren't. They were also supposed to have more of a flat waistband, they don't - but i love em' anyways! This is what I find to be the most addicting part of making clothes from a whim, I just go with where the process takes me.

Since I am a newbie sewer and have to admit, I don't know a lot of fancy terminology, I decided to add a new feature to your average tutorial. I tend to be a very visual learner, the more pictures the better, but sometimes that isn't enough for me, I need to see it being done, not just explained. In pondering this during my daily strolls with mackenzie, I decided hey, why not add in a video of me humiliating myself to go with my equally embarrassing attempt at a tutorial? So I did, I decided to give it a shot and see how you all like it. It's not a blockbuster hit, it's just me and my camera (no tripod, I couldn't find it), the tv in the background (some kid's show to keep mackenzie quiet), I have bronchitis - so i sound funny, and of course, I thought they were going to be capris - until I tried them on her..haha.

*TERMS OF USE: This pattern (and any modified versions you find/create) is provided FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY. You may not sell this pattern or pants made from this pattern.

Copyright 2009 luvinthemommyhood
All rights reserved. For personal use only.

Video Tutorial

So have fun with it - experiment, create and let your imagination go wild, but most importantly, trust your instincts, you don't need to be an expert sewer to create a great garment.

Please remember to take that much needed second look at items we already have in our homes and rethink their purpose. It truly is a creative journey that we can all share, learn from, and inspire each other with, as a newbie sewer or as an experienced sewer.

So share with me at - your thoughts & your pictures, I can't wait to hear from you all! happy sewing and see you in the mommyhood!

Step 1: Step One

Cut sleeves from men's shirt at the shoulder seam or lower. This will depend on how much of the shirt sleeve you have used to make your dress sleeve. Turn the sleeve inside out.

Try to catch your toddler. I know it's hard, but you can do it. Take one of the sleeves and try the sleeve on their leg. *Note: cuff is for the ankle.*

Step 2: Step Two

Mark the length you would like the pants to be using either a pin, fabric pencil or simply fold over the material all before your little one scurries away (see fig. 1).

Pin a line across the leg of the pant to mark the length you would like for the pants. Some people prefer to use a fabric pencil, but I like to see what I'm doing while manipulating the material - so I use pins. Do this for both sleeves (see fig. 2)

Step 3: Step Three

Lay sleeves side by side on a flat surface making sure to lay both with the buttons facing up. This will be the back of the pant leg. Decide where you are going to place your waist band and how high you want your waistband casing to be. I like to take a pair of my daughter's favourite pants and measure the length of the bottom of the leg to the crotch (yes, I used the word crotch) and from the crotch to the top of the waist. This should give you a good sizing to go by when sewing the sleeves together (make sure your elastic will fit in the casing along with your 5/8 selvedge).

Step 4: Step Four

Once you have your measurements done mark on the sleeves where the top of your pants will start making sure to leave extra length for your casing to be sewn. Cut away any excess material. *FYI: Casing is what we will be feeding the elastic through on the top of the pants. It's essentially your waist band.* Fold over the material that will be your casing (see fig.3) with at least 1/4" folded under the seam and iron. Yep, you need your iron. I know, we iron enough, but it's important. (You need the extra fold so that you are leaving enough material underneath the seam so that the edge of the material will not be seen or unravel. I decided to fold this on the right side for a decorative band look but you may fold it towards the wrong side as well.) Once you are done ironing, pin along the waistband.

Step 5: Step Five

Place sleeves side by side again, the same as step #3, and check to make sure your crotch points will line up (see fig. 3). I am always running into problems when trying to measure my daughter, so I now triple check my garment before sewing. Sometimes placing the sleeve on top of the other works as well as a backup to make sure it isn't a tiny bit longer or shorter (see fig. 3).

Don't be scared now, but we are going to cut open a seam. This can actually be fun. Get out your trusty scissors and begin cutting along the inner part of the sleeve from the top of where the waistband will start to where the crotch will end (see fig. 4).

Step 6: Step Six

I don't have a serger, and one sure would come in handy here. When sewing these dress shirts, keep in mind they will unravel in the wash and with wear and tear after cutting open the seams. So we need to enclose the crotch seam. I don't know the fancy terminology for what this method is called, so I'm going to call it the fold over. Start by folding over about 1/4, iron (yes, again), fold over again, iron (I know, I know, enough with the ironing) and then pin along the seam.

Step 7: Step Seven

Time to get out the ol'sewing machine. If you don't have one you can by all means hand sew this. My sewing machine sometimes scares me and we have a love/hate relationship at the moment, so sometimes I do hand sew. Start by sewing the inseam with a 5/8 seam allowance stopping at where the casing begins (see fig. 4.)

Next you will sew the casing - again with a 5/8 seam allowance. Sew along your seam being careful not to close the joining of the two waistbands - you will need to feed the elastic through this opening (see fig. 5).

Step 8: Step Eight

Ok, the hard part is over! You did it! Don't worry if you made mistakes, its part of the learning process. I make them and it's always a fun challenge to correct them. You get to be creative and that's what counts. Next up is feeding the elastic through your casing. Grab the biggest safety pin that will fit in your casing width. Pin it to the end of your elastic and feed it through the waistband. Basically pushing the pin, scrunching the material and then pulling the pin through the waistband. Don't worry, it sounds trickier than it is.

Now that your elastic is in, you will be hand stitching the casing closed. This can be a bit tricky if you aren't sure how to do an invisible stitch. Hopefully you will have access to the internet. If you do, trusty old you tube will provide you with a great tutorial to close this up without any trace of your thread. Try a tutorial from StitchLabSewing for a good tutorial.

Step 9: Step Nine

This next step is the fun part! Pick your buttons! If any of you are readers of luvinthemommyhood you know I adore buttons. I went with some nice big, flashy red buttons (see fig. 6). Once you have your buttons picked out simply cut off the button that is already on the cuff of the sleeve and sew yours on! Voila. Easy, peasy!

This next step is up to you. I decided to truly use up all the pieces of my hubby's shirt and took the underneath part of his collar and cut about 4 inches starting from the sewn button and stitched it onto the center of the waistband for some added pizzazz using the invisible stitch around three sides and then a blanket stitch (again you can refer to you tube for a tutorial for this stitch) on the side that was cut. I then added another wonderful button to dress it up.

Step 10: Step Ten

This is the part when the nerves come in. Is it going to fit? I always hold my breath when completing a project and deciding to try it on my daughter. I do try it on her as I am working, but who knows what can happen during this crazy sewing process, things can change. I will be honest with you, I started out with the idea of making these pants capri's with more of a flat front waistband, but during the sewing process they ended up being ankle length and the waist band super scrunchy due to me not wanting to rip apart the whole leg and involving way more sewing. I wanted this project to be fun and easy, with as little sewing as possible. It also leaves a lot for you to play with and adapt to your own style.

Now it's the clean up. Trim your loose threads and make any adjustments needed. Iron the garment one last time and then take a cute picture of your little one wearing them and send them to me at so I can see!



    • Pie Contest

      Pie Contest
    • Jewelry Challenge

      Jewelry Challenge
    • Fat Challenge

      Fat Challenge

    20 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I loved these so much!!! i made a couple pair of them for friends and family! also instead of making them pants i turned them into overalls..they are so adorable!!! Thanks for the instructable!!


    i've never seen cuter pants. everrr. i think they'd look even cuter as capris, though, so maybe when she gets a little taller, they'd be cute capris!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I love your idea.  I made an adorable pair for my niece in no time from one of my dad's old dress shirts. 


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Oh, these are adorable! If you wanted to do something different with buttons, you could also try these button covers on my friends blog--your daughter will love putting them on and off.

    2 replies

    Well, I am impressed by both of you: mothers have enough going on, but to be able to be so creative and make such cute things on top of that is really inspiring.


    9 years ago on Step 10

    Oh wow! I really wish I had known about this while my nieces were still small enough!


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I think it's the buttons- those huge red buttons that would be outsize even on adult clothing make them unreasonably cute. They'll probably be capri length before too long :P


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I got some Mickey Mouse pants! I'll be "cool" in these all right- just look at these big yellow buttons!

    - Calvin and Hobbes


    9 years ago on Introduction

    you and i think alike. i use leftover sleeves on my legs under my kilt.