My kid has grown six inches in the last year!
How do I know that? It’s an easy estimation, because the flannel pajama pants that I sewed her and that fit her perfectly last year are now exactly six inches too short.
It’s a common problem that pre-pubescent kids grow out of the length of their clothes before they grow out of their waist, so you can find yourself with an entire drawer full of pants that still fit around the waist, but are way too short. Fortunately, this is a much easier fix than the opposite problem (although pants that are too tight are also fixable!).
Today, I’m going to show you how you can lengthen these pants quite easily by adding a bit of ruffled fabric at the bottom hem. I like the ruffled fabric for a couple of reasons:
- It adds a decorative element that distracts the observer from seeing the extra length as strictly utilitarian.
- You don’t have to carefully measure the fabric to fit the pants leg’s width. You can just gather it to fit!
To lengthen pants this way, you will need:
stash fabric in a complementary color. I gave my kiddo free reign in my stash fabric, asking her only, for these particular pants, to choose another flannel fabric. For the jeans that I need to lengthen for her this afternoon, I’ll likely ask her to choose from flannel and quilting cotton, since I think both look nice when paired with denim.
1. Measure the kid and the fabric. You will be cutting two strips of fabric. The width of each strip will be the amount that you need to lengthen the pants + 1″ for a bottom hem and top seam. The length of this strip will be any amount that’s greater than the circumference of the pants leg at its bottom hem. For the cutest ruffle, make the fabric strip about 3 times longer than that circumference. To make the most efficient use of my fabric for this particular pair of pants, however, I simply cut the strip from the width of my stash fabric, then cut it in half. Each strip ended up about 1.5 times the circumference of the pants leg; the ruffle is very minimal, but still evident, and I don’t have any leftover fabric scraps to deal with.
NOTE: If your kid’s pants have a bulky bottom hem, you can choose to simply cut this hem off, as you’ll be finishing the seam, anyway, when you attach the ruffles to the pants legs. Just remember to take what you’ve done into account when calculating these measurements.
2. Sew and hem the ruffle. Hem one long edge of the fabric strip by folding it over 1/4″ and pressing it flat, folding it over another 1/4″ and pressing it flat again, and then edgestitching it all the way across.
Line up the two short edges of the fabric strip, right sides together, and sew them together with a straight stitch. Press the seam to one side, and ziz-zag down it again to finish the seam. You should now have a tube of fabric that is hemmed at one long side.
Repeat for the second strip of fabric.
3. Gather the fabric. Set your sewing machine’s stitch to its longest straight stitch, and pull out a long tail of thread from both the spool and the bobbin. Set your needle into the fabric tube 1/2″ from the raw edge, and without locking your stitch, sew all the way around the raw edge. Do NOT overlap your stitching when you get back to your starting point, and do not backstitch at the end or otherwise lock your stitching at that end, either.
Take hold of one of the front threads, and keeping hold of it, begin to gently push the fabric away from the hand that’s holding it; the fabric should begin to ruffle up as you do this. Be gentle, as snapping the thread will mean that you have to start over with this step.
Compare the circumference of your fabric tube to the circumference of the pants leg every few centimeters that you gather. You’re looking to match them:
When they match, you can work that ruffling so that it’s even around the entire circumference of the fabric tube.
4. Sew the ruffle to the pants. Put the fabric tube around the outside of the pants leg, the right side of the tube facing the right side of the pants leg, and match the gathered raw edge of the tube to the bottom hem of the pants. Pin everything together:
Sew the pieces together with a straight stitch, following the gathering line that you sewed–this is my cheat so that I later don’t have to pull out that loose thread!
Finger press the seam towards the pants leg, then sew this seam again with a zig-zag stitch to finish it.
If your kid grows even more before these pants become too tight, you can actually keep adding ruffles to these pants using the same method. If your kid hits a growth spurt, she could be ruffles from the knee down!