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Upcycled Polos to Pjs

My babies are growing like weeds. On top of them needing new back to school clothes, shoes, boots and snowsuits this year, they were in desperate need of some new pj’s.

I thought sewing up a few pairs would be the easiest thing overall, not only easier on the budget, but also easier on the mama who has to shop with kiddies for something that offers them very little excitement.

By: Mandia

Supplies (for size 6/7 shorts):

  • Roll of white art paper/white printer paper
  • 1-2 old men’s t-shirts or polo shirts – equivalent knit fabric of about 1/2 yard (0.45 meters)
  • Elastic for waistband about 22 inches (60 cm) **I used fold-over elastic which is typically used for sewing cloth diapers, which I highly recommend, but you can really use any type of elastic or width that you like (I’ll show you both ways).
  • Coordinating thread

I wanted something that would be super soft and comfy, a quick sew since I needed to sew up at least a week’s worth for each kid. I decided to opt for shorts since they really work for all seasons – in winter the heat is on, and in summer the A/C is on so shorts work in our household year-round.

After digging though my fabric stash, I realized just how many of my hubby’s old t-shirts and polo shirts I have been hoarding for a future project. The great thing about tees and polos is that they are soft, already have a hem along the bottom, and since they are knit they don’t fray and there is less finishing to do on all seams.

Despite being almost three years apart, both of my kids are about the same size, so I traced a pair of shorts that they already had in their cupboard, to become my pattern. I made the pattern in one piece in order to avoid sewing the side seams. This makes for a faster sew, and more comfy pair of pjs. Trace close to your existing shorts since you don’t need a lot of seam allowance with knits, and with this mini-tutorial you won’t even need to extend for a waistband, just trace the existing shorts exactly as they are.

Shorts PatternShorts Pattern 2

From here, cut out your pattern. I used a roll of art paper that we had in the house, but you could piece together blank sheets of paper, too – it doesn’t have to be perfect.

If you don’t have any old shirts on hand you can search for some at your local thrift store, the larger the better, or you can just buy some yardage of super soft knits from your closest fabric store too (which I did for a few of my daughter’s shorts).

If you are up-cycling an old shirt like me, place your pattern on the bottom of the shirt like so.

Polo pattern placementPatten placement 2

You can adjust the length of your shorts by moving the pattern piece up or down. For my son, I made the shorts a little longer, more of a surfer length, and for my daughter I kept them the original traced length. I was also able to use the back piece of the shirt (where there is no collar) to create one leg of another pair of shorts – which makes for some cool mis-matched shorts when you are making a few pairs at a time.  Use the shirt hemline to your advantage if you can, it makes the shorts look a little more polished. If it doesn’t work out, however, knits are great since after a few washes they just roll up a little along the edges – which looks nice too.

After you have cut your fabric out, sew your two curved side seams together with a 2/8 seam allowance. You can zig zag the edges if you like, but it isn’t necessary. Be sure to use a large stitch since you want the fabric to have a little give to it.

Shorts PinnedShorts stitched

Now open up your shorts and pin the leg holes together. Start by matching up the center seams in the crotch. Pin from the middle out to the bottom of the legs. Sew.

Shorts leg pinned

Lay flat and admire, you are almost done.

Now it is time to sew the elastic waistband on. This is the trickiest part if you are new to sewing, but also the most rewarding part. If you are not new to sewing and you have ever made any other pants or shorts before you know that this part normally requires a lot of measurements and ironing, but not these shorts, baby!

Measure your child’s waist. Both my kids waists are 22 inches. Cut your elastic half an inch smaller than your child’s size – I cut mine at 21.5 inches. Sew your elastic together with a ½-inch seam allowance. You should now have a circle of elastic. Divide your elastic into four quarters adding a pin at the center front, center back, center right and center left. Do this exact same step with the top waistband of your shorts. You should have something like this.

waistband sectionedwaistband attached

Match your pins and attach the elastic to the top of the shorts. If you are using the fold over elastic like I did just pin one side to the shorts, and you can fold over as you sew. Using matching thread, start at the back of your shorts and sew with a large zig zag stitch. Be sure to stretch your elastic a little as you go so that it lays flat between each pin. Be sure not to stretch your fabric though. You just need to stretch the elastic to be the same length as the fabric on the shorts. Sew all the way around.

Waistband 1

If you don’t have the fold-over type elastic you can still use any type or width of regular elastic for this part too. To do this, I suggest pinning your elastic on in the four places indicated above, turn your shorts inside out, and zig-zag stich as you would have with the fold-over elastic. Just be sure that you are catching the elastic on the other side of the shorts. Stretch the elastic just a little, as you would have with the other type of elastic.

Waistband 2

If your kids are still fairly young, now is the time to sew a tag on (if you have them), if you don’t have tags you can stitch on a little marking, or loop of ribbon, just to help them identify the back vs. the front.

back tagFinal shorts

Trim any loose or long threads on your project, and jump for joy!

Happy shorts

To compete these pyjama sets, I paired the kids’ shorts with discount shirts from our favourite big box store.

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One Comment Post a comment
  1. liesbeth #

    Great idea Mandia. Upcycle, recycle. Love the contrasting elastic.

    October 21, 2014

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