Sewing Pants 101

Every once in awhile I kind of get the feeling that maybe it would be helpful
to do a back to the basics tutorial…all the details, no assuming you know how to do *blank*.


I thought I’d start with a good play by play on how to sew pants. I don’t care how little you know about sewing, if you have a machine & you know how to thread it give these a try. (click on any picture to enlarge it)This process will work for all sorts of pants…elastic waist, drawstring, sweats or pj’s. Also if you want to turn them into foldover waistband yoga pants then after reading these instructions click here for the next steps. These pants are just some light-weight knit lounge pants for Samster. Feel free to use any fabric though, it really won’t change the instructions much.First off you’ll need to make a pattern. Best way to do that is find a pair of pants that fit the way you’d like & lay them out on your fabric (or paper if you want to make a copy you can use over & over) with the crotch pointed out like in the picture below. Trace the legs just to the outside (and therefore adding about a 1/4″ seam allowance) & extend your pattern 2 & 1/4″ at the top of the leg to account for the waistand you’ll be making. Cut out the fabric pieces so they’re folded in half like so. (that way when you open it up it’s an entire pantleg & not just the front, it’ll save you from sewing a side seam like a pair of jeans would have)
You’ll need two of these.
Next up I like to finish the bottom hem. (however if you want to hem that after you’re done so you can try them on first that’s fine too) Since mine are knit (won’t unravel) I just ran the edge through my serger to give them a finished look. If they were cotton I would have ironed them under 1″ & then stitched that hem down.

Now you’ll want to sew each pantleg from the crotch down to the bottom of the pant with the right sides facing together. Pin first, sew second. (you can see my stitches in blue)

*Also here’s a tip, if using a regular sewing machine (NOT a serger, been there, done that, no bueno) if you pin seams horizontally (perpendicular to the way your machine is stitching) then you can just sew right across the pins, no need to take them out as you go.

Next step is a neat trick. Lay your two legs next eachother like the pic below. Turn the leg on the left right side out but leave the right one inside out. Slide the right-side out leg into the inside out leg. Line them up & pin the seams from the bottom of the crotch to the top of the waistband.

Stitch this seam being sure to stitch back & forth (reverse & forward) a bit at the beginning & end of the seam. This is sometimes called a “lockstitch” & just means you’re locking the seam into place so it won’t unravel later when it gets stressed. After stitching you can pull the leg back out & wah-lah!

They’re lookin’ a lot like pants, aren’t they?

Last step is making the waistband. I’ll show you how to do both an elastic waist & also a drawstring…

Measure the waistline of the intended pant-wearer & cut a piece of elastic that is that length + 1″.
Set elastic aside. Next I went ahead & finished the top edge of the waistband with my serger but that step’s optional.

If you’re making a drawstring now would be a good time to go ahead & make the entry/exit holes for the drawstring. Using a water-soluble fabric pen (comes off with water) mark 1 & 1/2″ down & 1/2″ away from the center seam. Do the same on the other side of the center seam.

Stitch a buttonhole around these markings. (Your machine should have instructions or settings for sewing buttonholes but it’s basically a satin stitch, which is really a close together zig-zag stitch) Use an exacto knife to carefully cut open the inside of the buttonhole without cutting the buttonhole stitches.

Now back to the basic pant instructions…fold the waistband in one inch & pin in place.
*Another trick, if you aren’t crazy about pinning or just want to make your stitching easier you should iron your seams first, then stitch. I rarely take the time to do this because it requires setting up the iron but whenever I do it really does make things easier.

Stitch waistband down (therefore making a casing for the elastic) but don’t go all the way around, leave a 2″ opening so we can thread the elastic through it. Take a safety pin & attach it to one end of your elastic, use the safety pin as something to hold onto while you thread the elastic through the waistband casing & back out the 2″ opening. Being careful to make sure the elastic isn’t twisted anywhere inside the casing first, go ahead & stitch the two ends of your elastic together. Go back & forth several times to make sure that sucker’s not coming apart no matter what. Stitch the 2″ opening shut.

If you were just making elastic waist pants then congrats, you’re officially done! To make a faux drawstring like mine however you’ve got a couple more steps…

I made my drawstring out of some stretchy knit fabric. I like that it curls in on itself so I don’t have to sew anything. If your fabric isn’t knit however you can make a drawstring by sewing a long 1″ wide tube with the right sides facing together, use the safety pin trick to turn it right side out. (you could also just use some ribbon as a drawstring, I love the way satin ribbon looks on pj pants) The length of your drawstring should be the size of your waistband + 12″.

Once your drawstring is assembled attach one end to a safety pin, thread the drawstring through one of the buttonholes, through the waistband casing & out of the other button hole.

Remove safety pin & knot the ends of the drawstring. To be extra sure your little one can’t pull the drawstring out of their pants (hellooo choking hazard!) I like to pull the drawstring so it’s even & then tack it down in the back center of the pants with a my sewing machine.

That’s it! Lots of directions but it’s actually kind of easy, right? Once you make a few you’ll be able to make pants in 15 minutes, easy. Not to mention capris, shorts, bloomers…they’re all just slight variations. Get this & you’ve got down some good basic skillz.So what’d you guys think? Do you like getting back to the basics sometimes? Were the details & massive amounts of pictures helpful??

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  1. Alex

    This is perfect for me! I finally took the sewing 101 class at Joannes yesterday and walked away with an adorable pillowcase. The instructer was really surprised how straight my seems we're which surprised me as well because I think I was absent that day in kindergarten they go over like scissor cutting & hand eye coordination. BUT I love sewing! I sewed my 2nd item today which was just one of those kits. And it turned out pretty well and I was thinking I'd love to try pants. Thanks!

  2. Kim

    I love your instructions. I've seen many different ones online and I've made a lot of pants for my boys. Your instructions seemed a lot better to me.


  3. felicia

    Basics are always good! Please, please, please do a tutorial on how to serge in a circle. Because I have tried and I always get a weird point where it meets.

  4. lornamorris

    It is really great work that you have done. I always thought that sewing pants are really tough work but you have made so simple for me by posting this whole process. I am really impressed from your work and got really helpful guidance.
    yoga pants

  5. Mary Beth

    Awesome tute! I am bookmarking this, and trying it myself tomorrow. Most likely, I will try this tweaked to make shorts. I have been wanting to my my little girl a pair of knit shorts, and I think this is a great tutorial to follow for that.

    Thank you for sharing!!!

  6. Kristi

    I LOVE basics!! I am just starting out so I think I might try to tackle this..Thank you for this simple tutorial!! Very cute pants…

  7. Alli

    Samster looks so much like you in the straight on photo, and just absolutely too cute for words. The tutorials are great to have!

  8. The Cairns Family

    Thanks so much for doing this tutorial. I made a pair of pjs with my mother in law a while back like this and was sad I didn't have the pattern now I can do them on my own!!! You are the best!!!

  9. Tiffany

    can't wait to try this. i need the basics!! and when does samsters tour begin, she is looking very hollywood here with the sunglasses :)

  10. Anonymous

    This is a good tutorial for beginner pants.

    If you have a regular sewing machine please DO NOT sew over pins in the fabric. It can and will knock you machine out of alignment (machine won't sew correctly) and it is a safety hazard if the needle happens to hit a pin while sewing (needle can break and fly off–it happens). HAPPY SEWING!

  11. Mrs. Umbaugh

    Okay I am so in love! I am going to make Pj's for me, my son. and my daughter. And Maybe my husband too lol. I love love love this! I just wish I had a serger :(

  12. Shaz

    Girlfriend showed me how to do pants this way 20 odd years ago.Cut out some crushed velvet to make hippy pants and forgot how to do the sliding the legs into each other. Thank goodness I came across this tutorial.

  13. Sierra

    Wow, I’m new to the whole sewing thing. I really wanted my own lace bell bottoms for the beach. I could not figure out how to do it after looking through so many websites. Your’s helped tramendasly, thank you so much!
    I love my new beach lace pants!


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