How to make a toddler skirt and waistcoat from your old jeans

This skirt has a wide panel waistband, flat at the front and elasticated at the back. First decide on the length of the whole skirt, then how deep you want the waistband and how long the skirt. For a one-year-old, I went for a 3″ waistband and 8″ skirt.

Here are my favourite old jeans – much loved and worn threadbare in the bottom so no good for me anymore.

1. Take your jeans and cut off the lower part of both legs to the length you want the skirt, plus 1/4″ seam allowance – in my case this was 8 1/4″. You do not need to allow for a hem because the hem of the jeans will become the hem of the skirt (I like lazy sewing!).

2. Cut out ONE seam on each of the pieces you have cut, leaving the other seam intact. Open the pieces out flat and place them right sides together. Pin and sew along the two short sides to form a cylinder, then iron the seams flat.

3. Now make a pattern for the waistband. Take your child’s waist measurement and add an inch or two for growth. For me this was 20″ (= X). The top edge of the front panel will be half of X, minus 1 (i.e. 9). For the bottom edge, add an inch at each end, so that the sides taper (11). The depth is 3″ plus 1/2″ seam allowance.

The back panel is a rectangle. For the length, divide X by 2, then add 2 (i.e. 12). The depth of the back panel must be equal to the length of the short sides of the front panel (so you can join them up).

4. Cut one front and one back panel from one leg of the jeans. I cut them so that the grain of the corduroy would be horizontal on the waistband (it’s vertical on the skirt). Then cut one front and one back panel from a contrasting lining fabric.

5. Place the front and back panels right sides together, and pin and sew along the short edges to form a cylinder. Do the same with the lining fabric. Iron the seams open, then turn the lining inside out and place it inside the outer (so the two cylinders are right sides together. Pin and sew around the top (shorter) edge, turn right side out and press the seam flat.

7. Take a piece of waistband elastic equal to the length of the front panel (i.e. 9″). Open the waistband out flat and place the elastic against the outer back panel, aligning it to the top seam. Pin and sew the ends of the elastic into the side seams.

8. Fold the lining back over the elastic, then pin and sew a line across the back panel, joining the outer to the lining and forming a casing for the elastic (be careful not to stitch the elastic itself; it helps to stretch the elastic as you go, to avoid the fabric wrinkling).

8. Now is the time for any embellishments you want to make to the skirt. You could add a ruffle to the hem, an applique flower, or a ribbon. I decided on a small pocket. To make a template for a gathered pocket, draw around a cup or small bowl to get a circle. Use a ruler to draw a line against the edge of the circle, then extend the sides of the circle to meet the line, so you have a (symmetrical) shape like this:

Cut out the pocket fabric. Pin and stitch a ribbon across the pocket, approximately 1″ from the top. Fold the top edge down about 1/2″ and sew a casing for the elastic. Use a safety pin to pull a piece of 1/4″ elastic through the casing. Stitch to secure at one end, then pull on the other end to gather (not too much). Stitch to secure and cut off excess elastic; you may also need to trim excess fabric from the corners.

Fold the raw edges of the fabric under by about 1/4″ and sew around them (if the pocket is small you may need to make some tucks to sew a smooth curve). Place the pocket on the skirt and pin and sew it into place (do NOT stretch the elastic or the skirt will gather).

9. Decide whether your skirt is going to be gathered or pleated. To gather, sew a running stitch (either by hand, or the loosest stitch on your machine) around the top of the skirt. Secure one end, then gently pull on the other end, distributing the gathers equally around the skirt, until the skirt circumference is the same as the bottom of the waistband (if you find your thread breaks while doing this, sew your running stitch all the way around the skirt once, then turn around without cutting the thread and sew all the way around in the other direction – then pull on both ends of the thread together).

For heavier fabrics like this corduroy, pleating may be more appropriate. Fold all pleats in the same direction, pointing pins towards the edge of the fabric. I leave a 1″ gap between pleats and each pleat has 1/2″ to 3/4″ fabric in it. The amount that you need to take in depends how much fabric is in the skirt. Start by pleating all the way around then adjust as necessary until the circumference of the skirt is the same as that of the waistband.

10. Starting from the middle of the front panel, pin waistband outer to skirt, right sides together (keep the lining out of the way for now). Sew waistband to skirt, sewing in the direction that the pleats are folded. Remove pins. Fold down a 1/2″ seam allowance on the lining then fold the lining over the outer; pin and slipstitch (by hand) into place, encasing the raw edges inside the lining.


I made a matching waistcoat from the same pair of jeans – instructions to follow shortly, but meanwhile here is Dustyfeet in her completed outfit:

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