Monday, December 13, 2010

Cloth Training Pants!

Just to warn you, this is one looooong tutorial.  I thought about breaking it up into two but it wasn't quite that long...

My almost two-year-old daughter decided that she no longer liked diapers and started refusing to wear them.  So we decided to gently introduce her to the idea of potty training.  To aid with that, I decided that she needed some training pants so that she could work on the concept of keeping her "panties" dry.  After much googling, I finally found this free pattern that I really liked.  It comes from the Nappy Network--DIY side of the site.  Here is the specific Wee Weka Knickers pattern in PDF format.  You can also get to the pattern by clicking on the Nappy Network link, scrolling down to the bottom of their page and finding their link that says "Wee Weka Pull-on training Knickers."

So, go print off the pattern, measure your kiddo to see how he or she compares to the pattern and modify the pattern accordingly.  For my daughter, I made four modifications:
1. I folded over the waist to make the elastic casing rather than sewing on a separate band--my daughter preferred a lower waist.
2. I cut the leg holes a little wider--she liked them to be looser.
3. I did not add cuffs around the leg holes--same reason as the above.
4. I added a small absorbent liner in the crotch area--my preference.

It took making 3 different panties to discover what my daughter liked. I highly recommend making one and modifying the pattern, making another one, modifying it, etc. until you find the right fit for your kiddo.  Here is my final pattern.  You can click on any of these pictures to see them larger.
I used fleece for the panties, but you can use any cloth that has a slight stretch.  Lay the dotted side of the pattern on the fold of your fabric and cut it out.  Make sure that your fabric's stretch runs across the pattern.  I tried to stretch (haha!) the fabric I got by cutting a few panties out with the stretch running the other way and my daughter refuses to wear those.  They just don't fit the same and seem to be too snug.  So don't be like me.
As you can see from the cutting board's measurements, each panty takes about a 15" by 11" piece of fabric.  It will take more if you are doing a separate waist band and leg cuffs.  To figure out the shape and size of the liner, I laid out my cut panty on a blank sheet of paper and traced the leg holes.  Then I rounded out the shape and cut it down a little so that it fit nicely inside the crotch area.
This is what I came up with: a little pad-shaped thing that is about 4" by 7".
I cut out a whole bunch of these from two old sweatshirts of my husband. I used two of these liners per diaper, but I could easily have done three for more absorbency.  I also made them fairly small, you could easily make them larger.
The liners are the first thing to get sewn in. Pin them...
And stitch them in!  I used my longest stitch and went around them twice.
I don't know if it really helps them be more secure or anything like that, but I really like how it looks from the outside of the panties.
Then I pinned up the sides and stitched them at 3/8ths inch seam allowance (rather than the 1/2 inch called for in the pattern). I wanted them to be a little looser than the original pattern's.
Also note that I used a straight stitch. Since I'm using fleece, it won't unravel, so I didn't need to zig-zag the edges.  If you are using a fabric that will unravel, make sure to zig-zag or serge the edges. Or you can do what I did with these to make them more pretty: a sort of half felled seam. 

This is a felled seam.  Basically, you stitch up the seam as normal, then cut one seam allowance shorter than the other, fold the longer one around the shorter and turn under the raw edge so that all raw edges are hidden. Then you stitch it all up.

What I did was stitch up my side seams as I just showed you and trimmed the back panel's seam allowance to be significantly shorter. Then I folded the front panel's seam allowance back over it, but I didn't fold the raw edge under.  I stitched it down just like that.  One raw edge is still showing and the other is hidden. I did this because I wanted the side seams to be a little more finished and flat so that they wouldn't bother my daughter's sensitive skin.  She's very sensitive to the way clothing rubs, so this flattened the potentially annoying seam so that she doesn't even notice it.  It also adds a nice finished touch to the panties.  Make sense?  Probably not, it was hard to catch with photos. Feel free to comment with questions!
Once I had the side seams all sewn up, I started on the waist band.  I simply folded the fabric over on itself about 1/2 inch and stitched it. I didn't do the separate waist band because I wanted the panties to be lower-cut.  But after using these for a while, I think that next time I make them, I will either add more height to the pattern when I cut them out or I will add the separate waist band like the original pattern tells us to do. These are cut just a bit too low. Or maybe my daughter grew since I made them, you never know!
I had the front of the waist band dip down a bit more to go under my daughter's little belly. I definitely like how this worked out.  Once they were all pinned, I stitched them up at 3/8ths inch.  Make sure to leave an unstitched hole in the waist band. This is where you'll thread your elastic!
So...your panties are basically all stitched up. This is what we have left to work with: panties, elastic and buttons.
Let's start with the buttons. I had 6 panties that my daughter needed to be able to tell front from back on. So I laid out my many colors of buttons and started choosing which ones to use.
I stitched them on with a zig-zag stitch, trimmed the thread, and dabbed fabric glue onto the threads to protect them from tiny hands that like to pull on threads.  Why did I do so many colors? Because I'm a glutton for punishment and love changing the thread out on my machine...just kidding. I just wanted lots of colors--nevermind that it was rather annoying to switch the colors out for the various buttons...
Then cut out your elastic.  I cut these at 14 inches for my daughter's 20-21 inch waist--they're a bit tight, so next time I'll cut them a bit looser.
Thread them through the waist band using a safety pin...
And stitch them!  I used a zig-zag stitch and went back and forth over them several times. I took the needle you see there out before I really started stitching. It was there to keep the overlap in place until I could get it under my presser foot.
My lovely elastic stitching job....
Stitch up the hole in the waist band and you're done!
I keep mine stacked in a convenient spot in our living room--right next to the cloth diapers/spit-up cloths that are used to clean up accidents.
And here's my little one (well, part of her) modeling her panties.  So cute!

There you go: how I modified a pattern to make my own cloth training pants.  Our potty training kind of isn't going anywhere, but hopefully yours will move along much better than ours!  My little girl seems to think her panties are cloth diapers and prefers them over our typical disposables.  I comfort myself with the fact that we're saving money on the disposables.... ;)

Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions! The comments are moderated so I will see the questions no matter how long ago I posted this.



  1. Thank you for posting your tutorial, I love ones with pictures!

    Since you used fleece, where they somewhat waterproof? Did you stitch the leg holes or just leave the raw edges showing? Thank you!


  2. I love tutorials with lots of pictures, too! I could never figure out sewing half the things I do without pictures. :)

    The fleece did make the panties a bit water resistant, but they still got rather damp on the outside and the potty would wick into any fabric touching (like pants over the panties). Generally it wasn't a problem, but I didn't use the panties out and about much since our daughter decided she didn't really want to learn to potty train at this point. As I said above, our daughter wanted to use them as diapers, not panties, and they definitely didn't have enough absorbent material for that!

    I did leave the raw edges of the pant legs showing. I tried doing cuffs or sewing the edges under, but our daughter didn't seem to like that. Leaving them raw also allowed the leg holes to have more stretch and give than hemmed holes would have. Since fleece is nice about raw edges, I was fine with having to do less hem sewing!

  3. Do you think this would work with a different fabric? My little one is not fond of fleece. Thanks!

    1. You can definitely use a different fabric but if you use one without stretch, you will have to make the panties a bit bigger. Definitely make one test pantie before cutting a bunch. The reason I chose fleece is because it's slightly water resistant so small accidents wouldn't go straight through my little one's pants.

  4. Do you think If I cut a piece of PUL the same as your absorbent pattern and sew it on the outside of the panty it would be more waterproof?

    1. Yes, it should be since PUL is waterproof. However, you'd probably want to do a wider area than just the soaker area to ensure you catch all the liquid. :)