Alternative 1: use patches
It’s such a simple solution I was like “why didn’t I think of this before?” the first time I came across it. Maybe it was because I still remember the boring oval patches our mothers used to sew on our pants knees and sweater elbows back in the 80s.
But patches don’t have to be boring. In fact, you can make patches of almost any shape you want.
I use patches when: (1) the holes are not so severe, (2) the pants are in good shape otherwise (no fraying hems, etc) and (3) the pants still fit both at the waste and length-wise .
The easiest way is to use store bought patches. Most of them are iron-on, but if they aren’t, a large hemming web (the kind you use for no-sew hems) is a good option. Just decide which patch you want to use, in one knee or both knees (sometimes I patch both knees for symmetry, but it is not a must) and iron it on.
However, the most common patch I use is homemade. Most of the times I can’t convince myself to spend money buying patches which will most likely not last that long anyway. So I make my own. And this is where you can put your imagination to work, so basically you can use your fabric scraps and cut one or two patches in any shape you want.
The problem when doing this is that regular fabric frays unless you sew it all around, but (and this is especially true with kids pants) you generally don’t have enough room to turn the fabric around if you are machine sewing it (unless you open the side seams. which for me is not an option).
Well, all problems have solutions and I have come up with a technique to give homemade patches an applique look without too much effort.
First, applique your chosen shape onto another piece of fabric. If you have iron-on interfacing that can be sewed on, use it. As the one I have in my stash is only iron-on/no sew, I used a regular white piece of fabric. Use a zig-zag stitch and sew it all around.
Then cut excess fabric as close as you can get to the edge without cutting your stitches. And you will a patch (or two) which look like real appliques.
If you used iron-on interfacing, iron your new patches onto the pants. If you used fabric, use the hemming web shown above and iron. Either way, you have a “new” pair of pants for your child to wear.