3 Easy Ways to Reuse and Up-cycle Kids Pants

My boy destroys his pants knees on a regular basis. While I try to live by the “he’s happy – I’m happy” motto, I still don’t like the idea of having to buy new pants every week, so I’ve come up with a 3-ways system to make pants last as long as possible:
– use patches
– make shorts
– embellish

With this tips you should get your kids’ pants to last a little longer and save yourself some money.

Difficulty Cost Time Age Person Event
$1 to $25
30 Minutes
1 Year

Step by Step Instructions

  • Step 1

    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.

  • Step 2

    Alternative 2: turn the pants into shorts.
    When the pants still fit at the waist but have become too short or the holes are too severe (or the patches have already fallen or are worn off), this is your second best.

    The easiest way is to cut pants legs the desired height (taking into account that you will have to hem it). I believe the best is to use a cutting mat and a rotary cutter, but if you don’t have them, regular scisors work just as well as long as you take care to measure and leave both legs the same length.

    If your fabric frays fold the bottom of the pants twice, pin and sew. If the fabric doesn’t fray (as in most sports pants) you can fold it just once.

    I personally like to use a double stitch when sewing these hems, I think it looks more professional, but it is really your choice. I use a double needle, but even if you don’t have a double needle, you can still sew two parallel lines.

    So with just a little hemming you will be re-using a pair of pants you would probably discard otherwise and you no longer have to buy new shorts for the summer.

    And you can leave them just hemmed our you can add some personality to the shorts (especially for girls) using buttons, fabric, yo-yos, lace, ribbons, crochet edges or whatever else you want, the possibilities are almost endless.

  • Step 3

    Alternative 3: just embellish.
    This is the method I use the most with hand-me-downs, especially when I want boy-looking pants to be worn by my daughter or when I just want to add a special detail to customize the pants.

    Sometimes it’s as simple as just adding a bow with a matching ribbon or adding some cute buttons and other times it involves a little more work, as in the pants pictured here, where I added ribbon around the bottom hemline and to the pocket zipper and even changed the original tag:


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