Crafts

Upcycling Adventures: Matching Baby and Toddler Shorties

Shortly after I had Paisley, I found other moms online who had babies near her age. It was fun to see our babies hit developmental milestones around the same time and learn new things.

One of the things I noticed was that a lot of these babies – especially the other little girls – were always wearing really cute clothes. Frilly skirts, dolled up headbands, trendy bodysuits in monochrome. Ugh! These clothes were cute!

Paisley was by no means slacking in the adorable clothes department. But she was wearing mostly gifted and thrifted clothes – I honestly didn’t even go on a clothes shopping trip to a “real store” for her until she was a year old.

I had a lot of insecurity as a new mom. I wanted my daughter to look super adorable and have new outfits for every day – forget the face that she’d outgrow them by next week. I wanted her to have mountains of patterned moccasins and teething toys to coordinate with her seasonal wardrobes.

After a while, I started wondering how the other moms were affording to clothe their kids in such adorable duds. We were by no means wealthy, but we weren’t scraping the bottom of the barrel either. Yet, when we balanced out budget at the end of each month, there certainly wasn’t anything leftover for custom kids’ clothes, or even a handmade first birthday banner from a cutesy shop on Etsy.

This was the dawn of my frugal craftiness. Yes, of course, I want my kids to have adorable things. But I don’t want to spend a ton for them, and I definitely don’t want to throw todays fashions on tomorrow’s credit card bill!

Making a Way For Cute Clothes

Fast forward to today, when I have three kids and zero regret for not buying those pretty things when Paisley was a baby. Since then, I’ve learned to sew and I’m way better at thrifting than I was then.

And what have I learned? My kids can indeed have cute things! And also, fast fashion is pretty horrible for the environment and global population.

This is part of why I’m so passionate about upcycling. In today’s project, you’ll see some frugal extremes that I don’t go to for every project. We’re saving for a house, and we have ZERO to spend on extra crafting supplies, so I’m down to what we’ve got in on hand.

Thankfully, my husband and I have been hanging onto a ton of old clothes from college and have them stacked in a corner to use for upcycling projects.

Additionally, I’ve somehow developed a bit of a reputation as a shelter for other people’s scrap fabric stashes. Not that I’m complaining whatsoever!

The corner of my bedroom where I once had a simple respectable-looking armoire to corral my crafting supplies is now littered with boxes and bags full to bursting with various fabrics of all sorts. I like to say it’s a free kids’ clothes pile – just add thread! (And a ton of creativity.)

Okay, enough back story. Let’s talk about my boys’ adorable new, completely free matching shorties!

The Fabric: French Terry Scraps

Fabric for the boys’ shorts is, as you might’ve guessed, from a pile of donated scraps. In one bag I stumbled upon some French terry remnants. They were cut out to make a shirt, it looks like, but for some reason or another the original project was abandoned.

I obviously can’t reconstruct a shirt from the pieces, but the idea for kids’ projects from these scraps is too good to resist. After all, I typically tear shirts down to their components anyway to make my upcycled projects. I’m used to fashioning things out of old sleeves and collars.

The grey terry is fine on it’s own, but I’ve got a vision for a cute little hand stamped print. I want to try to use a stamp from a cactus set I found at Target, but unfortunately the stamp is too narrow to use on a thick fabric like mine.

Fabric stamping setup feat. the too small Target stamps.

Once I get my printing supplies out, though, it’s hard to put them away and wait for inspiration to strike again. I know I want arrows, so I chop up a third of a potato into a little stamp (don’t worry, we ate the rest of the potato later).

Carved arrow potato stamp. Nothing fancy, but it does the job.

Now, I’ve used potato stamps before, most notably on my kids’ dip dyed bedroom curtains. I actually used the same fabric paint for that project, too. There’s not much of a trick to the potato stamping, except to make sure enough potato is cut away that the pattern stamps clearly.

After I cut the stamp, then it’s time to stamp, stamp, stamp. You can see the pattern coming along here.

The little potato that could!

I have seven or eight fabric pieces, so it takes me most of a day (in between kid stuff and meals, of course) to finish them.

The Pattern: Bummies

I follow a lot of pattern designers on Instagram, and when the little bummies pattern from Brindille and Twig came up on my feed a while back, I had to have it. What’s better? It’s free. Oh yeah!

I’m totally not kidding when I say this is a free make – minus whatever printer paper and a third of a potato cost me.

The bummies are a pattern for knit material, hence why I choose to work with the grey terry. There’s an option to make them with or without the little leg bands, but I think that they add to the overall appeal of the shorts, so I choose the version with the added bands.

It doesn’t take me long to slice into a hoodie for contrasting orange material. Although, Paisley is watching while I do this and screams, “No, Mommy, no! Don’t cut your clothes!” (I’m guessing that one day I’ll find her with scissors to her clothes and won’t have a leg to stand on.)

I make size 74 (6-9 months) for Kyriakos and size 90 (18-24 months for Colm). Both of my boys are exceptionally tall and averagely narrow. However, they both wear cloth diapers, so I want to ensure plenty of room for their fluffy bums.

Anywho, the pattern is very straightforward and easy to follow. Once the pieces are cut though, I somehow put them to the back of my desk and neglect them for a good week or two. I mean, that’s a given for a busy mom of littles, right?

Putting the Pieces Together: Matching Baby and Toddler Bummies

One evening, I’m inspired to sit down and start sewing the boys’ pants. Usually, I’m able to sew a couple of seams at a time, before someone needs to eat or be changed or just talk about atoms, and my concentration is broken.

But when I sit down to make the bummies, something magical happens: I’m able to sew both pairs almost to completion in a single sitting. I’ve never had a project go so quickly! And if I were a better sewist (read: I don’t make silly mistakes that take precious time to rip back), they’d be done after this sitting.

However, I’m pleased with the progress I make, and with how easy the pattern is in general. Actually, sewing pants is much more enjoyable for me than sewing tops or dresses.

I leave off with only the waistbands waiting to by finished, and tackle them again the next afternoon. I attempt this while all three kids are awake and slightly hangry, but they all cooperate long enough for me to get some seams in. I finish with the elastic and waist ties while they eat dinner.

Horray! The shorties are complete. It’s a little too late for me to have the boys model them, but I set them aside to dress them in the next morning.

Man, are they cute!

The finished shorties!
Colm would only cooperate if I fed him a steady stream of fruit snacks during the photo sesh.
Brotherly love.
More food please! (Note: pre-breakfast photo shoots don’t work too well with hungry little boys.)
Tush and toes.

Final Thoughts

I really like the bummies. I enjoyed making the pattern and I love how the finished pants look on my boys. I can easily see myself making many more pairs of them, although I don’t have a ton of knit fabric on hand. Maybe some more thrifting is in order.

If you want to make the bummies, you don’t need much fabric at all. I used four terry remnants and the sleeve of a hoodie to make two pairs of pants. So, if you frequently upcycle and use something like the body of a sweater or hoodie to make a romper, you can definitely use up the leftover sleeves to make a pair of bummies.

I’m considering using this pattern to make some underpants for Colm, since we’ll be potty training him this fall. For this purpose, I’ll go a size or two down, omit the drawstring, and use a thinner fabric – probably some of my husband’s old t-shirts.

I think, though, that for potty training, these underpants will be a good fit. As his confidence builds, we can make some cute little boxer shorts from woven fabrics – maybe I’ll even splurge on some new fabric with his beloved firetrucks or tractors.

As far as sewing with knits goes, I am glad I just went for it with this project. I have been so scared to work with knits, especially since I don’t have a serger or a double needle for my sewing machine.

To get around these obstacles, I used a fresh, sharp needle, polyester thread to stand up to the stretchiness of the fabric, and a zigzag stitch to better stretch with the knits. I didn’t notice any skipped stitches and the final pants seem to stretch just right.

I’m glad I’ve got this first knit project out of the way so that I have the confidence to tackle future knit projects. A lot of children’s sewing patterns call for knit fabric of some sort or another and I’ve always been a bit intimidated to tackle them. Now though, I know I can do it.

Next Project Sneak Peek

What’s coming next?

Looks like it’s going to be a pants-a-thon around here! I’ve got harem pants lined up for all of the kids, as well as some shorties and leggings for Paisley to wear under dresses. All upcycled, of course.

Bye, Friends! (Alternate caption: the reality of taking pictures with little boys.)
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Gabrielle Rystedt
Gabrielle Rystedt
Gabrielle Rystedt is a writer by day and a writer by night (because writers never sleep), who spends time balancing client orders, a couple of books and her blog at Raising Rystedts. She’s a business school grad who’s dabbled in management, both at the project and company level. She loves coffee and crafting, and enjoys settling down with a good book. Though as mom to three kiddos in three years, she realistically spends most of her time reheating her coffee and typing away like a crazy person on a laptop keyboard while surrounded by (clean) cloth diapers and cheddar bunnies.

What are your thoughts?