Thank Goodness It’s Shorts Season, or My War with Preschooler Pants

As of mid-May, Big Brother (age 4) owned zero pairs of pants that were his current size and had no holes in them. That’s not even counting pants with patches–all his patched pants had new holes. Even the pants that I bought brand-new for him in January had holes. Fortunately, then the sun came out.

Now, I’m not a sewing expert, but I’m learning and willing to try new things. The stakes are a little lower with clothes for preschoolers because tots just aren’t that picky, so it’s a great place to practice! Grandpa FP always used to say, “It’s already broken,” meaning I couldn’t make things worse. So in that spirit, I get out the sewing machine and the special sharp scissors and I just Google some tutorials and go for it!

I have tried a variety of methods for dealing with holes in the knees, starting with patching. The problem here is that the pants kept springing holes AROUND the patches. My patches, accordingly, kept getting bigger and bigger as the winter went on. I have also discovered that self-adhesive patches must be sewn on as well. I could do this by hand, but no. I hate hand-sewing with a fiery and intense passion, and also I am terrible at it. So I do it on my machine, even though I often accidentally sew the front of the pants to the back of the pants and have to start over (not much room to work in a pair of jeans worn by a 42 pound preschooler).

I tried to patch/sew up the small hole above the patch separately, but that didn't work. These pants now have enormous patches (not pictured) ready for cold summer evenings.

…but that was a fail. These pants now have enormous patches (not pictured) ready for cold summer evenings.


I tried to patch and sew up a small hole that appeared in these jeans above the patch…

Then there are pants not suitable for patching. First, a pair of sweatpants (not pictured)–it just seemed like a patch would look strange. But as it happens, now that the weather’s warm, Big Brother desperately needed shorts! I measured a pair of shorts that fit him to figure out a good inseam. There was plenty of length to work with here, so I just did a traditional finished hem (double fold). Because the fabric was a little stretchy, the hem came out a little wobbly, but, well, I didn’t make them to enter in a hemming contest! Big Brother was delighted to see his favorite “running pants” come back to life as “running shorts.”

Next up, black cargo pants. With these, the hole was awkwardly high, close to the pocket–not much extra length. So I tried a new trick and used hem tape. I’d never done it before, but I remember Grandma FP using it, rather indulgently, when I was a teenager and insisted that my favorite dress had grown too short and needed to be let down.

I cut off the pants right at the rip and zig-zag stitched the cut edge, then sewed the hem tape as close as possible to that edge. (Actually it was self-adhesive hem tape, so I pressed it down first). Then I just barely folded over the hem tape, and sewed it down. The idea with using hem tape this way is that it lets you fold over just a tiny bit of the fabric, instead of losing the full half-inch minimum required by a proper hem.

Hem tape sewn in place.

Hem tape sewn in place.


Hem tape pinned down, ready for sewing.

I was thinking that the color of the tape was not important, since it will be on the inside, but of course it is sometimes visible–these are shorts. Fortunately, the neutral beige looks fine, almost like it’s an intentional embellishment. Good thing I didn’t use pink lace or something!

Finished result. Definitely imperfect, but pretty adorable on.

Finished result. Definitely imperfect, but pretty adorable on.

Lastly, we have the unsalvageable. One pair of khaki cargo pants ripped right up to the pocket, leaving no room for repair. Then a pair of jeans which ripped underneath the large patches (not pictured). I was thinking of making shorts of the jeans, but Grandma FP pronounced them unworthy (too threadbare in the butt). I am saving both of these to cut up for future patches. (See my upcoming post on Adult Pants Problems for how I have already used these!)

Cargo pants are always tricky--the pockets limit one's options.

Cargo pants are always tricky–the pockets limit one’s options.

I feel like I spent all winter trying to keep Big Brother in pants, so I am very glad that part of the year is over. No word yet on whether he will be allowed to have patches on his uniform pants at his new school next year–I hope so, or it could be an expensive winter!

How are your mending skills coming along?


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About frugalparagon

I'm a part-time librarian and mom to two small boys. I blog about striving for the long-term goal of financial independence while running a tight ship at home.

4 responses to “Thank Goodness It’s Shorts Season, or My War with Preschooler Pants”

  1. Amy K says :

    My hat is off to you – especially for those cargo pants turned shorts! I will have to remember that trick with the hem tape.

  2. StockBeard says :

    Great frugality here! My mother used to patch our pants a lot as well, I do remember that. I could not figure this “sewing” thing of, and my wife probably won’t have the time. One potential solution: indestructible clothes? (Jeans, etc…)

    • frugalparagon says :

      No such thing as indestructible clothes! He rips right through his jeans. His cords only lasted four months before they got a hole, and those sweatpants were quite thick fabric. Funnily enough, I have not had this problem so much with Little Brother (but maybe next year, when he’s four…) so you might not have the same issue with your tyke.

      If you do, and if you are not so good at sewing, you could try this: Use iron-on patches. Sit down with needle and thread while you are watching TV and just stitch around the outside by hand as slowly as necessary. OR just iron on the patches and have extra Stitch Witchery available for when they start to peel at the edges–you can just slip a little Stitch Witchery in there and iron. SW seems to hold better, actually, than the iron-on patches by themselves. Good luck!

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  1. Mending Time: Adult Pants Problems | The Frugal Paragon - October 6, 2015

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