How to sew DIY baby or toddler underwear

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My toddler started potty-training recently. Although she’s eager and excited, we ran into a small problem:

We couldn’t find any baby or toddler underwear or Pull-ups that fit her.

Not in stores, anyway. When I looked online, I found a few options, but they cost more than we want to pay. I decided to make them myself.  I’m not spending too much money on something she’s going to have accidents in!

We’ve been using diapers as she potty-trains, but doing that is difficult since she’s used to going in her diapers. She has that association with them that’s hard to break.

Since my daughter is very small for her age, she’s developmentally ready to potty-train but most toddler underwear and Pull-ups are way too big. We were just keeping her in diapers and rushing her to the bathroom whenever she indicated that she needed to go, but it was a pain. Diapers have to be fully taken off, the little straps sometimes break, she wants to pee in them… they weren’t ideal.

So I went online and looked for patterns. I found this promising unisex baby-child underwear pattern.

They looked great, since they had good pictures and reviews as well as multiple sizes. But the real test was to try the pattern.

Picking the baby or toddler underwear size

I had some fabric and thread I got from Hobby Lobby, but since it was the first time trying this pattern, I didn’t want to use the new fabric I’d purchased until I tested it. I dug around in one of my fabric boxes and found an old pair of pajama pants with a frog pattern on knit fabric. The fun fabric was perfect for baby or toddler underwear!

Pajama pants, scissors and a baby-to-child underwear pattern
Old knit pajama pants with a fun frog pattern made the perfect test fabric for toddler underwear.

My daughter has been wearing a lot of 9-12 month clothes, but sometimes fits smaller items. She generally wears a 3/6- or 6-month diaper cover under her dresses. I wasn’t sure what size to make her new undies since she wouldn’t stay still long enough for me to get accurate measurements, so I decided to go one or two sizes larger than I thought she’d need. If they fit, awesome. But if they were too big, that was still great– she’ll grow into them.

What I didn’t want was for them to be too small. I might be able to use them for a future child, but since I didn’t want to use up a bunch of fabric and time on a too-small pair of underwear, I decided to risk them being too big.

With that in mind, I cut out pieces for the 9-12 month pattern.

Baby underwear pattern pieces with a pin cushion
I used four pattern pieces to cut five pieces of fabric: one front and one back underwear piece,. one waistband and two legbands.

Sewing the underwear

^That’s not something I anticipated writing when I first began dreaming about starting a blog…)

There are only four pattern pieces yielding five total pieces: the front and the back of the main portion of the panties, the waistband and the leg band (of which you cut two).

Cutting and piecing the pattern was easy. Since I lost my rotary cutter when we moved, I had to use my scissors, which was fine but made it take longer. Of course, soon after I finished cutting the pieces out I found my beloved rotary cutter. Oh, well. I have it and my self-healing mat for future projects.

Partially-completed toddler underwear with a frog pattern
I sewed each piece together, finishing the waistband last. It’s pinned with the edges of the body and waistband touching. When the sewn waistband is folded back, the stitches– and those edges– are hidden.

Naturally, my sewing machine pedal and power cord were also missing from the move, and I wasn’t able to find them at all. I’m still searching. Luckily, my mother-in-law let me borrow her machine. It took me a bit to find the proper setting for the fabric I was using, but once I got it, sewing the pieces went very quickly. I still miss my sewing machine, though, and can’t wait to get it running again!

Sewing machine attaches pattern pieces
Sewing the pattern was a piece of cake! You only have to sew six small areas, connecting the waistband and legbands to the body and the bottom and side pieces of the main body of the pattern.

Trying the undies on my toddler

My husband carried by toddler by me when I was sewing, and she started ribbeting at the underwear, which I took as a good sign of her interest. A little bit later, I took them in to try them on.

As I largely suspected, they were too big. They WILL fit, and I think they’ll look good when they do, but they’re just too big right now. I decided to try the 6-month size next since it’s probably the closest to what she needs.

Baby/toddler underwear next to a coffee cup
Here is the 9-12-month underwear I made next to a standard-sized coffee mug for scale.

Even though they were too big, my daughter was impressed. She put them up to her face and peered in, tried them on (after stepping out of the legholes a couple of times when I was putting them on) and happily walked around in them in her room. She also made more ribbeting sounds at the frogs.

While the underwear was a bit big and the waistband wasn’t quite as stretchy as I hoped, I think that came down to the slightly older fabric I used and the too-large pieces. I’m going to use the stretchier gray knit I got from Hobby Lobby next time in the 6-month size and see how they compare. I really liked using this pattern, and since it goes up to a small child size, we’ll be able to use it for a long time.

Money saved

I’m preserving my original PDF by tracing the pattern onto my Swedish tracing paper and using those pieces each time I sew. It saves time, and energy, ink and paper instead of continually printing new pattern pieces.

The gray knit I got from Hobby Lobby was a remnant I bought on clearance. I purchased two sections at different times, and am using the smaller one for her underwear. It’s a 59″ by 28″ piece and only cost me $3.26!

The gray fabric is pretty, but I’ll probably add patches and/or brighter knit waist- and legbands to future pairs to individualize them and make them more interesting. I have knit pajama pants, shirts and fabric remnants that I’ve been saving to use for small projects like this.

I LOVE the yellow and gray underwear in the pattern’s sample photo and will probably try a similar look soon. Since this is baby or toddler underwear, using a cute knit fabric or fun embellishments may make potty-training more tempting (just make sure the embellishments aren’t choking hazards). How fun would it be to see your kid running around in custom Mario, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or superhero underwear? I might have to look for some Hello Kitty fabric for my daughter– she likes cats and I have a bit of an obsession with LOVE Hello Kitty!

Have you ever made baby or toddler underwear? What pattern and fabric did you use?

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