Sewing simple knit projects with a serger is always a good idea – sewing goes even faster, the seams are very stretchy and stable and the inside looks nice and is durable. But sometimes adding cuffs and bands made out of rib knit to a project can be challenging, especially if you’re new to sewing with knits. Today I’m sharing an easy pair of baby pants I’ve sewn for my son and will share some tips and tricks to achieve a professional-looking project.
I’m sewing the Big Butt Pants by Brindille & Twig, but the tips I’m sharing regarding the cuffs and the waistband are universal and are useful for any kind of project. When choosing your fabrics for pants with cuffs and a rib waistband it really helps using a good rib knit. Rib knits of high quality have a good recovery, a good amount of stretch and they will last for a long time. It’s so sad when the pants start falling off the body after a short time because the rib knit has lost its stretch! My pants are sewn of organic fabric from Nosh Organics. The main fabric is a denim sweat and the rib knit a fine rib knit with great recovery.
After gathering your supplies, the next step is cutting out all the pattern pieces. These particular pants include pattern pieces for the waistband and the cuffs, but the general rule is that the waistband/neckband/cuffs should be around 80% of the length of the pattern piece it is attached too. So if the top of your pants is 50 cm all the way around, your waistband piece should be 40 cm long. If your ribbing is very stretchy or doesn’t have as much stretch as usual, this amount can vary a little – maybe you need to cut the pieces at 90%, or maybe at 70%. And don’t forget to cut the pieces double the height of the final height you want for your waistband/cuff, since you will need to fold these pieces in half.
After sewing the main pieces of the pants together, the next step is preparing the rib knit pieces. Fold the waistband in the middle, sewing along the short side of the waistband – you’ll end up with a ring. Do the same with your cuff pieces (in this case you don’t sew along the shorter side, since the cuffs are designed to be very long!). I prefer using my sewing machine for this step, as I did on the waistband piece, since I can press the seam open and avoid bulk along the seam. The other possibility is to use your serger, as I did on the cuffs. It’s quicker, but you end up with more bulk. I often find that sewing machines stretch the rib knit more than a serger does, but that can usually be fixed with lots of steam and a good press with the iron.
Fold the waistband in half and mark each quarter of the waistband with a pin. Do the same with the pants – mark the center back, the center front and the middle in between the front and back on each side. Now you can match the pins on the waistband with the pins on the pants. That way you can distribute the stretch of the waistband evenly.
I prefer laying the pants with the inside on top under the serger, that gives me the most control while sewing. You will have to stretch the rib knit, but only as much as needed to get the pants fabric to lay flat. If you stretch the pants too much, you will end up with a stretched out and wavy seam that will be difficult to steam flat.
Now you can do the same thing with the cuffs. The only difference is that I only pin the cuffs in half and not in quarters, since they’re so tiny. Sewing on tiny cuffs on baby pants can be challenging, but pinning the cuffs to the outside of the pants and laying the pants with the wrong side on top under the serger can really help to get a good result. Another tip can be to baste the cuff to the pant leg before serging it on.
Give your waistband and your cuffs a good press and admire your baby in me-mades! A tip for making those precious handmades last longer is to use roomy patterns and to cut the waistband and the cuffs extra long. That way the pants will fit way longer than many store-bought garments. You can see that I’ve folded the cuffs up on my pants – my son will be able to wear these for quite some time!