Create Your Own Knitted Wool Pants or Shorts Pattern

One of my favorite things to knit is wool diaper covers for our babies.  As I’ve grown more confident in my knitting, I have found that it is very easy to customize woolies to fit any size or yarn I need.  I wanted to share my system, for anyone looking for a very easy wool cover pattern.

Create Your Own Wool Pants or Shorts Pattern

You will need:
100% Wool yarn of your choice (yardage will vary by size)
Circular knitting needles of your choice (use needles appropriate for weight of yarn)
3 stitch markers (you may want 2 that match, with 1 different)
Tapestry needle
2 straight or double pointed knitting needles (similar size to needles you are using) or stitch holders
Crochet hook
Flexible tape measure

A few notes:
I use this pattern for custom woolies, which means that I customize it each time I create woolies.  One of the great parts about this pattern is that it allows you to work with what you have or love.  So, if you need an exact shade of green bloomers to go with a little girl’s dress, you can get the right color, and then customize your pattern to the weight of yarn and the needles you have.  Or, like me, you can do a stash buster and pull out leftover yarns from other projects and customize your pants to those yarns.  I have a full set of interchangeable knitting needles, but if you don’t, you can also use the needles you have instead of buying new needles.  The possibilities are truly endless with this pattern!  So, don’t be intimidated by the lack of definites.  Once you get going, you will start to see how it all works and how incredibly simple it is.  The only thing you will want to bear in mind is that you want your yarn to be all the same weight, even if you are doing stripes, or contrasting borders, etc.  Also, I wouldn’t use anything finer than sport weight.  The heavier the yarn, the more leak proof it will be.  Have fun!

The pattern:
1. Measure the baby over the diapers he or she will be wearing.  You will need measurements for the baby’s waist, hip, thigh, rise from front to back, and length of legs you want for your woolies.  If you don’t have a baby to measure, I will try to include some measurements at the end of this pattern.  Write all of these down, and keep it handy!

2. Make a gauge swatch.  This is a crucial part of this pattern.  Cast on about 10 to 20 stitches (more if you are using a lighter weight yarn, like worsted, less for bulkier yarns).  Knit your swatch until it is several inches tall.  Now, it is important to note that a swatch knit flat for a round project will typically not be exact.  Instead, I use this method to knit a round swatch.

Once you have knitted your swatch, you need to measure how many stitches are in one inch, and how many rows are in one inch.  Write these down with your baby’s measurements.

3. Do some math!  Knitting has given me more opportunity to use math than any other life skill has.  This pattern is a fun opportunity to whip those skills out for a practical purpose!

A. To get the number of stitches you will need to cast on, you will need to take the measurement for the baby’s hips (in inches), and multiply it by the number of stitches per inch for your gauge.  Write this number down on your paper.

B. Take the thigh measurement (in inches) and multiply it by the number of stitches per inch.  Write this measurement down.

4.  Cast on!  You are ready to get started!  We are starting at the top and working our way down.  This is one of the places where the customization starts!  You get to decide what you want your waistband to look like.  I typically prefer to work in 2×2 rib.  Some prefer 1×1 rib.  Some prefer a rolled waistband where they just work in stockinette stitch from the beginning and the waist rolls over on itself.  Whatever looks good to you, go for it!  If you are want a rolled waist, just use the number of stitches you have already calculated.  If you want to work in 1×1 rib, you need to make sure that your number of cast on stitches is divisible by 2 (add a stitch if needed).  If you are working in 2×2 rib, you need to make sure that your cast on stitches are divisible by 4 (add stitches if needed).  Use a stretchy cast on, like the long tailed cast on method.  Place a marker, then join to work in the round.  Work your waistband for an inch or two, until it looks right to you.  On smaller woolies, like preemie or newborn size, 3/4 of an inch may be as tall as you want.  On larger woolies, like toddler size, you may prefer 1.5 to 2 inches tall.  Just go with what looks right for your pants and it will be fine.

One note about the waistband – many people prefer the look of a trimmer waistband, and therefore knit the waistband on needles  1 or 2 sizes smaller than the needles they will use to knit the rest of the project.  Generally, when this method is employed, the smaller needles are used again for the trim at the ends of the legs.  This is completely personal preference and the same needles can also be used if you don’t have needles a size or 2 smaller.

5. When your waistband is tall enough, switch to the needles you swatched with (if you are using smaller needles for the waist) and begin working in stockinette stitch.  And then, we get to do some more math!  We need to know the number of stitches that equal your cast on stitches divided by 4, and the number of cast on stitches divided by 2.  When you have knitted from your first marker to the stitch 1/4 of your cast on stitches, place one of the matching markers (if you are using matching markers).  Continue knitting in stockinette stitch until you have knitted the number of stitches in your cast on divided by 2, after your first matching marker.  Now, if this sounds confusing, it may help to have an explanation of what these are.  The first marker you have placed is the center front of your knitting.  The other two markers mark the sides of your knitting.  So, the entire back of your knitting should be unbroken by markers.

6. Continue knitting in stockinette, but every 5 rounds, we are going to do a short row across the back of your knitting.  So, to do this, on every 5th round, we are going to knit all of the way around to the stitch before the third stitch marker.  Slip the last stitch before the marker onto the right hand needle.  Bring your working yarn to the front, as if to purl, and slip the last stitch back to the left needle.  Turn your work, bring the working yarn back to the front again.  Slip the last stitch back to the right needle, and purl back across to one stitch before the next stitch marker.  Slip that stitch to the right hand needle.  Draw working yarn to back of work again.  Slip the last stitch back to the left hand needle.  Turn work.  Slip the last stitch back to the right hand needle and draw the yarn to the back of the work again.  Knit across the rest of the row back to your (non-matching) stitch marker.  This completes round 5.

7.  Continue working in this manner, doing short rows every 5th round, until your back and front measurements combined equal the rise from front to back measurement that you wrote down earlier.  When you reach that point, it is time to divide for the legs. To do this, you will need to know how many stitches you need for your legs.  This is where we will use the measurement for the thighs multiplied by the stitches per inch.

If you want soaker style shorts, you will want your legs to be a bit snug, to keep leaks from happening, so you will want right around the number of stitches that your original figure comes up with.  Again, make sure your number is divisible by 2 if you want 1×1 style ribbing at the cuffs or by 4 for 2×2 ribbing.  If you want rolled edges, any number of stitches will work.

If you want longer style shorts or pants, you need to decide if you want them to be snug or more loose.  If you want them to be snug, add a few stitches more than the number of stitches needed for the measurement.  If you want them more loose, just make sure you have enough of a crotch in between that there isn’t any straining on the stitches from stretching.  This is a a part of the pattern where experimentation comes into play.  How many stitches you want the crotch to be will vary widely based on how large your pants are and how big your yarn is.  Measuring how wide the diaper you usually use is at the crotch may give you some insight into how wide to make the crotch of your cover, if you are unsure.

The crotch is, honestly, the most complicated part of this pattern.  Once you have done it once, it gets much easier.  The concept is difficult, but once you’ve mastered the concept, it is just a math problem.

Starting from your center stitch marker, knit across half of the stitches you will want for the width of your crotch.  So, if you want your crotch to be 10 stitches wide, knit 5 stitches.  Then slip these stitches onto either a stitch holder or the straight needles.  Continue knitting around the stitches that will become the leg until you have knitted all of the stitches for one leg.  Knit the stitches for the back side of your crotch, and slip them onto the other stitch holder or straight needle.  Knit all of the stitches for the second leg (just a friendly hit, there should be the same number of stitches for each leg).  Knit the remaining half of the crotch stitches (in our example, there should be 5 stitches left that need to be knit, which should make your front crotch all 10 stitches), and put them on the first straight needle or stitch holder.

You will use a kitchener stitch, or similar graft, to join the front and back sections of the crotch.  This can be done now, or as part of your finishing work – whichever you prefer.  If you want to do it later, it may be easiest to use stitch holders to keep them out of the way of your work on the legs.

8. You will be set to begin stitching on one leg at this point.  Knit across all of the leg stitches.  When you get to the end of that first leg, you will need to do one of two things.  If you have already done the kitchener stitch across the crotch, you will want to pick up a few stitches along that edge, to keep a gap from forming.  If you choose to finish the crotch later, you will also need to tack closed the gaps left by the legs.  In this case, you will also want to cast on a few stitches to make the crotch and the leg meet up better.  Place a marker, join to work round, and keep working in stockinette until the leg is as long as you would like it to be.  If you prefer a tapered leg to a straight leg, decrease one stitch on either side of the marker every inch until the legs are as skinny as you would prefer.

A note about the legs here:  I prefer to attach a second ball of yarn to the second leg (or work from the other end of the same ball if there is enough yarn on it), and work both legs at the same time, like one would work 2 at a time socks or sleeves.  If you are familiar with this method, go for it!  It ascertains that you end up with 2 completely identical legs.

9. When the legs are as long as you would like, minus the trim, stop working in stockinette and begin working the trim rows.  There are many options for trim, so this is where you get to customize again!  You can work in standard 1×1 or 2×2 rib (on the same or smaller needles).  You can continue knitting an extra inch or so longer than you want your final product in stockinette (on the same or smaller needles) and let the end roll when you take it off the needles.  You can work in seed stitch, and have a beautiful cuff that does not pull in.  Whatever appeals to you, go for it!  When your trim is long enough, bind off with a stretchy bind off (I prefer this one).

10. Weave in ends.  If you have not already finished your crotch, do this.

11. Tighten your waistband.  There are a few methods for this, and some I love better than others.  One way is to crochet a long chain and pull it in and out through the waistband, starting and ending on either side of your center front.  I use a crochet hook for this  The chain should be a few inches longer than the stretched out waistband, but not too long.  When the pants are put on the baby, this is used as a drawstring and tied in a bow.  You do not want the ends to be so long that they are a choking hazard, if you go this route.  Another, similar method, is to knit i-cord for the drawstring.  As cute as this is, I rarely have the patience to do it!

Another simple method is to use a piece of 1/4 inch wide elastic, the same length as the baby’s waist measurement, and weave it and out like a drawstring.  Leave the ends on the inside of the pants and either tie or sew them together.  When stretched, this elastic will show, but when the pants are on, the elastic doesn’t show much at all.  This lets the caregiver or the child (if old enough for potty learning) simply tug the pants on or off, without wrestling a tie while the child is trying to roll or squirm away.

If you like the idea of the elastic, but don’t like the small amount that shows when woven through, you can use a piece of ribbon and sew to the inside of the waistband as a casing, and pull the elastic through this.  Then knot or sew the ends, and the elastic will not show.

You are finished!

Some other notes about customization here.  I have used this pattern for years now, making pants for my children.  There are so many ways to customize the pants.  If you knit, start to finish, with the same yarn, you will have one solid color pair of basic pants.  If you alternate colors of yarn every several rows, you will end up with stripes.  I have done fair isle pattern in the different colored stripes of woolies.  This is especially nice over a bottom, as it adds thickness and helps to avoid leaks.  I have added sections of textured knitting throughout the legs.  An example of this would be seed stitch sections of several rows, alternated with several rows of plain stockinette stitch.  I have done cables down the sides of the pants.  There are endless possibilities, really.  So, get creative with the pattern and have fun with it!  Your baby will soon be out and about, getting compliments on his or her cool pants!

A small sampling of baby pants I have made using this pattern.


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