My daughter is starting preschool this fall. Before she can go to preschool, she has to be potty trained. All along I had planned on letting her determine when she was “ready” to start potty training, but as summer crept nearer and potty training still wasn’t fully on her radar, I had to be more proactive than I expected.
We took a family trip to Target (she now calls it “The Pull-Up Store”) to let her pick out training diapers and a potty. She was so excited. She selected a princess potty and some kitty training diapers and we started practicing sitting on the potty every night. Although she didn’t pee in the potty for the first time until a couple of weeks had passed, eventually she did do it! And each time she peed on the potty, we rewarded her with one chocolate almond from a Costco-sized canister we keep on the bathroom shelf.
She quickly started peeing on the potty almost all the time (except for an occasional accident or when she was sleeping), but she refused to poop on the potty. No way. Too scary.
So we bribed her. We promised a doughnut of her choice when she pooped on the potty for the first time, and two chocolate almonds every time after that (one almond for #1, two almonds for #2). Again, it took a few weeks, but eventually she (we?) did it! And we all celebrated by taking her out for a chocolate sprinkle doughnut.
At this point, we decided to start letting her wear underwear during the daytime. We bought some training underwear (with a light absorbent layer) at The Pull-Up Store™. She loves them, but they fit very strangely. They have a super high rise, which doesn’t work well with a toddler tummy, and they stretch out over the course of the day. My daughter doesn’t care! Anything feels better and more grown up than a diaper! But I was dissatisfied. And with only three pairs, we needed to increase our supply anyway.
So I scoured the internet for underwear patterns and discovered a free pattern to try. I cut out my fabric and went to mark the center front and back, only to discover that the pattern pieces were not symmetrical. Although humans are not exactly symmetrical, the left and right sides of our bodies are usually pretty similar. So the left and right side of a pattern really should be the same! Sigh.
I didn’t bother to sew up that pair of underwear. Instead, I decided to try to make a better version myself. I used one of my daughter’s swimsuits as a starting point and drafted a pattern for her own custom underwear.
A toddler with custom underwear sounds more glamorous than it is, but don’t tell her that. She loves her mommy-made underwear. When she takes off her pull-up in the morning to put on her underwear she asks, “Mom, you made this for me?”
So far, I have made eight pairs of underwear for her. I use a 95% cotton, 5% lycra knit fabric (either jersey or ribbing works) for the bands and whatever other lightweight knit scraps I can find for the body fabric. The cotton/lycra fabric is ideal for the bands because it has great recovery and stretch. It allows me to achieve a snug fit without using elastic.
For these first pairs, I have included a fleece layer for absorption. This way, when she does have an accident, it doesn’t make quite as much of a mess. It doesn’t keep her pants from getting wet, but it protects my rugs from a full-on puddle of pee. That’s a win for me.
It took a few tries to get my self-drafted pattern to where it is right now. Some of the pairs of underwear you see in this post are from the third version of the pattern, which I had thought would be the final version. However, after seeing the third version on my daughter’s body, I realized that I still had work to do. The front crotch was bunchy and the front rise was still too high. So I made a fourth version of the underwear pattern and, as you can see, they fit a lot better! The front is smooth and accommodates her perfect toddler belly.
If I had only been making this pattern for myself, I probably wouldn’t have persevered through four versions of pattern refinement. But I didn’t just make this pattern for me—I am going to share it with you! For free! I am currently working on digitizing the artwork and creating a step-by-step photo tutorial so you can make your own training pants for all of your potty training friends. I can’t wait for you to test it out and tell me what you think!
[Update: The free pattern and photo tutorial is now available! Get the pattern here]
Until then, happy sewing!