Zipper Lips PJ Creature




Introduction: Zipper Lips PJ Creature

About: I love to cook, knit, sew, and garden. Trained as a Family and Consumer Science Teacher, I taught GRADS and Personal Development, then taught about organ, eye and tissue donation for a non-profit. I'm worki…

I love to reuse or re-purpose things that might be thrown away. I've found so many wool sweaters at the local thrift store I can't stop thinking of ways to reuse them. Knowing that when you wash 100% wool in a washing machine it shrinks and makes a very dense, durable fabric, I came up with the idea to make cute, friendly creatures into pajama bags, using recycled/repurposed wool sweaters. A personally designed creature makes a great place for your child (or you!) to store pj’s when they aren’t being worn. And it can substitute for a pillow when the pj’s are inside. They are one-of-a-kind – created by YOU!


  • 100% wool sweaters
  • Pellon P44F JAS Fusible Interfacing – light to medium weight
  • paper for pattern & pencil
  • Ruler
  • fine line marker
  • shapes for drawing around (optional) - I used 2 sizes of medicine bottles, a jar, and a cardboard form for holding tee-shirts to decorate
  • scissors – both paper and fabric
  • thread – matching for sweaters to be used
  • polyester fiberfill
  • Quilt Batting – 1” thick, large enough piece to cover the creature
  • Iron (with steam feature)
  • Hand sewing needle sewing pins
  • Washing machine – hot water, laundry detergent/soap
  • Sewing machine – must have zigzag feature
  • Zipper foot for sewing machine

Step 1: Designing the Creature

I started with a small drawing just to get the idea of what I wanted. Some of the the things changed as I actually made the bag, but it gave me a starting point. I want to use the zipper in one of the sweaters I find as the “lips” of the creature, so I knew I had to draw that into my design.

Attaching all the parts so that my creature could be for all ages means no buttons or other pieces that could easily be pulled off by younger children.

Draw your creature on paper – just a rough draft, keeping in mind that the simpler the better. Remember that you need to have a creature big enough to put your pj’s in, and there needs to be an opening that can be closed to keep them in place.

Do it small so you get an idea of what you want. Now is the time to think about how your creature will look. Are its arms and hands one piece? Do you want it to have shoes or will the legs and shoes be one piece? Will it have hair?

Step 2: Drawing Your Pattern

Now draw the creature as big as you want it, using your small picture as a guide. You will be cutting this drawing up as the beginning pattern to cut out your creature.

I wanted a big oval – so I thought I would use a cardboard form I had on hand. When I laid it on the sweater I wanted to use it, the sweater was too small for that shape. I drew around the shape anyway, cut the shape out and then folded the paper until I had the shape that would fit on the sweater I wanted to use.

Since I had the body shape already cut out, I drew the upper head/hair, making sure it fit the body, and cut it out.

For the ears, I used a largeish jar and made a circle, then used a large medicine bottle and added an earlobe.

I drew the ears, arms and feet, eyes, nose and buttons separately, then cut them out. When looking at the pattern pieces on the body shape I realized this creature needed eyebrows, so I drew them on the body pattern for later reference.

Your creature may have different parts to cut out than mine, but that won’t be a problem.

On the pieces of the creature that need to be sewn together (arms, ears, body, feet) , draw around the pattern ½ inch out from the edge; this will be the seam allowance. I had to incorporate that seam allowance into the pattern I already cut out because of the size of the sweater I used.

On the pieces that will be applied to the body pieces – eyes, nose, mouth – there is no seam allowance, as I zigzag around them to apply them.

Step 3:

I had already gathered the 100% wool sweaters I wanted to use for this project. If you have to find the sweaters, try a local thrift store and see what they have available. Wool sweaters aren’t very popular, but they are perfect for this project. When washed with detergent and hot water, wool shrinks and becomes very dense – it won’t unravel when you cut it into the shape for your creature. It’s soft, and holds up well to lots of wear.

I decided to use the following for this pj creature:

  • A green hoodie sweater with a zipper down the front (Yeah! I was looking for this type of sweater to be the major part of my creature.)
  • An off white sweater – good for the ears of this creature
  • A red sweater – maybe for the inside of mouth – the place where the pj’s will be put! And for the tongue, of course.
  • A brown/green tweed – which I’ll use for the upper head/hair
  • A darker maroon tweed sweater – which I’ll use for the nose, arms, feet, pocket and buttons
  • A scrap of a blue sweater for the irises
  • A scrap of a very white sweater for the whites of the eyes.

Step 4: Preparing the Sweaters

These sweaters need to be washed, so they shrink and become a tight dense fabric, before we can cut out the pieces of the creature.

  • Fill the washer with hot water and add the laundry detergent/soap
  • Put the sweaters in the washer, pushing them under the water.
  • Run a regular wash cycle.
  • Hang the sweaters to dry – on a line or on plastic hangers. Don’t use the clothes dryer as this sometimes shrinks the material so much that it can’t be used.

After the sweaters dried, I cut the arms and hood off the green sweater. then I pinned the bottom front and back together, just above the bottom ribbing. I am going to use the zipper that is in the sweater as the lips of my creature - it will lay horizontal instead of vertical.

As you can see in the picture, the wool shrank but the zipper didn't, causing a little ripple in the sweater fabric. I used the iron to flatten that ripple as best I could before I could cut out my creature's body. Steam and heat allowed me to ease out the ripple just enough.

Step 5:

Once the sweaters are dry, you are ready to start cutting out your creature!

Pin pattern on sweater fabric & cut out

  • Body – cut 2 (front & back)
  • Arms – cut 2 for each arm (front & back)
  • Feet – cut 2 for each leg (front & back)
  • Upper Head – cut 2 (front & back)
  • Face – eyes (and irises), nose, tongue
  • Ears – cut 2 for each ear (front & back) Remember – the ears need to be “mirror” image of each other!
  • Embellishments – Buttons, pocket

Step 6: Ready to Start Sewing

With all the pieces cut out, I laid all my cut out pieces of sweater
together to make sure I had everything I needed for this creature.

Step 7: On to the Sewing!

We’ll want to put the top of the head onto the head/body before we start applying the face. That way we can be sure to put the eyes and nose in the right place on the face.

The upper head/hair of this creature has a “widow’s peak” and needs to be sewn carefully to give it a somewhat sharp point on the forehead. Pin the pieces together; using a straight stitch on your machine, stitch one side of the head to the peak, stopping in the very peak of the fabric. Lift your presser foot and rotate the fabric you are sewing so you are headed up the other side of the head/hair. When you are finished sewing the two pieces together, clip the seam so it will lay flat. Iron the seam open.

Step 8: Iron on Stablizer & Applying Face

Now we’ll apply the face pieces to the head. You will use matching thread for each of the items you place on the face – I used white around the eyes, blue around the irises, maroon around the nose, the buttons and the pocket. Think about what has to be put on first. For example, you have to put the whites of the eyes on before you can put the blue irises on. Lets start!

Cut the fusible stabilizer to match the front of this creature. Since we are applying pieces to both the head and to the body (the “buttons”) we need stabilizer in both places. Because the front of the creature also has the zipper in place, we have to cut the stabilizer in two and apply it without including the zipper area.

Iron the fusible stabilizer onto the wrong side of the front head piece and the wrong side of the bottom of the body.

Pin the whites of the eyes in place on the right side of the head piece.

Pin the nose in place – to be sure you have the eyes spaced correctly. Check your original drawing for placement reminders.

Using a tight zigzag stitch that is not too wide (I used a width of 2 and a length of not quite 0 on my machine – you will have to try yours and see what you like), zigzag around the white eyes. Sometimes as you go around a circle, the fabric starts to "bubble" in front of the presser foot. Use a pin or a seam ripper to lightly press the material going under the presser foot flat to avoid having folds in the eyes or other features you are applying.

Step 9: The All Important Eyes!

I tried several ways of placing the irises – pinning them in place the way I liked.

Using a tight zigzag stitch (again #2 width and not quite 0 length) apply the iris to the white of the eye.

Using a tight zigzag stitch (again #2 width and not quite 0 length) apply the nose.

Step 10:

My creature needed eyebrows, but I didn’t want to apply them. Instead I drew them on with a fine point market very lightly and then used a wide zigzag (width of 4, length of not quite 0) to cover the marker.

Step 11: Buttons

For the “buttons”, use a tight zigzag stitch (again #2 width and not quite 0 length) to apply the “buttons” to the lower body. I want these to look like buttons, so I made “holes” by zigzagging two small areas on each one.

Step 12: The Tongue!

I am going to have the tongue hang loose from inside the zipper mouth, so I need to have it ready to stitch into the mouth.

Using a tight zigzag stitch (again #2 width and not quite 0 length), stitch a straight line down the length of the tongue. This makes it have a center line.

Outline the tongue with zigzag – completely covering the edge of the tongue. Do not sew the tongue to any part of the creature at this point. You may have to hold on to the thread, pulling very gently, as you start to zigzag the edge of the tongue to get your machine to move along correctly. Set the tongue aside.

Step 13: A Little Pocket for Hiding a Treasure?!

Applying the pocket to the back body piece is next in line. Cut a piece of fusible stabilizer larger than the pocket piece.

  • Apply the fusible stabilizer to the wrong side of the back of the body piece.
  • Fold 1” over the top edge of the pocket.
  • Using a straight stitch, stitch across the fold. This makes a nice top edge to the pocket.
  • Pin the pocket in place on the front of the back body piece.
  • Using a tight zigzag stitch (#3 width and not quite 0 length), apply the pocket.
  • Steam iron the front face and the body back piece so the finished pieces lays fairly flat

Step 14: Adding an Inside Pocket for Your Pajamas

Now for the pocket, which will fit inside the mouth of this creature to hold the pajamas. I want this pocket to be red – like the inside of a mouth – so when the zipper is opened the red mouth “yawns” open!

You will notice I have not cut off the “extra” pieces of zipper. Leave them in place until you have the pocket made and the front of the creature sewn to the edges of the pj pocket. This will secure the zipper so it doesn’t come apart.

I used the pattern for the body to cut out one piece for the back of the pj pocket. The front of the pj pocket has to be in two pieces, and I need to have enough extra on each piece to form a seam allowance where it will be sewn to cover the edge of the zipper. The pattern we used to cut out the front and back pieces will work, but we’re going to have to cut it where the zipper is positioned, then add ½ to ¾ inch to the edges that cover the edge of the zipper.

With the pieces of red sweater cut out to make the pj pocket, the next step is to sew the pocket in place. Lay the upper pocket piece in place and pin. It will lay over the bottom of the creature, with the sewn in zipper edge at the edge of the upper pocket piece. Using the zipper-foot for your machine, sew the upper pocket piece to the upper part of the zipper. After sewing, fold the upper pocket over the upper part of the creature to be sure you have it in the right place.

Do the same to the bottom pj pocket piece and the lower creature piece.

Step 15:

When I was done with this, I opened a small part of the pj pocket seam on the bottom piece and inserted the edge of the tongue into the seam, turned it back over and stitched it in place. The tongue will lay inside the pj pocket when it is finished.

To finish the pj pocket, place the back pj pocket piece over the front body of the creature (enclosing the tongue!). This will put the two right sides of the pj pocket together. Because the pocket doesn’t extend up the creature into the upper head/hair area, I needed to sew the top edge of the pj pocket together first. That done, I pinned the outside edges and bottom of the pj pocket to the body piece and machine basted the pocket/creature together. Before sewing over the opening edge of the zipper, unzip enough to get the zipper pull to the inside of the body of the creature. Reinforce the area where the zipper is by sewing back and forth. Once you have reinforced both places where the zipper is extra on your creature, cut the extra zipper piece off even with the edge of the creature.

Step 16:

Assembling the arms, legs, and ears (using straight machine stitching for assembly).

  • With right sides together, pin the arms together and stitch. Turn right side out and steam flat.
  • With right sides together, pin the feet together, stitch. Turn right side out. Steam flat.
  • With right sides of ears together, pin and stitch. Turn right side out. Steam flat.
  • Top stitch around the ear to give a little definition.
  • Lightly stuff arms & feet and baste the top of each closed.

Step 17: A Little Padding Please!

Using the assembled back of the creature, cut a matching piece of quilt batting. Pin, and baste the two together.

Step 18: Final Assembly!

  • Pin arms, legs, ears, to the front of the body in appropriate places.
  • Baste arms, feet and ears in place.
  • Pin front of creature to back of creature, folding arms, feet and ears, inside.

Sew body together, leaving a 4 inch opening in the seam on the body. You will use this to turn the creature right side out. I left the opening in the head/hair area of my creature because there were no extra pieces, like the arms or feet, to avoid.

Step 19:

Turn the creature inside out. Check to make sure you caught all the edges of the all the extra parts in the seams – now is the time to go back and sew over the areas that need reinforced. I pull on the arms and feet, as well as the ears, to make sure they are sewn to the creature well. Steam the body of the creature – especially the edges so it lays nice and flat.

Step 20: Just a Little Hand Finishing.

Pin together the edges of the opening you used to turn the creature inside out. Hand sew the opening edges closed, going over the stitching twice to give a secure closing.

Give your creature a good pressing with the steam iron just to finish it off.

Step 21: Is It Hungry?!

This cute creature is ready to "eat" my pj's!

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    Penolopy Bulnick
    Penolopy Bulnick

    1 year ago

    You're really good and bring your ideas to life :D


    Reply 1 year ago

    Thank you!