Introduction: Pajama Pants, Without a Pattern
Several years ago, I inherited my mom's old sewing machine – a Kenmore 6-Stitch from the '80s. Though it doesn't have many of the capabilities of newer digital machines, the similarities are enough to complete most sewing tasks. By learning from various tutorials online, and with some experimentation on my own, I learned how to sew simple items at first and eventually worked my way up to more complex costumes and projects. With this guide, I'll walk you through my own adaptation of a basic pattern for sewing your own pajama pants.
Pajama pants (or pajama bottoms) in most stores can cost around $25, and you can only buy them in the sizes and designs they have in stock. If you have basic familiarity with using a sewing machine and have completed a few projects of your own, you'll be able to follow this tutorial to make your own inexpensive custom sleepwear, or create a personalized gift for a friend or loved one.
If you need a refresher on the basics of preparing and using a sewing machine, refer to this guide: http://www.wikihow.com/Use-a-Sewing-Machine
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Step 1: Things You Will Need
- Sewing machine
- Tape measure
- Straight pins
- Ironing board and iron
- *About 2 yards of fabric
- *Matching color of all-purpose thread
- *Elastic band
Step 2: Taking Measurements
Making the pajama pants too large is better than making them too small, since this will be a garment made to fit loosely and comfortably.
Using a tape measure, find:
- the wearer's waist measurement,
- the wearer's hip measurement (for females) at the widest point,
- the circumference of the wearer's leg,
- the wearer's inseam (length from crotch to ankle), and
- the length from the wearer's waist to their ankle.
If you are using a pair of jeans or something similar, take the same measurements on the garment itself.
The pajama pants will not fit if the they are made smaller than the waist (for males) or hip (for females) measurement, depending on the stretch of the fabric. If the waist is too large, the elastic band will provide a good fit. If the length is too long, it will be easy to reduce by hemming up the bottom higher.
Multiply the waist-to-ankle measurement by two, and add four inches. This is the total yardage of fabric you will need.
Calculate 0.9 times the waist measurement, plus one inch. This is how much elastic you need.
Step 3: Drafting Your Pattern
One and one quarter inches (1-1/4") is added to each waist measurement for the seam allowances. Two and one quarter inches (2-1/4") is added to the leg circumference for comfort and the seam allowances. Two inches (2") is added to the waist-to-ankle measurement for the waistband and hems.
For pajama pants made for a female wearer, use the hip measurement where the diagram calls for a waist measurement. Since this hip measurement will be larger than the waist measurement, the pajama pants must be made to fit accordingly. The elastic waistband will accommodate for the smaller waist measurement. Leg circumference and waist-to-ankle measurements will still be used as indicated.
The crotch cut-out is a U-shape, closer to one edge than the other to designate a front side and a back side. The height (length A in the diagram) and width (length B in the diagram) of this U-shape will depend on the extra measurements you took. Make use of a calculator or scratch paper for this part.
A = leg circumference + two and one quarter inches (2-1/4") - [waist/hip measurement x 0.5 + two and one half inches (2-1/2")]
B = waist-to-ankle measurement + two inches (2") - [inseam + one and one eighths inch (1-1/8")]
For example, using the measurements taken from the jeans in the prior step, we have:
- Waist = 37"
- Leg circumference = 24"
- Waist-to-ankle = 40"
- Inseam = 28"
A = 24 + 2-1/4 - (18-1/2 + 2-1/2) = five and one quarter inches (5-1/4")
B = 40 + 2 - (28 + 1-1/8) = thirteen and seven-eighths inches (13-7/8")
Make a print out or sketch of this diagram on a separate sheet of paper for you to refer to when it comes time to cut the fabric. Include your final calculated measurements on your copy of the diagram for reference.
Step 4: Choosing Materials
For this project, I recommend a fleece or flannel type fabric. Fleece fabrics come in a range of types varying in thickness and softness, while flannel fabrics tend to be more lightweight and breathable. A thicker cotton knit fabric will result in a garment more like sweatpants, and sport-type nylon or “performance” materials could be used to make yoga/workout pants, but in both cases, the material will be more challenging to sew.
Inspect a variety of fabrics when making your selection, making particular note of how easily the fabric slides against itself, and how much it stretches. Fabrics that slip or stretch are more difficult to work with, and will require more pinning and careful stitching to keep everything in place.
If you choose a print fabric, be careful to note which direction the design goes. Some designs may have a specific top and bottom, and you will need to be aware of this when cutting your fabric and sewing it together.
When purchasing fabric, be sure to note the composition (cotton/polyester) marked on one end of the bolt. This will be important to know when you iron and wash the garment.
All-purpose thread comes in many different colors. Select a color that matches or complements your fabric so that the stitching will not stand out.
Elastic comes prepackaged in about 1-yard lengths, give or take a few inches. The exact length will be designated on the box. Be sure to check the back, which will often also specify what the elastic is best for, and select a type suitable for waistbands and the weight of the fabric you will be using. Elastic is also sold on the roll and can be cut to a specific size if you need more, or significantly less, than the pre-cut sizes.
Step 5: Aligning the Fabric
- Saves time on cutting by half.
- Ensures that both pieces are identical.
- Both pieces will already be positioned for sewing.
If you are using a solid color or a simple pattern, you do not have to worry about proper alignment. Fold your fabric in half with the right sides together, then cut along the fold as in the photograph above.
Step 6: Cutting the Fabric
Along either unpinned side is the selvage, or finished edges, of the
fabric. This part is treated to keep the fabric from fraying on
the bolt, and looks and feels rougher than the rest of the material. See the first photograph above.
Evenly trim the selvage off of one side. Starting from this cleanly cut edge, measure out the length of the leg circumference plus two and a quarter inches (2-1/4"), and cut off the fabric beyond this measurement. You will now have two rectangular shapes.
If you have a printed design, be sure to note which edge is the top and which edge is the bottom.
Along the top edge, use a pencil, tailor's chalk, or a ballpoint pen to lightly mark where the U-shaped segment for the crotch will be, using your copy of the diagram and the waist measurements, width (length A), and depth (length B) to position the U-shape. See the second photograph above.
Step 7: Sewing the Crotch
Pin the two pieces of fabric together along this U-shape, using extra pins around the curve. Cut this shape out, following the marks you made in the previous step.
Prepare your sewing machine as necessary, using your matching color of thread. Again, refer to the link in the introduction if you need a refresher on how to set up and use a sewing machine.
Use a basic straight stitch with the tension adjusted so that the loops are not visible from either side.
Sew a five eighths inch (5/8”) seam along the edge of the U-shape. Reinforce the curve of the crotch (the bottom part of the U-shape) with another three eighths inch (3/8”) seam, or the width of the foot, from the edge. See the second photo above.
Step 8: Sewing the Legs
Grip the reinforced bottom of the sewn U in one hand and allow the rest of the material to drape towards the floor. You want to keep track of this seam to avoid sewing the legs together incorrectly. Where the left and right edges of the same piece of fabric come together is where you will want to sew, making sure that the seam allowances on the crotch and on each leg are all on the same side. Watch this video to see how to match the fabric correctly.
Pin these edges together. Note in the first photograph above how the seam of the crotch is visible and on the same side as where you are pinning. Make sure your fabric is lined up the same way.
Sew up both sides with a 5/8” seam. You now have something that very closely resembles a pair of pajama pants, with two clearly defined legs. All three of your seams should still be on the outside.
Step 9: Pressing the Seams and Hems
Set your iron to the appropriate temperature for the fabric you are using. Iron the seams open at least two inches (2") at the waist and the bottoms of the legs so that it will be easier to press and sew these parts flat.
Fold the waist down one and one half inches (1-1/2”) and press a crease into the fabric, making sure to keep the seams folded open when you iron the waistband over. See the photo above.
Fold the hems at the bottoms of the legs up a half inch (1/2”), making sure just as you did with the waistband that the seams remain flat and open.
Pin these folds down with on either side of each of the open seams to keep all your stitching lined up. The pressed edge on each section will keep the fabric in place fairly well on its own. Use extra pins if your fabric does not hold the pressed crease very well, as may be the case for thicker fleece fabrics.
Step 10: Sewing the Hems & Waistband
Use the width of the sewing machine foot, generally about three eighths of an inch (3/8”), to sew the hems in place.
Do the same for the waistband, using a three eighths inch (3/8") stitch from the cut edge of the fabric. Leave an unfinished opening at least 4” wide so that you will be able to insert the elastic into the sewn waistband
Step 11: Threading the Elastic
Cut your elastic to the measurement calculated in the first step. The waistband is sewn to just fit a one inch (1") wide elastic band, so you may find it difficult to thread through.
Fold the band in half along its width, then over about a quarter of an inch (1/4") at the end. Use a safety pin to keep this blunt end, and allow the pin to extend at least half an inch (1/2") past the end. This will make it much easier to use the safety pin to guide the elastic through the band and past the pressed seams.
Step 12: Finishing the Waistband
Once the elastic is completely through, remove the safety pin and overlap each end by half an inch (1/2”), making sure that the elastic is not kinked or twisted up. Be careful not to pull the waist tight or you might retract the elastic back into the waistband. Sew the ends together to complete the loop.
Stretch out the waist to retract the elastic back into the unfinished waistband, and sew the opening shut.
Turn your garment right side out. You now have your own handmade pajama bottoms!