How to Make Perfect-Fitting Pajama Bottomscomments (23) November 17th, 2008
I’m not a good seamstress, not by a longshot. Believe me, I’m not being modest. And perhaps, with the hubris of the naïve, since I didn’t have a pattern for pajama bottoms, I figured I could just wing it. Armed with a CraftStylish’s Quick Stuff to Sew (Spring 2008 issue)—which shows how to make a designer waist—and a favorite pair of pajama bottoms, I actually made a pair that’s not half bad. There is usually more fabric on the backside of pajama bottoms, but I made the front and back pieces the same and it worked out fine. You could also cut the front and back bigger for an overall roomy fit, or cut the back pieces 1 to 2 inches wider than the front. It helps to make a few sketches and take measurements of the pajama bottoms before you start marking and cutting.
- Favorite pair of pajamas
- Ironing board and iron
- 2 yards of main fabric, prewashed and pressed
- 1/4 yard contrast fabric, prewashed and pressed
- Cutting mat
- Fabric marker
- Seam ruler
- Sewing machine
- Safety pin
- 1 yard of 1-1/4-inch nonroll, sew-through elastic
- Seam ripper
- Approximately 60 inches of 1/2-inch ribbon
Step 1: Fold the main fabric in half, right sides facing, and lay flat on the floor or cutting mat. Stretch the waistband of your favorite pajamas and measure it. Mine are 40 inches in circumference. For one panel of the pajama bottoms, then, I need to measure an 11-inch waist (10 inches with a 1/2-inch seam allowance on both sides). Lay out your existing pajamas on top of the fabric. Fold one leg over the other so you have half of your pajama bottoms showing. Smooth out any creases. With your fabric marker, trace around the perimeter of your existing pajamas, leaving a 1/2-inch seam allowance on the sides and hem, and a 1-3/4-inch seam allowance at the top waist edge. Sketch a perimeter at the waist that includes the full waist measurement that you just took (in my case, 11 inches for one panel), rather than the gathered elasticized waist measurement (you’ll need that later). I like to use a seam ruler to make sure I’m measuring accurately as I sketch around the perimeter.
Step 2: We are going to add a 4-inch border at the hem with a fun contrasting fabric. To do this, make the length of the legs 3-1/2 inches shorter when cutting your main fabric (another 1/2 inch will be used for the seam allowance). Cut out four 5-1/4-inch-long pieces of contrasting fabric (4 inches plus 1/2-inch seam allowance for the top and 3/4 inch for the bottom hem) in the same width as the pant length (make sure you have a 1/2-inch seam allowance on both sides). For instance, if your existing pajamas have a 10-inch-wide leg, you’ll want to cut four 5-1/4 x 11-inch pieces of the contrast fabric. Make sense?
Cut out your two layers of main fabric. Pin them to another double layer of fabric, making sure everything is smooth and laid out at the same angle (not on the bias). You should have four pieces of main fabric at this point and four strips of contrast fabric for the hem.
Step 3: Pin two corresponding pieces together along the outside edge (not the inseam and crotch ), right sides facing, and sew up the outside seam with a 1/2-inch seam allowance, making sure to backstitch at the beginning and end of your seam. Repeat with the other two pieces. Press open your seams.
Step 4: Join the short end of one piece of contrast fabric to another, using a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Press open the seams, and pin and sew the strip to the hem, right sides facing and using a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Repeat for the other leg.
Step 5: To join the two halves of the pajama bottoms, with right sides facing, pin the pieces together from the waist to the crotch and sew, backstitching at the beginning and end and pressing your seams open. Repeat for the other waist-to-crotch seam.
Step 6: With right sides facing, pin the inseam of each leg and sew from the bottom hem up to the crotch, pressing open the seams when done.
Step 7: You should have raw edges at the hem and at the waist. Fold over 1/4 inch at the hem and press. Fold over another 1/2 inch, pin, and hem your pajama bottoms with a 1/2-inch inseam.
Step 8: Now it’s time to rock the waistband. Fold over and press 1/4 inch at the top edge of your waistband. Now fold over 1-1/2 inches and pin in place. Starting at the middle of the back, sew down the waistband with a 1/8-inch seam allowance (you want to stitch down the 1/4 inch of fabric you pressed down), stopping 2 inches from the end (you want to leave a hole to feed elastic through). Measure the waistband (this time without pulling the elastic) of your original pajama bottoms. Cut out a corresponding length of 1-1/4-inch nonroll, sew-through elastic. Poke a large safety pin through one end of the elastic and feed it through the tunnel you just created. When it comes out the other side, remove the safety pin and sew the two ends of the elastic to each other, backstitching at the beginning and end. Sew up the 2-inch opening of the waistband so that the elastic is completely encased and hidden.
Step 9: You don’t want the elastic to move or roll with use. To keep it secure and in place, sew down the elastic at the top and bottom of the tunnel (thereby sewing the two layers of waistband fabric to the inner elastic), leaving an approximate 1-inch space in the middle of your waistband. I used a wavy decorative stitch to give the waistband some added pizzazz.
Step 10: With your seam ripper, carefully pop a few stitches at the vertical front of your waistband, between the two rows of stitching you just added. Slip a safety pin through the end of your ribbon, and feed it through the remaining tunnel of your waistband. When it comes out the other end, remove the safety pin and tie in a bow.
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