How to Make Perfect-Fitting Pajama Bottoms

comments (23) November 17th, 2008     

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Jen_W Jennifer Worick, contributor
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The finished PJs. Pretty adorable, dont you think?
Lay out your favorite pajamas and use them as a template.
Pressing your seams will give your pajamas a more professional finish and will help fuse the stitches to the fabric.
The finished PJs. Pretty adorable, dont you think?

The finished PJs. Pretty adorable, don't you think?

Photo: Jennifer Worick
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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.

pajama bottoms how to
The finished PJs. Pretty adorable, don't you think?

You'll need:

  • 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
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Thread
  • 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.

Lay out your favorite pajama bottoms and use them as a template.

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?

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Match the width of the contrast fabric to the width of the leg you just cut out.

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.

After cutting out two pieces of fabric, pin them to another double layer of fabric and cut, so you wind up with four pieces.

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.

Pressing your seams will give your pajamas a more professional finish and will help fuse the stitches to the fabric. 

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.

Adding a contrast fabric to the hem of your PJs will totally sass them up.

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.

Pin one edge from waist to crotch and sew.

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.

With a safety pin as your lead, thread the elastic through the tunnel you created for the waistband.

When you've threaded the elastic, sew the two ends to each other and sew the tunnel shut.

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.

I sewed down the elastic using a groovy wavy stitch.

Using a seam ripper, pop a few stitches on the front vertical seam.

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.

Thread a 1/2-inch ribbon through the waistband tunnel and tie in a bow.

Done. Perfect fit. Perfect gift.


In the future, you can find me at my website or blogs, Things I Want to Punch in the Face and Prairie Tales. My new book, Backcountry Betty: Crafting with Style, is in stores now.

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posted in: wearable, pattern, pant, pajama bottoms

Comments (23)

brdecker writes: great and simple pattern to follow - made a pair for my husband in one morning. Thanks for sharing.
Posted: 4:26 pm on February 26th
GrandmaSue9 writes: To keep elastic from rolling (I have done this on ready mades. too.) Stitch vertically through the casing and the elastic at the center front and center back and the sides.
Posted: 4:23 pm on December 31st
GrandmaSue9 writes: For fleece I would not make a casing; just sew colorful elastic on top of the fleece. Mark the center, sides and back center with pins and stretch to fit the fleece. To some of those worried about fit; don't forget these are pj's. Make them loose and comfy. One measurement people don't usually take in the crotch to waist. Sit on a hard surface and measure with a ruler or yard stick from the surface to your waist. Add 1.5 inches or so for comfort and being able to sit down! Again, check your ready made pj's for this measurement. Some of my silky pj's tear in this area because I am a petite. Petite isn't just short legs---my back neck waist is short, my shoulder to bust is short. I even need a little heel lift because my heel bone is short!
Posted: 4:21 pm on December 31st
piecefulquilter1 writes: I idea is fantastik and I believe it will work. I just wish some of the comments were about 'actual' pj's made from the instructions. I hope those that said they were going to try them will post results of the outcome.

Posted: 2:23 pm on November 26th
treerosepink writes: Love the idea. I am anxious to try it. The best (easiest) way to keep the elastic from rolling would be to "stitch in the ditch"--just position needle over each waistband seam and sew down thru each seam line, the width of the elastic, making sure, of course to do your back stitching before and after sewing to lock in your thread.
Posted: 11:46 pm on November 25th
ubercatmommy writes: 11-26

This looks ok as an easy beginner's project, but honestly, I don't know about anyone else, but I'M not the same from front to back when it comes to pants!! I guess it would take a lot of trial and error to have the fit turn out right. The construction itself is easy enough. Using an existing garment thats fits well to copy from is always a good idea.
Posted: 11:56 am on November 26th
girard86 writes: hi this is a great pattern but i also use to take mens pant legs, cut them off and take my little boys old pants and make him pants out of his dads pants the same way saved money that way too. but used elastic waist not the zipper front. too time consuming then.
Posted: 6:35 am on February 24th
ladyinred writes: Here's a suggestion- when making your pattern, put the sides of the front and back together to eliminate the side seam. Makes for a little less sewing and a quicker project.
Posted: 10:27 am on February 20th
Jetmuis writes: smart idea to use an old pj bottoms as a pattern, thank you for sharing this great idea, happy new year!!!;-D
Posted: 5:18 am on January 1st
clair163 writes: i think i'm going to give it a try looks easy enough.
Posted: 8:23 pm on December 31st
cassmartinez writes: Is there a reason no one ever makes the bottom hem before sewing the sides? I always hem the bottom before I sew up a project making it that much easier..I've always wondered why in tutorials it's never done that way?!?

BTW LOVE the pajamas...I just made some pj bottoms for my toddler out of fleece!
Posted: 8:55 pm on January 17th
Melissa96 writes: Ok.. I finally made these pj's. It was a very easy pattern to follow. Thank you SO much. Previously I had never sewn anything other then a simple shower curtain. I was so excited to make pants! LOL!

They were not perfect as it was my first attempt but my 8 year old loves them. I used fleece monkey fabric with hot pink satin as the panels at the bottom.

Thank you for posting this pattern!
Posted: 11:39 pm on April 23rd
Melissa96 writes: Very cool! I searched for over an hour and found your pattern. A friend of mine sent me some great monkey fabric and I want to make PJ bottoms for my DD's. I like the idea of the contrasting fabric. Hoping to make these this week.
Thanks much!
Posted: 3:50 pm on April 4th
sigridsoto writes: you are brilliant keep creating u inspire me thank you
Posted: 6:37 am on January 7th
zanygumby writes: Great tutorial. I will be able to make pj bottoms for my granddaughter. She is starting to out grow her current one's, adding the extra material should do the trick she is getting taller. Thank you for sharing.
Posted: 1:01 pm on November 22nd
Jen_W writes: Yum, fleece sounds divine. I guess I'd only be concerned that the waistband could get bulky but otherwise, go for it! And let me know how they work out.
Posted: 5:49 pm on November 18th
paintchipgirl writes: Jennifer, completely cute! I'm going to try these in fleece for my 7-year old twins. Any thoughts/cautions on fleece?
Posted: 5:39 pm on November 18th
Toffy writes: Jen1964 you are exactly right on the skivies elastic. I do cut it off the worn out skivies b4 they get tossed in the rag/carwash box. It is certainly reusable.
The jammie bottoms are quite cute. I do copy patterns all the time and make my own adjustments for better fit,etc. I love my Serger for quick projects like this one. Good tutorial.
Posted: 1:29 pm on November 18th
lena9221 writes: The PJ bottoms are adorable. What a wonderful tutorial!

With a little knowledge and creativity, you can make anything from old comfy clothes. I do it all the time. Then use the clothes in a quilt.
Posted: 9:12 am on November 18th
melna writes: Love your pj bottoms and thanks for a great tutorial!
Posted: 8:59 pm on November 17th
Jen1964 writes: That's what Grandma used to do sometimes! Very reliable. Don't laugh, but the softest, strongest elastic (and it's free) is what my mom used to save from worn out fruit of the looms from the guys in the family. Those things don't last forever, but the elastic is so comfy and broken in, you won't be sorry. And it lasts longer than the new stuff.
This ought to work on kid's P.J.'s too. Thanks!
Posted: 7:10 pm on November 17th
croqzine writes: Love your fabric choices!!
Posted: 6:39 pm on November 17th
jbird512 writes: I love the idea of using pj bottoms that I alread have and love as the template!
Posted: 1:08 pm on November 17th
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