Welcome to A Homemade Holiday– Pajama Pants! This is a Christmas gift I’ve given many times over, and it’s one of the easiest projects that I work on around the holiday season. The key to making this a quick project is finding a simple pattern.
- Sewing machine (I am using a sewing machine for this project, because, well, why wouldn’t I? But this is certainly doable without a sewing machine… it will just take a lot longer.)
- Fabric Scissors
- Pinking Shears (optional)
- Safety Pin
- Marking Pen
- Measuring Tape
- Flannel (Yardage depends on the size of the pants you are making, and also how many pairs of pants you plan to make. Check your pattern to determine how much fabric you need.) You can use cotton, satin, fleece, or jersey fabrics as well, but I’m using flannel.
- Elastic for the waistband AND/OR ribbon for a drawstring, depending on the pattern you use. I’ll show how to do both
- Thread (something appropriate for your material. If you aren’t sure what thread to get, check out this post to learn more about thread.)
- Ribbon or other trim for embellishments around the hem (optional)
Pattern Reading 101
I wanted to write a post about this months ago, but I guess today is a good a day as any! Because of my intro to sewing posts, I want to go over the basics of how to read a pattern. For this project, we’re looking for a one pattern piece pattern for making pajama pants. When you find a pattern to suit your needs, you need to pick out the right size. In order to do that, you either need measurements, or to know roughly what size somebody is. On the back of a pattern, on the flap, there will typically be a list of sizes and measurements. That will help you determine what size you will be using for making your pajama pants. Knowing what size pants you need to make will help you determine what materials and how much of them you will need.
Inside of every pattern packet, there will be sheets of tissue-paper like print which contains the pattern pieces, and a set of directions printed on a thicker paper. You will need to look at the images on the first sheet of the directions to determine which letter your project is given. In the pictures below, we are choosing pattern C. Either next to or below that, you will have a breakdown of different pattern pieces, and a list of the pieces by number and letter. In this instance, I’m looking for pattern C on the list, which is pieces 5 and 9. The diagram of pieces will help you to know what your pattern pieces look like. There is a section labeled “General Directions” or something to that effect that will give you a key for the different symbols used in the pattern and directions for different techniques you might need for the projects in the pattern. Then you will find a diagram that shows you how you can cut out your pattern. It will indicate right side and wrong side of the fabric, along with selvage edges and grain. It will show you how to lay out your pattern pieces. Most pattern directions will have several sheets of directions, and you will see the page number along with the number of pages in the pattern. Then you need to find the project letter to find your assembly directions. In this case, they are on page 3 out of 4, labeled under Pants C or Shorts D.
I’m making flannel pajama pants, but feel free to do this in other types of fabric if you are comfortable with that. There’s something so- fresh- about unwashed fabric, but if you are making flannel pajamas, I highly recommend washing your fabric first. Flannel has a tendency to shrink a lot after the first washing and drying, and it would be a shame to have the pants you make for somebody shrink to an unusable size after the first washing. Believe me, I know. If you opt to use fleece or satin, chances are, your fabric won’t really shrink, and they also have different care instructions. Standard cotton might shrink on you, but it’s not typically going to shrink as much as flannel will. Keep in mind, I’m talking about new, unwashed fabrics, purchased from the store. I also find that printed flannels shrink much more than woven, plaid flannels do.
Ironing is a very important step for any fabric that will wrinkle. Flannel wrinkles a lot after washing and drying, so you should iron your fabric to be as smooth as possible. I typically iron it with a cotton setting, using steam. You would never want to iron fleece, as it is plastic and will melt. Polyesters and other synthetic materials can melt too, so you always need to use caution when ironing with those materials.
Finding Your Pieces
You will need to open the sheets of printed pattern pieces, and find the pieces you are searching for. In this case, we were looking for pieces 5 and 9. Once you have found the piece or pieces you will need, you will be cutting them out of the pattern tissue. Leave some space around each pattern piece. You’ll cut the excess off as you cut out your pattern. It will not harm your sewing scissors to cut tissue paper. You will want to gently iron them using paper without any steam.
Pinning and Cutting Out the Pieces
Once you have found your pattern pieces, you will need to reference your first page of instructions, and also look closely at your pattern piece. Most pattern pieces will have printed directly on them the amount of pieces you need to cut with that pattern piece. With the pattern I am using, I need to cut out two pieces of fabric for the legs. The pattern directions tell you how to lay out your fabric so that you line up your pieces properly with the grain and how to make sure you cut out your multiple pieces so that you don’t end up cutting your fabric incorrectly and end up with two left front pieces vs. a left and a right front piece, for example.
Some people use pattern weights to hold their pattern pieces together, but I almost always use pins. If you are planning to make multiple pairs of pajama pants in multiple sizes, you might be better off purchasing more than one copy of the pattern so that you can cut out a specific size from each pattern. You can also copy your pattern pieces onto another material, like a fabric stabilizer or a lightweight paper like tissue paper, so that you can have multiple pattern piece sizes from the same pattern. You can also fold back the pattern to the size that you want so that you are not cutting off the larger sizes, and you can still use the larger sizes in the future, but I wouldn’t recommend this unless you are really comfortable using patterns.
Pin your pattern piece down to your fabric, keeping your pins just inside of the pattern lines.
Cut out your pattern pieces. Typically, you’d want to cut on the line for the desired size you are using. Be sure to cut around arrows correctly. It is good to cut out around the arrows instead of inward as this will help keep you from cutting in too far on the pattern, causing problems with your seam.
Piecing The Fabric Together
Once all pieces are put together, you will need to begin piecing the fabric together. The subsequent pages of your pattern directions will tell you how to put together and finish the project. For the patterns I am using, I do three simple steps to put the pants together, and then we get to the finishing.
I start by pinning the two leg pieces together, along the crotch or inseam, right sides together. Nearly all clothing patterns us a 5/8″ seam allowance, so unless your pattern specifically says otherwise (on the pattern pieces or on the directions), you will be using a 5/8″ seam allowance. On my machine, the needle needs to be positioned slightly off-center in order for my seam allowance to match the numbers on my foot plate.
Following the directions in your pattern, sew the front crotch seams together, and the back crotch seams together. Most patterns will ask you to sew another line of stitching within that seam allowance, 1/4″ from the first row of stitching between two dots to reinforce the seam, and then have you trim away the excess. Look at the pictures below to better understand what I mean.
It’s typically easier to finish off your seams as you go. For these pants, I will be cutting off the excess with a pinking sheers, but you could just zig-zag stitch to finish, or if you have a serger, you could serge the seams for a more polished look.
Next you will be bringing the inner seam of the legs together, making one long seam. Start by pinning the front and back crotch seams together, and pin down the legs in either direction.
Sew your seam along the leg. If the legs do not match up perfectly at the bottom of the leg, don’t worry about it! The important thing is that the crotch lines up properly. Again, finish the seam right away.
Waistband and Hemming
Now you will either need to reference your pattern piece and/or directions to find out how much of a hem to put on the pants, and how big of a casing to make for the waistband. Once you have your waistband worked out, you can hem the pants to an appropriate length. Most pajama pant waists fall at the natural waistline, but most people don’t actually wear them there, and this can make the legs seem much longer than they are.
Fold down the waistband the recommended amount, typically 1 1/4″, and press. Then fold the raw edge under 1/4″. Before you begin sewing the casing shut, you might want to stitch down the front and back seams of the crotch to make putting in the elastic much easier.
You will need to leave an opening as you stitch down the casing so that you can insert the elastic. Use a safety pin on the end of the elastic to feed it through the casing of the pants. You may want to pin down one end of the elastic as you get nearer to feeding it fully through the casing so that it doesn’t slip through. Once you have the other end fed all of the way through, you will want to sew the two pieces of elastic together, and then pull on the waistband to get it to fee the rest of the way into the casing. Once the elastic is fully in, finish sewing the opening shut. I typically sew an “x” on the back of the pant waistband to hold the elastic in place, and also mark the back of the pants. It’s not a bad idea to mark the back of the pants using some pins once the seams are sewn and trimmed since it can be hard to identify which is front and which is back. If you aren’t sure, the side with the larger curve is the back side of the pants.
If you are putting in a drawstring, now is the time you’ll need to be sewing in button holes. You can do a drawstring and elastic if you want, in which case, you will need to make the button holes first, then make the casing and insert the elastic, and then add the drawstring.
You can hem the pants at the recommended length of the pattern, or adjust the length to be right for the person you are making your pants for. A note: If you are making pants for somebody who is really tall or has long legs, it is probably a good idea to add several inches to the length of your pattern when you are initially cutting out the pieces. The pattern will tell you the size of the hem they left room for.
To make your hem, you will essentially follow the same steps as you did with the casing. Pin and sew your hem down. If you want to add trim to the hem of the pants, now is the time to do it!
That’s it! If you want to, you can run the iron over the whole thing again to give it a nice, crisp finish. If you are making multiple pairs, make sure you mark whose pants are whose so you don’t get confused! I’ll probably be making at least 12 pairs of pajama pants this Christmas, so labeling who they are for is very important! One pair down, 11 to go…
This type of pant is very easy to put together, which is what I love about it so much. Cutting out took me maybe 10 minutes, and sewing everything together, maybe another 20. But then again, I sew a lot, and this is not my first time doing this! Most of these patterns say something like “1 hour,” and that’s probably pretty accurate for somebody who doesn’t do a lot of sewing. Speed is essential since I’m making so many pairs of pants this year!
Please, let me know if you have any questions, and feel free to pass this along to your friends! If you end up making any pants, share pictures on our Facebook page! Comment below to let me know if you’ll be making pants for somebody!