By Christmas morning, my two big kiddos had matching plaid flannel pj bottoms, so I would like to say “Booyah!” or “Mission Accomplished”, depending on if I’m in a sporty mood (RIP Stuart Scott) or a geeky political mood. But I’d be lying if I didn’t confess there were a few hiccups along the way to this victory.
I know how to make PJ bottoms, which is why, when I complained to her that I couldn’t find matching family PJs at a reasonable price, it only took Wendy a few minutes to convince me to sew them myself. I mean, seriously Pajamagrams, WTF. $219 for my family of four? Not this year.
I found exactly what I was looking for at my big fabric store: traditional red and white plaid in a soft flannel.
I set my intention to make four pairs of pj bottoms — one for each member of my household — and bought what seemed like enough fabric. (Spoiler: It was really almost enough, but not exactly.)
Pro tip: Bring a pair of pants in each family member’s size with you and measure with your hands and eyeballs, not with your mental math-balls.
How to make pajama bottoms
You need a sewing machine for this. If you’re thinking, “I am a modern woman with an iPhone, lady. What use would I have for a sewing machine?” Well, I hear you. You should open the Amazon shopping app on that fancy iPhone, Ms. Modern, and order yourself some cozy pj bottoms. Done.
If you like to do things the hard way, read on.
- Approximately one yard of fabric for a baby; two for an adult, and somewhere in between for children.
- A working sewing machine and the know-how to thread it
- 1/2 yard of elastic
Overview: You’ll be cutting two pieces of fabric that are shaped like this, sewing them together, and then creating a waistband and hemming the legs.
It’s easiest to cut a symmetrical shape if you have your fabric folded in half. Place some pj bottoms or sweatpants that currently fit, while folded so that the crotch is sticking out, on top of your fabric to use as a guide.
Cut more than normal seam allowance — give yourself extra width to work with. Remember, the pants you are measuring by already have elastic inserted. Baggy is cozy. You don’t want pjs that prevent you from sitting down cross-legged.
Give yourself extra height when you cut, too. You’ll be folding over the waist to make a casing for elastic and turning up the bottoms of the pants to sew a hem.
When you have two identical pieces — which are going to be the left and right legs of your pajama bottoms — you are ready to pin.
Pin the two pieces, right sides of fabric against each other, so that they don’t slide apart.
We are going to make seven sets of running stitches. Are you ready? I made some photos and videos to help you along.
1 and 2. Sew along the curved piece of each side of your material. 1 is the left side; 2 is the right side. Then, reorient the fabric almost-tube you have so that what has been the front and back of your project is now the left and right. I don’t really trust that you’ll understand what I mean, so I made a video clip to show you.
3. The next set of stitches are for the inseam. Pin the inseam and sew up one leg of the pants, through the crotch, and down the other leg of the pants.
4. Now that you have a pant-shaped garment, try it on the body you are trying to fit. It was quite an unpleasant surprise that the pants I cut for myself this Christmas did not fit over my hips. Although I had measured against a pair of my own pj bottoms, I suppose I didn’t not account for the way the elastic waist made the fullest part of the butt fold up into a much narrower silhouette than a grown woman’s body. I waited two days for a Christmas miracle that would make these jammies fit me, but when none arrived, on December 23rd, I turned Mommy and Daddy’s pj bottoms into scarves. Booyah?
If you’re feeling good about the fit, turn over the waist and iron it flat. Be sure you are turning over enough fabric that you’ll be able to slide your elastic in the width of the casing. Sew along the top of your fold, as close to the edge as you can to create a finished look. If there’s a name for this, I don’t know it, and it’s actually optional.
5. Now sew the bottom edge of the elastic casing, but leave space — maybe two inches — to insert the elastic. In other words, don’t sew all the way around; stop before you get to the place where you started. Measure a piece of elastic that will meet around the waist of the body for whom you are making these flannel jammies. Attach a safety pin to one side of the elastic so that you can thread it through the casing. When you have gotten the pin all the way through, pin it to the free end of the elastic to hold in place to sew. Sew the ends of the elastic together and remove the pin. Now close up the casing.
6 and 7. Hem the bottom edge of each leg of the pants.
You’re done! Now get cozy.
You can use this same method to make matching doll pants. Santa Claus made a tiny pair for Scarlett’s American Girl doll, and didn’t bother to hem them!
To see how a t-shirt can be tuned into pants for a baby or toddler (no bottom hemming required) read this post.