Friday, May 25, 2012

DIY Toddler Pajama Pants Pattern

As warmer weather began to approach and we headed further and further into spring, I, like most moms, began to think about summer clothes for my kids  and in particular warm weather PJs.  Both my boys have been happily sleeping in fleece footie pajamas for the past 5 or 6 months but they'll be too warm during the summer months.  I wanted a light weight pajama that will keep the boys warm (they're both big time covers-kicker-offers) but not too warm.  

I went shopping - like any girl would who's hubby has declared he'll watch the kids while she takes some time for herself.  Is it terrible that I chose to spend this time in a children's clothing outlet?  Probably.  But I ended up not buying anything anyway because even at on sale outlet store prices, just buying two sets of pjs for my two guys (four total) was going to put me back somewhere in the ball park of $40.  

I scowled at the super cute over priced pjs and declared - possibly out loud - that I could make them for much less money.  And I left that store and headed right over to the fabric store.  I bought two yards of flannel in two prints (so four yard all together), a package of elastic, and a five pack bag of undershirts (these I actually bought at Target).  With the flannel on sale that week, I ended up spending about $26 on everything.  That's close to half the price of the on sale outlet store price - AND I was able to make four pairs of pants and two pairs of shorts!  If only undershirts came in a 6 pack....    

Now in general, it isn't always cost effective to make your own clothes. Particularly adult clothes.  But kid clothes are small, they're usually made with less expensive materials and when you make your own pattern you can save about $10 (or more) just on that.  So every now and again I make clothes for my kids.  For me, it's not just the money saved, I also enjoy sewing and I like making things for my boys to have.  So if you are like me, keep reading.  If you aren't like me and can't imagine why I'd waste my time when I could have gone to a thrift store or pinned tea towels on them instead, then you can also keep reading if only to scoff at my folly. ;)

So, on to the pattern!  I had my first pants making experience making longies for my boys as babies (using this very cool pattern and blog Katrina's Sew Quick Soaker Pattern).  If you are unaware, longies (or shorties) are fleece or wool pants that go over cloth diapers, instead of plastic pants or a PUL cover.  I found out then that pants are super easy to make with just one pattern piece, and I've been sewing them up ever since.  

And now you can make them too using a pair of your child's well fitting pants as a guide in only 3 steps*.  Because it doesn't have side seams, this style is particularly suited to pajama bottoms as less seams means greater comfort.

*making the pattern, sewing the pants, adding the elastic.  I didn't say short steps. Though the actual sewing should only take you 20 minutes or so.

What you will need:

  • a yard of comfy fabric (I used flannel) - you may have enough left over for a pair of shorts as well
  • underwear elastic or any wide and soft elastic.  Make sure it feels comfortable against your skin as it won't be incased.
  • paper to make the pattern on (I used a roll of craft paper I bought for the boys, other ideas are butcher paper, tissue paper, wrapping paper, computer paper taped together... you get it)
  • sewing machine and thread
  • optional: a very inexpensive yard of fabric (i.e. muslin) or extra fabric you have from a previous project to practice on - so you don't ruin your cute comfy fabric in case you got a measurement wrong. 

Step One: Making the Pattern

Now, you may be thinking, "Making a pattern?  I can barely sew two scraps together, what am I going to be in for?"  Don't worry about it.  This isn't hard, it's just a matter of tracing!

Revised November 2012 

a) First lay out your paper on your work space.  I did it right on the floor, cause I'm super fancy like that.  Then lay out your kid's pants flat on the paper.

b) Pull the waist band taut and mark that distance on the paper.  Make the left side of the band an inch higher than the right side and then draw a line connecting the two sides (which will be the front and back) of the pants.

c) Now fold the pants in half lengthwise with the front seam (wear the zipper would be on a pair of jeans) facing out.  Line up the front seam with the right side of your waist band mark and trace the curve of than seam from the band to the crotch.  Then continue tracing down the length of the leg to the cuff.

d) Refold the pants with the butt seam facing out and trace the curve from the left side of the waist band down.  Do you see how the back of the pants have a longer seam than the front?  That is why I had you made the left side of the waist band higher.  Trace down the length of the leg to the cuff on this side as well. 

e) measure the leg lines (crotch to cuff) and make sure they are the same length so they will match up when you sew them.  When all is even draw the line that connects the front and back of the leg.

f) Now it's time for the seam allowances and hems.  Add about 1 1/4 inches to the bottom (do not continue to taper), 1/4 inch to the sides, and a 1/2 inch to the top.  This new silhouette is the one you will cut out.  Now would also be a good time to double check your measurements and make sure you have followed the directions just right.

i) You have a completed pattern.  Congratulations!  Go ahead and cut it out.

Step Two: Making the Pants Body

What?!  This is only step two?  Sorry.  Feel free to take a break.  I did.  If you did this while your kids were awake I commend you.  They were probably crawling on your back making your lines all wonky.  I feel your pain.  

a) Wash and dry your fabric.  This will shrink it which is important considering if you don't pre-shrink, all your hard work will turn into oddly wide baby pants after the first wash.  Your toddler doesn't want to wear oddly wide baby pants.  Just throwing it out there.

b) If you need to, iron the fabric.  Fold it in half length-wise (like it was on the bolt in the store), and pin your pattern to the fabric.  I just cut around the pattern at this point but other people like to trace it with a pin, remove the pattern, and then cut it out.  Whatever works for you.

c) We'll start sewing at the bottom with the cuffs.  Fold the bottom of each leg 1/4 inch down and iron.  Fold another 1 inch down on each leg and iron again.  Pin the cuff in place.  Stitch across the cuff as close to the top edge as you can (or about 1/8th of an inch from the top edge).  If you measured correctly your two pant legs will still be the same length.  If not, they're probably close enough.  I mean, they're pajama bottoms.  Your kid's not going to school in them.  Maybe.  I'm not judging.

d) With right sides together (that is, inside out), pin along the sides from the waist to the crotch in both the front and the back.  

e) Sew from the waist to the crotch on both sides leaving a 1/4 in. seam allowance.  If your fabric is a woven fabric like mine, finish the edges so they don't fray.  I used a zig-zag stitch as I didn't feel like getting my serger out.  If your fabric is knit like a jersey or a fleece, don't worry about finishing the edges, they won't fray.  

f) Now comes the cool part where you turn what looks like a super oversized flannel holster into what very much resembles a pair of pants!  Turn the pants so that the front and back seams are laying against each other and each pant leg is folded in half length-wise.  See?  I told you it was cool!  I know you are tempted to turn it right side out and envision how it will look when you are done.  Go ahead.  I'll wait.  You're back?  Good.  Now turn it wrong side out again and pin the legs starting at the crotch and moving out to the cuffs.  If you have done all your measuring and cutting right, then the two sides will meet up perfectly.  If they don't and you don't think you can "make it work" then take out the cuff with a seam ripper and adjust the length of the longer side.  Note all your changes on your paper pattern so you don't repeat your mistakes in the future.  Re-sew the cuff, and re-pin the leg.

g) Starting at the bottom of one leg sew one long straight stitch through the crotch and down the other leg.  Yay! I'm pretty sure that's the last time I have to say crotch.  How about one last time for good measure?  Crotch.  Ok. I'm done.  Now finish the edge of this seam.

Step Three: Sew on the Elastic

Dang, girl, these are some long steps.  Yeah.  But it makes sense to me to break it down this way.  I figure anytime I'd likely see if my house has been ruined by my monkeys take a break, is a good time add a step.  Plus if I said, "In only 21 steps!" Would you have gotten this far?  Honestly?

a) With pants still inside out (yeah, I know you turned them again) fold under a 1/2 inch all around the top and iron it down.

b) Return to your child's pants - the ones you used to make the pattern.  Lay them flat and measure the waist band.  Don't stretch them this time, just lay them flat.  Double that measurement and use it to measure your elastic.  Add a half inch for seam allowance.  

c) Sew the ends of the elastic together with 1/4 inch seam allowance

d) Pin the seam of the band to the back seam of the pants with the seams together.  Remember, you know it's the back because the rise is about an inch higher in the back.  The top of the elastic should be covering the folded over fabric to about 1/8th of an inch from the top.  Fold the band in half with the pinned seam on one end.  Make a crease on the other end with your fingers and pin the creased mark to the front seam.  Find the halfway marks between the front and back seams of the pants by locating the natural fold at the side when the front and back seams are lined up.  Find the halfway marks of the band the same way, crease them so you can see them and pin them to the half way points on the pants.  The picture should help give you a clue as to what I mean by that.  You may choose to add more pins, but I found it easiest to pin in just these four spots.

e) Begin sewing the band to the pants on the back seam at the top of the band as close to the edge as you can.  After you secure your stitch with a few back stitches, pull out the first pin if you haven't already.  Find the next pin and pull the fabric and band at that pin so the elastic is taut, and sew along the top edge of the band to the pin.  Pull the pin out, find the next one and continue on the same way until you have gone around the waist.  You may have to adjust the tension of your thread to keep it from puckering as the elastic is relaxed, so keep an eye on that as well.  You are so close to being done!  Now, do exactly what you did at the top of the elastic at the bottom also starting in the back.  If your elastic band is particularly wide, you may want to add another row (or two) of stitches in the middle.  I chose a slightly narrow elastic (3/4 inch) so two rows was fine for me.

Hey, you did it!  Pull your tot down from the chandelier and pop these suckers on them!

Here are a few blurry action shots of my boys in their new PJs.  I embellished the plain undershirts I bought to match their pajama bottoms.  Now they are ready for summer sleeping - if I could just get them to sleep when the sun is still up.  That's another blog.



  1. You are a genius! Thank you for your hilarious and practical steps! I want to make my 1 year old niece some pajama pants and you are exactly what I needed! Thank you!

    1. Aww, Thanks! You are too kind. I hope you niece likes her new pants.

  2. LOVE this thanks! Have you found that the elastic bothers your kids at all? Mine always want me to cut their tags off pants and shirts so I was wondering if I added an inch to the top, could I fold it over to cover the elastic? I know this might be a silly question, but I am a super beginner....just set up my machine and haven't done anything other than practice on scrap fabric! Thanks!

    1. Thanks for your question! My boys don't usually complain about tags and such, however this elastic is very soft - what you would find in men's boxer shorts. It is meant to lay against the skin. If you think that you would rather, you can sew a casing at the waist by adding an inch or more (depending on width of the elastic) and sewing it down, threading the elastic through, and then sewing the elastic ends together. If you search "sewing elastic casing" in YouTube, I'm sure you will find a good visual tutorial. The reason I chose not to sew a casing in this design is because I wanted to show people you don't *have* to do it, and I like skipping steps. (Actually, if you look up my "pirates pants tutorial" on here you will see how I made casings my way) Good luck with your sewing adventures! I know I never sewed so much as I did once I had kids!

    2. Thank you so much! I have 2 boys and another on the way :-)