Sunday, November 1, 2009

Self Drafted -- Pajama Bottoms for Teens

Yes, Halloween is over. Hope you had a nice one. :)

I'm sure I am not the only mother who has heard, on a Friday, "Oh mom, I need to wear pajamas next Monday for spirit week and I could use a new pair!"

Yes, I could run out and buy a couple pairs (both daughters attend the same high school) but I am sewing now. And pajama bottoms are the easiest thing ever.

Not to mention I have several lengths of cute flannel, some of which are even acceptable to a teen. (OK, the Garfield fabrics and the starry fabrics received wordless stares. "Look," said I, "each leg could use a different Garfield fabric!" Silent pause. "Mom, I think I'll go with the monkeys.")

I traced off a pair of DD1's pajama bottoms to make a pattern. I have several pant patterns, and was curious, so I compared the pajamas to some of my patterns. Wow, what a difference. Women's patterns, like Loes Hinse or Vogue, even in the smallest sizes, differ quite a bit from these. The RTW garment has a very minimal crotch curve, (designed to fit negligible teen hineys), and is far less voluminous around the pelvis.

Just as I was about to cut out the first pair of pajama bottoms, DD1 asked me if I could lower the crotch a bit, so I lowered it an inch, cut it out in a retro black cat fabric, and sewed it up. When DD1 tried them on, she said, oh, did I mention the original jammies are too short? No, but it was easy to add a self fabric band at the hem to this "wearable muslin."

I then whipped up pajama pants #2, in the "real" fabric she will be wearing to school, which sports pigs and the word "Oink." These pants, she tells me are perfect. Cuter and better fitting than the originals. Yay. :)

My daughters could be called Slim and Slimmer, which I appreciate, because I can use the same pattern for both. I shortened them a bit for DD2 and cut them out in a flannel fabric sporting sock monkey faces. Love those sock monkeys.

It's interesting to pay attention to what they are doing in RTW. The original jammies, from Target's store brand, xhilaration, are an extra-small, and made from a green plaid fabric. Yes, Target uses inexpensive fabric, and very streamlined decorative details that are easy to mass produce with little effort, but they are cute and (most importantly) they do fit well, at least on my daughters' body type. They have spent the time to develop a decent pattern, though it certainly wouldn't fit a girl with bootay. The pattern is designed in such a way that there is no excess fabric to "pooch out" at the crotch or look baggy and ill fitting around the hips. Very nice.

When I look at a pants pattern from the big four (Simplicity, McCalls, Butterick, Vogue) I often think that the pattern even looks inelegant in how it is drafted – there is no subtlety of fit. Small wonder pants are the hardest thing to make and fit well when you are starting with a pattern like that. (For the record, Burda patterns are use a sloper that fits a wide variety of folks out of the envelope. For women that do have to tweak it, it's generally much easier to achieve a good fit when you start with a Burda. I've heard this is also true of Marfy patterns.)

The primary features of these Target-inspired pants:

  • The crotch is shallow, and short.
  • The front of the pajama is shorter than the back by about 1.5" at CF. The casing is formed by folding down the fabric, so that seam is sewn at a substantial angle (which I have never seen in a pattern).
  • The back of the leg is about 5/8" wider than the front. (This is a straight legged pattern.)
  • The original pajama pants featured a drawstring elastic, but I used what I had lying around. It's a bit soft for a waistband elastic, but DD1 felt width was more important than a stiff, non-roll waistband elastic in the 3/4" width I have on hand.
  • The original pajama pants featured a mock fly front with 3 small decorative buttons. I didn't bother with this detail, but it would be easy to gussy up this design in a variety of ways if I was making them as a special gift or using a bland fabric.

Best of all, they were free! Of course, they weren't really, but since I purchased the fabrics long ago (I think from, and they did not require a trip to a fabric store, or any additional outlay of money, they felt free. :D

Woot! Pajama pants problem solved and I have a decent pattern for future use.

Pair #1 – Wearable Muslin. This pair was too short for DD1, so I added self fabric bands at the bottom.

Pair #2 – Pigs for DD1.

Pair #3 – Sock monkeys for DD2. Yes, I matched the "plaid." Sheesh, what we do for our kids. :)

Sock Monkey Closeup. I wonder if DD2 and friends will be listening in organic chemistry tomorrow or choosing which monkey represents which classmate. :)

By the way, I was musing about the technique of copying RTW patterns by tracing, and I remembered this ThreadBanger video featuring Kenneth King. He shows how to trace a pattern using organza. (I've only used paper, but his method looks good.) In this video, he uses the technique to copy a cape with a collar, which he then makes up in velvet and satin. I took embellishment classes from Kenneth King years ago when he lived in San Francisco and taught regularly at Sewing Workshop. He's a great teacher and an amazing artist.