Since seventh grade sewing class, I’ve had an irrational fear of sewing (all that precise measuring, cutting, ironing, thread everywhere), but the good news is that I was able to overcome it in one day with the help of a patient and willing teacher — fellow DIY Del Ray blogger, Katie.
What made me determined to complete a project was the need for pajama shorts to wear during the hot summer nights (even with A/C on). I knew, just knew, I could make a better, longer-lasting pair than those I’d probably buy from a store where they’re made in a sweatshop overseas. Katie confirmed this, saying: “They will cost you just a couple bucks to make — think of the savings. Once you find the right pattern and size, you’ll be making them lickety split. So easy.”
Beginner Sewing Project: Pajama Shorts
If you’re new to sewing, these steps may help you add sewing to your DIY repertoire too.
1. Pick out pattern. I first searched for vintage patterns on Etsy, but then Katie said: For a beginner, don’t buy vintage patterns because they are probably more intricate and the sizes aren’t the same as today. Also, you will get more for your money when you get a pattern with multiple styles in one. For example, for a PJ pattern, you may also get a pattern for a shirt or robe. Look for patterns that say “one-hour project.”
I found just such a pattern from Simplicity for “Misses Sleepwear.” Although it says it’s a two-hour project, Katie assured me it was a beginner project.
2. Pick out fabric. First, check out the recommended fabrics on the pattern for what you’re making. It may require a 45-inch width or else a 60-inch width fabric. Also, always be on the lookout for deals, such as out-of-season fabric, both online and in stores. Katie and I decided to do my first project using scrap fabric that she had, which she had used incidentally to make a spring skirt. You should prewash the fabric before sewing to prevent it from shrinking later. Also, prewashing makes the fabric softer; plus, says Katie, “who knows where the fabric has been.”
3. Cut out the pattern. You need to figure out which item in the package you’re making; in my case, “H” for the shorts.
Then, you find the number for the pattern associated with that item (16 in my case for front and back) and then find the outlines that correspond to your size. We decided to make the largest size as our trial pair. If they are too big, we can always cut out the smaller size. But if you start with a small size and they are too small, you’ll have to buy a completely new pattern.
4. Pin the pattern and cut out the fabric. Lay the pattern pieces on the fabric. Follow the guides in the pattern that show the most efficient way to lay out the pieces so you don’t waste fabric.
Then, pin the pattern down perpendicular to the edges. It’s important to cut the fabric out with your scissors flush with the fabric and not up at an angle or else the sides will be crooked.
5. Follow instructions to start sewing. I sat at the machine and sewed the inside leg seams together, taking out pins just before reaching them with the needle. After sewing the inseam, I ironed the seam open flat. Next, I sewed the hem around the legs staying as close to the edge as possible. Sewing was in fact the easiest, as long as I remembered to keep the thread from the main roll and the bobbin pulled away from the machine.
6. Iron and pin the hems. Katie showed me how to fold the hem a tiny bit (1/8″ about) and then again to make a nice non-fraying hem which I then pinned and ironed flat.
7. Add the elastic waist. Using the width of the elastic as a guide, I folded the waist hem the same way as for the pant leg hems and again pinned and ironed it before sewing.
I sewed all the way around as close to the edge as possible and left about a 4 inch opening where I could then insert the elastic.
Then, I pinned one end of the elastic to the pants and put a safety pin on the other end so I could guide the elastic through the waist.
8. Trim all of the loose threads.
…and then try on. They fit!
Katie can definitely sew up a storm. She’s posted about her ingenious sewing projects as varied as:
- Reusable lunch bags
- IKEA Poang chair seat cover
- Child-sized blanket roll
- Anthropologie-inspired spring skirt
So, my easy first project took about 3 hours, but Katie assures me that the next pair I make will go much faster. I’m really glad I have her to mentor me when I move on to bigger and better things like sewing napkins from upcycled men’s dress shirts and maybe more reusable lunch bags that we can make together assembly line fashion.