At about four in the morning one January night, I rolled over in bed and heard a ripping sound. With dread, I reached behind me and felt along my spine only to find a tear in my pajama top several inches long. It seems that I burst, She-Hulk style, out of my evidently now too-small pajamas. Eek.
I have been fazing out my size small garments for quite a few years now because I’m aware that “small” isn’t the right size for me anymore. I’ve gained muscle, maybe some fat (I will not confirm or deny the latter) and I’m just a little bit bigger everywhere than I was in my twenties. Which is perfectly natural, everyone’s measurements change over time. Apparently, my measurements changed at 4am. Very inconvenient timing, if you ask me.
It’s partly my own fault. I should have put those in the donation box a long time ago, but I was trying to save money and not replace everything at once. I have several items that are still barely wearable, gradually becoming too small, from tank tops to my heavy winter coat. I was thinking I would sew up some new clothes to replace my smaller size items, and they’d be awesome and it would be so easy. Have you ever noticed that in your mind, you think you can do lots of stuff in a much shorter time than you actually can? Yeah, that’s exactly what tripped me up here.
The next day, I decided to make a new pair of flannel pajamas. I’ve never actually made pajamas before, but I LOVE them. There is something intensely comforting about snuggling in bed with flannel pajamas and a good book on a snowy February night, the wind rattling against the house and a cat purring beside you. There is nothing closer to paradise after a hard day’s work.
To make the fantasy a reality, I had to find a pattern. I did some comparisons among pajama patterns and settled on Lisette #B6296 from Butterick. I’m a fan of the Lisette series, designed by Liesl Gibson. I’ve made several of these patterns and I find them to have charming details and a very wearable design. In particular, I like the curvy notched collar and the piping on this one. These are wonderfully classic pajamas, with roomy legs, featuring a back yoke and piping on the cuffs on the pants. In addition to the spiffy notched collar, the top has big buttons, piping and pockets. They were just what I was looking for. Pajama perfection!
After I chose the pattern, I needed some soft and pretty flannel. I think flannel is just as perfect a winter fabric you could ask for and I’ve made dresses, skirts, a shirt, and now a pair of pajamas from it. I love it because it’s so wonderfully soft. I did some internet shopping and I found this pretty fabric, Oh So Coco, in grey from Fabric.com. I love the geometric pattern and those cool mint green squares. This fabric has some serious poof. It’s sooo fluffy! After washing and folding, I was amazed at how cuddly soft and springy it was. What more could a girl ask for in pajamas?
Ooh, that’s right, she can ask for piping.
I really like piping. I think it’s a fun way to define a line in a garment, a nifty way to finish an edge, and can be used as a shot of dramatic color. Speaking of color….I went to my local Jo Ann Fabrics to find piping in mint or grey and struck out. Okay, so plan B was lavender piping, and…no, that was not available, either. It seems these are not in the current color set this time of year. I was just thinking about dunking the piping in a dye bath when I saw this gorgeous bright teal blue. I was hooked. It played well with mint and grey and I found matching buttons, so it was obviously meant to be. Sweet! Now I could get to work. I couldn’t wait!
I was making do with less sleepwear after ripping those pajamas and it was becoming a bit of a problem, so I decided to work as much as I could on these and get them finished quickly. That was how I discovered that pajamas take a bit of time to make. They are really two garments: a blouse and pants. There are also all the extra seams from cuffs, piping, yoke, pockets, elastic and the french seams to keep them from fraying, and that adds time. I took extra care with them because I wanted them to be really pretty and sturdy, too, and sometimes doing things the right way means taking your time with them. I used an 80/100 needle, because while it is a poofy fabric, it isn’t very thick. Which is probably why it’s so great for pajamas, because then you can pile on a few blankets and a couple of cats and be comfortably snug and not roasting.
I did the pants first because they would be easier. They went together beautifully, and because they have a roomy leg and elastic waistband, I hardly did any fitting. Most of my fitting work was in making them the right length and getting the elastic put in.
The top was much more complex, with cuffs, patch pockets, sleeves, and the facing and collar pieces. I made a slight detour from the directions, choosing to make two patch pockets on the lower front of the long-sleeved top , rather than a single pocket on the chest as it shows on the pattern envelope. The directions had the pockets go on right away after the shoulder seams, which I think was a good idea. I got a bit confused with the pocket band directions. I still don’t know what they wanted me to do exactly, but when that happens, I just go with what makes sense from my viewpoint. There was a complicated bit of folding on the pocket top band, and the illustrations didn’t help me get a clue. I gave up and folded them once. I tucked in the endges and stitched the piping to them. Then I stitched everything to the pocket bottom. So I think I didn’t do quite what they wanted, but the pockets look fine and I can live with that.
For extra sturdiness, I hand stitched a triangle tack at each corner where they will be under strain. I’m not planning on putting anything more substantial than a couple of tissues in the pockets, but after I went to all that trouble to install tidy piping and get them centered and properly placed, I want them to stay there!
After that, I proceeded to sew the two sides to each other, instead of to the back piece where they should be. While I was at it, I installed the piping in the side seams as well, right where it doesn’t belong. That major goof balanced out all my careful planning with the pockets. Sigh…. My seam ripper sees a lot more use than I’d like. In my defense, the armscye looked a lot like the lower portion of the notched collar. I did mention I’ve never made pajamas…? Okay, I probably should have just slowed down or stopped sewing for the night. It’s true what they say, don’t sew when you’re tired!
When I got all my mistakes sorted out, I discovered that the collar was very interesting, being in several parts. I’ve never made a notched collar and I somehow always assumed it was one piece on the front and one piece on the back.
This was not so. The rounded portion of the collar was actually a separate piece, and the lower notch, facing/button placket combo were a separate piece. From there, you sew the facing to the side, and then the collar to the back neck opening. You tuck the edges of the notched facing into the collar, sew it up, and presto! Turn your collar down and you have a notched collar!
I’ve used up two packages of piping on this project, and I’d like to mention that it’s very easy to install. I didn’t think so during my first experiments with piping, but I have a better handle on it now. The trick, as far as I can see, is to install it on one side at a time on pieces that aren’t yet attached to the garment. Don’t sandwich it in and try to sew both edges at once, because it won’t give you the clean look you want. In fact, it will be a disaster. I know, I’ve done it. Don’t make my mistake! However, if you treat it a bit like a zipper, and do one side at a time, it goes in pretty easily. Like so:
- First, put your zipper foot on the machine. Your piping has a high profile, and a plain standard presser foot can’t cope with that-it just doesn’t get in nice and close to do the stitching required.
- After pinning in place, sew the piping to just one edge, going slowly and keeping it tidy. Your stitches will be just below the piping tube on the wrong side of the fabric.
After you have it secured to the edge of the first side, pin your second side on. Sandwiching the piping neatly into the edge seam, stitch along the edge. Slowly and neatly sew that seam, keeping all the stitches inside the edge of the piping on the wrong side. I like to pull out and snip off some of the cord inside the piping to reduce bulk when I’m enclosing it in the seam. Then I use a little fray check on the edge of the piping and tuck it in somewhere so it won’t unravel.
Press it and you have beautiful piping! Then you are ready to attach your piece to the garment with the piping already in.
Once I got the piping under control, things went very smoothly. The only real trouble I had was with the button holes. I think the thickness of the triple-layer flannel plus interfacing probably made it rough going for my machine and it just did not cooperate very well. I think maybe if I’d thought to try a heavier needle it might have gone more smoothly. Following the buttonholes, I stitched my pretty teal buttons on. Afterwards, a quick hem stitched up the bottom edge, and they were finished. Ta da!
Overall, I spent about a week on them, doing a little work nightly and a few hours of work on my days off. While it was a project with a fair number of pieces and some work, it was pretty easy. It would no doubt have been easier if I’d managed not to mess up the sides and the piping initially, but you can’t have everything…and having made that mistake, I probably won’t do that again. No, I’m sure I’ll make a totally different mistake later on somewhere else. I like to say that wisdom is just a lot of mistakes talking. No doubt I’m going to be a very wise seamstress someday.
I adore these pajamas! I’m not the only one, either. You can see how helpful Ace was when it was time to do the photo shoot, and Ricky has been sleeping on them at night so I can’t wear them. Perhaps he needs a cat bed made of the remnants.
I’ve spent a very comfy night in them and they are everything flannel pajamas should be: warm, luxuriously soft and pretty. This pattern is a winner for sure! I think I would like to make another pair in polyester satin or cotton for spring. Yawn Maybe some breakfast first, though.