Monday, 4 April 2016

Pyjamas for a little girl

The latest request for Toddler I was for pyjamas, so I started with my usual research and hunt for free patterns. I quickly decided what I wanted to do for my first pair of PJs, for a 2 year old girl. I ended up with two patterns, one for the pyjama bottoms, and one for the top.


I liked the idea of a wrap-over top, a kind of kimono top, and I also wanted to make both top and bottoms reversible. I used three fabrics in all. One face is all alphabet fabric. 
The other way out, (in the first picture above) the body of the top is teddy bear fabric, and so are the trouser borders, while the fabric for the sleeves and main part of the trousers is a plain toning fabric in bright pink.

Below, I'll talk about the two patterns I used to make these, and describe how I made them, with any little wrinkles and tips I picked up on the way.


First, the pyjama trousersIt's surprising that most of the free patterns for pyjamas seem to be mainly for just trousers / pants / shorts, perhaps with the idea that you would just wear them with a vest. 

My favourite trousers pattern has been this one, which I've used many times when the granddaughters were babies. It was originally sized at 0-3 months, or perhaps 3-6 months, and I gradually enlarged it. The last time I used it was to make little I's pirate costume trousers, which you can see at the bottom of this post. But that was 10 months ago, and she is much bigger now. There's a limit to how much adjustment you can make to a pattern to resize it, hence a search for a new favourite!
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The one I used for the pyjama trousers is from Jereli. The Jereli pattern (2013) is a very good alternative for larger sizes, and you can find several references to it on the internet, including on Pinterest. Sadly, however, the Sew Jereli web site itself seems to have died. I'm getting malware messages when I try to re-open it. For my purposes, I had I fortunately downloaded the PDF over a year ago. It comes in sizes 18 months to 5 years, which is perfect for me. But there are basic trouser patterns everywhere. Later, I'll suggest some others that may work as well.

This is the Jereli pattern stuck together.

And here is my pattern traced in the size I wanted and cut out. (So I'll still be able to use the larger sizes of the pattern later on.) Actually there are two sizes traced on this one pattern.

The main thing when looking for a trousers pattern is to get one with a longer back crutch seam than the front, as with the Jereli one above. Some free patterns make the front and back identical, and rely on bagginess so the fit doesn't really matter. But then they will be a bit low at the back waist. Better to use an only slightly more complicated design (if that) which reflects the proper shape for trousers.

I decided that, as my top was going to be reversible, the bottoms would be as well. This was easy to achieve using the Jereli pattern, and I used the method I've used before from Shwin and Shwin to make them reversible. You can see some reversible trousers that I made before, halfway down this page.  I made two pairs of these in different sizes, many months ago. However, I haven't used the actual Shwin and Shwin pattern, but I like the way of making them reversible, by joining the bottom of the two layers first. 

The Sew Jereli pattern has just one piece for each leg, which has both a front and back crutch seam. Therefore, you need to cut out two, one for each leg, and these have to be mirror images of each other. (This will apply to any other similar pattern.) You can do this by folding the material and pinning to both layers of fabric, or cutting out one, then flipping the pattern over and cutting the other. Because mine were going to be reversible, I had to cut out two of each fabric. I was so tight on material that I had to add a border of a different fabric to the bottom of the legs of one of my fabrics (so, below, you can see the teddy bear border on the pink side). I think this is fine, though, as that fabric matches the pyjama top. 

Here's the pink and teddy bear side out. I'll call this the outer layer just for consistency, but when you turn them inside out, it is obviously no longer the outer layer!
And here they are, the other way out, with the 'Inner Layer / lining'  now on the outside. This is the alphabet fabric.


Having cut out all four trouser legs, inner and outer (and joined the borders onto the ones with the teddy bear fabric), the first thing to do was to join the bottoms of the legs, right sides together. Obviously you have to be careful to attach the correct ones, so that you have the longer back crutch seams on the same side. 

These were then finished and pressed flat. 


As the seams will be inside the reversible legs, you perhaps don't need to finish them as beautifully as you might if they were visible, but I like to do a rough zigzag down the seams to stop them fraying inside. (They will get quite a lot of hard wear in the wash.)

Following the Shwin and Shwin method, I then sewed the inside leg seams, by folding each leg in half, right sides together, and then sewing right from the inner top of one leg to the bottom and carried on from the now joined bottom of the lining fabric up to the outer top. Here you can see one of the legs folded and pinned, ready to sew that long seam.


My diagram shows the long continuous seam down the inner layer of the leg and up the outer. (Or vice versa - it doesn't matter!)

 Here are both legs joined on the inside leg seams.



After pressing these seams, you can turn the lining or inner material inside the outer, and the next stage is to do the crutch seams, by joining each leg together. You can do the first one as a continuous seam, from back top (waistline) down to the inside leg seam, and back up to the front top (waistline). You may have to poke the other material down a bit to keep it out of the way. Here the crutch seam on the outer layer is pinned ready to sew. The seam you can see in the pink fabric at the bottom right is one of the inside leg seams.

However, for the second crutch seam, it's much easier to sew it in two halves: from top back waistline down to the inside leg seam, then from top front waistline down to the inside leg seam, making sure you overlap. Hopefully you can see on the right of this picture below, that I have stitched one of these two halves, and just gone past the inside leg seam. It's all pinned and ready for me to complete the crutch seam from the left hand side,i.e. the top of the other half, to just overlap that stitching.



The Shwin and Shwin pattern, which is for knits, has a separate waistband. Although I used their method to assemble the reversible trousers, I was not using their pattern, but the Jereli pattern, which doesn't have a separate waistband. Instead, there is extra material allowed at the waist to turn it in and form a waistband. So that's the main difference in the way I made up this pattern compared with the Shwin and Shwin method.

I turned in and pressed the waistband. Actually I turned it down twice, even though the edges will be inside, because the Jereli pattern allows a double waistband turning for trousers that wouldn't be reversible. My material was quite thin so it didn't matter having that thickness, but with thicker material, you could cut off the extra fold (and possibly just serge or zigzag the edge if you wanted). 

First I oversewed a seam just over an inch from the folded edge, through both layers, which I think is just visible below. Then another parallel over-sewn seam followed, just barely catching the top edges together, so about 7/8" from the first. However, in the case of the this topmost seam, I left a two inch gap to thread the elastic through. I used about 20 1/2" of 3/4" elastic.  I threaded it through and then pinned the ends of the elastic together, pending a trial fitting.


Having tried it on her, I adjusted the length of the elastic, stitched the ends together, and over-sewed the gap in the top line of stitching.

Finally, the trousers may be a bit long to start with (allowing for growth!) So they should turn up quite well with little cuffs until she is taller.


Next, the Wrap-over Pyjama Top. I mentioned that I wanted a kimono type of shape. I like the pattern you can find for this Flutter Sleeve Kimono Top by Jess at Craftiness Is Not Optional in conjunction with Birch Fabrics. It is a very pretty top, but it is almost sleeveless, and for our climate, I wanted sleeves! So I had to design my own. But if you don't want full sleeves, you can just follow Jess's pattern and tutorial.

Again, I was very short of the teddy bear material. I had tried to get more, but it seems to now be out of stock everywhere, in pink. So I made the fronts and back of this fabric, and the sleeves of the plain bright pink fabric. I also had to play around with the layout to squeeze out even the front and back pieces. You can see that I folded the back in half and the end bit of the material. Then I had to cut one front on a single layer, reverse the pattern, and cut the other diagonally above it. I just didn't have enough fabric to use the material completely folded.



You may have noticed that my front pattern piece is not the same shape as Jess's pattern. I liked the idea of making the fronts curved rather than straight. So you'll see that I folded the pattern in. I didn't want to cut it off - I may want to use it with a straight side next time!


Because I wanted to make sleeves, I knew I would have to trim down the armhole a bit, or it would be too tight. Sleeveless armholes are normally tighter than armholes with sleeves, which need more room for easing when the arm moves. So I just trimmed the armholes down a bit by eye, so that the side seam would be about half an inch shorter. I took the bottom of the armhole down by about 1/2", and curved it up to make a nice curve. 

To make a pattern for the sleeve, I laid the front and back pattern pieces, with the trimmed armholes, overlapping by the amount of the two seam allowances at the shoulders. I drew the top two-thirds part of the sleeve curve by following the top part of the armhole.  I had read some instructions that suggest you then flip it over to draw the part of the sleeve that goes under the arm, but it didn't seem to work to give me the right shape (which is like a flattened bell shaped curve) Overall it was trickier than I expected. My first attempt was not very successful. The sleeve didn't look as if it would be nearly wide enough. In fact, I cut the sleeves out, and then found when I tried to pin them to the armholes that they were too narrow. In other words, pinning the middle to the shoulder seam and working my way out to the side seams with pins, I was a good half inch short at each side. So I increased the curve a bit at the top, and added almost half an inch to the width each side. This was about right in terms of fitting the armhole seam. So it took a bit of trial and error to get a sleeve that looked the right shape, and would fit the (revised) armhole.


I did look for instructions in drafting a sleeve, as I'd never done it before, but most of the instructions want you to start from some measurements and are not trying to fit to an existing armhole shape. I think my method was OK, i.e. drawing round the top part then doing the bottom curve by eye, but you probably need to do a trial version in some spare cheap fabric to get it exactly right.


I didn't take photos of making up the top.  But here are the steps. Assume that I pressed all the seams before going on to the next step.
  1. I made strings about 11-12" long by making home made bias tape and folding in half, then sewing along the long open side.
  2. I sewed the shoulder seams on both layers, right sides together.
  3. I sewed the sleeve into the armhole on both layers, right sides together. (At least, I did this second time round after I had re-cut the sleeves a bit wider!)
  4. I folded and pressed the hems on the sleeves, and then unfolded at the underarm seam. (Both layers.)
  5. I pinned a string (one of each fabric) onto the side seam of the left front of each layer, so it would be caught in the side seam.
  6. Folding the top inside out, I sewed one continuous seam from the end of the sleeve, up to the armhole, and down the side seam, trapping the string.
  7. I pinned the remaining two strings in place at the ends of the right fronts.
  8. I then pinned the whole inner and outer layers right sides together, with the sleeves inside and the strings pinned out of the way of the seams. However, I left a gap of about 4-5" in the middle of the centre back so I could turn it the right way out.
  9. Before I turned it it, I clipped the curves.
  10. I pulled it all through, pressed it, and over-sewed all the way round, closing the gap at the centre back
  11. I pulled the sleeve inner inside the sleeve outer, and over-sewed the hems.
  12. After the trial fitting, I added a little piece of Velcro to the centre top of the jacket to keep it from bagging out. Because I've made it so it always overlaps right over left, the two pieces of Velcro are always on the inside, If I had thought of this earlier, I could have just stitched the Velcro to a single layer, before putting the two layers together at step 8. Instead I had to sew through both,  so a little square of stitching shows on the outside. But it's not really noticeable if you don't know it's there!
Here's the top one way out:
...and the other way!

So, for the whole set of PJs. She will be able to wear them as the teddy bear set:

....and the alphabet set. 

And because I made the trousers to allow for growth, with turn-ups, there will be other ways she can wear them as well! Here's the alphabet top with the pink trousers with the cuffs turned up.


And finally, for the fitting, she wanted to put them on immediately, which meant over her sweater. So they look a little cosy on the top, but they'll fit fine, with the sleeve and trouser cuffs turned up for now. Hopefully they'll last her the summer!

And now the doll has to put her pyjamas on, too!



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