Catie’s First PJ’s: No Pattern Required

Here is very proud Caitlin wearing her second sewing project, a pair of PJ’s (the first was a pillowcase – several months ago).  At age 6, she’s pretty amazing with the sewing machine – motivated and already sewing with a plan.  It was her request to “make pajamas that are shorts and with a spaghetti strap top”.  She chose the fabric from my stash.  I cut and Cate could hardly wait to start. She eagerly sewed the seams and finished them with a zig-zag stitch using my vintage Bernina 707 with the speed on “slow”. Cate did all of the sewing except for the ruffles.  Total sewing time was about 2-1/2 hours, with a few interruptions.   Last of all she found some pre-made ribbon roses to embellish her new sleeping attire.  

After wearing the pj’s for the remainder of the day and through the night, Cate reported that they were “perfect”.   

If you’d like to work with your favorite girl to make these pj’s you don’t need to run out to the store for a pattern.  

Pajama Pants (PJ’s) Tutorial:

  1. Measure the child’s hips (22″ for Cate)
  2. Find an existing pair of shorts, pants or leggings.
  3. Turn the pants inside-out and lay the pants on top of the fabric with the center front facing you.
  4. Cut along the edges of the crotch front. 
  5. Cut along the side, adding width to the side to assure that there will be at least 6″ of wearing ease plus 1/2″ seam allowances.  For Cate, 28″ was the total circumference of the pants with the finished width of the front of 13-1/2″ and the back width of 14-1/2″. There’s no need to fuss about the size as loose PJ bottoms are needed for comfort.  
  6. The length is your choice but the inseam should be at least 2″ plus the amount you need for a hem.
  7. Turn the pants so the center back is now facing you.
  8. Repeat steps 4 and 5.
  9. Sew the seams as you would any other pair of pants.  Note:  for the ruffles, I added them after the side seams but before the inseams were sewn.
  10. Add elastic for the waist.
Oh so, easy!

PJ Top or Pillowcase dress

Here is the pillowcase dress pattern I used.  If this one doesn’t work for you, there are many other free pillowcase dress patterns on the web and YouTube has lots of video tutorials as well.  Cate, Mira and I watched one of the videos.  Mira noted that the woman put her fingers “too close” to the sewing machine needle.  I learn so much when teaching Cate and Mira to sew.

As you can imagine, these pj’s have been a hit – suitable for bedtime or playtime.   Give it a try with your favorite child and let me know what you learn.

The 2-Minute Buttonhole

For months I have been sewing an 1890’s day dress for my SIL, Margie, who volunteers at an Edwardian Mansion.  Sewing the dress was disrupted significantly by our cross-country move and buying a new home but also because my SIL and I live miles apart.  Admittedly I probably procrastinated a little, dreading the 20+ evenly spaced buttonholes on the dress front.  When I finally tackled the buttonholes, it took less than an hour from the sample buttonhole to completing all 21 buttonholes. Best of all, the buttonholes were equal in length.  It was so easy that I need to share this technique with you. 

The 21 buttons all standing neatly in a row


1.  Make a sample buttonhole so you know long to make each buttonhole and of course to see if the stitch length needs to be adjusted.

2.  Take the measurement for the buttonhole.

3.  Machine-baste two vertical rows of stitching on the dress front (or the complete length of whatever garment you are working on), corresponding with the ends of the buttonhole.   Going forward I will refer to these lines as “guide lines”

4.  With a marking pen, make a horizontal line for each buttonhole, extending to each vertical line of stitching or guide line.  (For me, marking was easy as the buttonholes were one inch apart).

5.  Place a narrow strip of clear wash-a-way stabilizer over the buttonholes (this technique lifts the satin stitch out of the fabric resulting in a more finished look).

Sewing the buttonholes – the clear wash away stabilizer is difficult to see but it’s there.  Click on photo to enlarge.

Sewing the Buttonholes – Staying Inside the Lines is the Key

Note:  To give me more control, I turned off the automatic buttonhole setting. 

1. Place your needle at your starting point for a buttonhole, barely touching the vertical stitching line – unlike Kindergarden, this isn’t a time to sew outside of the lines!

2. Stitch the first side of the buttonhole until the needle is just shy of the second guide line.

3. Bar tack (or make the wide end stitch)

4. Sew the second side of the buttonhole

5. Make the final bar tack, again staying just inside of the guide lines.

6.  When you are finished with the first buttonhole, move right on to the next one without cutting the threads.

Before you know it you’ll have completed all of the buttonholes.  When completed, clip the threads, remove the guide line stitches and the excess wash-away stabilizer.  To remove the stabilizer I used an embroidery scissors.  You can always dab some water on the stabilizer remains.  Last of all, carefully cut the buttonholes and press.

Sewing completed

What I learned:

1.  By turning off the automatic buttonhole feature, I had complete control and could stop at exactly the desired point.

2.  Sewing the buttonholes in such a short timeframe actually made it easier, as if I was on an assembly line.

3. Previously I have used strips of blue masking tape as a guide however the stitching line was much easier.  Those little blue pieces of tape didn’t look good with all fabrics.

4. I liked making 21 buttonholes.

Give it a try