Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life

Pyjama trousers – success or failure?


I’m writing this after I’ve finished this project. I have been challenged, irritated and disappointed in equal measure, but finally at the end of the project I can say that I have learned heaps.

After cutting out the pattern pieces to a size 10, and starting to sew I discovered that the pyjama trousers were way too narrow. In fact, I had made myself a lovely pair of skin-tight leggings! Strangely, though they were very long. Normally I would say that I am, for a size 10, quite long in the leg, so these strange dimensions rather perplexed me. I also, found that when I started to put the pieces together not all of them lined up properly. For example waistband at the front and the back didn’t appear to line up and the fabric for the bottom border for the trouser legs didn’t seem to be the same width as the width of the pyjamas. Now, this may have been some sort of cutting error on my part, but I checked and checked and couldn’t see what I had done wrong…..  The pyjama trousers are such a simple pattern, it had no notches. If it had, it would have helped to line up the pieces.

To cut a long story short, I gave up using the pattern. After a week, when I couldn’t approach the project without getting annoyed, I looked at it again with fresh eyes and I decided to start from scratch. Fortunately, I am one of those persons who always buy patterns and fabrics way in advance of getting round to projects and I already how a trouser pattern. I traced it onto tracing paper, but making it a size bigger (size 12) as pyjamas should be loose fitting. I also took the darts out as pyjama trousers are elasticated at the waist.

As it turned out, what a stroke of good fortune that I’d bought too much fabric! I still had enough fabric for a new pair!

And hey presto! I constructed this pair of pyjama bottoms and I have a good pattern should I wish to give this another go in the future. I had to ditch the embroidery, much that I liked it, as it was perhaps too busy for the blue checked patterned fabric I was using. However, there is always a next time!


PJs bow

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Pyjama Trousers Part 2 – Thin fabric problems

When I started sewing my pyjama bottoms, I got a problem with doing the zig-zag stitch on the leg lengths.

After a search on the internet I found this problem is called “tunnelling”. Basically, this is where the fabric is pulled together by the tension in the stitch. I suppose it is because my fabric is rather light. The “flimsy-fabric” alarm hadn’t been ringing though at the start of the project, as it isn’t what I usually expect with a woven cotton fabric. However, it happened and I didn’t like the look of it. At the back of my mind was the fantastic silk / cotton blend fabric upstairs, waiting for the day when I am experienced enough or brave enough to sew it.


My internet search also gave several suggestions for a fix:

1. Use a different stitch

All the suggestions here, aren’t possible on my ancient Singer. Is it time to face facts and get another machine?

2. Hang the stitch off the edge of the fabric

This sounds possible, but a bit fiddly.

3. Sew with tissue paper

I tried this and found that it was largely successful, until I pulled the tissue off the fabric and this pulled the thread enough for the “tunnel” to reappear. However, after I examined the lengths that had been done with this technique, there did seem to be some improvement.

4. Use a different technique

French seams may be the answer. I’ll definitely do this next time I use the fabric.

5. Don’t worry!

Yes, even though it may annoy me, perhaps I should just relax and live with it! After all, this is only visible on the inside.
There is a lesson for me in this – it’s all good learning. I really should check how a new fabric behaves on a scrap piece first, before I attempt the project.

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Pyjama trousers Part 1 – Selecting Fabric

I received Stylish Sewing by Laura Wilhelm as a birthday present last year and beyond looking at the pictures hadn’t made anything in the book.
I decided I would have a go at the Women’s pyjamas shown on the front cover of the book. I would dearly love to be able to make some trousers or even jeans, but I thought I’d start out cautiously with some pyjama trousers first. I particularly like the embroidered flower feature which gives the project an interesting touch.

One of the best things about this book are the full-sized patterns. I found it reasonably easy to trace the pattern onto tracing paper.

I bought two fabrics for the project before Chrsitmas. I’m not sure they quite live up to the “Stylish” standards in Laura’s book. In fact they are probably a combination worthy of sitting alongside my other “Coco the clown” pyjamas. I didn’t want to resort to expensive designer fabric ranges, but I did have a really tricky time trying to find two fabrics that looked good together and ended up with a red polka dot fabric and a blue check with small red hearts.

Pyjama trouser fabrics

Pyjama trouser fabrics

At this point I encountered a problem.  The project specifies 1.8m for size 8/10, but doesn’t seem to show the fabric width to which this applies. I suppose I could have worked out the fabric required from the size of my pattern pieces. However, being in a hurry to start the project I decided not to check and just went ahead and bought my 1.8 m. Even in the shop, I was thinking – “that’s way too much!”

When I started to cut out the pieces in the evening, of course, it was too much fabric. Then annoyingly, after much searching, I found at the back of the book, the width measurement for the fabric range. It was given as 115 cm, whereas my fabric was 145 cm. I think that there is an assumption that anyone using the book would use the fabrics in the book, which is a shame as us scrimping seamstresses, enjoy finding our fabrics at cheaper shops. Perhaps it would have been better if the fabric length suggestions had been calculated for both the standard widths and added in the book on the page with the project instructions. Never mind, I could make two sets of pyjama trousers, or more ambitiously, I could make a top to complete the look. Although perhaps wearing the two in combination would be migraine inducing for everyone else!