TUTORIAL: simple Pajama Shorts

by Dana on July 6, 2008

As a kid, Mother’s Day always meant making breakfast-in-bed for mom.
She was a good sport about eating whatever crazy meal we came up with, which made us feel like the best chefs in the world (though oatmeal with chocolate chips is always okay in my book).
This Mother’s Day (or for any occasion), enjoy your morning in style with a fresh pair of pajama pants or shorts. Since the warmer months are coming, I thought a good pair of lounging shorts were ideal.Here’s the part where I’m supposed to tell you to never buy PJs anymore because they’re so easy to make! But man, it’s hard to pass up Old Navy clearance items for $4. I guess that’s why THIS is the first time I’ve ever made pajamas! A bit crazy. All the sewing I’ve done, and never a pair of PJs for me. We’re fixing that crime.

Okay, let’s get started!

Every time I sew a pair of pants/shorts/etc, I sew them in a slightly different order. It just depends on the design. For instance, in the Knee Pad Pants Tutorial, the outside of each leg is sewn last (so you can get the knee pads sewn on). And here, we’re sewing the outside down FIRST! My best advice is to look at whatever pair of pants you’re using as your pattern/guide and copy what they’ve done.

IF YOU’RE MAKING THESE AS A GIFT FOR SOMEONE, find out what size Pjs pants/shorts they wear. Pajamas usually come in S, M, L, XL so you don’t have to worry about being super precise. If you don’t have a pair of pajamas to use as your pattern…..purchase something at a store to use. Be careful as you trace, then you can return them the next day.

Today I’m using a pair of pajama shorts I bought from Old Navy, and ONE yard of cotton fabric (washed/dryed/ironed). The fabric is folded in half, so I can cut two pattern pieces at once.
Making shorts (or pants) is super easy, you just need to understand the basic construction:
* There are two legs
* Each leg has a front and back piece
* So….FOUR pieces total.
* The back pieces have a longer slope to the crotch, than the front pieces.
* Both back pieces are symmetrical with each other and the same goes for the front pieces.
* That’s about it!

So, start by tracing one leg (the FRONT or the BACK). Put one leg inside the other or fold the shorts in half and trace the pattern piece on to your fabric with a marker. Make sure you lay the fabric as flat as you can on each area as you go around and trace.

When you get to the BACK leg, it will be a little harder to trace it all at once because the crotch area will be pulled through a bit. So just trace one part at a time. Trace the side seam, then pull the crotch part out and trace that part.
When you’re done, you should have something like this! (TWO back pieces, TWO front pieces):
With right sides of your fabric together, grab one FRONT piece and ONE back piece, pin and sew down the outside of each leg…..
When you’re done, you can open it up and it should look like the photo below. Then with right sides of the fabric together, match it up with the other pieces you just sewed….with the back crotch pieces together and the front ones together. Pin and sew down both slopes. ONLY sew the slopes, do not sew the inside of the pant leg together.
Serge off all your seams (or do a zigzag, or leave it raw).
Your shorts should look something like this. It’s coming together!
Now, with right sides together, pin the entire inside legs and crotch all together.
Sew down and all the way around, as you curve around the crotch.
Turn your shorts right-side out and iron your seams.
Always IRON your seams! It will give your clothing a more professional look and will be less home-made looking.
Okay, try those suckers on yourself and decide how low you want the waist to be. As you’ll notice, this pattern is not very gathered at the waist, like most pajama pants/shorts usually are. The waist is almost the same size it will be once I add elastic in there. But this is how the original pattern shorts were. And I love how they’re almost like board shorts. The elastic in the waist will really just be to hold them in place and for a slight gather.
Decide what width of elastic you’re going to use. I went with 1-inch. Lay it on top of the waistband and trim off an excess, so your waistband is a nice width.
Serge the top of the waistband to finish-off the edges. If you don’t have a serger, just fold the top of the waistband over 1/4 inch and iron it down.
Then Iron and press down the entire waistband, at the width you like.
Now, before you sew your waistband closed, decide if want a drawstring. If you don’t want want one, you can skip on down and finish up with your elastic. But the drawstring is really quite easy and it adds character.
Also, if making button holes scares you (which it shouldn’t. They’re easy too!), then just make a faux drawstring and sew two strings to each side and tie them in a bow.
But here’s how we’ll do it….

On your waistband, mark where you want your button holes to be with a fabric marker. The button holes allow you to string a drawstring or ribbon through your pants.
I spaced mine each 1 1/4 inches from the center seam. Each hole is about 3/4 inch tall (depends how wide you make your drawstring).
Pick the button holes open with your seam ripper (careful not to break the end of the button hole!)
Now you’re ready to sew down your waistband. Mark a start and stop point so you remember to leave an opening in your waistband (so you can get the elastic inside). See the double pins below:
Start at one set of double pins and sew all the way around to the other set of double pins:
Cut your elastic to your desired length (measure your lower hips. It’s more comfortable for pjs to hang low on your hips, rather than tight on your waist). With a safety pin on one end of the elastic, and a safety pin holding it to the shorts on the other side, string your elastic all the way through the waistband, till it comes out the other side:
Make sure both elastic pieces are going the same way (so that nothing’s twisted inside of the waistband) and sew the two ends together. Do a zigzag stitch a few times. If you decide the waistband is too loose, make a cut in the elastic, overlap, and sew the elastic together again. If you made the elastic too tight….make a cut in the elastic and add an extra piece of elastic by sewing it to the other pieces.
Then sew the opening on your waistband closed, matching the lines up with the ones you sewed before, so it looks nice.
Hem your shorts to your desired length using a similar method as the waistband. Serge the end of the shorts (or fold over 1/4 inch and iron, if you don’t have a serger). Then fold the hem under, iron, and sew the hem of each leg in place:
To create a waistband, you can use an existing ribbon or create your own. I cut a 1 1/2 inch wide strip of brown satin. Make it the length of your waistband and add about 25-30 inches extra so you can tie it in a bow. I made mine 60 inches total. Sew the strip in half to create a tube. Use a safety pin to turn it right-side out. Then iron it flat and finish off the edges.
Then, with a safety pin attached to the end, string it through your waistband.
Tie it in a bow:
And you’re done!
Enjoy your breakfast-in-bed.
Or spend the morning feeling like a kid again.

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 sarah March 21, 2012 at 11:33 pm

you are amazing! seriously!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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2 Melissa March 23, 2012 at 2:10 pm

I just bought a Simplicity pattern for sleep shorts and wished I had come across your blog first. These shorts look great and I can’t wait to make my own pair during my next free weekend. Thanks!

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3 Suzy Hurst April 11, 2012 at 7:34 pm

Great Tute!

Please ditch the music. It’s too distracting. Or, at least include a button to silence it.

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4 Jackie Smith May 23, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Just turn off your speakers if the music bothers you!

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5 Emi April 30, 2012 at 9:31 am

GREAT JOB!!! Those are ADORABLE!! I wouldn’t confine those to home,,,, they are just cute enough to wear outside in the real world!!!

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6 Emi April 30, 2012 at 9:32 am

Oh, and if you would like to check out my youtube tutorial channel, here’s the link:
http://www.youtube.com/user/Hectanooga1

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7 Linda May 1, 2012 at 12:12 am

I will try these.

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8 Dani Warner May 22, 2012 at 7:47 pm

I really liked the part about how you should never buy PJ’s again because they’re so easy to make, but you can’t pass up Old Navy sales – I literally just got home from going to Joann to buy flannel to make PJ shorts with, & then to Old Navy to buy cheap PJ shorts in case my sewing adventure didn’t work out! Haha.

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9 samantha July 10, 2012 at 1:53 am

It is never mentioned how to cut the pattern at the waist, knowing there is elastic in the shorts you are tracing, so how much width to cut at waistline while tracing to be on safe side is never mentioned, so I would have to guess how many inches to allow?

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10 Jan September 21, 2012 at 8:20 am

Did you forget to mention adding a seam allowance when you are tracing around the pjs from the store?

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11 sherri October 14, 2012 at 1:06 am

will this work for much shorter shorts? like booty shorts? i am trying to sew some up for a bachelorette party and cant seem to find any patterns.

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12 Jeannie January 4, 2013 at 1:40 pm

I am happy to have come across this. I have not done sewing for over 25 yrs and got a simple sewing machine for xmas, some matterial, (didn’t know how much to get) to make hubby jammies. This seems simple enough. I am going to go give it a shot! Thanks again.

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13 Patricia Baptista Sampaio Cunha February 1, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Wow, you’re very talented!! Loved your website :) I’m looking foward to buy my first sewing machine and hopefully try your tutorials…

Regards from Brazil!

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14 Cecilia May 24, 2013 at 10:01 am

Me ha gustado mucho las fotografías ilustrativas para hacer esos bonitos pantalones cortos.
Muchas gracias
Con ternura
Sor.Cecilia

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15 Kathy V May 30, 2013 at 11:55 am

Hi,
I like to use elastic especially made for pajamas because it feels more comfortable with my not-so-flat tummy. Great tutorial.

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16 Lynette June 27, 2013 at 12:27 am

I have been needing some pj shorts, and I love how those turned out. I just peeked into my stash, and I have a yard that’s already pre-washed and ready for me! I just need to iron and sew tomorrow during nap time. I can’t wait! :)

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17 Kathy Stanley July 2, 2013 at 10:50 pm

I really didn’t know that all pants had 2 legs!!!!!!!!!!

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18 Mara Erva August 14, 2013 at 10:19 am

I made these for my older sister and she loved them!!!! Great tutorial!

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19 aileen September 4, 2013 at 5:55 am

Thanks for the tutorial. I tried this last night and they came great. Super easy instructions. I’ll be making many more sleeping shorts and pants.

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20 jual filter air December 21, 2013 at 12:09 pm

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21 snigdha February 27, 2014 at 1:07 am

its lovely, thanks!!

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22 Nora March 12, 2014 at 10:41 am

I don’t know how to sew, I would love to try these! I have a very simple wonderful machine,
I can sew a straight stitch, thread my machine and that sums up my skills!
The button holes make them look so pretty but I know I can’t do that part.
If I have the courage to try, do you think I would be able to simply make
The waist with elastic?!!! I’d love, love the drawstring but this would be a
First for me & I’ve never even worked with elastic!! Your simple instructions
Inspire me and they are so very cute! I’d really love to try!! Any suggestions?
I’ve never made anything but a pillow case but would love to learn.

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