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Monday, May 23, 2016

Shopping my own home for fabric to make summer pj shorts

One of my daughters's summer pajama shorts are ripped to shreds, literally. The holes appear to be taking up more of the shorts than the actual fabric.

With summer just around the corner, she is desperately needing new pj shorts. Pajama shorts are even quicker to sew than pj pants (yes, Cap't Obvious). They require a little over a yard of fabric and 2 feet of elastic for a women's size small. Even so, when I need some materials for a project, I shop what I have at home, before even setting foot in a store.

Here's a question for you -- what has literally yards of elastic and oodles of soft cottony fabric? I'll give you a hint, it used to be on my bed, and was patched many times.

Yes, that fitted, California King, white cotton sheet is the perfect item for a pair of pajama shorts. (I blogged about patching it here.) Although the body of that sheet was too thin to use, there was more than enough good fabric on the sheet to cut out the fronts and backs of the shorts. The part of the fitted sheet that hugs the sides of the mattress was in excellent condition. And the elastic on that sheet was the kind inside of a casing (not sewn to the edge). A bonus! No need to buy elastic for this project, either! And I have plenty of thread on hand.

I used the pattern that I use for my daughters' and my own pajama pants, only I folded under the legs of the pattern, to make one for shorts. (I had previously made a reduced-size pattern to use for my daughters, who are more petite than me.)

I wanted to add something pretty along the hem. After a thorough search of my trimming's box, I came up with nothing suitable. So, I used a machine edging stitch in lavender thread, making a sweet little scalloped edge to the shorts. Added a little lavender bow at the waistline to mark the front. These shorts were knocked out in about 2 and 1/2 hours on Sunday afternoon. They were free. And they put some fabric with life still in it, to good use.

Shopping my own home for materials and supplies saves me money, of course, but I really love that it gives a purpose to something I might have otherwise discarded.


  1. Yea for being so creative. My sewing task over the weekend was mending. My kids use their work clothes pretty hard and use them forever. But they wear out on the inner thigh and then they give them to me to mend. I had an old pair of jeans that I now use to cut patches out and sew them into the crotch of the work clothes. But I had trouble this week with the thread getting all scrambled up on the bottom of the item I sewed. The top stitch was fine but the bottom was a bunch of thread. I just don't know what is going on. This happens once in a while and since I'm not an expert sewer I don't know what to do. I have found that cheap thread (and old thread) presents a problem but this was a brand new roll of thread. Any ideas? What number should the tension be at? I also use zig zag to mend but the setting are correct for that. Maybe a tutorial? With some pictures?


    1. Alice--
      So sorry to hear about the sewing machine problems! I do the same patching on our family's work clothes in the same way you do, and occasionally (as all seamstresses, i think)I get that problem with the thread on the bottom. (Not just when mending, but so frustrating when you are trying to get a mending job done, and the machine won't cooperate!)

      You are right, some machines are finicky about cheap thread, but since you are using thread that ought to be fine, it probably is, as you theorized, a tension problem.

      If you haven't rethreaded the machine, always try that first. Sometimes the thread just doesn't engage right through the tensioners for some random reason.

      If you haven't changed tension, it might just be that the thread didn't engage. If you search the internet for "thread bunching UNDER fabric", I just found a bunch of articles and a couple of youtubes. I don't think I can post URLs here, but even if you don't have a Singer machine, Singerco-dot-com had some good trouble-shooting. You can also include your machine brand in your search, and maybe find more details.

      Threading with the presser foot lifted and needle at the top of the cycle, thread should pull through easily. If you put your presser foot down, then the tension ought to engage. So, looks like a lot of the articles are saying, if that doesn't happen when you thread, the thread isn't engaging properly for some reason. So, you can try to thread it again, paying close attention to the place where it goes through the discs for tension.

      Good luck, I HATE when my machine gives me trouble. SO frustrating!!! Sara

    2. Thanks, Sara, I rethreaded and changed the needle and then it worked. I googled and saw the same articles/videos. I keep the machine covered and clean so I know it isn't dirty. I did turn the tension a little but I think I need to turn it back to 3, 4, or 5 again.


    3. Hooray! What a relief! :)

      In my experience, your machine has to be pretty dirty to cause a problem. It's good to open the "doors" to different parts up sometimes and blow or brush out extra fuzz and stuff; and if you know how/where to put a drop of oil every so often, that's good, too. (Usually says in your manual, if you have that.)

      A lot of times it seems to be some weird threading thing or a needle problem that causes these things, and sometimes you never really know what the little glitch was. You just keep re-threading and messing with it, and suddenly it's okay again.

      You're probably right, your tension probably needs to be back in that range again. Now that it's stitching properly, you should be able to look at the top and bottom of the stitched part and see when the tension is about right (loops cross in the "flesh" of the fabric, don't show on either side.) Seems like if you adjust a little at a time, you can usually find the sweet-spot.

      Happy mending. :) Sara

    4. looping on the underside indicates a problem with the top thread not the bobbin. As Lili said more often than not when this has happened to me it is because the tensioners somehow ere not engaging by rethreading the machine my problem is usually solved.

    5. Hi Alice,
      I do have this issue with my machine, too.

      Sometimes it's the thread itself (too heavy of a thread, for the needle (like if I'm trying to use a quilting thread for general sewing), but most often on my machine, it's a matter of improper tension on the top side, or on the bobbin holder.

      If after I make sure I've got the proper needle, correct thread, and all, I then start fiddling with things, like rethreading. On my machine, one of the places the thread passes through, different thread may or may not go through this one spot correctly (it's like two small plates close together, where the thread tension dial is). Rethreading will sometimes be all that is needed.

      If that doesn't work, then I start adjusting tensions, using a piece of scrap fabric of the weight and fiber content that I'm currently sewing on.

      If it's still too loose on the bottom, I take apart the two plate thingies, and reassemble, putting the dial with the numbers on in a way to allow the tension to increase or decrease more. I don't know how else to explain this. But with the dial, there's only so far it can go in either direction and it is stopped, so I lift the dial off, and re-situate it.

      My machine is pretty old. It was used and refurbished when I got it in 1981. And it's been through several long-distance moves. So I have had to take it in for adjustments a couple of times. And it always works perfectly for a long while after having it professionally adjusted.

      It is a frustration. But I tell myself that this is all part of the process of machine sewing. Like when I was hanging pictures last week. Things kept going wrong, but I reminded myself that those problems were just going to happen, I was going to deal with them, and in the end, I would complete my task.

      Good luck with it, Alice. I know it can be frustrating.

  2. Love the pj shorts, Lili! Very cute! They remind me of some blouses my mom made me when I was a little girl with that same decorative stitch. I'm always nostalgic when I see it!

    I'm just finishing up a dress made from some old flannel sheets given to me by a family member. I can't wait to wear my old sheets around. LOL


    1. Hi Sara,
      I can very well imagine what you're remembering. I have the same recollections of red scalloped machine stitching on the edge of a peter pan collar on a blouse.

      That dress that you are making will be warm and cozy! Sheets make good fabric for reusing, as they are so durable, you can easily get more life out of a used sheet. Even with my very worn sheet, there were parts that were practically pristine, in wear.

      Send me a photo when you're done, please!

  3. They are super cute with the embroidery and bow. Way to go saving both money and resources.

    1. Thank you, frugal spinster.
      I was trying to comment the other day on your blog, but my word press password was lost when deleting cookies, and I had to leave the house before I could go through the reset process. But I wanted to say -- I love how your blouse made from a shower curtain turned out. Cute fabric with the birds. I thought it would also be good cushion fabric.

  4. Loved your post on pj shorts today.
    I need to make some pj pants for next winter. Any suggestions for a pattern you found that you like?

    1. Hi Teresa,
      The pattern I've been using for about 15 years is Mc Call's 2476. The instructions are easy to follow, and the pattern includes a robe and top, along with pants/shorts. You can still buy this pattern.

      However. . .
      patterns can be expensive. And with something as simple as elastic waist pants, you can go with just about any brand pattern for pj pants, if you want to save some money.

      Have fun with your project!

  5. Wow! I am duly impressed. Though, I confess I've never heard of pajama shorts before. I'm a stretchy nightgown kind of a girl. I just cannot sleep in any fabric that doesn't stretch - it feels like it's cutting off my circulation. I may have to break down and buy a new one or two though, since 2 of my 3 have been patched to the point of no return. I see a trip to the thrift store in my near future. Last time I shopped for nightgowns I ended up finding several with the tags still on! Wish me luck...

    1. Ack! Nightgowns always give me problems. They get all bunched up around my waist or my legs get tangled in them. I'm a sleep short kind of girl.

    2. Hi Cat,
      Then you may not have heard of pj capris, either. I think it's mostly a matter of what you're used to. My legs get cold, so I prefer pajama pants of some length, whether long or capris.
      Hope you find what you're looking for!

    3. I'm not sure why, but I find this discussion amusing. I do admit I have an occasional "bunching incident" but my nightgowns are probably more accurately described as nightshirts - mid-thigh length. Perhaps sleep shorts are worth a try... I'd have to find stretchy ones though. I wonder if such a thing exists.

      And my legs don't usually get cold because they're generally covered with cats! :-)

    4. Hi Cat,
      I actually do have something like what you mention, a long t-shirt, that I've worn to sleep in. It was a hand-me-down, swimsuit cover-up t-shirt. I've worn it with pj shorts (these ones are just cut-off sweat-pants). The pj shorts, under a long tee just keep the t-shirt from being indecent. Not a problem for you, living alone. More of a problem when you're in a house with lots of other people. There are some things that your kids just don't want to see.

    5. Ha! Well, modesty isn't an issue where cats are concerned, but... one of my cats likes to snuggle under the covers, and he's a kneader. Let's just say that there are definite advantages to being well covered in that situation - especially if his claws haven't been trimmed in a while! I usually just wear some "boy short" underwear (I bought them because they're supposed to not show pantylines - FAIL - but they are comfortable for sleeping) I suppose they're sorta like sleep shorts.

    6. Those boy-short undies look like they'd bunch up, especially the thicker cotton knit ones.

    7. That's exactly what they do! They just roll up when you put your pants on making the whole situation worse!

  6. Super cute! The remind me a little bit of 19th C pantalettes. You could be selling these on eBay for kids and ladies who want to dress historical!

    1. Hi Jen,
      Oh, good idea! Yes, as I was sewing, while not thinking about pantalettes, I was thinking of my own pair of Victorian-inspired white cotton summer pajamas. Very period, in style. I'll have to look into pantalettes. Thanks for the suggestion.

  7. Really cute Pjs :) I like to make my own. I do not use a store pattern. I just trace a pair of pants and make my own pattern. I am really bad at explaining how to do this so I found some on pinterest and Google. Instructables how to make your own pajama pants looks good. I am not a proper seamstress. I just sew because I like it and it saves money. I always repurpose fabric like Lili. I have 2 giant house dresses that are going to be aprons and summer pjs. I bet You Tube will have many videos on how to make pj bottoms.

    1. Hi Patti,
      I was going to suggest Teresa try making her own pattern. I've done this with a couple of items and it's not that hard to do, if the item is a simple one like elastic waist pants or skirt. I did this with children's pants, years ago. I laid the pants on a paper bag, cup open, and flattened them out so that the seams were on the edge of the folds of the fabric. Then I traced all around the pants onto the paper bag, leaving 1/2 inch on the side seam and inseam, for seams, and 1 1/4 inches on top, for a casing, and about the same for a hem.
      Your lined-up sewing projects sound fun! I'm hoping to make a pair of summer lounge pants for myself, soon.
      Have a great day, Patti!

  8. I was thinking of that, my tracing skills are a bit free form:)
    I have started looking in a few favourite thrift shops. A fabric store here regularly has sales and one of my daughters has a discount card so I'm hoping to purchase economically.
    I'm looking forward to rekindling my sewing skills. Frugal spinster I love seeing your sewing projects. You, Lili and Brandy (from the Prudent Homemaker ) are an encouragement to come back to a skill I had used quite regularly at another time in my life.

    1. Okay, so for pj pants, all you need is a really basic pattern. Some fabric stores will have pattern sales where all patterns of one brand are 99 cents. That's what I'd be looking for. What I love about a basic pattern like this that I used, is, I can size up or down by widening/lengthening, or narrowing/shortening to make these for someone else, like my daughters. No need to buy another pattern just for another size. And I can use it for pants or shorts, and for pajamas or casual pants/shorts.

      Sewing is such a great creative outlet. It's such a feeling of satisfaction to make something. And even better when you can transform something that isn't your style or isn't something you can use, into a new thing that you really love and enjoy. Happy fabric shopping!

  9. The above comments are all I regards to purchasing a pattern for pj bottoms.

  10. I'm rekindling my passion for sewing once was nearly destroyed when I chose to suffer using a lemon Viking sewing machine for nearly three decades. That machine was a lemon, never sewed a decent straight stitch. Problems with tension, and the stitches always had a slight zig zag appearance, never straightening out even when not in zigzag mode. About ten years ago, I bought a very cheap Brother sewing machine and had absolutely no problems, loved the simplicity of that machine, but since my granddaughter showed so much interest in sewing doll clothes, I wanted her to have that easy to use machine. After losing what I thought was a miracle sewing machine, I bought another Brother, even cheaper after some consumer credit discounts from Amazon, but a computerized model. Much more complicated to use, but again beautiful stitches every time. I'm convinced, don't keep a finnicky sewing machine with temperamental stitches...move on lol

    I'm going to have to look at our old sheets with renewed interest...those fifteen to twenty inches around the sides may be plenty good for all kinds of craft projects...which reminds me of the remnant piece I bought from Savers for .10 after senior discount. I don't know what I can make from it, but fabric is fabric, and a keeper because one day it may come in handy. Already, I was able to knit two scarves for my MIL from brand new thrift store Lion Homespun Thick and Quick that is still being sold @$8.99 each 8 oz skein, saving over $16 for the two $1 skeins.

    Have a nice evening!!


    1. Hi YHF,
      How frustrating, with your Viking machine. You expect a name like Viking to mean it would be a good one.

      Yes, I was pleased with the condition of edges of the fitted sheets. For the sleep shorts, I used the shorter of the edges (foot and head of bed), so I still have fabric from the longer edges, available.

      How nice to be able to knit a couple of scarves for your MIL, with that yarn! I'm sure she appreciated them.

      Have a great day, YHF!

    2. I'm still stoked about the yarn because I almost didn't buy it....thinking what could I make with it since it wasn't the typical type of yarn that I buy for my wool stash. My MIL was in the hospital this month, and according to the nurse she complained about being cold. No matter how much she was covered with the blanket, her neck was exposed, so she continued to complain. That's when I thought to make her a scarf. About a week before, I bought these extremely large sized knitting needles (size 35) at Salvation Army for a dollar (actually two dollars, but it came with a skein of yarn). I hesitated to buy this too, thinking I'm not a knitter, but I'm always collecting needles JIC. I forgot how to knit since it's been over 40 years, maybe 50 years since I last knitted. I am most grateful how this opportunity to make something nice and useful for my MIL came together, two purchases I almost didn't buy but became the perfect yarn and knitting needle for a beginner's project to help me relearn a craft I gave up on because I could never make the stitches look perfect enough. Now I'm encouraged to try more knitting, using the large sized needles if I have to lol



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