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Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Sewing as a Productive and Frugal Hobby: My New Set of Pajamas


I finished sewing my new pajama pants over the weekend. They are warm and cozy, and I love the colors and print! Maybe you recall, I asked my daughters for 2 yards of flannel fabric for Christmas. I found this print on sale at JoAnn's Fabrics for $2.99/yard. My out-of-pocket cost for the fabric was $0, but my daughters spent about $6.

Also, here's the top I chose to complete the pj set. It's a light pink, oversized t-shirt from Michaels craft store. I received a $5 reward coupon in my email a couple of weeks ago with an expiration date of Jan. 27. I also had a coupon for 20% off any purchase.  

On Friday, I dashed over there to look at the tees. I knew I would find something I liked. Michaels often has their t-shirts for painting/silk screening on sale. They did have one brand for $2.99 each. But I didn't find a color I liked in that selection. So I went with this one. It was $12.99, less 20%, less my $5 rewards, for a grand total of $5.39 plus tax.

I was trying to sew these at minimal out-of-pocket cost to myself -- no additional costs was my goal. I decided not to buy any light pink thread and used some light yellow thread that I already had from a project many years ago. As it all turned out, the light yellow is not only okay, but it's barely noticeable. I also didn't need to buy any elastic for the waistband. I have enough elastic from other projects to probably get me through another 3 pairs of pajamas. And I was using a pattern that I've had and used for over 20 years.

You might have noticed the flower appliqué on the front of the elastic waistband. Manufactured clothing usually has a tag in the back. That's sometimes how I determine which way a top or elastic waist pants go. With handmade pjs that don't have a fly, it's difficult to know which is front and which is back. But there is a difference. The back side is usually roomier. Have you ever put on a pair of leggings backwards and wondered why the front is so baggy? I've done that. When I sew pajama pants, I like to put something center front that will differentiate front from back. So, I rummaged through my sewing trims and came across the perfect little flower appliqué. It really looks like it was meant for this print.

The pattern that I use indicates that I should buy 2 5/8 yards of this width fabric for my size. I'm not all that tall, so I have shortened my pattern by about three inches. I asked my daughters for 2 yards of this fabric. When choosing a print, I looked for one that I could turn sideways for cutting. By turning sideways, I mean that I unfold the fabric and refold it in the opposite direction. I've found with this pattern, I can fit both pattern pieces side by side across the fabric sideways. Whereas when laying out the fabric and pattern with the manufactured fold as it was purchased, the pieces have to be offset to accommodate the fabric's width. This works totally fine when purchasing the recommended amount of fabric. But I do try to be sparing with the fabric, if possible, and purchase just a little bit less.

I learned this little trick years ago when sewing a solid color pair of pj pants for myself. I measured the length of the pattern pieces once shortened, then determined if they would fit side by side if laid out on the width of fabric I chose (typically 44/45" width for flannel). Anyway, by shortening the pants to my height and by turning the fabric sideways, I was able to do these with 5/8 yard less than the pattern suggested. 

I sometimes buy the pattern, take it home, do a mockup of how I will lay out pattern pieces on a grid cutting board, then go back to the store to buy the needed fabric based on how much I think I will need. Doing this is one way that I've made sewing projects more affordable.

I enjoy sewing. For one thing, it allows me an opportunity to express some creativity while still being frugal. It's one of those productive hobbies, like vegetable or herb gardening or refinishing furniture. I try not to frustrate myself with the sewing projects that I select. So I tend to choose those which are on the easy side and can be completed quickly. These pj pants fit that description.


  1. Darling, Lili! Sleep well! Sara

  2. So cute, and I like the directional flower. Fabric overall is so expensive these days, that it's often more expensive to make something yourself than to buy it. Not like when I was in high school and made most of my clothes. That was definitely a frugal, needed thing.

    1. Isn't that the truth, Live and Learn! My mom made most of my clothes until I was in junior high, and then we did a yearly all-day pilgrimage to a big fabric store a half-hour out of our town to plan my new wardrobe pieces together. I made almost all my clothes until the 90s, but after that, I could often find things cheaper than I could make them (though not as individual, nor as well-fitted) on sale racks or in box stores. I don't know WHY fabric and patterns got SO expensive. You can still save, as Lili has done with these darling jammies; but it's not a "given" like back in the day! Sara

    2. I have a friend who works in a clothing industry, and from what she's told me, the US no longer produces a lot of the material (e.g. cotton) and relies on imports. She said that's the reason why it's so hard to find good quality cotton t-shirts and why there are so many fabric blends out there (they are cheaper to produce than cotton). I'm sure there's a lot more to it, but it was interesting to hear what she had to say.

      Lili, love the cute jammies, including the flower applique.

    3. Hi Live and Learn,
      yeah, gone are the days where sewing your own wardrobe was an automatic money-saver. Another thing now, I think thrift stores and consignment shops have better quality of goods donated or sold than they might have several decades ago. So you can put together a good wardrobe for a fraction of sewing your own, if the alternative is buying a new pattern with new fabric and notions.

      I sewed almost all of my own clothing in high school, too. Many of us did back then. I think there was a sense of pride when wearing something you'd done a good job on.

    4. That's interesting, Kris. Thanks for filling us in.
      I like that little flower appliqué, too.

  3. What a fun project - it turned out great. I love sewing. I am also not tall, so I have come up with creative ways of cutting out pattern pieces to save fabric, much as you have done. I have also altered pattern pieces (for example, cutting out the back of a top in two pieces, instead of as a single piece).
    I agree that fabric is expensive. On my trips to the thrift store (Goodwill and Value Village), I always check out the "material" section and the sewing patterns. Occasionally I find things of interest. I enjoy the treasure hunt aspect of not knowing what I will find.
    Keep up the great work!
    - Tina

    1. Hi Tina,
      oh that's a great idea, to piece together a section. I can see doing a seam up the back of a shirt instead of one whole piece, and that would look fairly normal when worn, I'd think.
      I'll have to start checking out the fabric section of our thrift stores to see if there's something I'd like to sew with.

  4. Lynn from NC Outer BanksJanuary 31, 2024 at 2:26 PM

    Lili, What a cute pj set! Well done. That’s a great way to differentiate front from back.

    I’m trying to return to sewing, but it has been a LONG time! I think I last sewed for my daughter 34 or 35 years ago. I want to make a smocked outfit for my new little granddaughter. Despite sewing probably 20+ smocked dresses and garments back then, I was always better at the smocking than the sewing! I learned (kind of) to sew, so that I could smock. You refolding the material to use less reminds me of my dear grandmother. She always did that and I remember watching her. I’ve never been comfortable enough to try it any other way than just how the directions said!

    I’ve partly finished granddaughter’s dress , but boy have I taken out a lot of stitches. I’m finding it a bit more difficult to return to this hobby. I’m going to persevere, but it may not be finished for her birthday next weekend! :(

    1. Thank you, Lynn.

      Your smocked outfit for your granddaughter sounds like it will be adorable. What a lovely gift from grandmother to granddaughter. Good luck as you keep working at it. I know what you mean by returning to a hobby after many years. You can do this.

      I think it's easier to take risks, like folding the fabric in the opposite direction, when making something like pjs that don't need to be perfect.


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