I am not an expert sewer and I know this (even after a glass of bubbles, which is the traditional time for believing you can do everything really really well), but I would really love to be able to make my own clothes, and I do believe most of us are capable of that with a little help along the way.
Phyllis and I have made wash bags (top tip, order a shower curtain on ebay for a quid or two for the lining, it is much cheaper than trying to source waterproof fabric and it does the job brilliantly plus you get loads of it for the money). The wash bag below was made using Cath Kidston strawberry fabric purchased in a sale for £4 a metre and the drawstring was a few pennies from our local hardware store, so it really cost peanuts to make. I have made a bicycle one for M and J wants one and I expect to knock up a few more as presents for friends and family.
Drawstring bags are great for all kinds of things and I've made several of the non-waterproof variety for keeping sewing gubbings in as well as knickers when I'm travelling!
Ma is currently making a summer dress, and I felt inspired by her during our most recent sewing club to tackle an item of clothing myself. I wanted something simple that I could make without using a pattern, something to give me a bit of practice before our classes start, and above all something that didn't involve hours of painstaking cutting out and pinning together, so I searched on line and found a brilliant tutorial by a very clever lady in the States which you can watch here which takes you through a step-by-step guide on how to make pyjama shorts. You use an a pair of existing PJ shorts as a template and draw round them, and the stitching together is dead easy.
To my surprise, they worked. Here is what I got at the end....
The ease with which I made the shorts spurred me on to try PJ bottoms, which are only elongated shorts really. I've now made four pairs: one for L out of some gorgeous clock face fabric (its very hard to find nice pjs for teenage boys in the shops, they're either covered in electric guitars, skulls or skate boards) two for me (butterflies and some beautiful material I used to make a quilt) and one for J, from some fabric she chose herself yesterday and which I am using for the tutorial photos below. I've now got it down to a fine art and it usually takes me less than two hours from start to finish.
What I love about it is being able to buy the fabric you love and turn it into a wearable item of clothing that you know is unique. It is a wonderful feeling to wear something you've made :o)
So, if you're interested in making some PJs, here is my simple tutorial, based on the PJ shorts one above, but altered slightly to allow for trousers instead of shorts.
1. Buy yourself some fabric. 2.5 metres is best and 100% cotton is easy to work with and looks and feels lovely.
2. Fold the fabric in half lengthways with the pattern on the inside and lay it flat on a table.
3. Fold your PJs in half lengthways with the side of the fabric that goes over your bum facing out, then lay the PJs on top of the fabric and draw around them with tailor's chalk, allowing about an inch either side for the seam allowance (this is shown by the ruler and tape measure below, and by the line of blue chalk on the 2nd pic). You should allow about an inch for the bottom hem and I do about 3 inches for the waistband hem because I like to use thicker elastic, but this is down to practice and personal preference really. Err on more fabric instead of not enough when you first start).
4. When you come to the seam allowance for the waist band, DON'T follow the line of the PJs when you draw, instead draw the line straight up to the end of the fabric as per the pic below...
5. Take the PJs off your fabric and cut out the shape you've drawn (hopefully you can see the blue line in the pics- this is what you cut along)...
6. Next, draw a "B" on both pieces of fabric (remember, you folded the fabric over when you started so you should end up with two pieces of material cut out in the shape above). This "B" is to remind you that these pieces will form the back of the PJs.
8. Next, you pin the back pieces together with the fabric pattern on the inside. Pin from the top (waistband) to the front of the crotch only (not down into the legs). Repeat for the two front pieces. You aren't pinning all four pieces together at this stage, only the two front together and the two back together. Hopefully you can see the line of pink-headed pins in the pics below which show you how far to pin.
9. Run down the pinned part (only as far as the crotch- you don't go the entire length of the fabric down the straight part of the leg which should be unpinned at this stage) with the sewing machine, You can then go back over the straight stitch with a zigzag stitch for extra strengthening on the hem. I work out my hem width by lining up the edge of the sewing machine foot with the fabric as in the pic below. I use number 11 stitch for the straight stitch and number 13 for the zigzag (see pic of dial).
10. When you've stitched the crotch part for the front and back pieces, you place the two halves together one on top of the other with the pattern sides still facing inwards, and pin the inside of the legs (front and back pieces) together, and the outside of the legs (front and back pieces) together. Start with the point of the crotch and work down one inside leg, then the other, before pinning the outside of the legs. At this stage you will probably find you have more material sticking out on one side than the other- once you've pinned the two together you can trim the excess off.
In the pic below, the waistband is the top part held together with the clips and hopefully you can see the pink-headed pin at the point of the crotch. The second picture shows one legged pinned on either side.
11. Once you've pinned those bits you should end up with something that looks like this...definitely resembling trousers now :o)
12. Sew the pinned hems together with the machine, again going over with the zigzag to reinforce the hem and then can turn the trousers the right way round to get a first proper glimpse of them (remember to make sure you remove all the pins once you've done the machine stitching).
13. Turn them inside out again and put them on your model so you can pin the bottom leg hems. I turn these inwards, but you can also have them folded up on the outside if you prefer. If you like big hems make sure you leave more room when you're first cutting the shapes out. I then stitch them in so they can't unravel and open.
14. All you've got left to do now is the waistband. You can either use a drawstring or elastic. I tend to use elastic. Put the PJs back on your model (or yourself) and fold the material over at the waist, allowing sufficient space for whatever thickness of elastic you're using. Measure the elastic around your waist (or the waist of the person you're making the PJs for) and cut to measure.
Pin the waistband to the required depth (I use safety pins for this and for the foot hem while the PJs are on a person and then pin them once they're off to avoid pricking skin). Machine the waistband in place, remembering to leave a space to thread the elastic through. The youtube video above has a great tip for marking this opening with crossed pins so you can't overlook it and stitch it in by accident.
15. Push large safety pin through one end of the elastic and feed it along the inside of the waistband by hand, then machine or hand stitch the two ends of the elastic together to make a complete circle.
16. Sew a handmade label into the back of the PJs so you know which way to put them on (I got a reel of ribbon which has "handmade" printed on it from our local haberdasher).
17. Turn the PJs the right way round (fabric pattern on the outside :o) ) And you're all done! One wearable pair of no-pattern-required, simple, quick and easy to make pyjama bottoms :o)
I hope that all made sense? Do refer to the excellent youtube tutorial if you get stuck. Sometimes moving pictures makes more sense of something than writing. And let me know how you get on if you have a go at making some :o)
I'm making J a 'going away to university' present of her own quilt for Sept, so we went fabric shopping together yesterday so she could chose the colours and patterns she wanted. She loved it (we both had a ball) and is Very Excited about her quilt. She spent ages yesterday afternoon arranging all the squares I had cut out for her in the patterns she wanted. Here's what she chose. The dotted one will also make up the border.
While we were there, I fell in love with this hare print fabric and couldn't resist buying a couple of metres to make myself a pair of PJ bottoms. I'm taking my nieces (5 and 10) back next week because I've also promised them some PJs. I will be a World Expert at making PJ bottoms before you know it :o)
I'll leave you with The Hounds, who are Very Pleased to have everyone home for Easter. Roll on some Spring sunshine....
Wishing you all a VERY HAPPY EASTER :o)