Making PJs for the modern gent
I love making men’s pyjamas. It’s a chance to indulge in fantastic prints and luxury fabric and create something much more comfortable and stylish, than anything you can buy off the peg.
They make great gifts too, as elastic (or drawstring) waists and generous design ease usually overcome potential fitting issues. You just have to ensure you are in the right ballpark size-wise.
Luckily for me, the recipient of my selfless sewing, Mr Ginjer, prefers to pair PJ bottoms with a T-shirt rather than a formal PJ shirt, which makes these projects quicker and even more appealing.
Mr G has acquired a natty wardrobe of PJ bottoms over several birthdays and Christmases. They have ranged from fine-striped shirting “palazzo” pants sewn for a trip to Italy to his all-time favourite “Africa pants”, featuring grey giraffes printed on soft white winceyette fabric. After Mr G commented how much he liked this cosy fabric, I took the hint to make some winter PJs.
Have I mentioned how hard it is to find decent winter-weight PJ fabric for men? Fine if you want baby prints or traditional checks, but not everyone wants to dress like a five-year-old or Rupert Bear (a British children’s comic strip character known for his check trews). If you know of a UK source of good quality winceyette with interesting designs, let me know.
After fruitless hours trawling the internet and drawing a blank, I turned instead to some Robert Kaufman Shetland flannel from Clothkits. I chose a dark navy with hints of speckled turquoise in the background.
I decided to use some bright (yellow and orange spots on a pink ground) quilting cotton from my stash to liven up the insides. This also proved to be a practical solution to what would have otherwise been a tricky construction issue. This Shetland flannel is really thick and would have created unwanted bulk in those areas where several layers of fabric are involved.
Pockets are a must
My go-to gentleman’s PJ pattern is Vogue V8964, which features straight-legged pants and a slightly below-waist front. It is secured with bias draw-string and elasticated waistband, plus button fly. Weirdly, this PJ pattern does not include pockets and who would not want pockets in their PJs? I incorporated in-seam pockets by tracing off pieces from a men’s trouser pattern. Usually these are made in self fabric but this time around I used the much lighter weight pink, orange and yellow spot.
For the first couple of pairs of PJs, I had made the bias waist ties that are part of the original pattern design. The result was a too-thin drawstring that feels uncomfortable and doesn’t stay tied. Lately, I have been using purchased 15mm flat hoodie drawstring, which Mr G prefers as this is softer and the tie holds in place when knotted. As this purchased drawstring is thicker than the pattern version, I increased the overall height of the waist channel by 10mm and made 20mm buttonholes for the cord to exit the waistband at the front.
As designed, the waist channel for the elastic and draw string is grown-on to the leg pattern pieces. This speeds up construction, but when you fold at the waistline to create this channel, you are also folding over four layers of fabric at the fly front. This has not been an issue when I have been using lawn and shirting fabrics, but that flannel would create a lumpy mess.
Waistband solution for thicker fabrics
My solution was to reduce the top of the leg pattern pieces back to the waistline. I drafted new pattern pieces for the underside channel casing, including 15mm seam allowances as appropriate. I cut in these out in the quilting cotton. The front channel pattern was one-piece, running straight across both front legs. However, I cut the back section in two separate pieces, tracing off the top of the original pattern, to retain the rear shaping.
Hidden colour and reducing bulk
Continuing this theme of adding hidden colour and reducing bulk, I also used the quilting cotton for the fly front and fly facing. After stitching the crotch, I trimmed the seam allowance back to 7mm. Then I encased the raw edges in a bias strip cut from the quilting cotton. The inner and outer leg seams were constructed with traditional French seams. This results in a neat – and importantly – more comfortable finish. And it really doesn’t take much longer than other options such as zig-zag or overlocking.
The end result is some rather polished loungewear, even if I say so myself. Mr G will not be embarrassed to wear these PJs when answering the front door to postie or the grocery delivery driver. And Mr G’s verdict? “Mmmm, snuggly, yet sophisticated. Pass me my pipe!”