Toddler Pajamas from an XL long sleeve T: Part the First: Shirt

Here’s how I make play shirts (or pajama shirts) from old worn out or simply unworn adult t-shirts. There’s usually enough good fabric even in a shirt that has holes or stains, and if it’s a play shirt, it’ll get stained anyway! Take apart the shirt: cut off the sleeves at the shoulder seams & unpick/seamrip the neckband ribbing.

Drafting the Pattern (It sounds fancy, but it’s pretty easy on a little kid’s raglan-sleeved shirt!)

Find a shirt of your child’s that fits loosely, the right length or slightly too long– if it’s a raglan, all to the better, but it isn’t necessary. (I do my self-drafted kid shirts as raglans because that’s WAY easier than a traditional fitted sleeve.) Then grab a sheet of newspaper or freezer paper or whatever you have that’s big enough.

Fold your paper, and lay out your shirt nice & smooth on the paper, front side up. Line up the sleeve at the fold. Decide where your raglan seam will be. I usually eyeball about 1/3 the way across the back neck.

Using a straightedge can help visualize where the seams will be on the finished shirt.

Using a straightedge can help visualize where the seams will be on the finished shirt.

Trace around the sleeve onto the paper.

I usually follow the line to the inside of the neckband, since you'll be adding your own later.

I usually follow the line to the inside of the neckband, since you’ll be adding your own later.

This is a no-seam-allowance pattern at the moment. It’s much easier to trace directly and then add seam allowances after the fact. Use a straightedge to mark the line from the underarm to the back neck.

Now you’ll open up the pattern piece to trace the front neck curve.

Again, follow the line below the neckband.

Again, follow the line below the neckband.

I believe this picture was from after I had added seam allowance, but you get the idea.

When you’re tracing down to the wrist, add some length for hemming, but if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to use the bottom hem of the t-shirt for all the hems of your garment. You’ll see what I mean in a little bit.

Now for the body– It’s pretty much the same as the sleeves, but you’ll have a front body (with a lower neckline) and a back body. Fold your shirt in half and two pieces of paper in half, that way you’ll have a symmetrical shirt body later. Make two back body pieces, then alter one for the front.


The stack is: folded shirt, folded paper, folded paper. The pen and the arrow show where the neck curve is marked.

Cut out your pattern pieces and check for fit!


These pictures were taken a while ago; when I do patterns like this now I put a more pronounced curve in under the arms for better fit. But if it’s a loose shirt, it won’t matter as much.

Also– Remember to mark on your pattern pieces whether they have a seam allowance built into them and what it is! It’s also handy to mark what size the thing is, if you plan on saving it for later use.

Laying Out Your Pattern Pieces

If you have an XL shirt, and are making a 2T or 3T size shirt, you will likely be able to lay all of your pattern pieces along the bottom hem of your shirt, so you can save that last step of hemming at the end. If there’s a particular graphic on the shirt you want to use, you’ll end up hemming that portion, of course.

See the faint pen lines in this crappy picture?? Sorry about that.

See the faint pen lines in this crappy picture?? Sorry about that.

Cutty cut cut. Sew up the raglan seams first– I like 1/4″ seam allowances on t-shirt fabric because it doesn’t fray, so you can get away with narrow ones. I also use a zigzag even for seams that wouldn’t ordinarily stretch that much, because if you’ve ever watched a kid put on or take off a shirt, you know they stretch the CRAP out of everything! Once the raglan seams are sewn, sew up side seams from wrist to armpit to waist. Make the wrist and waist match up nicely, but it doesn’t matter as much if the armpit is a little wonky.

The last bit is the neckband.

Pins are your friends.

Pins are your friends.

This is the neckband, inside out, pinned to the right side of the shirt. It overlaps itself by about an inch and a half. I make the ribbing a little smaller than the actual circumference of the shirt neck… mostly by trial and error. You should have to stretch the shirt fabric just a little to ease on the neckband. Sometimes I measure out the neckband and sew it into a circle before I sew it onto the shirt, and other times I do it like this. Whichever way you try, know it will always be kind of a pain in the butt. If you can accept that, you will be happier.

Turn under the (short) raw edge that will end up on the outside, and stitch around. Don’t forget to use a zigzag stitch!! Ask me why I put in extra exclamation points, har har. If you have one of those fancy machines with a stretch stitch, then you go ahead and use that. I’ll get one of those someday.

Here's the turning under bit I was telling you about.

Here’s the turning under bit I was telling you about.

Almost done!

Almost done!

Flip the neckband ribbing right side out, and encase the raw edge of the neck inside. Then topstitch with more zigzag on the right side of the neck, and poof! you’re done!

Any questions?


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