Fancypants: what fabric and how much of it?

fancypants-sew-alongThis blog post is part of the Fancypants Sew-Along. You can catch up on all of the sew-along posts here. You can learn more about Fancypants or get your copy of the tutorial here.

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When I introduced my new pattern last week, I mentioned briefly that idea of a sew-along. Well, let’s do this thing! Whether you want a pair of super summery sleep shorts, or luxurious down-to-your-ankles lounge pants, you will get something out of this series.

The key to choosing fabric is to understand your needs. Do you want something lightweight and breathable for the summer? Are you thinking ahead to cozy Autumnal pj’s? Do you like novelty prints? Are you all about repurposing vintage materials?

For the purposes of this sew-along, I am only going to discuss woven materials. I have no practical experience sewing with knits, and so I can’t say with any authority how a knit fabric would be with this pattern (although, I really don’t see any reason why it would not work).

Types of fabric

Light, airy, perfect for summer:

Heavier, for the cooler months:

There is so much room for personalization in all of these options! Whether you like dainty florals, stripes, big bold flowery prints, or fun novelty designs, you can find something that is “you.”

If you have a fabric store or a thrift shop nearby, I recommend a visit there so you can feel the fabric in person and see if it drapes the way you would like it to. As a general rule, the lighter fabrics have more drape and “flowiness” to them, while the heavier fabrics can be stiffer. It’s just a general rule, though. There are always exceptions.

If you don’t have a good local retailer, each of the fabric types up there links to an online source.

How much to buy

If you fall in love with a vintage sheet in a thrift shop, you’re set. You can make several pairs with just that one sheet.

If you are buying fabric by the yard, you can approach it one of two ways:

  1. Order 3 yards of fabric, knowing you will have some leftovers.
  2. Take a few measurements and calculate what you will need.

Let’s address that second option. I will be going into detail about measuring yourself tomorrow, so if you’re not in a hurry to buy your fabric right this very minute, you might want to wait for that post before you proceed.

For those of you forging ahead, you will need four measurements to make these pjs, three of which will be necessary for estimating fabric yardage: hips, thigh, crotch, and inseam.

Measure yourself, and head on over to the Fancypants Calculator. Make a note of the values you are given for F, BF, and BB.

Now, there are two ways to lay out your pattern pieces: side-by-side, and top-to-bottom. For most people, using standard cotton fabric, side-by-side will not be an option, due to the width of the fabric. Still, let’s do a few calculations to figure it out.

Take BF + BB and multiply that number by 2. That is how wide your fabric must be in order to place your pattern pieces side-by-side.

Here’s an example using my results:

BF = 12.75, BB = 15.25
BF+BB = 28
28 x 2 = 56

I would need 56″-wide fabric in order to place my pattern pieces side-by-side.

Fancypants Sew Along

Let’s assume that I am actually purchasing fabric this wide. How many yards will I need?

This is where the F measurement comes in.

Take F+3 and divide it by 36 to get the number of yards.

Using my own example again:


I would need exactly 1 and 1/4 yards of 56-inch wide fabric. This leaves no room for cutting errors, so I would probably round up to 1 and 1/2 or maybe even 2 yards, depending on the price of the fabric.

Fancypants Sew-Along

Now, what if my desired fabric is too narrow, and I must place my fabric pieces top-to-bottom?

Again we use F, but the formula is slightly different: (F+3) x 2 ÷ 36

Using my own measurements again:


So, with a fabric narrower than 56 inches, we would need exactly 2 and 1/2 yards. Again, if I could afford it, I’d probably round up to 3 just to be safe.

Keep in mind, we are only talking about pants here. If you are thinking you might like to make a pajama top to go with the pants, you’ll need extra material. How much depends on what pattern you use for the top, but you’d probably be safe with 2 extra yards, particularly if your shirt will be sleeveless, or you are particularly thin. For best results, check the shirt pattern’s specification.

Now it’s time for you to go out and find the perfect fabric for your Fancypants! Next time, I’ll show you how to get accurate measurements of your body. Your measurements are the key to making a custom pattern that fits you!

Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links. The usual disclaimers apply.

TWiP: Simple Summer Pleasures

This Week in Pictures (TWiP) at Polka Dot Cottage

Writing up these TWiP posts for the past year has helped me see more clearly that I have a definite photography style. I like the human element. That is a fact that really jumps out at me, when I look at a group of twelve pictures and see my own body in fully half of them!

I’ve been enjoying summer this week. I’m thinking about seeing if we can find some local fireworks tonight and keep up the Summery feelings.

Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans :-)

So, what is This Week in Pictures?

It’s a roundup of the photos I shot for my Project 365 (one image each day for all of 2015), plus some everyday-life snapshots I posted on Instagram during the previous week.

Ready? Cast your mind back to this time last week…


365: 2015 178/365 – It’s finished!


365: 2015 179/365 – Took some *crazy* adorable pictures of my niece, but I’m saving those for her parents to share. Instead, you get this one which is just plain *normal* adorable.


365: 2015 180/365 – My auctions ended this weekend, so today I’m packing stuff up. Don’t worry if you missed it – I have more listed!

Instagram: Those rows before you separate the sleeves seem to take so long! Just another half inch to go…


Instagram: 3 years to the day after I closed Polka Dot Creations, I’m back to packing and shipping magazines from its inventory. Last week’s auctions are over, but there’s plenty more this week: #pdc

365: 2015 181/365 – Laundry always seems to be in infinite supply.


Instagram: It was a good day for a dip in the pool 🌞

365: 2015 182/365 – The water was 78 degrees today. It took me a while to get all the way in…


365: 2015 183/365 – I wasn’t so sure about this pattern when I started, but I think I’m going to like my Lady Kina when it’s finished.


Instagram: How luxurious a feeling it is to doze off in the middle of the afternoon, listening to Google Music’s Lying in Lakes radio station, while a gentle breeze floats in the window. #contentedsigh

365: 2015 184/365 – Sometimes I wish I liked beer, because when I’m hanging out in the back yard on a summer evening, listening to music and waiting for the grill to heat up, I kind of get the urge to crack one open. But I really don’t like beer at all. I made do with some Dr. Pepper (a drink I have all but given up in recent years) and that was an enjoyable treat. The hot dogs and chicken I grilled weren’t half bad either.

Instagram: Heating up the charcoal for the first grilling of the season. #yummy

Thanks for taking a peek at this week’s photos! If you want to see this stuff as it happens, please feel free to follow me on Flickr.

I may already have plans to blog about some of these things in greater detail over the coming week, but be sure to leave a comment if there’s something in particular you want to know about!


2015 182/365
Brother vs. Brother
Brother vs. Brother
Poolside knittingSchool lets out pretty late around here, so as far as we are concerned, summer is only just over a week old.

If you were to go back and read my 2007 archives (and I’m not suggesting you do – some of those posts make me absolutely cringe!) you would see what summer was like with a 4-year-old and a 7-year-old. We had a kiddie pool in the back yard, and we dipped our feet in it every afternoon. We went to the zoo. We went to the swamp. We visited grandparents and cousins. We picked berries in the yard, and went to farmers’ markets.

I tend to look at those days with rose-colored glasses. It was a sweet time. But, I also have to remind myself, it was a time of juggling my creative needs, and my keeping-a-book-store-afloat work with the attention of two little boys. The days were pretty long.

Summer is different now, with both boys spending a lot of time in separate rooms doing computer stuff. I’m not complaining about the amount of time they spend on their laptops – they’re not goofing off so much as they are working on self-directed projects. One is writing novelettes which he is self-publishing. The other is writing music and video games. They’re both interacting with a group of other kids they met online, and together they’re creating online content for a collaborative YouTube channel.

There’s a lot of creativity going on in there, and I’m proud of their accomplishments.

For myself, I’ve been working pretty hard so far this summer, what with the ebook publishing and the huge magazine sale. With all of that going on, I find that I’m grateful for the fact that we don’t have to be on top of each other all the time.

Still, I do want us to have some time together this summer, away from the computers and away from the work. Luckily the kids agree, and we have made a standing date to visit my parents once a week, just like we did last year. That gives us about an hour and a half in the car together (round trip) during which we sing and chat and otherwise enjoy the ride. My parents have a pool, so we take a dip, the boys often spending hours in the water just clobbering each other and having a blast at it. I knit by the pool when I’ve had enough of the water war. We stay for a meal, we socialize. It’s lovely.

My hope this summer is that we supplement our weekly date with additional fun activities. We have other grandparents and cousins to spend time with. And despite the fact that we’re all eight years older than we were in 2007, the zoo and the swamp are still perfectly legitimate destinations.

I started this post thinking I was going to share some pictures I took yesterday and write just a quick sentence to go with them. And here we are a page-and-a-half later. Isn’t that always the way?

On an unrelated note, I’ve decided to only post Weekend Favorites when the mood hits me, or I have a lot of links/images to share. Neither of those criteria are being met this week, so there will be no Weekend Favorites tomorrow. Maybe next week. Maybe not. Hey, it’s summertime! The living is supposed to be easy 😜

New pattern: Fancypants!

2015 178/365

I’ve written three tutorials to help people sew skirts without patterns. The process is fairly straightforward: measure your body, make a custom pattern from those measurements, cut your fabric according to the pattern, and sew. Easy peasy.

So, when I decided to do the same kind of thing for pajama bottoms instead of skirts, I figured, “how hard can it be?” Ha!

As it turns out, that part where you take your measurements and you make a custom pattern out of those measurements can be pretty darn tricky! Especially if you are trying to generalize the process so that it works for many different body types.


When all was said and done, Fancypants ended up being a 15-page PDF with a worksheet included, and an online calculator for those who get major headaches from mathy things.

To put this in perspective, my skirt-making tutorials are about half as many pages, and nobody needs a calculator.

Why so complicated? It’s all in the rise. Or, that area from the seat of your pants to the waist of your pants. Figuring out how to take that measurement into account so that it worked for all shapes and sizes of women caused me no end of headaches. The breakthrough moment was geometry-related and required my high school student to refresh my memory as to the formula for the circumference of a circle.

I simplified the formula for this, so don’t worry if you don’t know any of the digits of Pi. You can still make these pants 😉


I used my own body as a test subject, making long pants, cropped pants, and shorts, and when I was sure that those all worked, I found someone with a totally different body type than me (the aforementioned high-schooler, who is a little bit taller and a whole lot narrower than me), and the process worked on him, too. Whew!

There is a lot of meat in this tutorial. You are told how to measure your body. You are given a worksheet with formulas to help you translate your body measurements into pattern measurements. You are shown how to draw the pattern, cut out the fabric, and sew it all together.


If that’s not enough, you are shown how to transform the shape of the pattern. These pants are designed with a luxurious, feminine fit: close-fitting in the hip area with wide straight legs. If, however, you prefer some room in the seat, or you like to have a tapered leg (or a narrower straight leg), you are told how to do that as well.

This is a tutorial aimed at beginners, with every step spelled-out in great detail. There are lots of photos, and very little sewing terminology to know (and what terminology I do use, I explain). Of course, experienced sewists are more than welcome to use this pattern, too.

Here is the link to buy your own copy of Fancypants.


MOTIVATED BEGINNER level, step-by-step tutorial.

Fully illustrated, 15-page PDF.

Price: $9.99

During the month of July, I’d like to have a Fancypants sew-along. We’ll take one week where we’ll talk about taking your measurements, choosing fabric, etc, all the way through to sewing the pants. And you will be able to ask questions throughout the process, if anything seems confusing.

I would love to get started on this right now, but I think that with the July 4th holiday coming up (already!) people might be otherwise occupied. I’m going to save it for one of the later weeks in July. I’ll let you know when, once I have decided!

If you’d like to be notified via email when the sew-along begins (and whenever there is a new post in the series), you can sign up for a special mailing list here:

I put a lot of work into Fancypants, so I hope you love it! Thanks, as always, for your support :-)



TWiP: Summer, at last.

This Week in Pictures (TWiP) at Polka Dot Cottage

It’s the last full week of June. School is finally out and it’s been a week of family gatherings, pattern-making, and magazine purging. Not all of those things sound like fun to everyone, but to me they are. My only regret is that house-cleaning has not made that list in any significant way. I’m having one of those “doing the bare minimum to keep the place running” kind of weeks 😜

So, what is This Week in Pictures?

It’s a roundup of the photos I shot for my Project 365 (one image each day for all of 2015), plus some everyday-life snapshots I posted on Instagram during the previous week.

Ready? Cast your mind back to this time last week…


Instagram: It’s a cloudy Saturday morning. Perfect for lounging in bed with the windows open, sipping tea and reading blogs on my phone ☕📱

Instagram: Finish Lines with the fam.

365: 2015 171/365 – Visited my parents the day before Father’s Day. I have no idea what they were looking at, but it must have been interesting.


365: 2015 172/365 – Father’s Day with the in-laws, including the newest one :-)


Instagram: I had an unpleasant surprise looking at the Polka Dot Cottage funds today, and it has inspired me to finally liberate myself of the last of the inventory from my old book store. If you would like to help my bank account look less scary, and get a great deal on crafty magazines at the same time, please visit my eBay auctions at Thanks, friends 😊 #pdc

365: 2015 173/365 – It’s the big crafty magazine purge of 2015! Stampington, jewelry-making, wearable art, and more. All mags are fresh off the shelves and never been read. Many out of print titles, too. eBay auctions here:


Instagram: Back in the saddle, and really hoping fourth time is the charm with these lounge pants! ✂👖 #pdc

365: 2015 174/365 – Oh, happy day! I finally got my calculations right for making my own lounge pants pattern! (I made shorts because I was tired of wasting fabric…) I tested my pattern-making process on my taller-and-skinnier-than-me boy, and that worked, too. Yay! On to the tutorial-making phase! #pdcfancypants


365: 2015 175/365 – First Day of Summer!


365: 2015 176/365 – My kids would spend all day in their rooms if I didn’t entice them out once in a while with a snack or an icy drink :-) This afternoon it was iced coffee with almond milk and mocha syrup.


365: 2015 177/365 – I guess this means it’s time to go back to Ocean City.

Instagram: Progress! Pattern making process has been tested, online measurements calculator has been written, photos have been edited, tutorial first draft has been completed… Next up, proofreading, eBook design, and finally publication. Whew! This one has been way more involved than I thought it would be when I started! #pdcfancypants #pdc

Thanks for taking a peek at this week’s photos! If you want to see this stuff as it happens, please feel free to follow me on Flickr.

I may already have plans to blog about some of these things in greater detail over the coming week, but be sure to leave a comment if there’s something in particular you want to know about!