Dear Readers, this post is going to take a little prep on your part. Open another tab and put on this song. If it finishes and you are still reading and haven’t started crying from the sheer beauty of it, this one is nice. So is this one.
Right, theme music in place, let’s talk about this post.
The theme on Sew Weekly this week is ‘vacation’ (I know, how very American!) and I found it very tricky. It’s the middle of winter in NZ right now, and it’s cold, and horrible, and dark, and I have chilblains (really: you can see how red and swollen my pinkie is in the picture above). My body is not suited to living in a cold, dark, climate, and neither is my temperament. As you may know, I’m a child of warm weather: of sunny skies, white sand beaches and tropical fruit. A child of the loveliest place in the world. I’m from Hawai’i, and this time of year I miss it so much it hurts.
So when the theme came up, I had a little pity party and said “I don’t want to make vacation clothes! I just want to go home and I don’t get to go home until August (but yay! I’m going home in August) and right now it is cold and wet and dark and all I want to do is curl up in bed and try to stay warm” Sniff, sniff, boo-hoo.
Then I dragged myself out of bed and realised that unless I was going to look like a scruffy rag-bag until August, I needed to make new pyjama pants. So at least I could make new pyjamas for the challenge, and have a holiday in bed.
To cheer myself up, I picked the two happiest, brightest, home-y est fabrics in my stash (home is Hawai’i, and home is where the heart is) in my favourite Hawaiian blues & greens for pyjama bottoms. They are totally not even remotely historical, and that is great. Sometimes I need to be not historical!
Unfortunately, the first one was a little too bright and happy. Like Sheldon with his Star Wars sheets, I just didn’t think I could actually sleep with that print. So I had a brainstorm, and sewed the fabric inside out.
I love sewing fabric inside out: the muted wrong side of prints is often so much more interesting than the bold ‘right’ side. I can trace this obessesion directly back to Hawaii. It’s traditional to sew Hawaiian business shirts (yes, there are formal Hawaiian shirts, business Hawaiian shirts, casual Hawaiian shirts, and then the Hawaiian shirts that only tourists wear — and anyone from Hawaii can tell you which is which at a glance) with the ‘wrong’ side of the fabric out. The look dates back to the 1930s, when shirt manufacturers in Hawaii felt that the prints supplied by Mainland manufacturers were too bright and tacky, and needed to be toned down.
So, I’d managed to slip a little Hawai’i into my first pair of pyjama pants. How could I Hawai’ian up the 2nd pair, the heart-lattice waffle-knit?
For this one, I took my inspiration from the skirts that are worn to dance hula kahiko (old-style hula). I was in a hula halau for my entire childhood, and made dozens of these skirts for various events and performances. They are basic rectangles of fabric, gathered at the top, but made interesting by the multiple rows of elastic gathering at the waist.
I cut the pyjamas almost like the first pair, but omitted the side seams because of the ease of the knit fabric, and with a couple of extra upward inches at the waist. Then I folded over the waistband for 5cm, and sewed four channels for 1cm wide elastic to run through (a little less than the 6 that is usually used in hula kahiko skirts, but more than you’d generally do for pyjama pants for sure).
Threading the elastic through I was suddenly overwhelmed with memories of how much I had loathed sewing hula skirts. Those multiple elastic channels suck! Trying to keep the elastic from twisting, making every length the same, evenly distributing the gathers. Gah! I’m glad I don’t have to do that anymore!
For the photoshoot I simply bribed Mr D into taking a bunch of pictures of me before bed. To set the mood I put on some Iz and Hapa and Kealii Reichel, got out my copy of Armine von Tempski’s Born in Paradise (my very favourite book in the word), settled in for a good read and tried to get Felicity to cooperate and pose with me.
Clearly she likes you, dear readers, and isn’t so hot on the Sew Weekly crowd. She poses beautifully for photoshoots that I intend for this blog, but every time I try to do a Sew Weekly photoshoot with her she tries to bite me.
They may be simple, but I’ll loving my warm, comfy, practical pyjama pants, and I particularly love the bits of subversive Hawaii’ianism I slipped in. I usually go for subversive historicism, but this may be even better!
Just the facts, Ma’am:
Fabric: 1.5m heart print plain tabby-weave cotton ($3m), 1.2m heart-lattice print waffle-knit cotton ($1.50 for the lot at an op-shop).
Pattern: My own, based on cutting apart my old worn out pyjama bottoms and using them as a pattern
Notions: thread, elastic from Nana’s stash
Hours: 1.5 hours each
First worn?: Sat 16 June, to sleep in, and Sun, 17 June, to sleep in (very boring, I know!)
Wear again?: Yep. Almost daily (or nightly, to be more precise)
Make again?: Yep. Every time I need more pyjama pants!
Total cost: $4.50
And the insides? The first pair, the tabby-weave, are fully finished with French seams, the waffle-knit is finished with my overlocker.