Converting Winter PJs to Summer PJs

Winter to summer PJ conversion tutorial by Beautiful Entropy

Here in AZ, spring comes early, so we’re already changing over from long pant/long sleeve pajamas to shorties. Many of my toddler’s (W, age 2) winter PJs were a little on the big side this year, so I’m keeping them in the hopes that they’ll still fit in the fall. Some, however, were getting a little short in the legs and/or sleeves. Normally when W outgrows clothes, provided they’re in good shape, I take them down to the local resale store so I can get trade-in credit. Two pairs of winter PJs, though, were ratty enough that I knew they wouldn’t have any resale value. They were still wearable, though, so rather than donate them, I decided to convert them into shorts/short sleeve pajamas for summer, given that they still fit around the waist. There are two ways to do this; I went with one of each for the purposes of “sew and tell.”

The Easy Way

The fastest way to convert long sleeves into short sleeves, provided you’re working with a knit fabric (like cotton jersey) is just to hack the sleeves off neatly and leave them unhemmed. Jersey won’t unravel in the washer.


This shirt was actually originally a long-sleeved onesie; I cut off the bottom to make a shirt, and then chopped the sleeves. It’s been through the wash about 20 times since, and as you can see, the unhemmed edges still look nice and neat (albeit quite casual, which is totally fine for pajamas). I’m a big fan of a rotary cutter for straight cuts (because it’s not just neat, it’s also super fast), but you could do this with a scissors just as easily.

Converting long pants into shorts is the same story; just hack those legs off!

Screen Shot 2013-03-23 at 1.25.07 PM



The Still Relatively Easy But Slightly More Time Consuming Way

For a slightly more professional-looking longies-to-shorties conversion, the hacked-off edges of the shirt and pants can be hemmed. There are a number of techniques for doing this, two of which I used on a second pair of winter PJs. I started by hacking the legs off the pants, purposely cutting them about 1″ longer than I wanted them to end up.



One way to hem shorts is simply to turn under and stitch, but I wanted a nice little cuff. There’s a great tutorial at Make It and Love It (one of my favorite DIY clothing sites) that involves cutting a strip of fabric that is used to make the cuff. The only down side to this is that you have three edges to keep track of as you’re stitching everything together. I experimented a little and came up with an alternative that involves less cutting and fewer edges, but produces the same effect (I don’t claim this technique to be original; I’m sure it’s been used before, but I haven’t seen a tutorial on it, so I decided to post one). I folded the hem of the shorts up TWICE the height of my intended cuff.


Next, I folded the hem back on itself, creating three layers of fabric at the lower edge of the leg. I made sure the original fold and the cut edge matched up perfectly, and pinned.


The material here is folded up, then back down, so that the lower edge (near my index finger) is made up of three layers of fabric.

I then used an overcast stretch stitch to secure all three layers together at the lower edge. This could also be done with a zigzag stitch, but that might look a little funny when the cuff was turned down into its final position. A straight stretch stitch would work well.


When the cuff is turned down, it produces a nice, neat hem with the same look as the “true” cuffing method described at the Make It and Love It link (above).



For the shirt, I started by cutting the long sleeves down to just slightly longer than I wanted them to end up.

Screen Shot 2013-03-23 at 1.14.14 PM

I forgot to take a picture after I’d cut the sleeves and before I’d hemmed them, but you get the idea. Because the shirt had a kind of cute “old baseball tee” look to it, I decided against a cuff, and hemmed the sleeves simply. This would have worked equally well on the shorts. I turned the shirt inside-out and turned the hem about 1/2″. Because jersey doesn’t fray, it’s not necessary to turn the hem more than once. As with all stretch fabrics, it’s important to use a stretch stitch or zigzag when hemming jersey. I decided on a simple zigzag. Because the sleeves of this shirt are so tiny and required so much adjustment and manipulation as I was hemming, I ran a line of basting (straight stitch with the longest stitch length your machine allows, no backstitching at beginning or end) to hold things in place.


I then zigzag stitched over the basting stitches and pulled out the basting. Here’s the finished shirt.


Cute, huh? All in all, this took about 20 minutes (for both the shirt and the shorts).


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