Sweet Summer Nightgown for Girls – Super Easy, Lazy Pattern

Beautiful, easy nightgown!

I have a soap box I need to stand on for a minute. I hate, hate, hate the flame-retardant material used in nightgowns for kids. The fabric feels nasty to me, and (perhaps the bigger problem), having these nightgowns in my house is a constant reminder of the power the tobacco industry has wielded in the US. Seriously; by influencing national legislation to require flame-retardant materials in PJs that aren’t tight fitting (by definition, all nightgowns), the tobacco industry was able to save a ton of money on lawsuits. When parents smoked in bed and caught the house on fire, kids sleepwear was less likely to go up in flames. This legislation is so restrictive that cotton fabrics meant for children even have to carry a warning on the selvage:


So, yeah. If you want a nice, breathable cotton nightgown for sweltering summer nights, you have to make it yourself. Or go to Europe, where you can actually buy such things. Making one seemed a little easier, so that’s what I did.

If you’re familiar with this website, you probably already know that I’m not the world’s biggest fan of formal patterns, unless I want to make something really complicated and specific. For this nightgown, we’re going to go low-stress and pattern-free. Base your measurements off an existing nightgown (winter or summer) that fits your child. Alternately, take a tape measure to Target and grab measurements off a nightgown in the right size. A third option: use my measurements and my child’s height (38″), and scale up or down as necessary. To do this, take your child’s height and divide by W’s (if your child is 45″, you get the number 1.18). This becomes your “multiplier.” When I provide a number, multiply my measurement by your multiplier. For the example here, 20″ becomes 23.7″ (call it 23 3/4″; it’s close enough). If your kid is shorter than mine, your multiplier will be less than one, and all your measurements will end up less than mine. If your kid is taller…you get the idea. Also, my kid is skinny-mini. If your child is not, you’ll want to add a little girth to the nightgown. There’s no science here; just toss in a couple inches. If you’re freaking out about the math, just steal measurements off a nightgown that fits. Seriously.

I started by cutting two rectangles of fabric, 17″ x 23″. You want the width (17″ for W) to be enough for a nice breezy feel around the legs. The length should be from mid-sternum to knees (or wherever you want nightgown to hit), plus approximately 3″ for hems. Here we are with my lovely “Frozen” fabric (shown wrong side facing).


Next up, I like to put in a bit of an A-line so that we don’t have too much gathering and puffiness around the torso. For this size, 1″ was sufficient. I folded fabric down the center (long way) into a 8.5″ x 23″ rectangle, then cut a 1″ diagonal (make sure you don’t cut the folded edge!) so that bottom was still 17″ when unfolded, and top was 15″. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of this step, so here you see the way I made the cut, but the arm holes (next step) are already there. Ignore the arm holes for now.


With the fabric still folded, I put in those arm holes. I like to do a simple J-cut. It usually ends up about 1.5″ deep and 3-3.5″ long. This photo is a little fuzzy – sorry ’bout that.


Time to start some stitching. Using a straight stitch, I sewed up the sides from the bottom edge to the bottom of the J-cut for the arm hole. Once this is done, I like to use pinking shears along the raw edge (if I had cut the fabric with scissors instead of a rolling cutter, I would have pinked from the beginning…and they actually make pinkers for the rolling cutter, but I don’t have one). Anyway, this prevents too much fraying in the wash.


Finishing the arm holes comes next. I’ve actually tried the top hem first, then arm holes, but I prefer the reverse. It can be done either way. I ironed the side seams open, then ironed a scant 1/4″ fold into the arm hole edge (lots of patience here, and steam helps). Also, don’t you just love my fingernails!? This is a new pattern I just got (I use Jamberry), and I can’t stop looking at them!


I then folded over again (approximately the same width) and stitched as close as possible to the inner edge (with a narrow hem like this, if you toss the stitches in the middle or close to the folded edge, you’ll end up with a hem that rolls). Also, because of the nature of that J-curve, it’s tough to keep your hem from getting wonky once you’re past the mid-point. For this reason, I sew from the top to the center of the J (where my ring finger is), then stop and sew the other side the same way (top to center of J). This seems to prevent wrinkles (mostly…see picture…).


Moving on to the top. I ironed a scant 1/4″ fold in the top edge (toward wrong side of fabric). This probably doesn’t even need a picture, but oh well. Note that because your armholes are already done, you’ll have a thick area at each end of the fold (hidden under my index finger). Also, because of that A-line, as you fold down, your edges won’t match up perfectly. This is even more obvious on the next step, and it’s not a big deal at all.


At this point, there are some decisions to be made. If you want a very simple gathered top, you could fold again just enough to accommodate your elastic (I recommend something between 3/8″ and 1″ elastic). I like to fold a little extra and make a tube for the elastic down low, leaving a bit of extra fabric above. This makes a cute little ruffle. I was using 3/8″ elastic, and folded down about an inch-ish, then stitched close to the bottom of the fold.


I stitched again just over 3/8″ from the original stitch line to create the elastic tube, which left about 3/8″ of fabric above the tube that will end up ruffling.


I inserted the elastic and stitched up both ends (I like to hide the elastic-securing stitches along the stitch line at the hem of the armhole). Cute!! All the top hem-related steps are done on both sides of the nightgown (front and back). At this point, the nightgown looks like this:


For the bottom hem, I started by ironing in a 1/4″ fold. Again, probably doesn’t need a picture…


I like a nice wide hem to prevent rolling, so I folded up approximately 1″ and stitched close to top edge (just as I did with the first stitch line for the top hem). I put in a second line of stitching close to the bottom of the hem, just because I like the way it looks.


For some of the nightgowns I’ve done, I’ve used this second line of stitching (the lower one) as an opportunity to add a little bit of peek-a-boo lace:



You’ll want to make sure, if you do the peek-a-boo lace, that it’s comfortable against your girl’s legs. For the Frozen nightgown in this post, I did plan to do lace, but it was declared “beautiful but crunchy” by W, so I planned to add it in such a way that it didn’t touch her legs. For the two nightgowns above, I made the total length a bit shorter (original dimensions were 17″ x 20″) to account for the fact that the lace would lengthen them.

You can also add a self-fabric ruffle instead of peek-a-boo lace. On one of the nightgowns, I did this. I started by cutting a rectangle of fabric about 5″ x 44″. I was going for a very subtle ruffle. If you want your ruffle to be “rufflier,” increase the length. The width adds to the total length of the nightgown. I stitched the ends together to make a tube and put in a line of basting approximately 1/4″ from the top edge. I do not let my basting stitches cross the seam where the two ends of the fabric are joined. Note that in this photo I’ve ironed in the fold for the bottom hem. That’s a later step; ignore it for now.


I pulled the bottom thread of my basting stitches to create the ruffle (great tutorial here), and then pinned the ruffle to the bottom edge (unhemmed) of the nightgown. Make sure your ruffle is even before you pin and stitch! I actually like to mark quarters (center front, center back, and sides) of the ruffle fabric with pins before I start ruffling it so that I can line the markers up with the corresponding points on the nightgown.


Once the ruffle was attached, I ironed 1/4″ fold in the bottom hem, folded another 1″, and then stitched (same instructions as hemming the nightgown, above). I topstitched the hem of the ruffle just as I would have done with nightgown hem if I hadn’t added the ruffle.


If you’re so inclined, you can run a line of ribbon at the base of the nightgown/top of the ruffle. It would be a bit more difficult to do if you did a less subtle ruffle than I did, but since mine is pretty simple, I ended up adding some ribbon (see photo at the end of the post).

Back to the Frozen nightgown: I wanted lace instead of a ruffle, but because W’s chosen lace was “crunchy,” I had to keep the lace off her legs. I simply stitched it on (straight stitch) such that the bottom of the lace was even with the bottom of the hem.


I had the lace meet itself and overlap slightly (approximately 1/2″, and I folded the raw edge under on the top piece) right at the side seam. I used a zig-zag stitch to tack the fold of the top piece to the bottom piece so everything would lie nice and flat. I did not stitch through the Frozen fabric; this way, the lace moves nicely.


So, the bottom is done. On to the straps. There are several options here. On some of these nightgowns, I’ve done self-fabric straps with a little ruffle, which are very cute.


For the ruffly straps, I start by cutting four strips of fabric 2″ x 9″. Two of these will be the straps, two will be the ruffles. For the ruffle pieces, I then put in a semi-circle cut so that the length is the same, and the width is 2″ at the widest (center) point, and 1″ at the ends.


Iron a scant 1/4″ hem on the curved end of the ruffle pieces and both long ends of the straight pieces.


Fold the straight pieces in half the long way so that the right side of the fabric is showing, and the ironed seams line up. Press in a center fold (steam helps!). For future reference, we’re going to refer to this as the straight piece “taco.” You’ll be stuffing the “taco” with the raw edge of your ruffled piece, once you ruffle it.


Iron a second fold into the curved edges of the ruffles (you’ve folded over 1/4″ and ironed, now fold again and iron again). Be VERY patient with this step; an iron with steam will give you a bit of play in the fabric so that you can get a rounded hem without lumps. Stitch close to the inside fold (as far from the curved edge as possible) to secure. Again, patience is key.


Run a line of basting stitches approximately 1/4″ from the raw (straight) edge of the ruffle pieces. Ruffle, then sandwich the raw edge inside the straight piece “taco” you made earlier. Make sure both ends of the ruffle piece end up completely tucked into the straight piece and that the raw edge of the ruffle piece is pushed down into the bottom (base) of the taco to ensure that everything is nice and stable. Pin and verify (double, triple check) that the edges of your taco are lined up with one another so that when you stitch the taco closed, you catch both edges.


Stitch close to the top edge of the taco, which catches the ruffle and closes the taco.


Pretty little ruffle strap! We’ll attach it as per the directions below. Incidentally, if you like the idea of fabric straps but don’t fancy the ruffle, you can follow the steps above for the straight pieces only (make the taco, leave out the filling 🙂

On the Frozen nightgown, I made straps with some lacy ribbon. Just make sure whatever you use is comfortable on your girl’s skin. I cut two 9″ straps and stitched them on by folding about 1/2″ of the ribbon up, between the rest of the ribbon and the inside of the nightgown (if you’re using fabric straps, just fold up the ends exactly as described here). You’ll want to make sure you scoot your ruffles on the front and back of the dress out of the way a bit so you don’t stitch over them too much. I like to position the strap pretty close to the armhole, which also allows me to hide some of the stitching in the already-present stitching lines for the armhole and the elastic tube.


I secured the straps with a box of straight stitching (this one is actually a little further from the edge than I would have liked, so I ended up moving it. Ideally, the outer line of the box would be right on top of the armhole stitches that you can see on the left side). I don’t mind the visible stitches, because I end up putting a bow over them, but if you don’t like that they’re visible, you could always hand-stitch the straps and secure only to the inner layer of fabric. This would be invisible from the outside.


If you like nice and simple, you’re done at this point. W is very, VERY girly, and desperately required nightgown “bling.” I added bows (you can find these, as well as ribbon roses, at Joann and other craft/fabric stores) to cover the stitching boxes from the straps on the front (I didn’t worry about the back), and added a little rose in the center.


Aaaaand…the finished product!


I had a heck of a time getting W to stand still for a picture – she was too busy dancing!


Some other examples of nightgowns made the same basic way, some with ruffle straps, some with ruffled hems, and so forth.

IMG_5759 - Version 2

A “Crazy Hello Kitty” (per W) nightgown with peek-a-boo lace and ribbon straps.


Peek-a-boo lace and ruffled straps. W LOVES this one, despite the lack of any characters.


Ruffled straps, ruffle at the bottom, plus a line of ribbon at the nightgown/ruffle junction. Oh, I also added little bows at the side seams, right on top of the ribbon. Cute little unexpected nightgown bling 🙂

So far, W has absolutely LOVED the nightgowns. It gets darn hot here in Phoenix in the summer, and I’m hoping these will help keep her comfortable even in the swelter of July.

Think you’ll make one? If so, I’d love to hear how it went!!


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