15 December 2010

Romper/Sleeper Tutorial: A No Snap Solution

So I'm forbidden from sewing pretty dresses for my son and I've already sewn a bunch of pants and a few sweaters but there is also the one piece sleeper left to sew and it can be infinitely cute and done so many different ways. But I don't want to deal with snaps or make a million button holes. So that's where this new no snap solution comes in. I thought of the idea, I tested it a few times. It works! It's brilliant! And it's not only easier to make than one with snaps it's easier to use!


I put a single zipper on the inside seam of both legs. So you still have to put the sleeper over the big baby head but you don't have to open it up all the way from the neck exposing little bellies during every diaper change like the zipper sleepers I've seen in stores. And the zip does up so much faster than all those fiddly snaps. Therefore I call it brilliant. And it's a great way to use old T-shirts and go from this:

to this:
Check out the legs:Note that the main idea I am trying to share here is the zipper on the inside leg seams and this can be used in a million different ways just like snaps are. I HAVE to find time to make some baby overalls with this method and a shorts version for summer and I would like to make a sleeper "from scratch" with some jersey knit and proper sleeves and everything. But because this is what I currently have perfected and because this is quite simple (this is my first tutorial you know), I am giving you the tutorial for making a sleeper from an old T-shirt or sweater. If you follow these directions you will end up with something like this:

(Yes this is the second outift in a month where I've accidentally made my son look like an escaped convict. See this post.)

One potential obstacle I can see is the price of such a long zipper. I get zippers of all sizes from my local thrift shop (Waterloo Generations at 50 Bridgeport Rd East for anyone local) for between 10 and 25 cents depending on who is cashier that day. But I'm not sure all thrift stores have such abundant craft supplies. So you can also cut the zipper off of old clothes. Old zip up hoodies are good (and the rest of the sweater would make wonderful sewing material as well). They will have an open ended zipper which you probably want to use as a closed end zipper to avoid having to match up the ends while battling with an unco-operative baby. Just cut away all the excess bulk that you can, I personally wouldn't take out my stitch ripper, just do the best I can with scisors.

On to the tutorial. I should mention again that this is my first ever tutorial. I am happy to feel like I am finally contributing something to the craft blogosphere, hopefully some people actually find it on this little old blog and can actually understand it!

First find a sleeper that you like the shape/fit of for your child. Next find your t-shirt or sweater. Most adult tops will work, just hold the sleeper up to it to see if it is the right size. Measure the inside seams of your sleeper, the zipper has to be long enough to go up one leg and down the other and finding one that is a little longer than necessary is even better. That's all you need!

Now pin the sleeper to the T-shirt like so:

Don't forget that your sleeper won't have snaps to help with the big baby head so you need to be careful to make your head hole big enough. Here is a close up of what I did here, I just pinned the sleeper on so that it went a little above the top of the T-shirt. This T-shirt is also a boat neck style which works great.

Now cut, leaving your 1/2 inch seam allowance and a couple of inches at the ends of the arms and legs for hemming. Yes we are making a simple T shape instead of doing separate sleeves. I find this looks fine but you could definitely get fancier here.

Be careful in the crotch area, you want to make a nice soft "U" shape as opposed to a sharp "V". This actually turned out to be a little too "V"-like and caused me to have some bunching in the crotch area but nothing too serious.

Next step is to put right sides together and pin along the entire inseam:

Now set your sewing machine stitch to its largest and baste all along the inseam.
The next step is to spread open along that inseam spreading open the seam allowance and pin your zipper in place. Make sure that the pull tab is facing the right side of the sleeper. Also, I prefer to line up the closed end of the zipper with the bottom of the pants. This leaves the pull tab dangling so that it doesn't get in your way for sewing.

Now use the zipper foot on your machine and sew (switch your machine's stitch length back to normal now) down each side of the zipper. All the way up one leg and down the other, the crotch can be a little tricky but just be patient and if there's a little bunching happening it won't be noticeable in the finished product. Be sure to catch your seam allowance in these stitches.

Your zipper is in. Now use a stitch ripper to rip open your basting stitch.

And you'll be left with something like this:

Now the rest is super simple. Turn right sides together again, pin, and sew from the bottom of the leg up the side and under the arm. Then do the same on the other side. And then sew up the shoulders and top of the arms in the same way.

Now all you have left to do is any hemming. Do the usual iron under a 1/2 inch once, then again then top stitch on the sleeves. Sometimes if I think of it I will do a slight zig zag stich to keep some stretch.

Now for the leg hemming proceed as normal just like the sleeves. The closed end of the zipper should line up with the bottom of the pants and you can zip it up and do that leg exactly as normal. With the other leg you should be careful not to stitch the zipper together and to make sure you don't do any cuts that result in the pull tab flying off the zipper. It is best to open up the zipper while you hem this leg. Catch the zipper in your hem. And then you can chop off that excess zipper.

And you're done! You have created a totally unique sleeper out of an old T-shirt or sweater. I'm sure it looks awesome.

And one more look at the awesome opening that will make your diaper changes a breeze.

Here's an example of one I made from a cotton sweater. This sweater had this mock turtle neck which I think looks super cute on a baby. He is super snuggly in this one too.

All done! I hope someone finds this useful. Please let me know if anyone actually does this. It would absolutely make my week!

Katie's Nesting Spot


  1. I just made a romper for my niece a few weeks ago, and those buttons were a NIGHTMARE!! Who knew snaps could be so vicious? :) Thank you for the super-easy and unique tutorial. I can't wait to throw some of these together this week.

  2. im totally going to try this, if I can find a decently priced zipper. :) Thanks

  3. I am definitely going to do this! Maybe today!! :)

  4. Please let me know how it goes, I would love pictures. Maybe I ought to set up one of those flickr groups.

  5. What a fantastic idea. I am definitely going to try this. We are in need of sleepers and I have tons of tshirts just waiting for a project. I HATE fiddling with necklines though, as well as snaps, so this idea will totally work for us.

  6. i found your blog on a tute site featuring your wooden blocks. I love this idea, I've got tons of old clothes (5 trash bags full) so this is on my tute-do's list

  7. This is fabulous! Hopefully we'll be having a boy and this will give my husband a reason to get rid of his high school shirts!! I'm sure he'd be fine having his little boy wearing them!

  8. This is a great idea! my kids' snaps ALWAYS come undone and then it looks like they are wearing dresses! I am featuring this at somedaycrafts.blogspot.com. Grab my "featured" button.

  9. This is very cool! i am your newest follower! I hope you come over to my page and follow back! brooke
    Girl Boy Girl Inspired

  10. This is so clever! I have been trying to figure out what to do with my maternity shirts that are too 'well-loved' to donate...this is perfect! I am following you now...check out my blog here:


  11. This is a fantastic idea!! I will try this out tomorrow if I can find a zipper in my stash.
    Found you through your feature at Someday Crafts.

  12. This is just what I am looking for. Thanks for much for sharing such an awesome, easy tutorial. I can't wait to get started! We will be featuring you on our blog ziggycrafts.blogspot!!

  13. Wow! You are a genius! :) A zipper instead of snaps... my brain is still reeling!!! Thanks for sharing.

  14. Thanks for the tutorial! Just used it as a base for a monkey costume for my baby girl. it worked great :):)

  15. Love the zipper! Made one for my future grandson:)))