Each year for Christmas, I make our children a new pair of pajamas. Over time, they’ve needed them less and less, because they grow less and less from year to year–but a pair of pajama pants nearly always makes its way into wrapping paper for Christmas Eve (and Christmas morning photos).
This last Christmas, my husband and I already had all the PJs we needed (you can see my Carolyn Pajamas that I made as a sewalong for the League of Dressmakers on Instagram, they are MY VERY FAVORITES). But! My husband had been envying my bathrobe, and I wanted to surprise him with one of his very own.
Neither of us really grew up with a bathrobe? I don’t remember that being a big thing in my house when I was little. Same for my husband, who tells me the first and only time he ever had one was his Combat Robe, which he wore to and from the shower tents when he was deployed to Iraq the first time as a Medical Services Corp officer. That robe held rich (but mixed, obviously) memories for him, and has gone missing in multiple moves–I wanted to replace it with one that held a little “smoking jacket” charm but full men’s bathrobe functionality.
Voila! In crimson cotton terrycloth, this is the bathrobe that many of us remember our fathers and grandfathers owning. Knee length, straight sleeves with a wide hem. Pockets, tie belt, and shawl collar. It says “grandpa,” but like a COOL grandpa.
It reminds me of those red velvet smoking jackets from old movies? Which is where the pipe comes in. In case you’re wondering.
After hunting for an acceptable design everywhere I could think of. I finally landed on this vintage pattern from Kwik Sew via Etsy. Kwik Sew patterns are on fairly stiff paper, but I was in a time crunch: I was cutting and sewing this robe ON Christmas Eve, like so close to the deadline that when my husband came home from running final errands that evening, I had to order him away from my sewing table so he wouldn’t see what I was finishing up.
And let’s not talk about how much of a mess terrycloth makes when you cut. I was my very own snowball, with tiny red cotton bits stuck to me for daaaaaays. ALL WORTH IT. The sewing was very straightforward, with the shawl collar the only portion of the design that was anything but a straight line of sewing. It legitimately took longer to cut out than to assemble.
I love the very classic shape of this robe. I love the fit, which is loose and easy but not oversized or sloppy. I love the tie belt and belt loops, and I love that shawl collar–it really does make the look.
I’m especially proud of the freehand embroidery embellishment I added a few weeks after Christmas. I wanted to give the robe a little more personality? Even with the pockets, it was a little…plain. My husband’s father was called Moe in college, a shortened form of our last name, and then my husband got the same nickname when he pledged the same fraternity at the same university. So there’s a sense of tradition there. It’s also a LOT fewer letters than his first name.
The design was ad libbed, which I figured wasn’t such a huge gamble since (1) I could always pick out any stitches I didn’t love and (2) my goal was to make the letters look like wafting pipe smoke, so having them come out a little unplanned worked in my favor. I started with a simple backstitch to outline the letters, then went back over them with chain stitch so they’d have some heft and stand out against the nap of the terrycloth.
The choice to take photos at the NASCAR Talladega Superspeedway during the spring race was just plain fortuitous. When we missed the chance to take the robe with us on a boat–which, come on, would that not have been the ideal way to meet this robe, ON A BOAT??–I was resigned to photos of a bathrobe in…a bathroom. Ho, hum. But then! We last-minute got tickets to park on the infield at an iconic racetrack, and where else would a smoking jacket-style terrycloth bathrobe look more amazing than THAT??
NASCAR is also something my husband shared with his ddad when he was growing up, and somehow this felt like a way to honor family, and memory, and comfort, and a gorgeous sunny day, all at once.
I rate this pattern a solid five stars out of five. I LOVE the terrycloth, and other than the mess, it was wonderfully easy to sew and took a press with far more ease than I would have guessed. Strong recommend for your next last-minute gift!