Introduction: Bike Chaps

About: Wife to one, mom to two, muse to thousands.

Make a pair of bike chaps to strap over your work clothes for riding in the rain (or potential rain). No need to change when you get to work! These are fitted with ties to roll up and secure, adjustable straps and webbing buckles. Lightweight Gore-Tex sews up fast with no need for fussy seam finishes.

It is out of the scope of this tutorial to teach you to sew; however, if you have any trouble there are many onlinegroups consisting of friendly experts just itching to help. If you have any questions about sewing feel free to post a comment here or email me at kellyhogaboom AT gmail DOT com.

Step 1: Gather Ye Materials; Measure Your Waist

1 yard Gore-Tex or other waterproof fabric
1 yard 1 1/2" elastic
1 yard 1" elastic
1 yard 1 1/2" web
1 yard 1" web
4 buckle fittings, 1"
1 buckle fitting, 1 1/2"

Fittings / closures for pockets: snaps, zippers, buttons, velcro
1 yard lining fabric

Sewing machine & needle (use appropriate needle for material - a universal should work on most waterproof mediums)
Men's pants pattern, including waistband
Seam ripper (never sew without one)

Ironing board & iron
Cutting mat & blade
Lighter (to fray-check webbing ends)

Take the following measurements:
Waist measurement
Length from waist to the knee
Thigh circumference
Knee circumference

Step 2: Pretreat, Trace, & Cut Pattern

Pre-treat lining fabric if necessary. In short, this means treat the fabric to the washing and drying methods you will likely employ during its life as a garment. If you are making unlined chaps (as I did for this tutorial), you should know most waterproof material will not need pre-treatment. If in doubt, ask the sales clerk or a knowledgable outerwear sewer (you may find someone through a retailer of outerwear patterns and fabrics, for instance).

Trace and cut pattern. If this is your first time using a pants pattern, note you will only need the waistband and front pants pattern pieces.

After you trace, tissue-fit to estimate the length, offsetting for waistband coverage. If you are not used to making measurements for sewing garments, I recommend you cut the pattern long and correct later in construction.

You can see in the associated picture I am tracing the men's medium. I trace all my patterns using a tracing medium from Folkwear (NAYY) but you can use many things: tissue paper, tracing paper, plain paper (taping to a window for light may help), or tracing medium bought in the fabric sections of most retail shops (interfacing may be substituted).

Step 3: Cut Fabric & Test Stitching

Cut the following (picture one - you can see the usefulness of using rotary cutter and mat):

Waistband piece
Two front panels (remember these will be mirror-images of one another; fold the fabric and cut as one for a shortcut), as well as the following strips, 2" wide:
2" strip, 2 lengths of the finished width at thigh
2" strip, 2 lengths of the finished hem width
1" strip, 2 lengths of 40" long

As you cut your pieces please keep in mind that many waterproof fabrics don't "heal" well from pin or needle holes. For instance in the Gore-Tex I used the right side of the fabric (green) healed from a pin hole, but the coated (white) side did not. As you can see in my cutting picture I don't use pins to secure my pattern pieces to fabric - but I've been sewing a long time and only take this shortcut when I'm confident it will work.

Thread your machine and sew on scraps. In my second picture on this step you see me toying with stitch length and writing down settings - the "6" corresponds to the longest baste on my machine, 6 stitches per inch, while the "10" (10 sts per inch) is a shorter stitch appropriate for this project.

When you have, found the right settings, fold over the short raw ends of waistband and finish (third associated picture). Congratulations, you have just constructed your first garment seam!

Step 4: Assemble Straps (Belt, Thigh, Knee)

Cut the 1" webbing in quarters and the 1 1/2" webbing pieces in half.

Cut lengths from elastics as following:

From 1 1/2" elastic, cut 1/3 of finished waist length
From 1" elastic, cut 2 pieces to 1/3 finished thigh circumference
From 1" elastic, cut 2 pieces to 1/3 finished knee circumference

You should have five lengths of elastic and ten lengths of webbing at this point. You will be making five straps: one waist strap, two thigh straps, and two knee straps. The straps will be composed of an elastic section flanked by webbing, the terminal ends of these secured to the buckle closures (oh, just look at the third picture already!).

Assemble each strap as follows:

Join webbing to ends of elastic. Secure with two rows of sturdy zig-zag stitch, as shown in the first step picture. To the remaining raw edges of webbing, thread and pin the appropriate fittings. Measure before you secure them: the final length of the straps, with elastic relaxed, should correspond to the waist, thigh, and knee measurements you took.

Step 5: Construct Garment Shell

First, add any pockets (step picture one). I chose a simple small patch pocket based off my husband's recommendations - he wants any outerwear I sew to include a pocket for his iPod shuffle.

Sew the crotch seam and reinforce (picture two). I used a mock flat-felled seam because real flat-felled are sort of tricky on curves. Fold over and sew the raw edges of outseams and inseams (picture three). Note I am not finishing the edges since Gore-Tex has minimal fraying.

Construct ties: I topstitched 1/4" channels in the 1" strips wrong sides together and carefully cut close to seams (pictures four and five). Cut ties into four 10" strips and knot ends.

Step 6: Step Six: Assemble Casings

"Casing" is a term for a chamber in fabric that holds elastic or a drawstring. There are five casings in these pants - a waistband casing, and two each for thighs and knees (see picture one for layout from the wrong side). For all three types of casing you will be sewing the final casing seam with the straps laying inside the casing. The straps won't slip through since the fittings are larger than the casings.

For the knee or hem casing, sew the 2" strip that corresponds to thigh length, right sides together with a 1/4" seam allowance. Flip casing strip to backside of pants. Lay the knee strap through, making sure your closures face the way you want them and sew your remaining casing seam with 1/4" seam allowance, being careful not to catch the strap (picture two).

For the thigh casing, sew the 2" strip wrong sides together at the upper thigh. Lay thigh strap through and sew remaining long seam parallel to the strap.

Step 7: Waistband

For the waistband casing, first position the ties. One should be on the public side and one on the wrong side, mid-thigh position. Sew the long raw edges of waistband and pants top right sides together, matching center front and catching ties. Fold casing back over to wrong sides of pants and lay waist strap in (again, check your fittings). Pin carefully and "stitch in the ditch" from the public side of the garment - that is, sew in the seam you just created, being careful not to catch straps.

Your pants are ready for biking! These pair sold out almost immediately after listing on Etsy.