Introduction: Quick and Simple Shorts Without a Pattern

About: I'm a physics and chemistry teacher at a public school in Maryland and active in my local science teacher's association. I love building things and am teaching myself how to use arduino in electronics projects…

I'm tired of ruining nice shorts working in the garden so I found some old denim in my fabric stash and whipped up some quick and comfortable shorts.

All you need is:

- fabric
- scissors
- measuring tape
- the person who will be wearing the shorts (to measure)
- iron and ironing board
- sewing machine
- thread
- bobbin loaded with thread

Step 1: Cutting Out the Pieces and Taking Measurements

Lay the fabric out on a flat surface with the salvages (the ends of the fabric that are sealed at the factory) lined up with each other. This makes sure that the nape of the fabric will be aligned on the different parts you will be cutting out.

Measure from the waist to where you want the shorts to end and add four inches to that measurement for the finished on the top and bottom of the short.

While wearing a pair of pants or shorts that fit well, measure from the center front seam to the side seam. Add two inches to that measurement to allow for seams.

On your fabric, measure a rectangle from the edge of the salvage that is the dimensions of your measurements with their additions.

Step 2: Cutting Out the Crouch

There are two ways you can get the shape of the curve right for this seam.

Method A: Using a stiff tape measure, while wearing a pair of pants or shorts that fit well, hold the tape measure in the shape of the crouch seam from the center front of the pants to the intersection of the front and back pieces of the pant. Move the tape measure over the rectangle you have cut out and use that as a guide to cut out the crouch section of the pant piece.

Method B: Turn a pair of pants or shorts that fit you well inside out. Lay the finished garment on top of the rectangle you just cut and use it as a guide to cut out the shape of the curve for the crouch seam.

I have photographed method A. Once you have one pair of shorts that fit perfectly you can use that to make a pattern piece to easily replicate the pattern. Remember you can always take them in, but you can't make a pattern piece larger. (I could fit about 1.5 of me inside the first version I made!)

Step 3: Make Two More of the Same

Flip the pieces you just cut (which you should have cut as a pair of two) and cut out an additional two pieces for a total of four pieces.

For a more fitted short, cut a deeper curve out of the back and a more gentle curve out of the front piece. (This allows for more room for your posterior.)

Step 4: Inner Thigh Seam

The first seam that you sew will be the inner thigh seam. To align the pieces, put a front and a back right sides together and seam the short straight seam that will form the inner leg seam of the short.

Thread your sewing machine and load a bobbin with the same color thread. I wanted a contrasting color so the top stitching on the shorts would show on the dark denim so I choose white thread.

Once you have sewn the inner leg seam for both pairs of front and back pieces, use an iron and a pressing cloth to seam the seams open.

Step 5: Sew the Crouch Seam

This is the longest seam.

You now have two pieces that are a front and back connected together along the inner leg. Align these two pieces right sides together. The two front pieces will be sewn to each other as will the two back pieces.

As you sew this seam, make sure the seam between the front and back on each half are aligned when sewing and that the ironed down parts lay flat.

Once you have finished this seam, press the seam open again just you did on the inner leg seam. If you are making these shorts for a very active person you may wish to triple stitch this seam for extra security. You can either seam directly over the previous seam when you do this, or seam right inside of and right outside of the previous seam.

Step 6: Sewing the Side Seams

Now your shorts will start to be recognizable! 

Align your pieces front to front and back to back right sides together to sew the side seams.

Once you sew that seam, iron the seam flat as before. This is a good time to try on the shorts for size. Pay attention to the width of the leg, and to the length and shape of the curve for the crouch. It is easy to tweak the shape after you finish this step.

Step 7: Finishing the Top

I choose to make a channel for elastic at the top of my pair of shorts. You can also use a drawstring.

First turn under (the right side is down on the ironing board and the wrong side is facing you) a half inch all the way around the top of the shorts. Iron this securely with a damp pressing cloth.

Then, turn over the width of the elastic you will be using plus a half inch. Again iron this securely with a damp pressing cloth.

When you sew this seam, if you are using a contrasting color of thread like I did you will be able to see this seam so sew it straight and neatly one quarter inch from the edge of the fold. Leave an opening at the center front seam to allow you to insert the elastic or drawstring.

Step 8: Hem the Shorts

Put on the shorts and check the length. Turn up the bottom of the leg twice, once a half an inch and the second time to fit the length you prefer for the finished shorts.

Iron these turn unders securely with a damp cloth. You can either hand sew the hem, or top stitch it on the machine like I choose to do.

Step 9: Add the Elastic and Wear Them Proudly!

The last step is to add the elastic.

Take your piece of elastic and fit it comfortably to your waist. Make sure you are not fitting it over a pair of pants or the elastic will be too loose.

Cut the elastic with two inches of length allowed to overlap the elastic and sew it together.

Put a large safety pin on the end of the elastic and thread it through the channel you left at the top edge of the shorts. Once it has been threaded all the way through, put it out a bit so you can fit it under the sewing machine needle and very securely sew the two ends of the elastic together.

Unbunch the shorts a bit when you are finished and tuck the sewn edges of elastic into the channel. Before showing off your new shorts, be sure to snip off all the thread ends from the seams to give them a more polished look.

Wear your shorts proudly! You can embellish with shorts, embroidery, fringe, perhaps even an instructables patch!!

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