Shorts are hard. I have tried and failed so many times to make a decent pair of shorts, it nearly seemed impossible. But on one of my many trips to the fabric store, I found a fabric so pretty I was determined not to make another sad, unwearable piece of cloth. This is the story of how an unprofessional sewer with a bad track record of shorts-making finally made something she was proud of. And if you too want to make a pair for yourself, you've come to the right place :)
Step 1: Hunting and Gathering
for this project, you'll need
- 1 yard of fabric and matching thread-- mine was an embroidered, non stretchy silk
- a sewing machine
- a button
- an invisible zipper
- wrapping paper or some other large sheet of paper you can make a pattern out of
- a pair of looser, non-stretchy shorts that fit you well
- chalk and pencil
- tailor's tape
- patience and optimism
Step 2: Making a Pattern Outline
First of all, make sure that your shorts are made out of non-stretchy material. This is really important because you want the shape of the shorts to be accurate for your pattern without having to stretch at all to fit. I suggest gym shorts. Fold them exactly in half and place them on your large piece of paper. Trace around them leaving around an inch all the way except the crotch piece, which I recommend extending an extra two inches. Trust me, you want this to fit. Looking at your folded pair of shorts, you'll see that the back part of the waistband and the front part are two different shapes, so mark the shape of the front waistband on the piece of paper as well. Now it's time to figure out where you want the "tulip" part of your shorts to lie. About 3 inches in from the back, draw a line curving outwards towards the front like the one in the picture. Then, draw a similar one overlapping the first line curving towards the back. this is essentially what the side of your shorts will look like.
Step 3: Individual Pattern Peices
Now, cut another piece of paper in the shape of the first curved line you drew and tape it on the end of the pattern piece like it shows in the picture. This is your complete back pattern piece. Next you'll need to cut another piece of paper in the shape of the second curvy line you drew, and following the shape of the front waistband. That's your front piece. Cut two pieces of fabric in each shape.
Step 4: Sewing Stuff Together
Now it's time to actually sew! Place one front piece and one back piece right sides together and join them by the crotch seam like I arranged it in the picture. The fabric I'm using is black, so I outlined it to make it easier to see exactly what I was doing. Once you're done, do this with the remaining front and back pieces. Then, lay the two pieces right sides together and sew along where I drew the dotted line. MAKE SURE YOU DOUBLE CHECK to make sure the right sides are really together so you don't wind up with some seams facing in and others facing out. I recommend pinning it to be sure. once that's finished, it's good to make some tiny slits along the excess fabric of the seam to relieve tension and stop things from being lumpy. You should now have one strangely shaped piece of fabric. I would suggest hemming all the rough edges now so you won't have to do them later and you can give your shorts a real professional look.
Step 5: Origami (?)
Now it's time to make that strange piece of fabric make a bit more sense. Again, the way I arranged my black fabric didn't show up that well on camera so I made a model out of paper so it would be a little bit easier to see. Lay the fabric out flat with the seams facing up. You should see there is one smaller piece attached to one bigger piece. Fold the smaller piece up so it lies on top of the bigger piece like it shows in the picture. It should look like there are two flaps coming out of the smaller piece, almost like wings. Fold those wings in so they overlap the curves of the front piece. You should see your shorts come together! those outer flaps are the "tulip" parts of the shorts.
Step 6: Extra Arrangement
At this point, I would suggest putting these shorts on or pinning them to a dress form to see exactly where you should pin those two flaps so they look and fit the best. I personally pinned them on my dress form, but that wasn't shaped exactly like me and I think that's what accounted for later awkward fitting problems down the road that I had to fix by making darts. Moral of the story, if you don't mind making a few adjustments after this is done, then pinning on the dress form is the way to go. If not, or if you don't have a dress form, put them on yourself and mark with some chalk where the flaps should be pinned. pin those flaps on, and sew them down. We're getting closer to the finished product!!
Step 7: Further Adjustments/Troubleshooting
Another quirk that I had from possibly using the wrong pair of shorts for my pattern was the back part of the shorts being uncomfortably low-rise. If this happens to you, not to fear! there's an easy way to fix it. cut a triangle that fits right in to the space left by the unfortunately low shorts, put it right sides together, and sew it down! If you find any other spots that are strangely loose, you may need to make a dart. to do this, fold down the bits of excess fabric and sew it flat. On fabric like mine, small mistakes like these were impossible to see. Once you get all the kinks worked out, we can move on.
Step 8: Making the Waistband
The end is close!! Now we have to make the waistband. Measure out how wide the back half of the shorts are. Mine were 16 inches long and I wanted the waistband to be about 1 and a half inches thick, so I cut a rectangle 16 inches long and 3 inches wide. Next, I folded that rectangle in half right sides together and sewed the open end opposite of the fold shut, making a tube. Next, I used a sharpie to turn the tube inside out. You can also use a safety pin or anything that can fit inside the tube that resembles a stick. Once your tube is successfully turned the right way, sew it onto the back of your shorts so that the seams are facing inward. Making the next parts of the waistband is really similar to that. The front sides of the shorts taper downward in a triangular shape, so we need two rectangles of fabric for the sides of the triangle. Each half of the front part was 8 inches long, so I cut out two rectangles 8 inches long and 3 inches wide. Next, I made them into tubes just like I did with the first one and turned them inside out. Finally, I sewed them onto each half of the front part of the shorts. Next, I connected the two front parts of the waistband to the back parts so there wouldn't be any weird gaps.
Step 9: Zip It Up
One of the last things we have to do is add a zipper. Try to put your shorts on. They shouldn't fit, so cut a slit down however long it takes for you to be able to get into the shorts. this is where the zipper will be. My zipper was from Coats and Clark, and the package came with very helpful instructions for installing the zipper. To put it simply, I laid the zipper on the side of the slit right sides together and sewed down on the side of the zipper teeth closest to the slit. Next, I opened up the zipper and placed the not sewn part of the zipper right sides together with the other part of the slit and sewed it down. I was then able to flip the zipper the right way and zip it up.
Step 10: Adding a Button
The last thing you have to do is add a button above the zipper to your shorts. To do this, add a small ribbon of fabric about an inch wide and an inch and a half long, closely hem its edges, and sew it to one of the sides of the front closure. This strip of fabric is where the button hole is going to be. On the opposite side of the fabric tab, handsew the button onto the fabric. Next, either cut a small buttonhole in the tab and make the edges neat with a zigzag stitch or use your machine to make one automatically.
Step 11: Wear With Pride
Now all that's left to do it put them on to see how they turned out. Congratulations! You've made it through a more difficult project and have something awesome to show for it. Let me know how these turned out for you and if you really liked this tutorial make sure to vote for me in the "Sew Cool" contest ;) Finally, if you made these yourself, put a picture of them in the comments! I would love to see it! Happy making~
Participated in the
Sew Cool Contest