Project Fifty: How to Make Shorts for Children
Kicking off the Clothes Week challenge today, I thought I would share how I make shorts for the boy. I drafted up a paper pattern a few years ago based on a pair of his shorts, and just adapt the size each year to accommodate his growing body. I apologise in advance, but this tutorial is going to be very wordy and long, don’t let that put you off making these though, I promise they are actually pretty straightforward to make.
First of all, your best bet is to work from an existing pair of your child’s shorts, that fit them. From these you can get a pretty good idea of the shape required for your patterns.
1 metre of fabric. Don’t feel you have to stick to one pattern, mix it up a bit. I like to make the back pockets and waistband out of different fabric from the main shorts.
1 small zipper.
Paper to draw your pattern on. I used dressmaker’s card but brown parcel paper, card or normal paper would work just fine. You might need to tape your paper together to make it big enough for your pattern.
1 pair of shorts the same size as the shorts you want to make. If you don’t have shorts, trousers will do.
You will end up with 8 different pieces of fabric, two front panels, two back panels, two back pockets (optional) the waistband and the belt loop length of fabric.
1. Place your existing shorts over the paper/card you are using for your pattern, and carefully, making sure they are smooth and the seams are at the ends, draw around the left front leg, about half an inch (or whatever seam allowance you like to use) away from the shorts, from the crotch around and up to where the waistband meets the leg fabric. Then move the shorts and draw across to roughly where the zip of the original shorts were and draw down to meet the crotch. You should end up with a curved line. Now add in a flap for the zip. You should end up with something roughly the shape of the patterns in the drawing below.
2. Now do the same thing with the back of the shorts, tracing around the left back leg. This time you won’t need to add a zip flap and your pattern should look something like this:
3. Cut two of your front panels from your fabric. It is very important that you make sure you cut two mirror images, the easiest way would be to fold your fabric right sides together and then pin your pattern on top of both layers and cut both pieces out at once. You need to end up with one piece for the right leg and one piece for the left leg.
4. Cut two back panels, again in mirror images of each other. Best way again would be to fold your fabric and place right sides together (or wrong sides together) and then cut both pieces out at once from your pattern. The pattern I am using in the photos is an old one, hence why I have cut the fabric slightly larger than the pattern.
5. Now the first thing we’re going to work on is the zip area. Please don’t panic if you’ve never attached a zip before, just take it slowly and you should be fine. I have drawn out what you will need to do (I always find pictures easier to follow than written instructions, but I’m not that great at drawing instructions out!).
First you need to sew the curve under the zip flap to attach the two pattern pieces, with right sides together. You can just about see the stitches in the photo below.
Then you need to zigzag or overlock the two zip flaps (separately, not together!) because they will stay as raw edges and you don’t want them fraying. You can just about see the zigzag stitches in the photo above. Once you have done this press them over so that the wrong side of the flap is against the wrong side of the main body, and you have a continuous line going up from your row of stitches.
Now, take your zip and line it up behind the right flap, so that the fold of fabric is about 3 mm away from the teeth of the zip (keep it closed!) and pin it in place here. Now, with a zipper foot, stitch close to the fold of your fabric, all the way from the top down to the bottom where your fabric meets the stitches you did earlier.
Once you have sewn the zip in place behind this flap, you need to put the other flap over the zip (it will be the flap that covers the zip on the finished shorts). Pin in place and stitch down the other side of the zip, so that when the flap is pulled aside the zip is exposed but stitched in place to the flap.
This is what it will look like from behind
Yay! Well done if you have managed to follow my bad instructions and got yourself this far! That is probably the hardest part over now. Make a cup of tea. Have a biscuit. Relax for a bit.
6. Ready to get back to the shorts? Yes? Good. Right, now we’re going to put some darts into each panel. What you need to do is find the middle of each panel (by folding it in half, right sides together) and then draw a line that starts about half an inch away from the fold and goes down about four inches at an angle so it meets the fold. Pin and then sew. Do this for all four panels. The size of your dart really depends on the size of the shorts you are making and the size of the child they are intended for. You can skip this step entirely if you’d rather not put darts in, but I find it gives a better fit if they are included.
6. If you want back pockets for your shorts, now is the time to make them. For these shorts I made one pocket out of the same fabric as the shorts and one pocket out of denim, with an appliqued ‘S’ on (the boy’s initial). Basically you can make the pockets however you want, and then put aside and we’ll stitch them onto the back panels once they are sewn together.
7. Now stitch each leg back to leg front at inside edges, right sides together, remembering to use the seam allowance you gave yourself when drawing your pattern.
8. Stitch centre back seam and continue to stitch remainder of the front seam matching inside leg seams. Reinforce this area with a second layer of stitches.
9. Now sew your pockets in place on the back panels if you are using pockets. Pin in place first and then sew the sides and bottom to the back panel using one continuous stitch, pivoting at the corners.
10. Now each back leg to the front leg on the outsides, right sides together. Now get your child to try them on to make sure they fit and to see if you need to increase the darts at all. In the photo below I hadn’t put the back darts in yet (I forgot to), and once the back darts had been added they fit a lot better.
With back darts in place
11. Now to tackle the waistband. You might need another cup of tea first. We’re going to start by making the belt loops. Nice and easy. Take a strip of fabric 1.5″ wide and about 2″ long. This will be enough to make 6 belt loops about 3″ long each. Feel free to make less belt loops (or none at all, if your child isn’t likely to wear a belt with the shorts). Press the length of fabric in ha wrong sides together, then open up and press each edge into the middle (much like you would when making bias binding). Topstitch both long edges. Cut to size.
12. For your waistband, it really is up to you how thick the waistband is (and also depends on the size of the child). For these shorts I wanted a 1.5 inch waistband, so I doubled this and added 1″ seam allowance and cut a strip of fabric 4″ wide and 5″ longer than the boy’s waist measurement. Make sure you cut your waistband strip longer than you need it as this allows you some extra length to play with and to get the waistband exactly right. Once you have cut your waistband strip, press it in half lengthways, wrong sides together. This fold will be the top of your waistband.
13. Once you’re pressed your fold into the waistband you need to mark where you want the belt loops to go. Skip this step if you’re not making belt loops. I should have spent more time on this step, but unfortunately I rushed it, didn’t bother measuring, just eyeballed the belt and guessed where to put the loops, and the result is that the belt loops are not equal distances apart. Hey ho. I’ll know for next time! When you are happy with where you want your belt loops, you need to sew them on to the wrong side of the waistband, about a quarter of an inch in from the fold, like in the photo. The belt loops will then fold over the top of the fold, down the front of the waistband and be sewn in place along with the waistband when we sew the waistband on. Sound confusing? Hopefully the photos will help:
14. Once you have done this, press in a quarter of an inch at the end of the waistband that will go on the left side of the waist and hem. Now topstitch from this edge all along the fold of the waistband, taking care around the belt loops (hold them out of the way).Don’t top stitch all the way to the end though, as you still have to cut to size and hem the other end of the waistband that will become the bottom flap of the waistband (where the button will be).
15. Now pin the front of the waistband to the front of the shorts, starting at the left hand side so that your hemmed edge of the waistband is in line with the edge of the shorts where the zip is, so that the waistband and the shorts are right sides together. Cut the other end of your waistband to size giving yourself a quarter-inch seam allowance and also enough for the bottom of the waistband to underlap the top for a button. About 2″ should do. If you can, press and then sew up the hem of this raw edge while the waistband is pinned in place. This will make it all go smoothly as you sew the waistband on to the top of the shorts.
16. Now stitch the waistband to the top of the shorts, with right sides facing, where you pinned, working with a quarter to a half-inch seam allowance.
17. Fold the waistband over into position and sew in place by sewing into the gutter of the waistband and shorts at the front (again, think of it as stitching on a big piece of bias binding.
18. Now sew your button in place and make a button-hole on the top flap of the waistband that fits the buttonhole.
19. Now for the final step! Hem the shorts up to the desired length and they’re all done! I really do hope this tutorial makes sense and is helpful to someone out there, it was harder to write than making the shorts! If you know of better techniques for doing the waistband and belt loops pass them on to me! I have just self-taught myself so probably don’t use the proper methods at all.