Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Never Say Never

I never wear shorts. Well, almost never. I own one pair of RTW shorts that I wear for walks, hikes, bike rides, rowing machine. Having this one pair of shorts allowed me to avoid making shorts because I do not feel all that comfortable in them.

Truly Terrible RTW shorts
After chaperoning 11 teens in Belize for a week, I have decided to come clean and admit that I wear shorts. There are simply times when shorts make sense. And these old RTWs are quite terrible.
So I made a pair of shorts.

I chose Fit For Art Eureka! pants as the starting point. These are narrow cut pants and so cannot be simply cut off. I think I tried that once and, of course, the results were not good.

Luckily I remembered that Carrie of Fit For Art had done a post on pants-to-shorts once upon a time. I was a little confused about part of it and posted a reply to her blog post. She not only replied on her blog but sent me an email message to make sure I was clear. Thanks so much, Carrie!

The fabric I chose is a linen-rayon blend purchased from the Sewing Workshop. I made a pair of culottes out this fabric and I love the feel and drape of it.

For mine, I first measured the outer seam of the awful RTW shorts, as these were the only reference point I had. I knew I wanted my new shorts to be longer so I added 7 inches to the RTW shorts outer seam.

Then I measured the outer seam of the front piece and the back piece, and folded the leg up so that my new shorts would be long enough, adding some for SA and hem. You can see in the picture the chalk lines I drew for the shorts. Evidently I'm not committed enough to making shorts that I think I need to create new tissue for them!

Based on Carrie's post and additional notes, I knew I needed to reshape the outer seam. Starting at the widest hip point, I dropped a vertical line to my proposed hem line. This added 1.25" to the width at the bottom. I added 1.25" to width at the inseam too, curving it back into the original curve near the crotch. I made the same changes to both the front and back pieces.

So that these would be a bit tailored, I added a fly to the center front of my shorts. Sandra Betzina's book is my go-to on this technique.

Then I decided to get fancy. I thought that perhaps a contour waistband would be quite comfortable, and, really, shouldn't the zipper extend into it? I could not quite conjure it in my imagination but felt confident it would all work out.

First zipper insertion, extending zipper into the contour waistband.
Creating the contour waistband was pretty easy. I created one that finishes at less than 2" in depth.

Extending the zipper into the waistband worked great on the narrow side of the fly front.
I watched several YouTube videos looking for a guide to installing the fly front zipper and extending the zip into the waistband. Nothing. There were several on adding a fly front, and there were several on extending the zipper into a waistband, but none on the combination of the two.

With unreasonable optimism I pushed ahead anyway. First I constructed the front darts. Then I added the front waistbands to each front. Then I installed the fly front zipper. All was swell.

But when I added the waistband facings, I realized that the facing would cover the top of the zipper due to the overlap created on a fly extension. To be honest, I did not realize it right away. I fiddled quite a lot. And let it rest overnight.

Nothing worked so I ripped out the portion of the zipper extending into the waistband. But that made the zipper too short. After an hour or so of picking black thread from black fabric, I was ready to install another zipper.

Second zipper insertion.
Sandra Betzina offers helpful advice on using a too-long zipper in this fly application. The stop goes at the bottom and the excess is cut off after it has been caught in the waistband. This creates a fairly flat transition.

Words were said, but in the end, I'm glad I ripped the first zipper out. I would've been unhappy with a too short zipper.

before the buttonhole fiasco
After that, things proceeded smoothly until I got ready to install a buttonhole in the contour waistband. My Bermina makes gorgeous automatic buttonholes. That's why I bought it. But it is finicky if there is any bump. That tiny zipper extension was just enough to cause it to get stuck.

So more words, more picking black thread out of black fabric.

Next I used the manual buttonhole - which is also darned good - and it worked just great!

I'm quite pleased with these shorts and will wear them proudly when the occasion calls for it.

easy machine hem
I should be careful when I say never. I used to say I'd never go on a zip line. And then I did.

But never again.

I'm serious this time.


  1. Shorts I make all have elastic waists--gotta have that comfort. Couldn't do without shorts here in HOT Texas. Enjoy!!!

    1. Since these fit, and since I do like an elastic waistband, I may make another pair that way. You've got me thinking. Maybe I could just omit the darts and draw the side seams straight up to the waist. Hmmmm...

  2. I also only own one pair of shorts. I also have some culottes from a travel/outdoor company and wear those more. Not sure they are very flattering though! Your shorts are lovely, beautifully done.

  3. I really admire your tenacious ability to get things right!

  4. So funny, and a great result from all those almost fiascos. I like your shorts AND your attitude.