January 27, 2014

How to make grown up tulip style shorts - A Pattern Emporium Hack

IMG 0155Have you ever noticed that year after year, there are a lack of decent shorts available to buy for women in the shops? I'm not quite sure why - perhaps the designers all saw that Trinny and Susannah What Not to Wear Episode where they started that no one looked good in shorts and that they should never be worn. Easy to say when you have lived your life with English summers. Whatever the reason, I don't get why shops think that women like getting around in teeny tiny shorts, which are pretty much the only thing around at the moment. I personally don't think they are appropriate unless you are on the south side of 25, and the way they are going these days, you also have to be happy to have your butt cheek on display hanging out the bottom of your teeny tiny shorts! Definitely not for me.

I really needed some shorts. We are off to the NSW South Coast this week for a much needed change of scene for the last week of school holidays, to the little town of Ulladulla. Lots of time will be spent at the beach and for me personally, walking along with a certain little one year old as she explores and splashes at the shoreline. I just wanted some lightweight ones to wear over my swimmers. So armed with a substantial rayon stash and the lovely Pattern Emporium Ladies Harem Pants pattern, I decided to have a fiddle and make some of my own.
I've noticed many teenagers walking around in really cute tulip style shorts this summer, with lots of lovely fabrics and cute trims. They are however too short for me to be comfortable in, and when I inspected a pair in the shops the other day, I balked at the $95 price tag. Anyway, here's what I came up with when I made my own pair - and please excuse the dodgy "selfie."

I posted this picture in the Pattern Emporium Sewing Circle and Pattern Club on facebook, and many people expressed an interest in how I did it. Kate (the lovely lady behind Pattern Emporium) was happy for me to write the pattern hack (I think she is entrusting me with an awful lot), so here goes.

First of all, buy the pattern if you don't already have it. It's an awesome pattern. I have made myself 6 or 7 pairs of the pants and I love them. See my review of the pattern here. Download it, print out the pattern pieces and trace over the size appropriate to you. I strongly recommend sewing yourself a basic pair of pants from a fabric that you are not that fussed about to check the fit of the pattern on you. For people that generally sew for girls, sewing for women if very different, and no matter how brilliant the pattern is (and this one is especially brilliant), you will get a better fit once you have made a few adjustments to sit your body. My hip measurements fall exactly between the 6 and 8 size and I ended up tracing a size 7 for myself after making both the 6 and the 8. I also take an inch off the top before I add the waistband and I find the fit much better through the crotch. So have a fiddle initally and see what works for your body type. It may take a couple of hours to sew up your muslin (fancy name for practice pair) and have a fiddle with it, but its totally worth it to get a great fit. Don't forget to write on your pattern pieces any adjustments you make so that you remember next time you sew it.

Now that you know which size to use, lets prepare the pattern pieces for the shorts. Please note that I am not a pattern designer or anything like that. I can sew pretty much any pattern, but I am not great at seeing the shapes in my head and drafting them. This is quite a skill and only experience with sewing loads of different patterns allows me to fiddle. I am sure a real pattern designer could come up with doing this a better way.

First of all, decide how long you want your shorts to be. Measure up from the middle of your kneecap until you reach the part of your thigh where you would like your shorts to hit. Alternatively, measure the distance from the bottom of your crotch down to where you want the shorts to finish on your thigh and make note of this measurement.

Then grab your pattern pieces and lay them side by side like this
IMG 0356
On the actual pattern pieces from the Pattern Emporium pattern, you will see a notch on either side of the leg kind of halfway down that indicates where the standard knee would fall when wearing the pants. If you measured above from the knee up, measure this same distance and mark it on your pattern piece. Alternatively, if you measured from the crotch, measure down from the crotch and mark it on your pattern piece.

 Next get whatever you use to trace patterns or make your own. I personally use lightweight interfacing - it's cheap and big in size and folds up nice and small. You could also use big sheets of tissue paper (I tried this once, but I kept ripping them accidentally) or non waxy baking paper (Its so skinny it annoys me having to tape it together). Grab it and lay it over the top of your pattern pieces. We will start with the back shorts pattern piece. We are going to make a pattern piece that looks like the one overlayed on my pants pattern pieces. If it is hard to see where it ends, it is marked by the scissors at the top.

 Trace over the crotch seam of the back piece and down the leg to wherever you made your previous marking for the length. Then work your way along the top edge, continuing along over on to the front pants piece until you get to halfway along (or thereabouts). Then draw down and curve around the corner and you work back to meet the back pants piece. Look carefully at my front pants piece and you will see the shorts pattern piece overlayed with the curved edge.

 Remove the back shorts piece and prepare to draw the front piece, once again placing your interfacing, tracing paper etc over the pants pieces.

 Trace over the pants pattern piece though the crotch and down the leg to wherever your length marking is. Trace along the width of the leg ad extend it out just a tiny bit over the edge of the pattern piece. Make a curved edge again and finish tracing the shorts front piece. When you've finished, you should end up with two pattern pieces that look like this.

 Now its time to cut your fabric. I have used a rayon in the pictures below. It's an especially slippery slidy rayon, so the cuts won't look completely straight in the pictures. I would not recommend using rayon if you are a beginner, or strictly a quilting weight cotton sewer unless you are prepared to take your time, as it is a more fiddly fabric. For me, the very first dress I ever made was out of chiffon, and I do prefer dressmaking fabrics over quilting cotton for my own clothes, so I don't mind sewing rayon, or really find it all that fiddly.

Cut 2 x front pieces (make sure they are mirror images of each other) and 2 x back pieces (mirror images again). At this point, cut out your waistband as per the Pattern Emporium instructions, and interface it. Do yourself a favour with the interfacing and ditch the cheap stuff. Use whisperweft or a similar interfacing, its way better. It looks like this if you're unsure.
IMG 0174
 Your cut out pieces should look like this.

 Take one shorts front piece and one shorts back piece and place them on top of each other, right sides together (RST). Pin down the crotch seam.

 Sew down the pinned crotch seam and finish the seam edge. Then open the sewn pieces out and press, and finished the edge along the bottom. This will be the bottom edge of the shorts that sits across your leg. I like to add trim to this to finish it - get adventurous, try pom poms, ric rac, bias binding, or just narrow or rolled hem it, whatever you'd prefer. It should look like this when you've finished. Curved edges can stretch when sewing, so sew slowly and carefully. When you have finished, press and steam the life out of the pieces, especially along that curved edge - if you've stretched it, the steam can sometimes unstretch it.

 Hopefully this doesn't happen to you at this point. It is a very common occurrance for me and makes for very slow sewing!

Repeat the process with the other two pieces and you should have two pieces that look exactly the same, but are mirror images of each other. Take the two pieces and place them on top of each other RST.

 Make sure if the pieces aren't exactly even, you line up the bottom and curved edges. See how mine aren't quite even through the crotch - you can correct that in your seam allowance in the next step, but if you don't line up the bottom piece and the curved edges, your shorts will look a bit uneven. I pin around that curved edge and along the bottom to keep them together at this point, but its probably not necessary if you are using a cotton and not slidy (don't even think that's a real word) rayon. Next pin and sew the crotch seam leaving the edges along the top unsewn. Finish this seam and remove all the pins. Press with the iron. Flip the shorts around by sliding your hand in at the backpiece and the other hand in the front piece inside the shorts until you reach the top of the crotch seam. Push the top crotch seam and the back crotch seam to lay on top of each other (sorry this is hard to explain) and you'll end up with the back of the shorts on the bottom with the front of the shorts on the top. We are now going to form the tulip part of the shorts. You can either wrap the bits of the back short pieces around until they are ontop of the front short pieces so the shorts will look like this.

 Or you can slide the back piece under the front piece so they look like this

 I personally prefer the second look on me, but there are plenty done the first way in the shops at the moment.

 Next take your waistband piece and prepare it as per the instructions on the Pattern Emporium pattern.

Place the waistband piece around the shorts and fiddle it around it to fit the waistband properly. Sew along this edge to attach the waistband.

 Iron the seam, flip the remaining waistband edge over to the inside and sew it down as per the Pattern Emporium instructions, leaving a small gap to thread your elastic. Thread your elastic though and try them on for a fit before you sew the elastic together and sew the opening closed. Don't panic if the shorts are flapping around a little like this when you try them on. (Excuse the quality view of the clothesline and airconditioner in the background, clearly I didn't think this shot through too well).

 Next we are going to sew the short sides down. I actually prefer to pin them whilst I am wearing them - remember women's legs are different to girls at this point, not usually quite so straight and if you pin on the ground, they may not fall as well on you. To pin, Pull the back pattern pieces in under the front ones until you are happy with how they sit and pin.

 My pins are hard to see in the above picture, but they are there!. Take the shorts off and head over to the sewing machine. Sew carefully down that pinned seam from the bottom of the waistband down to about an inch above where the front and back pieces meet on the leg. This will create a side seam for your shorts, making them substantially more modest!!

 Finally add what ever details you want to the shorts - I've added a fake drawstring to mine, and they are all ready to wear.

 I also like to sew though the elastic on the waistband piece a couple of times to add a little detail and make sure the elastic sits really flat.

 Then get your five year old to take some dodgy pictures of you in them for your blog!

Don't ask me what pose I am pulling here. I get bossed around quite a bit when I ask Connor to take pictures of me and he requests all ridiculous poses.

And then I have to return the favour and take pictures of him doing all sorts of poses.

Hope the tutorial made sense and thanks for visiting our little blog! Now go and buy that harem pants pattern here. You won't regret it. And you may as well buy a few more while you are at it, because you know you want to! Happy Australia Day and I hope you had a nice piece of pavlova to celebrate.

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