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Drafting a Pants (Trousers) Pattern from RTW Shorts

Pants pattern drafting

Lately Christopher and I have been talking a lot about fashion. It started as a discussion about not being able to find comfortable clothes, especially pants (trousers for British English speakers) and how hard it is to find clothing that goes against the trends. Being crafty, we explored making our own clothing. The cost of fabric, supplies, time it takes to cut and sew all highlighted how impossible it is to produce clothing ethically at the low prices charged for much ready-to-wear clothing. That doesn’t even take into account the raw materials that are used to make the fabric and problems with content, pesticides, sustainability, etc.

At the same time, like many, our budget, doesn’t allow us to spend a ton on clothes. We try to make the most of our clothing budget guilt-free by shopping thrift stores and second hand shops. That way we aren’t adding to the problem by purchasing new. Most thrift shops are charity-based, so our purchases help others. We often find better quality items than what we would otherwise be able to afford this way, too.

With thrift shopping, you’re not as limited by trends. If you’re looking for something in particular, unless it’s a common item, you’re still likely to come up empty handed. That has been our problem when it comes to comfortable men’s and boy’s pants. Both Finn and Christopher would prefer something a little roomier, like karate gi pants. Unfortunately, nothing like that has been in fashion since M.C. Hammer. That means it’s time to put my sewing machines to use.

Making a Pattern from Shorts

This summer, I started by trying to copy a pair of the cotton knit gym shorts they practically lived in, adding a gusset for comfort and mobility. I used to buy bulk bags of t-shirts from Thrift Town before they closed, so instead of using new fabric, I used some XL t-shirts I had on hand. That way, if things went horribly wrong I wouldn’t feel as bad.

If you follow me on Instagram, you might remember seeing this photo with some enticing caption like, “Working on a new project!” Then, nothing else was said. Sorry.

I have zero experience with pattern making, so this was a learning experience. Here’s a brief overview of how I did it.

shorts pattern

I laid the shorts inside out and folded in half, front to the inside, smoothing them as flat as possible. Then I traced them, adding about an inch all around. The inch is for seam allowance and to account for the fact that it’s impossible to get finished shorts to lay flat. I always err on the side of too big, because that is much easier to fix.

At the waistband, I measured the waistband and extended the pattern by that amount plus seam allowance above the waistband. This allows it to be folded down for elastic and a drawstring casing. At the hem, I extended the lines two times the width of the hem to allow enough fabric to fold and hem. On the pattern, I drew lines straight across to show where the finished hem and waistband hit on the original shorts for reference.

Then I folded them in half , backs to the inside and repeated the above steps since the back is cut differently than the front.

Drafting the Gusset

For the gusset, I drew kind of a triangle with the top point cut off. To do this evenly, I folded a piece of paper in half, drew a half inch line perpendicular to the fold, moved over about four inches and drew another perpendicular line measuring one and a half inches. Then I drew a straight line connecting the tops of the lines.  I cut along the lines and opened it up to get my gusset pattern. Sewing the gusset in with the wider part at the crotch seam and using a half inch seam allowance results the gusset tapering down to a point.

Shorts to Pants

Shorts work for summer, but I needed to come up with a pants pattern for fall and winter. Chris suggested just making the shorts pattern longer, so I did by measuring the waist to floor measurement and extending my pattern the needed amount, including seam allowances.

pants pattern drafting

I did this by taping the bottom of the pattern to a big piece of paper, sketching out the needed length and side seams and cutting it out.

Final Pants Result

My pattern isn’t perfect. I think I’ve tweaked it each time I’ve used it. Since the pants are made to be loose and flowy it hides the imperfections.

These are my first attempt. I made them with a linen blend, elastic and drawstring combo waistband and no pockets. I added side-seam pockets later.

Pants

My goal is to find or draft a few more basic, customizable patterns for pants and shirts that can be made in linen or a similar material. Then I can buy a bulk amount of undyed fabric and dye it as needed.

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T-Shirt Market Bag Tutorial

One of my lovely nieces is learning to sew with a sewing machine. To help, I thought I would do a series of beginning sewing project tutorials. Today’s tutorial turns an old t-shirt into a market bag. I’m keeping it simple today, but in the future I’ll do a post on how to make it with and enclosed bottom seam and how to box the bottom. It’s a great way to turn t-shirts that you no longer wear into something useful. If you don’t have a sewing machine, you could even sew it by hand.

Materials:

  • T-shirt
    • T-shirts with a high cotton content and no side seams work the best.
  • Thread in your choice of color.
  • Fabric scissors
  • Sewing machine set up with appropriate needle and bobbin threaded in your color choice.
    • Note: Ball point needles are generally the best for sewing with knits. This project does fine with an all-purpose needle, though, so use what you have.

Preparing the shirt:

Lay the shirt out flat and smooth out any wrinkles. Since this one is just to add to my Aldi bag stash, I didn’t worry too much about wrinkles.

T-shirt laid flat
T-shirt. I’m not sure where I got this one. Also, forgive the grainy photos. Lighting in my craft room wasn’t great that day.

Cut off the arms including the armhole seams.

Cut off the neck about 2-3 inches below the neckband. My shirt is pretty big, so I went three inches below the neckband. With smaller shirts you can do less.

Cutting off sleeves and neck.
I like to fold it in half before cutting to keep everything even. If your scissors aren’t sharp enough to go through all the layers, cut one side and then fold it in half to use as a template for the other side.

Cut straight across the bottom of the shirt to remove the hem. The hemline is often uneven on t-shirts, so focus on keeping the shoulder seams lined up, the shirt smooth and cutting a straight line that removes all of the hem.

Cut off the bottom hem.
Bottom hem removed.

At this point, you should basically have turned the t-shirt into a tank top. Now, decide if you want your bag to look like plastic grocery sacks that have the handles at the top sides (so, your tank top with the bottom sewn closed), or if you want the handles at the top middle, like a purse or market tote.

Looks like a tank top.
Looks like a tank top. For a grocery style bag, turn it inside out and lay it back flat in this position.

For the grocery sack-style, turn your shirt inside out and lay it flat, just like a tank top again. For the purse/market tote, turn it inside out and match the shoulder seams and armholes together, then lay it flat. I’m making a market style tote, so you can see it in the photos.

Laying flat for a purse/market tote.
For a purse/market tote turn it inside out and lay it flat with the shoulder seams at the top, as shown here. I find this style easier to carry on my shoulder.

Once everything is lined up, pin along the bottom to hold it in place.

Pinned hem.
Pinned hem.

Sewing the bag:

Many sewing machines have an assortment of stitches to use with knit fabric. They are useful for keeping the thread from breaking when the fabric stretches. On my machine, they are labeled “stretch” and shown in brown. Zig-zag stitches also work well on knits.

Stitch assortment on my Kenmore sewing machine.
Normal stitches are in red. Stretch stitches are in brown.

You could use a stretch or zig-zag stitch for the bottom of the bag. Since it really shouldn’t be stretching much, I usually stick with a regular straight stitch set to a long-ish length of 3.

Regardless of the type of stitch you choose, I recommend sewing across the bottom twice to make it nice and strong.

The seam allowance, or distance between the edge of the fabric and the stitches, doesn’t really matter that much as long as you keep it the same all the way across. For this bag, I used a 5/8 inch allowance, marked on the footplate of my machine. To keep a straight line, focus on keeping the fabric lined up with the guideline for the seam allowance rather than watching the needle.

Edge of fabric lined up on 5/8 mark.
Edge of fabric lined up on 5/8 mark.

At the start , sew about 2-3 stitches then backstitch to secure the stitching before continuing to sew to the end. At the end, backstitch another 2-3 stitches, then sew to the end and cut the threads. Repeat the seam as close to the original line of sewing as possible to make it nice and strong.

Turn the bag right side out. Since knit doesn’t unravel, you could stop there and be done. I like to sew around the arm and neck holes to reinforce the t-shirts original shoulder seams and give it a more finished look.

Finishing around the t-shirt arm and neck hole handles:

I usually use a serger for this, but it’s not necessary. On a sewing machine, I do like to use either a zig-zag or stretch stitch since there is going to be more stretch on the handles so a straight stitch might break.

Zig-zag setting on my Kenmore.
Zig-zag setting.

This time, I’m using a zig-zag stitch, keeping the stitch length set at 3 and using about a 1/2 inch seam allowance. If your sewing machine has a free-arm, it can make it easier to sew around the armholes if you use it. Sew around each arm hole and the neck hole separately.

Messy zig-zag backstitching.
Messy zig-zag backstitching.

To start and finish the zig-zag, I backstitched like normal. It looks a little messy that way. You could leave extra thread at the beginning and end, pull the threads to the back side and tie knots to secure them if you want a cleaner look.

Finished t-shirt bag.
Finished t-shirt bag.

That’s it. You now have a purse or reusable bag from what used to be an old t-shirt. Don’t throw the t-shirt scraps away. I’ll post some creative uses for them soon! To learn how to make this bag a little more polished, read my t-shirt bag upgrades post.

If you read through the tutorial and like the concept but don’t want to diy, I still have a few left in my shop on clearance here.

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Sunbeam Mixmaster Update

Last Thanksgiving I bought a Sunbeam Mixmaster to help with all the gluten free baking. This Thanksgiving, I broke my Sunbeam Mixmaster by sticking a plastic spatula between the beaters while it was mixing blueberry muffins. Broke as in pieces fell out of the machine and the beaters stopped spinning. It’s probably a good idea to turn off a mixer before scraping the bowl.

A quick internet search told me I probably broke the plastic drive gears, and the remedy for that was a dumpster burial. At that point, I figured it wasn’t going to get worse, so I had nothing to lose by taking it apart and seeing for myself if it was reparable.

When I finally figured out how to open it, everything looked fine. No sign of anything broken, and the plastic gear that turns everything had minimal wear. The part that latches the beaters in place looked fine. I couldn’t find anything that looked like it was missing the tiny broken pieces. Little pieces that, after thinking more about it, looked oddly like the little tabs on the beaters…

At that point I grabbed the the beaters and compared them to the rarely used dough hooks. Sure enough, the tabs were missing from the beaters but not the dough hooks. Yay! Replacing beaters is cheap and easy. The only problem was now my mixer looked like this:

Luckily I reassembled the mixer without breaking anything. I tested it with a loaf of banana bread mixed with the dough hooks, and it worked fine. Amazon had replacement beaters for about $10, so it should be fully functional in about a week.

My guess is that those tabs are designed to break under pressure if something gets caught in between. While the drive gear is plastic, it’s pretty thick. Even with my mistake and a year of using it almost weekly, it looks to be in good shape. It makes me wonder if some of the people who thought they stripped the drive gear actually just needed to replace the beaters.

In the long run, if money allows, a mixer with an all-metal drive would be better. From my year of use and seeing how little wear there is on the inside, I do think this Sunbeam Mixmaster is a good budget-priced stand mixer. It has mixed everything I’ve thrown at it, including a double batch of banana bread and a meatloaf (separately, of course) with no trouble. Everything, that is, except for spatulas.

Don’t forget: this holiday season, take 30% your SubEarthan Cottage order with coupon code “ShopSmall18”. Valid through December 10, 2018.

 

 

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Billboard Art

This weekend we held a rather slow garage sale. It was still fun, though, and we met some nice people, including a gentleman who shares our fondness of TBI Suburbans.

Chris took full advantage of the time to create a few billboard art pieces he’s been picturing for months.

Queen of Hearts
Queen of Hearts

I think this is my favorite. I love the weathered door.

Show Stopper
Show Stopper

This is the one everyone slowed down to see. He may decide to shorten it from the bottom to make it more manageable. As it is, though, in the right space it is impressive.

Coca Cola
Coca Cola

This one just screams Americana. We held it up to see what it looks like on the outside of our house. I loved the pop of red against our brown. I can totally see this alongside other signs in rustic decor.

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Key holder craft inspiration

We needed a better way to organize our keys. I thought about using hooks and scrap wood to make something, but I didn’t have any hooks on hand. I did, however have an old license plate, clothespins and hot glue, so this is what resulted.

I used hot glue because I could remove the clothespins without much, if any damage to the license plate. So far it’s holding up well, but if I were to make another, I might use something more permanent now that I know the concept works. I’d also use a ruler to line up the pins. I had “help” from the two year old this time, so I had to work fast to keep the glue gun safely away from little fingers.

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Quick Ironing Board Cover

My ironing board cover has seen better days. It’s not worn, but it has a few scorch marks and B thought it was a good idea to stamp it a few times with my thank-you stamp. Since it is always visible in my craft room, I wanted something more pleasant to look at, so I decided to make it a shiny new cover.

Eww.

I went with supplies I had on hand and used the ironing board itself to measure, so I don’t have exact measurements. You should be able to adapt from what I did easily, though. Keep in mind that this is just a cover and not the padding. I put mine on right over the old one. If you want to replace everything, you’ll have to find a replacement for the pad, too. (Layers of quilt batting and topped with Insul-brite maybe?)

Supplies:

Enough fabric to go over the top of your ironing board with about a 3 inch overhang on all sides.

Extra-wide double fold bias tape or blanket binding (2-3 packages)

Thin elastic. The bias tape or binding serves as a casing for the elastic, so make sure to choose an elastic thin enough to be threaded through easily.  Mine is 1/4 inch elastic.

Thread.

How to:

Cut the fabric with a 3-ish inch overhang. The easiest way to do this is to put the fabric on the floor, then the ironing board upside down on top and cut around it, eyeballing the overhang.

For this tutorial the pointy curved end is the top, the short, straight end is the bottom and the long edges are the sides. There’s going to be a gap in the bias tape/binding at the bottom, so you will want to finish it some way. If you have a serger, just serge straight across the bottom. If not, you can either zig-zag stitch over that edge or fold over 1/4 inch twice and hem. It doesn’t have to be exact, just make sure when you cut initially that you account for the hem on that end if you go that route.

Find the middle point of the bottom edge. Measure about 1.5 inches on each side of the midpoint and mark. These are your starting and ending points for the casing.

Leaving the three inch space at the bottom open, sew the bias tape/ binding on being sure to enclose the edge of the fabric. Unless you have a really long strip of binding, you’ll probably need to piece the binding together. When you get a few inches from the end of one bias strip, stop sewing and join the new strip by opening the ends flat, overlapping and sewing across. Refold and continue sewing around the edge of the fabric. Stop when you reach the end point.

What happens when you don’t have enough blanket binding on hand? This. This is what happens.

Thread the elastic through the binding all the way around leaving several inches hanging loose at the beginning and end. This works best if you attach a safety pin securely to the leading end of the elastic to help guide it through.

Fit your new cover, pretty side up onto your board and pull the elastic snug.

Tie the elastic securely, trim the ends if necessary.

Admire your new cover.

Questions? Ask in the comments and help me expand on my clear-as-mud tutorial.