Little Dresses for Africa expanded to include shorts for the little boys. I started making little shorts for Haiti, too, when I received some free sheets via Freecycle that were rust- and khaki-colored. The rust-colored pillowcases made darling Little Dresses, but I knew the sheets could do the most good as shorts. And as I said last week, I couldn't bring myself to make dresses that looked like prison uniforms. Feel free to repurpose to save money (and the environment).
Find a simple pattern for shorts. Simplicity, McCall's and Butterick all have really super easy patterns, and JoAnn's usually has one of them on sale every weekend for $1.99 or less. You can also find a free pattern here. If you are a beginner, you can feel confident with this type of pattern because in the past few weeks, you've learned to sew a straight seam, a curved seam, and you've learned to make an elastic casing, which you'll use on the shorts for the waistband. The new technique here will be a rolled hem, but I think you'll recognize it from making fabric straps for the Little Dresses. Aren't you so clever!
So let's start sewing...
Start with the pattern on your choice for the size you'd like to make. This sample is a size 3, which is a size small (I group my shorts in the same sizes that the dresses were grouped into). Cut the paper pieces you need according to the directions included in your package. Go around the solid black lines that outline each piece, and give yourself a little extra space. Press them with a medium iron with no steam - they will be much easier to work with. Look at your directions again for the cutting layout for the size you are making. Fold your fabric and pin your pieces accordingly. It's really not hard. Just make your pattern pieces and fabric look like the picture. Remember to have right sides facing (or not) according to the directions. I would love to show you a photo of this, but I cut mine from bed sheets. My process would look nothing like the directions on the pattern, and I don't want to confuse you.
After you have pinned your pieces to the fabric, cut along the solid lines and snip out any notches. You will use these to match up fronts and backs when you go to sew them in a little bit. A quick tip here: When I was much younger and I would sew with my grandma, we used to attach a safety pin to the wrong side (inside) of the pieces that would make the back. This made it much easier to tell which piece was which once you remove the pattern paper. I still do that to this day, and I'll tell you, if I'm operating on less than necessary sleep and/or coffee, it helps.
Here are some cut pieces:
Now let's match the fronts to the backs, matching the notches, to make the outside leg seam. My pattern recommended a double seam (where you stitch at the required measurement, then 1/4" away toward the cut edge). I used a reinforced stitch I have on my machine. It lookes like this:
You can do a double seam, a single seam and a zig zag, a double seam with a zig zag, or whatever you choose. You could even do this part on a serger if you have one. When you get towards the bottom, there is a part that flares out to the side. At the top of this, leave your needle in the fabric, lift the presser foot, and turn your fabric pieces slightly. Be sure to keep your fabric pieces lined up with the correct measurement on your throat plate for accurate seams.
Trim fabric to about 1/4" from stitching, and press towards the back. At this point, you could add decorative stitching or fancy webbing if desired.
To make the pocket, start by edge-stitching the top edge of the rectangle. I used the same overlock-type stitch.
Then fold the top edge down toward the RIGHT SIDE (I know, it won't seem to make sense at the time, but when it's all done, you'll see). Stitch this placket into place where the seam allowance would be. I use a straight stitch for this, but I do forward-back-forward-back. This also reinforces it. Clip out corners like the picture. Turn placket right side out, then press remaining edges toward the center (press the bottom up the amount of the seam allowance).
To make a nice finished corner, press the corners toward the center. Re-press the bottom edge.
I press everything one more time, then I did two rows of overlock-type stitch on the outside of the top of the pocket. That placket needs all the reinforcing it can get!
Pin pocket into place on side of shorts.
Stitch into place, being careful not to stitch across the top. I used the same overlock-type stitch, just to make everything look the same, but you can use a straight stitch, too. Just be sure to reinforce the top corners. This is what it looks like stitched into place:
Now, I must warn you. I am about to commit sewing blasphemy here. I know - I'm such a trouble maker. Normally, when you make a garment, you do the hem at the very end. And that's fine for clothing for bigger people. However, the legs on shorts that fit a 3-year-old are very narrow around. Like they won't even fit over the arm of my sewing machine. So, one of the tricks I learned while doing the pillowcases and Little Dresses is to do the hem while the piece is flat. OH SO MUCH EASIER! Obviously, for an adult-size garment, you probably can't get away with this. You need to measure the hem carefully, preferably having a friend to help you, while you have the garment on with the shoes you will be wearing with the garment. Think heels vs. flats with a dress - you get the picture. These little shorts and maybe some other home dec projects may be the best place for this tip, but at the same time, if they save you time and aggravation, they are worth their weight in gold!
So let's learn a basic rolled hem. Press the bottom edge of your piece up to the angle on the inseam edge. The arrow marks where the angle is, and you can see where I pressed.
Then, just fold over again and press. Easy peasy!
To finish, just top stitch on the right side (outside).
This is where these weird-shaped pieces become legs of shorts. Fold each piece in half again, and match the short edges. Again, reinforced seam however you want to do it.
This picture also shows one leg turned right side out. I used the leg with the pocket to help me keep them straight. To join these together to make them into one unit, slide one leg inside the other with right sides facing. I put the pocket-leg into the other leg. Match the center inseam and the notches. Be sure to pin the seam toward the back.
Stitch the curved edges together to form the crotch. It's ok - you've done a curved seam before on the armhole area of the Little Dresses. Pull the garment right side out and admire your work - you've just made a cute little pair of shorts! Great job!
Well, we're not done quite yet...
Without some type of waistband these will fall down, and that would be embarrassing for the wearer and the sewist. Let's put in the waistband. Press the unfinished top edge in 1/4". Then turn down the measurement of your elastic. For example, I used 1" elastic, so I turned mine in another 1". Follow the directions on your pattern for specific details. Pin into place, and stitch, leaving an opening wide enough for your elastic (mine was about 1 1/2").
Notice the colors of the pins - I mark where to start stitching with a green for go, and a red for stop where I need to stop. Top stitch your casing from the outside - again, use whatever stitch you want.
You will also need elastic for this waistband - cut it to the appropriate length given in your pattern plus 1". So, the waist measurement for a size 3 was 21 1/2", plus the 1", came to 22 1/2". Use a safety pin to guide your elastic into the casing. If you need to, fold one corner down to make a point.
As you pull your elastic through, make sure to keep it flat and don't let it twist. Also, be careful not to let your safety pin come open. If you push from the back part of the pin rather than pull from the front, this is less likely to happen.
When you've worked your way all the way around, overlap the edges of the elastic 1". Stitch together securely.
Work this into the casing. Cut a small piece of fabric to use as a tag to mark this as the back. Insert the tag into your opening, and top stitch the opening shut. Be careful that you don't accidentally catch any corners or the bottom of the tag.
And that's it - you're done!
This is a great way to repurpose old jeans, workshirts, and even bed sheets. Use bandana fabric, or other fun bright prints. Have one pocket, two pockets, or no pockets. Add a flap for your pockets. Make back pockets or inset pockets in the side seam. Add an applique. Use your imagination and have fun!
Next week, we'll have a linky round-up for you to share photos of your pillowcases, dresses and shorts. You will be able to link to a blog post or to a photosharing website (like Photobucket). Then, please leave a comment telling us which charities your pillowcases went to and if you shipped your dresses and shorts to Africa or Haiti. The fun will start at midnight between Friday and Saturday, and will be open all of February, in case life happened in January, and you need some extra time. People in Haiti and Africa are in great need all year round, so if you don't get done by the end of January, don't sweat it. Do what you can when you can do it. I can't wait to see what everyone makes!
Happy sewing, all!