Saturday, November 24, 2012

Boys in the Background

When I look at many of the photos where little girls are modeling their cute pillowcase dresses my eyes are always drawn to the little boys standing in the background peeking out from a crowd or behind a tree.  Maybe I notice them because I have sons.

Many people have asked me "what about little boys? Can we do something for little boys?" Well what about little boys? Don't get me wrong I LOVE seeing little girls in their new dresses but I also feel called to make shorts for the 'little boys in the background.'  I cannot in good conscience ignore these little boys. 

When my boys were young our favorite adjective was SHARP which was the male equivalent of cute.  “Those are sharp little shorts" I would tell them.  So I decided that I would write a tutorial for a pair of ‘Sharp Lookin’ Shorts.’ These are nothing fancy or complicated to make but they are fun, durable and very easy to make.  Make them special by adding a pocket or a whistle clip at the waist.
Let’s get started!  First off you want to gather up your materials.  So here is a list of what you will need to get started.

1 heavy weight cotton t-shirt
Optional scrap fabric for pattern (I used muslin)
Thread to match
About 20" of 1” wide elastic
Pins, tape measure, scissors, safety pin
Quite often you can find t-shirts left over from an event such as a university or fundraising event.  Remember the seat of these shorts will get a lot of wear and probably get dirty so look for a t-shirt that is dark or a bright color and as heavy weight as you can find.  If you get a chance buy a t-shirt that is extra wide. 
I have a simple short pattern it is an old McCall’s pattern M6099.  My pattern has a couple bites out of it because my cat Zippy likes the sound of tissue paper but that doesn't really matter.  I'll show you why in just a minute.

Basically I only want to have one large pattern piece rather than the usual two pieces so I pin the front and back pattern together at the side seam.  Match the side seam up the best you can.  As long as the top and bottom line up then you’re fine.
The bottom of the pattern will indicate the hem allowance and because we at going to use the t-shirt hem as the hem for the short you can just cut that off or fold it up. 

At this point you can use the tissue pattern OR you can trace the tissue pattern on another piece of paper OR you can trace this pattern on a piece of fabric and use that as a pattern.  Fabric patterns are my favorite because you don’t have to use pins when you cut things out AND fabric patterns aren't attractive to cats.  If you are making a paper or fabric pattern draw around the pattern piece with a fabric marker, and then put the tissue aside.
Your fabric pattern should look like this.  It will last forever.  Be sure to write the size on it in permanent marker.  I'll label mine later.
Now smooth out the t-shirt.  I pin the hems together so that
I can be assured that the legs of the shorts will be the same.
After you do that lay the pattern piece on it.  Be sure to line up the bottom of the pattern with the hem of the shirt.  It might not line up perfectly but that’s okay as long as the edges where you are going to cut line up.  Mine did not line up perfectly you can see a little red peeking out at the bottom from under the pattern.  That’s okay…I promise.

Cut the shorts out.  You should have 2 large pieces that look like this.
Take the pieces apart and you will have to legs. Fold each one in half right sides together, pin and sew the inseam. 
Now turn one of the legs right side out and put them together with right sides together, one leg inside the other like this. Line up the legs and put a few pins in to hold the pieces even.
When you pin the inseams together line the seams so that they go opposite directions they will eliminate some bulkiness and make it easier to sew.  You can sort of see this from this side view.
Match the top edges and pin from the waist on one side all the way down under and then up the other side.  Turn this inside out…ta da there you have a pair of shorts. 
I was going to say “let’s take a break and have a cup of tea” but we are so close to the end let’s just keep going and finish these up. All that is really left is the elastic.
Fold the waist down 1 to 1 ¼ inches pin and press. Zig-zag about the waistline casing but remember to leave a couple of inches left unsewn so that you can thread the elastic through. 
Cut the elastic and put a safety pin on one end and push it in the opening and all the way around and come out the opening.  Stitch the elastic ends together and slip it back into the casing.  Now zig zag that little opening shut. 
Spread out the gathers and there you go!  A sharp pair of shorts for a little boy that may have never owned a pair that weren’t hand-me-downs!  Good job.  Give yourself a pat on the back! 





  1. Do you have any specifics for the pattern? I ask as I am new to sewing

  2. I love this post. Great job. Am building myself up to trying to make some!

  3. I'll definitely make some of these as hubby often throws out t-shirts. Just a question about waist sizes. How much elastic do we need to use?

  4. Oops. I've just reread the post and can see I need 20" of elastic. Thanks for a really clear tutorial.

  5. Love your easy pattern. Is there any way you could provide us with a template for cutting out the crotch area when using various sizes of t-shirts? It would be similar to the template for armholes on the pillowcase dresses. thanks.

  6. I love this. Do you have as size chart for patterns and elastic? I need to make a lot and these would be great to send on the mission trip with our churches youth group. And my teenagers would be able to help with these as well. Thanks!

  7. This is great!! I have often asked what about the boys?? I do not have a serger but I could contribute by collecting tee shirts. Where do I send them???

  8. I never tried sewing a short before but I would love too, I always thought that it is quite complicated to make a short that's why I concentrated with making skirts. I'll try sewing shorts good thing I still have some Dressmaking Fabrics to use.

  9. I read the overview of the blog post and i really like. Its informative and useful.
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  10. Hi Karen,
    Thanks for the Sharp Shorts Tutorial. I recently came across the Dress a Girl campaign after a friend visited the Philippines with Compassion, and one of the women on the trip took 200 dresses made by her local group. Reading the DAG website, I saw they needed boys shorts too but yours is the first tutorial I've seen.
    If you don't mind, I'll put a link to your page on my little blog and I'll certainly pin it on Pinterest.

    Well done, and thanks again, best wishes
    Tina xx

  11. Thank you so much, I felt the same way,,,however, who are you giving the shorts to so that it makes it where it's needed? Pls write me at Ldswoman "at sign"

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