it used to be summer

Here in Oregon, summer has long since given way to fall, and I don’t mind it at all. As someone who loves reading by the fire, working on handcrafts, and cooking comfort foods, I love this time of year. Autumn is full of enough colors, scents, and genuine sensual pleasure to delight my artistic heart; still, I do miss the warmer, sunnier summer days.


round, ripe gold, flung about a sidewalk

Back when it was summer, I made myself this pair of soft taupe shorts. I found the fabric at the thrift store for cheap, and it has this really pleasing, brushed denim finish. Even though I suspect it may be a bit stiffer than is ideal for this pattern, I love the color and feel of this fabric.

shorts 3

I used Grainline’s Maritime Shorts to experiment with a few new-to-me techniques: belt loops, fly front, curved front pockets, and denim finishing. (I’ve got not one, not two, but three different fabric selections in my sewing closet waiting to become pants, soon as I feel brave enough to tackle such a project! These shorts were a great warm-up.)

Once I’d assembled the downloadable pattern I looked at the shape and thought, “Do these shorts look a little boxy?” I forged ahead (yeah, without doing any measurements beyond comparing my body measurements to the pattern’s stated measurements). Sure enough, these guys were way too big around the waist, but the hip was right on. This is a pretty standard issue for me in ready-to-wear, and the two other times I’ve attempted to make something for my lower half this is what happened. So yes, the first lesson I got out of this project was one about my body: I’m pretty sure I have swayback, and I’m certain that my waist runs a size or two smaller than my hips. Good to know, and going forward I can be on the lookout for the fit in these areas, rather than trying to ignore the problem and hope it will disappear!

I ended up taking in the center back seam about 3 inches. I did it this way because I’d already constructed most of the short by the time I was able to try them on for fit. I’d even put the pockets on. Something else I learned with this project: Don’t put those back patch pockets on until your shorts/pants are basically done. I know this goes against standard sewing procedure, which suggests you should do details like buttonholes and pockets on individual pattern pieces before sewing any major construction seams. Here’s the thing about that, not only did having the patch pockets sewn on complicate my options when it came to adjusting the fit, I also wasn’t able to determine the perfect angle and placement for these pockets on my bum. When it comes to bum flattery, one of the major differences between an awesome looking pair of jeans and a dowdy looking pair is the size, placement, and angle of those back pockets. When I finally buck-up and put together a pair of jeans (which really should to be soon…) I’ll try to photograph a little mock up that demonstrates this.

I’d aimed at wearing these shorts on the loose and casual side, so the fitting issue wasn’t a total train wreck. Neither was the fly front, though it didn’t go as smoothly as I might have hoped. I really messed up the waistband (as a result of the aforementioned fitting issue) and so the zipper backing and the waistband don’t meet up like they should. I also have this odd tendency to sew things on to the wrong side, or inside out, or otherwise do the opposite of what I should be doing there. As a result, I now have this tag on my machine:

Part of the trouble with the fly was my own sewing screw-up, but I’d also like to do a bit of research on fly front construction and try a couple practice runs in muslin before I dig into my precious full-length denim project.

As you can see, I learned a lot from making these! And, best of all, I got a totally wearable pair of shorts out of the project. I used Jen’s tutorial to make curved edges and, because of the weight of the fabric, I decided to leave the hems unfinished. These photos show the pre-washed result, but after a couple trips through the washer & dryer, the edges have softened up and frayed nicely creating a casual, summer worthy pair of shorts. I also added belt loops using the pattern and instructions in Sew U. The addition of loops helped me get the jean shorts look I was going for, and I can also mange any remaining fit issues with a belt. I got a lot of wear out of these before the weather turned, and I’m sure I’ll revisit this pattern again next year!