A few months back, I was given a really awesome sewing machine by a coworker. Textiles are big here and were even bigger in the 19th and 20th centuries, so I suppose it makes sense that all that fabric and sewing leads to a general surplus of sewing machines. Regardless, I happily accepted the hand me down and I finally got around to trying it out last weekend. On my way home from the airport after my visit to Julia in May, I stopped at Mary Jo’s (a wonderous fabric store near Charlotte) and the fabric I picked out had been staring me down ever since.
All of my sewing experience amounts to helping my mom and trying to glean what I can on the simple projects we have done together. I’d never done a project on my own before last weekend. So, after some thorough Pinterest browsing to build up my confidence, I decided to make an A-line skirt with an elastic waistband. I learned many things from that skirt. I also neglected to photograph the process, so this post is about the pair of shorts I made from the leftover fabric!
Basic Elastic Waistband Shorts
- Fabric of your choice, probably no more than a yard depending on the length you desire
- Matching thread
- A pair of shorts to serve as a pattern
- Elastic: I used 1″
- The biggest safety pin you have that will fit through a 1″ opening
- Scissors, pins, iron, and other general sewing accoutrement
Some notes about my procedure: there are easier ways to do this project if you have a full piece of fabric and can fold it in half. Take a look at this tutorial from A Pair & A Spare for a better idea of what I mean. (She also includes info on how to make a pattern, which is very helpful!) Since I was working with remnants and wanted the fabric’s pattern to all face the same direction, I had to cut four separate panels. Also, it would have been wise for me to use a zig-zag stitch because the fabric I used does fray. Like I said, this was quite the learning experience!
- Iron your fabric and lay it out on your cutting surface in a single layer. See the tutorial linked above if you have enough fabric to fold it and save yourself some cutting and sewing.
- Fold your pair of template shorts in half vertically and arrange them on the fabric. Make sure to add in a 1/2″ seam allowance and 3″ inches above the waist for the elastic casing.
- If your template shorts have an elastic waistband, also make sure to pull it taut to see how wide the fabric truly is at that point.
- Either pin the shorts to the fabric or place weights (aka giant cans of tomatoes) on the fabric to keep it stead while you cut.
- Use the panel you cut from your template shorts as the template for the other three panels.
- Take care to ensure that you cut two panels where the swoopy part (what will eventually make the seam between your legs) face to the left and two where it faces to the right. I thought I took enough care, but I definitely messed it up and ended up with three and one Measure like twelve times and then cut, especially if you’re short on fabric!
- Once you have all your panels cut, take one leg (two panels) and arrange the fabric right sides together. Pin the long straight sides together and sew. You should end up with two panels that look more or less like the picture below. The seam down the middle of the picture will what you sew in this step.
- Pin and sew along the curved portion (as seem marked by the yellow pins above), but do not sew the short straight seam below the end of that curve.
- Open up your shorts so that the side seams are on the outside and the fabric looks like a normal pair of shorts. Pin and carefully sew the remaining portion of the middle seam to create the legs of the shorts. You may want to trim the seam allowance at the mid-point to cut down on bulk. The picture shows the finished product–don’t worry about not having hemmed legs!
- At this point in the process, I trimmed any funky seams and then ironed them open (as seen below). This step helps to cut down on bulk at the places where the waistband and hems meet the seams.
- Now, to create a case for the elastic band: Fold and iron the waistband down 1/2″ and then fold it down another 1 1/2″, iron, and pin in place. This step encloses the raw edge. Sew almost all the way around the waistband, but leave a three inch opening.
- Using the elastic band, measure around your hips where you want the shorts to sit. Trim the elastic to size.
- Grab your giant safety pin and pin through one end of your elastic. You may want to also shove a pin through the other end to make sure it doesn’t get sucked into the casing too soon.
- Feed the elastic through the casing, taking care to keep it straight and not letting it twist. Once you get all the way around, sew the two tails together with about 1″ overlap. Secure the overlap well–those stitches will get a lot of use! I did a rough box shape with an X through it, just to make sure!
- Sew up the opening.
- To hem the legs, put the shorts on to get an idea of how much you need to hem. I did a 1″ hem and that seems pretty good for this kind of short. So, if you have a lot of extra length, trim off enough fabric to be left with about 1 1/2″ length to hem.
- Follow the same procedure as with the waistband, folding down 1/2″ and then another 1″. Sew the hem and you’re done!
They aren’t perfect and the cut edges frayed a ton when I washed them, but they aren’t meant to be worn to an audience with the Queen, so I think I’m safe. This kind of project is a great way to practice a few basic skills with not that much fabric (or time) and produce something completely wearable. Whether or not you wear them outside the house, however, is completely up to you!
I’ve picked another bubbly cocktail for this project, but it’s summer and South Carolina is like a sauna, so it’s a welcome ingredient! The French 75 was born after the Second World War and is a delightfully refreshing, if rather strong, drink. The website Birth, Movies, Death has a great discussion of the cocktail and it’s history.
The fabric I used for the shorts makes me think of lightning bugs, so I wanted something summery and yellow for a cocktail. I think it fits the bill quite nicely.
2 oz. London Dry Gin
1 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
1 tsp. sugar or ½ oz. simple syrup
Champagne, well chilled
Combine the lemon juice and sugar or simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. If using sugar, stir thoroughly to dissolve. Add the gin and ice and shake until cold. Strain into an ice filled Collins glass and top with champagne.
Find a porch and quaff your thirst. Maybe take a few glamour shots. So much glamour.