Trace and Make: Shorts Pattern

I’ve taught a number of trace and make classes over the years, including my Trace and Make Tee and Leggings class for kids over on Creativebug, so I think it’s a pretty useful thing to know how to do. Tracing existing garments to create a pattern really helps you understand the architecture of garments, how clothes are built. It’s also handy when you want a pattern for something but can’t find the right one, or have a well-fitting garment you want to replicate.

In this post, I’ll show you how to make a simple shorts pattern — just one pattern piece — from an existing pair of shorts. You can also use this method for other types of garments, and since it’s based on something that already fits, there’s no guessing on the size you need.

DIY trace and make shorts / made by rae

There are a few caveats to tracing clothes to make patterns that I’d like to mention before we start. First, be aware of the ethical pitfalls: don’t use a traced pattern to create a pattern or product you intend to sell. That is using someone else’s work for profit, and unless you have permission to do this, it’s not OK. Do the work, my dudes. I’ve traced and recreated plenty of garments over the years for myself or my kids, but when I create new patterns to sell, I don’t use tracings; I draft new patterns from scratch or base them on my own existing blocks. Also, be aware that the “it’s OK to trace as long as it is for personal use” philosophy may still be viewed by some as too lax; there are some who believe that tracing is under NO circumstances acceptable.

Another thing: tracing is fairly time-consuming and detailed work, requiring a fair amount of fiddling/adjustment, so if there’s already a sewing pattern for the thing you’re tracing, consider supporting the artist who already put time into creating that pattern for you. Tracing is great, but it’s not perfect; sometimes a sewing pattern that’s been tested is even better.

Since I first posted this tutorial (as part of the upcycle men’s shirts into kid shorts tutorial, Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree Shorts), I created the Parsley Pants sewing pattern for kids, along with an easy tutorial for making Parsley shorts, so you might want to give that one a try if you’re in market for a simple pants/shorts pattern!

OK, let’s get started!

Tools you’ll need:
clear quilter’s ruler
white butcher paper or large-sheet packing paper
marker

Step 1: Find a pair of shorts
Find a pair of shorts that fit your child. The shorts should have elastic either halfway or all the way around the waist. Flat-front shorts with elastic in the back are fine.

Step 2: Trace the back of the shorts
Fold the shorts in half down the center so that the back side of the shorts is facing out. Place the shorts on a large piece of butcher or packing paper, and overlap the halves of the shorts as evenly as possible, lining up edges carefully and flattening the shorts as best you can. Take a marker and trace as closely around the bottom, inseam, crotch curves, and top edge of the shorts as possible.

DIY trace and make shorts / made by rae

DIY trace and make shorts / made by rae

Stretch out the elastic as much as you can to get the true shape of the shorts along the top, and make marks at the side so you’ll know where to place the shorts on the paper when you trace the other side.

DIY trace and make shorts / made by rae

Step 3: Trace the front of the shorts
Now fold the shorts down the center so that the front side is facing out. Line the sides of the shorts up with the marks you just made. Repeat the tracing steps for the back.

DIY trace and make shorts / made by rae

DIY trace and make shorts / made by rae

Step 4: Check that the pattern is wide enough at the waist
Before we move on, we’re going to do a little size-check. Measure across the top of the shorts, double that number, and make sure that it’s at least 2” bigger than the hip measurement of your child (measure with a flexible measuring tape around the widest part of their bum). If the waist width is too close to their hip measurement, it’s going to be a squeeze to pull it on, so if it’s too small, draw the pattern wider at the center front or center back until it’s large enough.

DIY trace and make shorts / made by rae

Example (above): I measured the waist edge on the pattern to be about 13” wide, so the finished shorts will measure twice that, or 26” around the waist before the elastic goes in. Since my son’s hip measurement is 24,” there will be 2” of extra room.

Step 5: Make sure the inseam is the same length on both front and back
The shorts have to match up along the inside of the leg (inseam), so measure that distance on both sides and make sure it’s the same. If it’s not, lengthen one of the sides to match the length of the other.

DIY trace and make shorts / made by rae

When you’re finished you should have something similar to the outline below. The taller side is the back of the shorts.

DIY trace and make shorts / made by rae

Step 6. Add seam allowances to the pattern
Take your ruler and add ½” around the outside of the center and inseam edges of the pattern. Add 1 1/2” to the top for the waistband casing, then add 1″ or more for the hem allowance along the bottom edge.

Note: In this photo you don’t see the hem allowance along the bottom edge of the pattern. I originally created this pattern as part of my Apple Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree shorts tutorial, which upcycles men’s shirts, so it uses the finished edges from the shirts for the hem. If you want to use this pattern to make additional pairs of shorts or you are using new fabric for this tutorial, definitely add at least 1” for hem allowance to the bottom of the pattern.

DIY trace and make shorts / made by rae

Now you’re finished making your pattern! You’re ready to cut out your fabric and sew some awesome shorts woot woot!!!

Want to see how to sew them together? Check out this post for a how-to:

HOW TO SEW SHORTS LINK

How to sew shorts

It’s summertime — hurrah!!! — and that means it’s shorts time. Shorts are fun and easy to sew, both for kids and grownups alike. When I stumbled across this little infographic I made a few years back for a different post, I thought it was worth a repost for those of you who might be interested in getting into the shorts sewing game!

To make shorts like these, you’ll need a shorts pattern (see pattern notes below), fabric, and some waistband elastic (I like 1″ wide for kid shorts; 1.25″ wide for adult shorts), as well as basic sewing supplies like a sewing machine, pins, scissors, and a safety pin.

how to sew shorts / made by rae

First, cut out two mirror-image pieces from your fabric using your shorts pattern — each piece will become the left and right sides. The pics below are from when I made a couple pairs of Parsley Shorts for Clementine a few years ago.

how to sew shorts

Step 1: First, you need to sew the center (“crotch”) seams, for both the front and back. This is done by placing the two pieces of the shorts together and sewing the front and back curved edges.

how to sew shorts / made by rae

Step 2: Sew the legs together: open up the pant, pin the center seams together, and sew up one leg and down the other. This seam is also called the “inseam.”

how to sew shorts / made by rae

Step 3: For basic pants or shorts, an elastic waistband can be made by folding and pressing the top edge 1/4″ towards the inside of the shorts, folding another 1-1.5″ down, and then stitching along the lower fold to form a casing for the elastic. Then you thread the elastic through the waistband, stitch the ends together, and close the hole. I always put a little piece of folded ribbon in the hole before I sew it shut so my kids can tell front from back when they’re getting dressed.

how to sew shorts / made by raehow to sew shorts / made by raehow to sew shorts / made by raehow to sew shorts / made by rae

Step 4: Hem the bottom of the shorts by folding and pressing 1/4″ twice towards the inside of the shorts and then stitching that second fold down. You can make a wider hem by folding 1/4″ and then 1,” or replace the 1″ with whatever width you want!

how to sew shorts / made by rae

how to sew shorts / made by rae

Pattern notes
To make shorts that are this quick and easy, it helps if you’re working with shorts that are made of just two pieces of fabric (so: a single pattern piece). Here a couple of options if you’re looking for a simple shorts pattern:

double gauze shorts

I made this cute pair of double gauze shorts for Hugo using the Parsley pattern and he loves them. They’re white, so they attract a lot of dirt, but the double gauze is soft and has held up surprisingly well over two summers.

PS. You might also like my Super Seams post, to make shorts that will last!

Navy striped Flashback tee

Hugo Navy Striped Flashback tee

Time for a Hugo Wardrobe Update! No big surprises here: I made him a new striped Flashback tee in size 3. Though, he is already starting to creep into size 4 territory, esp in pants. Can you believe it?? Waaaaah.

Hugo Navy Striped Flashback tee

I omitted the cuffs and folded the ends of the sleeves under instead (the pattern has a few different sleeve options). Um and I don’t mean to brag but hello check out that underarm stripe matching. Totally unappreciated by the toddler crowd, I’d wager.

Hugo Navy Striped Flashback tee

Also: I made sweatpants with cuffs and waistband from the same striped organic rib knit (I love these striped baby rib knits). He still fits into the green fleece pants I made him last year so now he has two very similar pairs, which is just fine because he has an unusually strong relationship with the color green.

Hugo Navy Striped Flashback tee

Sometimes I think if he and Elliot could have been the same age at the same time I wouldn’t be able to tell them apart except for their haircuts. He’s eerily similar in personality to Elliot at this age, though overall I think Hugo is a bit less high-intensity. Though…yesterday — despite skipping his nap — he ran 50 laps around the kitchen after dinner, giggling. So there’s that. I thought I was due a “quiet” kid with Kid #3 but oh no. It is rarely quiet at our house. All three of my kids are loud. I have no idea where they got that from? *looks around*

Hugo Navy Striped Flashback tee

This tee gave me a chance to try out the Eloflex stretch thread Meg has been raving about and I do have to say I like it a lot more than stretch thread. It’s smooth and very strong and a bit stretchy, but I did have a little problem with my machine tension and a tiny part of the shirt hem stitching has popped already, but I’m pretty sure I know why. So I’m hopeful but not 100% certain that this is the end of my quest for the perfect Coverstitch Machine Alternative (sidenote: Tori just posted about her new coverstitch machine this morning and I’m intrigued).

Hugo flashback tee

This is where I  say something corny like “look how much Hugo loves his new tee!” Too easy?

Hugo Navy Striped Flashback tee

The Flashback Tee sewing pattern is available in my shop in sizes 1-14 years!

Flashback Tee for Hugo

Flashback Tee for Hugo

Hey! This little monster turned three last week. THREE! Can you believe it?

He’s such a hoot. This really is the cutest age, I swear. I feel like I’m constantly writing down the hilarious things he says. And he’s still small enough that he’ll wear all the clothes I make for him (unlike his older siblings, who naturally have their own opinions, sometimes strong, about the things I sew for them. Ahem, CLEMENTINE. *coughs*). He definitely has his favorites though, and this Flashback Tee is one of his current favorites.

Flashback Tee for Hugo

I’m sure it helps that this rib knit is crazy soft. I made this tee from the leftovers from this tank dress, so yes, that means we can be (and are often) outfit twins. I never manage to snap a pic on the days we’re both wearing them at the same time, though. You’d think I was busy or something…hahah.

Flashback Tee for Hugo

Flashback Tee for Hugo

Flashback Tee for Hugo

Pear shirt for Hugo

Pear shirt for Hugo

I’ve been experimenting with a few new knit fabrics since Isla (my first women’s knit pattern) was launched a few months ago. Knits can be so different and I wanted to have some (new) good ones to recommend. I’d been eyeing Alison Glass’ solid jersey for Andover for awhile, so I bought a few different colors from Alison’s shop. These have a relatively low amount of stretch (reminds me of those “beefy Ts” we used to wear in the 90s); I first made an Isla top out of the navy color and it came out a bit on the tight side, although it was really cute. Next I decided to try something less fitted, so I used the brighter blue and lime to make a more loose-fitting raglan-style turtleneck top for Hugo, and that worked out even better!

Alison glass knits

I really like how the bright blue and lime hues looked together, so I thought it would be cute to add a little pear detail to the front. Karen was sweet enough to hand-stitch it on for me at the last Sew Ann Arbor sewing night we had at the studio. Isn’t it sweet?

Pear shirt for Hugo / made by rae

Pear shirt for Hugo

I got him to sit and pose for some rather nice photos (above), but the ones I love the most of him in this shirt are the ones shown below…they’re not as “clean,” but they capture more of our life at home…a bit of the daily mess, Clementine’s supercape (similar to the one I made Elliot, scroll down in that post), a red “Hugo” name tag someone (probably Clementine) stuck on him, as if we would forget his name. And the expression here is just priceless to me.

Pear shirt for Hugo / made by rae

Pear shirt for Hugo / made by rae

Also, this one is great:

Pear shirt for Hugo / made by rae

Anyway, I do love the AG knits; definitely recommend, and do keep in mind that you want to use them on projects that have more ease built in, so they don’t turn out too tight.

Hope you’re having a lovely week!

Hugo’s Pencil Shirt and Fleece Parsley Pants

Flashback tee + parsley pants for Hugo

Here’s my little monster in a few new things I’ve made for him recently: a Flashback Tee in Sidewalk interlock and some fleece Parsley Pants. It could hardly have escaped anyone’s notice that now we both own knit pencil tops (here’s mine)…which means a pretty awesome photo shoot needs to happen soon. Twinsies with a toddler, YEAH!

Flashback tee + parsley pants for Hugo

CHEESE.

Flashback tee + parsley pants for Hugo

I love making Parsley Pants in fleece since it adds a bit of stretch and makes them super cosy to wear. I made two pairs for him: the blue pair he’s wearing in these pics, and a green pair which are a lovely quality Mill End fleece and therefore even more cosy. The green ones I accidentally pressed with the iron on the cotton setting (oops!) and melted, so I had to put in a separate waistband. Which actually looks really cute, though it’s more work.

Flashback tee + parsley pants for Hugo

Flashback tee + parsley pants for Hugo

I’ve been adding elastic to the cuff (like I did with these Big Butt Baby pants awww tiny baby Hugo alert!!) because I think it’s cute when they’re cinched in at the ankle. I also added some tags — gifted to me from past sponsor Custom Labels 4U — to the waistbands and neckband of the tee. I don’t know why I didn’t start doing this sooner; it’s so helpful to know the size of handmade stuff, and I love having my logo tag in there too. I did previously use a handful of size labels I bought from an Etsy shop (you can see them in this post ACK another adorable Hugo post!!!); those were also great but weren’t woven and so those ended up curling up after washing which made them harder to read. Super handy though, no matter what you do.

Flashback Sidewalk Hugo tee - labels

New clothes for Hugo

My one complaint with these tags is that Hugo does have pretty sensitive skin and the edges of the logo tags are a bit scratchy (I don’t notice this with the size tags), so I think next time I’ll try putting them on the outside instead of inside the garment; maybe at a side seam or something.

Flashback tee + parsley pants for Hugo

He is perpetually sick and rosy-cheeked these days, poor babe. I love love love this age so much — he is saying the most ridiculously adorable things to us, every day, but I also hate how he is sick all of the time. It can be so trying. I had terrible sleep last night because he slept in our bed all night and was up coughing at regular intervals.

Since I took these pics a couple of weeks ago, I painted the wall behind him with chalkboard paint (so fun!! here’s a peek) and cut his hair (which you can see in this post). And, my Sidewalk knit fabric is now in shops! Here’s a list of Sidewalk stockists if you want to pick up some for yourself. Be sure to add the #sidewalkfabric hashtag if you post pics to social media because I would really love to see what you’re sewing for yourself with these knits!

Handmade hand-me-downs: Oliver+S PJs

Oliver + S Pajamas

Oliver + S Pajamas

Usually the things I make and post on my blog are brand sparkly new, fresh off the sewing machine, photographed, and then posted for you to see, and for me to look back and remember later. But lately many of handmade things I made for Elliot in the earlier days of this blog have been reappearing as they now fit Hugo, years later still proving their value. The things that were made well (admittedly not all of them) have lasted many washes, and though most have stains and others have been tossed, it gives me so much joy to see these old friends again. Not only because of the memories they bring back to me of little Elliot, but because it confirms for me why — even though they grow out of them so quickly — it is worth it to sew clothes for my kids. The time and toil it takes to make these things is sewn up into a garment that holds the love and thoughts you had for that child as you made it, a blessing of sorts, that then surrounds them as they wear it. And while buying my kid’s clothing is easier and almost always cheaper, especially when I consider my time, it is not the same. I was probably harried and overwhelmed when I made these little pajamas, home with a toddler Elliot and baby Clementine all day every day, but I’m still so very glad I found patches time to make them. Even more so because I absolutely remember how therapeutic sewing was for me back then.

Oliver + S Pajamas

Oliver + S Pajamas

You might recognize the pajamas that Hugo is wearing in these photos as one of Liesl Gibson’s earliest Oliver+S sewing patterns, the Bedtime Story Pajamas. I’ve learned many wonderful tips and techniques from Liesl’s patterns, including this one. It’s elegantly simple in design, and so cute. I made this little set for Elliot back in 2010, and I think they’re still just as adorable on Hugo as they were on Elliot when I first made them.

Blue Pajamas for Elliot

Just for kicks, here’s Elliot wearing them when he was just a bit older than Hugo is now. Slight family resemblance. I’ve been keeping Hugo’s hair shorter because I’m afraid if I don’t, I won’t be able to tell them apart in photos someday. Hugo keeps pointing at old pictures of Elliot and saying “Dat’s Hugo!”

Blue Pajamas for Elliot

I don’t think I ever posted these on the blog when I first made them. I looked and didn’t find anything, though that doesn’t mean much. This blog is now so old that even I don’t remember everything I posted on it anymore. Well. On that note, time for bed!

Plaid Parsley Pants with Piping

plaid parsley pants / made by rae

I finished these amazing Parsley Pants for Elliot this weekend. He kept commenting that they felt like pajamas. This is due partly to the elastic waistband, partly to the genius pattern design (like how I snuck that in? hee), and partly to the lovely fabric, which is a reversible double-cloth from Robert Kaufman that have a brown side and a plaid side. I honestly thought he would choose the brown side for the outside of the pants but no, it was all plaid, all the way. You can see both sides of this fabric, which is currently on sale, in the Imagine Gnats shop, by the way!

plaid parsley pants / made by rae

plaid parsley pants / made by rae

As you can see, there is no half-assing these pants; when you wear these it is a full-on commitment to the outfit. Luckily for my almost-9-year-old, he has a history of wearing Amazing Pants (here / here) so he’s used to the comments and attention. I’m quite interested (also, half worried) to see how his classmates respond if/when he wears them to school. He’s a confident and happy kid, but he’s also getting to that age where he cares what other people think, you know?

plaid parsley pants / made by rae

The Parsley Pants sewing pattern is a super-simple pant pattern with two pieces (right leg, left leg) with an elastic waistband, and then a whole bunch of “extras” to make the pants more interesting and fun (pintucks, tuxedo stripe, pockets, flat-front waistband). I designed this pattern because it seemed like there were only two types of pant sewing patterns for kids out there: super-simple (basically PJ’s), or super-detailed (multiple pieces, pockets, zippered flies, waistbands; basically, time-consuming or tricky), and I wanted something that would be easy and quick to make but still have some interesting variations. I love that you can customize them to your heart’s content.

plaid parsley pants / made by rae

For this pair, I added the pouch pockets with some brown piping. I’ve got a quick Piping Tutorial here on the blog if you’d like to make your own piping, but I used a store-bought package and prewashed it with my fabric to prevent it from shrinking when these are washed.

plaid parsley pants / made by rae

I basted the piping around the two curved edges of the pocket before sewing the pocket linings and pockets together. I love piping so much; it classes everything up; you might even remember this Piping Improves Everything post from Celebrate the BOY a few years back where I rounded up some great boy projects that feature piping.

plaid parsley pants / made by rae

There’s more great Parsley Pants in the photo pool, or you can check out the #parsleypants tag on Instagram to see what everyone else is making with this pattern!

Fall clothes for Hugo

Array

I made a few more things for Hugo to wear this fall (and soon winter). You’d think he would have enough hand-me-downs from his brother and sister to deter me from sewing more but…nooope. I just can’t help myself. His clothes are so small and cute. I realized after I took the photos that they coordinate in a way. Accidental color scheme. I’m not sure I’d mix and match them together into outfits though Mr Rae would probably beg to differ, but they all looked nice together so I thought I’d put them all in one post.

top left: a Charlie Tunic, size 18-24 mo in double gauze from Cotton and Steel (yes, that’s fabric left over from my Luna Pants whee!). Facings on the inside, curved hem like the gingham one.

bottom left: a Flashback Tee, size 18-24 mo in a striped knit purchased years ago from Organic Cotton Plus back when it was Near Sea Naturals

top right: a pair of drawstring sweatpants (made up the pattern) in mod fleece by Birch Fabrics from Fabricworm

bottom right: Parsley Pants, size 3, shortened so that the inseams measure 11 inches. This was an experiment to see if I could get the Parsley Pants to fit Hugo, since his hip measurement with diaper on is about 23 inches (previous experiments had found the size 2 was a bit too tight). Turns out the size 3 fits a cloth-diapered 20 month old pretty well. I still think Big Butt Baby Pants fit better, but you can see in the photos below that it’s not bad.

Here are some pictures of my Hugo-boogo wearing them. It’s getting harder to get him to stand still for the camera, but I figured out how to stand him up on our entryway bench so he can’t run away mwuah hah hah. I also may have resorted to mini-marshmallow bribery the likes of which this blog has seen before (many times, as you may well already know).

fall outfits for hugo

fall outfits for hugo

fall outfits for hugo

flashback tee

fall outfits for hugo

fall outfits for hugo

fall outfits for hugo

fall outfits for hugo

I always enjoy seeing my children wearing things I’ve sewn for them. Over the years this blog has given me an additional treasure: a collection of really nice photos of them that I love to look through and enjoy. It really doesn’t matter to me now what they were wearing in the photos, I just love looking at their little faces. It amazes me how much they’ve grown. I’m just so glad that I had a reason not only to take pictures of them on a regular basis, but an excuse to buy a good camera and learn how to use it. Crappy phone pics can capture the memories too, but there’s something special about these.

And I’m so glad that you, dear readers, can enjoy them too. Have a happy weekend!!!

fall outfits for hugo