Shorts have to be easier than trousers, right?

I’ve been sewing for a few years now, but I have never once made trousers (70s jumpsuits don’t count). I have enough trouble fitting things that have to go over the boobage, never mind the complexities of the (ahem) crotch curve and backside. But my last pair of RTW jeans have just developed a hole and somehow I can’t bring myself to go and buy a new pair in the shops. One thing I love about sewing is never having to try things on in shop changing rooms in lousy light when wearing the wrong underpinnings. I did get as far as venturing into Topshop recently to examine the jeans but chickened out of actually trying anything on, so it’s going to have to be home-made for me.

Now obviously diving in at the deep end of trouser-making with jeans would be insane. Although I did recently buy Vogue 8774, and Vogue’s instructions are pretty good. But then will the Vogue crotch curve be the best for my shape, or should I try Burda’s which I am assured is very different indeed? Just to be on the safe side, I went through my Burdas and traced off a couple of suitable looking styles.

Vogue 8774 jeans

I even had my eye on the perfect fabric: some gorgeous dark blue stretch denim in John Lewis. But sanity has prevailed (helped by the fact that John Lewis sold out of the denim) and I’ve decided to start with shorts rather than trousers. I’m hoping they’ll involve similar fitting issues but will involve sacrificing a lot less fabric if it doesn’t work out! And Burda has plenty of nice shorts patterns to pick from.

Any advice from those who’ve made trousers, shorts, or jeans? Am I barking up the wrong tree completely here?

20 thoughts on “Shorts have to be easier than trousers, right?

  1. I would try a basic pants pattern from Ottobre if you have access to it. Their instructions are very clear and detailed and I found their fit to be fairly awesome. I made capris with faux pockets and a side zipper (will look up the pattern details if you’re interested). I’d initially started on a pair of burda shorts but the bad instructions and fiddly pocket bits put me off half way through and they are now an unfinished project XP.

  2. Do you have trouble finding ready-to-wear pants that fit? If not I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised fitting pants. I don’t make any alteration to pants beyond hem length while a dress bodice always needs tweaking. As far as shorts go, they don’t save much fabric, by far the most fabric is used in the crotch of the pants. Extending to full length only means a short length more. Denims are often wide enough that you don’t need much more than the length of your leg to make jeans. I know 2 meters will usually make jeans for me and one of my kids. I second Ottobre, I like the fit of their pants. I haven’t tried the new Vogue jeans pattern but I have made Vogue 1204 and I love them. I made them from a non-stretch denim.

  3. As long as you can make the top part of a trouser pattern work, the remaider is a doddle. Most shaping comes from either the hip or the knee, so once the crotch and waist goodies fit, you’ll be away. Good luck with the shorts!

  4. I think, as a sewing/blogging community, we’ve built pants making up into this scary and onerous thing. I expected my first pants to be a time consuming and horrible process, and guess what? It was. As a bit more experienced sewista, what I now know is that I should have decided at the muslin phase that the pattern was not for me and tried a few others instead of going thru yards of muslin trying to make the crotch work. But since I expected misery to be part of the process, I didn’t.

    My point is that I think your approach of looking at/trying several different patterns and brands is a wise one and that you may find the actual sewing less challenging than you expect. Just don’t let the collective fear of pants freak you out.

    I’ve not yet done jeans. But Peter (the Bold One) hosted a jeans sew along about a year or so ago and covered all kinds of interesting construction and fitting details on his blog. – Also, I know a lot of sewists swear by the Jalie jeans pattern, and others Hot Patterns for their very different, almost “L” shaped, crotch curve. Good luck! I hope this was helpful!

  5. As with all other things, start with a muslin and take it from there. They really aren’t that scary and you’ll love them because they’ll fit so well. Use any pattern fitting resources you have to troubleshoot. And shorts are a good first step – as you say, you won’t be so unhappy if they don’t work out exactly as planned.

  6. I will be very interested to see your progress. My number one sewing goal for this year is jeans/pants and I just signed up for the Craftsy class on copying jeans. I have had success in copying pants from existing ones that fit, but jeans seem more tricky.

  7. Someone had a post in the last few months with pictures of the various crotch curves in pattern, and there was a huge variation. I’d suggest looking at a pair of pants that fit you, tracing that crotch curve, and looking for a pattern as close as possible. Ah, here’s the post! Dixie DIY, would definitely check it out:

    I took a class from Surefit Designs and used their master pattern to draft a pants pattern that fit me 98% right off, and then Glenda did a few tweaks, so I’ve been using that and eventually will turn it into jeans.

  8. Both have the same sewing steps and fitting issues. I say make a good toile and go from there.
    But really, you shouldn’t listen to me, I am no good at pants, so I took the Kenneth King so I could copy my jeans.

  9. I didn’t know what a good fit was, for trousers, until I saw all the sewing blogs saying “these pants don’t fit!” and realized that mine didn’t, either. But that was my ready-to-wear pants! So for sewing, I don’t feel so intimidated–if all the pants in the stores only fit me halfway, than making my own that fit me 3/4 of the way is still an improvement on that, right?

    We’re so much harder on ourselves than we need to be. Half the retail websites out there are showing models dressed in trousers that “smile” and “frown” at the crotch, so what’s the worse that can happen? Even at the very worst, you’ll make pants that look like retail products.

    Happy sewing!

  10. If you have a pair of jeans that fit you well already, turn them inside out and tuck one leg inside the other so that the crotch curve is visible. Trace that curve onto the pattern you’re planning to use and it should fit the same as the existing trousers.

    Alternatively, could you take apart the pair that have a hole and use it as a pattern for new ones? All the jeans I’ve ever made are from a lovely pair of RTW (New Look (not the pattern company) Hula Jeans, RIP) that fitted perfectly and I wore to death. They are now my go to pattern and I have no need to fiddle with the fit.

  11. I agree with Clio. Trousers/shorts are only as difficult as you make them out to be. I’ve made several pairs over the years, and the greatest trick to a great fit it so leave the CB seam open until you’ve got everything else sewn up and ready to fit, and then use the CB seam as your final fitting teak. I personally have a horrible time finding jeans to fit, but find RTW trousers fine most times. And I have no intention of sewing a pair of jeans before I die, so once I find a pair that fit well, I splurge on a couple of pairs and wear them out. Trousers are different, as I find them simple to sew.

    And comparing different crotch seam lines isn’t going to help much, IMHO, because a lot more goes into how the trousers/shorts fit that just that crotch seam. Make a muslin and go from there, is my advice. And if you’re going to make shorts, make the pants. It’s like making a mini vs. maxi skirt. You still have to get the fit through the top half of the garment done well regardless of the length.

    Good luck!

  12. I completely understand where you are coming from. The more you sew the harder it is to buy new! I’m sure you will crack this Catherine. I have every faith in you. I will have to put myself through this soon so I will really interested to see how you get on. I have seen quite a few bloggers posting their own jeans and they all look great. I hate the sweaty confines of the changing rooms especially knowing I have to try at least 10 pairs of jeans to find 1 that only fit a bit. So Im with Jane. How wrong can you go?

  13. You’re right- shorts are much less risky than full length trousers, and the fitting is much the same. 🙂 Good luck!

  14. As someone who has only ever made trou with an elastic waistband (other than one pair for mum, which I am inordinately proud of) I am not at all qualified to comment, other than to respectfully request that you show us how you get on. Please please!

    Oh, and its spring soon right so shorts will be in order don’t you think?

    Good luck Catherine

  15. I seriously recommend the Palmer Pletsch “Pants for Real People” book. If you can attend one of their courses, so much the better. I did and now have the best fitting pair of trousers I’ve ever owned. And I’m about to embark on my second pair.
    I also received their jeans DVD for Christmas and am planning to make the Vogue jeans very soon, using that for reference.
    I cannot buy RTW trousers as they simply don’t fit and this has completely changed my wardrobe options.
    Good luck.

  16. After a fair amount of trial (and error) I agree with whomever said above that starting with the right pattern is key.
    What I did was to take a look over at PatternReview for pants reviewers with a body similar to mine, and look at what brands they loved/loathed. That worked well, but now I’m intrigued by Steph’s “pants block service” too.

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