Monday, July 15, 2013

free pattern and tutorial - knit shorts

Most of the time, when Kids Clothes Week rolls around, I make all these elaborate plans to make clothes my kids don't even need (but I really, really, really want to make), that I couldn't possibly finish in a week even if there were three of me :)  And then I proceeded to write this post last week ... more grand plans.  Once I took a look at my upcoming schedule, reality set in ... gonna have to nix those plans for this week.  Turns out, I need a new approach this year, so I decided to focus on a few basics that my kids actually need (what a novel concept!) with a couple of simple free patterns and tutorials.  In addition, I'm posting a skirt tutorial that Ruthie and I worked on together as part of my Let Them Learn series.

So today, day one of KCW, I am posting a free pattern and tutorial for basic knit shorts.  These shorts are intended to use the existing hem from an old t-shirt (a men's medium is sufficient for either size) to make construction quick and easy.  My kids use them mainly for pajama bottoms, but Gracie also wears them under some of her dresses.

The pattern includes two sizes.  The size small is about a size 6/7.  For reference, here is a picture of Gracie wearing this size.  She wears a 7 slim in ready-to-wear clothing.

The size medium is about an 8/10.  It is the same pattern I used to make my son his pajama bottoms shown in this picture.

I do not have a picture of him wearing them, but he normally wears a 10 slim, and these pajamas are fitted but not tight.  If anyone is considering making these for a boy, I did add about 4" to the bottom hem so they do not look like bike shorts :)  I also hope to add a size large (size 12/14) some time in the future, but realistically that probably won't happen until one of the kids needs a bigger size.



There are many tutorials in blogland related to sewing pants and/or shorts, and most of them are wonderful and informative.  In fact, I've used a few of them myself :)  I encourage you to use whatever tutorial works for you, but I thought I would include a basic (i.e. no frills) tutorial along with the pattern in case anybody needs it :)

Before you start, there are a few things to keep in mind.  When sewing with knits, be sure to use a stretch stitch or serge so the seams can stretch with wear and not rip.  I choose to sew with a stretch stitch and then also serge every seam for added strength.  Also, try not to stretch the seams as you sew because you will end up with a finished product that might not be quite the right shape :)  Generally, store bought t-shirts (at least the men's) are made from a interlock or jersey knit with 2-way stretch and are not very difficult to sew, whereas many lighter weight knits are 4-way stretch and have a tendency to slide around a lot and may require a walking foot to sew neatly and accurately.  Last, if you are using a sewing machine, pin, pin, pin!  Trust me, pinning really does make a difference!

1. Cut two pattern pieces (mirror images) aligning pattern piece with existing hem.  If you are using knit yardage and plan to hem at the end, be sure to cut however much extra length you need (1" should be plenty) at the bottom of the pattern.  Be sure to mark the back of the pattern.  You can see that I used a Crayola marker on my pattern pieces :)

2. Fold leg inseams right sides together and stitch leg openings.  Repeat for other leg.

3. Flip one leg right side out.

4. Place the leg that is right side out inside the leg that is inside out, matching center seams. The pant legs should be right sides together at this point.  Pin generously.

5. Stitch the seam.  This seam takes a beating when it is worn, so it is really important that it is strong.  It is a good idea to add a second row of (stretch) stitches about 1/8" inside the first row for about 3" on either side of the center seam.

6. Pull the pant legs back inside out. Fold down 1/4" along the top edge and press well.  Be careful not to pull too much with the iron and stretch the top out of shape.  Then fold under an additional 1" and press well.  This forms the casing for the elastic.  I choose to pin at this step, but depending on the fabric, it is not always necessary.  Stitch the seam close to the edge leaving a 3" opening for inserting the elastic.

7.  Insert elastic through the opening.  Make sure that the elastic is not twisted anywhere inside the casing.

8. Overlap the elastic 1" and sew the ends together.  I was taught to use a 3-step zigzag for this step, but many people choose to use a simple straight stitch.  Ease elastic into casing and sew opening closed.  Be sure not to catch the elastic as you sew.

9.  When you use an existing hem, it is always good to sew the leg seams down at the bottom edge of the shorts for a finished look.  Here I tucked the serger tail under the seam and used a straight stitch to sew the seam flat.  The second picture shows the stitches from the outside.

10. Congratulations!  You're done!  Please forgive any errors in this tutorial as I wrote it late at night and my editor (i.e. Ruthie) went to bed long ago :)  Feel free to leave a comment if you need any clarifications, and I will try to respond promptly.


Tomorrow (actually, it is so late, that I really mean later today!) I will post my addition to the Flip This Pattern series hosted by Francis Suzanne.  I had so much fun making it and can't wait to show it off :)


  1. Thanks again for a great pattern and tutorial!

  2. Thank you, this looks like just what we need for exercise shorts: fitted but not too tight, and it's sooo helpful to have it in multiple sizes.

  3. Hi there, thanks for the great pattern and tutorial! I was just wondering what yardage is needed for a size small?


    1. I'm sorry I missed this earlier! The size small should use less than 1/2 yard.

  4. Thank you! Was looking for boy pj shorts for 9 yr old. Perfect!!

  5. What are the seam allowances on this pattern?
    Btw I really appreciate all these free patterns you've put up!

  6. I made these shorts twice thinking I messed up on cutting but they are NOT a true size 6/7!!
    They probably come out as more of a size 4.
    Not happy!
    Keep size in mind if you make these.

    1. I'm sorry that you didn't find the size to be accurate. Did you print from Adobe Acrobat rather than directly from Dropbox or from an app? Also, did you make sure to check the box in Acrobat that says print actual size, no scaling? I've made these several times, and they do fit the same as shorts purchased from the store in comparable sizes. Also, as a reminder, they are intended to be a slim fit.

  7. I could not find it in the description or the pattern, is the seam allowance included in the pattern, or should I still add it? at the top of the pattern and the legs?
    (I did understand that the bottom part of the pants use the existing hem of a Tshirt, so I still need to add seam allowance there, if I start from knitting fabric)

    1. Seam allowances are included - 3/8" for the legs and 1 1/4" for the waist.