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Going to a Concert: Seamwork Iris Shorts

Image of a woman with long black hair and pink ends wearing red lipstick and smiling at the camera. She wears a black T-shirt with a print of a Space Invader character and a alien breaking through and black shorts. Her hands are in her pockets.
Iris Shorts, Front View

What do you wear for a goth festival? I’ve had tickets for the Cruel World Festival for more than two years. It was initially scheduled for May 2020, but then Covid happened. It was rescheduled for May 2021, but Covid was still happening. Covid is still with us, but this time around, it looks like Cruel World will finally happen.

Image of a woman with long black hair and pink ends with her back to the camera. She wears a black T-shirt and black shorts. Her right hand is on her waist.
Iris Shorts, Back View

I wanted to sew something for this event. I had to consider many factors: weather, comfort, protection against the elements, and style. After much consideration—and a short period of disbelief—I came up with an answer. Shorts. Thing is, I don’t wear shorts outside the house, and the only ones I wear at home are knit shorts. I don’t believe in clothing that has legs.

Image of a woman with long black hair and pink ends wearing red lipstick and smiling at the camera. She wears a black T-shirt with a print of a Space Invader character and a alien breaking through and black shorts. She is pulling the pockets out to show the polka dotted fabric.
Tiny Pockets

But if you are in Southern California, I guess you do wear shorts. And the Iris Shorts by Seamwork are just perfect—cute, sassy, practical, and so easy to sew you can get it done in one afternoon.

Pattern 

The Iris Shorts by Seamwork are flat front shorts with a curved waistband, in-seam front pockets, and a slight flare. The shorts close with a side zipper. You have the option to add buttons to close the pockets. This is a pattern for medium-weight fabrics—perfect for all the fun novelty quilting cotton you might have and don’t know what to do with.

Size

Image of size chart, fabric requirements, and finished measurements for the Iris Shorts
Size Chart, Fabric Requirements, and Finished Measurements, Iris Shorts

As usual with Seamwork patterns, I went with a size 16 for my muslin, already expecting that I would have to take in the hip and legs by a bit. After sewing the muslin, I added ¼” to each side seam for more room at the waist and 1” to the length to add, well, length. I took 1” off the side seams starting at two inches from the bottom of the waistband. 

Fabric

The Bustle Effect, Back View
Victorian Inspired Skirt, Flat

I have a ton of this really nice but terribly wrinkly and lint-prone black cotton sateen from Joann. I used it to sew my Victorian-inspired skirt. I love the subtle sheen and the feel of this fabric, but I really wish I could tame the wrinkles and lint. This cotton sateen is a great choice for this or any other shorts pattern. Beware: This fabric has a decent amount of stretch; size accordingly (I didn’t).

Construction

This is my very first pair of anything pants-like. I know my way around expanding a waist or taking side seams in, but I have never worked with a crotch seam. My approach to dealing with it was simple: Sew the muslin, see how it looks, and go from there. 

Sewing the Muslin

Image of a woman's body, waist to knees. She wears the muslin of a pair of shorts, front view.
Iris Shorts Muslin, Front

My first muslin did not make things easy. There was a lot of extra fabric at the crotch and back seams.  The waist was a bit too tight. The legs were way too wide. 

Image of the back of a woman's body, waist to knees. She wears the muslin of a pair of shorts, back view.
Iris Shorts Muslin, Back

I corrected the waist by adding ¼” to each side seam right at the top of the waistband. For the legs, I removed some of the flare by bringing the side seam in. I started two inches from the waistband, starting with nothing and ending with one inch off at the hem. 

The Crotch Situation

Front Center Piece, Original and Modified
Front Center Piece, Original and Modified

Things got considerably more complicated when it was time for the crotch curve. I took out all of my fitting books—just to find that either I don’t know how to describe the problem I am having (more likely), or none really addressed this issue (less likely). There was a lot of fabric bunching at the crotch and along the back seam. And little old me, with no idea of how to fix this.

Back Piece, Modified  and Original
Back Piece, Modified and Original

I looked for the vocabulary to use when talking about the crotch. Here are the terms to get familiar with:

Crotch length: Length from the top of center front in between the legs to the top of center back

Crotch point: The bottom of the pelvic floor—where the front crotch curve and back crotch curve meet

Crotch level: Horizontal line that goes through the crotch point

Crotch depth: The perpendicular measurement from the crotch level to the front and back waistband. It can be different for the front and back if the waistband sits differently front to back.

Crotch width: The empty space between the front and back pieces

Clueless as to how to proceed, I gave in to my sewing instincts. Since I wanted to get rid of the extra fabric, I scooped the crotch curve in front and back, making the scoop wider where there was the most fabric (crotch level). That made things better, but there was still extra fabric.

New Front and Original Pieces, Comparison
New Front and Original Pieces, Comparison

After some frantic Internet research, I learned that my crotch point was too low and could be the reason why I still had extra fabric in the crotch area. According to Melly Sews’ amazing YouTube video tutorial on how to fit pants (the accompanying blog post is also pretty great), the crotch point of the shorts has to touch the crotch (check out her explanation at the 7:30 mark). 

New Back and Original Pieces, Comparison
New Back and Original Pieces, Comparison

I raised the crotch point using the technique shown in Style Sew Me’s YouTube tutorial. The simplicity of this method made me suspicious, but it worked! All I had to do was pin the excess fabric at the crotch area horizontally. Then, I measured how much length I had to remove. With the shorts inside out, I marked that same amount from the crotch point. From there, I tapered that amount to zero towards the hem. 

I could have spent more time finessing the fit, but I believe that it comes to a time you just need to sew the thing. Once sewn, you can decide on more adjustments for future versions of the garment. 

Pockets

Image of the two pieces of the shorts with respective pocket pieces.
Pockets

The pockets are very easy to sew. The instructions do not tell you to understitch each pocket piece after you’ve sewn them to the shorts, and honestly, I don’t know why. You want pockets to lie flat. Understitching secures the lining to the fabric, preventing the pocket from rolling outwards.

Detail image of a pocket showing the understitched edge
Understitched Pocket

If I sew this pattern again, I am deleting the pockets. They are too small for my hands to fit and in a really weird location. They are not practical, nor do they add much to the looks of the shorts. 

Zipper 

I used an invisible zipper. Because invisible zippers are usually installed before the side seams have not been, I changed the order of operations on the instructions. Instead of sewing the seam on the right and then sewing the invisible zipper, I left both side seams open, installed the invisible zipper, then sewed the side seams. 

If you choose to do the same, instead of sewing the waistband piece together, you will sew each piece to its respective shorts piece. I like this method better anyway, and you will have a lot more room to move as you install the invisible zipper.

For a nice waistband finish, fold the waistband wrong sides together. With your finger, feel the teeth of the zipper. Using a zipper foot, you are going to sew very close to the teeth without sewing over them. Then, just flip the waistband over, and you’ll have a very nicely finished edge.

Waistband

The waistband can be a bit tricky since it is curved—which means that the fabric can stretch if you do not handle it correctly. Make sure to staystitch (sew a row of regular stitches ⅛” away from the raw edge). 

Staystitching prevents the fabric from stretching when it is handled.

When staystitching curved edges, go from one end and stop at the center. Then, go from the other end to the center. This guarantees that there will be no distortion of the fabric.

Image of a waistband with seam allowances pressed and pinned
Pressing the seam allowance on the waistband will help when it is time to sew in the ditch

Before I sewed the waistband facing to the waistband, I pressed the ⅝” seam allowance so that by the time I had to stitch in the ditch (when you sew a seam on the side of the garment you cannot see by following the ditch created on the seam you can see).

Hem

Hemming was a quick and easy job. I realized after the fact that the 1” length I added to the pattern disappeared when I decided to make my hem 1 ½”. I usually hand sew hems, but I wanted to finish the shorts quickly, so I used my machine. 

The Iris Shorts

Image of a woman with long black hair and pink ends wearing red lipstick, standing with her side to the camera, and smiling. She wears a black T-shirt with a print of a Space Invader character and a alien breaking through and black shorts. Her hands are in her pockets.
Finished Iris, Side View

For my very first pair of real shorts, I think this came out all right. For someone like me who does not wear any garment that separates my legs into individual fabric wraps, these shorts actually feel good and fun to wear.

Image of a woman with long black hair and pink ends wearing red lipstick and smiling at the camera. She wears a black T-shirt with a print of a Space Invader character and a alien breaking through and black shorts. Her hands are in her pockets.
Finished Iris, Front View

They came out bigger than I expected—I did not account for the stretch in the cotton sateen. They are definitely not there when it comes to fit. I haven’t decided yet if they will be what I will wear to the festival, but it is good to know I have options.

Image of a woman with long black hair and pink ends with her back to the camera. She wears a black T-shirt and black shorts.
Finished Iris, Back View

Want the joy of shorts but not ready for something like the Iris? Use some of your larger knit fabric scraps to make super cute and comfortable shorts.

More Scrap Busting: Stay-at-Home Shorts

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