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Altering a Shorts Pattern: Take 2 – Changing the Leg Width {tutorial}

2013 August 16

I’m in the midst of (what seems like) turning our house upside-down. The kids’ playroom upstairs has now moved to the basement so they have a TON more space to run around. My sewing area and my husband’s office are moving from the basement to join forces in what was the playroom and right now it doesn’t look habitable! Hopefully by the end of the weekend?! In the midst of it all I’m super excited, I have wanted to re-organize my sewing things for a while now and this is the perfect time. I think I’m even going to put all of my fabric on mini-bolts as per this Smashed Peas and Carrots idea.

Now, back to the shorts. If you haven’t seen Monday’s post on how to shorten your shorts, I’m doing a mini 2-part series on pattern altering. Today I’m covering off how to widen or narrow the legs of your shorts. Before you use these instructions you might want to read through the first few paragraphs in the previous post. There are some good instructions on tracing and pattern paper, and an explanation of why I needed to alter the shorts pattern in the first place!

{how to} Narrow the Leg of your Shorts 


(1) Fold your pattern piece down the centre (along the side of the shorts), line up the hemline from one side to the other, the waist may not match up. I drew in the dashed line to show where the fold is. This pattern piece is already marked at the new hemline (see this post), I have not removed the excess pattern paper because we can use it later. (2a) Now we do some math. Measure around the shorts recipient’s leg where the hemline will be, and note the measurement as A. Measure the hemline on the pattern and call it H. (2b) Add ease (1″ for knits) and twice your seam allowance to measurement A – call this new number B. (2c) Subtract B from H and get measurement C (this number is the amount you need to remove from the pattern piece to narrow the leg of your shorts). (2d) Divide C in half to get D, you will use D to remove the same amount from both sides of the shorts. Now we can move on!

(3) Note down two measurements on your current pattern, for reference later – 1: From centre-front to centre-back (along the waist/top of your pattern piece) 2: Your side seam from top to (shortened) hemline, along the fold you created. (4) Mark D (in my case 1/2″) along the hemline of your shorts and on either side of your centre fold line. (5) Draw two diagonal lines from the top of your pattern at the fold line, through the D marking you made on the hemline, and continue to the bottom of your pattern piece.

(6) Cut along your diagonal lines ALMOST to the top of the pattern, leave a little hinge to hold the pattern together. (7) Tape the pattern piece back together along the line. (8) Straighten your hemline (a) and waistline (b) by lining up the edge marks of the current ones and drawing a line with your ruler. (9) Before you cut out your new pattern, use your noted measurements from Step 3, and measurement B from Step 2 to make sure they are correct. Your new waistline should match the old waistline measurement, the new hemline should match your new intended width (Measurement B), and the side seam measurement should match your old measurement from Step 3.

(10) Cut your pattern piece at the new hem and waist lines and you are done. Go stitch up some shorts!

{how to} Widen the Leg of your Shorts

(1) Fold your pattern piece down the centre (along the side of the shorts), line up the hemline from one side to the other, the waist may not match up. I drew in the dashed line to show where the fold is. This pattern piece is already marked at the new hemline (see this post), I have not removed the excess pattern paper because we can use it later. (2a) Now we do some math. Measure around the shorts recipient’s leg where the hemline will be, and note the measurement as A. Measure the hemline on the pattern and call it H. (2b) Add ease (1″ for knits) and twice your seam allowance to measurement A – call this new number B. (2c) Subtract H from B and get measurement C (this number is the amount you need to add to the pattern piece to widen the leg of your shorts). 

(3) Note down two measurements on your current pattern, for reference later – 1: From centre-front to centre-back (along the waist/top of your pattern piece) 2: Your side seam from top to (shortened) hemline, along the fold you created. (4) Cut along the folded centre line ALMOST to the top of the pattern, leave a little hinge to hold the pattern together. (5) Find a piece of paper as tall as your pattern piece and a bit wider than measurement C. Place the paper under your pattern and use a ruler to measure width C between the hemline markings you created (in my case I added 1″). Tape the paper into the pattern to hold it in it’s new position.

(6) Draw a new hemline by lining the ruler up between the outside hemline markings. (7) Add a piece of paper as wide as your pattern piece under the waistline area and draw a new waistline by lining the ruler up between the outside waistline markings. (8) Before you cut out your new pattern, use your noted measurements from Step 3, and measurement B from Step 2 to make sure they are correct. Your new waistline should match the old waistline measurement, the new hemline should match your new intended width (Measurement B), and the side seam measurement should match your old measurement from Step 3. (9) Cut your pattern piece at the new hem and waist lines and you are done. Go stitch up some shorts!

All done, wasn’t too painful, eh? In reality what I did was a lot quicker. I knew from making the Skort pattern before that the legs were roughly 2″ or so too large around. So I cut up the centre of the pattern piece and overlapped the pieces (to narrow the leg) by about 2″. If you have not made the pattern before, however, it is not so easy, and it is better to follow the instructions above!

If you happen to have a two piece shorts pattern (as opposed to the one piece pattern we used above) you can remove the excess in a similar fashion.  You will need to take in or widen the back and front pattern pieces. Take in or widen each leg by half of the the amount you need to change. Fold each front and back pattern piece in half and follow the instructions from there for each leg. (Let me know if you would be interested in a tutorial, and I’ll put one together.)

Hope that helps! We’ll see if another post comes up before Monday. It all depends on how far we get on the sewing room! Let me know if you have any questions, I’m always happy to help.

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2 Responses leave one →
  1. August 17, 2013

    Awesome tutorial! Thanks for your hard work and for shariing it :)
    Tracy recently posted… Bumblebee Dress Released!My Profile

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