Charity Sewing – Shorts for Africa

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My partner Robert’s Aunt is a school teacher and her school has a relationship with a school in Africa.  She has been over there a few times and takes lots of things with her for both the school and the children.  I asked her a while back if I could sew something for her to take, and she said shorts!  Which is great I love making shorts!
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It turns out there are many many dresses donated, so the girls are well dressed but there is a shortage of shorts.  Hi hi shortage of shorts!  By the time she gets back to the school there are many boys wearing left over girls clothes as the boys ones have run out.
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I have decided 10 is good number, I should probably check with her!  But they are nice and light and will pack down small.  The boys (and probably girls) love Bob Marley, which I didn’t expect…I don’t know what I did expect but that wasn’t it!  I didn’t have any red/yellow/green/black fabric but I did have some ribbon.
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It wasn’t quite the right colour, looked a little more Italian flag to me.  But my new Crayola fabric markers (affiliate link) came in handy.  Nice to add a little something extra rather than just plain shorts.
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I have thought about making these shorts in a way that they are the most durable rather than pretty.  I know pretty very practical of me but there is no point sending pretty things that won’t last.  I have sewn every seem with strong Gutermann thread, and overlocked every single one.  For the hems I overlocked the raw edge, folded them over and sewn them in place.  That way if they come undone the edges are still overlocked and they can carry on wearing them without them fraying to bits.
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Even the waistbands are completely sewn in.  I overlocked the elastic to the fabric then folded them over and zigzagged in place.  Just like I did for the Colour block rugby shorts tutorial.  These shorts are made from the same pattern, an edited version of Kid Shorts by Dana from Made, all the links are in post linked above.
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Well this is really only the start!  I have made three pairs now so only seven to go!  I have another two cut and ready, I have made a size 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 & 8.  And then I’ll start over for the next five so there will be two of each size.
I am thoroughly enjoying this charity sew, nothing like the feel good factor of giving something back.  The first charity sew I did was 50 skirts for a Kindergarten Kapa Haka (Maori Performance), after 25 black girls skirts and 25 black boys skirts with splits up the side I didn’t want to sew any black anything for quite a while!  At least this time any colour goes!

Boys Colour Block Rugby Shorts

Update: Windows live writer and open live writer are still not able to log onto blogger due to authentication problems at login.  Hopefully this will be fixed soon!  Please excuse the less than perfect formatting but it’s the best I can do at the moment!
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In NZ these type of shorts are known as rugby shorts or stubbies.  They are usually a little shorter than these but at the rate this boy grows I wanted a little future proofing!
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And after making the test pair I though I better make another with a tutorial to share!

What you will need

  • Fabric – Medium to heavy(ish) cotton duck, denim etc
  • 1” Elastic (waist – 3”) so for Harry this was 20”
  • Thread, scissors, general sewing supplies.
  • Pattern I edited my most used pattern of all, Kids Shorts by Dana from  This is not a free pattern but it is well worth buying I have used it so much.  You could alter a shorts pattern you already have but the fit wouldn’t be the same.
Notes:  Seam allowances are 3/8” (1cm) unless otherwise stated.  Always lockstitch (or sew and reverse over it a few times) to prevent stitching coming undone.  I will just call it lockstitch in the tutorial!

Step 1 – Print out your shorts pattern and assemble

Note: You will not need to print the last two pages of the pattern for that size.

Do not trim off the external edges!!  Cut off the pieces you need to piece the pattern together but leave the top edges on.  This will allow the room to alter them.

For Harry I used a size 7 even though he is only 5.  He is very tall and I like to have a chance of him still wearing them by the end of summer!
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Excuse the crude diagram but I didn’t want to place any photos of the original pattern and risk breaching copyright!  As shown place your pieces right sides up with the straight edges lined up, the top and bottom should line up too.  On the back piece which should be on the left extend the left hand side (centre back) by 1 inch.  From that point draw a line straight to the far right line (centre front).  These lines are shown in red.  So essentially you are adding more length in the back of the shorts.
Now you can trim up as normal!
For the length use the ‘Girls Racer Short’ length.  If you wanted to do a double fold on the hem you will need to add a little on probably about 3/8” (1cm).

Step 2 – Cut your Fabric

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You will need to take care to get the fabric up the right way!  I laid the two different fabrics on top of one another and cut both pieces at the same time.  If the front pieces are cut right sides facing each other than the back pieces need to be cut wrong sides facing each other.  Otherwise you will end up with shorts that have one leg check and one leg blue.

Step 3 – Sew Centers

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Pin the two back pieces together with the right sides facing each other as in the photo above (not the inseam!).  Sew with a 3/8” (1cm) seam allowance.
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And it should turn out like above!
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Overlock the raw edge or zigzag if you don’t have an overlocker (serger).
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Get that iron earning it’s keep and press out those seems.  It’s winter for most of you but here it is 28°C in my sewing room today, had to turn the heatpump (aircon) on to counteract the iron!

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Pin and sew the inseam (crotch) in the same way.  Take care to pin the centre seams together accurately so that this happens…

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Yay they line up perfectly!  Don’t panic if yours don’t, it’s the crotch no one is really going to see it.

Step 4 – Sew Sides

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Overlock (or zigzag) both layers of the side seam separately.  I could have done with reminding myself of that…had to do one after seaming not ideal!  Then pin in place making sure the BOTTOM lines up.  Measure 2.5” (6.5cm) up from the bottom and mark with a different colour pin (or double pin).  This is for the split on the sides and will need to be left open.
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Since we have removed part of the seam allowance by overlocking first I like to use my presser foot as the guide in place of 3/8”.  Sew down to the odd (or double) pin.  Don’t forget to lockstitch.
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Again it should look like above!
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Head back over to that trusty iron and press the seam open.  When you get to split press each side over so it sits flat just as if it was sewn the whole way down.
Repeat on the other side!

Step 5 – Waistband

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Measure and cut your elastic.  Harry has a 23” waist, so 23 – 3 is 20” for him.  The way it is stitched in, it will stretch slightly so it won’t be to tight.
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Join the elastic by butting the ends together and zigzagging over it.  I have a tutorial on joining elastic if you would like more detailed instructions.  You can see in the photos that I have marked the middles with pins.  This will make it much easier to pin it in the waistband evenly.
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Match up the join in the elastic with the center back seam, and the other three pins with their matching seam (two side and the front).  Pin them in place leaving a little fabric sticking out (if you are not overlocking then zigzag the raw edge first and leave a very small 1/8” over the edge of the elastic).  Then stretch the elastic in between two pins so that the fabric sits flat and pin in the middle of the gap.  This way you will end up with 8 pins in total.
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Overlock with the elastic side facing up start at the center back seam, lift the presser foot and place underneath.  You can zigzag along this top edge instead if you aren’t overlocking!
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As you overlock stretch the elastic up to the next pin and sew right at the edge of the elastic.  That way the fabric overhang will be trimmed off but you don’t want to cut the elastic!  (Note:  I would normally hold the fabric on the pin and pull to stretch, sometimes you just need three hands to take photos at the same time!)

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Here you have the finished piece…I hope yours looks the same!

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Fold the elastic over and pin in place at all four seams.  Then just like before stretch out between two pins and pin the center in place.  Make sure the waistband stays the same width, your don’t want it wider in places.

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If you want to add a label do it now before pinning the centre back over.  It is much easier to use a couple of stitches to hold it in place now than try and get it sitting nicely when we sew the waistband in.  It will be caught by the waist seam so a few stitches will be fine.

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Time to sew!  Starting at the center back sew along the overlock edge (or zigzag), don’t forget to lockstitch first!

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Just like with the overlocker pull the waistband so that the fabric is sitting flat while you sew.  Carry on all the way around till you are back at the start, then lockstitch.

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That is the waistband finished!!!

Step 6 – Hem

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All that is left to do now is hem the legs.  With the splits folded out (see photo above) over lock the raw edges.  You can fold over twice instead of overlocking just skip this bit.

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And now you have overlocked edges!

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Press the overlocked edge over by about 1/2” and press in place.  Take care that the folds do not stick out over the split edge.

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Pin in place.  If you are doing a double fold instead of overlocking you will need to fold it over once with a small 1/4” fold and then again with a 1/2” fold to encase the raw edge.  You can make these larger but then your shorts will end up shorter.

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Sew on the right side of the fabric with a 1/4” seam allowance, starting at the bottom of the side seam as pictured above.  Sew all the way around to the same point on the other side seam.

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Once you get to this point, leave the needle in the fabric and pivot the fabric around so that you will sew up the side of the split.  Lower the presser foot and sew to just above the split.


Once just above the split leave the needle in and pivot again to sew across the side seam.  You will want to sew an even amount of stitches on both sides of the seam.  Example: if it takes 3 stitches to reach the seam then sew three more on the other side.  Sew over this piece a few times (reverse over it and sew back again).

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Then pivot again and sew down the other side of the split, down to the seam and lockstitch.

Repeat on the other leg!

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There you are a great project completed!  Some rather cute colour block boys (or girls) rugby shorts.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Summer Shorts with a twist

I like to mix things up and try new things with my existing patterns.  My favourite pattern is Kid Shorts by Dana from Made.  I love this pattern and have used it over and over and over…you get the idea!  You can get the pattern on her blog, the link is above!

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I have always admired the slight gather in the leg of some girls shorts and thought I would give it a go!

I started with the standard Made pattern for a size 8, girls length.  I added a little extra width in the leg to allow for the gather.  I did not add much as the pattern already has fairly wide legs.  If you are using another pattern you may need to add more!

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Then I cut two 4cm wide strips for the the bottom bands, you could use bias binding, or contrasting fabric or whatever you like!  I think next time I would make them slightly wider.  You may want to remove the Hem allowance from the bottom of the shorts, I have purposely left Hannah’s longer so when she grows (Again!) they will still fit for a while!

What you will need

  1. Fabric – I used woven cotton blend print.  I am not exactly sure what the fabric is as it was a gift out of my Mother in laws stash!  But it’s nice and light for summer (yep we are just about to head into spring here!), and I love the floral pattern.
  2. Sewing machine – Overlocker/Serger (Optional)
  3. Thread
  4. Elastic – Follow your pattern instructions
  5. Iron!!

Step 1 – Cut out your fabric

Follow the instructions to cut out Dana’s from Made, Kid Shorts Pattern (or the shorts pattern you are using).  I am making the flat fronted shorts, I like the streamlined look of these, but full elastic waistbands will work too!

Add a little (or a lot depending on your pattern) to the leg width of your shorts.  I have added 1cm (3/8”) to each piece so 4cm (1.57”) in total.

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Cut out two strips of fabric 4cm (1.57”) wide and a little longer than double the wide of your shorts leg (it will need to go around both halves – see photo below!)

Step 2 – Sew middles and inseams together

You will need to pin and sew the two fronts together.  Place them right sides facing each other and sew together (waist to crotch piece).  Repeat for the back pieces.


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Pin and sew the inseams together, I like to pin from the crotch out each leg so that the middle lines up.  It is much easier to straighten the leg length than have a mismatched seam in the middle.

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As you can see mine don’t quite line up, so I will trim the excess of with scissors.

Step 3 – Gather the legs

Set you machine to the longest stitch length and the tightest thread tension, and sew one single line along the bottom of the leg.  DO NOT lockstitch (reverse a couple stitches) at the start or end, and leave plenty of thread at both ends in case you want to loosen the gather.

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Adjust the gather if needed to the desired length, I measured around the widest part of my daughters thigh (35.5cm or 14” and she’s nearly 7 if you are wanting a guide) to be sure it wouldn’t be too tight! For more details check out my Superhero Cape tutorial!  Once you have adjusted the gather tie the ends in a knot to prevent it slipping further as you sew.

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Press the gather with your iron. This will help keep them all in place as you sew.

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Step 4 – Fold and sew on the bottom bands

Time to fold the bottom bands, so stay by the good old iron!

Iron in half with the right sides of the facing out. Fold open the strip and fold one raw edge over till a little over half way and iron again.

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Overlock the remaining raw edge, it should be quite a bit longer than the folded side.  You can fold this instead if you want a neater finish, I prefer to overlock it for speed and ease of catching both sides when sewing!

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Iron the bands again to press the seams, I adjusted mine slightly to make them wider, and to line the seams up a little closer.  (See photos above!!!)

Pin the bands on to the gathered edges.

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Topstitch close to the edge, you will have a bit of excess band but you can trim that off.

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Step 5 – Side seams

Overlock/zigzag all the side edges separately.  This will allow you to fold out the seam flat so the band will sit nicer.  Leave the end of the overlocked thread on.

Summer Shorts (21)Pin and sew both side seams starting at the bottom band that way to can make sure it lines up.  Any miss-match can be sorted out at the waistband!

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Iron open the side seams.

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Thread the overlocking ends back up under the seam, this will help the folds from not showing out the bottom, and will stop them coming undone later.

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You can trim the excess overlocked thread off now.

Topstitch on the band on either side of the seam to secure the fold at the bottom, to top will be secured when you sew the waistband.

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Step 6 – Waistband

Overlock the waistband to prevent fraying and to even out any miss-matched side seams (You can just trim with scissors and use zigzag).

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Decide whether you want to fold the waistband once or twice (to hide the overlocked edge), I have chosen to just do it once this time.  Iron the band over once or twice depending on your choice.

I like to sew the topstitch around the top edge of the waistband first.

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Now to create the casing for the elastic only in the back half of the shorts.  Start at one side seam (make sure it stays folded out), and sew your waistband round to the other side seam.  Add a tag if you are wanting one!  Don’t forget to lockstitch (or reverse a few stitches) at the beginning and end.

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Overlock/zigzag the ends of the elastic to prevent them fraying.

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Thread the elastic through till the end is still just sticking out of the opening, pin in place and little way away from the side seam. Sew on the right side of the waistband straight down the side seam to catch the elastic, I like to sew this up and down for extra strength.

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Feed the elastic the rest of the way through, line up the other side and pin and sew in the same way.

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Sew up the front of the waistband (photo above right!)

Step 7 – Admire the gathered leg shorts!

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I also made Harry a pair with pockets, using bias binding and neon green zigzag to attach it.  Much like the Baby Bib in the Struggling with bias binding post. Can’t leave the neon thread alone!!!