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Wrap Shorts! (a tutorial)

Okay, I am sitting here wearing the absolute most comfy shorts ever. And I made them myself the other day, in literally about 40 minutes which included a couple of breaks to answer the phone, greet the kids, and feed the dogs.

The basic tutorial you can find in all kinds of places with a google search of “how to make wrap pants.”  They are incredibly, amazingly, easy.  If my instructions here are not complete enough, definitely check out places like Indietutes, Crafty Tutorials (who make them look almost sexy, which they don’t on me), or Laupre, who all have instructions and photos for how to make and wear the things.  You can make them in almost any length–floor length, capri, or even shorts. Which is what I did this time, since I love my long ones so much.

You need a sewing machine and fabric.  How much fabric kinda depends on how big you are.  For me, it took about a yard and a quarter to make shorts.  It would take more like two and a half yards to make long pants. It’s also your call what kind of fabric to use–I have a bunch of really lovely light cool batik stuff I got on sale probably 4 years ago that’s been sitting in my stash all this time…it works beautifully for this kind of garment.

Measuring Fabric

This is, honestly, the trickiest part.  you are going to make two identical rectangles.  The “length” measurement is easy–measure from your waist to wherever you want the pants or shorts to come on you, add about an inch for hemming (1/2 inch each top and bottom, or more if you make bigger hems), and there you go.  That’s your “length.”

The “width” of each rectangle is slightly trickier.  There are different formulas to use, but the one that works best for me is something like this:

Take your waist (or hip, depending on where you want the pants to sit) measurement. =A

Divide your hip measurement by 4=B

Add an inch or however much you want for hem=C

Add together measurement A+B+C=width of each panel.

For example, say you have a hip measurement of 40″. Divided by 8 that’s 5″.  You’ll do an inch of hem. 40+5+1=46″ wide. Cut two of these. (Hint: If you are using 44″ wide fabric and your number comes anywhere in the vicinity of 44″ one way or the other, you can get away with not having to hem the sides of your pants, and just use the selvedge, which is usually nice and clean! Ditto if, like me, you need 45″ long pants, you can avoid the bottom hem.)


Fold the two rectangles so that what will be the inseam of the pants/shorts is on the fold. (That is, fold across the width, not the length.)  Here you need to cut your crotch curve, which will represent the only real seam in the pants at all. And here we need another formula:

Crotch depth: measure from where the pants will lie on your hip/waist, down to the center crotch.  Add 3 (or so) to this number. (Alternatively, if you have a good pair of pants that fit really well, you can take your crotch curve from them.) Measure this many inches down the fold and mark.

Crotch width: take your hip measurement divided by 8. (Remember? Measurement B from above, halved because it’s now folded?) Measure that many inches away from the fold and mark.

Then you just cut the curve.  How curvy to make it is up to you–you don’t want an absolute square, but you don’t want to undercut either.  Trust your judgement. 🙂


With right sides of the fabric together, sew the two pieces together along the crotch curves.  Make this seam really strong–I usually sew it twice and then zigzag the edges just to be safe.  Try the pants on at this point to make sure they fit right, that you like the way the curve you just sewed fits, that your fabric isn’t too long or short or wide or narrow. (if  it’s too narrow…you’re kinda out of luck.  If it’s too wide, you can cut off the sides a little more, or if it’s too long you can shorten them. If you’re kinda close and wish you’d cut something an extra inch bigger, this is when you decide you’re going to do really narrow hems.


You can make the ties either out of ribbons or by sewing tubes of the actual fabric, right sides together, and then turning them right-side out.  Fabric ties tend to be sturdiest, but they also are bulkier and can make odd lumps.  Grosgrain ribbon is excellent and doesn’t slip after you tie the bow. Cut four ribbons or ties of whatever length you prefer, and sew them onto the four top corners of the pants. (Check and double-check this–it’s really easy at this point to sew something onto the wrong corner, or on the outside instead of the inside. Finish all the edges, top, bottom, and sides, using whatever kind of hem you wish.

Then go put ’em on! (the tutorials I listed above all have directions.  And I can just tell you now–there’s no dignified way to get them between your legs to tie the second bow. You’ll feel like an idiot, probably, but that’s okay, because how often do you put on pants when other people are there to see?) Like I say, they are comfy and lightweight, the perfect summer pants.  I’m planning on making a couple pairs of linen ones for work, since it can get muggy there, and hopefully a few more pairs of shorts.

And you, my friends who have sewing machines but are non-sewers…this project is TOTALLY for you!


The One-Hour Sundress pattern–gotta try this!

From an Igloo is one of my favorite crafty/sewey blogs, and I spend an inordinate amount of time looking at her patterns and tutorials and going, “Wow! I could totally make that!”  But somehow I never do…

This one, though, I bet I could handle:

The One Hour Sundress Tutorial

It looks fun and manageable and easy, involving a lot of rectangles, and it doesn’t require pinning fabric to slippery pieces of tissue paper and cutting it out with notches and  dots. And my daughter would love it.

I may also try the “bubblegum jumper,” as I am one of those exact people she describes who has a terror of buttonholes and needs some project or another to break the fear and just do it.  But this sundress looks impossibly easy–even I could do it.  And I have a couple of smaller fabric pieces I could make this work with, too…maybe Friday.  We’ll see.

In the meantime, I’ll spend a little more time looking at her patterns and tutorials and going, “Wow! I could totally make that!”…

Christmas projects…

Okay, the blog posts will probably start getting more and more sporadic as the weeks go on, since more of my former computer time is apt to become crafting-gifting-making time between now and the 25th.

So here’s what I’ve got going (plus the things in the hopper for folks who I know stop by here every now and again!):

For my daughter, I did finally bid for and win on ebay several yards of 100% wool flannel at a really good price.  It’s in the washer fulling as we speak.  (Fulling or felting is when you intentionally wash wool in hot water and shrink it down so it’s tighter and softer…in this case, also less itchy.)  I actually got enough flannel for two nighties, so I’m making one for me too.  This will be seriously warm–maybe too warm, but what the hey.  So that’s two nightgowns.

(The only drawback is that the wool flannel felted a little better than I expected it to–I’d done a swatch as well, but that didn’t do as well–and it’s almost too heavy for a nightgown now…so I may instead learn how to make bathrobes. I’m even thinking of adapting the flannel nightgown pattern I have to make a big flowy robe that ties just at the front top; I know I’d wear it, I have to think about whether my daughter would.  This is good fabric, I love it. I know I could have left it un-fulled, but honestly with nightgowns for these two mess-prone women, I don’t want something that’s going to be high maintenance on the laundry front, and once you’ve done everything you can to a piece of wool, it’s fairly indestructible.  Look at Braveheart.) (By the way, historical costumers laugh in derision at that movie…but the whole kilt thing is fairly ingenious, when you think about it…)

I’m also working on a little patchwork blanket for each of the kids–one made out of cut up jeans for my son and one made out of felted sweater squares for my daughter.  I’m currently experiencing a little two-birds-with-one-stone goodness; I was looking for wool sweaters in the thrift stores in different shades of red and pink, but mostly what I found was white and cream ones.  Only one pink sweater, in a very pale shade. (And I had a few  red ones from last year, three different shades.) So just for the hell of it, I washed one of the white sweaters in the machine with the bright red brand new wool flannel, and now I have a lovely bright pink sweater.  (Since I was “dying” to experiment. :-)) Very cool.  So now I have some really nice contrasting colors to make squares out of, hopefully enough for a small throw blanket for her.  Jeans will be no problem–I’ve been saving the jeans my son busted the knees out of for a few years now, plus the ones my husband has trashed.

Both blankets will be backed with colorful flannel–my son’s in rockets and planets and stuff, and my daughter in butterflies.

I’m also planning on making cloth napkins for the family, as a gesture of hope that we can start to eliminate some of our daily paper use–if I can make each of us several napkins in a person-specific print–butterflies for my daughter, sunflowers for my son, and who-knows-what for each of the grownups–we can at least use them for meals and toss them in the wash at the end of the week.

I have some jeans bags in the works too–way better than the ones I attempted last year; these should be very cute.  But as I said, no photos, since some recipients might read this blog…

Other than that, there are the melt and pour soaps, and some folks will doubtless get jars of applesauce and apple butter, though I haven’t had the chance to make any more since the first batch.  I also have more nuts and dried fruit than I know what to do with, so I may make a few batches of granola as well.  Nice consumable gift the kids can help with.  And mulling spices.

I got to listen to a friend tell of his Macy’s nightmare today, of long lines and incompetent and/or rude sales people, and I felt only slightly smug but deeply relieved that I just don’t. go. to. the. mall.

At. all.


Easy Flannel Nightgown pattern

I love granny gowns–those big voluminous distinctly un-sexy cozy warm nightgowns that make the winters feel a little warmer.  I have loved them since I was a kid, when I would get one as a gift every Christmas Eve, which I would then sleep in and wear to open presents the next morning. It’s a love affair I never quite grew out of.

Unfortunately, I’m also tall.  And the whole granny gown gestalt doesn’t quite work if the thing only comes to your knees or so.  Plus, while I love them in theory, that high neck with the eyelet lace thing had a tendency to choke me sometimes…

When I stopped at the fabric store to buy something for a Luke Skywalker costume a few weeks ago, I happened to notice that all their cotton flannel was 60% off.  That’s all it took.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I am also interested in historical costuming, and that I’ve clothed my family for Renaissance Faires for the past couple of years.  So earlier this week I took my favorite easy chemise pattern (basically, Elizabethan–or in this case, Italian–undergown) and made one up in flannel.  It comes all the way to the floor, has long sleeves, and a low scooped neck that doesn’t choke me.  And it’s as cozy and comfy as anything I remember from childhood.

The pattern I used is here(with elastic or drawstring–I used elastic–neck and wrists, very un-“period” but just fine for a nightgown), but this one (gathered neck and sleeves) looks also like a good one I might try next. (Hint: the smaller the overlapping area in the corners–those triangles you cut off–the wider your neckline will need to be–think armpits here! And if you are someone comfortable with sewing in gussets, those triangles can be used to add roominess under the pits as gussets–instructions for doing that you can find at this site,  which has yet another pattern for making a chemise-that-would-also-make-an-easy-flannel-nightie. See how its suggested layout asks for four little triangles? Well guess what–if you use the FIRST site, the triangles will be automatically cut out when you make the neckline. I’m a big gusset fan, myself.)

(UPDATE: It seems those links have died since I first created this post, though I’ve tried to replace them with new ones…so here’s a basic image of what you do. You have the front/back pieces, and you sew them to the sleeve pieces, and then fold in a channel for the elastic or drawstring. The little triangles in the corners are gussets. I don’t use the “optional gores.” You  then just fold it in half like it was draped over your shoulders and do one long seam from the bottom up around the gussets and to the ends of the sleeves. Fabric size measurements will need to be tailored to your height; front and back pieces will probably be from your collarbone to the floor or so, and sleeves from the inside of your shoulder bone to wrist. Then you can elastic-channel the ends of the sleeves too. Hope this helps; next time I make one I’ll try to do a proper tutorial.)



(I rarely include other people’s images in my blog post, and if the owner of this one asks me to take it down I would be happy to, but I got it from History Seamstress, so check out her blog too, because she has wonderful stuff!)

It’s exceedingly easy–I’m 5’10” and 4 yards of fabric gave me a really nice nightgown with almost no scraps afterwards.  I could easily make several for my daughter too, if I can find a way around the whole flammability thing–on the one hand, I hate to have her sleep in chemically treated fabric…on the other, this stuff (I tested it) goes up really fast if you put a match near it, and given that we have a gas stove and she’s both highly curious and fairly klutzy I just would be a little too nervous.  100% wool flannel is naturally flame resistant, so if I can find some of that I will give it a shot for her, but in the meantime it looks like it’s just me…

This project took me just about 2 hours total, beginning to end, including taking measurements, cutting fabric, and ripping out the sleeves when I sewed something wrong the first time. (Yeah, I know, I do that all the time.  My seam ripper is my best friend.)  I’ve made about 4 chemises by this pattern in the past, so it wasn’t brand-new to me, but it’s still a pretty easy project if you sew even a little.

Go for it!

Nothing New November?

I came across this great post on The Lady Beetle Patch…and I’m inspired.

Of course, it’s a little late for Nothing New November.  December would be a little tough to pull off, with the holidays and all (but on the other hand, maybe it would be a good idea to try!), and Nothing New January doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. But–the idea is great.

Someday I’d like to take the plunge and dive into the Ethical Clothing Pledge…but right now it just feels too big for me to do.  And the No Impact Man is just unbelievable to me, how he could just jump into a whole year of neutral impact living (check his site out–what he did was pretty incredible.)…The cold turkey method of anything is tough…but it’s quite another thing to say “okay, I’ll try this for a month. Then we’ll see.”  That I can do.

Nothing New November. or January. Whatever.

Food for thought.

Ponderings (the Renaissance Faire)

On Saturday my family took a trip to our “local” (southern Wisconsin) Renaissance Faire, and it got me to thinking a lot about conservation and consumerism…(of course, these days most things get me thinking about conservation and consumerism!)

Jenn and kids (back) 09

I was watching the Faire workers–the street characters, the performers, the shop workers, and so on…and at least in public where people could see them, they generated no garbage.  Each had their own cup, many had a bowl and spoon dangling from their belt or hidden away in a pouch, and foreheads and hands got wiped clean on a lot of kerchiefs. (Or sleeves, I guess, depending on how expensive your garb was.) The queen even had a lady in waiting who followed her around with a tray and a cup (the cup had a square of linen over the top to keep debris and bugs out), and periodically she would say imperiously, “I will have my cup,” and the lady would remove the linen and hand the chalice to Her Majesty.  Never (and I discovered later that this is actually part of the rules, which makes sense) did one see a Faire professional sipping from a paper cup or eating from a disposable plate, or cleaning with paper napkins. (Okay, Ladies Room being the exception. But the flushable privies were busted that day, unfortunately, and so we didn’t even see much of it there. (That also gave rise to all kinds of other traumas with my hates-public-restrooms-anyway daughter who took one look at the smelly poo-and-paper-filled holes in the portapotties and immediately went completely hysterical.)

The public–not so much with the conservation.  Potato wedges with processed cheese drizzled over them, chicken tenders pressed into the shape of stars, everything served in something that needed to be thrown away.  But the Faire workers were walking living proof that it absolutely doesn’t need to be that way.  At all.

Along similar lines, I have gotten interested lately in historical costuming (I made all the family’s costumes this year–my husband already had a shirt, and my daughter’s chemise still fit from last summer, but other than that we were all dressed in my own work. I’m not a great seamstress by any stretch, but this still makes me very proud), and one of the things I’m learning about clothing construction from the time is that people, especially the poor, figured out how to make ther clothing with practically no scraps.  If you sew and have ever made anything from a commercial pattern, you’ll know that vast amounts of fabric are left over when it’s all done.  But these patterns, many of which can be found online (check here, and here, and here for just a sampling), use primarily rectangular construction, with a lot of right-angled pieces that can be laid out with very little waste.  A skirt can be as big or as small as you have fabric for; a shift’s length can be whatever will let you get the most out of the cloth you have.  And even the “scraps,” such as they are, are usually squares and rectangles themselves and can be re-purposes fairly easily (as an apron or just a portable napkin to wipe your hands on…and where do you think the idea of patchwork quilting came from,anyway?) (Okay, just to be clear, I’m not aware of a patchwork quilt tradition in Elizabethan England, I’m talking about women who made their family’s clothes and found a way to turn the scraps into blankets to keep everyone warm during the winter.  I mean, come, on, it’s not like they headed into town and bought  bunch of fat quarters of fabric at the local Quilters Mart.)

Again, it’s the whole principle of there not being tons of anything available, so make the best use of what we have and don’t waste it.  Food, cloth, utensils, everything.  Use it, and when it’s not useful for its current purpose, repurpose it into something else useful.

Kinda cool.

I’m a goon. And a packrat. And this is why.

We’ve had this giant bag bound for Goodwill for literally the past 4 or 5 months.  It’s been sitting in our basement since shortly before my parents came to visit. (Doesn’t everyone hide stuff in their basement when their parents come to visit?)

I won’t let my husband carry it away.  Because I keep going into it and salvaging things that I thought at the time I wouldn’t need, but then that I realized later I could re-use.

Case in point: about 4 years ago I bought a couple of yards of nylon mesh to make shower and swimming baby slings. (Like these: ).  I did make one, and I used it for a while, but I never got around to making the additional ones I’d intended to as gifts and such.  So the rest of this mesh fabric just sat around.  A few months ago I decided I’d probably never use the rest of that mesh, it was taking up space and my stash was beyond ridiculous, so I put it in the Goodwill bag.

However, that was before I discovered our local farmer’s market. (Another post for another day.) Long story short, I was slightly appalled at how many of those awful grocery store plastic bags one has to use there if one does not come prepared, and so I started looking into reusable produce bags.  I discovered things like this ( and this ( and vaguely in the back of my mind remembered that folded yard or so of turquoise nylon mesh still sitting downstairs in the Goodwill bag…(by the way, these are great businesses–I’m waiting for my order right now–but if there’s something I can make on my own, I’m not going to pay someone else to make me one.)

So I fished it out.  Tonight I hope to make some produce bags for the next time I visit the market.  Photos to come soon.

Plastic grocery bags are the pits. I did an earlier post on the reusable bag thing: check it out (