Thursday, February 16, 2012



Little ones, grown ones, male, and female, all seem to love 5 panel boxers.  They are not just underwear anymore.  My grandson thinks they are grand for all purposes.  I went looking for a pattern for shorts like the big guys wear and found a couple that were "short" patterns, but they fell short of what I really wanted.  I wanted to create the real thing.  It was time to search the Internet.  I learned, if I had done this first I would not have wasted time running to stores (I definitely would have saved the money spent on impulse purchases at said stores).

I also ordered the adult version.   The patterns arrived at my doorstep with in 2 days.

If you're a novice at sewing, this pattern might be a little difficult, but if you have patience and follow the instructions to the letter you will be successful.  The instructions are very good and easy to follow.  I would suggest you make your first pair out of an old piece of sheet or other soft fabric.  (Do not use flannel for your first pair.  Working with flannel has its own difficulties.)  You will be able to make mistakes and if need be, cut a new piece and start over.  When you successfully finish you will have a pair of shorts which would be perfect for sleeping shorts.

If you will be using your pattern for more than one size you will need to trace or copy it on the copy machine.  I used a note book which I put in cellophane sleeves, each sleeve holds a different size.  I cut the instructions apart, they are odd size.  I put each section in its own sleeve.  (The adult pattern is on the left, unused as yet.)

The first pair you make may be confusing and time consuming.  The next pair will take you half the time.  As in all projects if you have all your "necessaries" together it will go faster.

Necessaries, clockwise from left:  Pattern, new needles, bobbins, frog and star fabric, post-its, sewing machine, fray check, sharpie, pen, scissors, tape measure, glasses, elastic, thread, more frog fabric (straight pins missing).  LOL, see how necessary it is to organize stuff before you start. 

You will notice I have two colors of thread which do not match the fabrics, but are in the same color family.  When I construct the shorts I like to use the different threads.  It adds another design element  because of the flat felled seams.  If you have never done flat felled seams do not dismay.  They are not difficult, just time consuming.  In the "necessaries" I didn't put an iron.  This is a real necessity when making flat felled seams. Using the iron gives a more professional finish. 

In the pattern instructions you are told to put wrong sides together.  This confused me the first time because I usually do seams with right sides together (even flat felled ones).  The reason this is done is to put the bulk of the seam on the outside of the shorts.  It is for comfort.


If you haven't changed your needle in your machine in a while, now is a good time to do it.  You will want a larger needle for sewing through thicker seams and attaching the elastic.  I use a #14 (If you have a heavier weight fabric like flannel the larger needle is necessary).

Fill your bobbins.  You might need two, remember every seam you sew you actually sew two seams because you are flat felling them. (The pair I made for this tutorial only took me one bobbin.)

Make sure your machine is threaded properly.  Test it to make sure your tensions are correct.

Pre-read the entire pattern to familiarize yourself with the steps and make sure you have all the "necessaries".  The elastic mentioned is a must.  A normal elastic, which is narrower, will not give the same effect.  I purchased mine at Hancock Fabrics.  It was $1.79 per package of 36 inches.  I was there on a notions 40% off  day so I bought their last 3 packages.

Have your pattern pieces ready and make sure they are all copied in the size you need.

HINT:  If you didn't pre-wash your fabrics, I highly recommend you do.  Take a break and do it now.  Cottons shrink, especially flannels.  It would be a shame to put all the work in a pair of shorts and have them come up "short".

Step one (left side of picture):  Put wrong sides of fabric together and stitch your seam.  The pattern calls for 1/2 inch seams.  I am more comfortable flat felling a 5/8th inch seam.  To compensate for the deeper seam I use the next size up patterns.

Step two (center of picture):  Open the seam out.  Trim one side of the seam down to 1/8th inch (Do the side the pattern suggests).

Step three (right side of picture):  The untrimmed side of the seam is pressed over the trimmed side.  Now turn the untrimmed side under and pin down.  Top stitch down.
                           FINNISHED SEAM
This is just a sample, I recommend if you haven't made a flat felled seam before, make your own sample before beginning your boxer construction.

Iron your fabrics and your pattern.  Wrinkles do make a difference.  Pin your pieces according to the instructions in the pattern.  Cut them out, mark them, and proceed with the construction in the order instructed. (Mark the fabric where indicated.  I use a pen or a sharpie (rather than cut into the edge of the fabric.)  For the dots I do the same thing.  If the ink will show on the fabric then I use a pencil which washes out.)

Since the fabric is dark colored I will transfer the markings with my sharpie (there are black spots on the fabric  and the marks won't be noticed if they show in the final garment.)  If you clip the marks into the fabric you might have trouble flat felling the seams when you come to a clipped place (I do).  Transfer marks after you cut out the pattern pieces.
PATTERN LAYOUT:  The pattern has several layouts.  The following is how I layout mine.  (I can't stand to waste fabric.)

Notes for novice seamstresses will be highlighted in red.   

Be sure you follow the notes on the pattern pieces that say "straight of grain".  Straight of grain means position your pattern parallel to the selvage.  How the fabric hangs when made into a garment is affected by this.

The frogs on this fabric don't have a direction so the direction of the pattern pieces doesn't matter (but the straight of grain does).  If you have a fabric with a direction, make sure you have all your pieces laid out the same dierection. You will notice I didn't use the other fabric.  It wasn't a large enough piece to position any of the pieces on it. 

They suggest you check off the steps as you go.  This is where I use the post it notes.  I don't like to write on my patterns.  I also use post-its to write notes when I find ways of executing a procedure which is different than what is instructed but is helpful to me.

Boxer construction:
The crotch area has "stay stitching".  Do not miss this step.  Sew the direction instructed.  Use tiny stitches.  If you are using the deeper seam allowance that I do, do not use it here.  Use the 1/2 inch  you are instructed to through the entire placket construction.  Stay stitching strengthens the area and keeps the bias edge from stretching when the final seam is constructed.  Don't forget to reset your stitch length for regular stitching. 


Use straight pins when joining your fabric pieces. I.E. joining B & C.  Match the notch markings.  When you flat fell the seams don't forget to pay attention to which side to trim, it is important.

When pinning the flat felled seam, use the "bias" of the fabric to help you round the curve pinning it down (when I pin I start at the center of the curve and pin outward each direction.)
The instructions for attaching the elastic are excellent. If you don't have "T" pins, use your straight pins.  Remember when you stretch the elastic it is pulling against the attaching pins so pin your pins across the end not parallel to the waist edge.  Use at least 2 pins, one pointing up and one pointing down (if you don't have "T" pins).  If you have trouble getting the point to come back up when you put them into the ironing board, get a serrated steak knife or a grapefruit spoon and use the edge to press down on the surface of the cover just an nth beyond where the point is to come up (it will pop right up).

When you are pinning the elastic to the fabric put something between the ironing board cover and your fabric. (I use a heavy plastic note book insert.  A piece of cardboard would work too.)  The only parts of the shorts pinned to the board are the ends of the waist band (the remainder of the waist area is free so you can pin the elastic to the fabric.) 

When Stitching, it is very important to stretch the elastic out and keep stretching it out on each row stitched.

When you complete attaching the elastic the pattern suggests you use a steam iron.  For me it isn't a is an important step.  It tightens up the gather and gives the waist band a professional look.  The instructions say a few inches above the elastic.  (If you touch the elastic you will melt it and destroy it's rebound tension.)  I do it very close, about 1/2 inch above the elastic.  Do not test the elastic by stretching it until it is very cool and perfectly dry. 

When you are working on the placket, after you have attached the elastic, you will encounter instructions for Clipping at the crotch area.  Follow them exactly.   At this point I use my "fray check".  I put it on the edges exposed by the clips, especially at the inside point.  If you don't have fray check it is not necessary.  I use it because I feel, if there was a weak point anywhere in the construction it is here. 

When I clipped the left crotch seam I spaced the clips every 3/8 inches instead of the 1/2 inch suggested (I left 1/2 inch unclipped at each end of the seam).  I clipped to with in an 1/8 inch of the stay stitching.  This permitted the fabric to fold over at the stay stitching better.

Pinning the the crotch seam:  I used my hard white plastic sheet here to keep from pinning the front to the back.  After placing the left placket over the right placket and pinning in place, I tackled pinning the crotch seam.  This is not flat felled like the other seams.  Follow the instructions exactly. 

Align your left front clipped seam up with the stay stitching of the right front seam.  I overlap the stay stitching a smidgen to hide the stay stitching.  As you can see I pin with my heads to the right, not to the left like the illustration.  It is easier for me.  I also pin closer than suggested.  I am more comfortable with the added pins. Stitch as instructed.

When you turn the boxers inside out to complete the seam you will see why I "Fray Check".  Follow the instructions for trimming the seam and turning under and stitching.  At the end of the seam where it meets the placket you are supposed to turn that little diagonal under and stitch down.  I don't turn it under, but I do stitch it down and back stitch over it so it is stitched twice.  Using the "Fray Check" it will not fray (even after countless washings.) 

When I completed the "flat felling" of the crotch seam I noticed one side was longer than the other.  I measured each leg by placing one on top of the other and they were both the same width at the hem area.  I deduced I should trim it off even at the crotch.  I drew a line  from the crotch seam to the corner of the leg.  I will trim this off. and proceed with the next step in constructing the boxers.

The next step is to sew the placket closed.  Follow the instructions.

When you pin your back to your front at the crotch, if  either piece is longer than the other, pin the centers of the two pieces first (pinning out from the center.)  Now you can sew your seam.  Remember to have wrong sides together.  If you have been using the 5/8" seam in the rest of the construction you should use 5/8" seam here.  Construct your flat fell like you have been.  Pay attention to the correct side to trim.  When you are finished with the seam you can trim the area that is too long.  Use the procedure we used for the crotch when it was too wide (the picture on the left).  lay you legs out and square up and make your line where it is not even with the other parts of the leg.

A very simple step to do.  It is all done by machine.  I have simplified it for myself even more (albeit adding another step).  I take each leg and run a line of stitching around the bottom of it 1/4" from the edge.  This gives me an accurate edge to turn and press under.  It also gives a nice crisp edge when I am doing the final fold over and stitch down.  The only thing left to do is press the hem.

I hope you have found this tutorial helpful in constructing your shorts.  I have been asked if it was worth it, being you can purchase them cheaply at the store.  For me it is,  No one else has a pair of shorts like my grandson's, and he loves them.
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