If I had known that happiness could be attained in less than two hours, I would’ve made these shorts a lot sooner!
As summer approached I took stock of my warm weather clothes-the ones that actually fit, mind you-and was sorely disappointed at my bottom half options. I had a pair or two of fitting linen pants, a pair or two of not-quite-fitting shorts (the kind you can wear for a few hours while being an actively present member of society but which you rip off within a few minutes of returning to the walls of your own home), and one pair of very comfortable bike shorts. Perhaps I could make do with this meager smattering?
I realized quickly that the bike shorts were my obvious favorite. Unfortunately that realization came with another which was that they were beginning to develop holes where my thighs rub together. If I get holes, that’s where I get them so no surprises there. And I do subscribe to the “mend it, don’t end it” policy, however, when dealing with a pair of seven dollar cotton jersey biker shorts, the mending tends to be incredibly short lived. Rather than mending or ending I opted to just turn the old pair into jammies and see how much more use I can get out of them.
Anyway, athletic wear has been one of the sewing areas I’ve had the least amount of interest in. It’s pretty easy for me to find RTW athletic wear that fits and that is affordable. And I don’t have a coverstitch machine which isn’t necessary but definitely helps to make athletic wear look more professional. So making my own has always been a bit on the back burner for me. And even when I wanted to get some bike shorts in my life as soon as possible, I pretty much exhausted every option including going to all the stores as well as trying to buy some online before I sighed and agreed to sew my own.
I was going to use my old and holey pair to trace a pattern for these but then I remembered that I had previously bought the McCalls 7874 pattern. I bought it for the top but the leggings seemed like they would do-they had a wide waistband and even only had the inner leg seam and not the outer which would be good for my no-coverstitch conundrum since that seam isn’t really seen. And, to top it off, I’d already traced the legging pattern several months ago when I thought I was going to make a set of this pattern.
For my fabric, I went to Joann’s. I’ve never bought their performance knits before but I’ve heard good things about them and always thought they had a good selection. I’ve also noticed that Joann generally prices appropriately. So their higher price fabrics are typically fairly good quality. Their athletic knits are usually priced at about $25/yard (at least at my location) and, if you time it right, you can get it for 30-50% off. The fabric I got was in the clearance section and was 50% without a coupon. I got 3/4 yard of each and spent a total of about $20.
I got the navy fabric thinking that everything goes with navy but I’ve actually not worn them nearly as much as the other pair, although I do love the subtle geometric design on the fabric. The other color, which is named “Toast,” kind of varies in color. Sometimes it looks brown. Sometimes it looks mauve. It’s even looked a little gray in certain light. It’s a compression knit (just the “Toast” color) and it just seems to go with more variety of tops, while the blue leans more toward athletic wear. Anyway, both fabrics have been great. They’re thick enough to be opaque. They’re smooth and comfortable. It’s a good fabric and one I’d be happy to buy again.
Once the fabric was washed things went almost ridiculously fast. While the baby was asleep one morning I thought I’d get out the pattern pieces and fabric just to see if everything fit. If you recall, I only got 3/4 yard of each fabric and I started wondering if it wouldn’t be enough. And it wasn’t, ha! My pattern pieces (chopped off to give a 9 inch inseam with about an inch allotted for a hem) were hanging over the fabric by maybe an inch. I thought for half a second I was going to have to head back to the store when I realized the waistband piece was wide enough that it could afford to lose an inch or two, no big deal. At that point, since I had everything out, I decided to just go ahead and cut out one of the fabrics so it’d be ready to sew at a later time. But the leggings pattern is literally 2 pieces: leg piece (cut two) and the waistband (cut one, on fold) so cutting took hardly any time at all. So I decided to see if I could sew it up really fast and determine if any alterations were needed before I cut out my next one. Anyway, long story short: I cut and sewed both leggings in about an hour and half and only had to return to the project to hem. When all was said and done I finished both in only two hours which is awesome.
When I sew with knits, I typically use a twin needle for hemming, which is how I finished the blue pair. And I don’t necessarily match thread perfectly for my hemming but just go with what I have in my stash. Sometimes I happen to have two of the same color but more often than not I end up having to use two different shades of the same color. I don’t think it’s super noticeable. At least it doesn’t bother me. But I could not find a second thread to go with my “Toast” pair. So instead of using a twin needle, I just did a regular straight stitch but twice. Here’s what the inside of the hem looks like. As you can see I don’t just skimp on my hemming thread but also my serger and bobbin thread, ha! I don’t bother to match what won’t be seen.
I sewed a size medium for these biker shorts, which was the largest size in my pattern package. The pattern calls for a 5/8th seam allowance but I sewed these with a 3/8, because I was worried about them fitting. I shouldn’t have worried, though; they fit fine. They’re not super tight like most other leggings I own so I’m sure I could use the standard seam allowance next time.
I also omitted the elastic that’s meant to be in the waistband for personal preference. It seems to me that elastic in leggings too often makes comfortable pants extremely uncomfortable so no thanks. As they are they fit and feel fine and they don’t slip off or anything. I did try running in them one time though and they weren’t quite as stable. I wasn’t worried they were going to fall off or anything, just that they rode a little lower than they’re supposed to. If I were to make these specifically for running, I’d probably just size down a bit (or use a larger seam allowance).
Anyhow, I’ve absolutely loved these shorts. They are crazy basic but as far as the effort to lovability ratio goes, these were off the charts. Very little effort was required but I’m left with a couple biker shorts that have already gotten lots of wear and will continue to be a fave in my wardrobe. Stretchy pants. I’m all for them right now in my life!
Pattern: McCalls 7874
Alterations: Cut at knee to make inseam 9″. Waistband shortened about 2 inches total (only because I didn’t have quite enough fabric). Omitted elastic
Fabric: Performance Microflex from Joann
Cost: 1 1/2 yards of fabric for $20
Would I make this again?: Yes, definitely!