achievement unlocked: railroad stripe sailor shorts

putting together outfits for me-made may made me acutely aware that i really need more me-made bottoms that are not skirts. i wear a lot of skirts during the summer, but the rest of the year, i gravitate toward pants. & i like to have shorts on hand as well.

i was mildly intrigued by a few shorts patterns from indie patternmakers (& actually own the katy & laney tap shorts pattern, though i have yet to make it up). the one that was really drawing my focus was grainline’s maritime shorts pattern. but…it’s just shorts. pockets, zip fly, nothing terribly unusual. i decided to check out the big 4 offerings for a basic shorts pattern before splashing out $12 for the maritime shorts. & look what i found!


these are kwik sew 3854, which have been around for years. this pattern comes in two variations: the adorbs sailor version you see here, & a hideous pleated culottes situation that should be killed with fire. obviously this is far from the basic zip fly shorts pattern that i was seeking, but i really couldn’t resist. i even had a length of railroad stripe denim & matching navy buttons in my stash, so i didn’t have to buy anything other than the pattern to whip these up. & the pattern was on sale! & i had a coupon!

this was my first experience with a kwik sew pattern, & the heavier pattern paper was really nice. based on finished garment measurements, i cut a straight XL, knowing that i was probably going to have to take in the hips & legs at the very least. but i waited until i had the shorts mostly constructed to make that determination.

these shorts fasten with an actual sailor bib, which inspired a lot of feelings in me. on the one hand: adorbs! & what fun to construct something i had not yet constructed! also, more practice making functional buttonholes! on the other hand: kind of seems like a giant pain in the ass to have to do up six buttons every time you use the bathroom. & having next to no buttonhole experience meant that i was taking a risk constructing an entire garment only to completely whiff it on the very last step, which also happens to be the primary design element.



of course i used viewfinder fabric for the pocket bags. i mean, come on. the pattern called for self-fabric pocket bags, but i thought two layers of denim would be too much bulk.

i really enjoyed the construction process. the pockets were especially fun to make. the only alteration i made before beginning was adding an inch to the inseam. once i had the shorts constructed save for the waistband, i tried them on & sure enough, the legs belled out way too much for my tastes. i took in the seams at both sides & crotch about an inch. i graded back out to the original seamline at the bottom of the pocket (sewing toward the waist), but then i took a chance  took the waist in as well. ultimately, i probably could have left the waist alone, because the waistband is really high & you can customize the fit there to some degree by altering your button placement. (the pattern says to sew them in two inches from the edge. i sewed mine 1.5″ inches from the edge.)

i did get a little flummoxed by the directions on attaching the waistband to the shorts. the waistband is doubled, with interfacing fused to one side, & you sew one side on to start, & then stitch up the sides & turn the waistband right side out from the bottom, & then stitch in the ditch to complete. this was greek to me, & i couldn’t work out how these instructions fit the illustrations. but eventually i worked it out & was like, “oh! i get it. that’s clever.” the only part i really didn’t like about this is that you are instructed to “follow the pocket line” for sewing the waistband side seams, but as far as i can tell, you just kind of have to eyeball it because the pockets are set at a slight angle. i didn’t quite get it right, which is why my front waistband is a little longer than my side waistband, & why there’s that tuck on the inside front waistband (which thankfully is not visible from the outside & doesn’t affect the buttonholes).


you can also see in this photo that the shorts are a little tight across the belly, which makes the pockets bow out a little. it was hard to discern exactly where the shorts would fall on the waist without the waistband attached. they came up higher than i expected. so i probably took in the belly area too much when i thought i was taking in the hip. but you know, it’s fine. i don’t really mind it.

the button closure also isn’t as annoying as i expected. the fit is loose enough that i only have to undo one side of the bib to get them on & off.

i also think the crotch curve is a little bit wonkus on me. but that’s something i will have to address if i ever make these shorts again. i kind of want to, but i also wonder how many pairs of high-waisted sailor shorts one person needs. probably one is plenty.

sewing these was my mother’s day project. jared wrangled ramona so i could focus on my sewing. & i finished them in just one day–maybe six hours or so? i think they will get a lot of wear this summer!

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

6 thoughts on “achievement unlocked: railroad stripe sailor shorts

    1. i’m not sure how i feel about the high-waist trend either. being short-torsoed & large-busted, it might not be all my all-time best silhouette. but i just couldn’t resist the sailor bib!

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