Color-blocked Boy Shorts for Shorts On The Line!

Yipee! It’s time to celebrate shorts, people! I don’t know when it happened, but at some point I was bit by the shorts bug. I’m well known among my friends on Instagram as the girl who churns out a few new pairs of shorts every week. I wouldn’t be surprised if my IG followers rolled their eyes every time a new pair popped up in my feed. Sheesh, shorts again. Get a new hobby.

Shorts appeal to me in a way that skirts don’t. Maybe it’s because I have two boys, maybe it’s because my active daughter can’t keep her knees together to save her life and must wear something that covers up those undies. Whatever it is, I LOVE SHORTS.

Last year, I loved shorts so much that I sewed along with Shorts On The Line, entered a few pairs in the Flickr group, and WON the second place Judge’s Choice Award for these lace shorts. It was super fun, and the first time I received any kind of recognition for sewing. It still gives me warm fuzzies to think about those shorts. (See some of my other shorts here, here, here and here.)

This year, Carla and Rachael asked me to join in the fun by contributing a guest post, and since I get a lot of feedback these days on the stuff I sew for my boys, I thought we could all use a good dose of BOY. So, let’s color-block some boy shorts, shall we?

When it comes to sewing boy clothing, I have two aims:

  1. It must not look dorky.
  2. It should look like it came from a surf brand, such as Quicksilver. 
I also want my boy’s clothing to be comfortable, durable, wearable with multiple other items of clothing, and I want it to stand out in some way. I can’t abide the thought of spending hours on a garment, just to have it look like what everyone else is wearing. 
For these reasons, I tend to use a lot of contrasting colors in my sewing for boys. I like to mix and match solids and textures to give my items a unique look. It’s a really fun and simple way to spice up your son’s handmade wardrobe.
Now, before I get on with the how-to details, here is a list of the types of fabrics I mostly use:
  • Twill: this is my absolute favorite fabric for sewing boy shorts. It’s durable, strong, and of high quality where I buy it at Jo-Ann’s. The main shorts you see in this post were made using twill for the gray part. It washes and dries well, and only continues to look better with wear.
  • Linen: this is my other favorite. I’ve used linens with a lot of drape, and some stiffer versions with very little. Linen is strong and durable, and like twill, it weathers well over time. Linen shorts get better and better with wear and washings.
  • Cotton solids: cotton quilting solids, such as Kona Cotton, is my favorite choice for color-blocking. The vibrant colors (especially primary colors) look best paired with a more neutral colored twill. These fabrics combine well with others, and if you buy designer cottons (like the Kona, or solids by Robert Kaufman) you can count on the fabric wearing well without fading.

One last note on choosing fabrics for your color-blocked boy shorts: experiment with textures. Color-blocking can be even more effective when you combine different textures and/or shades of the same color. You don’t have to use all brightly colored solids against a gray backdrop. Sometimes, I like to use stripes in different directions to emphasize certain design elements in my shorts. 

Now, for some instructions on how to sew your own color-blocked shorts! For these instructions, you’ll need a shorts pattern that fits your child. I tried to finish my own shorts pattern in time (it’s the one I used to make these shorts for Stryder), but didn’t quite make it. Hopefully, I’ll have it finished soon, but in the meantime, here are some suggestions:

Here are a few simple images to help you convert a pattern you already have into color-blocked boy shorts.
Lay your front and back pieces out on the table, with the side seams lined up like you see in the picture below. Make sure the top and bottom match up. If you want the color-blocking on the back and front of your shorts to match up on the sides, this is important! 

Choose where you want the color blocking to start. You can either measure up from the bottom of your shorts (see photo above) or from the top edge of your shorts (see below). Whichever you choose, make sure the lines you draw match up at the same point.

Draw a line across the front and back pieces to denote where your color blocking seam will go.

Now, this is important: You essentially now have four pattern pieces instead of two. Before cutting out your fabric, add a 1/2″ seam allowance to the bottom AND top pieces of your pattern. I like to trace all four sections onto new tracing paper, then add a 1/2″ seam allowance to the bottom edge of the top front and top back pieces, and the top edge of the bottom front and bottom back pieces.
If you don’t add the seam allowances, your shorts will be mysteriously missing 1″ in length once they are sewn together and there won’t be enough room in the inseam or booty. That would be no good!

Lay your top front piece on top of your bottom front piece with right sides facing, like this:

Stitch them in place with a 1/2 seam allowance, and finished the seam with a serger, pinking shears, or a zig zag stitch.

Press the seam allowance up toward the top piece.

Top stitch with two rows of stitching. For the first row, edge stitch as close to the seam as possible. Stitch the second row 1/8″ from the first.

Now, assemble the shorts according to the pattern instructions, taking care to match the color-blocking seams at the side seams. 
And then, TADA! You have color-blocked boy shorts:


Before I go, I want to show you one more technique. I also enjoyed making these shorts for my older son with striped color-blocking:
Cut three stripes of fabric, 1″ wide and long enough to stretch across the width of all the pattern pieces.

Lay the stripes across your fabric, using the method I showed you earlier to make sure they will match up at the side seams.

Pin down the top strip of fabric. Once you’ve stitched this one down, use it to help you align the next two.

Stitch the stripes down, about 1/8″ from both raw edges of all three stripes. The edges of the fabric will fray up to the stitching. You can help it along by pulling out some threads from the horizontal weave.

Trim the excess.

Now sew the shorts according to the instructions and you’re done!
Thanks for tuning in for the Shorts on the Line fun, friends! If you’re new to CailaMade, I hope you find something you like and stay awhile. For now, enjoy a few more pictures of Stryder in his color-blocked shorts. To see more of the shirt he’s wearing below, check back tomorrow!

This post is part of shorts on the line sewalong hosted by imagine gnats and small + friendly, sponsored by Jo-AnnPretty Prudent/Pellon®, and Hawthorne Threads.

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  1. says

    Thank you for this! I have 2 boys whom I never sew clothes for, b/c I don’t want their clothes to scream “handmade” or dorky either. You’ve inspired me to run to Joann and get some twill and linen.
    p.s. I love the pic of your adorable little guy standing on his toes. Too cute!
    Jen 🙂

    • says

      Yay, I’m so glad you feel inspired to sew for your boys! That was my whole aim. You’ll find you can easily make them some very cool shorts!

  2. says

    I love those striped color blocked shorts. I often forget to sew for my little man…but I could definitely see him wearing those striped shorts!

  3. says

    I love that you posted these today, because…. Today, I was at Joann’s today and a saw some pieced shirting that reminded me of your quilted shorts that you made for your oldest for Sewivor. I thought about getting 3/4 yrd. and whipping up some shorts for my boy but then I remembered he still has 4 pairs for the ones that I whipped up last year (they are just a little shorter on his legs this year). But it is getting hot here so I might just change my mind.
    With Love,

    • says

      Yay! I scheduled the shirt post for midnight tonight, so you won’t have to wait long. Can’t wait to see the linen shorts you make!

  4. says

    I love these!! If it wasn’t winter here, they would be next on my sewing table! Can’t wait for your post on the gorgeous shirt your little man is wearing (or your shorts pattern)