knot shorts

July 8th, 2011

posting a project I did for grosgrain’s free pattern month:

Meg from elsie marley here and I’m very happy to be a part of all of this fantastic freeness on Grosgrain this month. For my contribution I’m going to show you how to alter a plain old pants pattern into one that will make super cute shorts for your little girl: knot shorts!

knot shorts tutorial by elsie marley


  • an existing kid’s shorts or pants pattern
  • one yard material
  • quarter yard (or so) contrasting material for facing
  • elastic (1 inch wide, or whatever you have lying around)
  • freezer paper, or some other paper to trace patterns

It might seem silly that for free pattern month, you first need to have a pattern. But making a kid’s pants pattern is easy as pie–you just trace some kid pants. Dana from Made has a very clear tutorial for making pants patterns that you can check out if you don’t have a pattern on hand. I have only made these for kids, but I don’t see why altering a grown up pattern in the same way wouldn’t work just as well.


1. First you need to trace your pattern onto pattern paper, or newsprint, or I like to use freezer paper.

2. Now you need to decided how long the inseam on your knot shorts will be. I made mine 4 inches long. This is a medium length pair of shorts on a 5 year old girl. A one or two inch inseam sounds scandalous, but I’ve made knot shorts that short and they look great. And besides, kids have very short legs, so it’s really not that short at all.

making the pattern for knot shorts

2. Whatever length inseam you choose divide it in half and make a mark. From that mark draw a line through the pattern and extend it 6 inches past the outer seam of the pants.

making the knot for knot shorts

3. From the end of the line draw a nice curve down to the bottom of the shorts. And draw another line that gracefully curves up to meet the outer seam.

4. Repeat the process for the back pattern piece.

making the facing pattern for the knot shorts

5. To make the facing for the shorts, first trace the front pattern piece. Then on your new piece, draw a straight line from the crotch (ugh, I can’t stand that word) to where the tie begins to curve out. Cut on that line. This will be your facing pattern.

6. Now that the pattern is made you can cut your fabric. Cut two front pieces and two back pieces out of your main fabric. From the contrasting fabric cut 4 facing pieces.

sewing inseam for the knot shorts

7.  Sew two facing pieces together, on the short straight side, right sides facing. Then serge or hem the long straight edge on top. Do this  for the other set of facing pieces as well.

8. Sew the inseam together on both legs of the shorts.

9. Open up one leg of the shorts and put the facing on top– as above–right sides facing.

10. Sew all around except where you hemmed (or serged). Clip the corners, turn out, and press.

11. Sew down the outer seams on both legs of the shorts. Stop right after you catch a bit of the facing, then backstitch a few times to secure.

12. Turn one leg inside out and the other right side out

last seam of the knot shorts

13. Put the right side out leg inside the inside out leg–now the right sides are together. Sew all around the crotch (that word again, ugh).

almost done with the knot shorts

14. Turn it out and press. You should have a very funny looking pair of shorts.

15. Make sure you have thread that matches exactly to your main fabric, then sew around the top of the facing to attach it to the shorts. Or if you want the seam to be even more invisible, you can sew it by hand.

tie the knots

16. Tie the knots, silly!

17. Fold the top edge under and press. Sew around to make a casing for the elastic. Insert elastic, insert child to see if they fit, sew up elastic and seam and ta da! Knot shorts!

I hope you enjoyed the knot shorts tutorial! Thanks so much for having me, Kathleen!



Posted in tutorials.

9 Responses to knot shorts

  1. Mireille says:

    Great idea! Thank you for sharing it!

  2. Ohmygoodness! Those are so cute! I think I have to make a pair…

  3. darci says:

    instead of ‘crotch’ you could call it the ‘saddle’

  4. Holly Keller says:

    my mom made me some shorts like this when I was about 10 years old–only they were made with terry cloth, which was very cool in the early 80’s–I also had a matching cami with straps that tied. Your shorts are infinitely cooler though–way more sophisticated that my terry cloth.

  5. Ashley says:

    Pardon my novice question, but how hard would this be to adapt for adult-size shorts?

  6. these are just so cute i can hardly stand it! i will have to try these soon~thank you!

  7. Naomi says:

    Those are so cute!

  8. CitricSugar says:

    I love these! I might have to see if I can manage a pair in my size…

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