Emerson Shorts in moss linen

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When our family took a trip to Maui this spring, I started packing pretty late in the game, for me: only a week ahead.  Because, for real, I get SO EXCITED when we travel that I am honestly thinking about packing weeks in advance, and have to hold myself back to only start putting things in the suitcase seven days before the wheels come up on the plane.

And the thought of spending a week on Maui in the last days of winter, with my family??  SIGN ME UP.

We knew we had a wide range of activities planned, because we wanted to really take advantage of the enormous diversity of landscape on Maui.  Did you know that the volcano there is over 10,000 feet high, and that the temperatures there max out around 40 degrees?  Even in summer?  Which is amazing.  In the space of a couple hours, you can go from sandy beach to icy mountain climbing, and that’s awesome.

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Because we were just coming off winter in Atlanta, we were all set for mountain gear, which meant I didn’t have to think too hard about the morning we spent greeting the dawn at Haleakala National Park at the top of the volcano (high temp: 43 degrees).  But when I went looking for shorts for the days at the beach (expected high: 81 degrees), I learned very quickly that I had about ZERO shorts.  My drawer holds one pair that are literally 20+ years old, and another that I’ve never really liked but that look so pretty I keep not throwing them out.  I mean, what’s that about??

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So making myself a pair of wear-everywhere shorts became my first priority.  Why even take a trip if you aren’t going to sew something UP TO THE VERY LAST MOMENT, am I right or am I right?

I have a running list of sewing projects, so whenever possible, I really do make an effort to get every garment to do double duty: if I can make a wearable muslin to test a pattern, and then use that muslin on a trip or for a class I had planned anyway, then I feel like I squeeze more sewing out of my time.  In this case, I already had the True Bias Emerson Pants pattern on my list, and one of the best ways I’ve learned to test the fit of a pair of pants is by making shorts.  So BOOM!  Perfect solution to my shorts problem!

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I used my favorite Robert Kaufman Essex yarn-dyed linen in Olive.  It’s a thicker linen that makes a great bottom-weight, but also softens up a ton in the wash over time, plus has the advantage that it can be run through the tumble dryer and worn with minimal pressing (my secret: take it out of the dryer still warm and shake out all the wrinkles, then lay flat to cool–minimal ironing!).  I like that this particular fabric has enough heft that it will hold its shape along the waistband and at the pleats, as well as keeping the pockets from stretching out too much with wear.

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The construction uses one of my favorite techniques, which combines a flat front waistband with an elastic back.  I really like that Kelli uses a wider elastic, and that it really fills up the casing–it gives the waistband more presence and prevents it from rolling too much.  Plus, the fit is excellent, and has just enough ease that the waistband sits comfortably but without squeezing–no rolling elastic, no muffin top!

The other feature I really love about this pattern is the pockets-plus-pleats design.  I love that the topstitched pleats create the volume I need at the leg, but that the silhouette is still fitted at the hip–and that the pleats blend into the pocket so cleanly and without bulk.  It’s just a really nice shape with good fit.

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I think the biggest mistake a lot of us are making, me included, is that we don’t wear a muslin long enough before making another version, the “real” version.  It’s easy to get a sense of major fit issues with a brief wear-it-around-the-house, but for the fine-tuning we really need to wear them longer.  I know for me, I get so excited (and in a hurry) that I don’t want to wear anything around long enough to explore the more delicate issues of fit.  But it really does pay off.

In this case, I made these shorts and then took them with me to Maui.  And then I wore them for a couple weeks here at home, once the weather warmed up.  Then I wore them on our most recent trip.  I washed and dried them, I pressed them, I rolled them up in my suitcase, and I sat around in them at the pool.  I really gave them a solid test run, and I’m so glad I did.  I know that when I make the pants version of this pattern, in a slightly-lighter fabric, that I’ll want to tailor the width of the leg somewhat, and that I like the stiffer elastic for the back waistband.  Nothing replaces testing, you guys. (If you want to sew garments as you build your confidence and skill set I have just the thing!)

Also: I’m so glad I suffered through those lunges and squats at the gym.  They are SO LAME, but they make me enjoy wearing shorts again after a few years of not wanting to show my legs.  A lesson to us all.

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  • Emilia Rosa
    August 6, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    Deborah, I have your lovely book Stitch by Stitch. I plan to make several of the projects in it. I only have a question: do the clothes’ patterns already have seam allowance? Thank you and sorry for the trouble.

    • Deborah
      August 10, 2018 at 1:46 pm

      Hi, Emilia, and thanks so much for your kind words! Yes, all the patterns include a 1/2″ seam allowance. Have fun sewing!