Purple Silk Shorts by Burda. Process by Me.

Every garment has a Big Story, even if it’s small or rarely worn. This is what I love about sewing–it’s taking the narrative of fashion and making it very personal. Making something is such a stretched-out process of meditation–from research to finished garment. Sometimes I think about a person who loves this color, or a place I have been that feels like this fabric.

Or sometimes, as in the case of these silk shorts, the story becomes about the very process of craft.

Pattern: from Burda June 2010. Fabric: purple silk charmeuse leftover from my Lady Grey coat. I’d been wanting to make this pair since last summer so I added them to my multi-pattern project.

This is a really classic and easy-to-wear pattern. The shorts are slightly loose with a nice subtle contoured waistband that sits just below the waist, yoke pockets, and a fly. (The pattern had two styles with options for cuffs, back welt pockets, a front closing bow, or belt loops. I left off everything but the cuffs.)

Before cutting them I did a bit of zipper research. Rather than try and deciper the Martian Burda instructions, I compared various online tutorials and and the instructions in one of my sewing books. Most fly zip instructions include basting the center front, and I wanted to know if it was possible to do them without basting or even pins (partially to avoid stitch marks in silk and partially out of my experimenting curiosity).

So I turned to my favorite sllk crepe trousers and did a bit of examination of the pieces and possible sewing order. Then I cut a couple of templates in rayon scrap, using a similar fly front but with a very short crotch rise, adding a fly shield and making a few seam adjustments. I tried one sample with a cut-on fly facing and another with a sewn-on facing.

I was very pleased with the outcome of both–sewing a fly without basting is quite easy and just requires a few placement marks/notches. I transferred the pattern adjustments to my shorts and here was the final result from the outside:

From the inside (and still need to tie up the loose threads, oops!):

Things pretty much fell together after those exercises. And this was such a great feeling that I forgot to try them on till the end. And when I did, I realized I’d gone and done the ultimate sewing mishap: I’d completely traced and sewn the wrong (and much too small) size! In my past sewing life, this would’ve produced a seam-ripping frenzy, but I happily carried on hemming. At some point, I must have subconsciously felt these were less about an addition to my wardrobe and more about learning technique. I’d approached them almost as a sample-maker would–testing out the engineering and design, so to speak.

Now this got me thinking–how many garments (other than fast and unfinished muslins) had I made just as an exercise or practice, for the sake of practice, without the pressure of the end product? Very little, actually. Sewing tends to be goal-oriented, and coupled with a fear of waste, even the process of making muslins can have a certain goal-pressure around them. I liked how K.Line described muslins as a separate practice, a chance to learn, more like applied engineering.

Whatever your passions or hobbies, there is always more to know or learn, right? Even my most treasured writers filled notebooks with pure writing exercises to the end of their lives–which stretch fluidity in language, try out technique on smaller scales, and improve the process of self-editing. As I was putting these together, I thought, becoming a master at anything is not so much about skill acquisition but a willingness to keep practicing and learning and improving–these things eventually compound on each other and create experience and greater understanding. And those practices are valuable, even enjoyable, for their own sake.


  1. Oh yes, I like this — it’s so heartening to consider how nothing is wasted even if the results aren’t immediate or what we’d hoped for. But, I must say, I am gutted you won’t get to wear those beautiful shorts, they’re amazing!

    • Amy says:

      I think I’m going to make another pair at some point, definitely for next summer. It’s just that I’m thinking now of scarves and all kinds of layery things at last!

  2. Geri says:

    They are so beautiful – and I’m so impressed with your fortitude. It’s usually about that point when I through the offending garment in a dark corner never to be seen again. Hopefully you’ll find a home for these shorts though – they’re just too lovely!!

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