sewing KID Shorts: the Flat Front

by Dana on June 28, 2013

Now that we’ve tackled Basic Shorts….let’s give them a Flat Front.

This post is one of many tutorials that accompany the KID Shorts PATTERN, which you can purchase HERE.
You do not need our pattern to sew these shorts but it’s recommended.
If you’re using a different pattern, or if you’ve created your own pattern, follow along with the instructions and make shorts with us!

And check out all the variations we’ve made by clicking a button below:

Flat front shorts are not hard to sew.  They might look like they are—cause the finished product is all awesome and professional looking—but we’re using many of the same steps to get a Short that looks really snazzy.

Basically all we’re doing is cutting the Front pattern piece a bit more narrow than before (which is easy to do with the Flat Front fold line on our trusty pattern).   Then we’re adding elastic to the Back of the shorts only, rather than throughout the entire waistband.

In reality, flat front shorts don’t take much longer to sew than Basic Shorts….and you end up with a more polished and professional look.  It’s my favorite way to sew shorts for my kids.


So let’s get started!

Grab your Front pattern piece and note the diagonal dotted line labeled “Flat Front Fold”.
Simply fold the pattern under along that line (but don’t cut it so you can still use the pattern when making Basic Shorts ).


And we’re ready to cut fabric.  Fold the fabric in half, selvage to selvage and lay the pattern pieces parallel to the grainline (more info in the Basic Shorts tutorial).

TIP #1:  When folding the fabric, fold it with right sides together.  Then once your patter pieces are cut, they’re already “right sides together” and totally ready to sew!

TIP #2: When cutting out pieces you can trace around the pattern with a pen and then cut your pieces, or you can use some sort of weights to hold the pattern piece in place while you cut, OR—what I do—is to simply press down on the area I’m cutting with my left hand (using it as a “weight”) and then cut the fabric with my right hand.  No tracing.  And it’s surprisingly pretty accurate.

Okay, you should have 2 Front pieces and 2 Back pieces.

We’re going to start sewing the shorts the same way we did in the Basic Shorts tutorial (for fine details, read through that tutorial).
–Use a 3/8 inch Seam Allowance for this entire tutorial—

Finish off your seams (with a zigzag stitch on your machine, or with pinking shears, or with a serger.  Read details about Finishing Seams in the Basic Shorts Tutorial).  Iron out your seams and your shorts should look like this:

You can tell that the Front is much more narrow than the back, which is perfect.

Now pin the side seams together.  Pull the first side seam over so it reaches the Back side seam and pin, then pull the other side seam over and pin.

It will look like this:

Then sew down both side seams:

Finish off the seams (with a zigazag, pinking shears, serger, or leave them as-is)

Now create the waistband casing just as we did with the Basic Shorts.  Iron it under a 1/2 inch, then iron it under another 1 1/4 inches.

Now because the flat front pattern piece was slightly angled when we cut it out, the waistband might not lay as flat as it did with the Basic shorts.  So just do your best to iron the waistband in place when ironing the Front portion of the shorts.  And the good news is…..there won’t be any elastic going through the Front.  So the Front doesn’t need to be ironed under a perfect 1 1/4 inches to accommodate elastic.  If some of the front is ironed under only 1 inch wide to help the fabric lay more flat, this is totally fine.  Don’t get hung up on it, just do your best.

With the waistband ironed, we’re going to sew only the BACK portion first:

Start at one side seam and sew the waistband in place—around the back of the shorts—over to the other side seam.

And now it’s time for elastic!

Reference the chart included in the pattern for the proper elastic amount.
Basically the elastic length should be half of your waist size, plus an extra 1/2 to 1 inch (for wiggle room when sewing it to the side seams)

We’re using 1 inch wide elastic and I prefer Knit elastic (over Braid or Woven) because it tends to not roll up inside of the waistband over time.

Attach a safety pin to one end of the elastic and start stringing it through the waistband.
Enter through one opening at the side seam and push the elastic through till you have only a small tail of elastic sticking out at the first opening.  This doesn’t need to be exact (and try not to pull it too far or you’ll have to start over)….but when there’s about a 1/2 inch of elastic left at the opening, sew that end in place.   I keep it real simple in this step.  Simply sew down the waistband, right along the side seam, sewing the elastic and fabric together (see bottom right photo).

Now if you’re smart, you’ll either use a thread color that doesn’t show any mistakes…..or, you’ll sew a little more precisely along the side seam underneath so it doesn’t look wonky.  I did neither.  But I’m calling it good and moving on:

With the elastic sewn to one side of the shorts, continue pulling it through the back till it comes out the other side-seam opening.  Let the elastic hang out about a 1/2 inch and sew it in place, just as we did above.

Trim the ends of the elastic so they don’t poke into your waistband.

Now I should note that with that with this style of shorts….you could also make these shorts into an adjustable waistband by adding two buttons on the inside of the front waistband, and using elastic with buttonholes sewn in (you can purchase that type of elastic in many fabric shops, or even make your own).
But.
In all honesty, these shorts are so easy to make that I personally don’t think it’s worth the time to make an adjustable waist and I don’t think it looks as nice either.  The beauty of sewing for your child is that you can make clothing to fit their particular body size.  So, in my opinion, forgo an adjustable waist and simply sew a new pair of awesome flat front shorts if they grow out of them!
That’s all.

Okay,
Let’s sew the Front of the waistband in place!

Now, I’ve tried doing this a few different ways.

First is to pin the waistband down and then sew it in place.  The pinning is fairly easy to do because we already ironed it down in previous steps.  However, when sewing, you’ll sometimes end up with small bunches of fabric folds in your waistband.

You can solve some of this by working out the kinks with your fingernail afterward (just scratch the seam and try to smooth it out).  Or, when sewing, you might try sewing on the right side of the fabric, rather than the inside of the waistband, to watch for any pleating.

But what I’m finding works best is to NOT pin the waistband down, to start sewing, and as I sew, continually pull the fabric slightly to the left and either up or down (depending on where I am on the waistband. I do this with my left hand, to get it as smooth as I can underneath the waistband. I use my right hand to hold the shorts and feed it through the machine.  This distributes any small bits of excess fabric throughout the Flat Front.  And you can see on this yellow pair of short below, there are a few small “gathers” but overall it looks great and in reality, once your kiddo has her shirt and shoes on….no one will even notice such minor imperfections.

Okay.
Almost done!

Iron the hemlines under a 1/2 inch and then another 1 inch and sew them in place.

And…you’ve got an adorable pair of Flat Front shorts!

You could stop right there. But for this girly pair let’s add some buttons….just for fun.

The buttons here serve no purpose, other than looking cute.  So no need to sew buttonholes.  Simply find two buttons you like, center them on the front waistband and handsew them right to the fabric.

Then pair it with a colorful shirt and shoes and you’re ready to hit the boardwalk!


Hopefully your boardwalk tastes like this….

Have a great weekend!


Come back on Monday for our next tutorial….we’ll be making RACERs!

To purchase the KID Shorts pattern simply click the button below (you can read all the pattern details HERE.)
KID Shorts PDF Pattern – $8
Add to Cart

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Delia June 28, 2013 at 9:51 am

Adorable as ever! Those buttons are the PERFECT touch! Love it!

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2 palak June 28, 2013 at 9:55 am

dear lord… the cuteness is killing me! I with Delia– I love the buttons.

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3 Heidi @ handmadefrenzy.blogspot.com June 28, 2013 at 10:01 am

So all the kids’ outfits are adorable of course, but Lucy’s shorts with the buttons… That whole outfit is out of the park cuteness!!!

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4 Caitlin June 28, 2013 at 11:21 am

I just made a pair of flat fronts for my 3-year-old and they turned out seriously cute! Thanks for the awesome pattern and tutorials!

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5 Alissa June 28, 2013 at 11:26 am

I *love* Lucy’s shoes. Think they make those in adult sizes? :)

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6 cucicucicoo June 28, 2013 at 12:38 pm

I am LOVING these tutes! I generally make my own patterns just by tracing my kids’ clothing, but I think I’m buying your pattern so I can make them for gifts for all other kids I know! :) Lisa

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7 Diane June 28, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Hi Dana, with the inside seams should they be overlocked? Will they fray?

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8 Dana June 30, 2013 at 2:23 pm

You don’t need to finish off the seams unless you’d like to. Yes, depending on the type of fabric you’re using, the seam edges will fray over time and with washing. Woven fabrics will always fray (knit fabrics will not), but depending on how tight the weave is, some fabrics will fray more than others.

Options you have for finishing the seams are:
• Serge them with a serger machine (overlock machine). You can use a serger to sew them instead of using a standard sewing machine. OR, you can sew with your sewing machine first (to make sure there are no mistakes, or spots you need to fix with a seam ripper) and then serge off the seam edges (this is what I prefer actually. It leaves more room for error)
• Zigzag over the seam edge or use any type of overlock stitch your machine might come with
• Trim the edges of your seams with pinking shears (those zigzag scissors).

Typically I finish off my seams with a serger. But while creating this pattern, I purposely did not use a serger, nor did I finish off my seams on about 15 pairs of shorts that I sewed for my kids. I did this so I could create them just as the average beginner sewer would be making them. And honestly, as the kids have worn them and as I’ve washed them, the seams are totally great….very little fraying. I may stop using my serger! :) The waistband and the hems on each leg are finished off nicely (with the way that we’ve ironed under twice) which I think really helps hold everything together well.

Hopefully that answers your question!

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9 Diane June 30, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Thanks very much, I think i will sew first as you suggested and then serge.

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10 Taylor June 29, 2013 at 9:39 am

Love them, and why does Lucy look 13??

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11 Kristi W. June 30, 2013 at 7:45 am

As soon as I saw this post I bought the pattern. Your earlier pants tutorial and pattern are what taught me (after being a confirmed pantophobe) that I not only COULD sew a pair of pants (from a pattern!) but that I might actually enjoy it. I already have a stack of fabric set aside to sew Wub three or four pairs of shorts this weekend. Thanks so much for the great tutorials.

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12 Kristi W. June 30, 2013 at 7:47 am

I just googled pantophobe and it means “Fear of everything.” Not exactly what I meant but you get my drift.

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13 Áine July 21, 2013 at 6:19 pm

I absolutley love the blue polka dot fabric :)

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14 paccana August 1, 2013 at 7:00 pm

Would this be too much of a challenge for a rather new sewer?

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15 Dana August 1, 2013 at 11:03 pm

Not at all. It’s much easier to figure out than it probably seems. I would definitely sew a pair of Basic Shorts first though, and then move on to the Flat Front.

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16 fega August 25, 2013 at 1:16 pm

This and others I’ve seen of your works are really lovely. Thank you so very much!!! God bless your beautiful sharing heart.

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17 Lorraine August 26, 2013 at 9:39 am

I heart these designs!! So cool. I improvised a pair of basic shorts without your pattern (nervous of how it would print in Europe) just before leaving for our caravanning holiday – and as I have 4 kids I just figured they would fit one of them. As it happens they fit both my younger boys, so they share them – and I feel so proud every time they wear them! I used some pretty cheap fabric because they were intended to be a test, but they worked so well that I’m ready to hit the shops and buy some fabric specially to try some flat-front and/or pocketed shorts! Thank you so much for sharing Dana. This is my new favourite site! :D

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18 Alison September 10, 2013 at 5:42 am

I’m new to sewing and I found these shorts so simple and so adorable, thanks so much I have a few of your patterns now I just love them!!!!

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19 Karen September 13, 2013 at 6:23 am

Hi Dana,
I’m keen to make some of these shorts, but I’ve had a bit of a problem with the flat fronted pants, and I’m wondering if you can help?
As the back sits higher than the front, when it comes to ironing the waist band under, I always end up with a funny kind of a crease/fold over where the front and back seams meet. Does this make sense? Is there a little tip you can give me so I don’t get this? Thanks heaps!

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20 Monique Thomas September 16, 2013 at 9:58 pm

Hi Karen
I’m sure Dana will reply but I just wanted to say I’ve made lots of Dana’s pants with the flat front and after you’ve ironed down the casing and stitched the elastic into the back, it should be ok. You just need to give it a good iron and really smooth it with your fingers. Good luck.
Monique

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21 Dana September 17, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Excellent tips Monique!
And yes, once you iron, the flat front will lay more smoothly. The other thing I do when sewing is to sort of pull the fabric slightly “up” with my left hand so that’s it’s evenly distributed as I sew. I’m sure that doesn’t make any sense when you’re reading this but try it out as you sew and see if that helps.

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22 Monique Thomas September 16, 2013 at 9:52 pm

Hi Dana
I just bought the shorts pattern and I can’t wait to make some. I have used your pants pattern quite a lot to make basic and flat front pants for my daughter and son and I just love the shape of them. I used that pattern to make shorts in size 3 and 4 but having this new pattern is great as I’ll have so many sizes and won’t have to guess when adjusting the pants pattern to make another size. Are you planning to do the same for the pants pattern, ie. sell a printable pattern in different sizes?
Cheers
Monique

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23 Dana September 17, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Hi Monique. yep! I’m planning to do a tutorial about extending the shorts pattern down to pants. Just haven’t done it yet! but it’s high on my list!

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24 Nicola September 19, 2013 at 2:23 am

Hi there!

I have just whipped up a pair of shirts for my son after buying your pattern! He wears modern cloth diapers which are pretty slim gutting but I think the shorts need a tad more room – what seam would you recommend adding a bit more to? I made up the 18mth size which fits perfectly around the waist and is good in length (and width) of the short.

Thanks for your help!
Nic

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25 Nicola September 19, 2013 at 2:25 am

Oh my gosh auto correct kill me now! Shirts obviously = shorts and his diapers are slim fitting!

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26 Monique September 22, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Hi Nicola

I made the size 18 months too for my 14 month old but I’ve found them to be too snug in the hip area. The length is great and the leg width is fine but with a diaper underneath they are a bit snug around his hips/bottom. I’ll have to make them bigger next time.

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27 Dana March 4, 2014 at 12:00 am

The shorts sizes work well with disposable diapers but if you’re using cloth diapers, I recommend going up a size, while still using the same elastic size for your child’s wasit. If you still need more room than that, you can even go up another size, but shorten the hemline on the legs.

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28 sline September 30, 2013 at 2:49 pm

no problem in France :-)
Imprimez échelle 100% et c’est tout bon!
Facile de suivre avec les images du tuto sans être bilingue.
Inutile de tout convertir si vous avez une règle courbe, c’est en inch dessus et les repères de la machine à coudre proposent aussi cette mesure…
j’ai allongé le patron pour faire des pantalons. Super!
Remarque: basez vous sur les mesures données et non les âges.

Sline, très contente d’avoir acheté ce patron.
Merci !!!!

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29 Pene Turner October 8, 2013 at 7:10 am

OHMYLAWD!!! I am in L♥ve with this pattern!! I am a beginner sewer and was put onto your AMAZING site by a sewing group.
Thank you Dana for making it easy for me to create gorgeousness for my son and daughter.
I made my FIRST EVER pair of flat front shorts tonight and have not had to unpick anything with your easy as tutorial and pattern. :) Super happy with how they have turned out.
xo Pene

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30 Dida November 5, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Hi!

I love these shorts! Have you ever put elastic in the legs to make them more of a type of knickers? Would the legs be long enough for that?

xx Dida

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31 Amanda December 10, 2013 at 12:50 am

Hi Dana
Such a wonderful pattern! I’ve made my first ever pair of shorts today and it was easy peasy. My trouble is that I have a 20 month old with chunky thighs. I made the size 2 shorts which have the right sizing for her waist but I have no hope of getting them over her hips! So my question is, am I better off making a larger size that will fit her hips and it will just bunch up more around her waist, or just extend the 2 year old pattern?
Thanks

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32 Dana December 10, 2013 at 1:05 am

I’m so glad you like the pattern!
Sorry you had some probs with the hips.
I would either add more width at the side pattern pieces…..or yes, go up to the size 3 and keep the elastic as you had it for size 2.

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33 Tiffany March 3, 2014 at 11:26 pm

Hi,
So I used this pattern and elongated the legs to make a pair of pants for my 4 year old…I made him a size six because he is super tall and slender, but when I finished them, they fit, but have more of a “girlish” tighter fit to them. My question is, do you think I could not use the flat front fold and still make them flat front to get a little more room for him or should I just size up and keep the flat front fold?

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34 Dana March 3, 2014 at 11:55 pm

You can definitely go up a size but keep the size of your elastic the same.
I use the flat front shorts for my son all the time. They’re not meant to be baggy sports type shorts, they are definitely a more fitted short. But if you’d like more room in them, then yes, the next size up should work.
You can see more pics of boyish flat front shorts here:
http://www.danamadeit.com/2013/07/kid-shorts-pockets-with-trim.html
and here:
http://www.danamadeit.com/2013/07/kid-shorts-with-front-pockets.html

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35 Tiffany March 3, 2014 at 11:26 pm

Also, do you have plans to add a tutorial to add interior instead of exterior pockets? I would love to see one! Maybe with a mock fly too!

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36 Kristi W. April 9, 2014 at 10:40 pm

I think I bought this pattern the day it came out. It is the perfect easy shorts pattern and if you lengthen the hemline is even suitable for school uniform shorts. With it being Kids Clothes Week I knew I wanted to make Wub at least one pair of KID shorts. I added a large bow to the front and I love the way it turned out.
http://futurejackorchloe.blogspot.com/2014/04/bow-front-shorts-for-kcw.html
I’m actually making another pair for her tomorrow. Love, love, love this pattern. Cannot recommend it enough.

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37 Sharon April 17, 2014 at 2:53 pm

I have just finished the girls flat front shorts and they look great, thank you Dana, moving on to shorts for my son now.

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38 Geraldine May 2, 2014 at 3:34 am

Fantastic pattern, thanks Dana! I have used it to make the racer shorts for my super tall but slender to average sized 6 year old son in the size 9/10 based on the waist measurements. I am wanting to make him & my nephew some more but will need to draft the sizing up first to make sure they get the wear out of them.

I have a problem I was hoping you could help me with please? I have also just finished a pair of flat front pants (with both front and back pockets which are both trimmed) for my very tall, almost 4 year old daughter in a lightweight stretch denim using the size 7 shorts pattern and basically just lengthening it as I had been so happy with the fit of the shorts on my son. I am happy with the loose fit through the leg. My problem is although I choose the pattern size based on the waist measurements on the pattern, the pants seem to be too baggy in the front around the pocket and crotch area.

Can you suggest a way to lessen this excess in future pairs I make for her? Should I just fold in the flat front piece more to accommodate for this? I realised she would have a bit of room in them when I was making them and have made the waist adjustable with buttonhole elastic which has turned out really well.

Hope you can help as I would like to make her some more soon!
Thanks.

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39 Stephanie May 27, 2014 at 5:49 pm

Help! I’m having major issues with the elastics… I’m making a bunch of these for birthday party favors for my son’s party. I have made the proper sized pants… even gotten waist sizes for each kid. When I use your guide for the elastic for the flat front (half the child’s waist size, plus 1/2-1 inch extra), when I finish them up, they barely stretch at all. When they just lay flat, there’s barely any gathering of the elastic waist at tehe back (looks a little less gathered than the pics you posted with your daughter’s pair). I am using organic cotton twill. When I pull them taught, the elastic stretches 3/4 of an inch to 1 inch. I’m using braided elastic- does that make a difference? Am I doing something wrong?

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40 Marge June 25, 2014 at 3:40 pm

I just whipped up a pair of the flat front shorts for my grand daughter who is a big 5yr old. I chose size 8 and they are way to small. She fits into other size 8 patterns…….I am so disappointed! Love the pattern and will print out the size 10 for the next pair. i not even sure these will fit a 3yr old…….What did I do wrong?

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