According to internet sources (aka Wikipedia) culottes are any women's garment that looks like a skirt but is pants. They used to be a men's garment kind of like knickerbockers. (I just wanted to use the word knickerbockers.) It seems much more accurate to call the women's version a split skirt.
Someone linked me to a pattern for some culottes made to look like a circle skirt a while ago, but I can't justify buying a pattern for something I can easily do, even if I rarely have the motivation to draft these things. I convinced myself this time around by deciding to do a tutorial as I went along, and here it is!
Things you'll need:
- Circle skirt pattern
- Any shorts or pants pattern
- Tissue, tracing, or other large paper
- Jersey or other knit fabric (yardage depends on your size. I used about 2 yards for a 26" waist)
- 1" elastic (enough for your waist)
- Scrap fabric (for pockets - half a yard is plenty)
- Sewing machine and other typical sewing tools - thread, chalk, pins, etc.
You will also need any pattern that has a crotch, unless you're confident in drawing a crotch curve yourself, in which case you probably don't need this tutorial at all. There are many free patterns for pants or shorts available with some quick Googling. I personally used Simplicity 2401 because I had it around and it is high-waisted, like I wanted my shorts to be in the end. It's easier to use a pattern that has the waist in the same place as you want the finished waist to be.
2. Now that you have the base patterns, time to combine them!
Lay out the skirt pattern on some paper as shown above, then pin the shorts/pants pattern on top, matching the center front seam on them to the straight edge of the skirt pattern, and the top corner of the shorts to the waist. They will not match up anywhere except on that one edge as shown below.
Trace around this, continuing the line down at the inseam so it's the length of the skirt (if your shorts/pants are shorter than the skirt, like mine).
Repeat for the back as well, since the crotch is not the same on the front and back pieces of pants.
You should end up with two pattern pieces like so:
3. Cut out the fabric!
You may want to cut the inseam edge even further down than the edge of the skirt as indicated by the dashed line here (or do this on the pattern if you're better at thinking ahead than I am), giving yourself some extra to trim off once it's sewn. I didn't leave extra in my example and found out the shorts end up shorter on the inner leg than the outer leg. It's not visible when they're done or really necessary, but a small detail I overlooked and would change next time.
You want to end up with two mirrored front pieces and two mirrored back pieces. Ideally, you want the stretch of your fabric to go across the waist (so the straight edges of the pattern would be laid out on the bias of the fabric), but to conserve fabric I cut it as above. The waist then ends up on the bias so it still stretches. Either way is fine, though if your fabric has a directional pattern, lay it out with the straight seams on the bias so the stretch goes around your waist.
You also need a waistband and pocket pieces. For the waistband, I used a strip that was my waist measurement by 5" cut with the stretch going around the waist. The pockets are 4 pieces, 6.5" by 9.5". Mine are a plain black knit.
4. Women's clothing needs more pockets.
Sew a pocket rectangle to each leg piece on the side seam, with the right sides together and lined up at the top, using a 1/2" seam allowance. Using a smaller allowance at this stage helps create a pocket that stays hidden better in the end. Press the pockets so they're flat to the side as shown.
5. Sew the legs and crotch.
Pin a front piece and a back piece together and sew together at the inseam and side seam, and going around the pocket. Don't sew the opening of the pocket all the way closed! I sew about an inch on the side seam at the top of the pocket, then leave about 4-6" open, and sew down from there to the bottom. You can see this is the larger break between pins in this photo.
To sew the crotch seam, flip one leg right side out and tuck it inside the other, so right sides are together.
I also like to stitch the pockets to the top of the shorts at this point. This is just basting them in place so they're not flapping around. Press them towards the front of the shorts before stitching, and use a small seam allowance, like 3/8".
6. Sew the waistband.
Press your waistband strip in half length wise, then fold and press one of the long edges down 1/2". Sew the short ends together to form a loop. I like to leave about an inch gap in the stitching on the side without the extra fold for inserting elastic later, marked in pink.
Pin the side of the waistband without the fold to the inside of the shorts, matching the waist seam to either the back or side seam on the legs and with the right side of the waistband and inside of the legs together. I use a small zigzag stitch from this part onwards because these are seams that will stretch.
Stitch and press, careful not to flatten the other folds in the waistband. This is what the waistband looks like from the outside after this step.
Fold the waistband on the creases we ironed in earlier and pin, encasing the raw top edge of the shorts. The waistband should just cover the visible stitching line. Top-stitch it on with a small zig-zag.
Insert elastic into the waistband using the gap we left earlier. I like to insert the elastic using a safety pin, put the shorts on and pull the elastic to fit, then trim it so there's about an inch of overlap.
Sew the ends of the elastic together and stretch the waistband a couple times until it's hidden inside.
7. Hem. Almost done!
Try on your shorts to check if there's any uneven spots that need trimming. Some fabrics will stretch out more than others. You might also need to trim the inseam if you cut on the dotted pink line back in step 3. Mark 1.25" (or whatever you used for the hem) from the bottom of each leg and press once, then again like a standard double fold hem. Sew.
8. Done! Yay!
Put your shorts on and don't worry that they'll get blown up in the wind like a skirt... maybe ride a bike (or the more traditional horse) no one will know you're enjoying the comfort shorts!