Saturday, 19 October 2013

Simplicity 1960: French Back Boxer Shorts - Pt I

I have had this pink and blue striped cotton shirting for months.  I picked it up cheaply on eBay.  I washed it to preshrink it ages ago and then it took me ever so long to remember to take it with me to the shops so that I could buy matching thread.  I no longer trust my memory of colour to buy thread.  Unless it's black or white.  After the fabric was preshrunk I was left with just under two yards.

That's a slightly awkward yardage - not really enough for a shirt.  I decided that the only option would have to be boxers.  I had a bit of spare time on my hands so I elected to make one of the most complicated patterns for boxer shorts in the world: Simplicity 1960 ©1945.

I have made boxers from this pattern once or twice before, retracing and redrafting the pattern to allow for my ample girth ©2013.  I pressed the pattern pieces and fabric in the usual way prior to cutting out.  I cut out using the rotary cutter with the help of Ramses II and Venus who always like to get in on the act at this stage.

The first step is to make two pleats in the fronts of the boxers.  These are clearly marked on the pattern pieces and the stripes on the fabric certainly help.

I secured the pleats with pins.

Last Sunday we did some organising in the sewing room so now I can used the Singer 201K in it's No.41 cabinet.  It's the first time it has seen any treadle action since the arsenic green Negroni shirt back in June!  I've rather missed it.  It's now positioned to the right of a window so the light, by day, is good.  I set the stitch length to the longest tacking/basting stitch 6spi.

And sewed about ¼ inch from the top of the boxers to secure the pleats.

The next step is to secure the two fronts together at the crotch seam using a flat felled seam.  This is a little tricky as the seam allowance has a curved taper from ⅝ inch down to nothing.  Careful pressing and folding and a slow but steady foot on the treadle are a must.  Lightly marking the sewing line with a pencil doesn't hurt either.

Here both fronts have been pleated and joined at the crotch.

Knife pleats

I then turned my attention to the seat panel and the questionable pleasure of creating a continuous lap.  The first time I made this pattern I actually had to look up what it was.  Thank goodness for the Internet-o-graph!

The first step is to stay stitch a V either side of the centre back.  The pattern has this V marked on it.  I marked it lightly on the fabric with a sharp pencil.

I then carefully slashed between the two lines of stay stitching - making sure not cut through the line of stitches.

And then (and this is the really silly bit) you have to open the V up until it as near a straight line as possible and pin a strip of fabric along the raw edge.

And then (the silly and HARD bit) stitch it - oh so carefully! - in place in such a way that the line of stay stitching will be enclosed.

Finally the raw edge of the strip is turned under and the fold top stitched to the right side of the seat panel.  This forms a sort of gusset.  I didn't find it easy.  It's well worth practising with scraps.  The pattern instructions call for a one inch strip for the binding.  Make it a generous inch.  I made mine nearer 1⅛ inch and was satisfied with the result.

After all that fuss sewing the seat panel to the fronts and joining the legs (all with flat felled seams) seams like child's play.

Here is where I ran out of steam.  The basic construction is complete with the two part yoke sewn to the wrong side of the shorts, folded over and then edge stitched to the right side.

Yoke front boxer shorts

The boxers still lack a hem, button holes, and buttons but they will have to wait for another day.  At the back the two piece yoke  combines with the continuous lap to form an adjustable waistband which negates the need for elastic.  How's that for austerity spec?!

French back boxer shorts


  1. Oh, good grief. What a lot of effort for UNDERWEAR!. Nonetheless, a masterful job. If you count in your labor cost, these will probably be the most expensive pair of boxer shorts you ever own. Well done.

    1. I am no lightening seamster but at 8-10 hours you are right.

  2. I love this pattern. Can't wait to see them all finished!

    1. Hi Peter
      Yes I am fond of this pattern too. The result is worth the effort.

  3. Wow that is involved, you have great patience :)