Tips for Cycle Shorts
Recommended pattern : Stretch and Sew #313 (multi size)
Fabrics: 4 way stretch lycra, swim weight or 7-9 oz "beefy"
For chamois: ultrasuede, polartec 200
Notions: gripper elastic, thread, 1" non roll elastic
Want to make cycle jerseys?
My jersey gallery
Where do I get everything? mail order
I am assuming you will have some basic sewing skills. If you need
a reference, the Singer books on active wear, sergers or stretch
fabrics are all very good.
Lycra Notes: Different lycras, while all 4-way,
have different amounts of stretch. While almost any lycra will work,
here are some observations based on the dozen or so pairs I have
- Swim lycra is thinner, and has a less supportive stretch, plus
the quality will really vary depending on where you buy it. Prints
are fun for a panel insert.
- Supplex lycra has a lot of give, and is very cool to wear in
the summer. It is thin so if you hit the pavement or dirt literally,
- Beefy lycra is excellent, but heavier/warmer. It is very supportive,
and you can't kill it when it comes to snags. You may need to
go up a size if you use this lycra.
- There are some two way only lycras out there (rashel knits)
These only stretch lengthwise; DO NOT BUY this kind of knit.
- Sizing will vary. I use size S with swim lycra or supplex lycra,
a size M with the beefy that has less give.
Sewing notes: For seams, a serger with wooly nylon
is best. You can experiment with flat-lock seams if you want. A
walking foot attachment for your regular machine will be very useful
when making the chamois.
If you only have a regular machine for your seams, use a good
thread, sharp needles and a good stretch stitch.
Look and see if your machine does this stitch: __//__// ; it is an excellent stitch for seaming lycra.
Make the pattern according to directions. Mark carefully as it's
easy to get the panels mixed up. Because of narrow seam allowances,
use a pencil to mark instead of snips. If you want to put in a print
accent, replace one of the side panels. Do not put on the elastic
at the waist or legs, or put in the chamois yet.
Fit: Once you have the shell of the short made,
you can tweak the fit. I have a really small waist, so I always
take it in from the hips on up. You can also make the shorts shorter,
or lower the waist. Do not forget that you will fold over the waist
and the legs 1" when you add the elastic.
Chamois: I use the pattern included, but I've
changed it a bit. First, I trim the center seam of both the fleece
and the ultrasuede, and sew the CS with a butted seam: edges flush.
A 3-step zig zag works well here, as will a walking foot. Sew the
ultrasuede as one layer, sew the fleece as a separate layer. Then,
align the center seams with pins, and stitch the fleece layer to
the ultrasuede using the same stitch around the edge. The fleece
will likely grow and need to be trimmed. Try and keep everything
as flat as possible.
Ready to make the chamois: polartec and ultrasuede with pattern
Close-up of butted seam done with a 3-step zigzag
Note pins that hold the two layers together at the center seam,
and that the side being sewn is flat against the table.
The fleece will sometimes grow, just trim off excess.
completed chamois, just needs a little more trimming.
Put the chamois in: This is the part where you might want to pull
your hair out part. Working on the wrong side of the shorts, match
the marks for the CF, CB and side seams that you've made on the
shorts and the chamois. Secure with pins. Align the center seams
and secure with pins.The idea with the chamois is that the lycra
in your crotch will be stretched out so that it doesn't bunch. With
the inseam marks and center seam aligned, the lycra should be pulling
at the pad.
Here, you can see the pins that anchor the pad along the CF seam.
The top pin is the top mark, the left pin is the inseam mark. You
can see that the lycra is pulled taut from the center seam to the
inseam mark. On the left, this is how much excess fabric you will
be moving with your hands to achieve what you see on the right side.
On the right side, I have carefully worked the excess fabric past
the pad with my hands and pinned to secure. Once I have it all the
way in I make sure to remove any pins that are not perpendicular
to the seam line.
the shorts RS out, and begin to flatten the lycra in the crotch
area and secure with pins. I find it best to work around the pad
in sections. You will want to pull the lycra to fit the pad, flat
and pin the perimeter of the pad to the shorts. You may need to
work out excess lycra, stretching it to the pad and moving the excess
to the non-padded area in order to get the pad to lay flat. Once
I've got the whole thing pinned, I'll try it on (very carefully)
to check it. It may take a few tries to get it right. You might
want to vary the position of the chamois depending on personal preference,
also. Typically, the section from the inseam mark to CF is much
easier to do than the section from the inseam mark to CB, as it's
shorter. Don't be afraid to stretch the lycra to make it work.
At this point you can either run a line of basting and then sew
it in, or just sew it in. I pin perpendicular to the seam line and
yes, I sew over the pins, or pull them out right as I get to them.
I use the biggest zigzag stitch. Work carefully from the WS, using
the edge of the pad as a guide. Work carefully as the lycra has
a tendency to want to bunch under the presser foot. Do not be surprised
if you don't get it right the first time.
chamois insertion, viewed from the inside. It will pull flat when
you put the shorts on. On these last shorts, I experimented with
two rows of stitching to hold the pad in, I like the way it looks.
Elastics: Time for the finishing touches!!! Do
not use the pattern instruction numbers to cut your elastic, especially
for the legs. Put your shorts on, and cut a length of 1" elastic
that feels comfortable around your waist. Pull it up a few inches,
over lap the ends 1/2", and cut. This will be your waist elastic.
My favorite technique for waist elastic is the following: quarter
the elastic, and the raw edge. Use a serger or wide zigzag to overlock
elastic onto fabric. ( elastic onto WS of fabric) To finish, fold
waistband to the inside, use a medium zigzag and edge stitch down.
You'll need to pull waistband flat as you work, stretching elastic
somewhat, making sure there are no wrinkles.
No-roll elastic for the waistband.
3 kinds of gripper elastic
Coming soon: I will make some better samples of how put the elastics
on. I'll use contrast thread and fabric so you can actually see
something in the photos.
For the legs, measure the circumference of your thighs where the
shorts end, and cut your elastic the same, and then overlap 1/2".
Better, put the shorts on sans leg elastic, and measure thigh circumference
at the desired length of the shorts. The elastic may actually be
longer than the leg opening, not to worry - just stretch the lycra
to put the elastic on smoothly. This will give you a nice flat,
non-sausagey look. For most people, the numbers given with the pattern
instructions are way too short, and create a thigh elastic that
is just too tight.
make a nice flat leg elastic, there is a different technique than
above. Using a wide zig zag or a serger, edge stitch gripper elastic
to the RS of the shorts. Then, go back and edge stitch the other
edge of the elastic down, using a narrow zig zag. Turn elastic to
the inside, and sew the hem down, using a zig zag.
Ta-da! All done. Now go ride them like you stole them ;-)