Monday, February 28, 2011

Boy Shortalls on Made By Rae!

Hello all! Today I am joining the Celebrate The Boy party on Made By Rae! In case this is news to you, Rae and Dana are co-hosting a month of boy stuff - clothes, toys, giveaways, links, ideas, tutorials and patterns. If you love sewing for boys, but aren't finding as much inspiration or resources as you'd like, then you need to be there! 

Today I'm guest-posting on Rae's blog with a roundup of crafts from the past year that boys and their parents can do together. You all know I sew only Girl Stuff because the three little misses here keep my hands full, but in honor of boy month, I made these shortalls:

and I'll be teaching you how to make them right here.

Now these ubiquitous shortalls are a very basic garment - classic lines, classic boy fabric. You've probably seen ones like these anywhere from no-frills department stores to high-end boutique catalogs. Nothing out of the ordinary, but very versatile and adaptable for any number of different looks. They're a little more grown-up than rompers, but easier to fit than pants because they're roomy at the waist and adjustable at the shoulders.

A digression before we begin:

I've often been asked how to make a handmade garment look more "professional". That's a hard word to define - does it mean 
  • "Sewn by experts"? 
  • "Could be bought in a store"? 
  • "Could be seen in a clothing catalog"? 
  • All of the above?
I'm not sure which it is, so I'll instead say this: it's often from the details of a product that one can tell the care that has been taken in its construction. While we're working together on these shortalls, I'd like to show how some simple details can make a great difference in how they turn out:

1 Fabric and color
Wherever possible, use apparel fabric. Apparel fabrics have a good weight, feel and drape that allow them to sit and hang well on the body. Also, many apparel fabrics have some give (stretch) to them that is absent from regular cottons so they feel comfortable when worn. Children, especially, appreciate this. Apparel fabrics tend to be predominantly solid rather than funky, and fun boy fabrics are particularly difficult to find. So it can be tempting to turn to quilting cotton. Not the best idea to make an entire garment out of that. If you love color and print, add that designer cotton as accents instead - a colorful pocket, a faced hem, peekaboo lining. 

Our shortalls today are made of blue denim - solid, sturdy, great weight, but not very interesting alone. We'll add five patch pockets in a coordinating-colored large-check print which we repeat in the facing. Still all blue and not very interesting. To make everything pop, we'll add a very contrasting red-and-white striped piping- but in tiny amounts so it doesn't overwhelm. Our buttons - red - will draw out the red in the piping.

2 Details
are probably the biggest indicator of the care that has gone into making a garment. External to the actual design of the garment, pockets, piping, trim, edging, fastenings are all easy details to add. Think about whether you want a low- or high- contrast detail i.e. do you want a subtle variation or do you want it to pop? Then experiment, or look in clothing catalogs for ideas.

3 Top-stitching
is one of the easiest ways to make a product look finished. You can use the thicker top-stitching thread (and the accompanying top-stitching needles with the larger eyes), to produce the kind of top-stitching you see on jeans. And you can buy special twin needles or invest in a coverlocker/coverstitch machine. Faaaaaaaancy. However, you can also do it with regular needles and regular thread on a regular sewing machine- it's subtler, but you still get the sense of a job completed. It's personal preference whether you want a single row or a double row of top-stitching, and how far apart to sew them. I prefer to do single rows on more formal garments and double rows on more rugged, casual garments. But this varies too. If you do double rows, keep them the same width apart throughout the garment for homogeneity. 

In this tutorial, we will be adding top-stitching to the outside (i.e. the right side) of seams. Those of you more familiar with fell seams may want to sew those. But we'll be sticking to regular open seams, pressing them to one side, and top-stitching on the outside. Rather than the traditional brown-on-denim, or the more subtle blue-on-blue, we are using red to pull together the rest of the colors in the garment.

Here is the pattern you can print out, assemble and use to make your own. I drafted this for my youngest, who is a tall but average-build almost-3-year-old. The nice thing about overalls like these is that it is loose by design and the length of the straps can be customized to fit the wearer. This means your child can grow into it and, by making slight adjustments to its width and length, it could fit a younger or older child. There are no zippers, button plackets or elastic. If you're a beginner, try making just the basic overalls and skip all the steps in the tutorial that are labeled "optional" (blue text). If you want to embellish, do the full tutorial.  

There are five templates and one instruction sheet to help you cut out your pieces. The printable instructions are divided into two parts: the first is for the basic overalls, and the second includes all the fixings - the waistband and the pockets. Please note that 

  • there are NO seam allowances included. You will need to add your own - I'd suggest 3/8" or 1 cm all around, except for the bottom hem GH of the leg, which should be 1".
  • the solid lines are stitching lines
  • the dotted lines are positioning lines for the pockets and waistband
  • you might want to print out multiple copies of each template so you can cut out individual body, pocket, waistband and facing pieces for your layout.
  • the numbers 1-6 marked on the templates are to help you assemble the partial pieces to make the full patterns. You will not see these in the rest of the tutorial.
  • the letters A-R marked on the templates are for reference of important sewing points - you will see these in the following tutorial instructions. 

For the basic overalls,

you'll need: 
  • 3/4 yard of outer fabric
  • 1/2 yard of lining fabric
  • Buttons or buckles
in addition to your usual sewing equipment and thread.

The sequence of construction is:
  1. Sew the straps
  2. Sew the inseam FG of each leg (one front and one back body piece)
  3. Sew the crotch seam ADFRK to connect both legs
  4. Sew the side seams
  5. Sew the facing
  6. Attach the straps
  7. Attach the facing
  8. Sew the hems
  9. Attach buttons/buckles
Now let's get started!

Step 1
Make the straps.
With right sides together, sew one lining piece to one outer piece, leaving the bottom edge KJ open for turning out.
Press the seams open, notch the corners and turn right side out.

Top-stitch all around, except for the open end. Set aside.

Step 2 (Optional)
Make pockets. Go here for the tutorial for these pockets. 

Step 3 (Optional)
Pin and top-stitch the front and back pockets in place on the main body pieces.

Note that the bib pocket (the one on the chest) spans both halves of the front body piece, so you will attach that later in Step 5.

Step 4
Find one front and one back body piece whose inseam edges line up as follows:

Flip one piece over so the right sides are together. Align the edges of their inseams as shown by the black arrow. Sew their inseams together, and finish the seam allowance (serge or zig-zag stitch). Top-stitch on the right side. Repeat for the remaining pair of body pieces.

Step 5
Place the two pieces body pairs you made in Step 4 together, right sides touching. Align the edges of the U-shaped crotch seam ADFRK and sew the two pieces together. Finish the seam allowances (use serger or use zig-zag stitch). Press the seam allowance to one side and top-stitch on the right side.

Now that the crotch and inseam are finished, you may (if desired) sew the bib pocket in position.

This is what it looks like so far:

You can see the top-stitching along the midline of the garment (the U-shaped crotch seam) and the short inseams.

Step 6 (Optional)
Prepare the waistband. Like the pockets, this is purely decorative. I added it so that the top edges of the hip pockets would have something to tuck into.

Sew the piping to both long edges of the right side of the waistband. I find it helpful to have the same seam allowances for the piping as the waistband- you can align their edges and sew directly through the actual stitching lines of both layers.

Step 7 (Optional)
Attach the waistband. Lay the waistband on the front body piece, right sides together, so that
  • the stitching line of one of its long sides lies directly on the line QPQ
  • the seam allowance of that side is above the line QPQ i.e. most of the waistband lies below the line QPQ.
Sew on the stitching line QPQ to attach the waistband to the body piece.

Flip it over - this is what it should look like with this bottom edge attached:

There is only the tiniest hint of stripes peeking out!

Fold in the seam allowance of the upper edge and pin in place. The upper edge of the waistband is now along the line EDE.

Top-stitch along this folded edge to secure the upper edge of the waistband. Top-stitch the lower edge of the waistband to match:

Step 8 
Attach the straps. First, transfer from the pattern, and mark, (I used the head of a pin) the point K on the back body piece.

Align (see arrow) the unfinished edge of one strap with one slanted top edge of the back body piece so that
  • their right sides are together
  • the innermost edge of the strap intersects point K, as shown.
Pin in place.

Repeat for the other strap. You should be able to see that both straps begin to overlap at point K.

Sew a long basting stitch close to the edge to hold the straps in place. I removed the marking pin before sewing.

Step 9
Join the body pieces. Position the front and back body pieces so that
  • their right sides are together
  • their sides seams align, starting at points C at the bottom of the armscye.

Sew the side seams, finish the seam allowances (user serger or zig-zag stitch) and top-stitch on the right side.

Step 10
Sew the facing. Place the facing pieces right sides together. Sew and finish the side seams. Also finish the bottom edge. If you are using a serger, you may choose to be done at this point.

Or you could fold in this edge to make a proper hem.

Step 11
Attach the facing. Slip the completed facing into the body from Step 9, so that their right sides are together.

Align their seam allowances, pin in place, and sew all around the top edge of the whole ensemble to attach the facing to the body.

Notch the corners and snip the curved seam allowances. This is what it looks like with the facing on the outside:

Step 12
Now comes the magic! Turn everything right side out and press the seams flat. It looks almost done!

Top-stitch all around the top edge of the garment

Step 13
Secure the facing. Sew two or three stitches to attach the seam allowance of the facing to the seam allowance of the body. Do this for both side seams. This will keep the facing in place so it doesn't flip up when dressing or undressing. I used a contrasting color for visibility, but you should use a coordinating thread. 

Step 14
Now let's talk about the fastenings. Here are common quick-release buckles for overalls- 

The one on the right has two parts: the buckle itself, and an adjustable sliding loop. You will have to sew the end of the strap around the middle bar of the sliding loop.

The one on the left is a no-sew buckle - 

it is a single integrated piece:

The strap loops through the buckle and stays put. 

Regardless of which kind you choose, the button is installed the same way. You make a small hole in the garment, poke the threaded back stud through to the front,

position the head on top, and whack it in with a mallet. 
There are special setting tools to do this so you don't deform the surface by pounding directly on it, but I usually just lay the head upside down on a padded surface, lay the fabric right side down on it, poke the back stud through the hole, and then pound on the back stud itself.

For this tutorial, we're using buttons and buttonholes. You wouldn't be able to adjust the strap length after sewing them on, though, so test the straps out on the wearer beforehand. Also, while the position of the buttonhole is marked on the pattern, you should make yours as long as is needed for the button you're using.

Step 15

Complete the leg hems. You can use a fancy coverstitch machine, but I don't own one. I finish my hems by simply folding them in

and top-stitching them.


If you omitted all the embellishments, this will come together really quickly. But the details are where all the fun is, so give them a shot! You can adapt this classic pattern for different looks by making some simple changes or adding details, for example:
  • Try different pockets.
  • Try different fabric combinations - but still keep to the sturdier apparel fabrics like twill, denim, drill, linen, linen or even home-dec weight fabric. This is a garment meant to be worn over an under layer- it should have a good weight to fall/hang well, and not cling to that fabric layer underneath.  
  • Add a contrasting faced hem to the legs.
  • Add a roll-up cuff with buttoned straps, like this.
  • Extend the legs into ankle-length trousers for full overalls.
  • Add faux button plackets (sew a column of buttons and top-stitch a rectangle around them) to the sides.
  • Replace the bib pocket with applique (initial, favorite motif). 
  • Add hammer loops, belt loops and tool pockets for a carpenter-pants look.

I hope you enjoyed learning to sew these shortalls for the boys in your world. It's simple, and yet you can take it as far as you dare - I love designs like that.  Now for more goodies: tomorrow I'll show you how to adapt this pattern for girls! So check back here to see what this looks like in pink AND with a skirt! See you again then! 


  1. As usual such attention to detail and so comprehensive! Looking forward to the skirt version having, like yourself, only pink creatures in my house.

  2. omg!!! think they have just flown to the top of my wish list! I LOVE my little boy in dungarees and i can see a few pairs of these in this summer's wardrobe!

    Come visit my blog at:
    Leigh at The Sewing Diva

  3. (did a comment from me already come through?) I don't think I had enough coffee this morning.

    I like how you distinguish between quilting cottons and garment fabric. Very helpful.

    I think Ben has lots of hand me downs for summer, but I will keep this mind to make if we come up short. Very cute. And I read the whole way through - I like how you explain and photograph things. I don't think I would get very confused. HOoray!

  4. OH MY GOODNESS this is amazing. I especially love the cleverness of the facing and the topstitching. Thank you so much!!!

  5. These are sooo cute!! And the striped piping is FAB! I linked to your tutorial on Craft Gossip Sewing:


  6. Wonderful tutorial, I can´t wait to get started! I´m wondering about the size of the pattern, for which age is this?

  7. Ca-YOOT! I want to make some for my daughter. If I have a boy, I won't be able to reuse all of the cute sundresses I've already made her, but these would work!

    But...How on Earth do you top stitch the side seams in Step 9? I can't see that working with my machine. I've got a free arm, or whatever it's called, but I can't see how, even with a lot of bunching.

  8. these are so sweet, i will definitely have to give them a try for my little guy. thanks!

  9. Fakey: Sew up one side seam, then while the garment is still flat, top-stitch that. Then sew up the other side seam, and turn the garment inside out. You'll be able to top-stitch that side seam then. Obviously, the larger the garment is, the easier this is to do. But even with this 3-year-old size, it's not difficult at all.

    Johanna: It's for a 3-year-old. Try a muslin in cheap fabric first to check for fit if your child is a different size, and then you can change the strap length and the width of the body at point C (bottom of armscye) to fit different size kids.

  10. Great tutorial ! Thanks for sharing.

  11. These are gorgeous! I finally had my boy after 4 girls and I loved him in Overalls. Now I get to sew them for my gorgeous grandson! Thankyou

  12. Thank you, a lot of time must of gone into drafting the pattern and putting the tutorial together. This is incredibly generous of you!

  13. Thanks so much for this pattern and tutorial!

    I tried printing the 6 pages, some of them get cut :( And I think htat If I 'shrink to fit on page' then the proportions are going to be all wrong.

    Am I the only one having this problem printing?

    Thanks again!

  14. Ur tutorial is so detailed and yet easy to behooves me to get my act together and get asewing again :)..

    Lovely dress and even better model!! Thanks for ur efforts!

  15. Super cute! I'm a mom to two little princesses and would like to make a girly pair :) I know you said to stay away from busy patterns, but since my little one is only a year and a half and is still small, I think a fun Amy Butler fabric would look really cute with a different fabric for the piping. We live where its HOT and since it'll start getting hot here in AZ soon, I'm kind of leaning toward cotton. Wish me luck! Would it be too hard to size this down for a one and a half year old? Thanks!

  16. Love these- I have been looking for a pattern and voila!! Thank you so very much. These will be on my little one for summer!

  17. I love this. Thx 4 info on detail. I'm a new kid to sewing and want handmade not homemade quality so this helps. I thought serging seams negated the topstitch. Is it for detail that you wouldntopstitch a serged seam. I got a $40 used serger and am addicted to serging vs using he machine.

  18. I just used this pattern to make an Easter outfit for my son and I love it! If you would like I can send you pictures of the finished product. I used blue corduroy as the body color and the pockets and straps are all brown velour and I also made the bottom part of the front and back legs all brown velour. I didn't have enough corduroy but I think it looks even better with the accented legs.

  19. Oh and I would also like to say my son is 35" tall at almost 2 years old and they fit him perfect. The future ones I make I am going to add an inch or 2 in the middle just so he has growing room.
    Thanks for the pattern and tut! I love it!

  20. This is an amazingly complete and well written tutorial!! I have been searching everywhere for a tutorial for how to make some overalls for my little guy. I cannot wait to make these!

  21. I've traced all of the pattern pieces onto freezer paper and added a 1/2' seam allowance. Piece KJCQR (body back)doesn't seem to be lining up properly with piece F34HG. Was the seam allowance already included for that piece? Did I do something wrong?

  22. @tinkermouse
    tinkermouse: I'm not sure I know how to help, based on your description. Please email me and let's see what we can do. Were you trying to line up the individual template pieces or just to two complete front and back pattern pieces?

  23. I totally love this! Hopefully I will try to make them soon, although I'm sure they won't look as good as yours :)

  24. Hi,
    I think you are one excellent, awesome teacher. Luckily for me I have my laptop and my sewing machine side by side on one table.

    Thank you.
    Ronel Blignaut.
    South Africa.

  25. Hi Lier!

    I actually have the same issue as tinkermouse, although I just kind of went for it. While it doesn't have the finished appeal of yours, I'm pretty darn proud of myself! LOL! I am doing a blog post on it, and I have the pics as well, so if you do choose to read it and let me know what I did wrong, it would be fantastic - although I can only imagine how busy you are! Thank you for sharing your gift with all of us, I really appreciate it.

  26. @Houseful Of Nicholes
    Houseful of Nicholes: Couldn't find your email addy so I'm responding here in the hope that you'll read it. I'm actually (because lazy to type it all out again) just going to copy that part of my email reply to Tinkermouse (from Sept 2011) here -

    OK, third line down has a drawing of the full back piece that is labeled KJCHGF. That full back piece is made by lining up
    (i) KJCQ65R (the template thing on Page Four) with
    (ii)56HGF (the template thing on Page Five)

    to give you the full back piece, which you need to cut two pieces of, in mirror image, out of outer fabric. To piece together the fractured template pieces to get the full pattern, line up the NUMBERS, and ignore the letters for the time being. So the back pattern is made by lining up numbers 5 and 6 (there are two template pieces) and the front pattern is made by lining up the numbers 1,2,3,4 (there are three template pieces).

    The bottom cuff/hem of BOTH the front and the back pieces have the letters F,G and H on them, because they also connect to each other in the crotch seam, which is why those three letters appear on more than one template piece, and might look confusing at first glance.


    I hope this helps you!


  27. After I posted to you, I ended up revisiting the pattern and realized that I didn't attach a crucial piece to the front of the shortalls. So it was all totally my fault. However, I really appreciate you coming back and walking me through it - and not rolling your eyes. *you didn't roll them did you?!* LOL! I LOVE all of your work and I find it fascinating that you've never used a commercial pattern. I feel like a REAL novice now.

    The link to the post has been linked back to your post on how to change these shortalls up to have more color or into a pinafore. Thank you once again.

  28. I'm wanting to make these for my daughter but she's only in 12 month clothes. Suggestions for sizing these down?

  29. Thank you for this fantastic tutorial - I made two for my 2 year old , both blogged on my very new blog . As you say the pattern is tremendously versatile in terms of embellishment . Super comfortable too by the look of them. My son wears them to play in the park and he seems to love them.

  30. Made one more pair( in blue denim with contrast patch pockets) using your pattern - thank you again! Please visit my blog for pictures. This is such a versatile pattern - my next project is going to be a pair of overalls with some design modifications - will keep you posted.

  31. thank you so muuch i am about to use your pattern for my 3 yr old son. I would like to make a matching pair for his younger brother who 6 months old. Im a beginner sewer. How would I amend the pattern to make it smaller to fit him? Thank you so much!

  32. thankyou so much for this beautiful pattern and easy to follow tutorial.. I have just used it and now have the MOST BEAUTIFUL and professional-looking :) pair of overalls for my little girl.. I absolutely LOVE them!! thankyou for taking the time to put all this up here..

  33. this is an awesome pattern, just what i was looking for. unfortunately, by the time i found it, the link was broken. do you think you could find the time to email or repair the link? with gratitude, in advance carmen. my email is bestof49 at gmail dot com

  34. hi, this is an awesome pattern. but unfortunately the download link is broken, sniff, sniff.... can you pls. find the time to repair it, or email me the pdf? with gratitude in advance

  35. Really great pattern and tutorial. I made one for a family wedding as you described for my 3 year old and a second making a few adjustments so it would fit his brother who is 7.
    I also made the shorts proportionately shorter like the good old McCall designs. They both wore them with knee high white socks and T-bar sandals. They both looked so cute although my 7 year old was a little unsure of such shorty shorts to begin with.

  36. I would love to make these for my nephew, but every time I print the patterns people put on the net they turn out really small. For example - these are to fit a 3 year old. but the widest part of the back piece is 12cm? that can't be right can it. I have open it in google docs and adobe.
    Has anyone else got this problem - and fixed it?

    1. I have a two year old son who is just starting to wear 2 T(he has been in 24 months) size. This pattern ended up fitting him really well. It is a little loose as is expected with overalls and there is room for the buttons on the straps to be moved down when he gets taller. I used one of his 24 mo. overalls to compare the pattern to before I cut.

  37. Thank you so much for this pattern and tutorial. This is my first sewing project making clothes and I was worried at how it would turn out. Your directions were very easy to follow and it came out beautiful. I used blue and white seersucker with a light white cotton lining. I made it a full lining though because of the sheer fabric. I left off the pockets because I wanted it to look a little bit more formal. I plan on adding an embroidered character on the front so my 2 year old son can wear it for Easter. I love how it turned out and I am already planning the next pair for him. Thank you!

  38. I've just made these as full length overalls for my son, thanks for the great pattern, Lu

    1. Hi anonymous, I am trying to figure out how to make them in full length but I am having trouble getting the width right at the ankles the front piece is wider by a good couple of inches. I adjusted the angle following FG because the bottom of the back piece was to narrow at the ankle if I followed the angle of the pattern for shortalls, I then mirrored the angle for the back piece so they line up when stitching, is this where I am going wrong. Please help.

  39. I made these with dinosaur needlecord a couple of days ago they are the first item of clothing I have ever made and other than a couple of minor issues they are 'roaring success';-)

  40. Dear Lier,
    I'm so happy to see you and your work. I love this shortall pattern very much, but the download link doesn't work anymore. Would u like to send me the pattern by email: ? Thank u so much

    1. Chuoi Xinh: I've just checked the link and it is still working.

  41. Thank you for this fantastic tutorial. I made it for my 3 year old daughter 1 year ago, bat I blogged on my blog only today: I love it!!! Catiuscia.

  42. HI- I wanted to make some for my nephew. But was trying to do it without the seam in the middle. In order to not have the seam in the middle can you cut both pieces on the fold. I know it would take more material but didn't know if it would compromise the fit. Thanks-Jen

  43. Hi- I wanted to make these for my nephew. I wanted to make some with out the seam in the middle. Can I cut these on the fold. I know they will take more material but didn't know if it would compremise the fit. If not guess seam it is and maybe an applique on top to hid it a little more....--- Thanks Jen

    1. Jennifer Davis: If by "seam in the middle", you meant the center back and center front seams, yes, you could cut the garment on the fold up to the point where those center seams start to curve into the crotch seam (because the crotch seam, not being a straight line, can't be cut on the fold). And then you'd be joining the bottom "pants" portion to the upper bodice/bib portion with a horizontal waistband-ish seam.

  44. Hi! I love your tutorials, they are amazing!!
    I was just wondering if you could tell me where I could get the sew on fastenings? The one on the right? I prefer those but never managed to find it in store not online! Thank you xx

  45. Hello, making this now and I love it however, I feel there is an error in the cutting directions. I notice on the facing, the bottoms of your pieces meet. however, you state to cut the front facing from letters ABCDE, which is shorter then the back facing. to make them match lengths, you need to cut the front facing from ABCQP. this makes both pieces match in length. unfortunately, the fabric has already been cut. love the rest of this tho, thanx so much.

    1. Sara J: Yes, you are right. Glad you figured it out in spite of my dubious numbering/lettering. So either cut the front as ABCQP to match the back, or cut the back shorter to match the front.


  46. Hello, I'm looking for this pattern paper download, for a size that fits a 9 month old baby boy. Where can I download that?

  47. Acabo de terminar el pantalón peto para mi nieto. Salvado el problemilla del largo del forro por las letras. Tenia mas tela. Queda estupendo. Muchas gracias por el patrón y tantas y tan buenas explicaciones.

  48. The download link does not work, can you please fix, thanks

    1. Unknown - I've just tried the download link and it is working. Please try again. Click on the sentence below the picture, not on the picture itself, and follow the instructions on the page that comes up. It should download directly onto your device and you can open the file with a pdf reader.


Thank you for talking to me! If you have a question, I might reply to it here in the comments or in an email.