February 13, 2023
Shortening pants legs, or sleeves, is one of the most basic pattern adjustments you might need to make. It is a simple step that can be helpful for getting pants (and sleeves) to fit correctly. Sometimes, it may seem best to just hem the amount you want to shorten out of your pants, but sometimes shortening at the hem changes the way the pants should fall or finish at your ankle. For instance, the 145 Chinese Pajama pants are slightly tapered at the ankle, and they have a cuff that is attached to the bottom hem. So, if you shorten at hem, the taper is removed a bit and and cuff won't fit quite right.
So, it is usually best to shorten at the lengthen/shorten lines indicated on the pattern pieces. I am going to show you how to do this simple step with our 145 Chinese Pajamas.
To know if you need to shorten (or lengthen) pants, you can measure your inseam and compare it to the inseam of the pattern. You could also make a muslin of the garment, try it on, and decide if it needs to be shortened. I like this option a lot because different patterns fit in different ways, so a muslin can help with all kinds of fitting issues. You can also use Swedish tracing fabric to trace your pattern, baste together and try on. Then make adjustments right from the traced pattern.
First, you want to fold out 1/2 the amount you want to shorten the pattern piece by. For instance, if you want to shorten pants by 1", you will fold out 1/2" of the pattern piece at the shorten line. This is because when you fold out 1/2", you are actually folding two 1/2" sections that are stacked on top of each other, so 1" is taken out of the pattern piece total.
Make sure you are folding out the same amount across the whole lengthen/shorten line.
When you have an even fold across the whole pattern piece, tape the fold so it does not shift when using the pattern piece.
That is pretty much all there is to shortening a pattern piece. The only thing that might be needed is to even out the edges where the pattern was shortened. This is called "trueing" the edges. You can eyeball this, or use a straight or curved ruler, depending on what your pattern might need and what you are comfortable doing. I used the very slightly curved end of a hip curve ruler to true my lines.
You can draw the lines in or trim the pattern pieces to fit.
And that is all there is to it! You can see a shortened pants leg below.