Variations on the “fly”

I can’t tell you how many times I have made up a pair of boxers from the First Choice boxer pattern, or how many copies I have purchased.  It is far and away my family’s favorite.

Lets face it, there comes a time when your kids will no longer wear something “Mom made” out in public.  That is a sad day for those of us with a need to sew. Years ago when we were potty training, I saw so many cute novelty fabrics at my LQS, that I just had to make something.  Then I found the First Choice Boxer pattern, and made up a few pairs for my 3 year old son.  I was tickled to find fabric with Scooby Doo and Blues Clues. He was intrigued with the fly.  They were sweet, cute, and he would wear them, not much else but, his older sisters were ok that he was not running around starkers like a 3 year old would given the choice. These fit the bill as they are not meant to be worn in public, and serve well as PJ or lounge wear.

Ironically, this turned into a long pair from flannel, and both daughters begged me to make them as gifts for all their friends, who in their teens would wear them in public.  Luckly now we are past that stage too.

My youngest is soon off to college and I let him know recently that we will need to weed out some of his older, now capri length and way too small pj pants as they are not fit to be seen in by someone other than his parents. And that is debatable.  Dug through my flannel stash and picked out a few pieces that would be acceptable “lounging around the dorm” pants.  The kind that would be ok to be seen in by the friends of room mates that will pop by unexpectedly.  Or hang out indeterminately.

Recently I taught a couple classes at Hip Stitch in the boxer shorts.  My students had trouble with the fly, and here I am going to show you an alternative method to make a modified fly.

First, cut out the shorts (eliminating the fly facing part).  the front will look like this:


Here I serged the edge of the fly.  Easy to confuse with the front edge of the leg of the shorts. Be sure to mark the center front of the shorts on your pattern at the top front just an inch or two in from the front edge.

Love this older Bernina that was rescued from being in storage for 30 years.  I thought it was a 30 year old Bernina, but it is a 50+ year old Bernina and a beast.  I have used it to sew shade cloth for the garden.  I love it.  The bobbin loading in the back, not so much, but this one is a work horse.

With the RST make a seam from this center front mark in a straight line towards the section where the fly ends and the curved front crotch seam begins.  I use a long basting stitch here if I later plan to open the fly.  About an inch and a half before the fly ends, change your stitch length to a 2.5 or 3.  Back stitch 5-6 stitches and continue down the front of the shorts making the crotch curve with a 1/2 inch seam allowance.  When you get to the end back stitch and flip the shorts over, and half way between the seam you just made and the raw edge of the shorts, make a parallel seam back up the front of the crotch to the point where you changed your stitch length and back stitched earlier. Here you will leave the needle in the fabric and pivot to sew out towards the edge of the fly.

Before you get all the way to the edge, fold the top layer back the amount of the serged edge (3/8 inch or so).  Cut your threads and remove the shorts from the machine.

Now is the time to top stitch that folded back edge.

Open them flat. and give them a press.  With the wrong side up.  Flip the fly section over to the left, so you can see that little bit of exposed right side of the fabric.  Starting at the top, stitch on this edge only to about an inch from where you stitched off the edge in the last step.  Start a gentle curve towards the center seam of the shorts and  stitch over the first line of stitching.  Stop and the second line and back stitch.  Here I back stitched to that inner line of stitching.

And there is your modified fly.  If you would like your fly to be operable and open.  Remove the basting stitches after you have put in the elastic.

Inseam.  Center the center seam across the center back panel.  Often, either the front inseam or back inseam will be longer than the other,  Important here to center it, and trim off either edge evenly.

Shorts hem.  Here I am using my favorite #20 foot on a newer Bernina.  It is perfect for a fold over 1/4 inch twice and stitch hem.  You can line the upper edge of the hem with the inside of the toe of the foot (move the needle if you like) and go.  Really nice even edge stitching.  I use it all the time to top stitch.


About Elastic.The pattern has a nice way of butting up the ends of a heavy elastic band.  It is necessary to connect the ends this way on heavy elastic due to the bulk.    I prefer to use a softer PJ elastic which can be seamed a half an inch from the raw edges.  In the photos I changed machines Start at the top of the elastic, sew all the way to the bottom, and all the way back to the top. Open the elastic and top stitch a quarter inch from the edge.  I like to measure a well fitting pair of shorts to determine the elastic size.


On the side seams, not pictured, I serged the seam, flipped it to the side, and top stitched with this foot.  I love how that looks.

Back to the elastic.  First, fold down the top by about half an inch and press.  I am usually in too much of a hurry to wait for my iron to heat so I baste this top edge down.  The basting stitches are easily removed later.


Mark the elastic in quarters, and pin the back (seam) to the center back panel. More on that center back panel in a moment. Pin the quarter mark to the side seam (not the side panel to the center back seam).  Stretch the elastic, line it up with the edge of the fabric and with a longer stitch length, sew to the next quarter mark.

I hold the back of the elastic with the left hand pulling behind the machine, and the front of the elastic in front of the machine is held by my right hand.  My job is only to stretch the elastic, and not to pull it through the machine.  The feed dogs are taking care of that.


When you get around to where you started, pivot and sew down the elastic to the other side. and go around once more, remembering to keep the elastic stretched as you go, so the fabric is evenly stitched around the elastic.


And here are your pants.  If you have made an operable fly, you could add a snap or two to keep it closed when not in use.image

Hope this helps!  If you would like to sign up for a class, I would love to help you find your love of sewing too.  You can find me at Hip Stitch!