Or: Unflattering pictures of my butt and other parts.


I winced a bit at the thought of blogging these, because 1) it’s impossible to get a flattering shot of them, so ~~bodyfeels~~ 2) they are essentially underwear, even though they are covering a lot, and I am not a person who feels natural about putting photos of herself in her underwear onto the internet. But these are essential things that I wear every day, and I want a record of what changes I made, and also, all the same reasons that Nicole blogged her bra.

So! I made some steeplechase bike shorts by Fehr Trade. I wear bike shorts every day I wear skirts or dresses, which is basically every day. I can’t stand chub rub, and it’s nice to be confident to move freely without worrying you’ll flash someone. I was using a pattern adapted from leggings that I had been refining over the years, but they always wore out at the inseam long before they did anywhere else, and also the inseam itself occasionally caused chub rub. I was trying to get my mind around how to make a pattern with no inseam, when the steeplechase leggings/shorts were released. I figured the hard work was done, and much better than I would be able to!

My measurements fell somewhere between L and XL for the hips, and above XL for the waist – waist 99cm, hips 116cm. But I know from experience that my waist is functionally a smaller size than its actual measurements, especially for elastic-waisted things, because of where the width is. I have a belly so that my waist is actually my largest place on the front, but that’s balanced by a big swayback, so for elastic waists or tight fitting yokes, I generally need a size down from my measurements because it sits closer to my sacrum than a measuring tape will.


Because of the funky (and so smart) way the pattern is drafted, I wasn’t sure how to blend between sizes. I sort of wunged it and traced a bit between the L and XL lines, for this first one. If I’d read the instructions all the way through properly, I would have seen that there’s instructions for sizing up the waist yoke by slashing and spreading. If I’d stopped to think I’d have known to do that without needing to read the instructions, since that was where I needed the most room. But I’m trying to sew even when I’m not 100% at my best, which is resulting in a much higher output in both actual, wearable clothes, and also dumb mistakes. So.

Also, there is a lot of underwear bunching going on at the hips but that’s life.

As you can see, these are too large. They have enough positive ease that they actually chafe a bit – I find that for shorts I need exactly the right amount of negative ease or they are loose at the bottom and rub. I also had some pattern adjusting shenanigans because I initially put these on back-to-front and there was way too much height at front. I still find them quite high in the stomach area, but it helps if I put them on correctly! The leg seam should go at the back, which handily removes any need for a tab or anything to tell front from back.

v. saggy

I also found them too long, I have to be careful they don’t peek out the bottom of skirts, so in future versions I shortened the pattern by 1″.

So after that I cut a straight L


These were much better, but after about a half day of wear they relax enough to have slight positive ease. The back view of these ones are at the top of the post.


So then I cut a straight size M.


I was initially really pleased with this. However, after wearing them a few times, it’s clear they are too small at the waist – the L sit above my belly and sit flat and still – high waisted might not be particularly attractive but for undershorts it’s much better because they sit nice under clothes and it means I don’t have two waistbands in the same spot if I’m wearing a skirt. Whereas the M are too small to stretch all the way around my belly at its widest, and not high enough to go above it. I find myself needing to adjust them every time I go to the bathroom during the day, and sometimes they bunch weirdly beneath clothes. They also are too short, and the hem hits high enough to be in the Chub Zone, which means they chafe a bit. I mean, duh, more negative ease = less length.

Pulling down at the sacrum, too small everywhere across my butt.
You can see the belly issues – that’s sitting at my widest point while the L sit comfortably above it.

Annoyingly, I thought I’d cracked the fit and made three of the M. They’re still wearable, and still better than the ones I had made before from my own pattern. I’ll need to make more anyway, so I think next time I will slash and spread the yoke to be a M at the bottom and an L at the top, and use the M legs, which do fit pretty perfectly, once I add back in that 1″ of length.

I serged them all with grey thread because that’s what was in my machine and who cares. It shows through a bit when they stretch but… they are very unsexy under-wear anyway, not to mention muslins, so it’s not a big deal.

Thread show through

I have to say, these were really fun to make. They are a cool draft, the instructions are great, and I felt smart once I sewed it, even though they actually weren’t hard. I just followed the excellent instructions blindly the first time, and now I know how the origami of them works they don’t seem any harder to make than a regular thing with legs. I also really like the way the instructions have you insert the elastic – mine is very functional and comfortable but not neat, but if you were wearing these as outerwear it would be easy to take just slightly more care than I was bothered about and have the insides look nice.

I made a couple out of scraps of different colours.

I will definitely be making more of these, as soon as I can source some appropriate fabric. It needs to be stretchy but breatheable, which is a hard ask. Spotlight has some ‘performance knit’ which my last batch before this were made from, which was great but it’s $24 a metre or something which I guess is not particularly expensive but it is for spotlight and also for something as boring as this! But given that I’ve failed to find anything else appropriate, I’ll be buying some. At least I know how it behaves – the trouble with sewing something like this is that every fabric is slightly different. For instance, the M shorts that I’ve shown here have slightly less length-ways stretch and so are too short to wear by themselves without chafing, while the M shorts made from the same light blue fabric as the L size are closer to long enough.

At least the long-but-short nature of the pattern pieces means it’s actually better for being parsimonious with your fabric use. I got all of these out of scraps left over from various projects – there was a lot of fabric but in weird shapes, but I managed to get these out of it. I did cut one cross grain by accident, but since this fabric has pretty close to 50% stretch each way, I don’t actually notice it at all.

I really love these shorts, and am so glad I tried this pattern. If it’s something you would wear or use, I definitely recommend it.

Who wore it better?
Who wore it better?

8 thoughts on “Fehr Trade Steeplechase shorts

  1. I wear bike shorts under dresses and skirts also. I have the same problem with them dipping down at the back (big booty issues). You can add height to the back seam.

  2. I might be in the market to make something like this for next summer. I bought these highly recommended things called Skimmies that are supposed to stop the chub rub but not chafe or be overly tight like Spanx. They were supremely comfortable, but my cotton dresses all stuck to them because the fabric wasn’t smooth enough. I don’t really want to wear a slip as well as shorts under my dresses in the summer, so I was thinking of getting a smoother fabric and making some of my own. I never thought about using the Steeplechase to avoid an inseam!

    1. One of my friends swears by Skimmies but I couldn’t find anywhere to post them to me for a reasonable price. Plus, any chub-rub solution does have its shelf life, and I like being able to whip more up as needed.

      I have been thinking about fabric choice – my skirts do stick a bit. But anything smoother with more lycra is likely to be hotter, isn’t it? I’m not sure.

      I definitely recommend the Steeplechase, but if you don’t want to spring for the pattern you could always use your skimmies as a pattern! I waited until the leggings I was wearing got a hole, and then cut them apart and traced them off, but you could rub off a pattern fairly easily. It’s just one pattern piece, after all! Although are skimmies the ones with no seams? You could just draw a line up the crotch, I suppose…

      1. Hi! Just looking around via Gillian’s post about better photo project – what a great idea to use this pattern without the inseam! I have made some (using the espresso legging pattern) in anti-wicking Lycra fabric, and they have worked really well, particularly under knit dresses- and haven’t been too hot for summer, though WV doesn’t get nearly as hot as SA (I grew up there, but now live in the U.S.)!

  3. I have ordered from different places – fabricmart.com (http://www.fabricmartfabrics.com/Tree-Bark-Nylon-Lycra-Active-Wear-Knit-59W.html) – this is what I just made a pair from and they worked well but my favorite pair is heat gear fabric by under armor that I got from rockywoods.com (http://www.rockywoods.com/Fabrics-Kits/Under-Armour-HeatGear/Under-Armour-HeatGear-Fabric). Love it! I would bring you some the next time we come over but it will be awhile- we were there for Christmas last year!

Whadya reckon?

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