This is the epic saga of the Glastonbury Shorts and the reason why I love them so much, despite their unassuming nature and messy construction.
As you are swelteringly aware if you live in the UK and not down a mine somewhere, and may well have gathered if you’re elsewhere, it’s hot here. Probably not in absolute terms, but definitely to the point where your average Briton is starting to wilt somewhat – which, for me, means that it is shorts season as full-length trousers transmogrify into thigh-toasting torture devices.
Alas, about May I dug through my clothes looking for my one and only pair of shorts and discovered that they were gone. Newly re-bitten by the sewing bug, I went looking for a pattern for something basic and beginner-friendly, and settled on Butterick 5044. I now have two pairs of these, in a lovely pillar-box red and an eye-swimming print. This is their story.
Red: The Glastonbury Shorts
I can date the early life-cycle of these ones quite precisely. Warning: possible TMI (minor but messy injuries).
June 4: acquire the fabric from SCRAP. My mum’s theory is that it’s a cotton-linen blend – it’s beautifully bright, very soft, and will not press for love nor money. Those wrinkles came with it, have deepened, and cannot be removed.
June 5: acquire pattern from Samuel Taylor’s in town.
Evening June 5 / morning June 6: Sew up.
Evening June 6: wear to show off to my mum, up on a visit for work.
June 7: packing to go to Glastonbury with Druid friend, chuck the shorts in at last minute as the weather forecast was for major sunniness. Go to Glastonbury.
June 8: In Glastonbury. Evening ritual on Tor, in jeans. Just about nice, as the wind was coming up.
4am June 9: wake up to get ready for morning ritual at Avebury, an hour and a half away. Start foraging for breakfast.
4.15am June 9: Spill cup of hot porridge smack in my lap, yelp, jump under cold shower, whimper. Hurried confab ten minutes later when we have to leave now or miss the coach to Avebury. My assessment was that the burn, while huge, was very shallow, the skin hadn’t actually broken anywhere, and swift application of cold water had worked a treat. First-aider friend’s assessment was that if I was really sure of that, then it was probably possible (if not advisable) to tough it out for the day, as the nearest A&E was miles away and also it was 4.30am.
We went to Avebury. I wore the shorts, as no way was I putting jeans back on over a burn covering half the top of my left thigh. Those shorts got me to and from Avebury, and then through the seven-hour, three-change, bus-train-train-taxi journey home. I can report that the pattern is huge and baggy (with reasonably forgiving fabric, anyway) and they are blessedly free of chafing. The mystery fabric also stood up remarkably well to being drenched in blister fluid when the inevitable happened, and by this point I was so grateful for having comfortable clothes that I didn’t even care when the dye ran horrendously in the ensuing wash and dyed everything else in the load pink.
Back in Leeds, I cleaned everything up, bandaged my leg and spent the next week laid up whilst it slowly healed over – entirely straightforwardly, without infection, just very slowly (as burns do). The last dressing finally came off just about four weeks after the accident. In hindsight, I should have bitten the bullet and gone to A&E.
And that is the story of the Glastonbury Shorts. The pocket lining shows in a couple of places where it shouldn’t, the topstitching is wonky, the buttonholes have developed trailing threads … I can’t find it in my heart to care, because this pair of shorts saved my holiday, and that’s the truth.
Print – Glastonbury Shorts II: The Return
Pattern view: C, with patch pockets from A added and flap pockets omitted.
Last night I decided that I needed another pair of shorts, as the Glastonbury Shorts are about due a wash and I have been basically living in them when not at work because it’s so hot. Also, I’ve had the Harlequin jacket out on my sewing table for ages, and the prospect of shelving the Complicated Fancy Project for a bit and knocking something simple out in an evening was distinctly appealing.
I dug through the stash and came up with some wax-print cotton which was once vaguely envisioned as a shirt, then discarded as too busy, then had a quarter chopped out of it for a bit of LARP kit and had been sitting around since. To get the pattern pieces to fit, I had to cut it on the cross grain, which is probably why when I got it fully made up it only just went round me. (Either that or the French seams I’d put in to avoid trailing threads in the crotch were wider than they should have been.) None of the lovely roominess that the red pair have.
Undaunted, I cut it up the sides just behind the pocket and put in an extra strip about an inch and a half wide on each side. Then they were fine.
I had a good go at print-matching the pockets, which was a headache as the print is off-grain and also wanders interestingly – it’s not consistently off-grain by a certain amount, but wibbles to different angles in different parts of the fabric. The pattern’s so busy that they’re practically invisible anyway, though. (Can you see them?)
I do love that I now have both the skill and the resources (in the form of the stash pile) to decide that I need a new pair of shorts at 7pm on a Thursday night and then have some to wear on Friday morning. Sewing your own clothes doesn’t work out cheap and it’s time-intensive, but it’s hella convenient.