my favorite oliver + s pattern: inder from inder loves folk art

Today I’m happy to welcome Inder from Inder Loves Folk Art to the blog. She has been busy (and I mean busy…) over the past several years sewing Sketchbook Shorts and she’s here to show us the many fantastic versions she has made. Thanks so much for being here Inder!

It’s no secret that I love Oliver + S patterns generally, but it also won’t come as a surprise to any long-time reader of my blog, Inder Loves Folk Art that I have one very strong favorite Oliver + S pattern: the Sketchbook Shorts. It was the second Oliver + S pattern I ever tried (the first was the Sailboat Pants) and I’ve made too many versions to count for my son Joe. In some ways, it’s a humble little pattern – simple little pleated shorts with a faux fly and elastic waist, in a style I would characterize as “British Schoolboy” – but I’ve learned that the fit is perfect and the possibilities are endless!

Oliver + S Sketchbook Shorts

My first version was in Leprechaun Green for Joe. These were made in the days when I sewed everything on an old 1970s Singer and Joe was a big, bouncing 18 month old who wore size 2T. After taking more than a decade off from sewing, I was just getting back into it, sewing simple things for Joe. My blog was still a baby blog back then!

Oliver + S Sketchbook Shorts

The nice waistband, pleats, pockets, and faux fly made for such a satisfying finish! So I made a red pair for a friend’s daughter, and a striped pair for Joe! It was the beginning of a long, beautiful friendship.

Oliver + S Sketchbook Shorts and Ice Cream Blouse

These were followed in short order by a dog printed pair, because, um, DOG FABRIC, hello!

Oliver + S Sketchbook Shorts

At some point around this time, it occurred to me that the shorts could be lengthened into pants. Behold, my first pair of Sketchbook Pants, in soft green baby wale corduroy.

Oliver + S Sketchbook Shorts

Later that winter, I made a pair of flannel lined denim Sketchbook Pants that we called “Old Man Jeans” for obvious reasons; the waist was high, the pants were pleated, and the denim was bright blue! They looked a little silly at first but once the denim softened, they became a regular favorite of Joe’s and he blew out the knees, which I patched with train fabric for my then train-obsessed boy. Those pants were worn to shreds!

Oliver + S Sketchbook Shorts turned into pants

I’ve tried many other shorts and pants patterns over the years, but I keep coming back to the Sketchbook Shorts because they are so simple to sew and the fit is so perfect, especially around the waist and tush. Hey, when you’re sewing for kids, you want bottoms that stay on, don’t ride up (or down), have plenty of room to move, and don’t show plumber’s crack! Whatever complex calculus goes into drafting a crotch seam (and sometimes it seems like black magic!), these pants (with a flat front and no pleats and in corduroy) have exactly the right rise for my kids and plenty of room in the trunk.

Oliver + S Sketchbook Shorts

Oliver + S Sketchbook Shorts

As I became more comfortable and knowledgeable with sewing, I became more adventurous and began to experiment more. Once I tried binding the pockets and bottom hem of the shorts for a retro adorable look that is still one of my favorite versions.

Oliver + S Sketchbook Shorts

I did not make any Sketchbook Shorts during 2013 – Joe had graduated to the larger size range at that point, and I made Art Museum Trousers and Field Trip Cargos instead! But in 2014, I finally purchased the larger size range Sketchbook Pattern and made knit ponte shorts for Joe to wear with the Sketchbook Shirt to a wedding, which are still in regular rotation for nicer occasions even now (the great thing about shorts is that they may get shorter but they still fit years later).

Oliver + S Sketchbook Shorts

The Sketchbook Shorts work great in knit fabrics! The ponte shorts are quite fancy and dressy, but a more casual sweatshirt fleece would be great too. Another option I’ve now made many times for my very picky and comfort-obsessed Joe is a knit waistband. I made a black pair with a red stripe and knit waistband for my “Belgian Knockoff” post last year, which was the year of the shorts for Joe – he didn’t wear long trousers once for well over a year!

Oliver + S Sketchbook Shorts with knit waistband

These shorts were so popular that I made Joe two more pairs (never blogged)! Such an easy modification if you’ve got a sensory kiddo like mine, and these show off some other possibilities for this pattern: The striped pair were made with a thrifted pair of women’s pants, and the colorblocking on the blue pair allowed me to use up some tiny pieces of linen!

Oliver + S Sketchbook Shorts

Oliver + S Sketchbook Shorts

The possibilities with this pattern are really endless, and I have by no means exhausted all of them! Nicole of Five and Counting practically puts me to shame with all of her inspiring variations on this pattern! It’s really such a fantastic starting point.

In thinking about this blog post, I realized that there was a glaring hole in my collection of Sketchbook Shorts and Pants; I had never made a pair for Maggie! This is a perfectly gender neutral pattern and great for boys and girls. I first bought it because it was one of the few and best boy’s patterns on the market at the time, but I think the dozens that I’ve made speak for the versatility of this pattern!

Presenting: Maggie’s first pair of Sketchbook Pants! Like the very first pair of shorts I ever made for Joe, these are size 2T. Unlike Joe, who was a giant diaper-wearing 18 month old, Maggie is a tiny, potty-trained 3 and a half year old. And unlike the Leprechaun Shorts, these are bright pink and lengthened into pants, with pegged legs and cuffs. Pretty hip, right? Maggie is totally pink-obsessed (these children! le sigh), so I used a soft fine-wale corduroy in “Flamingo” for these, tapering the legs of the pants from the hips down to the ankles and tacking up a little cuff.

Oliver + S Sketchbook Shorts

Oliver + S Sketchbook Shorts

Sewing this pattern again, I was reminded of how easy and fast it is to make up and how fun it is to dream up modifications. Putting the finished product on Maggie, I was reminded of how well they fit!

Pleated pants are totally back in style these days, making this oldie-but-goodie style super hot for right now! I have a feeling this will continue to be one of my most-used patterns in the years to come.

Whew! That was a lot of shorts/pants! I count fourteen pairs just in this post, which is a LOT for me. I’m the type who tends to use a pattern maybe once or twice or if I really love it, three times. But that’s why it’s my favorite, right? It always works!


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  1. Helena

    So pleased you’ve done this, a great selection of shorts. I also love the sketchbook shirt there is a peek of above.

    Another depressingly pink obsessed 3 year old here, she would adore Maggie’s outfit!

    1. Thank you Helena! As far as the pink, I figure, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Joe is really picky about textures and the feeling of clothing. After making him a pile of stuff he won’t wear, I just started using knits and soft fabrics, and now he’ll wear mama-mades. Similarly, with Maggie, she’s not as picky about textures (thank goodness!) but it has to be pink. I could fight this and surely lose, or I could just sew pink things! I’ve decided to take the latter course. Good luck!!

  2. Liz

    Thank you for the great post. I have made these shorts many times but only as school uniform shorts in hunter green. You have inspired me to get creative! Many thanks, Liz

    1. Yes, this pattern is PERFECT for a school uniform (British Schoolboy!), but you can do so much more with it than that! Do it!

  3. Wow Inder, that is a LOT of Sketchbooks. You’ve really figured out how to get the most out of the pattern. Such great and practical sewing.

    1. Thank you lovely Masha! I don’t often truly get my money’s worth from a pattern like this one, but I just love the fit of this one and it has grown with Joe so well!

  4. Nicely done, Inder! Thanks for the great post. xo

    1. Thank you and you are very welcome, Liesl! It was fun to put together! Although I’ve since remembered a few more pairs (which were fun and awesome, of course) that I had forgotten about! HA! Argh!

  5. I was reading away, thinking how much I love this pattern too….. and then I saw my name and laughed out loud.
    I have five daughters but the Sketch Book is my most utilised pattern (closely followed by the Jumprope)

    Great post Inder, Joe and Maggie are totally adorable.

    1. I have been so inspired by your Sketchbooks! I remember we exchanged some emails or Flickr messages about eliminating the pleat once, it worked perfectly! I especially remember some narrow jeans you made with the pattern, which were totally stunning and so different from the original pattern as to be unrecognizable. I was soooo impressed!

  6. What a great post – so well written and engaging and man, BABY JOE!!!! He was such a cutie (and still is, of course!). You have done an amazing job with this pattern! And Maggie is adorable in her new outfit! I hope we’ll get more info and photos on your blog!

    1. I know, right? BABY JOE! With his chubby face and his curls!!! I was reminiscing while looking through my photos. What happened to that baby face and those adorable ringlets? Sigh! Well, he’s so much fun now, I can’t grieve too much. Thank you! The Sketchbook was one of the cutest indie boy patterns on the market back then, and when I realized how reliably perfect it was as far as fit, it just became my go-to! Since I first started blogging, there are so many more boy’s patterns now. But few as simple, easy, and reliable as this one.

  7. C

    This is a pattern I would buy in an adult size…

    1. For men? Or a woman? I’ve made some Thread Theory shorts for my husband with the Jutland Pattern, and they turned out great (flat front, no pleat). I agree though that some cute long Bermudas would be a great Liesl or Lisette pattern for women, huh?

  8. Lots of cute inspiration here! Love Maggie’s pink tapered pair and Joe’s retro ones with binding. Obviously a great pattern – will keep this in mind. 😉

    1. Thank you Noelle! When I first started sewing for Joe, there were hardly any boy’s patterns out there. The big four had basic PJ pants and that was it, and indie patterns were still in infancy. This was seriously one of the best of the very few patterns out there! Now there are tons of patterns to choose from, but I have to say, I’ve tried quite a few and this one still stands out as far as fit! Enough room to move, no plumber’s crack, but not too much ease. My only constructive critique is that the pocket opening are too small. Cutting 3/4″ off that curve is a standard alteration I’ve been doing since the third or fourth pair, so that Joe can use the pockets more easily. This and the Flashback Skinny Tee are my most used patterns for Joe, no comparison.

  9. All so cute, Inder! I love seeing how you’ve modified them over the years, and Maggie’s outfit is adorable too! Makes me want to sew a pair of sketchbooks! They don’t look fast but they really are, I agree.

    1. I think it was that combination of “super easy and fast” and “professional results that impress people” that really started my obsession! It’s like that one dish that seems fancy but it actually really easy? You know what I’m talking about here. This was that pattern for me at a time when I was still learning to sew. I still value it for that very reason! People seem to think they look pretty profesh, but I know that they are a one hour (tops) sew!

  10. Love all your versions, Inder! The Sketchbook is a fabulous pattern.:)

    1. Thanks Cindy! You have done some really fun variations on this pattern over the years as well!

  11. Nicole

    How have I never tried these shorts?! All of your versions are adorable. I especially love the knit waistband hack. Perfect for all boys who hate waistbands and buttons!

    1. Thank you Nicole! Joe IS THAT BOY. Heaven above. For the knit waistband, I use the Sketchbook waistband piece, with a little extra height (more maternity pant than narrow waistband, hahaha) and a little less length. I then treat the waist like a pair of yoga pants, I sew the band and the elastic into a circle first, put the elastic inside the waistband and serge the waistband right onto the the shorts. Because Joe is so sensitive, I press the seam allowance down and topstitch it, and then use soft knit fabric to make a “tag” that covers the seam intersection at the back. That also helps Joe know which way they go on. The intersection in the front doesn’t bug him, but the one in the back will irritate him if not stitched down and covered because of the thickness of the serged seam. Does that make sense? Make some shorts! (The Sunny Day Shorts are free and this treatment would work on them as well.)

  12. I should get this pattern traced off immediately! I love those colour blocked shorts and wasn’t Joe a little cutie as a toddler? (not that I am surprised!)
    Very inspiring post Inder, thank you!

    1. I think he was SUPER CUTE, practically munchable, but I might be a tiny bit biased! Haha! The color blocked shorts were so easy! I just penciled a seam line on the shorts and folded the pattern piece to make the block pieces. I didn’t even have to retrace them (although you could). And I used up remarkably small pieces that wouldn’t have been useful otherwise! I need to make another pair of these now that Spring is here, because Joe wears the linen ones a lot in warm weather, they are obviously light and comfortable.

  13. This is one of my favorite patterns too, but you’ve done it so well so many times! It makes me freshly inspired to use it again soon even though it’s cold right now.

    1. Trousers!! In corduroy or flannel! It’s such a great pattern! Glad you enjoyed the post!

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