Lightweight Summer Chinos


While summer in Tennessee can be beautiful, the weather is usually hot, humid, and sticky. When I first moved here from a drier climate about six years ago, I used to joke that I needed a snorkel to go outside. The air was that thick, or so it seemed to me at the time. My body has acclimated somewhat, but when the temperature reaches 70 degrees I start sweating. At 90 degrees I am ready to pass out.

In an effort to stay cool during the summer months, I decided to make some lightweight spring/summer pants, or pantaloons, chinos, trousers, breeches, slacks…whatever you want to call them. On a side note, I think all the different names we have for “pants” are sort of funny. I’m sure there are some historical and cultural reasons behind the different words, and I bet that there are people willing to argue the finer points that distinguish pantaloons from trousers. If you are a pants expert, let me know.

I found a really nice summer weight twill for the project. The fabric, which was originally off-white, is an organic cotton/hemp blend. Like my t-shirts, I decided to dye it for some variety. This time around though, I dyed the fabric first before cutting and sewing, rather than the completed garment. The dyeing process is always a gamble as far as the final color goes, but I am happy with the way these colors turned out.


The main change I made to my pattern was adding a cut-on waistband. So rather than a separate waistband piece, I extended my pattern at the top of my pants by the height of my original waistband. Then I finished it off with a facing that was sewn to the top, folded to the inside, and top-stitched down. This didn’t change the fit at all, but I wanted to try and see if the construction was a little easier than attaching a regular waistband. I’m not completely sure which method is actually easier. They both have some tricky areas, but I think the cut-on version might be a little faster.


My plan is to work on some basic “polo” shirts next. I already have the fabric, but need to work on the pattern and choose some dye colors.

19 Responses to “Lightweight Summer Chinos”

  1. Kelly — May 29, 2013 @ 3:53 pm

    Those look great Taylor! The dye colors really turned out nicely.

    • Taylor replied: — June 2nd, 2013 @ 11:30 am

      Thanks Kelly! It’s been too long since we’ve seen you. Lets get together for some beer soon 🙂

  2. Alex in California — May 29, 2013 @ 5:30 pm

    The pants look great- the colors are unique looking. “Different funny names for pants. ” I loaned a tuxedo to 17 year old friend and as I was leaving the room to give him privacy I said, “Put on the shirt and trousers and I’ll be right back.” He said, “What are trousers?”

    • Taylor replied: — June 2nd, 2013 @ 11:31 am

      Haha, kids these days…

  3. Becky — May 29, 2013 @ 9:03 pm

    I LOVE the way your pants have turned out. I have a very tall thin 11 YO boy. It is hard to find pants that fit him. I used to make him pants when he was smaller. I’m not able to find much fabric that would be appropriate to make a young man’s pants out of locally. I live in the land of heirloom sewing and quilting cotton – not a lot of fabric choices. Are there any online sources that you could recommend? What kind of dyes do you use?

  4. Kelly — May 29, 2013 @ 11:06 pm

    Wow, these look really awesome! I hoping to embark on some major pants-making next month, and have been looking through your shop for supplies. If I can get mine to turn out half as nice as yours I will be a happy girl!

    • Taylor replied: — June 2nd, 2013 @ 11:22 am

      Thanks Kelly! Good luck with your projects.

  5. Ulrik — May 30, 2013 @ 3:10 am

    Those look great!

    I might be late to the party here, but which book/which pattern are you basing these on?


  6. Ginger — May 30, 2013 @ 2:20 pm

    I love these! The colors are fantastic– you’ve really got the dye process down! These are so professional and look perfect for sticky, hot days.

  7. Jeanne — June 3, 2013 @ 6:41 am

    Really like the looks of your new pants! Did you use 9 oz or 11 oz twill?

    You may have started something – I used to dye fabric for quilting but haven’t done it for a few years. Now I may just have to try it for my clothing!

    • Taylor replied: — June 3rd, 2013 @ 10:34 am

      Thanks! This is actually a 5.6 oz twill. The hemp blend makes it feel a little heavier though, and hemp makes it a little stronger than a pure cotton version in the same weight.

  8. Margaret — July 7, 2013 @ 9:39 pm

    I have studied costume history and am a professional seamstress but not necessarily an expert on the taxonomical nomenclature of pants. However, when I hear “pantaloon” I immediately think of the women’s undergarments which are also commonly called bloomers. Secondly, I like the cut-on waistband. It reminds me of the construction of vintage army trousers, which happen to mellow to just the right softness with time.

  9. erin — August 11, 2013 @ 7:06 pm

    Very nice pants. Looks like you’ve gotten the fit perfected. How many pairs have you made since creating the initial pattern? Looks to be ~4?

    I’d be interested to know how you’re liking the wear of the cut-on waist. I find I prefer them in construction but not in wearing. I don’t find them to be as resilient, but maybe I just haven’t perfected my facing.

    • Taylor replied: — August 14th, 2013 @ 11:48 am

      Thanks Erin,

      The wear of the cut-on waist is fine so far. I don’t wear the pants every day, so I’m not sure how they will hold up long term. I’m not sure which method of waistband construction I prefer. They each have benefits and drawbacks.

  10. Ramona — October 3, 2013 @ 5:06 pm

    Your stitches and pocket details are just beautiful. Just beautiful.

  11. Kate McIvor — March 25, 2014 @ 9:10 pm

    Hi Taylor, I am so impressed with your work! Where did you buy the twill? Thanks.

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