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.

21 Responses to “Lightweight Summer Chinos”

  1. Kelly — May 29, 2013 @ 3:53 pm

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

  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?”

  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!

  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. Taylor — June 2, 2013 @ 11:20 am

    I purchase a lot of fabric from a local store in Nshville, but for this project I bought the twill from here:, and the dye here: Both companies have great customer service.

  8. Taylor — June 2, 2013 @ 11:22 am

    Thanks Kelly! Good luck with your projects.

  9. Taylor — June 2, 2013 @ 11:27 am

    I created the initial pattern using this book:

    …but I have modified it quite a bit since the first pattern.

  10. Taylor — June 2, 2013 @ 11:30 am

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

  11. Taylor — June 2, 2013 @ 11:31 am

    Haha, kids these days…

  12. 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!

  13. Taylor — June 3, 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. Taylor — August 14, 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.

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

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

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

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

  19. Taylor — March 26, 2014 @ 9:21 am

    Thanks Kate! I bought the twill here:

  20. ChaCha — April 24, 2017 @ 12:35 am

    Hi Taylor,
    I’m working on trousers at the moment and wondering how you finish the crotch seam. I’ve check ed my husband’s RTW and some have Hong Kong finish. What do you recommend?
    Thanks so much!

  21. Taylor — April 24, 2017 @ 9:02 am

    Are you referring to the seam at the bottom of the fly to the crotch point? You could do a Hong Kong or some kind of binding. To be perfectly honest though, I usually just surge that seam. It might look more “mass production,” but I like that surging adds less bulk than bindings.

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