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Comox Trunks Sew-Along: Picking a size and ideas for customizing

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Welcome to Day 2 of the Comox Trunks sew-along!

Do you have your fabric picked out?  You still have time to pre-wash it as we won’t be cutting out the pieces until Tuesday, April 8th.

Today we are choosing a size and later in the post I will show you some ideas I and a few other sewers have had regarding how to customize your trunks for the perfect fit and style.

First off, when choosing your size, it is important to realize that it is largely the elastic waistband that determines the fit of the trunks.  Everyone has slightly different proportions to their waist, hips and butt and they may also have preferences to how tight or loose they like elastic waistbands to be (underwear are a very personal thing!).  Also, there are many types of elastic which have different amounts of stretch to them.  If the elastic you choose stretches more or less than our sample elastic did, you will end up with a different fit than we did!

I recommend using our body measurement guide to choose the size for the fabric portion of the trunks as you normally would for a sewing pattern but then wrap the elastic directly around the wearer to choose the length of your elastic.  We have provided guideline measurements for the elastic in our “Materials Required” chart in case you prefer to use our estimates (if the trunks are a gift, for example), but otherwise, this is how you figure out how much elastic you will need:

1. Take a length of elastic and wrap it around the wearer’s upper hips (where their boxer elastic normally sits) making sure to wrap it as tight as they would like it to be when they wear the boxers.  The elastic should have to stretch very slightly so that their trunks stay up!

IMGP7221

2. Mark this length and then add 3/4″ to the length for your seam allowance (two seam allowances of 3/8″).

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3.  Compare your resulting measurement with our elastic measurements in the “Materials Required” chart.  They should match ours or be fairly close.  When you sew your trunks, you may have to ease or stretch the top edge of the trunks slightly when attaching them to the waistband.  Don’t worry if this results in a few ripples – one the wearer puts them on they will stretch out to perfectly suit their body (due to their custom-fit elastic waistband!).

Now that we’ve determined the amount of elastic we need, here are a couple tips about choosing a size.

1. The trunks are drafted with negative ease.  This means they are smaller than the wearer’s body so that they fit like a second skin.  For our plus-sizes though (size 39-45) we have graded the pattern differently so that the wearer has more room in their trunks (the grading is larger and the sizes expand wider than the other sizes).

2. Our waist measurements correspond to the wearer’s natural waist.  This is approximately at naval level and is NOT where the trunks will end up sitting (those would be some high-rise trunks!).

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That’s it!  Now lets move on to some ideas for customizing the fit and style.  I have four different ideas and would also love to hear your suggestions (leave a comment below with tips and questions!).

Idea #1: Lengthen the legs:  Some people may feel a little under-dressed in such tight fitting skimpy little trunks 😛  That’s an easy fix – simply lengthen the legs for a more conservative pair of shorts!  Here is how you do this:

Lengthening the Leg

Idea #2: Enlarge the front cup: Are you sewing for someone who is generously endowed?  Our trunks have what I would describe as a “solid medium” size cup.  You can very simply enlarge (or decrease) the size of the cup by altering the curve of the front pieces as follows:

Enlarging the cup

Idea #3: Create narrower legs: Does your wearer have skinny legs?  They may be comfortable with the extra room in the legs (after all, no one wants to feel constricted by their undies) but if they would like the second-skin fit that these trunks are designed to have, you can adjust the pattern piece as follows (note that this must be done to the paper pattern rather than the fabric since these trunks don’t have a side seam!):

Removing width from legsIdea #4: Remove the “right exit fly”:  This is my favourite idea and is one that has generated some very hilarious discussions at our latest family gathering.  I gave my brother-in-law a pair of Comox Trunks for his birthday at a large dinner party.  Quickly one of the female dinner guests commented, “Does anyone actually use those tiny little front openings???”  I must say that I didn’t really have an answer!  We included them as part of the design because they are so commonly found on modern underwear and I didn’t want our design to lack something that ready-to-wear clothing normally has.  Fortunately, my brother-in-law had a very confident answer:  When in dress uniform/fancy attire (at his job, for example) his shirt has been very carefully ironed and tucked in.  In a scenario such as this he, with out a doubt, goes “through the gate.”  In casual uniform/regular clothes he is not constricted by his tucked in shirt and most certainly goes “over the fence.”  HAHA!  As you can imagine, his knowledgeable explanation of the matter, complete with specialized metaphors, gave us quite a laugh :).

If you see no reason to go “through the gate”, you can save yourself some sewing time by removing the bound entry.  Simply adjust the sewing process as follows to create a completely closed front cup (I still recommend keeping it double layered so that the shorts provide nice coverage and are hard-wearing):

Removing the right exit fly

Do you have any other ideas to alter the design or fit of the trunks?  It’s fun brainstorming these sorts of things for a pattern that isn’t very common.  At first examination the design, with it’s unusual seams and close fit, seems quite un-alterable but hopefully you now realize that this is not the case!  The Comox Trunks can be altered to create all sorts of menswear underwear styles and can be made to suit the many individual requirements men have for their undies.

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19 thoughts on “Comox Trunks Sew-Along: Picking a size and ideas for customizing

  1. I got my Comox pattern a few days ago and the happy (i hope) recipient of my sewing efforts has small hips ( his gluteus maximus is no cooperating at all …)in comparison with his waist. How can I alter the back? His measurements are waist 39, hips 39. Thanks!!!

    • Hi Raquel, Good luck with your Comox Trunks! I have a couple ideas regarding how you could approach fitting – a super simple one and one that is just a touch more complicated. The first option is that you could sew up a smaller size for him – I would recommend either a 34 or a 36 so that the hips fit and then simply cut your elastic waistband to suit him (instead of using the recommended elastic lengths). The second option is that you could use Idea #3 (Creating Narrower Legs) from this post on customizing and fitting. Overlapping the pattern along the slash would create a narrower pair of trunks in the hips and legs but would keep the waist the same width. You could even use both these suggestions to alter the size 36 to become the perfect fit! Please feel free to email with any more questions you might have :).

  2. Pingback: comox trunks ~ take 1 | Thimblenest

  3. I found out about your company through a blog I was reading (The Japanese Pattern Challenge) and he loved your Jed’s. I checked out your site and ordered a couple of your patterns – which includes these shorts. My e-mail account says they have shipped and now I sit in Germany waiting. Wow. I love all the helpful info on making your patterns. Sorry I couldn’t be part of this sew-a-long, but once I get my 4 patterns, I will be making the shorts first. Thanks for being here and giving so much cool information. Ron in Germany.

    • Hi Ron, I’m glad you found us! I love following that blog too. Your patterns were shipped on April 11th so they should have arrived by now as Canada Post advertises that Small Packets arrive in 6 business days. There is a chance that they are held up in customs as this can sometimes happen with our stockist orders. Also, the Easter long weekend may have slowed things down. Please email us if you haven’t received your package by the end of next week (info@threadtheory.ca) as I know you must be anxious to start sewing!

  4. If I wanted to make them higher in the back, lengthening the center back part should do it shouldn’t it?

    • Hmm, that is a good question! Do you think that the trunks are riding low because they are too small in the butt area and pulling downwards? If so, you might be better off to add a horizontal slash to all the pattern pieces to lengthen the entire shorts (I can explain this further if you would like! You will need to do this to every main piece except the gusset so that all the vertical seams still match). If you just want the back waistband to rise higher than the front waistband, you could try adding a curve to the top of the back piece. Depending on how fitted your elastic waistband is, though, this might just result in the waistband riding down to be even with the front and too much fabric (caused by the curve) pooling and folding near centre back…it is worth a try though if you are happy with the fit everywhere else! A photo of the trunks on the wearer would help me determine the fit problem but of course, only if he is brave enough to model 😛 – you can send them to info@threadtheory.ca if he would rather the whole world not have access to them!

      • Model won’t cooperate!! But I think you’re right -adding a curve on the center back might not be enough. I think if I add a half inch horizontal slash that might do the trick. Thanks for that suggestion.

  5. Pingback: A sew along I couldn’t resist! Trunks! | I'd rather sew...

  6. Pingback: Comox Trunks Sew-Along: Cutting out your fabric and preparing your machine | Thread Theory

  7. I love all the metaphores in this sewalong. The pattern looks great!

  8. I am doing my best to actually sew along with the sew-along. It is getting very difficult to be patient, but I’m focusing on some other projects to distract me. As I was reading this I was trying to imagine finding the words to describe the delicate nature of describing the details. I know when I sewed a pair of thermals, I knew I needed to photograph the front crotch, but how to do so tastefully created a lot of conversation in our home!

    • It is a bit difficult to discuss, isn’t it? Especially if I don’t want to scare off potential models! That’s great that you’re trying to go at our (slow) pace. I really wanted to slow this sew-along down compared to our Jedediah Pants sew-along because we had a number of people tell us they couldn’t keep up last time. This way people aren’t feeling rushed (which can be horrible when you’re battling with a sewing machine that doesn’t like knits!).

      • I want to learn from you instead of racing to finish. It is too easy to race ahead or wait until it is done and not be able to ask the questions at the right time.

  9. This is such a great, detailed post! I’d really like to sew these, but unfortunately my husband refuses to wear underwear! Haha sorry if that’s too much info…

  10. I’ve sewn up one pair and they fit great. With the second pair I’m going to try finishing the leg hem by serging a narrow doubled up band of ribbing, like you would finishing a t-shirt sleeve with a cuff (but narrower). I don’t have a cover stitch machine so I zig zag stitched the first pair’s leg hem but I want them to be as stretchy as all the other seams which are serged. I like the leg lengthening tip; he did say they were a bit shorter than he was used to 🙂

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