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Choosing the right fabric: Iris

Choosing the right fabric is always a little tricky, so we thought we’d do a series of posts on picking out fabric for our three new patterns, starting with Iris.

Fabric weight

These shorts will work best with medium weight fabrics, and you can optionally use fabrics with a bit of stretch if you like. Make sure the fabric isn’t too stretchy – these aren’t hot pants!

If you use a heavy weight fabric, you may need to use a different fabric for the facing to avoid bulky seams around the waist. Stay away from lightweight fabrics because you’re sure to get a visible panty line (not to mention visible pocket bags).

Fabrics above: Blue, Pink, Navy, Polka Dots, Green, Yellow


Any prints you use for these shorts should probably be kept subtle (like the beautiful polka dotted pink linen above from Gorgeous Fabrics). Because there is a seam running down the front, unless you do some meticulous matching, your print will be broken up there.

However, you could use that as a design element, depending on your print. You might even be able to play with stripe direction for some cool effects! Could you see the side front in vertical stripes with the center front horizontal stripes?

Types of fabric

For the shorts in the photo shoot, we used cotton pique and cotton twill with a teeny bit of stretch. Fabrics such as cotton pique, twill, and lightweight denim are good choices for this pattern. Linens and linen blends could work, just be sure to test out the wrinkle factor and make sure you can live with it. These fabrics all come in a multitude of colors. You could even make a pair of fancy Iris shorts in silk dupioni if the notion appeals to you.


  • Use a fun fabric such as gingham or floral for the pocket lining.
  • Contrasting or textured buttons on the pockets.
  • Use a contrasting color for the waistband.

Caitlin Clark

Caitlin is the Colette Patterns design assistant. You can follow Caitlin at her blog, the story girl.



April 20, 2012 #

Love the styling of these shorts but I kinda need a longer length. Do you think it would be easy/flattering to lengthen these?


April 20, 2012 #

It’s very easy to lengthen shorts. Whether it’s flattering… I think that depends on your body shape and your own preferences!


April 20, 2012 #

Thank you for posting this!
I have mostly sewn handbags, totes and home goods. As a novice garment sewer, however, I struggle with what types of fabric will work with which garments.

I would love to make the Iris shorts but also want to lengthen them a bit. Would it look best if I extended the length straight down or taper in a bit?


April 20, 2012 #

I’d just go straight down. I think that would follow the lines of the shorts a bit better.


April 20, 2012 #

I just want to say that I really appreciate these posts on fabric choices! It’s so nice to see some options and some of the factors that go into what makes a fabric a good choice or not. Especially for those new/newish to sewing garments or those of us with limited local access to apparel fabrics; it can be hard to even think of what types of fabrics might work if you’ve never used them or even seen and felt them in person.


April 20, 2012 #

I really like the idea of using a floral or gingham for the pocket lining; I thought it would really pop if perhaps buttons covered in the same fabric were used as the front detail, as well as using the same fabric as those lighter weight facings you were talking about. I can’t tell if the buttons are functional or just a stroke of design genius; would a shank button be too forgiving in keeping the pocket closed?


April 21, 2012 #

I just wanted to say that I really love this pattern! I have just finished making a muslin and was happily surprised at how quickly they came together and they look good too – even in the cheap light weight fabric I used. I will say that I tried lengthening them but I am taking off all that I added on as I found that the cut and style actually looks better shorter (on me) and they are cut to sit at a pretty flattering spot on the leg already but give it a go it was quite easy to add extra length.
Thanks for such a great, easy to follow pattern I don’t know why I’ve never tried making shorts before – I can’t wait to make up the final pair! And then maybe another….


April 21, 2012 #

So is stretch fabric is not necessary for these shorts? The pattern envelope seems to specify stretch fabrics. I had my eye on some stretch twill at Denver Fabrics that has a 2% or 3% spandex content, would that be ok for the Iris?


April 22, 2012 #

I second what Kristen said. I like that you gave very concrete ideas, and even linked to specifics so I can really see what types work. Thank you!