I suppose there comes a time in every sewing journey when you’ve just got enough clothes! Don’t get me wrong, there’s always space in my wardrobe for another … something, but I’ve got spring jackets, winter coats, trousers, jeans and shirts… so I thought I’d make a list of what really would add something to my wardrobe. There’s a vain hope that this will focus my future sewing… we’ll see!
- Fix or replace lightweight jeans.
- Waterproof Hi-Viz coat/ jacket for cycling.
- Black suit.
- Smart/ casual trousers.
- Always more tshirts.
And as I have less things to make, I think it’s time I stepped up my fabrics and processes a bit. I’m planning on using better fabrics and reaching for a higher level of finish and fit.
First up, I wanted a smart pair of wool trousers, and with the weather allegedly warming up I thought I’d go for a summer weight. I’ve got these friends who live near a boating lake, and I have a fantasy that I’ll be wearing these trousers rolled up at the ankle with boat shoes and a Breton top before the summer’s out!
This is a bit naughty of me really because I’m kind-of re-making the trousers from my last years #therefashioners entry. I’d cut and resewn a large pair of Oxfam trousers to fit me for my tribute to Gene Kelly. Sadly, even though they looked great in the photos, the pleats were a bit too full at the front and looked like a puffball when I sat down. Also, the fabric turned out to be some kind of super-stay-pressed-wash-in-the-machine-and-dry-in-a-minute kind of composition that hasn’t endeared me to them. They never really got their day in the sun… and if they had, they might have melted!
So I’m starting off with these Greg chinos from La Maison Victor sewing magazine (U.K. issue 1). They’ve got the pleats I want, slashed side pockets and back welts. I measured up to a small apart from the waist (humph) but decided to go ahead and trace out the small anyway. To be on the safe side I added double seam allowance to the seat seam.
Even though I’d used my new spiderweb paper, I decided I wasn’t going to sew that up – I wanted a full pattern to try on, so I used an old bedsheet to cut out a full pair to create a muslin. For my first proper muslin, I think I over did it a bit… not only did I put the welt pockets in the back, I also inserted a full fly zip at the front – all on a long basting stitch. Although these parts are unnecessary for fitting, I was glad to try the processes out as the techniques are slightly different than what I’m used to.
For my ‘first-round-adjustments’ I sewed the original seat seam, and took the side seams in by 1cm top to bottom, to get a better fit around the waist and a slimmer leg. I put them back on and took some photos to assess…
- Front (Before)… There’s a weird vertical crease by the front right fly
- After… I think this is because I used 1.5cm seams, not the recommended 1cm- I adjusted for this on the left side but not the right – I took it out and re did it.
- Back (Before)… Definitely let the seat seam out again – those wrinkles are radiating out!
- After… I unpicked and re-sewed the seam from 1.5cm at the base, tapering to 2.5cm at centre back.
I also decided to reposition the back pockets as they seemed too close together, and I took 1/2 cm from the side seams, front and back. This squared the hips a bit and narrowed the leg down.
Now I just transferred these adjustments back to the pattern and knew I’d be much happier with the fit. In the pattern, the pockets are cut out of main fabric and don’t need any facings or linings. I decided to re draft this so I could use some snappy lining fabric – I was given this fabric when MrA and I got married (all the guests brought fabric and we made a quilt out of it, check out this post if you haven’t seen it!) and I had quite a bit left of this lovely tana-lawn (which I think is from Liberty London). I’d wondered for ages what to do with it, not enough for a shirt, too nice for bag linings… and decided it would be a totally decadent treat to have it inside my plain grey trousers! – I didn’t topstitch the pocket openings, I ‘understitched’ the seam allowances to the lining (to help prevent the lining from showing on the outside… and if they show a little bit, I’m cool with that!)
As well as pocket bags, I also made bias binding to finish all the inside seams.
It’s so satisfying making your own binding. There are plenty of ways to make it and I’ve written about my favourite method in this blog. I use a Frixion Pen* to mark the lines – These pens are great, they come in a range of colours and the marks disappear when you iron over them (check an inconspicuous area first, just in case… but so far, I’ve had no problem with them!). The only thing to watch out for is accidentally ironing your marks away before you’ve used them, trust me, I’ve done that enough times to have learned my lesson (… you would think!)
I got the main fabric from Crescent Trading. It’s a pale grey wool flannel, made in England. Lovely quality and it didn’t break the bank. Most of the trousers I’ve made have been jeans or cotton drill so this makes a nice change. So far I’m really enjoying my plan to use nicer fabrics!
I made a few more changes along the way –
I wanted a more delicate back pocket than the 1cm single welt, so I decided to re-draft them as 5mm double welts, with separate linings. Now, I’ve done a few welt pockets before and am pretty confident with them. (I’ve blogged about different types here and here if you’re interested?) However, the double welt takes an extra level of nerve! To help keep everything neat and precise I used a medium iron-on interfacing on the welts and the back trouser pieces. I shortened my stitch length to 2mm and used the tiniest dab of FrayCheck on the corners for extra strength. I use an old pair of hairdressing scissors to snip into the corners, they’re really sharp right up to the tip and make it easier for me to snip right up to the stitches.
I’ve noticed that the corners don’t turn as well when I sew all the way around the box (rather than two long parallel lines) but I wanted them to be really secure, so I also stitched all the way around them from the outside… mostly in-the-ditch!
I unpicked the fly a couple of times – and even hand stitched it at one point! But I’m happy enough with the finish now and think that I’ll ruin them if I unpick it again. All the bound seams are creating a bit of bulk at the bottom of the fly which is niggling me, but I’m letting it go now. In this next photo, the crotch isn’t sewn up yet, making it look even worse. But, in the spirit of full disclosure…
The waistband was the final hurdle with these trousers; it’s constructed in a totally different way than I’m used to. There is no separate waistband, just a facing that turns to the inside, then you topstitch from the front to make it look like a waistband. Weird! And a little scary! I marked all the way around with a frixion pen to keep me on the straight and narrow and pinned carefully before sewing it together.
The belt loops are topstitched on at the end. I used plenty of starch and Fraycheck* to help keep them neat, and a bunch of fabric next to the belt loop to help keep the sewing foot level…
I think I’d get a cleaner finish with a regular waistband and will adapt the pattern pieces to that if I make these again… which I just might. Finally, I stitched up a double turned hem with the blind-hem-foot. If I do ever end up wearing these to that boating lake, I’ll be pleased to see the bias binding when I roll them up!
I have to say, I’m pretty pleased with the results of my first proper muslin. It certainly made it much easier for me to cut into my nice fabric, knowing that the fit was going to work. If I’d have gone by the size chart I would have ended up a size too big. Weirdly enough, when I tried measuring the pattern pieces of the smaller size, it measured up like it was going to be too small, but still ended up a bit big… I’m not to be trusted with maths, so it looks like a muslin is the best bet for me if I’ve got any doubt over a new pattern – or a fancy fabric to cut into. It’ll slow down my sewing output a bit too, which is no bad thing. It’s taken me a while to learn, but I finally think it’s sinking in that things turn out better when I spend more time over them!
(Not the best photo, but the best I could do at the time! I can assure you that they feel amazing on, and the fit feels great! – I’m going to wear these a lot, so there will be plenty more photo ops in them!)
… In fact there was another opportunity! I had a great night out celebrating with friends, and took this selfie (with the timer function!) before it all got blurry! Although this may not be the finest piece of photography, I’m very pleased with it as the trousers are the latest garment I have made and the waistcoat is the first garment I ever made!
I think these photos have helped me set my first-personal-styling-rule too…
- Loose bottoms – Fitted tops ✅
- Loose bottoms – Loose tops ❌
- Fitted bottoms – Loose tops ✅
- Fitted bottoms – fitted tops ⁉️
Let’s see if that helps!
Until next time,
Notes to self;
- Nice fabric = Slow sewing… say it three times before bed!
- Not that I’ve been frivolous in the past, but ‘considered-garments’ only from now on.
- It’s the first time I’ve taken ‘fitting-photos’ and (of course!) it really helped to assess the fit – much more than looking in a mirror.
- Binding the seams sure looks pretty, but it does make them quite bulky, I’ll think long and hard about this sometime.
- To switch the waistband; measure 4cm down from the top seam line, add seam allowance – Tape the facing pieces together and cut out as one piece on the fold – carry on as usual.
- Buy some hook & bar closures for the stash – I can’t keep these up with a safety pin forever!