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!
The insides are beeeeaaauuutttiful! The outsides are great too, but what a fun surprise inside a classic grey trouser!
Thanks! There’s a temptation to keep taking them off 🤣😂😅
This is very insightful Andrew. The trousers look wonderful and I am on board with your comment about having enough clothes. With a sewist I think we are always on a quest to do better and that is a good goal. Your garments are very beautiful and I look forward to seeing each new piece as they always get better.
Thank you so much! I really enjoyed taking my time over these!
Two things. To reduce bulk, use a much lighter fabric for the binding tape. Check RTW high end trousers and I’m sure they will have silk-like rayon binding. Secondly, I have heard the cut on waistband you constructed as a “Hollywood” waistband. As a professional tapper, have you seen Fred Astaire wearing the same style pants as he tapped through those fabulous numbers in his many movies?
I like the sound of a Hollywood waistband! Yes, I’m calling these my Gene Kelly trousers already! I hadn’t realised the construction… the more I wear them the more I get used to it!
They are incredibly comfortable- a combination of the fabric and the waistband I suspect…?
Nice work, Chinos look good. I used to wear Chinos at one time but never liked their tendency to “balloon” when I sat down.
Thank you. These ones don’t seem too full, but it does take a bit of getting used to a new shape!
Very nice trousers. They look beautiful on you. Last year I also discovered the benefits of making a muslin though I didn’t make one for all my sewing projects later. But I’m sure I will do it again. I always like reading about your process. xxx
Thanks Wis! Maybe I wouldn’t be so diligent if it was another pair of twill chinos, but this fabric was worth the effort! 👍🙏 xx
>> I suppose there comes a time in every sewing journey when you’ve just got enough clothes!
I don’t foresee that happening this decade. For one, I have way too much fabric in the stash, and secondly, I have way too many ideas in my head.
Nice pair of slacks! Love the bias tape!
Haha, I know what you mean… but I live in such a small flat: we’d have to move if we wanted a bigger toaster!
Making a toile is smart. I’m terrible at doing it, but it is smart.
The pants look awesome! The Hong Kong finish on the seams is lovely. Maybe a lighter patterned silk the next time you do that? The bulk may be the cotton + wool thing.
I have nothing but envy for your made-in-England wool. Grr. Want.
I will have to add making a toile to my habits. I’m in the process of losing a great deal of weight, and I’ve given myself a break on sewing clothing for myself until I stabilize. This is hard, because I both want to sew all the things and actually make time to sew them. Sigh.
Thanks for your posts and sharing your process. It’s really helpful.
Thank you. Yes, a smart move, but now I’ve done it once, I’ve got to keep it up!
I love them! I wore them turned up with Birkenstock’s last night (I’m pretty sure no one in the theatre noticed my binding! But I knew it was there!!)
(I pushed ‘reply’ too early!)
Good luck with the weight loss – take it steady, and in the meantime, make bags?!
Hahaha. I’m laughing because I just applied to be a pattern tester for bags!
Wow, these trousers are beautiful. I so enjoyed reading about their construction. There was so much that I could relate to. I’m also really trying to focus not only on the quality of my work, but on pieces that really contribute to my wardrobe in a purposeful way. It’s so easy to get carried away with fun projects that
,in the end, never get worn. So like you, I’m shooting for better clothes that I want to wear the hell out of. Oh…. and that waistband…. it’s called a cut on waistband, and David Coffin goes into great detail about it in his book on trousers. It’s all about reducing bulk. I’m not sold, even though I’ve never tried it! Sometimes some extra bulk (structure) is a good thing. Especially in menswear.
Thank you so much. Yes, I’ve discovered that I love a bulky waistband!
I’m wearing the same clothes to tap & pilates every week now, maybe it’s time for some new exercise gear for me…?!
These trousers look perfect! The bias tape is an amazing detail!
Thank you! They’re so comfortable too, I’m really enjoying wearing them!
These trousers look good and like you I realise it is necessary to slow down and take care. Pattern sizes are the biggest problem and you obviously think making a toile is the way to go. The chosen material looks really keen and will go with so much, great job although I think a traditional waist band might be better as you mentioned.
Hopefully I’ll stick to my guns and stay in a lower gear!