Happy Monday, internet browsers! I hope ya’ll had a lovely weekend filled with satisfying experiences and memorable moments. Me, I accomplished something that is a sewist’s equivalent to sending a person to the moon; I sewed for myself some semi-well-fitting trousers! (This fact is even more astonishing because I taught myself how to sew less than six months ago, and now I have completed an Advanced Level pattern.)
(VERY IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: The fabric that I used for my trousers may detract from their visual appeal even more than their fit issues. I bought this silly polyester for $3 at a thrift store and, despite having made three muslins, I didn’t want to possibly mess up my nice fabric so I made these trousers with fabric that I didn’t care about. And I am very glad that I used this fabric (that I did not care about) because the trousers still need a bit of work. It is kind of a bummer, because I devoted considerable time and mental energy to these trousers, and they are nothing that I would want to be caught dead in public wearing. But they are getting close. Besides, life is all about learning, yanno.)
Pattern: Thurlow Trousers by Sewaholic
Fabric: 3 yards of ridiculous polyester bought for $3 from a thrift store
Notions: Trouser zipper, hook & eye
Total Time: 7.5 hours on Saturday, plus many hours fitting the muslin and cutting out the pattern pieces
The making of these trousers is a ridiculously long tale that I will not-briefly summarize for you.
Last month, when I announced my plans to make a “less drab, more fab” fall wardrobe, my good friend Amy (who just started up a crafting blog of her own!) contacted me and suggested we have a trouser sew-along because she, like me, wanted to make for herself some well-fitting trousers. I leaped at this opportunity for several reasons: (1) Amy is a much more experienced sewist and I figured that I would greatly benefit from her sewing knowledge and expertise in my quest for well-fitting trousers; (2) the pattern for these trousers is very confusing and I was hopeful that she could assist me in understanding the convoluted pattern instructions, and (3) Amy is a fun person to hang out with. Despite the numerous patterns for trousers available, we decided that we would both work the same pattern (the Thurlow pattern). We also decided that we would do all of the prep work on our own (working up a muslin and fitting it, cutting out all of our pieces and doing the boring interfacing) and then would gather at my residence and spend the day sewing our trousers together.
FITTING THE MUSLIN
As I stated above, I made three muslins for these trousers. The first was cut from a size 4 in the pattern (I typically wear a size 6 in RTW trousers and I’ve heard that this pattern is sized large so I started with one size smaller than my RTW size) and it was GINORMOUS. For my second version, I ripped apart my muslin and re-cut the pieces to a size 0 and, while it was much improved, it was still awful. The crotch depth was ridiculously long and I had a serious case of “mom butt” happening. I then did a bunch of edumacation about crotch depth and fitting pants across the rear, and re-drafted the back pattern piece. The third muslin was such a relief to me in how much better it was than the previous two – - many of the fitting woes were solved (the only woe that seemed to remain was that the crotch depth now seemed a little too short). I did not make a fourth muslin to solve the shallow crotch depth because I figured that would be an easy fix, now that I was an expert on crotch depth.
On Saturday, I pulled my big sewing table out to the living room and created a space for the two of us to sew our trousers. Amy arrived with her sewing machine and trouser-making supplies and we proceeded to sew some trousers.
Two hours later, we had finally completed the first step in the pattern (which was actually Step 2 because the first step was to do the interfacing, which we had already done)…
Working on these trousers with Amy was good for my sewing self-confidence; Amy found the pattern instructions just as confusing as I did and together, we were able find a little bit of humor in the fact that it took us two hours to complete one step. (For anyone working this pattern, here’s a few hints about Step 2… in the diagram, the piece that is white with slashes is actually the wrong side of your lining (this is not listed anywhere in the key), and your pocket facing pieces don’t do anything structural to your pockets, they are there just so your lining doesn’t show). Amy and I each sewed, ripped out, and re-sewed our front pockets three times each. By the time that we were done with this one step, we decided to order some pizza, because we were pretty fed up with our trousers.
After feeding our soul with some delicious pizza (and taking a needed mental break), we made it through a few steps in the pattern without issue and eventually came to the WELT POCKETS (bolded to emphasize their fear factor). We were both very intimidated about this step leading up to our sew-along and did some reading about their construction in advance (a very good explanation about the construction for welt pockets is from Colette Patterns for the Anise Sewalong). Amy and I both constructed our welt pockets without issue, though hers look much better than mine. Even though I made a concerted effort to line mine up identically with one another, they are totally misaligned and wonky in many ways. Further, these welt pockets, according to Amy and I, are really stupid. Because of how they are constructed, the pockets themselves are shallow (as in, non-functional pockets that aren’t big enough to even hold a cellular telephone) and have a lot of extra layers of fabric (just like with the front pockets). Those of us who are big-butted don’t appreciate having non-functional layers of extra fabric in the rear of our pants, thankyouverymuch.
Seriously, as a bubble-butted person, I don’t need bubbly welt pockets to enhance my bubble-buttedness!
Several months ago, I tried to work through this pattern and was overwhelmingly confused by all of the previous steps, but I persevered. It was only when I got to the front fly section and was unable to make heads or tails of the instructions that I threw away my entire trouser project in complete frustration. After that, I read many different tutorials about the construction of front flies and also examined the front flies on my own trousers to try to make sense of them. During the sew-along with Amy, we took these steps very slowly and methodically, each unzipping our own trousers that we were wearing that day and examining our flies and discussing our various theories for how they might be constructed. One important point about this section is that, on the diagrams (as with the front pockets) the white piece with slashes is the wrong side of the lining (not identified as such in the pattern key) and that made all the difference in our understanding of the pattern instructions.
Looking at the front fly from this perspective is particularly illuminating for someone trying to sew these for the first time. Also, yes, I did omit some of the finishing work (see below, lost mojo).
PUTTING THE PIECES TOGETHER
After nearly seven hours of sewing these blasted trousers, I started to lose my sewing mojo. This was too much sewing for one day and I blew through the rest of the pattern because I just wanted to be done. My motivation for sewing with utmost meticulousness was dampened because I knew that I would never wear these trousers (with their fugly fabric) in public, so you know, why bother? With as much haste as I could, I slapped these puppies together.
THE MOMENT OF TRUTH
With all of my sewing projects, there is a Moment of Truth when I go to try the garment on and it’s a mystery if the garment will fit well or will be an atrocious disaster. This Moment always brings forth a balance of excitement and sheer terror. On Saturday, this Moment gave to me a lovely relief, because the trousers fit sort-of well, not the atrocious disaster that I had feared (though not the perfectly fitting trousers of my dreams either). I was exhausted from the all day sewing marathon, which was filled with indescribable frustration and discouraging confusion, but I was very happy because I had a template for trousers that seems to need only minor adjustments, and the knowledge of how to piece them together with less frustration in the future. And so I procured some beers for Amy and myself and together we saluted our good day’s work.
(I totally meant to take a picture of our beers, but I forgot. Trust me, it was a major highlight of the day.)
SOME THINGS I WILL CHANGE FOR FUTURE TROUSERS FROM THIS PATTERN
Having altered the pattern pieces so that the trousers fit through the crotch and butt, there are still a few other things about this pattern that I’m going to change for version 2.
1. Omit facings for front pockets and cut pocket pieces from main fabric. As described above, the front pockets are pretty ridiculous. Rather than the pockets being 3 layers of fabric thick (trouser layer and two pocket layers), they are 5 layers thick (trouser layer, two pocket layers, and two pocket facing layers) and that is completely asinine to me (both because it is a lot of stupid work for no good reason and also because those extra layers add a lot of unnecessary bulk, as evidenced below). Those extra two layers are there only because the pattern has you cut the pocket piece from your lining fabric and then you add the two pocket facings so that your lining fabric doesn’t show. Here’s a brilliant thought – - cut the pockets from your main fabric and forget about the stupid pocket facings. Genius.
2. Change welt pockets to be patch pockets. While I am confident that my skills in constructing welt pockets will improve with practice, I just don’t think they’re worth the effort. Patch pockets are fine and significantly easier to do. Also, these particular welt pockets are stupid and just annoy me.
(I am standing very awkwardly in the below photo, I’m not sure why I thought that would look good for the camera.)
3. Remove excess ease from the legs. At least, I think that would be the solution. These trousers are designed to have a very wide leg but my finished trousers just seem to have too much excess fabric at the legs, particularly since I was aiming for fitted trousers.
EPILOGUE: …BUT WHAT DO I REALLY THINK ABOUT THIS PATTERN?
I taught myself how to sew less than six months ago, so arguably, this pattern was well above my skill level. I have made several Renfrews (pattern also by Sewaholic) and they came together easily and I just love the finished top. This pattern was kind of a nightmare, it was so confusing. Normally, I would think that it was just because I am only six months old as a sewist, but because Amy (who has been sewing for many many years) found it equally confusing, I am inclined to think that the pattern instructions could use significantly more detail for added clarity (and accuracy). This is a very challenging pattern, made unnecessarily challenging by the extremely confusing instructions.
That said, with fairly minor adjustments to the back piece for crotch depth and butt dimensions, I was able to construct for myself a pair of semi-well-fitting trousers. Which is very awesome!
Now that I have made three muslins and one full version, I feel confident in my ability to further modify the pattern, breeze through the instructions, and make for myself many pairs of trousers, and I am very very excited about that. This week, my plan is to work on another pair of trousers in more respectable fabric, incorporating the above changes, and I am very hopeful they will yield a pair of trousers that I will love wearing.