Wow. Those sewing bloggers who told us these are a great pair of trousers? Listen to them. These retro wide-leg trousers are so flattering it’s ridiculous. I love, love, love them and know these are going to be worn to death. They’re socially acceptable pyjama bottoms. You can wear these in the street and no one will laugh at you for putting comfort and ickle fleecy powder blue kittens before style. (Hey! Have you been going through my drawers again?)
These trousers use three pattern pieces. That’s right, three. That’s how simple this make is. And yet, and yet… I found this a wonderful learning process and a beautiful collaboration, reminding me of all that’s best about the sewing and blogging community.
How did the collaboration work?
Handmade Jane has made a version of these trousers here and My Happy Sewing Place also made an awesome pair here. Both of these lovely ladies inspired me with their pictures and they both reassured me that these would be simple to make as I’ve never sewn trousers before and they can be notoriously challenging. Thanks, guys!
The blog readers
I mentioned in a previous blog post that I was going to start on these trousers and a reader reminded me to make a toile first. I’d originally been itching to get going on these, but was very glad to hear someone else’s wise words. Always toile first. This step proved especially crucial when I lost my pattern instructions and had to steam through the final make trying to remember the steps. Want to recall how something is constructed? Look at how you put your toile together.
My sewing tutor
I put together my toile in class and initially felt blue that it was a bit, ahem, tight around the tummy area. (An extremely busy month means that my exercising has nose dived.) I assumed I would have to unpick and do all sorts of adjustments, but my tutor pointed at the two front darts and said two simple words: Lose those. Could it really be that simple? To double check I consulted ‘Fast Fits’.
The sewing author
Sandra Betzina does make me smile – she certainly calls a spade a shovel when it comes to the idiosynchrasies of our bodies. One section is called: ‘Big Tummy, Skinny Legs’. You there! Yes, you with the pillow for a belly and the scrawny legs a turkey would be proud of! Let’s get that dress fitted properly. Nah, seriously – I do like Sandra’s book. It’s just so very down to earth, helpful and, yes, honest. We all need honesty when it comes to fitting. This is what I told myself when I stood in a class wearing an unflattering toile that didn’t fit with my striped knickers showing through the calico.
But back to ‘Fast Fits’. She agreed with my tutor: ‘For many of us, as we increase in years our waistline also increases at a steady rate … [No, I've always been this lardy, but anyway.] … Another option is to eliminate or decrease the size of any darts … In the case of a large waist, darts should be smaller, fewer or even eliminated altogether.’
Wow. Sometimes an adjustment doesn’t need to be anything other than simple and obvious. Mind blowing!
I also added two inches to the length of the waistband which on one level makes me feel a bit sad – two inches! But on another level gives me a nice, roomy, comfortable fit. And on another level, there’s just no denying that these trousers are extremely flattering and slimming. So, I guess, what’s two inches between friends?
Other conclusions? I’m not sure I could make a lapped zipper work on this make. It’s such a clean silhouette that, for me, it felt a shame to interrupt the line. So I’ve inserted an invisible zipper which is about as invisible as a pink elephant, but me and invisible zippers… I’m not happy with the closure I’ve used on the waistband – a hook and eye, because it’s all I had in the house. The closure is, of course, gaping. Let me know if you have other suggestions.
I’d advise a nice, deep hem to give weight to those flappy wide legs. I’d also advise careful measurement of length whilst wearing the shoes you intend to wear with your trousers. You don’t want those hems flip-flapping around your ankles, but skimming the ground in the shoes you’ll wear.
I used black linen bought for about a tenner, but I’m not convinced it’s pure linen. Whilst working with it, the fabric frayed ever such a lot and there were glimpses of white in the heart of the fibre strands:
Can you see the white there? To me, it looked almost as if the black dye hadn’t saturated the fabric completely. But the fabric has already been through the washing machine and there’s been no fading at all. The linen also doesn’t crease quite as much as experience tells me pure linen creases. I’ve been sat down in these trousers typing this and they still look pretty presentable, where I know some linens would already look concertina-ed.
To try to answer my confusion over this fabric, I decided to use Fehr Trade‘s burn test on a scrap of fabric. Cut a small square of the fabric, find a hob lighter or match and set fire to a corner. If it burns, it’s natural. If it shrivels, it’s synthetic. What are my conclusions from my very first ever Sewing Science Experiment?
- Um, it’s really hard to put out a burning piece of fabric.
- If you blow on it the flames will burn even brighter.
- It’s a good idea to conduct this experiment out of doors whilst protecting the trousers you have just made!
Er. The fabric burned. It didn’t shrivel or spit. I’m still not entirely sure what I’ve learned from this!
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. This black linen – whatever its birth – has a lovely drape and weight, just perfect for these trousers. But where do you come from, my lovely? A jar of chemicals or a field of flax? Just wondering.
Final point: I’m wearing the trousers with an old make of the Simplicity 2599. This top really doesn’t get half the wear it deserves, mainly because I loathe ironing (yeah, ironic) and those ruffles take a lot of ironing. If you make this ruffle version, I’d advise a non-crease fabric.
I know of two Sewists who bought an almost identical version of this grey polka dot cotton on the Fabric Fandango. There’s no getting away from it, that grey polka dot is a class act. I can’t wait to see what others do with it.