Simplicity 3688 – The Power of Three

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?

The bloggers

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.

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38 Responses to Simplicity 3688 – The Power of Three

  1. Lisa says:

    I love these Karen ,A pair of wide linen trousers are just perfect for Summer . I am truly scared of making trousers ..I assume the fit issues would be horrendous but maybe these ones would be a good start …Anyway you look fabulous as always and that top is perfect .

  2. Tilly says:

    These trousers are great! (Ooh dear, yet another reminder that I haven’t finished the trousers I started in March.) They came together really quickly, non? Good old blogosphere – great to have a reminder of how the community informs our sewing decisions. I really love that top too – one of my favourites out of your makes. x

  3. Portia says:

    Ooooh, likey! Nice fit and like the way you’ve styled them too… I’ve got Simplicity 2654 quite high on the agenda…along with a grey polka top….;)

  4. superheidi says:

    Hehehe, join the club of Simplicity 3688 fans! Really love this combo, including that lovely purse.

  5. Felicity from Down Under says:

    You beaut, as we [used to] say down here [back in the 194s; or so I was reliably informed by my Dad]. They look classy and comfortable. Is there an option for a pocket (I know it would spoil the line a bit, but pockets are such useful things)?

  6. Marie says:

    Every time I see another version of these, it reminds me of how much I want to make them! Very nice indeed and thanks for all the tips!

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Great minds think alike. I am embarking on my first linen pants too! Yours look fantastic!

  8. lazystitcher says:

    Pretty! Love them with the chucks!

  9. Elise says:

    Love your outfit! I’m a bit scared of sewing trousers too, which is strange cause I know I did it at college only a few years ago! I have a great pattern tho so you’ve inspired me to give them a go 🙂

  10. Carolyn says:

    Karen – this is a great outfit and very lovely on you!

    For the waistband situation, you could always use a buttonhole/button combo to solve the gaping issue. I sometimes extend the tab and use two buttons and buttonholes. It gives a nice finish to the waistband and holds it securely against you. HTH.

  11. Fay V says:

    Karen, they look great! I have made these trousers and I wear them all the time, they are just really, really comfy. I didn’t toile them (naughty) but just went ahead and although they looked lovely when I stood up, boy did they hurt when I sat down! I unpicked the waist band and side seams and gave myself just a tad more room and feel quite a bit happier -took ages though! I did what Carolyn suggests and put on a buttonhole. I used lovely vintage buttons and also sewed 3 down each dart at the front (for a hopefully slimming effect). I need all the help I can get!!
    Well done, I love seeing your outfits. F x

  12. Erin says:

    Hmm, easy to make + super comfortable = awesome! They do look really good on you and three pieces sounds right up my alley. Though I am working on a ridiculously complicated shirt right now, simple is definitely my skill level right now. And being so short it is hard to find pants that fit right. I will have to keep an eye out for a sale on Simplicity patterns so I can snatch this one up.

    Love the top btw, but I hear you on the ironing.

  13. kuby2u says:

    Karen, your post and links inspired me to find this pattern. I found it for 2.99 on Amazon. I also love Sandra and her her pants-fitting style. Did you go with the waist measurement on the pattern and it was still tight around tummy/waist? You look gorgeous in this. Thanks for sharing it!

  14. Sarah says:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE the trousers! They are on my To Sew List – I was inspired by Debi’s amazing version to give these a whirl. Dark lightweight denim, here I come!

    I adore your blouse, too. You must wear it more often – it looks fab on you. 🙂 And the sneakers? Love them, too.

  15. shari says:

    The fit of your trousers are wonderful! I’m sure the linen will feel cool and comfy for the summer.
    I have this pattern in my stash now I need to make them right away after seeing how wonderful you look in yours.

  16. Jane says:

    Yahay, you made them, and they look wonderful on you! Glad they’re comfortable – I also added a button and buttonhole to mine and it works a treat. I confidently predict that you’ll wear them to death this summer – they go with absolutely everything. I also love that top – I’m with Tilly, it’s one of my favourites of all your makes. x

  17. Bethany says:

    Stupid question–how does one iron ruffles? I’ve noticed that they tend to start looking odd on shirts but had no idea how one ironed them (I grew up with the iron only coming out while my mom was sewing, she never ironed clothes that were being worn).

    The pants do look great. Random question–is “toile” vs “muslin” a British vs American thing? Or are they actually different things?

    • Toile/muslin is a UK/US thing – they both refer to the practice make in calico or any cheap fabric you have lying around. Ironing ruffles? Um, i don’t really know how to answer this! I just, um, iron them!

      • Bethany says:

        Thanks for the explanation on the words. And as for the ironing–good enough. I’ll play around with one of the ruffled blouses I don’t like to make sure I don’t iron them in odd positions!

  18. Amanda says:

    These are great-looking! As someone with similar fit issues, I find this post extremely helpful. I’m going to look for this pattern and maybe get brave enough to try making trousers for the first time.

  19. I love the trousers! great fit. Once you have a good fit you can make thousands…ok maybe a couple is enough :o)
    I love, love love the top

  20. Dionne says:

    Linen mixed with Viscose perhaps. That’s the reason for hardly any creases, and also why the fabric still burns.

  21. Amber says:

    The pants look great but I must admit a bit of a crush on your top! It think it’s the dots that don’t look too “dotty” Ie Minnie Mouse. I love dots but they just look a little odd on me…. I think I’m attracted to the ones that are the wrong size LOL! This top is perfect and looks so amazing on you!

  22. liza jane says:

    This is such a great silhouette. I love the way they look with your chucks!

  23. Roobeedoo says:

    Woo hoo! What great outfit! If it doesn’t crease, there must be something un-natural in there. But to get the look of linen without the creasing is a definite bonus. I used to feel so bedraggled after a morning in a pure linen skirt, it had to go to the charity shop.

  24. Adrienne says:

    Hey Karen! Congratulations! Your piece is a Featured Project on Burda Style right now!

  25. Debi says:

    YIPPPEEE! Love this trousers pattern! They look fabulous! I’ve got two more pairs I’m hoping to make up soon!

  26. Becca says:

    They look AMAZING!! Finally, a pair of trousers I think I could actually make!

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  29. Sophia says:

    These look great. How nice that they were so easy.

    “They’re socially acceptable pyjama bottoms.” This made me laugh out loud. Thanks 🙂

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