Trouser trauma

So I finished my third pair of Thurlow trousers.

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After the second version, I decided to add a little bit more to the crotch length, and to use the method that also adds more room at the thigh. And this is the result. It looks pretty good. From the front.

Less good from the back though.

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There’s a fair amount of sag going on at the back thigh, which I’m sure wasn’t there when I tried them on at the final fitting. I can think of three possible reasons for this:

  1. I had some, err, pre-menstrual bloating going on when I did the final fitting. (Entirely possible)
  2. The fabric has bagged out from one or two days of wear. Also possible, I guess, but it’s a wool/polyester mix suiting fabric, so I really wasn’t expecting that to happen.
  3. I’ve mysteriously lost half a stone since the final fitting. According to my bathroom scales, this is damn nigh impossible.

To fix this, I think I next need to make a ‘low buttocks curve’ adjustment. Mmmm. Sounds great. And probably to take out some of the extra width I added at the thigh while I’m at it. I might check whether these ones shrink in the wash first…

That said, this is my favourite pair because it’s the nicest fabric I’ve used so far. If I can get this final step in the fitting process right, I might finally be prepared to spend some serious money on some top quality trousering. Or even to line them – has anyone tried this with an unlined trouser pattern?

Costs:

Pattern £13.50, but this is my third pair so let’s say £4.50

Fabric £18.00 from Birmingham’s Fancy Silk Store, lining pieces were from my scraps box

Notions – roughly £4 for a hook and bar, a button, thread and scraps of fusible interfacing

Total cost: £26.50

Thurlow 2: the return of the toile

I made trousers – and they fit! Sort of.

This is my second toile (muslin) for the Sewaholic Thurlow trousers pattern, following on from the shorts I made a month or two back. For this version, I added 1.5″ to the crotch depth, meaning that the waistband now lies higher up and there’s less pulling in the front crotch area. So far, so good.

Given the difficulty I have finding RTW trousers that look vaguely passable, I wasn’t expecting this to be a one-step process. Sure enough, a new problem has now emerged.

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If you look closely, I think you can see me shuddering as this picture was taken!

I’ve now got diagonal wrinkles going upwards from the back crotch to the hip area. And according to my copy of Fitting & Pattern Alteration, this is a sure sign that the back crotch length needs increasing. I’m going to try doing this using the instructions Sunni has posted from Pants for Real People which should add a little extra width at the thigh as well.

On the whole, I think these are a wearable toile – they definitely fit better than some of the RTW trousers I’ve worn in the past. The front view is good, and I’m pleased with some of the details. OK, the back welts aren’t immaculate…

I chose the outer fabric at Birmingham Rag Market. It was sold as cotton drill at £4/m but it’s definitely polyester! So it doesn’t press very well making it tricky to get the welts tidy and the side seams flat. On the upside it’ll wash well and won’t fade, I guess, but I wouldn’t use it again. Somehow it manages to drape both too much and not enough at the same time.

For version three, I’ve got some charcoal grey wool mix suiting from The Fancy Silk Store (also in Birmingham) so that should be a bit better behaved and nicer to wear, too.

Overall, I really like this pattern but there’s one point that’s bothering me. I can’t get the left waistband piece to line up with the fly extension piece when I put waistband on – it’s been 1-2 inches short both times. A browse around the blogosphere shows I’m not the only one with this issue. So I might contact Sewaholic and see if Tasia and friends can work out whether we’re all making the same mistake or if there’s a flaw in the pattern pieces.*

*Update: I worked this out on version three. I’d been taking too small a seam allowance on both sides of the fly extension piece. On version three, I made sure I took the full 5/8″ when I finished the seam allowance and it fits much better. Although I’m still not totally convinced all the notches line up..!

How should I finish my seams?

This was the question I was pondering as I walked my dog yesterday morning. I’ve jotted down my thought process, and photographed the samples I made for my Thurlow trousers so you can see the options.

Do I have to bother finishing my seams?

If you’re working with a fabric that doesn’t fray, and where the raw edges of the fabric won’t be seen, then no, you don’t have to bother. So if I were making a cushion cover from a knit fabric, for example, I wouldn’t bother to finish the raw edges. Most people will be making the Thurlow trousers in a woven fabric, as the pattern suggests, and most of those fabrics will fray.

Here’s what happens if you don’t finish the seams.

This also shows why it's never such a great idea to try to make an outfit to an immovable deadline...
This also shows why it’s never such a great idea to try to make an outfit to an immovable deadline…

I’ve chosen a navy blue medium-weight polyester/cotton twill. (I agree, it doesn’t sound great, but I think it’ll work out well.)

What are my options, then?

Here’s a rundown on the options I considered. You’ll probably want to test out at least a couple for each garment you make and see what suits your fabric best.

Top: unfinished edge Bottom: pinked edge
Top: unfinished edge
Bottom: pinked edge
Top: zigzag v1 Bottom: zigzag v2
Top: zigzag v1
Bottom: zigzag v2
Top: Overcast using an ordinary sewing machine Bottom: Overlocked (served) using a 3-thread narrow overlock stitch
Top: Overcast using an ordinary sewing machine
Bottom: Overlocked (serged)

As you can see, left to itself the fabric unravels, and pinking doesn’t help much. So I ruled out these. Zigzagging would prevent the edge unravelling beyond the zigzag stitch but it puckered and it still looks a bit messy for my liking – given that these trousers won’t be lined.

I seriously considered the overcasting stitch on my sewing machine – this is what I used for the toile I made in a linen mix. It did work well, and it saves switching between machines, but it’s very slow. This has its perks – you’re less likely to make a mistake, and – unlike the overlocker – you won’t accidentally trim off too much and leave yourself nothing to work with if you need to let a seam out.

But in the end the overlocker option won out, mainly on speed. And I already have matching overlocker thread, so that sealed the deal. It’ll make it slightly harder to get all the edges and notches matched up because the overlocker will cut off some of each piece, but hopefully I can work that out without a problem.

Isn’t this a huge pain – can’t I just get on with the sewing?

I won’t lie – this wasn’t how I wanted to spend my time yesterday evening. But I’ll grudgingly admit it was worth doing to get all the needles, tensions, settings, threading and decisions sorted up-front. It took around an hour altogether – including re-threading the overlord twice and that should speed up the rest of the project, too. Heck, I even cleaned the overlocker!

Have you made trousers without an overlocker? If so, how did you finish your seams?

A Thurlow shorts toile – progress, but not there yet

Front view of brown linen shorts, unheeded

When I set out to make these shorts, I didn’t know if the toile (muslin) would end up being wearable. But I needed to practise some of the techniques, like the welt pockets and the fly-front zip, so I thought I’d make up a complete version rather than just a shell. And I’m nearly there – here they are.

Front view of brown linen shorts, unheeded
All clothes should include bulldog clips, I reckon.

I’ve still got some fiddling to do to get the waistband on right, the hook and bar fastening to add, and obviously I’m not planning on leaving the hem like this. (Unless this is how the cool kids are wearing their shorts these days?) Given the hours of wailing and gnashing of teeth it takes me to find a halfway decent pair of RTW trousers, I was expecting the fitting process to be a nightmare. It’s not perfect straight out of the packet, but I think the Sewaholic fit (pear-shaped, with larger-than-average thighs) is making things easier – I can get the toile on, at least!

Back view of brown linen shorts toile
We’ll see if adding to the rise (crotch depth) also adds enough length to the crotch seam.

As you can see, I need to add quite a bit to the rise/crotch depth to bring them up to the tummy button area, where I guess the waistband is supposed to sit. Once I’ve done that, I’ll be able to assess the crotch length, and finally the fit of the legs. The waistband feels a little large, given that it’s sitting lower than it should be, which surprises me. I didn’t expect it to come up large, judging by the size chart so this might be a symptom that something else is wrong. And I think I’m going to need a swayback adjustment of some sort too.

Side view of brown linen shorts
Wow – the side seam is leaning forward loads here. Why’s that, then?

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Would you suggest I change anything else?

Being brave

This was the week I took the plunge and started on my first pair of Thurlow trousers. It’s a pattern that crops up over and over again in sew-land, and as a pear-shaped person, it’s been on my to-sew list for a while.

I’d been putting it off for three reasons:

  1. I was scared of its welt pockets and fly-front zip placket
  2. I was a bit intimidated by all the awesome versions I’d seen around the web, like this and this
  3. I didn’t have enough calico to make a toile (muslin), and I was loathe to buy anything I knew I wouldn’t wear.

But earlier this summer, my lovely best friend sent my son a birthday present from Amazon, which came wrapped up in one of their brown gift bags. Five minutes with the seam ripper later, and I had just enough fabric to run up a pair of shorts – for free!

Gift wrapped presents in paper and bags.
I’ve used one of the large brown gift bags to toile a pair of Thurlow shorts.

So that was excuse number 3 out of the window. It was time to be brave and get over numbers 1 and 2 as well. I did say I was going to challenge myself this year and learn some new techniques… Lauren’s Lladybird blog has a great sewalong for the Thurlow, so I dived in on Monday, cutting it all out. I decided to aim for a wearable toile – and grab the chance to practise those welts and the fly-front – so I cut out all the pieces and dived in.

I haven’t quite got the waistband on yet, so I’ve not been able to assess the fit yet, but I’m very pleased with my first attempt at welt pockets. The sewalong instructions really helped, as the pattern instructions are a bit sparse in places, and Lauren’s included photos of every step which helps you distinguish which pieces are which much more easily than black and white drawings.

Welt pocket in brown linen trousers
Welt pleased with these!

The fly-front zip didn’t go quite as smoothly – I’ll confess there was a fair bit of unpicking involved. Seriously, how do I get the zipper foot past the zip pull without veering off course? Am I stitching too close to the zip, or is there some trick I’m missing that everyone else knows?! But still, it’s in, and I’ll take that for a first try.

Not bad for a first attempt?
Not bad for a first attempt?
Partially made shorts with waistband still to attach and hems to finish
Next step? Attach that waistband

Fingers crossed I’ll get the waistband on this week and then the fitting fun can begin.

Have you made the Thurlow trouser pattern? How clear did you find the instructions?