Sunny yellow trousers

Last weekend I ‘toiled’ a pair of trousers using a vintage (1980’s) pattern given to me in the treasure trove of patterns by my next door neighbour. A toile, in case you’re wondering, is a try out or rough first makeup of a pattern to assess the fit, style lines and general feasibility in a cheap fabric (traditionally calico but old sheets are excellent for this) before you make it in your beautiful, expensive fabric and discover all the things that you hate about the garment you’ve spent ages making!

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It doesn’t look a very promising pattern on the face of it (very dated would be polite) but it had elements of features I wanted like a high waist with darts-can be lowered to a more ‘on trend’ and flattering level, fairly straight legs-can be narrowed and/or shortened, it had a front zip but that was easily moved to the side seam. The waistband could be replaced with a facing too so what I hope to end up with is a smooth, well-fitting pair of trousers to my own size and specification. Once I’ve achieved that then the possibilities are endless-longer with turn-ups, shorter for capri-length, pockets, contrast waistband…

I chose the left-hand style as the best bet and traced off the pattern making a couple of changes as I went (remove the fly-front, cut to my own leg-length, drop the waist level) and then cut it out in calico and sewed it up. This is where it can get a bit tricky and you might need the opinion and help of someone else with any changes necessary to fit and general aesthetic appearance because obviously you can’t see your own back easily! I was quite happy overall but I tweaked the back-waist by raising it up a little, and I reduced further the fullness in the legs over the thigh-it was too baggy at the back although the front seemed ok. From this new information I made the changes to the paper pattern. I unpicked the toile completely so that I could lay it all back out flat again and put the revised pattern on top to recut it. This seems laborious and, in truth, it did take a little while but it’s worth doing and it was a wet Sunday afternoon! I re-sewed the calico back together and tried it on again. I was a lot happier with the fit now and the pattern was ready to make up in proper fabric.

adding to the fabric stash!
adding to the fabric stash!

After a weekend visit to Hitchin market fabric stall I returned home with lots of projects to get on with including several trouser-specific fabrics. At an average of £4 per metre it’s not going to break the bank if they don’t work out as I hoped.

Laying up the pattern and cutting out
Laying up the pattern and cutting out

I chose the sunny yellow in the hope we’ll get some nice weather and they’ll brighten up a dull day. The fabric is 150cms wide so for ankle-grazer length it’s very economical. I couldn’t decide which was the ‘right side’ of the fabric and in the end I settled on what is actually (probably) the wrong side but, hey, they’re my trousers!

marking and pinning the darts
marking and pinning the darts, either tailor-tack the points or use a sewing-specific ‘disappearing’ marker pen
darts pinned for stitching
darts pinned for stitching
always stitch the darts from the top to the point. Backstitch at the top to stop them opening up but not at the point, leave threads which you can tie off.
always stitch the darts from the top to the point. Backstitch at the top to stop them opening up but not at the point, leave threads which you can tie off.

The trousers had 8 darts (something else I might change at a later date) so this took a little while. Press them towards the centre back (CB) and centre front (CF) seams. Next I sewed up the inside leg and outer leg seams of the right leg only. (This is because you need the seams unsewn when inserting an invisible zip and it’s going into the left side.) Because I planned to make a small split at the ankle I didn’t sew all the way to the hem on the outer seam.

Outer seam stitched almost to the hem to allow for the split. The wonky looking shape is because the hem turn-up needs to be shaped so that it sits flat on the inside.
Outer seam stitched almost to the hem to allow for the split. The wonky looking shape is because the hem turn-up needs to be shaped so that it sits flat on the inside.

At this point I neatened all the seams on my overlocker but if you don’t have one simply use a zigzag, or other specific stitch according to your user handbook. (If you have an ‘over edge’ foot for this purpose then use that too as it gives a better result)

I’ve found when inserting invisible zips that the technique of opening it up and gently ironing the teeth flat with a moderately warm iron (too hot will at best make the tape go wavy and, at worst, melt the teeth!!) helps with getting it to sew in smoothly. You must have a specific foot to sew in invisible zips, you might manage it with a regular zip foot but the stitching won’t get as close to the teeth and they’ll end up showing a bit.

sewing in the invisible zip using the specific foot-it has slots in it which uncurl the teeth as you sew so that the stitching is as close as possible.. The seam has already been neatened.
sewing in the invisible zip using the specific foot-it has slots in it which uncurl the teeth as you sew so that the stitching is as close as possible.. The seam has already been neatened.

Pin and stitch the second side of the zip in position making sure it matches accurately at the top edge. Put the regular foot back on and stitch the seam closed up to the bottom of the zip-you may need to use a normal zip foot to get really close to the bottom of the zip itself.

The zip sewn in position, if there are 'flapping' ends of the zip tape stitch them down to the seam allowance.
The zip sewn in position, if the bottom ends of the tape are flapping then stitch hem down to the seam allowance (not yet done in the photo)

Press the side seams open so that you can create the splits at the hem. It’s a bit tricky to explain this but I’ll try. Turn the hem up so that it’s right sides (RS) together and stitch just the length of the split-in this case 3 cms-on both sides. The regular seam allowance of 1.5cms applies. Hopefully you can see the photos to make it clearer. (Do you like my jolly flamingoes ironing board cover?)

The side seam is pressed open at the hem to start creating the split at the ankle.
The side seam is pressed open at the hem to start creating the split at the ankle.
Ankle split stitched at the hem. the corner needs to be trimmed to reduce the bulk when it's turned through.
Ankle split stitched at the hem. the corner needs to be trimmed to reduce the bulk when it’s turned through.

If you haven’t done so before now then stitch and neaten the inside leg seams and hems. Press both inside leg seams towards the back and press the outside leg seams open.

Now turn one leg only the right way out and insert down the other leg so that the seams match-see photo

One leg has been inserted down the other so that the inside leg seams match and the crotch seam is pinned ready for stitching.
One leg has been inserted down the other so that the inside leg seams match and the crotch seam is pinned ready for stitching.

Stitch the crotch seam. At this point I tried the trousers on to assess the fit and this is when I would make any adjustments to fit/length etc if they’re needed. I was happy as they are so I then stitched the crotch seam a second time for extra strength.

Nearly on the home straight now….attach the interfacing to the waist facings and join the side seam, leaving one open for the zip side. Attach the facing all along the waist seam matching side seams and notches (balance marks) If the layers are quite thick then trim down the seam slightly to reduce the bulk.

stitching the facing on at the waist RST
stitching the facing on at the waist RST
Inside the waist facing the top edge is trimmed slightly to reduce bulk and the short edge is stitched close the zip.
Inside the waist facing the top edge is trimmed slightly to reduce bulk and the short edge is stitched close the zip.

Next, on the outside, understitch close to the seam line through all the layers and making sure the seam is pushed towards the facing itself. This helps to hold the facing down inside the garment and not rolling up to show.

Stitching line for understitching-you can see where the stitching should be as I've already done it in the photo.
Stitching line for understitching-you can see where the stitching should be as I’ve already done it in the photo.

Turn the facing through and press to the inside. The photo shows how the zip opening should look now.

Inside of the facing showing the neat finish against the zip. The facing could be stitched down by hand if you prefer.
Inside of the facing showing the neat finish against the zip. The facing could be stitched down by hand if you prefer.

Catch the facing down by hand at the side seam, CB and CF to prevent it rolling up. My zip goes all the way to the top but if you have any gap you could always put a button and loop or a large hook and eye to close any gap.

The facing should look like this on the inside now. Hand catch it in place at the seams.
The facing should look like this on the inside now. Hand catch it in place at the seams.

Pin up the hems now and slip-hem them in place by hand.

hems pinned in place and the inside of the ankle split.
hems pinned in place and the inside of the ankle split.
Finished ankle split on the outside.
Finished ankle split on the outside.

And voila! a finished pair of trousers. The photo isn’t the greatest (I’m no good at a selfie) but I think I’ve ended up with a wearable pair of trousers. If I’m brutally honest, when I make them again I will almost certainly reduce the fullness a bit more but every fabric is different so I’ll assess each type as I go.

Let’s hope for nice weather so I can wear them, and perhaps make some tops to go with them too.

Sunny yellow trousers, they'll look better with shoes! The blouse is Burda 7136 in Liberty Tana lawn from last year.
Sunny yellow trousers, they’ll look better with sandals or pumps! The blouse is Burda 7136 in Liberty Tana lawn from last year.
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5 thoughts on “Sunny yellow trousers

  1. Great write up and maybe one year I’ll be able to make a pair of trousers myself! What’s the fabric? It’s great!

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  2. thanks Janet, I’m not really sure what the fabric is technically. It’s a cotton with a bit of elastane for stretch and looks like it could be a brocade-type weave. I’ll bring a scrap along on thursday evening to show you

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