Simplicity have long been one of the most familiar big names in the home sewing paper patterns market but many of us are now choosing to use PDF patterns instead for a variety of reasons. Simplicity have recently decided to dip a toe into the waters and release a small collection of patterns as PDFs for the first time.
I was first invited to try one of this new range of PDF patterns way back in high summer but for a variety of reasons it’s taken until mid-October to get completed.
Simplicity have released a range of ten basics which are available now from Sew Direct including several tops, a skirt, a dress and a jumpsuit, plus two children’s patterns and a free clutch bag pattern.
I chose the tie-front robe jacket SP110 which appealed to me as a cover-up in place of a cardi or sweatshirt and, because it was July at the time, I picked a pretty, drapey Atelier Brunette viscose crepe in a pale ivory print kindly provided by Minerva. The robe jacket is a very simple silhouette with a wide grown-on 3/4 length sleeve, the neck is finished with a band and the tie waist is elasticated across the back.
For me, it depends how many pages a PDF has whether I print it myself or send it away (my usual cut-off is anything over 30 sheets, more than that and I’m not keen on the printing and assembling) However, we had been experiencing postal strikes here in the UK and I needed to get started so I printed at home this time. I think the paper in my printer was a bit out of alignment because not all the pages were printing as accurately as they should have been but fortunately I could see what had gone adrift as I assembled the pages and was able to rectify it. Make sure you print the test page and check carefully that all borders are present and accurate, don’t simply check the test square measurement and wander off into another room while it’s all printing out… With A0 printing this shouldn’t be an issue.
The pattern includes all sizes from UK6 to UK26 (up to 48” bust) which are broken down into two size bands (there isn’t a layering option to isolate which sizes you choose to print unfortunately) The robe jacket consists of just six simple pattern pieces.
The instructions sheet/booklet design is attractive and uncluttered with clear diagrams and straightforward step by step instructions. For the more novice sewer there is a glossary which includes all the sewing terms that will be used throughout, and a page explaining pattern markings. This being a US-originated pattern, all the seam allowances are only in inches so you may want to write your own metric equivalents on the page somewhere before you start, to avoid confusion.
This is a quick and easy make, not much more than half a day probably, and everything comes together well. I thought the instructions and diagrams were clear, well explained and thorough without being over-complex. Overall a relative beginner should be able to manage this pattern. I like to print my instructions in booklet form but I should have increased the font size a little as I struggled occasionally to see the diagrams. I think the diagrams are actually very good, I simply didn’t print them large enough. If you are reading them from a tablet or lap top then this isn’t so likely to be an issue.
My only ‘problem’ now is that I have a summer garment as we head into autumn/winter. I intended it to be a light cover over summer dresses and tops so I’ve tried to style it for the season as it is now. I made a UK14 but possibly should have gone up a size, I feel self-conscious about how it looks around my midriff. It falls exactly on my natural waistline (I’m 5’5” tall) rather than above it like the models who are probably 5’8”-5’10” minimum. Hey ho, I didn’t get the tall gene but I did get the yoyo weight one instead! Basically, I’m pleased with the garment overall but less pleased with how it looks on me just now. I’m determined to get use out of it though but it will probably not be much before next spring.
I have a small quantity of the fabric left so, if there’s enough, I may consider adding it to the bottom under the waistband. This shouldn’t be too difficult because the waistband is straight and it would then give a little peplum which I might feel more comfortable with. It wouldn’t be too difficult to add a longer skirt to turn it into a coat as an alternative.
Being a PDF means you can buy the pattern to use immediately, and all the others in the Simplicity PDF range from Sew Direct. I was paid a modest fee for my pattern review and generously provided with the fabric to make it from Minerva. All views expressed are of course my own.
This post was originally written in January 2021 as a Minerva post for their recently completely revamped their website. I didn’t publish it here at the time and I’ve now sewn another pair of Nina Lee Portobello trousers so I thought I would share my thoughts. I have a paper copy of the pattern but it’s possible that it is now only available as a PDF, unless you can locate a copy somewhere.
I had chosen this interesting reversible woven jacquard fabric in black/cream because I was attracted to the random wavy stripes. When it arrived I found that they ran across the width of the fabric not down the warp so I had to bear this in mind when I cut them out. Fortunately, at 150cms wide with a nice firm selvedge, I didn’t need to alter my plans because I could cut them across the weft grain instead. I intended to make a pair of Nina Lee Portobello trousers and I thought this fabric would look good in this wide-legged style, they have 3 front pleats, side pockets and a centre back zip. I opted to use the black as the outside but I could have used either side of this fabric, or both sides at once to make a contrast.
I folded the material carefully across the width matching the selvedges to each other so that it wasn’t twisted and then pinned the front and back pattern pieces on, ensuring they were at a right-angle to the selvedge on the weft rather than the usual warp grain line. To mix things up a bit I cut two of the pocket bags on the normal grain so that the stripes ran crosswise, plus the remaining two pocket bags in a scrap of bright pink lining fabric.
The fabric was best suited to garments like trousers, skirts, structured dresses, jackets or formal business-type wear although how much call there is for that just now I’m not sure. It doesn’t have much drape but I decided it was still suitable for the Portobello trousers.
The fabric sewed well although I think because I cut it on the cross-grain, there was quite a lot of fraying so I’d advise overlocking all the edges singly before beginning construction.
The style is close-fitting on your natural waist line so the instructions advise choosing according to your waist measurement and go up a size if you’re in between sizes, it’s almost always simpler to take something in that to let it out. The fit over the hips is very generous but if you have an extreme difference between your waist/hip ration then it’s worth double-checking before cutting out. I fell between a UK 12 and 14 so I went with a 14
I traced off the pattern and it went together well, it’s a very simple pattern with clear diagrams and instructions. I ignored the waistband pattern piece because I chose to use an interfacing product called Fold a Band which is perfect for straight waistbands as it gives exactly the right seam allowances and folds. After checking the fit without a waistband I worked out how long my band needed to be, including an overlap and seam allowances, which I then cut in fabric the same width as the Fold a Band rather than using the pattern piece. Fold a Band comes in black or white, and medium or firm weights, depending on your fabric type, and makes a finished width of 2.5cms once it’s sewn on. This is a fairly narrow finish which personally I think is just right. Once I had ironed the interfacing to the fabric I overlocked one long edge, this would be the one to the inside of the finished garment. Pin and stitch the un-neatened edge right sides together to the waist, you could add a couple of useful hanging tapes to the side seams at this point too. Make the turnings at the ends and then you can turn up the band in the usual way and slip stitch it by hand or sink stitch from the front to secure.
Finally, after one last check of the fit, sew on a fastening or make a buttonhole with matching button. Lastly, try them on and turn up the hem to your chosen length, I overlocked the edge and made a 5cms deep turning which I slip-hemmed in place.
Since making the black and white Portobellos I have recently sewn a new fuchsia pink crepe pair. The very inexpensive fabric was bought from Walthamstow market late in 2019 with the intention of making wide-legged trousers but they didn’t actually get cut and sewn until October 2022.
I urgently needed a project to sew at the Herts Sewcial with about 15 minutes before I had to leave the house. Initially I was flapping around thinking of all the garments I wanted to sew here and now but then I remembered I had suitable fabric along with the good intentions to make another pair of Portobellos. The pattern was already traced and I just had to locate the fabric but I managed to grab everything I needed (an orange zip but no one would see that!) and rushed out of the house!
I was pleased with the finished trousers, I think the unusual vertical stripes are striking and the wide leg is very comfortable to wear. They were a bit baggy over the bum though but I think taking them in significantly would have altered the overall look of the style, I’m not sure. Looking again at the back leg pattern piece I think it could be overly generous compared to the front, the darts might need to be a little longer, so I might make some changes on the next pair (I didn’t, because I forgot that I’d written this comment!)
I’m very happy with the new pink pair, even though they weren’t high on my list for Saturday. The bright colour will bring me a lot of joy when I wear them and I’ve always loved that Katharine Hepburn 1940s or ‘Brideshead Revisited’ insouciant look. I’m not sure I’ve personally achieved that look but hey ho, that’s never stopped me yet.
I’ve had this Marcy Tilton trouser pattern Vogue 8499 for an absolute age, several years at least, and I took it out for consideration at regular intervals but for some reason it just kept going back into the box. Maybe the leg shape felt a little too radical for me on those occasions? But then the Style Arc Bob pants kept cropping up everywhere, especially in the Sew Over 50 community, so I returned to this pattern because of its similarities to the Bobs. Now I know I’m not six feet tall or a size 8 but the photo on the packet isn’t very helpful because I think it gives the distinct impression that the legs are fairly slim with a slight bulbous shape to the hem. The front is flat with deep pockets inserted into the side front panels while the back waist is elasticated, the curved leg shape is created though the addition of darts at knee level. They come in two size brackets UK 6-12 and UK 14-20.
You might think that visually the width of the front and back leg pieces would give some indication to the sizing but they are cut in two parts so the individual sections are slightly deceptive. I’m very familiar with the style of instruction sheets which ‘Big 4’ pattern companies (or is it 6 now?) use because they are what I learned with from the age of 11 and, in my opinion, the sewing instructions and diagrams are very clear. Because of the quantity of topstitching there’s a certain order to follow but it’s very methodical, I used a triple straight stitch rather than actual topstitching thread. I had a couple of try-ons whilst I was sewing them but I did have Covid at the time so maybe my brain was just not functioning clearly and I simply didn’t think they were going to be as huge as they have turned out to be.
So there we are, judging by some of the comments on my Instagram post about these trousers, a number of you have the pattern but haven’t sewn it up yet or, like me, you have had similar size choice issues with it. If you have an older copy like mine then I strongly suggest you pin the pattern fronts and backs together first and measure them before going anywhere near your fabric, or lay the pieces on top of a pair of me-made or RTW trousers which are similar and a satisfactory fit. This pair cost me very little because the fabric [some sort of linen/cotton/viscose type] was very cheap at Walthamstow market and I bought it for exactly this type of garment. As with any home sewn garment which doesn’t quite work out it’s feeling that the time spent on something I don’t love has been wasted which is annoying. That said, it’s been a learning process and I know I will make another darker coloured pair, possibly in a drill or denim-type cloth, but I will cut down the front by two sizes and the back possibly by as much as three sizes. I haven’t helped myself because I’m feeling really bloaty and despondent at present so I think these just emphasise this. I tried wearing them with a T-shirt tucked in but that just made me feel worse so it’s back to the drawing board for now. If, however, you love a very oversized trouser then these could be the ones for you.
As I said in my IG post, they will be great in warmer weather (which isn’t that often here) I’ll probably style them with my heavy black books, white Trend pleated shirt and denim Simple Sew cocoon coat in the winter hoping I’ll be rocking a little European-style continental chic, or I will simply put them on but not check in the mirror before I leave the house!
Recently on the @SewOver50 account a follower asked if we could help her with any suggestions for trousers/pants that featured a side zip and/or a flat front and, as we’ve come to expect, the hive mind flew into action.
Speaking personally, my primary reason for wanting a flat front is that it falls more smoothly over my not-so-flat tum [Years of fashion magazine input tells me that a flat tum is highly desirable, it’s what every woman of every age should want to achieve and anything less than perfect and a bit wobbly should be kept out of sight…Complete and total nonsense obviously but it’s very hard to undo so many years of conditioning] So, whilst I know it really shouldn’t matter it somehow still does matter to many of us and, because of that, we still continue to search for those perfect and often elusive trousers which give us just the thing we’re after, whatever it is. Sometimes we choose a smooth front because we want the top or blouse that’s worn with it to be the highlight and features like fly openings or pleats can be a bit bulky and change the silhouette we desire, but it isn’t always about hiding ‘figure problems’. One follower pointed out that as a person with physical limitations the trouser choices she made had to be based upon practical reasons which made her life more comfortable and straightforward and could not be influenced by mere vanity, a luxury not everyone have.
Much like the SewOver50 go-to T-shirt list I will simply give you links to the many and various patterns which followers have suggested. I’ll begin with the ones I have sewn myself so they are my personal opinions and then follow with the rest. Most of these patterns either have a side or back zip, a few have an elasticated back, some are pull-on and the majority have a flat or flattish front. Where I’ve mentioned sizing it will be UK sizes unless I state otherwise.
Let us begin…
Eve trousers by Merchant and Mills are as basic and classic a shape as it’s possible to have. They have a side zip and darts front and back with a fixed waistband. They have a tapered, slightly cropped leg shape without being close-fitting and a turn-up hem option. I’ve made 3 pairs (so far) in very different fabrics and they fill a gap I had in my wardrobe for just such a garment. There are two patch pockets on the back but I think this understated style lends itself to many hacking opportunities. Sizes available are UK 6-18 or 20-28 paper and PDF
Sidewinder Pants by The Sewing Revival The USP of these flat front and elasticated back trousers is the unusual side seam which winds from the waist starting slightly in front of the hip bone, down the side of the leg and finishing behind your ankle bone. There are pockets set into the seam and the Sidewinders can be hemmed with or without a turn-up or with a deep elasticated cuff. I found them very straightforward to sew-I’ve made 3 pairs of these too in a variety of fabrics including one pair in a really nice heavy jersey with the elasticated cuff. I wrote a review of them a while ago which you can read here. It’s a PDF only and sizes available fall into 4 brackets UK 6-12 10-16 14-20 and 18-24
Palazzo Pants by Simple Sew This style has darts front and back with a fixed waistband and a back invisible zipper which runs up into the waistband. It gives a smooth close fit around the body which then widens out to very voluminous legs. There are pockets in the side seams if you want them but could easily be left out. I think they are a lovely shape, and I reviewed them here when I was a Simple Sew blogger, but if I made them again I would sew a regular overlapping waistband which closed with a button and buttonhole or a hook and bar because they are a bit tricky to do up. UK sizes 8-20 paper and PDF
Portobello trousers by Nina Lee These trousers have a lovely Katharine Hepburn vibe, they aren’t technically flat-fronted because they have deep pleats but they zip up at the back, which has darts, so there’s no extra bulk in the front as a result. They sit on the natural waist with a fixed waistband, have wide straight legs and there are pockets in the side seams. I made a pair in a slightly-too-springy fabric but they look OK and are very comfortable. I reviewed them on the Minerva website, a better fabric choice would have been something like a nice heavy crepe or twill, anything with a bit of drape would look great. I believe Nina Lee patterns are only available as PDFs now, sizes are in two brackets UK6-20 and 16-28
6351 by New Look This is a pattern for separates and I’ve used the trousers a few times now. They have a drawstring (and elasticated) waistband, side seam pockets and the legs fall wide and straight. If these fit well on the hips then there isn’t too much bulk from the gathers at the waist-I’ve made them in linen and they are gorgeous in warm weather. I shortened another pair I’d made but didn’t wear so much and they have had so much more use as mid-calf cropped pants. Paper pattern only UK 10-22 (I think)
That’s all the patterns I’ve sewn myself so now it’s over to you, in no particular order…
Ultimate trousers by Sew Over It these slim-fitting trousers have a side zip and a facing rather than a waistband. They have been around since the very earliest days of Sew Over It and I’ve heard reviews which swing wildly in either direction. Some people swear by them and others say they can’t get a satisfactory fit. My advice would be to read a few reviews before making your decision. They only seem to be available as a PDF now UK sizes 6-20
Pietra pants by Closet Core these are a more recent release from Closet Core as part of their ‘Rome’ collection and they already have a legion of fans. There’s no zip, the back is gently elasticated with wide elastic, the front is smooth because of a grown-on slightly-raised waistband, there are quarter seams down the front with pockets plus there are three leg shape options-tapered, wide leg and shorts. That number of variations alone must make them excellent value for money! On top of that they come as a paper pattern US size 0-20 only and PDF in sizes US 0-20 or 14-32
Jenny overalls and trousers by Closet Core these are a wide-legged dungaree pattern with a number of options including trousers. They have a fitted waistband and darts for a close fit. Available as both paper and PDF in US 0-20 only. Closet Core have a reputation for comprehensive tutorials on their website so take a look if you need any help.
Chiara trousers by Tessuti these are a wide-leg slightly cropped length trouser with darts for a close fit around the hips and waist and a side zip. The waist is finished with a stitched-down facing. Available as a PDF sizes AUS 6-16 only.
Crew trouser by Chalk and Notch These trousers/shorts do have a side zip although they aren’t flat fronted, they are high-waisted with pleats and a tie feature. PDF only sizes US 0-30
Mountain View pull-on pants by Itch to Stitch Initially I thought these didn’t fit the brief because they appear to have a front zip but it’s a faux one so we’ll let them past. A jeans-style legging made in fabrics with stretch this is a PDF only pattern in two size brackets (you get both with purchase) US 0-20 and 22-40
Eureka pants by Fit For Art Patterns I wasn’t familiar with this brand but these trousers for woven fabrics have multiple options for the waistband and leg shape which should help you to achieve an excellent fit. Paper or PDF sizes XXS-3XL (whatever that means)
Calder Pants by Cashmerette are another good option. Wide legged in three lengths including shorts, smooth front and elasticated back to ensure an excellent fit. It comes in paper or PDF formats, sizes US 12-32 Cashmerette are renowned for their comprehensive fitting instructions which could be very useful.
Willow Trousers by Style Arc classic slim pants similar to Eve mentioned at the top. The Willow have a split hem detail and side zip. Paper patterns or PDF are both available in single sizes AUS 4-30 or multiple AUS 4-16 18-30
Bob pants by Style Arc a tapered, ‘balloon’ shaped leg with an elasticated waistband and side seam pockets, these trousers have become a stylish choice teamed with loose shirts and casual tops for a modern look. Sizing as with the Willow above. If you like these you might also like the Ethel pants by Style Arc.
Flint trousers by Megan Nielsen a wide leg pant or shorts without a zip at all, instead they have a crossover closure at the side which is incorporated into the pocket. Printed comes in AUS sizes 0-20 or PDF 0-20 or 14-30
Marilyn Jeans by Charm patterns These are a Fifties-inspired close-fitting jeans pattern but with a side zip, think Capri pants. PDF only at present but available in two size brackets US2-20 or 18-34
Clover pants by Seamwork another pair of slim-fitting pants designed for wovens with stretch. Side zip and ankle or mid-calf length, they can also have small inseam pockets at the waistband PDF only US 0-18
Duet trousers by Love Notions these trousers have an invisible side zip, two front hip pockets, back darts and two leg shapes-straight or tapered. They are suitable for both wovens and stretch fabrics. PDF only in sizes US 2-26
Miller trousers by Paper Theory These don’t have a zip, instead they have an elasticated waist with a tie option. There are pleats in the front, deep side pockets and long darts in the back to improve the fit in this area. Paper pattern or PDF UK 6-28
Free Range slacks by Sew House Seven These are another pair of slightly gathered elasticated trousers but the side seams on these have been divided and shifted to form a panel at the sides instead. They come with a tapered or wide leg option and look great in linen or similar fabric types. It’s a PDF pattern with two size brackets included AUS 00-20 and 18-34
So there we are, this isn’t in any way an exhaustive list of course, you may think there are glaring omissions, and the emphasis is strongly on Indie patterns rather than the mainstream pattern companies. These are the patterns which were suggested by the followers of Sew Over 50 so if you have your own favourites then feel free to let me know in the comments, a few of the patterns suggested were out of print so I haven’t mentioned them here. Don’t forget to tag #SewOver50 and #So50Trousers when you post on Instagram either, it’s such an amazing source of inspiration and ideas for others.