Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


Making Cargo Trousers Part 1 (Lekala #5066)

Possibly two decades ago, I recall I had a pair of shop-bought cargo trousers that I used to love and wore a lot. They were grey, straight-legged and with loads of pockets. Although I don’t buy clothes from shops anymore, I do sometimes visit the “Inspiration Emporia”, as I now call them, just for a look around. Anyway, I kept on noticing a pair of red cargo trousers in Urban Outfitters. They ticked all my boxes – loads of pockets, straight-legged and with cool top-stitching.

Urban Outfitters cargo trousers – the inspiration

The Pattern

I looked around for a pattern to use. A couple of months back there was a pattern for cargo trousers in Burda magazine. I liked them, but the number of pockets just wasn’t up there. There weren’t any back pockets. Then I remembered that I had some credits left on the Lekala website and I spotted this pair. Are these not the coolest cargo trousers? I was salivating at the prospect of sewing all those pockets!

Lekala #5066 line drawing

I put in my measurements and the website comes up with a proposed fabric requirement now. Definitely a handy feature, as I’m sure it didn’t used to do that.

Lekala #5066 Artist’s impression

The Fabric and Notions

I bought the fabric at Like Sew Amazing. They only had a couple of different colour choices for this cotton canvas fabric. They still have some of the lilac in stock. The colour I chose though was this bright turquoise. I felt it was rather bright, but then it is very much in the same spirit as my inspiration – those red cargo trousers from Urban Outfitters. For the top-stitching, again, I was quite unsure, but settled on a cream colour. I found some cream-coloured buttons too, to complete the look.

The Construction

Lekala pattern instructions are sparse and very much in the same style as the average Burda magazine instructions. But these instructions were particular bad. Half-way through it just directs you to a Youtube video on the So Sew Easy website for inserting a zip. The video itself is great but it inserts the zip in a skirt. No problem, except that there are no instructions for sewing either the fly guard on, or for doing the crotch seam as a result. I did look at the instructions for the Burda trousers, mentioned earlier, but sadly that didn’t help either as the two patterns were quite different in the way they tackled inserting the zip fly. So, I just swore a lot and muddled through.

Next problem was that I made a mistake on the pockets. Between you and me, let’s just call it a style change. In the useless instructions, which I was increasingly failing to follow, it tells you to sew the top-stitching on the side pockets so that the pockets concertina. However, mine are just sewn so they no longer do this. Actually I don’t care. It means that my pockets won’t get overfilled and look all baggy. I maintain this is a style change, not a mistake!

And, here we are! The finished trousers….. well, almost. I still have the hems to finish and the button and buttonhole on the waistband.

Cargo Trousers: Back View. Got to have back pockets too!

I’ve decided to write a second post in a few days once I have worn them for a bit and can comment on fit and comfort. I will also report back on the outfit choices I have made with them.

Cargo Trousers: Front view. Obviously more pockets!

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An examination of rise (also known as where is my waist?)

I’m periodically bemused by all those Sunday Supplement views on fashion. I’m showing my age here, because I don’t think that many people actually buy printed copies of newspapers. However, I couldn’t think of another generic term to describe those articles where the author tells you about the latest “must have” trend and seems to imply that your life isn’t work living unless you have this blazer or that midi skirt. So, one of these trends that is commonly spoken about is for high-waisted trousers. In fact, I would say that the high-waisted trouser is something much talked about in the sewing world too. The trouble is I don’t really know what is meant by “high-waisted”. Sounds odd I know, but bear with me as I try to explain.

Where is my waist?

First of all, I suppose let’s define where the waist is, because I’ve found there isn’t just one answer for this.

According to this site (medical) this is how we should measure our waist:

  1. Remove or wear thin clothing around the abdomen and hips.
  2. Hold the tape measure between the top of the hipbone and the bottom of the ribs. 
  3. Breathe out normally.
  4. Bring the tape around the waist. 
  5. Do not hold the tape too tight and ensure the tape measure is straight around the back. 
  6. Record the measurement.

The above instructions sound logical, but how about “between the top of the hipbone and the bottom of the ribs”? Depending on your body there could be quite a bit of difference between the hipbone and the ribs.

This site (scientific) maintains that the waist circumference should be measured 2.5cm above the umbilicus. However, the authors were interested in the measurement that the best explains abdominal fat mass.

When I am taking measurements for sewing though, my primary aim is to make comfortable garments, so what do the sewing websites say? I found Jenny at Cashmerette advice probably the best. She asks you to consider the following question – “where do I want the intended waist on my garment to hit me?” She also provides the following advice for people who are pretty straight and up and down (which best describes my shape) – “You can pick wherever you want, and it becomes more about the proportion of upper: lower body in a garment that you prefer”. This explains a lot about my ambivalence when it comes to rise.

What is rise?

Rise is the distance from the middle of the crotch seam (right between your legs) to the top of the waistband. According to my online research, rise can vary from 7 inches to 12 inches (both these websites mention this range – I find it odd that the range is quoted as the same for men and women).

I found this handy picture on this website, describing the fit of jeans:

Diagram showing the fit of jeans

How to choose the rise I prefer for my trousers?

I have just been measuring the rise of the jeans I am currently wearing. It is 6 inches. The measurement is so low it fits below the range I quoted above. These jeans are very old and were bought in the noughties when rise so low you can see most of the person’s bottom was the prevailing trend. But on me they sit exactly at the top of my hip bone and across my belly button. What I can conclude from this is that my anatomy is quite different from the average in this respect and I have a very short body.

Using this website as a guide, low-rise is described as 3 inches below the navel (even lower than the diagram above), mid-rise is described as 9 – 11 inches , and high-rise as over 10 inches. This means that for my body wearing a low-rise pair of trousers at two to three inches below the navel would be very indecent on me! Given that my preferred rise is about 6 – 7 inches, this means that all those trendy high-waisted trousers with rises of over 10 inches wouldn’t be high-waisted at all, but would come up over my ribs and be competing with the bottom of my bra! Or most likely they just wouldn’t stay at this height and just ride down the whole time.

Below I’ve inserted a picture of me wearing my Palisade shorts. These shorts are a toile and the rise is really too high. It isn’t that evident from the picture, but the shorts tend to slide down resulting in a drop crotch look, which isn’t the look I’m after.

Shorts – t-shirt tucked in

I have learned that rise is a measurement unique to the individual and where they wish to wear the waist of their trousers. It seems rather neglected by the pattern companies though. Why don’t we get jeans patterns, for example with different rises, just like there are many pattern companies now doing different cup sizes? I had a look at a few jeans patterns and quite a few describe the pattern according to rise. Of course, that rise will look quite different on different people:

Ginger jeans (Closet Core Patterns) are described as low-rise

Jamie Jeans (Named Clothing) are described as regular-rise

Birkin flares (Paper Dahl), Ames jeans (Cashmerette)and Dawn jeans (Megan Nielsen) are all described as high-rise

Admittedly it isn’t a particularly difficult adjustment to make, provided that the pattern has lengthen/ shorten lines. For me, it is one of the most common changes I make to trouser patterns. It is also worth bearing in mind that you may need a different size of zip if you alter the rise by a substantial amount. (This is one of the reasons why I buy haberdashery as I go along and not at the beginning of a project, tempting as it may be to have everything to hand at the start). The explanation for short rise given here makes me wonder about how this rise is drafted trousers in menswear. Short rise is not the same as low rise. Sadly, I couldn’t find more information on this. I wonder whether there should in fact by two lengthen / shorten lines on trouser sewing patterns; one above the zip and one below?

So, am I any the wiser about what high-waisted trousers are? Yes, I suppose I am. But at the same time, I realise that I am never going to wear them “off-the-shelf”, either from a shop or directly as drafted by the pattern company. They simply wouldn’t fit or be comfortable. I think I’ll continue to do those rise adjustments.


Colour-blocking experiment: Papercut Palisade Shorts:

I’ve been getting overwhelmed lately with lef-over fabric from previous projects. Of course, there is never enough left-over for a complete new make, but always too much to be wasted. I had two small amounts of medium-weight cotton-linen blend, which were both blue. I thought they made a good combination for a pair of shorts. I bought the Palisade pants from the Papercut Geo collection, when it first came out. I think there are some great designs in this collection, but until now this is the first one that I have tried. The design  has an elasticaed waist and interesting pockets; they cross-over on the side panel to form two deep pockets.

Papercut Palisade Pants

Papercut Palisade Pants


I did worry about the thickness of the my fabric choice for these pockets so, I decided to convert the unseen bits of the pocket to use cotton lawn instead. This makes everything on the side-seams less bulky.

The insides of my pockets

The insides of my pockets

It was quite odd sewing these shorts as I seemed to spend a huge amount of time on the pockets and then the rest of the make, after that, came together very quickly. The waistband was a breeze to sew. The instructions suggest sewing the elastic into one side of the waistband and then you can try on the shorts, and adjust if necessary before sewing the other side of the waistband. The next step is to stitch in the ditch to encase the elastic. The waistband patern piece is also generous in width, making these steps quite easy. Finally, I added some top-stitching on the waistband, to stop the elastic twisting. I also think that this finish looks better too. I rememeber the almighty hassle I had sewing the Ruri sweatpants last year – sewing the waistband was a horror I don’t want to repeat. When I make another pair of those I will certainly make sure to use the method I used here with that pattern.

Waistband and pockets on Palisade shorts

Waistband and pockets on Palisade shorts

I very much enjoyed making these shorts – it was jsut satisfying how it all came together so easily. The pattern has plenty of notches in it, so lining up all the pieces to form those iconic pockets worked a treat.

I’m not so sure about the faux fly. I added it, but I think I may omit it in a future make and then there is my colour-blocking. I think I would have preferred to make the waistband entirely in the nay blue, but I didn’t have enough of this. To me, it looks like I’ve overdone the colour-blocking, I would have preferred a simpler look.

Finally, I will have to get used to wearing shorts. I haven’t worn a pair o shorts since I was a teenager as they aren’t an item of clothing I gravitate towards, but these are comfortable and will be good for the beach. Even if they don’t get used much I will still have tried out this pattern and will feel confident to go ahead with a full-length version. Plus I’ve ued up some odd pieces of fabric.

Palsiade Shorts - back view

Palsiade Shorts – back view


The fit could do with a little adjustment. I would like to take a couple of centimetres off the rise, but other than that they seem good. I would thoroughly recommend this pattern – well-drafted with good instructions, and a cool design. What more could I ask for? Even the elastic measurements in the pattern instructions were spot on.

Palisade SHorts - Front view with untucked t-shirt

Palisade Shorts – Front view with untucked t-shirt – hiding the waistband, which I’m not sure about!

Shorts – t-shirt ttucked in


Capri Trousers from Modellina Magazine

When I’m truly enthused about making something, I just want to fall under the sewing spell.  I can’t wait to get back to my machine or, when I don’t have much time just read through the next steps in the pattern instructions or imagine my finished garment.

This month however, I was not feeling enthusiastic or excited about what I was sewing. It all started so well. I’m sewing a pair of Capri trousers. I picked up this edition of “Modellina” (more information about this magazine here) in Italy and I snapped up the fabric on my return to England back in June. I couldn’t wait to start this make and immediately cut them out. But then The Monthly Stitch’s Independent Pattern Month and the Summer of Basics followed. This pair of trousers didn’t fit with my ideas (or the rules for Independent Pattern Month) so they languished unloved, under my ironing pile.

I picked them up again in September, but I was feeling half-hearted about this pair of trousers. I know that it is Autumn now and they won’t be worn till next year. I also got puzzled by the pattern too. I think there may be a pattern piece missing as I couldn’t work out how else the pockets would work. Whilst I was quite happy to draft this piece, I was still left wondering whether I had interpreted the instructions correctly. Of course, this sort of set-back, increases my level of trepidation and I proceeded more cautiously and then lost the pace needed to maintain my interest.

It’s cold and I only removed my socks for the photo – I can the marks on my ankles!

Anyway, enough about my “exsewstential” crisis, I have now completed the garment! Here are a few details – the fabric came, very cheaply from my local Fabric Land and is moderately stretchy cotton sateen. The pattern from Modellina is a trousers pattern that comes in three variations featuring different lengths and pocket combinations. I chose to add two pockets to the front of the trousers and only one patch pocket on the back (as per the instructions). I chose the middle of the choice of three trouser lengths that were included in the pattern, which is more or less calf length.

As noted above, my only real problem was with the front pockets. I thought these needed to be constructed from three pattern pieces – the facing, and each side of the pocket bag.

The pattern layout shows one side of the pocket bag (called “sacchetto tasca con sprone fianco” in the pattern) and the facing (called “paramontura apertura tasca davanti”), but nothing else. I was confused and ended up making my own pattern piece. Even the instructions weren’t much help here as the main instructions just referred me to an illustrated section at the back of the magazine. That would have been good, but the pockets were really more like in-line pockets in these more detailed instructions so I was left none the wiser.


I can see the pocket facing in this photo and also see the line of the pocket on this photo. So, I think I did get the construction more or less right.

The rest of the pattern came together easily enough. I was very happy that a graded waistband was included, instead of a straight one. I think they work better for me for fitting reasons. I did use the Ginger Jeans tutorial for the zip fly construction.

Essentially I’ve made a pair of jeans with a few inches missing from the bottom! I suppose then it isn’t surprising that this make took me a while. The fit was almost spot on using size 42 and I only trimmed a little excess width off at the hip.

I’m not going to get to wear these for another seven or eight months, and I’m rather sad about that. Should I avoid making “out of season” projects? I’m sure knowing that I wasn’t going to be able to wear these trousers, made me less enthusiastic about finishing them. Or should I book a holiday to wear them before next May? (Now that’s an expensive option!)


Hacking it in Batsford

I’ve just made another pair of Peter and the Wolf trousers from Papercut patterns. I made a pair last year and have enjoyed wearing them. I have been looking forward to making another pair. This time I chose to make a denim pair with grey top-stitching. The fabric came from Ditto fabrics and is a dark indigo stretch denim.




I usually find that I have to rely on belts to keep trousers sitting at the waist. So unfortunately, a side closure and waistband with no belt loops was always going to be a bit of a risk for me.


This new pair are therefore also a pattern hack. I’ve married the Grainline Moss Skirt front fly closure and shaped waistband with the Peter and the Wolf legs and yoke for this pair. I also added more top-stitching and belt loops, using the Ginger jeans tutorial instructions to give a more jeans-like look. There are more details on my hack on my Monthly Stitch post.




I decided to give my new pair of trousers their first outing on a visit to Batsford Arboretum. The arboretum is home to one of the largest private tree collections in the UK, and is famed for trees which originate in Japan and China, including the Handkerchief tree.


There are some beautiful views across the Cotswold countryside.



The arboretum dates back to the early part of the 17th Century. It was created to look like a wild garden. There is an artificial stream that runs through the gardens and our walk took us over wooden bridges and past a waterfall. Batsford Park’s most well-known residents were probably the infamous Mitford sisters, who lived there during World War I.



Being a weekday, it was very quiet and tranquil.



#1year1outfit – Linen Trousers Part 2

There seems to have been one great big, black cloud, chucking rain over the house the whole weekend, leaving little very little opportunity for outdoor photos. Of course, it’s sunny now during the week, but since I’m not at home during daylight hours, I’m afraid you’ll have to be content with some indoor snaps of my linen trousers, which I’ve now completed.

This garment has been one of the very few I’ve made using the same pattern – Vogue pattern V8546. This meant it was an easy make for once. I had already adjusted the pattern for fit when I made my grey trousers and I made no further adjustments. This time the pocket construction, which had puzzled me previously, was a breeze with the extra notes I had made.



Since this is a #1year1outfit make, zips are out and the button-fly closure is in. I copied the button-fly closure from a ready-to-wear men’s jeans. Incidentally Mr Steely is hanging around while I’m writing this and feeling “faux”-peeved that I posted the crotch area of his jeans on the blog without his permission!

For the lining of the yoke and the pockets, I used more of the dock-leaved dyed silk from Majestic silks and I used two small and two large ceramic buttons from Poppy Ceramics for the closure.



My finishing touch was to use some thicker linen thread and add some running stitches in place of top-stitching around the yoke and a few embroidery stitches near the pocket to liven up this rather basic pair of trousers.


I’ve just realised how little I have to say about these trousers. They were such a breeze to put together, is this what happens when you finally become proficient? I’m probably jinxing myself with just saying that; I expect my next make will be a disaster.

I’m hoping to get some better weather soon (on a weekend) so that I can model my entire #1year1outfit make. Watch this space…


#1Year1Outfit – Linen trousers Part 1

I’m a little past the end of the year, but I’m still working on my 2015 outfit for the #1Year1Outfit project challenge. My last garment is going to be a pair of trousers and I have decided to make these from linen. I’ll write a little about how I sourced my linen next time, but here’s a post about the first part of the construction.

I’m using Vogue pattern V8546. I have used this pattern before to make a pair of grey trousers in cotton which have a smart, yet relaxed style. I’ve been very pleased with the fit and style of these trousers, so another similar pair will be a good addition to my wardrobe.  I chose a natural medium-weight linen fabric. I actually rather like the colour and so I’ve decided not to do any natural dyeing on the fabric.

Since these are being created for the #1Year1Outfit project, I have made one significant change to the pattern. Instead of a zip closure, I’m creating a button-fly closure instead. I can source buttons made from natural sources locally. Unfortunately, I haven’t got a pattern with instructions for a button-fly closure, so I am using a little guess-work and some help from a pair of Mr Steely’s button-fly jeans.

The anatomy of button-fly jeans

The anatomy of button-fly jeans

Below are the steps I used to create my fly closure. I didn’t make any changes to the pattern to accommodate this change and cut out the trouser front leg pieces as originally intended. I just cut out extra pieces to create my button-fly closure fly shield and fly extension.

1.  Cut out two strips of linen fabric measuring 15cm x 10cm. These will form an additional fly shield sewn on the right front and a left front fly extension.

Measure two 15 cm x 10 cm strips

Measure two 15 cm x 10 cm strips

2. Fold each of these strips in half along the length and press.

Pressed linen strip

Pressed linen strip

3. Shape the strip that is to be used as the button-hole fly shield (for the right-hand side) of the closure.

Shape one of the pieces

Shape one of the pieces

4. Finish the raw edges of each of the pieces with a zig-zag stitch on the machine

Zig-zag finish on the fly extension

Zig-zag finish on the fly extension

5. Mark two button placements on the fly shield. I measured 1.5 cm from the top edge (this is the seam allowance for yoke) and then measured 3.5 cm for the first button and then measured 3 cm from the first button placement to make the second button placement. My buttons are 1.2 cm in diameter. I made the buttonholes slightly bigger (about 1.4 cm) to accommodate these.

6. On the right-hand side, fold over the right front extension to the inside.

7. Place the button-hole fly shield under the overlap so that the fly shield is lined up with the top of the trousers and it is just inside the folded edge of the fly. Top-stitch the fly shield to the trousers, following the stitch guide provided on the pattern. (I marked the top-stitch line on the fabric using tailor’s chalk so I had a guide to follow).

Fly shield revealed

Fly shield revealed

Right hand side of the fly closure from the outside

Right hand side of the fly closure from the outside

8. On the left-hand side, fold over the left front extension to the inside.


Left front extension folded to the inside

9. Place the fly extension piece under the overlap with the top edge of the fly extension aligned with the top edge of the trousers. The fly extension will have buttons sew on it. For this reason the fly extension should extend behind the fly shield to the edge of the fly buttonhole shield so the buttons can be placed directly behind the buttonholes.

Stitch the fly extension to the trousers, along the fold-line on the left-hand trouser front.

Left fly extension attached from the outside

Left fly extension attached from the outside

Left fly extension attached from the inside

Left fly extension attached from the inside

10. Top stitch the left front fly closure following the edge of the fly extension. This will mean stitching through the two layers of trouser front and two layers of the folded fly extension.

Top-stitch left fly extension

Top-stitch left fly extension

11. Finally, lining up the left fly button-hole shield and the right fly extension, mark where the buttons will go.

12. Sew the buttons on the right-hand side of the closure.

I hope this tutorial is useful. I have noticed that button fly closures seems to be quite popular on RTW garments, but I’ve hardly ever seen a button fly closure on a sewing pattern. Perhaps it is regarded as a little too fiddly to bother with and in truth I have only abandoned using a zip because it’s a #1Year1Outfit make.

Do you think button-fly closures are worth the bother, or a faff to far?





In wolf’s clothing

The Peter and the Wolf pattern by Papercut patterns is a design that I’ve admired for a long time. I haven’t seen another pair of trousers quite like them; they are certainly a unique design. In fact, I don’t see many interesting trouser patterns out there, possibly this is because so few home sewing enthusiasts are also enthusiastic about trousers. Having just finished MMM ’15, I’ve  noted that I do spend a lot of time in my ready-to-wear jeans. And before any of these jeans bite the dust (some are getting quite threadbare), I’d really like to make a few more pairs of trousers.

Peter and the Wolf Trousers

By rights, this pair of trousers should have been a disaster, and I’m amazed that it got to the stage where I am actually wearing them to work! There were some firsts for me with this make. I have been vigorously sewing for nearly two years now, so the firsts don’t come thick and fast anymore, but I was contending with my new overlocker and stretchy denim.

I chose a stretch denim in beige from Minerva Crafts.  I did want to make the yokes in a contrasting colour and I decided that the easiest way to do this was to dye some of my beige fabric in the desired contrasting shade. I chose a dark brown from Dylon to do the dyeing. I’m quite pleased with the results of this and there is a good contrast between the yoke and the rest of the trousers. It also saved me from worrying about finding another fabric of similar weight.

In the construction stage, the first problem I needed to tackle was to make a custom-fit pattern (I don’t make toiles – I’m too lazy and the one time I made a toile, it told me nothing that doing the maths didn’t tell me). I decided to go with making the S (small) size, but made a few adjustments on my custom pattern. I made the leg length 3 centimetres longer and made the waist a little more accommodating (about 4 centimetres). My main problem was that I had very little idea about working with fabric which is stretchy and I didn’t know how much ease I would need. So I just sewed the trousers up and hoped for the best!

It was at this point that I was a little too enthusiastic with the overlocker and made a nasty hole in one of the legs (oops!) After throwing a mini tantrum (yes, the trousers did get thrown across the room!), I thought I could salvage the situation. I thought I had enough unneeded ease that I could manage to place the hole in the seam allowance, provided that I moved the side seam allowance slightly. This means that the side seam allowance is not quite at the side, but about 1 centimetre nearer the front. No-one will know! I did think that I might have needed to do something more drastic. I didn’t have enough fabric to make another leg piece, but I could have made a half-leg piece and made a dramatic curved seam just above the leg. Fortunately, in the end I didn’t need to go with this solution, although it could have worked quite nicely.


Drama over, I sewed up the rest of the trousers. To get the final fit I just tacked the leg seams and tried the trousers on. They did need a little tweaking and I took in the legs by about 1 centimetre and the front crotch seam, by about the same. I think that possibly the size smaller would have been a better fit all round, but I’ll make the necessary changes to the custom pattern and hopefully it will mean I won’t need to make any fit changes next time I make a pair.

Peter and the Wolf Trousers

I did make another mistake with this project. Not quite as serious, but nonetheless just as difficult to resolve. I forgot to read the instructions at one point and missed out the top-stitching on the front yoke. Strange really, I don’t usually miss an opportunity to top-stitch! It isn’t the end of the world, but it does mean that there is top-stitching on the back yoke and none on the front, which to my mind looks a little odd. I’m debating whether the take out the top-stitching on the back yoke, just to even things up a bit.

Wolf 1

Peter and the Wolf Trousers

I’ve now worn these trousers to work and they are definitely a hit. They are very comfortable, but I still feel smart in them, or perhaps that’s just because they are new! The pockets are deep and even though I was concerned with the comfort of a seam running directly down the front of the trousers over the knee, that doesn’t bother me at all. I even like the scalloped hem, although it is a fiddly detail just at the end of the project, when I was impatient to get on and wear the trousers.

I can imagine myself making another pair of Wolfie trousers. I could probably make them a little tighter even, because I’m not 100% sure about the fit. I like the gold / black pair sported on the Papercut website and also Kat’s denim / blue pair. I’m also wondering whether I could make a front fly zipped version instead. I’ve seen a few versions using patterned fabric, but I personally feel that they look rather too busy, although this version looks great!

I’m not that happy with the photos I took in the park above, mostly as I tried to keep the tops short so you could see the trouser yokes. I’m not too fond of my waist so I usually wear longer tops, so here’s a photo of a more usual ensemble:

Wolf 8


Corduroy Trousers Knock-Off and the Joy of Top-Stitching

This pair of trousers have been a long time in the making. At the end of last year when I was contemplating the magnitude of spending a whole year without buying a single item of clothing, this pair of trousers was near the top of the to-do list. Why? Well, for starters they are a direct replacement for a favourite pair of trousers that were worn so much that they became thread-bare. Also, for me, the ability to just make a copy of a ready-to-wear item either an old favourite or a copy of something I see in a shop window has got to be the pinnacle of sewing. On top of that, they are almost a pair of jeans in terms of design. All that top-stitching, all the pockets….. But, I knew at the beginning of the year I wasn’t able to tackle this project. I made a brief attempt to get started in May when I took the thread-bare trousers apart and made a pattern from them, but then the pattern just sat on my shelf waiting for me to have sufficient courage .

I then made some trousers (to make sure that I could do a fly zip) and also a corduroy skirt, which helped me practice flat fell seams and finally I was ready!

Of course, I had no instructions for this project either, so I had to make it all up as I went along and make sure I didn’t do things in the wrong order and have to unpick.

I’m very pleased with the result. The fabric colour is stunning and really brings to mind these autumnal days.

Autumn Trousers 2

I got to use my new toy top-stitching foot. It worked a dream. I had struggled on my Grainline Moss Skirt with doing all the top-stitching by eye. The new foot makes my stitching so much more reliable.

Everyday trousers tend to wear out the fastest so I will make another pair, perhaps in blue next year.  My self-imposed shopping fast is definitely continuing. There are a few things I will change. I can’t actually remember how tight the original ready-to-wear trousers were, I took them apart so long ago that I can’t remember, but the fit is probably a little more comfort fit than I had intended. I think this was due to the extra seam allowance I gave to myself when I was cutting out. I felt convinced that I needed to be more generous to get the fell flat seams right. The original had faux fell flats, by comparison. Next time I’ll just stick the the pattern’s seam allowance and I’ll get a slimmer fit.

I also religiously followed the top-stitching on the original trousers. I think next time I’ll cut back on that a bit. Perhaps do two lines of top-stitching down the outside leg seams to the level of the bottom of the pockets and then just have a single line after that. I’ve seen that in quite a few ready-to-wear jeans and it looks good. Also using two different colours of top-stitching looks attractive too and I may dabble with that.

Autumn trousers pockets

At one point I did make life difficult for myself by making the seam (outside leg seam) that I was top-stitching the second leg seam that I sewed. Thank goodness the legs weren’t any slimmer otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to top-stitch all the way down! I won’t make that mistake again! But I suppose that is the danger with having no instructions to follow. Speaking of which, instructions are not only a good guide for doing things in the right order, but also stop you forgetting things. I completely forgot to add interfacing to the waistband. I’m annoyed, but actually it isn’t too major a problem as with all the top-stitching and belt loops the waistband could hardly be described as floppy. I’ll always wear it with a belt anyway. I can give myself a hard time over these oversights, but my trousers are definitely wearable and comfortable, what more could I ask for?

Autumn Trousers 1




In praise of trousers

Looking over my blog output for the last month, it doesn’t look like I have been particularly creative. However, I have been doing a serious amount of sewing in this time. Last night I finally finished a pair of trousers that I have been working on and I’m already half-way through an item that I intend to enter on the monthly stitch (more about that later!)

Recently I have noticed that I have a serious lack of trousers in my wardrobe and given that I wear trousers and jeans pretty much the whole time this is a deficit of almost devastating proportions. Trousers get serious wear from me; I literally wear them out. So above all my other clothes they do need replacing more regularly.

I was lucky enough to win this pattern in Sew Grateful week from Chris at Sewtypical  – thanks so much! The trousers are a classic design and will make a very smart item of work clothing. The fabric I chose is a medium-weight cotton from Calico in grey. Definitely think that grey is a much underused colour. It works so well with everything from a bold colours to pastel shades. I bought some cotton lawn in small polka dots for the yoke lining and the pockets from Fashion Fabrics.

I didn’t make a toile, I guess I’m just lazy, but I did do some extensive measuring. I made a couple of expected changes given my shape. I took a couple of centimetres from the crotch depth and seriously reworked the yoke (actually completely reconstructing the pattern pieces) to fit my (bulging) stomach. The rest of the pattern was a standard size 12. I’m actually rather pleased with the fit.

Grey trousers

In terms of the construction, it was as reasonably straightforward, although I did get a little unstuck with step 7 where you are supposed to stitch the pocket to the back and the lining to the front. The illustration was tiny and it was difficult to tell whether they meant the front or back of the trousers. Add to that, that my lining had a right side and a wrong side and I was rather confused. I’ve added a few of my own scribbles to the instructions for future reference. I did understand what I was doing after a short walk to the corner shop to buy some chocolate, thinking all the way!

Trouser Pattern instructions

The only other thing that perplexed me about the pattern was the requirement for a 7 inch zipper which, in the end I had to cut at least 2 inches off. Even without my shortened crotch depth it would still have been stupidly long, and it would have still been too long for the largest pattern in the envelope. I’ll remember this for future versions and buy a smaller one.


I pretty much finished the trousers two weeks ago, but I procrastinated over the buttonholes. They are my first buttonholes (yay!). Sadly the ancient Singer has no buttonhole option so I used the old-fashioned four step approach with just a zig-zag stitch. I practised for a whole evening before doing the buttonholes and then did them on the trousers themselves. They don’t look too bad, but I wouldn’t inspect them too closely.

I’ve been wearing the trousers all day. They are very comfortable (compared to my shop-bought ones) and the buttonholes are holding out!

Pattern: Vogue – V8546

Fabric: medium-weight cotton in grey, black polka-dot cotton lawn

Notions: overly-long zipper and two polka dot buttons