Look away now – a first attempt at trousers

Here’s my first ever attempt at sewing full-length trousers. I don’t wear trousers much. I have one pair of black RTW skinny jeans that comes out of the wardrobe every week or two for hardware-wrangling at work, but otherwise I’m normally to be found in dresses. This pair are Burda 103B-07-2010 made up in black stretch denim. Any resemblance to my RTW jeans is entirely intentional. I found a hole in them last month but couldn’t bring myself to start trying on replacements in the shops, so this is a straight replacement. And as is traditional in the sewing blogosphere, I now post pictures of myself in them and discuss the wrinkles around interesting bits of my anatomy.

The fit’s OK but not perfect. I added a bit too much width to the hips and didn’t notice the problem until after I’d top-stitched all the seams, when it too late to fix properly. Hence the slight bagginess around the crotch area. I’ll know not to do that another time.

This style has the side-seams placed a long way forward and an extra seam down the back of the leg. That ought to give more fitting opportunities but I think it worked against me because I added a bit of width to all three seams round the hips. With just two seams to adjust I’d probably not have ended up with quite so much extra room. They’re probably a bit long too, but I like my trousers longer rather than shorter. I’m paranoid about trousers looking too short.

And finally the obligatory photo of my backside, with wrinkles from excess fabric. Blogging has much to answer for. Although I should say I’m really perfectly happy with these. They’re a lot more wearable than the first dress I ever made.


Wow, what a lot of helpful references you gave me for sewing fly closures! The Perfect Nose even very kindly scanned in Ottobre’s version for me – thanks!

I read through them all, compared with my one remaining pair of RTW jeans, and finally the process started to make sense. So this weekend I decided to try making trousers with a fly closure. My subconscious clearly didn’t want to do it and found multiple excuses for putting it off. First I changed my mind at the last minute about which pattern I wanted to make and had to trace off and alter my new choice. Then I found my zip was slightly too short, and rather than making do, I took the bus into town just to get it changed.

But eventually I ran out of excuses and here are the results. No waistband yet, nor have I sewn the inseams, so there’s still rather a lot to do on these.

Fly closure

Fly closure closed

You can’t see it, but there is black topstitching. It’s probably a good thing it’s not too bold as there are a few minor wobbles; but that’s why I chose black
topstitching thread to start with.

I think the fly has come out pretty well. Even better, there were no long periods of dithering in the process. It went together like a dream. Even Burda’s instructions for the construction make sense to me now. I have achieved sewing satori!

The mystery of the fly closure

After successfully making a pair of BurdaStyle shorts at the weekend (and thanks for all the lovely comments!) I decided to forge recklessly ahead and make trousers from a BurdaStyle pattern. Only to come up against the mystery of the fly closure. I’m sure part of the problem here is that Burda’s instructions are not the clearest. They probably make perfect sense if you’ve made trousers before. But right now I am not even sure where to add seam allowance to the pattern (Burda magazine patterns come without any built in), never mind how to actually construct the fly. The one in the picture above is from an old pair of RTW shorts I have.

My usual standby reference book, The Dressmaker’s Dictionary, only covers constructing the fly for mens’ trousers using a very complicated method. The word silesia was mentioned. That didn’t sound good.

Vogue Sewing‘s instructions don’t seem to match up with my pattern pieces. It’s implied the two front pieces aren’t the same shape, but mine are.

Next I reached for Sew U (a brilliantly simple book that cuts straight to the chase) and found excellent instructions there…but for a fly that’s a mirror-image of the usual womens’ version. What’s going on there?

I finally found some clear instructions of the correct handedness in The Dressmaker’s Technique Bible. But I’ll definitely be following Elizabeth in making a few samples before trying this in my good fabric!

I made shorts!

I finally did it. I made shorts. They are not the most perfect shorts the world has ever seen, but I think they’ve actually turned out wearable. I’m really pleased with the results. Thank-you all for your good advice and encouragement! I really can’t imagine sewing without the Internet sewing community.

The pattern is 111A-06-2011 from BurdaStyle magazine. It’s also available to purchase as a PDF download. I picked the style because it has a side zip which I figured would be easier than a fly closure for a first attempt at trousers. The design is extremely simple. The only real detail is the cute patch pockets on the back.

There are inseam side pockets as well. Putting an invisible zip into a seam with a pocket attached was easier than I expected. The side in this photo is the one without the zip, which surprisingly came out looking worse than the zip side. It looks OK in this picture, but it’s a bit wobbly in real life. I think it could use a bit of understitching and stay tape to stabilize the pocket edge and side seam. My fabric is a stretch cotton twill and the pattern is intended for non-stretch fabric.

Using stretch fabric makes it a bit difficult to judge the fit, but I think it’s come out OK. The only thing I want to adjust is to let the side seams out a very small amount. I should have realised I needed to do that in advance, but I didn’t look at the size chart carefully enough.

I hitched my jumper up in most of the photos so the waistband is visible, but in practice I’m far more likely to wear these shorts like this.

I wonder if I can get away with these at work. Perhaps without the purple tights.

Anyway this bodes well for trouser-making! I’ve just acquired some really nice black stretch denim for an attempt at some Burda stovepipe trousers. Wish me luck.

How can I resist? Bargain patterns in Derby

Thank-you all so much for the advice about trouser fitting! I feel a lot more confident tackling this now. When I used to wear RTW trousers I could usually find ones that fitted apart from the leg length so I’m hopeful this is going to work out.

Not that I’ve actually started yet. I can’t get to my ironing board because it is covered with the results of a shopping trip. I was in Derby at the weekend and while it’s not a noted Midlands shopping destination, it’s got some things that are definitely of interest to sewists.

First up: the Eagle Market has fabric stalls. This is the market in the Westfield shopping centre. There is another one in Derby Market Hall which has some haberdashery but not fabric. The Eagle Market is not as cheap as the Birmingham Rag Market, but the fabric tends to have better labelling. I wasn’t intending to buy fabric, but I came away with 3 metres of a rather nice medium weight grey doubleknit.

However the best thing is a haberdashery shop called Hook and Eye. It’s not the sort of place you’d find very fancy gadgets, but they have an impressive and reasonably priced range of things like buttons, zips, thread, and elastic. They also sell patterns, and in the shop they have a countertop of boxes absolutely stuffed with recently out of print patterns. They are selling these for two pounds fifty a pattern. That includes out of print Vogue designer patterns. You know, the ones that would have been fourteen pounds when they were in print. And they have a lot of them, many of which I recognised as fairly recent. I only managed to look through two of the boxes. I came away with three. The Chado Ralph Rucci (V1135) is one I’ve always wanted since I saw it on Pattern Review. The Michael Kors (V1191) looks like a useful classic work dress. And the Easy Options (V2218) is for my sister who expressed a liking for it earlier this year. I hadn’t realised it had gone out of print since then so I’m really glad I spotted it.

Out of print patterns from Hook and Eye

Hook and Eye doesn’t have a website but its sister shop Strand Wools does, at http://www.strandwools.co.uk/, and that site includes some of Hook and Eye’s stock. If you’re a knitter, Strand Wools itself is apparently well worth a look too.

I will sew shorts this week at some point. I really will. And now to start putting things away.

Shorts have to be easier than trousers, right?

I’ve been sewing for a few years now, but I have never once made trousers (70s jumpsuits don’t count). I have enough trouble fitting things that have to go over the boobage, never mind the complexities of the (ahem) crotch curve and backside. But my last pair of RTW jeans have just developed a hole and somehow I can’t bring myself to go and buy a new pair in the shops. One thing I love about sewing is never having to try things on in shop changing rooms in lousy light when wearing the wrong underpinnings. I did get as far as venturing into Topshop recently to examine the jeans but chickened out of actually trying anything on, so it’s going to have to be home-made for me.

Now obviously diving in at the deep end of trouser-making with jeans would be insane. Although I did recently buy Vogue 8774, and Vogue’s instructions are pretty good. But then will the Vogue crotch curve be the best for my shape, or should I try Burda’s which I am assured is very different indeed? Just to be on the safe side, I went through my Burdas and traced off a couple of suitable looking styles.

Vogue 8774 jeans

I even had my eye on the perfect fabric: some gorgeous dark blue stretch denim in John Lewis. But sanity has prevailed (helped by the fact that John Lewis sold out of the denim) and I’ve decided to start with shorts rather than trousers. I’m hoping they’ll involve similar fitting issues but will involve sacrificing a lot less fabric if it doesn’t work out! And Burda has plenty of nice shorts patterns to pick from.

Any advice from those who’ve made trousers, shorts, or jeans? Am I barking up the wrong tree completely here?

The red kimono

I made some kimonos for Christmas presents last year. One was made from a dark red cotton poplin from John Lewis that I was rather sorry to part with. Despite the fact that most reds clash with my (entirely artifical) hair colour I am still drawn to anything in that shade. So when I noticed the same fabric was back in stock last week but running out fast I grabbed the last five metres to recreate the red kimono. I needed a really simple project after the seriously fiddly Burda 111-02-2012.

And here it is. Excuse the indoor pictures; it was snowing heavily when we took them so no way were we venturing out of doors! The first one’s a little orangey. The colours are much truer on the back view.

Red kimono front view

Red kimono back view

This particular kimono is a very quick project when made in a solid coloured cotton. (If you pick a print and have to match the pattern, not so much!) It’s the fifth one I’ve made so I have it down to a fairly fine art now, but it’s easily doable in a weekend from cutting out to photos. And most of it’s sewing in straight lines which was about all I was up to after an unusually exhausting work week. It comes from this tutorial. The tutorial leaves finishing seam allowances to the end, but I find the end result is improved by finishing all the edges before sewing any pieces together. I made a narrow hem on these but I’ve used binding in the past.

Kimono sleeve hems

At some point I want to make a much more authentic version with lining and things (check out Chanel No 6’s detailed series on the subject for inspiration) but this week I just needed some instant sewing gratification. And I like the Cardinal Richelieu effect of all the red draping.