Seeking the ultimate…trouser pattern: Episode 1

Welcome to our first blog post of 2016. We know – it’s February and it’s been a long time coming – but it’s not been for the want of effort, we can promise you.

We had various titles in mind for this saga, among them ‘If at first you don’t succeed, toile, toile again‘, ‘Toile and error‘ and the inevitable ‘Wrong trousers, Gromit‘.

Wrong trouser pattern
Wrong Trousers, Gromit!

We’ll spare you the rest – but you’ll get the drift. In short, this is about our search for the perfect trouser pattern.

About our trouser frustration…

We don’t have to tell you that women’s trousers are amongst the most difficult garments to fit well. Managing multiple dimensions in an area which is the equivalent of Spaghetti Junction in terms of intersections and movement – a nightmare. Modern fabrics with spandex have helped us to forgive shortcomings in our trousers but there are some things that even a bit of stretch won’t help with. Short crotches, long rises, pear shapes, round bodies, thin thighs, broad beams, runner’s calves, round tummies, descending bottoms – the list is endless. Our bodies are real, working specimens and we reckon that everyone has a right to trousers that fit well, look stylish and feel great. Hence our January was spent with a roll of calico, a tracing wheel and a sense of ‘now or never’ determination at the cutting table.

What we wanted was a pattern that fitted perfectly, adaptable to a range of simple trouser styles. Crops, capri pants, cigarette trousers, wide-legged bags and fitted jean-style among others. Sometimes we have a fabric that we think would make a perfect pair of trousers and it should be possible to run them up and finish them well within a couple of hours, based on a simple design a side zip and some well-judged darts. All too often however we get them made up based on our measurements but then it all goes wrong or takes far too long to get a good fit. Obviously if we’re working to a more complex, styled pattern then that’s another thing altogether – but we figured that a good pattern block should help get that fit right from the start and enable us to knock out some decent samples. So with that in mind, off we went…

First things first

Our starting point was the plainest-possible trouser pattern. We went back to first principles, courtesy of a City & Guilds Fashion Design course some thirty years back. Make a basic pattern block, and all things shall come from that. With that in mind, we made a quick trip to the BurdaStyle website and downloaded their ‘Basic Pant Sloper‘ pattern.
Burdastyle Basic Pant Sloper for trouser pattern
(Glossary:  Pant = trousers; sloper = pattern block. Don’t get us going on American-English clothing terminology or we’ll get our panties in a twist and that’ll be the end of it…)

Trousers don’t come more basic than this. We forgot about length for the time being – just took our measurements and selected a size based on our hips. Hips, we learned, are where to start, since they’re the most complicated area where lots of movement happens at the junction of limbs and torso. We cut carefully, marked up and assembled. Four pattern pieces, four darts and a zip. Having run through that routine four times (plus adjustments) we are seriously chuffed to report that we can knock up a basic unfinished trouser within an hour.

A note about zips

We should also note at this point that we used (and re-used, and used again…) a concealed zipper. There’s a new sewing machine in the ClothSpot workroom and it came with a specially-requested concealed zipper foot. If you haven’t got one, we can heartily recommend it. Our zip insertion is now speedy, accurate and delightful to observe – due in part to the excellent instructions provided by Tilly and the Buttons on their ‘How to Sew an Invisible Zip‘ page.

Some fitting resources

At this point it’s also worth noting that here here at ClothSpot we’re not ones for reinventing the wheel. We’re well aware that there’s a wealth of amazing tipsheets, guides, instructions, videos and entire books out there, explaining how to fit a pair of trousers. Among the ones we found most useful were these:

  • Colette Patterns have a fabulous ‘Cheat sheet’ which explains the main areas of alteration. It describes the key ‘symptoms’ of bad fit to look out for, and how to remedy each one.
  • Pants for real people‘ by Pati Palmer and Marta Alto has some great guidance for a range of body shapes (as well as some very cheery looking trouser-wearers on the cover!)
  • Glenda and her videos from SureFitDesigns on YouTube helped us determine that we were dealing with a very specific issue of a short front crotch and a long ‘derriere’
  • The ever-resourceful and helpful Fabrickated has lots of wisdom to share on trouser style generally as well as trouser fitting

These are all worth taking a look at – but there is so much out there. Bearing in mind that of course the whole point about fitting trousers is that no two bodies will be the same, we picked and chose the best guidance that worked for us. You’ll need to do the same for your shape – we suggest you start by googling your specific fit problem and take it from there. We won’t deny that there was still a dollop of common sense required, involving the use of a decent-fitting pair of jeans to give us a steer as to the main areas of alteration. We make no excuses – as Wee & Twee explains in her (extremely helpful) Guise Trouser blog – sometimes a maverick approach (and a bit of hope) is what’s required.

Next up…

Next week Part Two of this posting will explain the main areas of alteration we went through – just to give you an idea of what it took for us to get what we wanted. We’re thrilled to report that it was all well worthwhile and that our first pair of trousers resulting from this process was a beautifully-comfortable pair of bootcut trousers in our Drapingly-deep bronze wool crepe fabric as seen here.

Wool crepe trousers using our fitted trouser pattern

We’ll be adding more to our collection in the coming weeks and months so stick with us. Meanwhile do comment with any trousering resources you’ve found helpful!

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