A trouser-making disaster.

I had hoped to share a finished pair of trousers with you today, but instead I am sharing a horrific tale of woe so shocking I can’t bring myself to share any photos with you.

I’ve seen loads of versions of Sew Over It’s Ultimate Trousers in recent months and I figured I’d give it go. As I carry a lot of weight on my legs (I have the legs of an Eastern European ex-weightlifter after the ‘roids have worn off), I often find it difficult to find trousers that fit. If I can get them over my abnormally-sized calves and then my hips, they are more often than not way too big around the waist. Trousers that fit nicely would be the Holy Grail for me. I’m probably not going to find them in a shop anytime soon, so spurred on by a 20% discount on the class in December, I booked myself in to the Clapham session in January and called it a Christmas present for me. I’m good to myself like that.

I bought four metres of some sort of green wool blend – I think it’s the same stuff as my most recent Hollyburn – with the intention of making a skirt or something with the spare yardage. However, when it came down to going to the class I started having doubts about fit (those trousers are quite slim) so I changed my mind and picked up some calico so I could make a toile and rip it all apart if I wasn’t happy. Turns out it was a good job I did, but we’ll get to that later.

The Ultimate Trousers are pretty easy sewing wise – the trick is fitting them to you, and there was lots of support in helping you do just that. The first lesson had us trying on toiles to work out a base size and altering the pattern from there (top tip: if you take this class, save yourself some hassle and wear a skirt. You’ll be whipping off your kecks every five minutes and the cupboard that doubles as a changing room is FREEZING at this time of year). I had my usual issues with trousers, so I ended up taking an 18 (I’m normally a 12…) but taking in the waist quite substantially. Our teacher, Freia, helped me with the fitting – I needed to add an extra 1.5cm to the back waistline to accommodate my rear, then about an inch out of the centre back seam. Further fitting in the next class showed I needed a little bit extra on the hips and the calves, and about 6cms off the hem. Freia showed us all how to transfer them to the pattern so we could make up further versions later on. The class really was great – I felt like I learned a lot about fitting, and I’m now a bit more confident about making my own alterations. If you can put a zip in, you can do this class. Hell, even if you’ve never put a zip in before, you can still do this class.

So far, so good?
I left Sew Over It merrily swinging my bag with my lunchbox and freshly made toile inside, happy with what I’d achieved over the course of the two lessons. I was going to make up my new trousers in the green wool that weekend, but then life got in the way and I didn’t quite manage it. It wasn’t until last Friday that I actually got round to cutting out the fabric, at which point I discovered that my pattern was nowhere to be found. I turned the house upside down looking for it but to no avail. After I kicked myself several times I figured that the only thing to do was to make my own pattern. I don’t know about you, but I was never the type of child to take things apart to see how they worked. So with a heavy heart, I got my seam ripper out and prepared for a dull couple of hours separating out all the pieces and taking out all the darts.

As a last resort it seemed to work pretty well. I could draw around the calico pieces and my chalk markings were still intact so transferring it all was nice and easy. The only thing that caused me a few issues was the waistband facing. I drafted my own based on my new paper pattern and they ended up a bit too long, but no matter as they were easily trimmed. The notches were all a little bit out, so I think the issue is at the centre back seam, which I’ll sort on the pattern.

I finished them in time for Thursday’s edition of the Great British Sewing Bee – I sewed the last stitch just as the opening titles were starting. When the programme finished I tried on my trousers, and do you know what? They were PERFECT. I pranced around the house for a while marvelling at the fit at the waist, the shape around the legs and my completely invisible zip. The only thing that was wrong with them was some visible chalk marks and the need for a damn good press. No matter – I threw them in the washing basket, full of plans for photography and where I was going to wear them this weekend.

So far so good again? Not even remotely.
Yesterday evening, just after getting back from a romantic dinner with Chris and probably feeling a little bit tipsy, I put my new trousers in the washing machine on a wool cycle. Yes, I PUT MY PERFECT NEW WOOLLEN TROUSERS IN THE WASHING MACHINE. Even using the wool cycle they still shrank. Even after I had diligently pre-washed the fabric. In the washing machine. They’re now a good few inches too short, and there ain’t a hope in Hell of EVER doing up that beautiful zip. Needless to say I am absolutely gutted. I was looking forward to wearing those trousers so much! Perhaps it was foresight that I bought the extra few metres – I’m just not going to have a new skirt out of it now.

The moral of the tale: never, EVER, put your lovely handmade woollen clothes in the washing machine. Let me be a cautionary tale for you all.

I think it’s time for a holiday. Good job I’m off to Berlin tomorrow – see you in a week!

Oh, FFS.

Oh, FFS.


16 thoughts on “A trouser-making disaster.

  1. navybluethreads says:

    Oh dear! Such a shame 😦 On the up side, your self-made pattern should fit perfectly again next time… I’ll be forcing myself to return to my trousers this half-term. While I may have lost a bit of the Christmas podge, I still don’t think they’re going to do up any time soon: so my unpicker will be at the ready… I hate my legs too, so feel your pain on this. THE pattern I used is a really fattening shape on less than slim legs if you fancy another pattern. I might even have a spare copy if I figure out how to adjust my own 🙂

    • Jo Laycock says:

      In the all-too fleeting moments I had them on I did realise just how important fitting is and that it’s really worth the effort to go through all that adjusting. After all this I think I’ve well and truly made friends with my seam ripper! 😉

  2. Clarinda Kaleidoscope says:

    Oh my word – how frustrating. Was it cathartic writing the blog or did it make you cross all over again? On the plus side, at least you know you have a pattern for a pair of trousers which fit you. Enjoy this lovely sunny day!

    • Jo Laycock says:

      It’s just made me angry again! But I have learned a valuable, if tough, lesson and now I just want to get the replacement pair made, which I will do pretty much as soon as I get back from holiday. I WILL have that pair of trousers!!

  3. Caroline says:

    Oh such a shame x That is a disaster (on the green wool trouser front) On the up side you have got a perfect toile for a new pair. Hopefully the holiday will repair any painful memories. Enjoy Berlin!

    • Jo Laycock says:

      Yes, every cloud and that – at least I’ll be more careful next time! I was really looking forward to wearing them, though, and I thought I was being really good by diligently washing them first!

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