Crafting time: How to make trousers

The question I hear more often than anything other, about this blog or my life in general, is ‘how do you fit it all in?’  There are a lot of ways I could answer, but one of the big ones is: slowly, in many small steps.  I started this post as a way of demonstrating the point, but quite early on decided this post might be much too long, even though I left out all the days when nothing happened on this project!  This is the story of how I made enough time to make a pair of trousers.

Day 1: drop in at the public library and find David Page Coffin has written a book on making trousers.  Borrow it. In Week 1, read this book in various states of understanding and misunderstanding and failing to follow.  Feel my confidence in attempting double welt pockets begin to rise. This has been the barrier to the creation of some new summer work pants for some years now.  So this is progress!

Day 2: Iron fabric from the stash.

Day 3: Cut out.  Mostly remembering adjustments (I think) and deciding to try cutting on the fly facing.  I am surprised to find a zipper in the pattern envelope. Clearly I have had good intentions before, so long ago I can’t figure out what they were.  Black pants, I assume!

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Day 4: Choose one of my grandma’s scarves for the pocket bags.  Silk pockets!! I have looked up Clifford Bond online and found him listed alongside vintage silk scarves.  This one is vintage, certainly.  It is also stained and well loved.  To my surprise, when I ironed it, a faint waft of my beloved, stylish grandmother’s cosmetic choices wafted up, even after so many years.  The silk is beautiful quality to my way of thinking, and the hand rolled hem is exquisitely stitched.  The tiny tag says it was made in Japan.  I do not know how Merle would have come to have this scarf.  She had many, and they were a style statement of hers so well recognised she received many as gifts.

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Day 5: Read two more ways of creating  welt pockets, beginning with a lovely illustrated tutorial on Male Pattern Boldness.  The lead post was on welt pockets when I happened past his blog.  At this stage, I am beginning to feel the universe telling me to make those pants.  Well, I confess, I don’t think the universe troubles itself about me personally very much.  Really, I am experiencing recognition that I am scared of making the welt pockets, and that this is irrational.  Perhaps I should get over it and get on with it.  The blog post makes me think of an article in Threads magazine which I copied years ago and had used to create two sets of pockets with success and (relative) ease.  I dig that out and consider.  I pull out the two pairs of wool pants I made using this approach.  The pocket openings look great.  Much better than those I made using the method in the pattern–albeit in a fabric better suited to the pocket style.

Day 6: carry out an extensive search for organza, required by the Threads article method. This inspires plans for about seven other projects.  I find some organza that probably isn’t silk (silk is proposed by the authors in question).  I also find an op shopped silk scarf that leads to reconsideration of the pocket bags.  Ahem.

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Day 7: It is a weekend.  I have at least two hours.  I could sew the pockets.  Nerve fails me.  I make a soothing patchwork square.

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One turns out not to be enough (the cupboard-by-cupboard search for organza has uncovered yet more scraps, needless to say).  Well.  There’s the end of the time that could have been used to create the dreaded pockets, but some of the scraps from this pair of pants have been used up! I have also given up the chance to go to the Farmer’s Market, for good or ill.

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Day 8.  Return book on sewing trousers to the library. This should be a clue that considerable time has passed between some of the days listed here.

Day 9.  After much deferring, stitch the organza to the trouser fronts.

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Next, baste the welts together and iron ready for insertion.  Done!  Having deferred so long, it is now time to have dinner.  So, you know, a day of high trouser sewing achievement.

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Day 10: turn the facings, create the pocket mouths, pin the welts in place.

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Smoking speed, I’d say!

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I did all that before work, and then took the trouser fronts to my spinning group at Guild and stab stitched them into position while supporting a new spinner (or at least trying to be friendly–she is lovely); listening to several conversations; debriefing someone about a recent difficult situation; fielding jokes about how I would spin this when I was finished and responding to queries about my embroidery (yes, stitching the pocket welts in).  These pictures are a bit watching-paint-dry, I think.  Apologies.  And here ends the first ten days, with the pockets almost finished…

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Day 11: Day 11 was, for once, the next day after day 10.  Not spaced out by a week or so as some have been.  I machine stitched the welts into position and problem solved my pocket bags, the part of this method that seems to me a bit problematic.  Because I’ve done it before and washed and worn many times, I understand that nothing catastrophic happens despite my worries.  Finally, the part that has been really putting me off, the welt pockets, is done.  The pockets are imperfect but this is to be expected (I made them) they are pockets (hooray, pants without pockets are not for me) and they will not attract attention from passersby (imperfect but not astonishingly awful).  Now I only have to manage the fly and much of the rest will be plain sailing, sewing wise.  I hope.  I make a start on the fly facing.

Day 12: The next day.  I decide against going out in the evening for no really good reason and instead have a lovely chat with friends who give me eggs and cake as well as the pleasure of their company, and insert most of the fly for good measure before bed.

Day 13: I am on a roll!  Finish zipper insertion before work.  Come across some bias binding I made from ties and select some I might use on the hems for fun.

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Day 14: it’s a long weekend.  Stitch the darts, stitch the main seams, figure out what to do about interfacing (cut pieces from a recycled black linen shirt sleeve.  Stitch to pattern pieces. Realise later that this would mean lots of stitching showing on the main pattern pieces. Decide I can live with it).  Decide to finish the waist facing with more recycled tie bias binding.  Stitch one side on with the machine, then hand stitch the inside edge into position in front of the TV.  This looks really neat and lovely, so it’s a shame about my interfacing stitching being so random. As you can see.

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Day 15: Stitch on the waist facing.  Tack some seams so I can find my way through making the front edges look good.  Machine a buttonhole into the fly facing so there can be a button on the inside top edge–thank you to Page Coffin’s book.  Hand stitch on a small button for it.  Hand stitch on a hook and slide.  Create the belt loops.  Fail to find the loop turner.  I love that thing.  Room to room search.  No joy. Much time passes, I clean some drawers out, eventually turn belt loops without the loop turner.

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Day 16: Stitch belt loops in place; try on (they are roomy and will require a belt!  Better than being too small which was my concern)…

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Take up hems with tie bias binding and use a quilt binding trick to do this in the neatest way I have ever managed.  Feel so proud I have learned something. Rip out the tacking holding the welts together so Merle’s scarf can peep out.  DONE!

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I love the hem finish on these.  I have done this before and enjoyed looking at this tiny, loving detail at odd moments while wearing them, for years.  Here’s hoping this pair will have a long and cheerful life in my work wardrobe.







Filed under Sewing

27 responses to “Crafting time: How to make trousers

  1. Did you intend the double entendre? Bravo, I always have to ‘craft time’ for my projects, plenty of wry smiles about your chosen ‘displacement activities ‘ as a musician friend used to call avoiding the regular practicing she hated. Better to mark time in the way you have chosen, than regular time!😂 I love the tie bias binding – um, how to avoid another collecting habit. Lovely result, enjoy wesring them. Must get back to those trousers I started 6 yesrs ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, it’s a fair question. I have been known to fall into the double entendre without awareness. But I’ve been thinking about this one for a while! Glad you like the tie bias binding. It’s fun. No need for me to acquire new ties anytime soon, and my recent mending kit project has produced a large quantity of traditional cotton bias binding in all sorts of colours….

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Susan

    IMPRESSIVE! I didn’t know Coffin had a trouser book! I have his shirt book. welt pockets, I know I did this once a long time ago…and yes they gave me the screaming ab-dabs! I KNOW it’s know brain surgery but…
    And the fly, OK, I need to get bold/brave and Do it. nice bindings too.


    • The screaming ab dabs. Yes! I think assembling a fly is not too appalling provided you have step by step instructions and, you know, follow them. Not following is part of my trouble in life at times (at other times, it’s an asset… but not in fly construction)! Thanks for your lovely compliments!


  3. This blog describes a life rich in creativity and human thought. It is wonderful to read. It is living life with a capital ‘L’…productive, warm, skilful, connected, happy and in the end with a unique and beautiful pair f trousers to treasure. Thank you once again for posting. You really are my favourite blog.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I think I have a head ache and need a Bex and a lie down after all that. Showing my age here!


    • Sorry to have brought that on, Penny. Do you think it is really age? I am not sure I spent any longer than an hour on any single sitting the whole time I worked on these pants. And clearly, I mostly didn’t work on them! Maybe having it all listed out just made it sound frantic. 🙂


  5. Pia

    Describes perfectly why I haven’t got “time” to finish (or begin) many of my planned sewing projects…


  6. purplejulian

    oh, now you have inspired me to think about making a copy of my favourite trousers. always with patterns it’s the cut and fit that’s the problem. I lve all your personalised touches, the welts and the hems, they are gorgeous. one thing – to have a project going like this over several weeks – do you have a work station for sewing that you don’t have t put away in between?


    • Go for it! A copy is a great way to get the fit you like. Thanks for these lovely compliments! I do have a seat in front of the TV where my spinning wheel or current knitting project or hand stitching tend to live. And my sewing machine is always out, parked against the wall in another room. This does make a big difference.


  7. Ditto what Keryn wrote. And what Penny wrote….
    : )
    And the pocket and hem details are really wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Lovely! But what is this quilt binding method you speak of?


    • Hi Chris, thank you! Quilt binding is often joined on a nice tidy diagonal seam, which I guess minimises bulk in the binding when completed. Well, I am not guessing, I’ve tried it both ways! When you join it onto a quilt, and you follow instructions from someone who knows more about it than you do–like a published author– (I think it is clear I made up my first efforts and know the shortcomings of some other methods because I have tried them!) there is a neat trick for joining the ends of the binding together so that it looks just like any other join in the binding. You can see all the steps mapped out with pictures here. I applied that final trick to the binding on my hem. And felt just so proud! Maybe other people have always known these things, but not me 🙂


  9. i love that you write in such glorious detail. and in your own lovely voice.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Textilekid

    Great post. It has obviously touched a nerve about slow dressmaking with so many of us. I have been trying to de-stash and found pants, cut out, partly stitched, pins rusting, wrapped in the pattern. I have just finished a pair in that state that l must have started 10 years ago. What with the rusty pin holes they will be “round-the-house pants” but then that’s where l am these days. Thanks for your delightful and cheering comments on your progress. I wouldn’t have begun unless l had read it. Next project please!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so tickled to think that this post moved you to get some projects finished! I am just a buttonhole and a few buttons from finishing a pair of jeans, so next project on its way…


  11. I love this post. I now realise I am not the only one who operates this way. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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