In this story, the fabric came first. While back at my parent’s for Christmas, I spent a day in Edinburgh touring my favourite fabric shops. Unfortunately, most were still closed for the Christmas break, but my favourite – Remnant Kings – was open and had a wonderful selection. I chose this divine viscose: Radiance by Penelope, which has gamboling tigers on a dark olive green background with foliage dotted about (please note: the link is for the navy version). I love it. And, delightfully, it was very accessible in price: I bought 1.5 metres and paid £11.99 – being in the sale, there was £3 off.
I’d bought it with the intention of making a top, but then everyone I showed it to thought it would be better as a dress, and having seen some beautiful makes with the fabric on Instagram I came around to that idea. But which one? I put the washed fabric away in my stash, taking it out to admire now and again and then during Me Made May, I realised that culottes are basically my favourite item of clothing – I feel most like ‘me’ in culottes, and knowing that Helen’s Closet’s Winslow Culottes were designed for lightweight fabrics, I decided to give the pattern a shot.
I initially chose the size 12, based both on my current waist size (31″) and that which it normally is when I’m leading a more active life (30″). And although I only had 1.5 metres of my delectable fabric, I was sure I could make it work. Looking at the length of the finished garment I was really surprised that it was 81.5 cm for size 12. That took it, on me, to bang on mid-calf and I am 5’11” tall. I feel like this is a really difficult length to wear, and knew immediately that I’d only want them to be 70-ish cm long, which is the length of my current culottes. So, I knew that I could take 10 cm off the length of the legs without any concern, and as I am less of an hourglass shape than the pattern is drafted for, I decided to grade to a 10 at high hip, just to give myself a bit more leeway in terms of fabric allowance, because with a recommended fabric requirement of 2.2 metres, I was cutting it close.
When cutting out, I discovered just how shifty the fabric is, but thanks to the wonderful print I knew I was going to enjoy creating with it. I very carefully placed the pattern pieces and by some miracle I managed to get it onto the 1.5 m I had: there are just scraps left. I was unable, of course, to do any sort of pattern matching, which is okay on such a busy print. I do have a two-headed tiger right on my belly (sod’s law), but I don’t think anyone will ever notice.
While my boyfriend had a Zoom call with distant friends, I took myself off to my craft corner, which had just that day become free of bookmaking, and got to sewing. The first evening was spent doing the pleats, and I got as far as French-seaming one of the sides prior to going to watch an episode of Game of Thrones (we’re making our way through the whole thing, as I’ve not seen Series 8, and Joey’s not seen any before). The next morning, I sat down at the sewing machine and finished the bulk by lunchtime.
Most of the pattern came together very easily indeed. I French-seamed all the seams I could (so that’s all except the inseam), and this pretty finish sits really well with the fabric. For one side of the pockets I used some divine viscose lining that I picked up in Dublin, it’s so special and a lovely match for the weight of the tiger fabric. Delightfully, every so often the culottes gift us with a wee glimpse of the green. I put in a bartack at the top of each pocket to encourage them to sit towards the front. Unfortunately, at that point I was working with the only green thread I could find. When it came to finishing, I miraculously found a bobbin of perfectly coloured thread and was able to do the hem with that!
My only difficulty came from the invisible zipper. I had to unpick the second side twice and then I realised I’d put the first side in too low down, so even through I was lining up with the notch on the second side, it was never going to match the first side! I decided that that was the way I wanted it, and to add the button and loop at the top. I don’t love items that have a zip as the only closure, so let’s call it all intentional, and thus a win.
The waistband fitted beautifully, and I remembered at the last moment that I wanted to put on a label. Unfortunately none of the ones I currently have sat quite right, and I decided instead to make my own. I found the wee colour dots from the selvage and made a rouleaux tube with them, ironed it flat and attached it so that the colours just peak out below the waistband. They’re a wee bit squint but that subtle detail makes me smile so much every time I see it that I don’t mind. Funny how we pick and choose what we’re content with. The beautiful button was from my button box and is originally from Textile Garden (of course!).
When it came to hemming, I hung them overnight to try and get any stretch out. What I found, however, when it came to looking at the hem, was that it depended on my posture. When I stood with good, straight posture as we’re taught in yoga (strong core) the back of the culottes hung down. When I curved my spine and stuck my bum out, the hemline was straight. So, which one to hem it at, seeing as my natural posture is probably somewhere in between? In the end, due to the difficulties of achieving an measurement of perfect straightness, I just did what I could and called it a day. No one will ever look so closely at the culottes to judge the straightness of the hem (I do realise that it’s a wee bit uneven), and if they do I will just give the culottes a swish and any thoughts of preciseness will be lost in admiration for the swishiness of the fabric!
For, oh boy, is this fabric swishy. It is utterly divine, both to look at and to wear. It is, however, very easily creased. Which I normally don’t mind, but in this I do, a little. However, barring not sitting down, ever – there’s not much I can do about it. Despite this tiny flaw, I do love the fabric a lot. It would make a beautiful Ogden cami, and in fact, if I had leftovers that’s what I would have made: it would be a stunning faux-jumpsuit.
Now, a comparison with my other culottes: Leisl and co’s Girl Friday Culottes. The Winslows are intended for soft, flowing fabric, which this definitely is. It’s a very pretty item of clothing and it’s hard to see that they are in fact culottes for the drape is so beautiful. However, I think the Girl Friday culottes may be my preferred pattern for day-to-day wear. For one, the top of the pockets are attached to the waistband which makes them sturdier. In the Winslow, the side pockets droop and aren’t very substantial. The Girl Friday culottes also have an incredibly clever zip placement inside the left pocket. It’s a lapped zip with a proper closure at the top, instead of an invisible zip at the back. The design is better for heavier fabrics that will be worn in daily, active life.
Do not get me wrong: I still love my Winslows. I will wear them, and love them, lots. However, my corduroy culottes are getting worn and are becoming shiny on the bum: when I come to replace them, I’ll be using the Girl Friday pattern, and saving the Winslow pattern for occasional wear.
Have you made either pattern? Or any other culottes? How do you feel about them?
Oh, and a note on the photos: I went to my local nature reserve to take photos of the culottes, but the light wasn’t right and the photos all appear a bit blurred. I decided to take indoor photos to showcase the pattern, but am including some of the woodland photos so you can see a different outfit, and I think the outdoor photos showcase the swishyness of the fabric better!
Oh, and I cut in a #isewlation fringe….