Gifted: Opian Vaulion Shorts

My mum is like me: she wears her clothing until they literally fall apart. She has just received my sister’s old machine, so can now do her own repairs, but recently she asked if I could make her shorts to fit, as her current pairs do need replaced.

“Well, yes, absolutely!”, I said “It would be my pleasure”, and really it was. I actually love making things for other people, there is such joy that comes from sharing my sewing. And, going back to what I said a couple of posts ago, making for others is a great way to keep making, without ending up with a ginormous personal wardrobe.

We looked and looked at shorts – mum wanted a proper fly opening, pockets (of course, she’s not daft!), and a light summery look. No to elastic waist, and yes to the Opian Vaulion! As mum said, the person wearing the stripy trousers on the website is very like her, both in shape and style. It was the first time I’d made an Opian item, and truth be told I loved it, but I will come to that soon.

Ugh, ignore the hair in the face!

The fabric is lovely, chosen by mum from the selection on offer in Poppy Bear Fabrics – it’s a denim coloured chambray, light and easy to wear. It was lovely to work with, pressed and washed well and although it is light, it hopefully won’t be delicate to wear. I bought 1.5m which was more than enough.

So, the Opian pattern came together fine. I was a bit stumped as to how to make the adjustments as mum (W78cm; H94cm) fell into size 5 on the waist and 3 on the hips. Simple really, but I began to overthink it as there’s so many panels and I ended up a bit confused as to how to do the necessary adjustments, but a helpful word from @peetmake on Instagram, who had needed to make the exact same adjustment, helped confirm that the trick was to ignore the panels, and just grade through the hips. Which I duly did, and got all the fabric cut out that evening.

You know, I always think that I dislike cutting out: it takes ages and as I do it on the floor, it’s uncomfy and blah, but actually I don’t mind it too much. I’ve wised up, and now I get a podcast on, or phone someone for a chat and away I go. Maybe something that’s helped is that I’ve started to mark my notches later, when I am first using that pattern piece, whereas previously I would mark all the notches at the same time, thus increasing the time I was kneeling on the floor, getting frustrated with the tailor’s tacks and red thread! To cut a long story short, this time around, I didn’t mind cutting it out – although, after all that, maybe it’s because they were shorts and soo easy to cut.

Mum wanted the shorts 24cm long, so I actually cut out the pattern to the trouser length and then shortened the pattern to 27cm long (to give me leeway and a nice hem to turn up). It seemed the simplest way. The shorts are rather more high waisted than perhaps we realised – they definitely do sit at the natural waist – but there’s a lengthen / shorten line there, so it would, perhaps, be possible to reduce that rise if desired – you’d just need to make sure and make a larger waist size as the pattern is neat-fitting. Mum will definitely not wear layers tucked in, and indeed I only posed like this to show off the shorts as they are. 

Now, the pattern overall was extremely pared back. Which I loved. I am so used to indie patterns holding your hand through every step, hundreds of words being used to describe every single thing you need to do. Opian is not like that. Therefore Opian is probably not for the beginner. But, sometimes it’s lovely to use your own knowledge about how to put a garment together and make your own choices.

For example, I had assembled one whole leg when I realised we’d not put the back pockets on, and indeed there were no markings to dictate where the pocket should go. Checking the instructions, the back pockets are an optional suggestion, and are actually the last thing on the list. Now, I knew I wanted pockets, and I don’t think it is the easiest to neatly add the pockets once the shorts are assembled, so I paused where I was, checked the placement and added them before I went any further.

As the previous paragraph suggests, the order of assembly was different from what I’ve done before: you made up the front pockets (which are great, although slightly on the small side – if I was making these again I would deepen the pocket bag), attach the middle front panel to the outer front (and pocket), do the equivalent on the back, and then attach the backs to the fronts, sew the crotch seam and then do the zip. Which worked fine – the ‘normal’ way would be to do the zip prior to attaching front to back. This was my fourth fly zip, and it went well, even though the instructions were sparse, my zipper majorly too long (I ordered a 14 inch zip instead of a 14 cm one, by accident!) and I ended up with my fly shield too short.

For that latter, I don’t have an easy explanation, but one possibility is due to me not wanting to get my overlocker out for this make. I’ve just bought a new sewing machine (a refurbished Janome DKS100) which I absolutely adore, and so I was wanting to really test all the different functions and make the whole thing on the sewing machine, instead of using the overlocker. As such all the seams are either flatlocked or French-seamed, including the bottom of the pocket, and the crotch seam is zig-zagged. However, most of the seams, including the fly shield called for the raw edges to be overlocked, I decided to sew a small seam allowance, and then turn the seam to the inside to have a neatly finished fly shield and this is, I think, where I lost my excess – I say I think, but really there was a gap of 2cm, and it’s too narrow as well, so I may have made another mistake somewhere. No matter, I unpicked and patched it up and it should be okay now.

As a show of how little wordiness was included in the pattern instructions, I compared the Sasha Pants with the Vaulion – the Sasha’s take 9 A4 pages to explain how to put the pattern together, and these are dense with text and images (note, I didn’t count the 3 pages that it took to explain the welt pockets). The Vaulion covers the whole pattern in 5 pages, with more white space, less text and fewer pictures. So, it’s definitely not a pattern to choose for the first time of making trousers, but they did cover all the important points in their brief style. Except for one thing: in every other fly zip pattern I’ve used they take a moment once you sew the first seam attaching your waistband to the trousers just to say, “do up the zip and check the two sides are equal”. Well, as the Vaulion does not say this I forgot to do this check, merrily finished the waistband (honestly, the nicest waistband I think I’ve ever done, but I really do give all the credit to my beautiful new machine), proceeded to give a wee exclamation of delight and then did up the zip and almost cried: it was 7mm out, almost a whole centimetre!! Ugh, so out comes the unpicker, and I managed to fix it so that you’d never know that there had been an issue at all. Panic over, but I don’t think I’ll forget that important step again.

The waistband came in four pieces, and called for firm interfacing. I loved the pieced, very curved waistband, as because it was joined, it didn’t waste (hah) too much fabric. The curves enable it to fit to the small of the back really nicely – there’s no gaping there. I chose a contrasting facing (are you even a home sewist if you choose the same fabric as a facing?!) and love the result. A wee sewn on patch provides the perfect spot for a Kylie and the Buttons label that echoes both the shorts and my mum. Overall I was really chuffed with the finish, and I will be keeping that waistband in mind next time I make a pair of trousers.

In the end, the shorts came together really easily. There were no major hiccups (except the fly shield, and the uneven waistband-zip adjunction, of course) and I really enjoyed testing my skills. I fixed down the belt loops with bartacks – the first time I’ve done that and I was really pleased with how they look. I am loving how my machine does bartacks: they’re just lovely. There are so many features of my machine that I am just loving, including the self-knotting and thread cutting feature – amazing.

Some things I did have to get used to, such as the fact that the machine finishes with the needle down, so if I suddenly want to STOP it will often do one more stitch. I am learning to work with this, as it is different to my old machine. Also, every time you switch it on, it reverts back to Stitch 1 (straight stitch) with a length of 2.4, so if you were hoping to carry on as you’d left off, you need to reset the stitch. No problem, and I’m sure I’ll get used to this, however my top stitching is of different lengths because I kept forgetting. But really these are wee quirks that I am getting used to very quickly: it is great to use and I really, truly love it.

Well, making these shorts did give me a wee confidence boost, and so next up is another difficult garment: a men’s button up (or down?) shirt. Joey and I are doing a big hike through Scotland for our holiday this year, and he’d like his shirt finished by then – I have less than a month. I have made a sleeveless shirt many years ago, but this will be my first sleeved shirt and I am really excited.

Making for others is great, but there is always a concern about sizing and fit. However, these are perfect: they fit really nicely and really, really suit mum. They come to just above her knee (she’s less tall than me) and will be perfect for cycling to work, playing with grandchildren and walking the dogs. I will update the post if I manage to get pics on her at some point, but here’s hoping for some sunny days so that she can get them on, and get some sunshine on her legs! 

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Andika Juu says:

    these shorts are adorable!


    1. Thank you so much! Mum loves them and fancies a pair of the trousers for winter!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Emma says:

    These are so neat! I especially love the waistband lining, it’s such a nice touch. Did you get your refurbished machine online? I still get along fine with my super cheap Brother but it’s always nice to know where to go if needed 😉


    1. Thanks! Mum’s very happy with them too 🙂
      I got my machine from David Drummond, in Edinburgh, and they sent it to South Uist free of charge too! 😉 Really nice folk, and incredibly helpful (hopefully I’m allowed to add a link in the comments!)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. PoundCake says:

    These are beautifully made – what a lovely gift. I’m also excited to hear about a new-to-me pattern company! Well-drafted pants you say?! I’m there!


  4. bernieLynne says:

    Lucky momma that you sewed for her! In our house I sew but can not imagine my daughter wearing any thing I made even if she picked it out. I do sew lots for my grandchildren and that’s fun! I have also wanted a decent pair of shorts but sewing for myself is fraught with no confidence and fitting issues.


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