Slowly but surely, I am getting my wardrobe to a place I am happy with. There are still a few items that I am lacking, and definitely some items that are in dire need of replacement (ripping my work trousers right across the bum, while wearing them, hasn’t helped this situation, but that’s a topic for another day!). However, the subject of today’s blog is a new item to me – casual, easy to wear, colourful linen trousers.
I have had these in mind for a long time, for I have nothing in my wardrobe that’s as simple to wear as a pair of elastic waist trews. Unfortunately, I don’t really suit an elastic waist, but the heart wants what the heart wants so a while ago, I started looking for patterns.
Let me tell you, there are many, many, many elastic waisted trouser patterns out there – it seems to be a thing just now. But I kept hesitating – they just didn’t seem quite right. I know I don’t suit the shape, so to minimise the negative effects of too much elastication, I knew I wanted a flat front. But I didn’t want to make the Pietra’s again – although I did eventually edit my pair, taking 1.5 inches out the waist and adding a zip, they were just not what I was after. But, they were the closest I could find to my mental image of my dream trousers, so just when I was beginning to despair and thinking of compromising (gasp! never!) luck came a-calling, for Pauline Alice Patterns released their Autumn range of patterns, and right there and then, I found my perfect pair: the Morella Pants.
They have the desired flat front waistband, the pockets, and just the right amount of interesting features. And, the pattern comes with a skirt version too that will look divine for the winter with tights. What a perfect package. The pattern immediately made its way into my basket, and ten minutes later I was printing it out. I assembled the pattern that morning, and got out my lovely fabric, which had already been pre-washed in anticipation of this moment.
I’d bought the fabric online, with my dream pair of trousers in mind, long before the pattern had been released. It was from a shop – Edinburgh Fabrics – that I love, and visit every time I am in Edinburgh (and recommend that you do, too). They’ve only just started selling online in response to the Covid-19 situation and in all, I was very happy to support them. I bought 1.5m of this delicious Ramie linen, along with a few other bits and bobs. It was a very easy transaction, but the best thing about it was that as their shop isn’t equipped to take payments online, they call you to confirm and take payment over the phone. Brilliant! I love that human touch: I really enjoy speaking to people on the phone and the whole transaction was just wonderful.
The fabric is ramie linen, which some of you may know is not made from flax, the normal ingredient for linen, but is instead made from Chinese nettle Boehmeria nivea. Despite being a fabric that’s not on our radars (possibly, or maybe that’s just me), it is a fibre that has been used for thousands of years.
I am so chuffed, for the fabric seems hard wearing, doesn’t stretch out of shape at all during wear – honestly, I’ve been testing that a lot! – and doesn’t crease unduly. In fact, I would venture that it creases less than normal linen, but I may be wrong in that. I do know that it washes well and has a lovely coarse appearance – the fibres go thick and thin so the fabric looks textured. And the dye is so intense: the colour is just beautiful. So overall, you can imagine my squeal of delight at opening the package from Edinburgh Fabrics, and I must say that the trousers live up to this first positive impression. A case of a perfect match between fabric and pattern.
For the pattern is gorgeous: the more I look at it, the more I like. It has a narrow, flat front, with elastic around 3 quarters of the body. The pockets are below the front elastic, so stick out (love this detail) and the trouser sits at the natural waist. From the start, I knew I wanted full length trousers, but these are designed to be ankle length. Would they look daft full length, or would I regret not lengthening them? The real reason that I made these trousers now was to wear them in the evenings on our holiday – for holiday this year we’re completing a 100 mile walk across Scotland. We’re camping most nights, and while I will wear leggings to walk, I made these to put on in the evenings when tight clothes will feel too constricting. The intention was to have something dry, easy to wear and with a relaxed fit to spend the evening in. I decided to make them full length and lengthened the leg length by a huge 4 inches.
Other adjustments were simple too. I fell smack bang in between the measurements for sizes 42 and 44 at the waist so I made myself an unofficial 43, then graded down to the 40 at the hips. I knew that excess fabric around my derrière isn’t very attractive when pulled in via elastic at the waist (thank you for your lessons, Pietra…), so really wanted to make the hips neat fitting. And I was working blind: as this was a brand new pattern, there wasn’t a single blog, Instagram post or anything online to advise or impact upon my decisions. I was by myself.
I’d bought 1.5 metres of the fabric and, well, let me tell you, 1.5m was only just enough. I had to cut on a single layer, piece my waistband from two bits and cut my pocket bags out of a coordinating quilting cotton (I actually love this detail). But I did it! And with this lovely result I really don’t regret the challenge at all. I have tiny scraps left, which had gone into my scrap pile, and may reappear some time in the future.
Sewing was bliss. I loved working with this fabric: it cut beautifully, pressed really nicely (even with a cool iron) and my machine sewed it like a dream. The pockets were a bit of a mind-bender, but I got there in the end. Speaking to my boyfriend afterwards, he said “oh, is that when I could hear you talking to yourself?” – umm, yes, yes it was. There were a couple of things I noticed here: one tip that wasn’t mentioned is that the top of the pocket benefits from interfacing, as the pocket tops are cut on the near-bias so are prone to stretching out. In addition, and this will only make sense to people that make the pattern, I chose a different order of assembly for my second pocket: I sewed from point 1 to 4, pivoting at 3, instead of doing that in two separate passes. I then did the understitching as far along as was possible. I found the former way ended up with a strange junction at the outside seamline and my way created a neater finish.
I love the balance of the trousers as the outside seam is towards the back, and the complimentary topstitching is just beautiful. I didn’t have thread that merged, so used a lovely gold and actually this is one of my favourite features now. It really added to the warmth of the corally-rust coloured fabric. I also added bartacks at the pocket edge just for a bit of stability and strength. One ended up slightly longer than intended, but never mind – I’ll call it a feature.
When it came to the waistband I realised that there was no inner support for the front waistband, so I added a bit of firm interfacing, 30cm long and 4.5cm wide, to the waistband facing. This has worked nicely, and keeps things from rolling down. I also used 3cm wide elastic as it was all I had. Contrary to the instructions, I attached the elastic to the facing, adjacent to the interfacing, so that the stitches would not show on the outside of the garment. I also chose to do the rectangle with triangles to attach rather than the recommended zig zags. To stop the elastic twisting, I divided it in half, and secured it in place by sewing down the line of my pieced waistband seam at the centre back. I may return to this and topstitch along the length of the elastic at some point, but this seems to be doing the trick at the moment.
Although this sounds like lots of changes, I really enjoy thinking about the process and not mindlessly following the official steps, however a wee bit of finessing of the instructions on Pauline Alice’s part would allow everyone to have a beautifully finished pair of trousers.
My machine, as I’ve already said, handled the fabric beautifully and I used my overlocker on the pocket and outside seams to create a neat seam there. Both machines were super, and although I had to use pale grey overlocking thread I actually really like this wee detail. All other seams were Frenched where possible.
This project was the first time I tried using the knee lifter on my new machine, and oh my goodness, life changer!! I always thought of this as being a quilting tool, but when you’re working with elastic, and needing to use both hands to manipulate the fabric and stretch the elastic as you sew, the knee lifter makes this process 1000 times easier. What a revelation. The open-ended foot was also wonderful – it’s perfect for topstitching, as you can see exactly where the needle is going.
And in summation? What are the trousers like? Well, I love them. Really, truly love them. As I am normally more comfortable – and feel more me – in culottes / skirts / dresses, these may just be my most perfect pair of trousers ever. There’s a nice looseness about the leg, I think they suit my shape, and they certainly allow for a full range of movement (cartwheels are always my test). The colour is divine and I just love them. But…
I don’t like them full length! They definitely suit the cropped look, and so while I hemmed them full length, I am 99% sure that they will always be worn rolled up, for that relaxed, lackadaisical look – to be honest, hand knitted socks peeking out of shorter trousers is a favourite look of mine, and my Morellas suit this down to a T. I don’t mind that I lengthened them: three turn ups leads to them being the perfect length on my tall frame, so if I hadn’t made this adjustment there might have been issues. Therefore, the but isn’t really a but, and it’s all worked out in the end.
In conclusion: it’s love. Many thanks to both Pauline Alice Patterns for a great design, and Edinburgh Fabrics for a wonderful shopping experience, and I can promise you, I am, right now, a very happy sewist indeed.
Also worn with my pieced top from last summer.