Trouser Saga

Oh the vexed matter of making one’s own trousers (or pants.  tee hee.)

Although I had wanted to sew clothes for a while, Sewaholic’s Thurlow trousers is what inspired me to properly commit to garment sewing.  I very much have a uniform: trousers and a shirt.  If it’s a workday, a button-up shirt; if it’s non-work, a t-shirt, and the trousers are more likely to be jeans.  I even have a particular style of trousers and jeans that I’ve worn since becoming an adult and which the vagaries of fashion have not moved me from.  Roughly straight legged, mid-rise, slash pockets.  There was a time in the late 90s, when trousers were cut exactly as I liked them.  Alas, that time is past.  I of course wear leggings for legging-relevant activities, and trackie-daks for trackie-dak related activities (like going to the shops in the middle of the night for ice-cream).  But even my preferred hiking trousers fit exactly this mold.

I have occasionally tried to branch out and wear other styles of trousers: higher-waisted, wider legged, harem (lordy, what was I thinking?) and fisherman (dear god why?). Those trousers invariably hung in my wardrobe watching their straight legged, mid-rise counterparts get worn to such an extent that they become threadbare and the knees permanently bag out.   

The Thurlows look exactly like the trouser I have always worn.

I made Thurlow shorts a long, long time ago.  I did a bunch of things wrong, but they were my practise pair, and I thought the fit was alright.  I recently (ish) made a muslin (!!) of the Thurlow trousers and they are huge on me.  Huge all round and especially huge in the derriere department (please read that with a terrible Pepe le Pew faux French accent).  I pinned out excess fabric and thought long and hard and researched longer and harder about the changes I would need to make to the pattern.  I had neglected to consider one key factor: Sewaholic does not design for me.  Tasia designs for the pear-shaped woman, and I am very happy she does. particularly as you with booty who have sewn her patterns appear to think that she does a sterling job.  I love the Alma.  The Cambie is also very sweet.  I am not a pear-shaped woman (mouthy stick with shoulders, remember?) and I decided maybe I needed to find another pattern.

There is no one, that I’m aware of, designing for a mouthy stick with shoulders, but that’s okay.  I’ll just try me some other patterns until something works.  I thought it might be easier to modify a different pattern, rather than work on the Thurlows.  But I do rather like the Thurlows so maybe one day I will return to it when I have more fitting expertise.  My unfinished projects are never discarded.  They visit a lovely resting place until I’m ready for them again.

I put my Thurlow muslin on to take photos for the blogpost, and lo and behold: it is not as bad as I remember.  I can only think magic sewing elves fixed it for me while it hung on my WIP rack.

There is someone designing for the petite woman, and she has designed a pair of trousers that look about right, but I have two issues: (1) I really don’t like the brand name and (2) though I’m short, I’m not sure I actually qualify as petite.  Petite is 5’4″ and under.  I’m just on that, but I’ve never really found RTW petite clothing fits me, so maybe I am proportioned averagely rather than petite-ly?  I’ll keep an eye on the patterns, but I just don’t feel persuaded enough to overcome my dislike of the brand name to purchase a pattern.  

Style Arc has a bunch of patterns that I’ve “pinned” (which being also a sewing term is practically like making them, right?) and I even bought the Audrey trousers, which came with a pair of free Lola trousers.  I’ve made the Lola but I did not like it.  Because it was not a pair of mid-rise, straight-legged trousers!  (I’m really an idiot, sometimes.)  And actually, the Lola trouser is a woven version of True Bias’ Hudson Pants (tee hee), which I have made three times and liked *a lot* but the Hudsons make no pretense of being anything other than fancy trackie-daks.  Woven trackie-daks? Not for me. I just cannot think of any occasion when I would wear them.  If it’s casual, I may as well wear trackie-daks.  If I want to look nice, well, I would not be wearing trackie-daks.  See?

I’ve settled on my next trouser pattern: the Sew Loft Emma pants (tee hee. Oh, you northern Americans.)  They’re like a skinnified Thurlow.

Muslin sewing is fast, though muslin photos are always terrible.  The Emma pants are pretty good! I was right (how gratifying). 

Sew Loft is a new to me pattern company, and I’m keen on these trousers and the Harper blouse, although I feel like a stranger to myself when I want to wear a sleeveless top.  The PDFs are well designed and not at all wasteful of paper or annoying to piece together.  I haven’t sewn anything yet, so I cannot say (nor am I particularly knowledgeable on the matter) whether the patterns are well drafted.

Finally, in my Epic Trouser Saga, I’ve signed on for a sewing class with Thread Den, here in Melbourne.  The class is called “Perfect Pants Pattern” (please interject tee hee in the correct place if you too are juvenile).  That’s a big call, no? We shall see, we shall see.  I’m fairly confident of my sewing (and unpicking and sewing again) skills, but I just feel all flummoxed when it comes to fitting.  I haven’t had any major issues so far: take in a bit here; let out a bit there, lengthen, or shorten and we’re done. And usually it is only one issue on a pattern.  But trousers have a whole lot of cascading issues and I think I need someone to hold my hand, and provide me lots of fortifying chocolate.

Wish me luck, and keep a beady eye on your feed readers for the next installment of Oanh’s Trouser Saga!  Coming probably not very soon to an internet near you!


  1. Argh, fitting pants! I want to make pants (and am about to), but trying to fit them on myself sucks. Maybe I should follow your lead and see if I can find a class. I’ll be eagerly waiting to hear how it all goes! Thanks for the inspiration. : )


    1. Fitting definitely needs another person to help; another sewing person is best, but any person is better than the mirror and a phone-camera! I’m also lucky to have lots of sewing buddies in Melbourne, so I’ll be asking them to stare at my posterior and postulate on fixes real soon.


      1. Ooh, and forgot to say, the Perfect Pants class is suggesting to me that maybe a higher waisted trouser than I’ve always worn might actually be quite flattering. Fascinating change in perspective!

  2. Good luck, Oanh!
    It sounds as if you know which kind of trousers you want, at least. I desperately need a few more pairs of trousers, but I can’t for the life of me even decide on the style I’m going for, let alone make any pattern actually fit me!
    Oh well, I’m sure we’ll both get there eventually…


    1. Thanks, Jana! I think it will be a long journey with many frustrating parts but hopefully enjoyable too! There’s a BurdaStyle pattern that has been really well reviewed lately … I cannot for the life of me think which one, but I think it was a pattern rather than from a magazine or the website because I ruled it out as being too difficult for me to obtain. The Ultimate Trousers by Sew Over It also seem to be well reviewed. I would recommend away from the Thurlow for you 🙂 as we would have similar – big all over and especially in the derriere department – issue, but the pattern does have fantastic instructions.

      Slowly, slowly, one step at a time and we will indeed get there!


      1. Yep, totally agree with you on the Thurlows. I have the pattern and made a muslin quite a while ago and … let’s just say it wasn’t the most flattering look, particularly around the thighs. But the instructions are good, particularly with Lladybird’s sew-along, so I’ve been using them for other patterns as well. (:

  3. Phew! Good luck with your pants (!) fitting. Daughter No1 has almost the same issue as you do re height, technically she’s petite, but only in the legs department. At 1.63m she’s above the 1.61 (by a measly 2cm) of true petites. Her legs are short in proportion to the rest of her, so perhaps that’s you too? Weirdly, if you level both Daughter No1 & 2 at the hip, their heads are at the same height, but Daughter no2 would have 12cm dangling below Daughter no1! That 12cm difference is all in the legs!
    Re patterns, I’ve seen lots of sell sewn Ultimate trousers by Sew Over It, I assume these would be available on a download, save the postage all the way down under. They might be the right style for you, and could be altered at the sides to provide the straight leg look you’re after.


    1. I find it really weird that petites are 5’4″/1.61 because I would have expected that is at the taller end of average. But hey, my knowledge is entirely anecdotal. I’ve always considered myself short in Australia, but then my closest friends throughout high school and university were all giants (as is my partner), and then when I was in the UK, suddenly, I’m taller than more people than I’d ever been.

      I’m keeping an eye on the Ultimate trousers! We have a seller here of Sew Over It patterns – – so I’m watching them …


      1. Isn’t it funny that at 5’4″ we are short in Australia but tall in England? When we were there I had one dear older gentlemen remark to me, “you Australians are all so tall” which of course amused me no end. He was then amazed that I was the shortest in my family having a 5’10” sister and 6’2″ brother. No I don’t know what happened to me either.

      2. I’m the youngest in my family but not the tallest, which is just really unfair because I got the benefit of a healthier diet and enough food for longer than any of my siblings!

    1. I’ve read so many positive reviews of the Jalie jeans; they’re on my jean pattern list for when I’m ready! I’m not sure plunging into denim is the best idea just yet, and I want to try to get a trouser I can wear to work before working on jeans. But it’s on my long list! Having read heaps and heaps of blogs about trouser making, it seems those who’ve had success have made many, many pairs to finally get to the right one. So, that’s my sewing future! (plus everything else, as the fancy takes me…)


  4. I’m on the trouser sewing adventure with you! I have a particular style that I always gravitate back to as well, and like you, I thought the Thurlows would be perfect. Since attempting a couple simpler patterns, however, I have not brought myself to muslin them because I know they are definitely not designed for my body shape, and the extra fitting woes that would inevitably ensue have kept me frozen. I’m currently attempting a BurdaStyle pattern, which is similar in style to the Thurlow, and which I have heard is drafted very well. I’ll let you know how that goes! ^_^


    1. Yay! Trouser journey companion!

      I’ve read lots of positive reviews about one BurdaStyle trouser pattern (um, usefully, don’t remember which one …) so I hope that’s the one you’re working on! I look forward to hearing all about it.

      I don’t regret making a muslin of the Thurlow, and I think the issues are fewer than I thought initially but I’ll probably make a proper fabric version of the Emma Pant first; also Tasia’s instructions for sewing up the Thurlow are fantastic, so I’d say the pattern is worth it just for that 🙂


  5. Bwah ha ha PANTS! Yup, I’m juvenile but that’s how I roll… The Thread Den class sounds fantastic- you are going to get those wardrobe staples in no time!


    1. Thread Den is a pretty cool space! I wish I lived more conveniently to it (we’re not on the same tram line, so it’s annoying to get to given its distance from me…)


  6. Hi. Good luck with the pants class. Sounds like it should sort out your fitting issues. The Thurlow muslin looks pretty good maybe you could get it to fit properly after your class? I’m also on a quest for good pants I’ve made the Thurlow and even though I am very pear shaped they need a lot of tweaks. I’ve ordered a simplicity pants pattern – you know the ones that have options for different shapes. Would like to find a pattern I could modify for hiking pants etc.


    1. I’ve decided on the Hudson pants in technical fabric for my hiking pants! Just have to find a reliable source of technical fabric… (That doesn’t cost the earth to post to me!)
      I’ve done the class! I think I have some better ideas about how to sort out the fitting now. So, we shall see, we shall see…


  7. Ah, The land of the Trouser! I’m more than just a little devastated I couldn’t make it to last nights class – did you pick up any insights? I hope your muslin is going well! I’ve just had a leg fitting breakthrough tonight on my Jacques pants… very happy 🙂


    1. We missed you! It was really great; I don’t know if I got insights but I got confidence about how to make adjustments and a better idea about how the cascade. Will chew your ear off about it next time I see you! Yay for leg fitting breakthrough!!


    1. I like the Katherine and it’s pinned! The Melissa I thought could be a hiking trouser … But I should work through my current trouser pattern stash first …


  8. One day I will tackle pants…don’t think I’m up for the challenge yet. I have bought the un-named pattern you are talking about, it was on sale recently. I don’t like the company name either, but they do look like a good fit.


  9. Good to know your Emma pant muslin came out well. What fabric you used for the muslin ? I made a Harper blouse and loved it. The fit is good too. I have reviewed it completely on my blog TheHobbyHarbor 🙂


    1. That’s good to know! I used an old bed-sheet; some kind of poly-cotton probably. I’m currently making a wearable muslin out of stretch cotton twill; the fit is still pretty good although I must say the fly zipper instructions are doing my head in! I’m going to head over to check your Harper blouse!


    1. Hi there!
      Oops – your comment was a while ago too 🙂
      I had never taken a sewing class prior to taking this Thread Den one. Things may well have changed but the trouser base that we were using for this lesson was a wide legged one; one I would never ever wear. I found the lesson and the sewing together and the personal help with fitting useful, but I never made more than the muslin because I just would not have worn wide legged trousers. I also attend Social Sewing and, to be honest, get the same thing from going to Social Sewing as I did from the lessons but on my own time. I am very much a self taught sew-er, good at learning from books/reading material and happy to trundle along on my own, so lessons really aren’t for me but that could be different for you. Thread Den is a great environment however. Hope some of that commentary helps you 🙂


      1. Thanks, Oanh. I am not sure whether classes are for me either, although the help with fitting would be … er … helpful! I like to learn on my own as well, but trying to pin or adjust a muslin on yourself is tricky. I will watch out for a class to make something that suits my style.

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