Finished: Wearing History Smooth Sailing corduroy trousers

Friends, I finally sewed my very first pair of trousers!

Now, I’ve been talking about wanting to sew trousers for over a year. They are definitely a staple in my vintage wardrobe. Last summer I bought the pattern for the 1930s Smooth Sailing trousers and blouse from Wearing History but just could never work myself up to sew them.

As you know, this last weekend I went on a blogger adventure, and bought several lovely fabrics at Vogue Fabrics. One was a very inexpensive (less than $4 a yard!) pinwale stretch corduroy. I decided I had nothing to lose at an attempt to finally sew up trousers. Talk about motivated—I bought the fabric Saturday and finished Wednesday!

But let’s point out two important facts: I don’t own a serger. And I’ve never sewn with stretch fabric. So for my very first go at sewing with trousers I was using fabric that frayed if you sneezed near it, was stretchy and didn’t press well. Did I mention that once I washed and dried the fabric, I discovered it was kooky and the wales of the corduroy were woven on the bias and not straight like normal? Crazy, huh? Fortunately, it did not end up a recipe for disaster!

trousers made by me, blouse from Nudeedudee

Due to my fray-prone fabric, I bound the exposed seams with what felt like a million miles of rayon seam binding. This alone probably took longer than all the rest of everything related to sewing up these trousers combined. Seriously, those bound seams nearly did me in. But I persevered. And how pleased am I with the crotch and inner leg seam intersection?!

(By the way, if you ever do this, just snip your notches instead of clipping them out like I did, since this make some really ugly spots when sewing over them with your binding. Whatever, it’s inside my legs.)

When I was looking at this fabric at Vogue, Lauren Lladybird advised sewing a size down because of the stretch content, but since I’d never sewn this pattern and wasn’t sure how they’d fit, I went with my normal size. In the end they’re definitely roomy, even after trying to shrink them a tad in a hot washer and dryer.

They’re the bunchiest at the level of the highest point of my bum all the way around, but you can kind of see it in the side and back views. I think if I’d used a drapey fabric this would just look nice and flowy, but since this is thick but non-drapey corduroy, the excess fabric just kind of sits there in space, standing at attention. (It feels like if I had drapery weights in my hem they’d lay better. Ha!)

The back has some pooling of fabric which I’m sure I would never in a million years have noticed if I didn’t read sewing blogs.

From what I’ve read I’d possibly benefit from a flat seat adjustment (though I didn’t think I had a flat derriere!), or changing the crotch curve (read the Coletterie pants fitting cheat sheet), or doing a fish eye dart in the pattern (read Liz’s post on fish eye darts). I should mention I took in a full extra inch on each back dart when it came time to attach the waistband (probably the cause of the horizontal line towards my waistband in the above photo) because I had forgotten to stay stitch so I think the pieces stretched out a bit.

Of course, these might all be non-existent issues with fabric that drapes better, so I’m tempted to make a second pair without any more alterations in some gabardine in my stash to see the difference, then think about tweaks. (Bonus = stashbusting!)

Seriously though, I’ve spent way too much time contemplating my mid-section since making these trousers, so these are just little nitpicks, nothing for me to lose sleep over. I’m still quite pleased with these!

The construction was a breeze and were it not for my seemingly endless binding of all those seams, these would really have taken me no time at all! The instructions were very clear. A big A+ to Lauren at Wearing History. I can’t wait to try more of her patterns.

In the end, I think the Smooth Sailing trouser pattern needs a fabric with more drape than mine. But in spite of the fit issues I mentioned, I love these trousers. The pinwale corduroy is just divine against the skin, and even though they’re a little baggy, I’m going to get a lot of wear out of them. They can dress up or down since the fabric is casual but classy, so I wore them both to work and to lounge on the sofa after.

And I’m no longer scared to sew trousers. I may or may not even have danced around the house singing “Pants I made!” but you didn’t hear it from me…

I’m definitely going to be sewing more vintage-styled trousers! Any pattern recommendations?

(And by the way yes, I’m definitely buying a @#?*#$&! serger.)

 

Filed: Sewing, Vintage Wardrobe

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Golly, 52 Comments!

  • Oooh, they look really good! I love the front darts that open up at the end – super flattering! How much fabric did you end up using, anyway? Just curious haha.

    Oh, and if you’re curious – this is the serger I have: http://babylock.com/sergers/imagine/. It was mega expensive but it threads itself & automatically adjusts the tension. And the stitches are freaking beautiful. Worth every penny, in my opinion :)

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  • Thanks for this! This pattern has been on my to-buy list for a while and I’ve always hesitated. Maybe now I will!

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  • You look great and so do the trousers. I’ve been wanting to buy that pattern but am afraid that I’ll hate the way the trousers look on me. I have a serger but I lost the foot somewhere during our move. I’m kicking myself still.

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  • Stunning, my Great Grandmother was a court dressmaker and she always said the insides should look as smart as the outsides so great tip on the notches!

    Janine from lesleysgirlsvintage.com x

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  • I think they look great.love the color and they look great on you.good job.

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  • These look great! Congrats on your first pair of pants! I’ll have to check out this pattern – looks like a winner.

    Adding my two cents to the serger opinions: I bought the Brother 1034d last winter from Amazon and I LOVE it – super easy to use and not at all expensive. I looked just now on Amazon and it was about $190. Even cheaper if you use Amazon points like I did!

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    • Thanks so much Gail, I looked into it and that does sound like a good an inexpensive one, and well reviewed (and of course having a personal testimonial from you is great).

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  • They look wonderful! So professional and they fit you like a glove by the looks of things. You’ve really inspired me to perhaps buy my own sewing machine and start learning to make garments. You get so much flexibility with how your clothes look and fit, and fabric shopping seems like a blast :)

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  • The look wonderful :) Well done! (I always think the vintage trouser patterns are so much more flattering on a feminine figure ;))
    I don’t have a serger either… although I have discovered some sewing machines that can do a kind of edge stitch… I have been holding out for one of those ;)
    As for patterns- well I am about to try the one Debi always recommends :)

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    • Oh yes in fact I bought that pattern today, I’m excited to try it too. I’ll look forward to hearing what you think about it once you try it!

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  • I am sooooo thoroughly proud of you! In grade 10 Home Ec class we got to chose what we wanted to make for one of our garments and I went with high waisted sailor style pants. Having very little sewing experience then (or now, for that matter – that year was the last time I did any sewing machine sewing for all intents), I certainly found my project was an uphill battle (with soooo much thread ripping!). Amazingly, I completed them on time and even got an A, but it was an experience and a half, so I can fully relate to the struggles of sewing one’s first pair of trousers. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll tackle a second pair (I’m sure you’ll do so eons before I do though!).

    ♥ Jessica

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  • These look great! WH trousers is actually my TNT high-waisted 40s pants pattern.

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  • You did such a great job. I have made several pairs of pants on my days and none of them have turned out photo-worthy. So kudos!

    Having a serger makes every single thing easier to sew. Even though I’m not making pants often, my little serger helps me in lots of ways. It’s a Brother home serger that has been truckin for about 5 years now. Definitely worth the $300 or so paid for it :)

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  • WOW! Congrats on making some pants that fit well. I am very impressed!

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  • Making pants can be tricky, but when you finally get the hang of it, you don’t want to stop!
    I have made dozens of pants and jeans in my life (because I’m picky and can’t find any fitting pants in shops), altering the pattern that I have, trying to perfect it bit by bit. The tricky thing is that all fabrics are different and they make pants drape different ways. Pattern which is perfect for one fabric might be crap for another. On dress or skirt it doesn’t matter so much, but in pants even small change on the fabric quality can affect huge. However, when you learn the adjustments you can do to make them fit, you can do pretty much anything with just one pattern and different versions of it.
    You’ve done a good job with these. If you are willing to make alterations you might even be able to correct this pair and get rid of the pooling at the back.

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    • Thanks Rhia! I appreciate your input, you’re such a talented seamstress! It’s really made me feel empoweed to be able to sew my own trousers as they really are something I wear quite a lot. Not that we have a house that I know will run cold in the winter, as opposed to our condo that ran warm, I know I will want to be making myself lots of warm pairs in the coming months.

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    • Thank you! It is really good feeling when you know you can do anything, isnt’ it :D You might want to try good quality wool or wool mix next for this pattern. Wool is usually quite forgiving and drapes nicely, even if the pattern isn’t 100% fitting. And would be also good option for the coming winter. My favourite pair of pants is 1930’s vintage men’s pinstripe trousers. They are made of thick wool and very warm. They are quite baggy, as 30’s trousers were, but they fit me better than modern trousers would :D I wear them a lot in winter, but now I’m planning on making pair of trousers or jeans for the autumn.

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  • I think you did great! Your hair looks great in these shots too.

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  • Nice pants! Aside from PAJAMA pants, I’ve never attempted to sew pants from scratch. I altered the life out of several of my granny’s old 1960s pants when I was in high school (tragically, now they’d probably fit me as-is) but I’ve never ventured into this world yet. These looks really great though! And how fun to now feel like you can make more and more of your own trousers.

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  • Wow!!! They look awesome! Big congrats to you!
    I had the same thing when I made a pair in thick corduroy- the more drapey fabric works good so you get the 30’s “flow” to the pants. So glad you liked the pattern and I’m super excited you liked my instructions- they take me the longest of anything when putting together a pattern :)
    My serger was broken for like 6 months and I did the same thing with seam binding. You have my utmost sympathy, and with corduroy it must have been even more of a pain!

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    • Thanks Lauren!! Seriously, the instructions were spot on. I can’t wait to try these with a flowier fabric, but I really do love them in the corduroy! Though I think I’ll wait to sew them with it again until I DO have a serger. Hee! ;)

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  • These turned out great! I have been going back and forth on buying this pattern, and this was the last shove in the get it direction.

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  • Oh they look wonderful : )
    I’ve wanted a pair of dark green cord trousers for ages, but haven’t found the stuff yet. I only have cherry red corduroy, which I think are, even by my standards, too bright for trousers!
    Tupney x

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    • Thanks! Dark green is on my list too! Funny you mentioned cherry red as I astonishingly found pattern pieces I cut for this a year ago (when I was too chicken to try it) and it’s in a cherry red gabardine. So while I really have no need for red trousers, I can’t resist sewing them up since the pieces are already cut! Perhaps I need to knit a brown Date Maker to tone them down. ;)

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  • Oh they look wonderful : )
    I’ve wanted a pair of dark green cord trousers for ages, but haven’t found the stuff yet. I only have cherry red corduroy, which I think are, even by my standards, too bright for trousers!
    Tupney x

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  • Fantastic effort on that pattern! I have it sitting at home here waiting for the right fabric to appear or be found in the stash. I’m a newcomer to your blog so I’m off now to read more. :)

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  • They look great, well done!

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  • They look great! I’ve got a couple pairs of WH trousers set to to make for my Everyday Wardrobe project. For your pattern adjustments – I think the ones you mentioned would help, but don’t change too much until you make a pair in softer fabric. But I think you can make small adjustments on your next pair and they’ll look even better!

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    • Thanks Beth! I completely agree, and the next pair I make in a lighter fabric I’m not going to make any changes. Once I have a heavier and a lighter pair, I’ll have a better idea what needs adjusting for each type of fabric. I definitely can see it becoming an everyday staple pattern, considering I’ve worn this pair alost everyday since I finished them! lol I’m not officially doing the Everyday Wardrobe project but that’s definitely my general sewing goal for the fall/winter. :)

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  • Thank you so much, everyone! ♥

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  • Your trousers look great! They look super super comfy, I’m happy you took the jump into trouser making. Now all I have to do is follow suit…maybe sometime next year.

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  • Tasha Cute pants, I have that pattern and have wanted to make those for ages.
    A new trick I just learned for keeping fabric from fraying with out a serger is going along the edger with a 3 point zip zag is you have that on your machine. I also would like to get a serger some day also. So thanks to all the about comments with the recommendations.

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  • These are great! All your binding is amazing! I have a serger you can borrow anytime. Just so you know, you swear at them even more when you have them, though!

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  • My first attempt at these pants did not turn out as great as yours. I should have made the smaller size, I think. I used a drapey fabric, just did not have a flattering fit. Can’t decide if I should try again or not. They look great with your blouse!

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  • You did great for your first pair of Trousers! :) They look really comfy and perfect.

    I have been pondering what you said about the fabric and how that affects fit, I do agree in general with that. But if I were you, I’d try to make at least 1 tweak/adjustment with each follow up pair you make. You can always add in 1″ seam allowances also to give yourself a bit of room to do more active fitting.

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  • Oooh! I love this pattern from Wearing History, and you did such a cute job with them!!

    I know how to fix your back fabric issue, email me if you want and I’ll send you some diagrams.. :D

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  • Your pants are fantastic! Way to go!
    BTW: your clematis vine in the background is just as…wow!!!
    Lucky!

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  • Wow these look absolutely gorgeous, I love them! I wish I was all enough to wear them! Love your top too, such a great look! XxxX http://thesecondhandrose.blogspot.co.uk

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  • They turned out FABULOUS!!! How exciting that you are a trouser making rock star! I love the fabric, even if it doesn’t have the draping effect – these are still going to look gorgeous in the dead of winter when it is bitter cold because they are going to be warm and delightful. Bravo on the speedy turn around and the awesome result!

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  • They look great! I’m so jealous about your notches. Something I never make out clean.

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  • those pants are so great! your so talented. love your blouse as well.

    http://wardrobexperience.blogspot.de

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  • p.s. Simplicity has a 1940’s reproduction sportswear pattern that includes some awesome wide leg trousers! They’re SUPER simple to make and very Land Girl chic when made up in corduroy! Simplicity 3688. p.p.s I LOVE the trousers you made! I may have to add that pattern to my list.

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    • Oh yay, that’s great to know as I have that pattern! Having bought it a few years ago when my sewing skills and patience were truly crap, I got rid of it thinking I could never do it, and then bought it again shortly after completing these. lol Glad to hear it’s a winner!

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  • Gosh, these look great! I’ve been looking for a good wide-leg pattern.

    By the way, did you buy a serger yet? I’m thinking of getting one too but am completely clueless so appreciate the comments on this post.

    Cheers, Sarah

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    • Hi Sarah, I did! I got the Brother one Gail mentioned above. I have a lot to learn but I love it! Very reasonably priced for a newbie too.

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