Trousers that fit (or not)

by Stephanie on 11 November 2011

in Design & inspiration,Patterns

Trouser toile pattern on table with pumpkins

I haven’t done much dressmaking lately as I’ve been conducting an experiment to find out just how long one person can take to make a pair of curtains. The curtains are finally finished (making the second one was much, much quicker than making the first) so I thought I’d turn my attention to my trouser crisis.

My trouser crisis probably came about as a result of eating too much and doing too little exercise over the summer. This resulted in me not being able to get into my work trousers and discovering a new interest in wearing skirts.

While I’ve found that I quite like wearing skirts and dresses, you can’t get away from the fact that having some trousers that you can get into is very useful. I’ve tried to find some ready-made trousers that will fit but have only managed to buy one pair. Proportionally I seem to have a smaller waist and bigger hips than clothes manufacturers think I should have.  So – and not undertaking this project lightly – the only thing to do seems to be to have a go at making my own pattern based on my measurements.


The plan is to make some flat-fronted, wide-leg trousers that have a side opening. They might need darts at the front as well as the back. The design is based on some sailor trousers that I bought from Boden a few years ago and have worn a lot – I really like the style and think that they suit my figure.

Sketch of front and back of trousers


Trousers are very difficult to get right. As Cal Patch says in her book Design-it-Yourself Clothes, “pants are the trickiest category of clothing to make patterns for. But pants may also be the category for which we most need to make our own patterns!  There are so many converging measurements, angles and curves below the belt that I’d dare to say that no two bodies are exactly alike.” Hmmm…

I drafted my pattern using the Cal’s instructions for basic pants, after taking tons of measurements and comparing several pairs of well loved but now  too tatty for work trousers.

Open pages of Design-it-yourself Clothes and a squash
As I can never resist deviating a little from instructions, I made a few changes:

  • Converted all the measurements to metric as I went along as could not get on with working in inches.
  • Rather than splitting the leg circumference evenly between the front and back, I added 1.5cm to the back and took off 1.5cm from the front. All the trousers I own are made with more material in the back of the leg than the front so I decided to go with that.
  • Added 2cm-wide darts at the front and back as the side shaping seemed too extreme.
  • Flared the legs slightly to the bottom (56cm circumference at thighs to 60cm circumference at bottom hem).

More detail about the darts

Cal Patch’s pattern has no front or back darts but I didn’t think that would work well for my waist and hip measurements. To add some darts to the pattern, I made the following changes:


  1. Measure out 2cm from edge along waist line
  2. Re-draw the straight line from hip point to waist line, and reshape the curve
  3. Measure 7.5cm in from edge
  4. Construct dart 2cm wide and 10cm long that it perpendicular to curved waist line


  1. Repeat steps 1-4 but make the dart 12cm long

Making a toile

I traced over the basic pattern and added 1.5cm seam allowances to the side seams and in-seams. The toile pattern only goes down to about knee-level as I want to check the fit round the hips, thighs and waist but am not so worried about seeing the full leg.

To make up the toile:

  1. Sew all four darts
  2. Sew fronts to backs along side seams (right sides together) – don’t forget to leave an opening at one side or you won’t be able to get the toile on
  3. Turn one leg inside out and stuff it inside the other leg
  4. Match front and back rise seams and sew together

A kind-of problem

This is as far as I got because I’ve found that several weeks of travelling a lot, not eating very well and general work hassle has resulted in me finding that my work trousers now seem to fit me again.

So this is not a problem in that I guess I don’t need to urgently make some trousers any more. But it’s a slight set-back for making the ultimate pair of trousers that really fit well. The pattern I’ve drafted is likely to be too big for me – I suppose I can alter it based fitting the toile but it’s a bit of a pain. And if I cut it down to fit me now, will it still fit in a few months? I don’t really want to spend hours and hours making trousers to find that they don’t fit me at the end of it all.

So, I think I may shelve this project for the moment and come back to it in a couple of months. Looking on the bright side, I guess it will free up some time to make more curtains…


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Thumbnail image for A very late round up of winter work clothes

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