How to make tailored trousers Part One

posted in: WIP (work in progress) | 6

My trouser experiments continue. My daughter took a fancy to the trousers I have been making, and asked for a pattern so she could start to make her own trousers.

Fitting notes

I used the same Burda pattern I had downloaded for myself (I am getting good value out of this pattern!) but I cut out the smallest size.

On the pattern draw a set of parallel lines at the hip, thigh, knee, calf and check the width of the trousers at all these points as well as the waist and hem. You should check all these against your own body measurements and style preferences. I allowed between half an inch and one inch of ease. I altered Esme’s the pattern to fit by removing a further 1cms from the front and 2cms from the back (cut along the grain line and overlap). This has had the effect on making the trousers much closer fitting which is what she wanted. Then I removed a further 0.5 cm from the waist at CB and 0.5 cm from the side seams at the waist.

Here are the fitting pictures before the waist band is attached. The side and inside leg seams are machine basted and they are not pressed. They are a bit too tight (her waist has increased by an inch since the last baby), but generally I was really pleased with the fit, given this was my first attempt at trousers for someone else.  The pocket bags show but when the trousers are let out a little on each seam and pressed this should be fine (in future I may go back to using thin silk for the pocket lining rather than the wool fabric). We played around with the length and agreed a position.

Construction notes (part one covering pockets and lapped fly zipper)

These notes are to guide Esme when she comes to make up the next pair of trousers for herself (and as an aide memoire for me when I make my SWAP pants). But if you are trying to make “the perfect pair of tailored trousers” they might be handy.

  1. Ensure your pattern fits you by testing it first until you are entirely happy with it.
  2. Lay the trouser pattern on the fabric. If there are no SAs on your pattern use chalk to create 5/8th of an inch all round. Cut out very carefully leaving the waist band for now.
  3. Tailor tack the stitching line at the knee, the hem, and the pocket stitching line. You will also need to mark the pocket placement line on the side trouser pieces, the CF seam (indicating where the zip end is) and the waist seam.
    construction of trousers
    tailors tacks and overlocked edges
  4. Overlock all edges except the top waist edge being careful not to cut off any width, just the stray fibres and slight uneveness. Trim off the overlocking threads.
    Overlocker trimmings
    Overlocker trimmings
  5. On each front piece apply iron-on interfacing on the fabric covering the front area from about 2″ in from the CF seam line, right to the edge of the fabric so that the whole area is stabilised. The weight should be light but firm. This is to enable a good zip insertion.
  6. Accurately stitch pocket lining to the front of the trousers. Press the seams upwards. Stay stitch close to the original stitching line, on the inside of the pocket. This is to anchor the lining on the inside of the pocket and to stop it gaping. For less bulk use lining fabric, but the pocket will be crisper with the fashion fabric.
    trouser construction pictures
    pocket lining attatched to trouser front
  7. Fold the pocket back into place. Press carefully. Don’t move the iron. Just set the pockets very nice and flat. Allow them to cool. Remeasure them to ensure that both pockets are exactly the same length, and ensure the tailors tacks at both end of the pocket opening are visible and even.
  8. Now place the trouser fronts on the side pieces, exactly lining up the stitched pocket edge, checking both sides to ensure that the pocket placement is exactly symetrical by placing both fronts next to each other and measuring carefully.
    trouser construction notes
    lay front trouser piece with pocket lining attached to side piece
  9. Baste the trouser pockets closed along the line you would put your hand in
  10. Make up the pocket bag, by sewing the pocket lining to the  the side piece of the trousers. You will not be sewing edge to edge as the pocket lining is smaller than the side piece of the pocket. The extension is there to help hold the pocket in place across the abdomen. Trim and press.
  11. Stitch the CF seam with a long basting stitch to where the end of the zip will go, and permanently from there down to the end. Clip at the base of the curve, and press the zip fly extensions very flat. This is the key to a good zip finish.
  12. Now we will put in a lapped front zip. I used an 8″ zip which is at least 2″ longer than the zip you need, but it allows better insertion as the zip pull is out of the way when you are sewing. You need a “regular” (non-invisible) zip in about the right shade
    trouser construction
    Placing the zip
  13. You are going to attatch the zip to the extension so choose which side you prefer for the decorative top stitching. Put the zip face down to one side of the basted CF seam, and turn everything but the extension to the side so that you are working on one thickness of fabric only. Pin the zip in place, lining it up so that it finishes exactly on the CF line.
    trouser zip insertion instructions
    pin zip to one side of CF
  14. Starting at the bottom of the zip and using a regular zipper foot stitch upwards to the waist line of the trousers. The stitching line on the photograph above is on the left of the zip with the right edge of the zip being along the basted CF seam (tailor tacked). Remember you are stitching just one layer of fabric.
  15. Now fold the interfaced extension back so that you are looking at the zip from the right side and stitch it down again from the front, getting close to the teeth and producing a nice flat finish, holding the zip in place. You are still on one side of the flap, but now you are sewing through two layers of fabric.
    Inserting a lapped front fly
    Attaching the zip to the extension for a lapped front fly
  16. The next stage is to attach the zip to the other side of the trousers. Bring it back under the other extension and let it fall where it will. Again with only one layer of fabric being involved pin it and attatch the zip to the extension from the other side of the trouser fronts. The zip does not need to line up with anything. It just needs to fall where it falls. Stich on the back side of the zip, close to the teeth.
  17. Turn the trousers to look at them from the front. The zip is attached but looking at the trousers you cannot see it. The CF is nice and straight, and stable. At this point we add the decorative top stitching which also holds the zip in place.
  18. Mark where the metal end of the zip is so that you will not take the sewing machine needle over it. Now draw a line in chalk one and a quarter inches away from the CF line, curving nicely into the CF seam.
    inserting a zipper into trousers
    Marking the fly stitching line
  19. Now, starting at the bottom, and continuing to use the zipper foot, stitch carefully and slowly on the line you have made. It is unlikely that you will catch the zip but that doesn’t matter as the zip is already attatched. When you eventually remove the CF basting thread (don’t do this yet) you will find that the zip works perfectly. At present the zip puller is above the top of the trousers. Later you will deal with this, but don’t worry at the moment.
    attaching a lapped front zipper
    Stitching the fly
  20. Now turning to the back trouser pieces stitch the back darts from the top to the tip. Press towards the CB seam and allow to dry.
  21. Stitch the CB seam, clipping at the curve. Set the stitching and then press the seam open, allowing to cool.
    trouser construction
    Sew along the CB seam
  22. Pin the first side seam together, starting at the knee level tailors tack, pining down to the hem, and up to the waist, paying particular attention to where the seam will be created that cuts across the pocket. Check the length from the top of the trousers to make sure both pockets are the same length exactly before sewing. Clip the pocket so that it can be held back with a large pin, as you do not want to attach the bag to the side seam.
    trouser construction notes
    clip pocket to allow a straight seam at the side

    Then sew a long straight seam, from waist to hem.

  23. Press the seam open along the full length of your ironing board, taking care to get it as flat as possible around the pocket area, trimming a little of SA allowance away if necessary to reduce bulk. Allow to cool before repeating the process with the other leg.
  24. Now it is possible to seam the inside leg seam. Before doing so match the front and back together at the crotch with a pin along the seam to ensure the join is perfect. If you wish you can machine baste this for about one inch in order to ensure it is accurate. Starting at one ankle seam the whole seam in one straight seam. Now the pressing is more challenging. I use a point presser which I insert into the trousers from the waist, pushing it down the leg to the hem of one leg and pressing, clapping, and allowing to cool, before moving the point presser along the length of the seam. This means all the seams will be pressed without the trousers legs being distorted or creased.
    trouser making instructions
    Pressing the Inside leg seam

(to be continued in Part Two – waist band, hook and hems)

6 Responses

  1. Thanks for some great information!

  2. Your daughter’s trousers are looking good! Thanks for the construction notes. I always sew hem to waist although I’m not sure why. Come to think of it one normally sews wide to narrow so waist to hem does make more sense.

  3. Kate, thanks for these detailed construction notes. I have followed the directions for the few pairs of pants I have made, but without much thought. These will be useful for me as a checklist in the near future. Nice job on the trousers for Esme, too. I wish someone would make me a pants pattern! Off to find that trouser pattern…

  4. I, too, have had great success with my Burda trousers – they are drafted really well 🙂 In fact, I am currently making a pair of Vogue trousers, and after three muslins and a lot of hair-pulling I finally gave in and copied the crotch curve from the front and back of my Burdas, and my next muslin fit fine LOL. Looks like you and Esme are having great success with this pattern – looking good!! 🙂

  5. […] myself and my daughter, but may be of interest to others making pants. The first steps are covered here; this post covers waist band, fastening, hems and […]

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