Thai Fisherman’s Trousers

When we went to Thailand I discovered Thai Fisherman’s Trousers. Here are some pictures of the type of thing.

The ones I brought back were in slightly heavier cotton, and I have worn them a lot; around the house, for sleeping in, and for yoga. Esme likes them and borrowed a pair when she appeared in a short film (to promote breast feeding). I really like the two pairs I have but the colours are fairly nasty – faded terracotta, and mossy green.

I know that wide legged trousers are supposed to suit me but when I try tailored styles I just hate them. The nice thing about this style is that they sort of celebrate the fullness of the leg allowing an unstructured look. I am not really into “art teacher chic”, or “Lagenlook” at all, but there is something I really like about these trousers. Elegantly simple in their design; adjustable and easy to customise; traditional; easy to make; quirky but comfortable.

So, just before our walking holiday in Romania, I thought I might make up a pair or two, but shorter. Let’s see how I got on.

Making a pattern

Firstly – a pattern. There are lots of diagrams on the internet, and Burda has a free, downloadable pattern. But having looked closely at the pairs I already have I think it is really very simple to make these without a paper pattern. If you create the four (five or six if you want pockets) oblongs of fabric by tearing there is only one bit to actually cut (the crotch). The pants are the same at the back and the front.

These pants will fit lots of people from s8 to s16 UK. They are pretty baggy on slim figures and more fitted on bigger bodies. They work for men too.

  1. One piece (with a selvedge for the top waist) 50″x11″. This forms the top yoke section.
  2. For the leg sections you need two pieces 30″ x 26″, with the longer edge joining the top section, and 26″ representing the length from the bottom of the yoke to the ankle. At 10cms from the top, curve up to 25″ and down to 21″ at the hem. This creates the crotch shape.  If you want knee length shorts then an oblong of  32″x 20″ is required. For short shorts then  32″ x 11″ will suffice.
  3. Optional pocket (one or two). I made patch pockets from a piece of fabric about 9″x11″.
  4. One long piece 50″x3″ for the ties.

I tore all the pieces rather than cut them. This ensured I was on grain throughout and also reduced the cutting out time. The only cutting you do is two cuts to create the crotch piece.

Thai fishermans trousers pattern
One yoke, one pocket, tape and two legs

Order of work

I used my overlocker to make this a quick job. You can use a normal machine stitch but consider flat felled seams or French seams as these items are robust and go into the washing machine.

  1. Make the tie by folding in half, pressing, then turning in the edges. (Like making bias tape, but on the straight grain) This enables you to stitch on the outside so you don’t need to turn through.
  2. Make the pockets by folding in the edges and a deeper top, pressing, then top stitching.
  3. Centre the tie, about one-third up from the bottom of the yoke, and attach it to the yoke piece. Sew down around 8″ – 4″ each side of the CB.
  4. Stitch the two legs together at the CB seam, press to one side. Fold the hems under, press and stitch.
  5. Attach the leg pieces in one straight line to the yoke. Press downwards.
  6. Pin the pockets half way across the leg piece(s) ensuring the top of the pocket lines up with the yoke seam, and sew to the trousers.
  7. Now stitch the CF seam from the top of the yoke to the base of the crotch, making sure to match the yoke seam.
  8. Finally stitch up the inner leg seam from one hem edge to the other in a big arch.

Pocket placement

I used a rectangular patch pocket and lined up the top with the yoke seam, and so that the pocket was half to the back and half to the front of the leg.

Patch pocket for fishmans trousers
Patch pocket

Fabric choices

The full length pair were made out of a nice, stable Dutch Wax print, that I had used before. I really like using this fabric, not least because it is printed on both sides, so it was perfect for this project, where the yoke folds down over the ties. These are comfy – ideal around-the-house pants, and fun to wear.

Thai fishermans pants in African print
Long Fishman’s pants

I was keen to see if there was a version of these trousers that could be semi-formal, and good enough to go out in. The knee length pair are made from some mid-weight grey-blue linen I got at Simply Fabrics for £5 a metre. These are dressed up, ready for work. I really like this length on me. I think they look Japanese with the waist folds. Origami – yeah.

The third pair short shorts were made from a nasty old Boden wrap around skirt I got in a charity shop. I liked the fact it was linen and the colours were pretty. I think I have used this colour way before. However I don’t think these work too well. Mainly because the big fold is so dominant with the shorter length. Because the top folds over I was forced to reverse the fabric so that the right side showed at the top. I kept the fringed edge (from the orignal skirt) but it just looks frayed. OK to wear when bathing a chocolate covered boy, but not to wear out. These will be in the Oxfam bag tomorrow.

Thai Fishermans pants as shorts
Recycled linen shorts

Developing the pattern

Since making these up in three different lengths I have been thinking of making an all in one, which might look something like this.  I like the way the fold comes across the body which is then cinched in with the wide belt. I will work on it – I like the way the pockets are embedded in the folds – and let you know how I get on.

Whistles jumpsuit
Whistles folded jumpsuit


16 Responses

  1. felicia

    You’ve beat me to this Kate! I’ve been considering a post about my two versions of Thai fisher pants, which I made by copying the original pair that I bought. Believe it or not, I made a pair in a heavy-ish wool/linen ? blend, and another pair in a lovely heavy British woolen. Would you like to see them? I could do a quick post.

  2. Anne

    These look great. I particularly like the longer length (can’t see the middle length properly) and I love the raspberry colour of your top! I do wear wide legged trousers; they’ve always been advised as good for my shape – however, I’ve simply gone off them!

    • fabrickated

      Sorry Anne, the photos are not that good. I didn’t really think I could wear a wide leg but I feel really nice in them and I think the wider legged shorts make the calves look very slim!

  3. Stephanie

    Love the middle look in the grey-blue linen and of course the adorable baby in the third shot! The bottom origami jumpsuit is different and cool. Can’t wait to see it.

  4. Demented Fairy

    Wow! The wife loves this style- she was given a pair by a [male] friend a couple of years ago, and I made him an improved version that fitted him better in exchange. I then made her some more out of cotton curtain lining. She wears them a lot in the summer. Being stout, they make me look like a bag of laundry…but that glamorous knee length style looks very promising- and I’ve been wondering what to do with my piece of beautiful silk/cotton chambray. Thanks Kate, inspirational as ever!

  5. The Material Lady

    The knee length looks great – the very short is still good but maybe not quite so good. I think having seen yours I will give the pattern a go. Knee length will try the style with less fabric, but I doubt I will look quite as good as you do!

  6. Jennifer Miller

    Oh, these are cute (I’ve admired Felicia’s versions in her posts, too)…think the purple print ones are my favorite length. My legs are a bit to short and my waist a bit too solid to wear them, though, darn it. That jumpsuit is tremendous!! Can’t wait to see your version.

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