Bottom, buttocks, harris, backside, booty…whatever you call it we’ve all got one. Me, I’ve got a fairly ample one, and let’s just say I’d rather be stuck in a lift with (insert your own appropriately hideous idea here) than go shopping for trousers or jeans. I hate it! I have wide hips, more than my fair share of thigh and a comparatively small waist and I can never find trousers to fit any more. If they fit round the waist, they cut off the circulation through the thighs and if they fit there then you can normally fit another person in the waistband as it’ll gape so much.
The above trouser terrors are the reason I hadn’t attempted to make them on my own up to this point. I know on paper they look fairly simple but getting them fitting well enough to wear in public was another matter entirely. I’m going to say now that I’m probably going to use the word “fit” and “fitting” another three hundred times in the post so you have been warned! It’s such an important part of sewing and unfortunately the part I struggle with most.
Needless to say when Sew Over It had their Ultimate Trousers course with 20% off and my sister-in-law suggested we go, I jumped at the chance. Even better when most of it was paid for for my birthday, I know I’m a lucky lady!
Full of excitement we headed up to the Sew Over It Clapham store on the first Saturday in October. We were so excited in fact that we arrived 45 minutes before it opened and ended up sitting in a cafe a few doors down.
The shop isn’t huge but like many of the other ladies, we spent the first 10 minutes oohing and aahing over all the lovely fabric before we went downstairs to start the workshop. The work space is laid out very nicely, despite being in the basement it is very light and nicely decorated, just a really lovely space to work in, even with seven of us there.
The day started with everyone writing their name badges, there was a real mix of ladies, completely different ages, sizes and backgrounds. One of the highlights of the day was getting to spend it with other like minded sewing lovers and getting to chat over tea and cakes whilst creating our trousers.
The other highlight was most definitely the teacher, Julie Johnston. Julie was so patient, helpful and knowledgeable, I could’ve spent all day happily chatting to her and picking her brains on her years of dressmaking experience. Honestly, she was so lovely, at one point we all said we’d like to take her home with us and have her as our live-in sewing guru!
Julie started by explaining the pattern to us all. The Ultimate Trousers are simple cropped fitted trousers with just four pieces plus a waist facing and invisible side zip. Everyone then got to try on calico toiles pre-made to the pattern sizes. A really fab idea, although the bit that I had been most nervous about. I knew from the pattern that I was right on the cusp for the hip measurements so had emailed in beforehand. I was quite depressed when I tried on a size 20 and it didn’t quite go over my hips. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a size 20, but I wear size 16 RTW so it was a bit of a shock to suddenly find myself two sizes bigger. I was reassured by the fact that everyone in the class seemed to be running two sizes bigger than usual, including a few of the very slim size 8/10’s who were sizes up into 12/14’s and there were two other ladies also at the top end of the pattern sizing. Once I’d got over that dent in my self image, we got on with cutting out our patterns and laying out our fabric. For those of us with ample derrières or wider hips, Julie talked us through grading up the pattern in places which was fascinating.
First learning curve of the day was actually just cutting the fabric out! I never actually use scissors as I swear by my cutting mat and rotary blade at home. I do have some lovely fabric scissors, I just never use them! It was surprisingly easy to cut all the pieces out, and nice to hear the satisfying sound of the scissors. Julie also chided me into checking my grainlines properly, something which I’m really lazy with as home as I’m so focused on using as little fabric as possible – that’s probably part of some of my fit issues!
Next came the bit almost everyone seemed to be dying to get to, using the overlockers. After a quick demo from Julie we ran the edges of all our pieces through the overlocker and cooed at our lovely finished edges. It was at that point I vowed I’d not be sewing without one for much longer!
The shop has lovely digital Janome machines for everyone to use, and it was interesting to sew with something different to my beloved Brother machine. There was plenty of tea and cake throughout the day and people popped out for lunch when they felt like it, so it was very relaxed. I loved seeing everyone else’s fabric choices and seeing their trousers come together.
Everyone got to the fitting stage at roughly the same time which was great but meant Julie was incredibly busy! I was quite taken aback when I tried mine on as they felt and looked like clown trousers they were so baggy! Luckily Julie and lots of pins saved the day. As Julie pointed out, it is better to take in than not be able to let out, so for initial pattern fitting it is better to err on the side of caution. I have a very pronounced hip curve so the widest part of me is actually only about an inch in length but if we hadn’t made the pattern that wide, I wouldn’t have been able to get them on. All the other parts of me had to be pinned in, which I think you can see more easily from the pattern pieces below. The pink crosses are what was pinned and removed and I transferred everything back to the pattern paper so I could make sure I got future versions right. This was so useful, it probably makes me sound really silly but most of the time I bother to make a toile, which is quite rare anyway, I make a note of what changes I’ve made but don’t mark them on the pattern pieces – I have definitely learnt my lesson now!
Julie showed everyone how to fit the zip, and again taught me that the quick way really isn’t best (are you getting the impression I am a lazy sewist?!) and there’s a reason you’re supposed to iron out your invisible zip and sew up the seam after insertion to avoid any lumps and bumps. She also demonstrated how to draft your facings from the pattern as not one single person had the pattern cut as is, which just goes to show how rare it is to have a pattern fit straight out the packet.
When it got to 5pm, when the class was due to end we were all still beavering away! With lots of fitting issues across the board it had been quite an demanding class and meant that Julie’s time had really been spread around, meaning a lot of us left with trousers not quite complete but knew what we were doing to get them finished. It had actually been quite intense being in the class room for eight hours so I was quite happy to put my trousers away for the evening and head for wine!
The next day I was determined to get them finished so that I could transfer all my changes to the pattern and not forget anything I’d learnt. I spent another couple of hours getting the fit just right, namely fiddling with the crotch which was far too low and trying not to stab myself in unfortunate places! Those adjustments made a big difference and I was finally happy with my trews!
The fabric I used was a cheap linen style, which had no stretch but unfortunately quite a lot of give. Ideal for nice loose fitting summer trousers but not the close fit I was looking for – lets just say after a day’s wear I looked like I’d borrowed those clown trousers again! Still that was the fabric, not the pattern and I’ve since made some more lovely pairs which I’ll share another time.
To sum up this very long post (thanks for sticking with it) I had a wonderful time at the Sew Over It class, I learned so much and had a fun day, and would really recommend their courses to anyone who wants to learn or just enjoys sewing with others. The pattern took quite a lot of adjustments for curves but now I’ve got it fitting well I love it and see many more pairs in my future!