Monday, September 3, 2012

le beau thurlow

When I was around the terrible age of 13, pants suddenly fit me strangely. Shopping for jeans was a nightmare, especially because I was still shopping the Juniors' section where everything was super low-rise and super flared (note: this was circa 2000). I didn't know what was going on until I realized... I had hips. Where did those come from? I still had a small waist so I felt like I was growing out of whack. I was sure I was the only sad little adolescent in the world experiencing this problem where I couldn't find anything that fit my legs AND my waist. 

Of course, after that, nothing ever changed about my body type -- not even the year I spent as a gym rat trying to burn up my thighs with vigorous squats and lunges. Sorry charlie. But guess what is different now? I can SEW, y'all.

Enter my saving grace: the Sewaholic Thurlow Trouser pattern. Drafted especially for those with small waists and fuller hips. Thank you, genius woman.

I truly can't believe I did it. I made legit pants! That I can wear in public! I am purty proud of myself. I bought this pattern immediately upon release, but totally bombed my first attempt. I threw the muslin and all the loose pattern pieces into a box and nearly admitted defeat. But I started thinking about the pattern again in these last few weeks. Where I work now is slightly more casual than where I used to work, and walking is a bigger part of my daily commute, so all this affects how I think about what clothing to wear and sew. I decided I needed another pair of neutral trousers to add to my minuscule collection of one. So after a second round of Thurlow practice with a thrifted curtain, I finally felt confident enough to make the real deal.

The fabric is some drapey rayon blend charcoal gray suiting I found on eBay. I love rayon with all my heart, despite its tendency to wrinkle like krazy.

So I know I seem pretty happy with the end result here, but I'm not going to completely sugar-coat this pattern review. I actually had a number of problems with the instructions. I want to warn other trouser newbies that this Thurlow pattern will try to flirt with you but it will NOT hold your hand. Some of the illustrations and instructions were simply not informative enough. I scribbled questions all over the instruction sheet and had to answer them through trial and error, which was frustrating and sometimes a waste of time. This was disappointing because most of the bloggers who have made this pattern raved about the clear instructions for the welt pockets and zip fly. I'll interrupt the Sewaholic love fest just to say that NOPE -- for some of us, 'tis a bit o' a struggle.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about:

Gotta love how Step 6 is, in fact, six steps. It makes sense NOW but when I first looked at it, I couldn't get over how those drawings were so tiny and lacked any helpful detail. Like, why is it hiding the welt pocket? I wanna see how the front is supposed to look, too! I also had issues throughout the rest of the pattern where I couldn't tell whether I should be using the right side or the wrong side of the lining fabric.  This wasn't a huge deal, but in my practice welt pockets I sewed the pocket facing on backwards because of this. Am I really the only one who had these kinds of issues?

I eventually figured everything out. I mean, I love puzzles so I actually enjoyed the process of piecing all the mysterious parts together until it made sense. I knew it was worth it, and the result looks pretty professional.

You'll notice here that I didn't even add the back welt pockets on my final version. I wasn't cheating on technique, but it was a style decision. I practiced the Thurlow welt pockets a few times but I thought they were too wide and looked like droopy eyelids. As a general rule for my fitted or lightweight pants, I don't like any pockets at all. They add texture (pocket wrinkles) and volume where texture and volume should not go.

Speaking of, I actually chopped off the front pocket bags after taking initial photos of my finished pants and realizing how frumpy the pockets looked. Here's what they looked like before and after doing so. It instantly made them look more dressy, imo:

The colors are off, but those are the same pants! I even used thin slippery polyester for the pockets, but I guess with the serged edges it just bulked up under this material. I'll definitely make faux pockets on my next pair.

Some other changes I made: 1) Nixed the belt loops, because the waist actually fits so why would I need a belt? and 2) Narrowed the flare by about 1" per leg. And note that these pants are drafted pretty long. I hemmed mine an extra inch than it calls for (I'm 5'7" btw).

So. Thurlow a go-go. I'm pretty thrilled that these basically fit me right out of the envelope, and I finally have pants that don't gape in the back when I sit. Have you discovered a great pattern that solves your age-old shopping woes, pants or otherwise?