Monday, 25 May 2009

Making My Six trousers - part one

As you may know, I am making a pair of Six trousers, essential to get some practice before embarking on my Tennant suit trousers, but also for a little fun.

The pattern I am using is from Laughing Moon Mercantile, and are a replica of a mid to late 19th Century design. 
They are high waisted, intended to be held up with braces (as Colin Baker’s costume, see below) and have a button fly as well as a braced strapped back with hip pockets.

Most of these features match the trousers Colin Baker wore, however there are a couple of things that would need to be altered to make them more screen accurate: the pockets have horizontal entry where they should be vertical; the fly should be zipped not button; the waist-band needs to be narrower; and the back should not be split.

For once this is not about making a 100% screen accurate garment.
The purposes of this exercise is to test my ability to follow a commercial design rather than designing my own, so I intend adhering to the letter of the pattern throughout.

I have also never worked with anything other than a plain fabric, so I am learning skills of more accurate cutting and lining up pinstripes, something I will need to master before the Tennant suit.

I begin by cutting all the pieces I will need. 
It is really important to match the pinstripes up and make sure the trousers have perfect symmetry.
To to help you do this, the patter has a grain line marked on all pieces, which I line up (below left). Once I cut one side, I then flip the cut fabric over and line it up all round with the pinstripes of the fabric I am then going to cut. I can then easily cut a perfect mirror of all necessarily pieces (below right).

First thing to stitch are the front pockets. The pocket bags are oval in shape with a flat top, divided horizontally with fabric facing above and pocketing material below (see below top left).
I am not a very good hand-stitcher, so I slightly simplified the pattern to just be a straight divide between fabric and pocket lining, cheating I know.

This is then set about 1.5 inches in from the corners of the trouser fronts (see below top right). The seam allowance is then heavily cut back and clipped at the ends of the stitching line, then turned right side out and pressed (see below bottom left).

The proper instructions for this section are shown right – click to enlarge.

The pocket bag is then folded back in half and stitched along the bottom cresent, making a segment shaped pocket (see above bottom right).
When I folded the pocket back I found that by just folding a little further than indicated I could get the pinstripes to line up between the back of the pocket and the trouser fronts, something I will bear in mind when I am doing the Tennant Suit.

I then need to add some reinforcing stitching at the ends of the pocket fronts where they will get stretched and pulled. To do this I use, of all things, my buttonholer attachment (see right).
All aspects of the buttonhole are adjustable using various sliders and gauges, and it is possible to ‘collapse’ the buttonhole down on itself so it becomes a single row of zig-zag stitch. This make perfect reinforcing stitching.

Next to make up is the right fly front which has a single buttonhole at the top. It will later have a row of buttons down its height (see above left).

The left fly front is a panel which receives these buttons (see above right). The buttonholes are enclosed and this is sew into the left side of the fly.

The proper instructions for this section are shown right – click to enlarge.

I am using some medium weight calico for the lining, as this is off-white in colour and looks more period for late 19th Century.

(Seen left I have lain the two fronts together to show how they work, though they are not sewn at this stage.)

I then put these fronts to one side for now and turn attention to the backs of the trousers.

The backs have small darts at the top from the waistline to the back pockets. This is the same as the GAP trousers I need to match for the suit. 

Next to do are the back pockets. This is a good opportunity to do a dry-run, so I will follow the design of the GAP trousers rather than the pattern. This will be the only time I intend diverging from the pattern.
I cut welt strips (narrower than I usually do) and make a long narrow strip by folding a length of fabric a couple of times over to hide the raw edge then sew it together with a single line of stitch. This will form the loops that the pockets button with (see below top left).
I do a classic welted pocket, by sewing the two welts close to each other, upside down (see below top right). I am conscious I need to make it more delicate and lighter than I have historically done, as I am used to doing heavy coat pockets before.

I then carefully cut between the welts (see above bottom left) and cut the ends of the slit to a Y shape ending as close to the stitching lines as I dare (see above bottom right).
When the welts are turned to the back the pocket magically comes together.
I then add the pocket bag between the welts and sew the vertical sides (see below left).
When I sew the pocket backing to the top welt, I firmly pin and sew the button loops in place (see below right).

Pretty happy with the way that came out. They look nice and sharp and aren’t too heavy.

That’s enough for now, so I will finish them off in a couple of days.
The images of the pattern instructions are reproduced with kind permission of Laughing Moon Mercantile.
I wish to thank them for agree for their use and for making such a great pattern available for sale.

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