Monday 30 September 2019

autumn sewing: Pietra trousers

I'm back! We had a fabulous and very chill time in France, once again managing to get through quite a lot of wine without getting drunk once even though we were in an AirBnB this time with no actual French people to supervise us. Within the past couple of months my body has suddenly and firmly decided that it can't cope with alcohol at all unless it's been properly fed, so perhaps I'm learning to be French by necessity.

Over the past year or so I've got much more into wearing trousers, but my fitting skills are still rudimentary and my shape isn't really a pattern company standard. In order to not have weird stomach things happening, I've tended to stick with wide-legged, swishy trousers which drop straight down from the waist and avoid most of the fitting issues. I really like this style and would happily just stick with it, except that it's now the end of September and British weather (aka drizzle and meh) is back in force. In such conditions, wide leg trousers are out of the question. Unless of course you like dragging through puddles and having wet trouser hems for the rest of the day, in which case get out of my office.

So I made some Closet Case Patterns Pietra pants. Let's start with the toile.

I decided to use this piece of vaguely shitty neon salmon-coloured denim to make a toile, because I couldn't imagine when else I might be able to use said vaguely shitty salmon denim and get it the hell out of my stash (I ordered it online and it claimed to be "Fire Red". Seriously). I had hoped that it would miraculously transform into a wearable pair of trousers, but nope. I don't 100% hate the way they look and I would definitely wear trousers this colour, but I haaaaate the way they feel. This fabric claims to be denim but feels like a cross between cardboard and wax. It's been through the wash twice now, so I don't think it's a treatment that's doing it. It's also incredibly quick to wrinkle and incredibly stubborn to press, which strikes me as quite unfair. After having worked with it, I upgraded it from "vaguely shitty" to "proper shitty".

These trousers are pretty similar to the Papercut Palisades. If you have the Palisades and they work for you, you almost certainly don't need these as well. I was pretty into the idea of the Palisades and I really did like them at first, but over the course of several months I started finding things that weren't quite right. I made four pairs (including one pair of shorts) and two survive, but I am very aware of twisty elastic, bulky pockets, not quite enough thigh room and an extremely unflattering midsection during times of period bloat.

Basically, these are the differences between the Pietra and the Palisades:

 - both have a similar side pocket situation, but the Pietra is a single diagonal slash made up of one pattern piece (two if you count the actual side panel itself) and the Palisades has two crossover diagonal slashes made up of three pattern pieces (four with the side panel). The latter looks cooler but is also bulkier, which is a problem in one of the pairs I made where I used a slightly heavier fabric.

- The Palisades has a full waistband (in two parts) where the Pietra only has a waistband at the back and a facing at the front. I normally really hate facings, but this one is secured in the side seam and also stitched down through all the front seams, so it actually stays in place rather than flapping around and infuriating me. It also acts as a waist stay, which is nice.

- In terms of elastic, the Palisades has a small interfaced section at the front and the rest of the waistband is elasticated. The Pietra has only the back elasticated, and proportionally it's a much smaller piece of elastic.

- The elastic on the Pietra is topstitched in place which MAKES SUCH A DIFFERENCE OMG. It looks better, the fit is closer, and it doesn't do awkward twisting things when I sit down and spread on top of it.

- In terms of fit on me personally (which may not be useful to the rest of you but is handy for me to note), the Pietra gives me a much better fit around the waist, doesn't do that weird thing over my abdomen and actually has enough room for my thighs, but I prefer the fit of the Palisades around the lower leg, and the length is a better one for me. I really dislike cropped trousers.

Having made my toile, I came to the following conclusions:

1. The waist is a really, really nice fit.
2. I would prefer slightly slimmer lower legs.
3. I could do with another inch or so added to the length in addition to the 2in I added already.
4. Holy shirtballs, this fabric is fucking terrible. I wish I could remember where I ordered it from so that I could never shop there again.

I decided I liked the pattern enough to move on to the cupro, so I did.

(Apologies for the sudden mid-shin crop - my camera battery died and I apparently knocked my tripod slightly out of position when changing it over. I didn't realise until I came to edit them.)

I'm much happier with the fit and feel of this pair. The change in fabric makes a huge difference and even though there's not much room for the cupro to drape, the fact that it could makes for a much nicer pair of trousers. Admittedly, anything would be an improvement on cardboard wax, but even if we take out the faint praise element this is very close to exactly what I wanted.

On this version I both lengthened and narrowed the lower legs. I thought I'd avoided taking any width out of the thighs, but obviously I must have because these are a tiny bit tight when I sit down. I really like this silhouette but I could have done with maybe a tiny bit less narrowing. I think as this fabric is a bit swishier I maybe didn't need to take them in as dramatically as I did. I would absolutely be tempted to make this width again in a stretch woven, though.

As the cupro is fairly lightweight, I French seamed everywhere that I could and finished the inner facing with bias binding in bright yellow. I have one giant roll of bright yellow bias binding and I use it almost every time I need to bias bind a hidden edge as it's a nice secret contrast with most of the colours I regularly use. The only colour I don't use it with is bright red as I don't fancy being a secret McDonald's logo.

This fabric is SUPER soft (I'm very strokeable, like a baby goat) but it was more annoying to sew than I'd anticipated. My seams were definitely a little bit wobbly and could probably have benefited from some form of stabilising. It also wrinkles like gangbusters, holy shit. I left the trousers on the floor one night after going to bed and in the morning there was a pile of solid wrinkle that had to be hung up in the bathroom through several days' worth of showers to look wearable again. However, this fabric is also kind of what I was hoping my purple coat would be, and I'm currently trying to talk myself out of buying a load more of it to remake that coat with. Then I could wear it with these trousers and look absolutely ridiculous (and like a harbinger of the wrinklepocalypse), but also be the softest person in the world.

I will definitely make this pattern again. I'm very excited about having narrow leg trousers that don't do that thing round my stomach. I have some weird wool mix fabric that also looks like denim, so I think I'm going to make another pair of these for a pair of autumnal fake jeans (I don't really want jeans right now, but blue denim goes with every single colour in the world for some reason, and I do want some of that).

Up next: men's shirt, round two!

Closet Case Patterns Pietra Pants

Fabric: Blue-purple cupro from Walthamstow
Cost: £7.50
Pattern details: High-waisted trousers/shorts with side leg pockets, elasticated back, and options for different lengths and widths
Size: 16 waist, 20 hips
Alterations: Lengthened and narrowed the legs on pair 2
Would make again/would recommend: Yes/Yes


  1. Congratulations on having written the best sentence I have read in a long time: "I'm very strokeable, like a baby goat." Well done.

  2. Can I just say thank you for addressing what I've started calling the "tummy issue" - I have a pronounced enough gut that I'm really gun-shy of pants that are at all fitted in the front, so it's nice to hear that you like the fit through the stomach! It's something I've been combing through blog posts for, ever since I first thought of making this pattern. These look fabulous on you, and I second the comment above on your writing the best sentence I've ever seen in a sewing blog post. :)

    1. It's the absolute bane of my life when it comes to trousers, and this is without question the best fit I've ever got straight out of the packet! It's possibly due to the very wide facing acting as a waist stay - it stops the fabric settling in under my stomach, which is what usually happens and I hate it SO MUCH. Highly recommend these for others with tummies!

  3. I like the way you made these, I love the fit - I would happily adopt the salmon ones! Thanks for a great post!