The New 2008 FTL Trouser panic!


Boys grow faster than a speeding weed!  This one also grows in the spring, just like a weed!  Once more we have a week until Scout Camp, several summer outings to cater for, and at the end of June, a trip to an outdoor pursuits centre for a week in Soustons, close to Biarritz!

I'd just finished off the latest round of Chocolate Box Soldier kids, taken Monday off for a break, and the place was NOT in a good state...


Day One

Firstly, the cutting slabs were covered in STUFF, the result of husband Alan and I attempting to revive a couple of moribund sewing machines...  The green one is now working, but the other still needs fettling.  But that was some mess, so the first thing I did after taking a look was go and make some coffee...




Only then could I face it... I reduced the heap to a bag of stuff to take up to the sewing room and put away, the oil and grease that I don't want getting on the sewing, and a box of paper for recycling...  Then the cutting slab was ready for work!


I then made an expedition to the far corners of the stash...  I knew that somewhere in the 56 crates of stuff I have in the loft would be what I had in mind...


Some of these have been in my loft a looooong time, and I'm not sure what they are, exactly...

1: Slightly sueded poly fabric I got from Croft Mill (alas!  No more... ).  It's what we used to call 'jungle bunny green' in the RAF.  I think they call it Olive Drab or something in the USA.  It's a sort of dark olive green, about the colour of old plain jungle camo uniforms, but definitely an up-to-date fabric.  It may be uniform surplice fabric.  I got it for £1 a metre for making toiles, but it's way too good for that!  I bought 10m and have made one skirt out of it so far.  Trousers for a growing lad seem like a suitable use for a bit more.

2: 12oz 100% cotton drill standard camo pattern.  Realy humpty stuff, this...  I hope it softens up a bit on washing, as right now you could build castles out of it!

3: Stone coloured poly something-or-other that I think may be showerproof...  It's part of a parcel of water proof/shower proof fabrics I got years ago from good old Croft Mill...

4: Some very similar 'manly lilac' stuff - part of the same bundle as the stone.  I called it 'manly lilac' because it's a sort of lilac with a hint of muck in it.  James hates the colour, but realizes that it'll be just fine for wet activities at camp!

5: Boring poly-cotton twill trouser fabric!  Not quite school grey, but heading that way...  I made an Aragorn cloak out of it 3 or so years ago, but there's enough left for a pair of shorts.  Another Croft Mill special, from one of their Buy One, Get One Free bundles of 5 skirt lengths.  I am REALLY gonna miss Croft Mill!

6: Some rather special cotton and Lycra light camo in a nice lightish weight.  James has elected to make a pair out of this, and hopes there's enough for two pairs.  It was £2.50 a metre from a place new to me called Fabric UK.  Service was fast and the fabric is excellent, so I shall use them again.


Next thing to find was the patterns...  I had three left from last year, but James did want something different as well, so I've sent for a couple more.


These are the ones we have:

Last year's jeans pattern is too small, but I appear to have another, so if he wants jeans again, we are OK.  Meanwhile, the pull-on pattern for father & son will get used for a couple of pairs, and the shorts part of the Kwik Sew zippy-off's will be used.

Before he left for school, we had a sneaky look at some patterns, and James chose one.  I ordered two, from The World of Fashion -

8236     and 7768  

I thought 8236 would make up quite nicely in the stone stuff.  James thought he might like to make 7768 in the shorter length as 'Shorter legs is less sewing!'  BOYS!  AARRGGHH! 

The next  phase was to cut out some trousers...

I layered up the jungle poly and the very humpty camo, checked the pattern length against last years britches, and took a bit out of the body and added some to the legs...  James likes his trousers lower slung than the patterns call for, and is short in the rise for his height, as we discovered last year.  But he needs the extra leg length...  No-one is ever standard out-of-the-packet pattern size, and this pattern seems to have been drafted for wide gorillas!  If that bloke on the Butterick pattern envelope is wearing these as per the pattern, he's 5'2" with short legs!  In James's size, the length given would be short on me, and I'm only 5'4" with short legs.  James, at almost 5'10"  is, at 13, the height of the average European male...  OK, grumble over, but you see why I want Tailor Made from Wild Ginger!


The 4 layers of fabric proved too much for my little paws, even using the heavy duty scissors, so I fetched out the rotary cutter and mats and leaned hard!  I'm OK on the straight with the ruler, but cutting curves more or less free-hand is a skill I need more practice with!  Still, it was a lot quicker and easier than cutting them out separately with the scissors!



Right...  Two pairs cut and ready to sew!  I need to remember to put the pockets in properly this year!  Last year I got in too much of a hurry and managed to sew one pocket into the hem of one leg, upside down!  I hate unpicking...

Next I looked at the 'manly lilac' and thought 'Shorts!'  With a bit of judicious fiddling, giving each pair only ONE back pocket, and cutting the pockets sideways, I managed to get two pairs out of the one bit of fabric, and get them 3" longer than the pattern!


The bits left after cutting the waistband strips were turned into belt loops, and nothing got wasted.  This is ALL the left over fabric!


With hands tingling from all the cutting, I took a break and looked at the sewing room...


This time it was a pot of tea that got me through it!

It looked a lot better an hour or two later!  In fact, it's all ready for sewing in the morning!


At this point I'd had enough for one day: a friend had come for dinner, and James and I had a date later with some hair clippers and the last of the current series of Waking The Dead.


They do say that every project is 75% preparation and 25% sewing.  Does that include the tidying up?  I'm comforted when I see the heap other's sewing paces can turn into.  At least I know I'm not alone!

Day Two

They say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions...  Mine seems to be paved with fabric!

This morning started with filling the iron up and switching it on to work up a head of steam while I cut out the interfacing.  This one is a light weight translucent stretch knit interfacing that is very light and ideally suited to knits, stretch fabrics, and light weight fabrics.  I have no idea what is is other than an industry special!  One of Croft Mills factory closure buy-ups.  I shall really miss that place!  This cost me about 50p a metre, and the only stuff I've ever seen that comes close costs ten times that!  I shall be really sad when it's all gone.

I like cutting this sort of bit with the rotary cutter: it saves a great deal of time and effort on my part, and helps preserve my fingers for the actual sewing.  Some days sewing with fibromyalgia ain't no joke! 


Once all the bits were cut, they needed to be fused.  I covered the ironing board with a bit of butter muslin to protect it from glue overspill, and laid everything out on top so I could fuse with minimum movement.  I used a couple of mesh pressing cloths on top: these are great for this sort of use, as you can see what you are doing better than with a solid cloth, but it still protects the fabric from the iron and the iron from the glue!  Any glue that gets on the cloth just washes off easily. 


Soap-Box Moment!

Something a lot of kids and less experienced folk find is that 'iron-on' interfacing doesn't!  They tend to give it a quick swipe and expect it to stick...  I always refer to it as 'fusible' rather than 'iron-on', and give it a bit of welly!  You need quite a hot iron, a cloth to protect the fabric, either lots of steam or a damp pressing cloth, and time!  Depending on the type of fusible and the cloth you are fusing it to, you need to allow between 12 and 20 seconds per iron-sized area.  This being light weight interfacing and light weight poly fabric, I found that the middle steam setting on the steam generator iron and the lower end of the steam heat setting allowed this to fuse firmly in 12 seconds.  You need to experiment a bit with the different types of fabric and fusible, and remember that every iron is different.

OK, now for some sewing - AT LAST!

Why is it that when you are sewing on a limited timetable and have no transport, despite having HUNDREDS of reels and cops and cones of thread, NOTHING MATCHES the fabric you want to sew?  Well, it wasn't quite that bad, but I did have to compromise...  I found three 'good enough' cops and one 'almost right' cop in the poly thread store, so they went on the Bernina serger, with the almost right thread in the left needle.  I also found 2 cops of something that's almost perfect for the plain jungle fabric, but I think may be polycore...  That was in the cotton thread store, but it looks and feels like some from the same source that I know is polycore.  As it's being used for top stitching mostly, I'll risk it...


First the pocket flaps get stitched, turned, top-stitched and serged along the raw edge.  Next the side pockets are serged on, the patch pocket tops get done, and then the crotch and bum seams seams get serged.  They get top-stitched before going on to do anything else.  I was quite pleased with the way I got the serger round the sharp pocket corners when I did the side seams.  Strategic points like the top and bottom of the pocket openings get bar-tacked.  There is no fine or couture finish on these trousers!  We are going for strength, washability and durability.

After hammered in poppers failed on another pair of trousers last year, this lot are getting Velcro!  Last year's pull-ons got a single central Velcro patch, but here I've gone for two as the single patch wasn't as secure as I'd hoped.  Velcro is almost always a pig to sew.   This all went on perfectly except for one side of one patch!  NNNgggg!

As we stand tonight, I have crotch and outer seams sewn, in-seam pockets in, waists stitched to the point where I insert the elastic, and patch pockets stitched on the plain trousers.  The camo ones have all done this far except sewing the patch pockets on.  Tomorrow I have one set of patch pockets to sew on, the hems and the inseam to sew, and to finish off the waists with their elastic.  I've tried really hard to get pix of details of the plain trousers, but that fabric seems to fool the camera every time, and I'm getting LOTS of fuzzy pix!   We may have to do most of the detail pix on the camo trousers.  I'll see if Alan can get better pictures tomorrow, with the Canon camera.


Day Three

This began well, and lots of progress was made in several directions.  Then James threw a spanner in the works!  Boys,  huh?  Gotta love 'em!


I started off by getting the jungle and camo britches as finished as possible.  The pockets went on fine, and the the flaps, despite there being 9 layers of tough fabric plus the serging to go over, were no bother at all.  I just increased the foot pressure and let Lily get her teeth into it!  I didn't even need the hump jumper, which was good, because at the point I thought I might need it, it was still in the bits box, under a pile of trouser!


Once the pockets were all done I could neaten the hem edge and serge up the inseam.  Then there was only the waistband to do...  After stitching it down, leaving the gap at the central front for inserting the elastic, I dug the elastic stash out and 'auditioned' several for width and strength.  This was then inserted and the ends pinned in place.  When James came home, I adjusted it for length.  I shall stitch it in place later, and check the length for the hems.  These will end up with a flat non-elasticated front section, between the pockets, and elastic round the back.  More comfortable than elastic all round.  About 10 minutes work left on each pair.  Meanwhile  I changed the threads on both machines, and decided to get on with the red zippy-offs that have been hanging round since last year!

According to most book and pattern instructions, I make trousers the wrong way round!  I like to do the fly first, as it's easier to manipulate those awkward bits when you can flatten it out and the isn't the extra weight of the back of the britches hanging off them.  Also, 99% of the time it isn't the zip seam that needs altering at the fitting stage, and if I have anyone that awkward to fit, I make a toile and sort out the zip area angles before making a pair with a zip in!  So, fly first!  And I put in a bartack at the bottom, as I know what he's like...



Once that was done, there were the front pockets.  I cheated on this!  The fabric doesn't press creases in very well, so rather than struggle with the pocket turnings, I used Wonder Tape and glued them down!  Any stiffness will wash out first time they hit the washer...


Next it was the turn of the back pocket...  This is a faced item with a zip.  I first used an appliqué stitch to secure the bottom edge of the fused interfacing, and then applied the pocket to the seat of the trousers.  Once turned through, the zip is put on the back and the the pocket sides serged closed.  This makes a nice strong pocket with the top edge sewn into the waistband for extra security.


At this point, things ground to a halt.  I think these red britches are doomed!  James came in from school and tried on the jungle and camo trousers and I got the elastic sorted, but there was red thread in the machine, so they were set aside.  The lad then put in a Special Request for ME to do the light camo cut-offs with the new Burda pattern, as he was going to Lazer Planet with a bunch of friends on Saturday as a birthday celebration!  What with that, swimming Sunday morning, and also having to pack for camp by Tuesday night (they set off for Longridge at 9am on Wednesday), he wasn't going to have time, but he would do his best to make the stone fabric into the other pair of cut-offs...

Now I'm a hard, cruel mamma, me...  But even I cannot withstand the big soulful pleading blue eyes and the dimples!  So once more we change partners and dance the Great FTL  Trouser Dance!


Day Four

I'm beginning to think I should never have taken Monday off...


I started at 9:30, and by 11:00 I'd got them cut out, mostly.  Need to go quarrying through the stash for some 'lining' canvas...  It wasn't all plain sailing.

First remove cat from cutting mat.

Then remove cat's sister from cutting mat...

Then lay out pattern and remove cat!

Finally!  Ready to cut out the cut-offs!  Most bits got rotary cut again, and I saved some time by not cutting the pattern out fully.  Normally I'd trace off the size needed, preserving the pattern for use again, but this time speed is of the essence, so if he wants them again next year and has grown out as well as up, we'll re-buy and give ourselves a lot more time!

OK, having persuaded the cats to loll about outside in the sun, I could get on.  Again, the rotary cutter came to the fore and speeded things up.  Once I got on to the sewing, things were pretty straight forward, though with all the pockets on this pattern, and the pocket placement, keeping all the bits and stages in order was a certain kinda fun!

First the back pockets were assembled...  These are rather posh pockets with welts and a flap!  And because all the welt turnings are not hidden neatly inside a lining, I needed to clean finish the welt edges.  It's amazing where you can get a serger when you try!


Then I made up the round patch pockets.  Once more the Wonder tape helped!  And this one has one welt and one faced edge.  Once again, the exposed welt edges were serged.  This pocket is partly sewn on top of a traditional slanted trouser pocket on an internal yoke!


The slanted pocket on the yoke is a fairly traditional construction.  The fun bit was applying that patch pocket on top once the side seam was completed!  The pocket wraps round onto the back leg...  Keeping the layers separate for sewing it on properly was certainly entertaining.


Once the legs and pockets were assembled, I did my usual thing of completing the flay as a flat construction exercise.



At this point, the day was more or less finished and I had a date with the local swimming pool.  James went swimming with the Scouts.


Day 5

After yesterday it was just a matter of sewing the bum seam, the inseam, putting the belt loops and the hook on the front and turning up the hems.  I managed that in plenty of time for taking him to Laser Planet to celebrate his friends' birthday, along with his usual gang of friends.


I think they came out OK.   Mind you, there were some aspects f this exercise I wouldn't recommend...  While using the button reed/hump jumper to make doing the belt loops easier, I managed to reverse into it a couple or three times.  It didn't do my machine or the size 90 Jeans needle I was using any harm, but it did damage the gadget!  Luckily I know this neat fingered bloke will all sorts of fillers and glues for plastics.  The up side of living with a manic model maker!  The last picture is the mended item.


Persuading James to let me takes photos of the trousers on him required Mum's Finest Threat!


With a bit of luck I can now do the last bits of the first two pairs of trousers, and complete the red zippy-offs!  Tomorrow afternoon James can get busy on the stone cut-offs, and I can sew up the Many Lilac shorts!  Mind you, they are the ones for which I need to find thread...


Day 6


This was Sunday, and nothing ever goes as it should on a Sunday...

Still, by mid afternoon James had cut out his stone cut-offs and was sewing them up.  He'd also decided that he liked the lighter camo that I'd made the first pair of cut-offs from enough that if I possibly could, would I please make another pair of pull-ons out of what was left rather than complete the red zippy-offs or the shorts, as he thought they might be better for this week: the weather wasn't predicted to be shorts weather...  This seemed reasonable, so I squeezed a last pair of pull-ons out of the last bit of the light camo, and we have shelved the shorts until after he's back and we'll do them for Soustons at the end of June...

First the two darker pairs of pull-ons were completed:

 The pictures are not very good as I was having trouble with the camera batteries and it wouldn't focus properly.  Never mind!  The ones of James sewing came out better!  I didn't have time for many, but I was very pleased with his top-stitching on the seams.

Day 7: Bank Holiday Monday...


Those of us who work at and from home rarely get Bank Holidays off!  Never mind.  James got the cut-offs completed, I finished the pull-ons, and we got a pile of kit tagged with Cash's name tapes!  James did well putting quite a few of those in...  We even had time to experiment with a picture on a T shirt!

The pockets  on this pair were different, in that James wanted a deeper patch pocket with a zip.


Day 8: The Last Day!

   ...And almost the last straw!

Tuesday ended up busier than we expected.  We knew we needed to go and do some shopping for things like torch batteries, a supply of comestibles such as chocolate, and one or two other bits.  We also needed to get into school to see if James's PE kit (which he seems to have abandoned somewhere), along with his trainers, had surfaced...  No.  If they don't turn up next Monday, he'll be buying the replacements himself...

We also needed to complete the name-tags, get his kit packed, and glue the insoles back into his wet shoes.  It felt like a minor miracle, but we did it!  I even managed to make a drawstring back-pack type bag out of some of the jungle poly to replace the one missing along with the PE kit that went AWOL!  I'll take a picture of that when it gets back!


In the end, the total score was:


1 pair Jungle green pull-ons

1 pair dark camo pull-ons

1 pair light camo pull-ons

1 pair light camo cut-offs

1 pair stone cut-offs

1 drawstring back-pack

To finish:

1 pair red zippy-offs

2 pairs manly lilac shorts

He's more likely to need the shorts in June in Biarritz than in the UK in May, but I should have time to complete them.  I'll add them to the page as they get done.



All the shorts and trousers were completed, and worn.  It's now the end of February 2009, and whether any of them STILL fit is a matter for conjecture...