Thursday, June 19, 2014

Nautical Thurlows

"Nautical" is one of those words that gets tossed around so much, it's almost meaningless, and I kind of hate myself for even using it. In the sewing world, anything navy and white with gold accents seems to fit the bill. So "Nautical Thurlows" it is, even though I doubt they'll be on a boat any time soon.

These shorts are part of my Wardrobe Architect plans, as they fit my color scheme and my silhouettes. They fulfill my loose pledge to make more pants. And they almost didn't make it out of the UFO pile hidden behind lots of respectable sewing books.

I don't think you can see anything amiss with the two above photos, which is good. The detail shots will reveal plenty of flaws, but the reason these ended up angrily wadded in a ball was originally due to fit. I made my first pair of Thurlows this time last year, and since they still fit I decided to make the same size again. I glibly disregarded the fact that the first pair was made with a lightweight stretch denim instead of a heavy twill, and ignored the 15 lbs. I've put on since last year. I went back to the less-than-a-size-0 pattern pieces and cut away, figuring that if I needed any wiggle room I could take it from center-back as the pattern intends (more on my pattern changes from last year here).

Starting to look a bit questionable...

If you're familiar with this pattern, then you know that Sewaholic provides what's called a "center back extension" which allows for a customizable fit.

Center-back extension

When I got to the point where I could try these on and determine where to sew the center-back seam, it was quite ugly. They were WAY too tight around the waist and in the thighs. Much cursing and angry accusations followed. I asked my husband what to do and he wisely told me to put them aside and come back later.

The pockets aren't level with the ground.

A few weeks went by and these babies came back out. I'd had time to mentally process the extra weight that a life without breastfeeding has afforded me (seriously, I lost a lot of weight after giving birth solely due to nursing) and was no longer so emotional about fitting them. Miraculously, they fit much better. I have a sneaky suspicion that the first fitting was thwarted by a certain weight-inflating time of the month. Could this paragraph be any more TMI?

Anyway, I got the shorts finished and wore them out and about, and they're great! Very comfy, not too tight, and with a long shirt I'm able to ignore the flaws that abound in the fly and front closures. I never wear a tucked-in shirt, so I can easily hide the waistband issues. I love the cuffs, the piping I added to the pockets, and the gold topstitching. It helps to focus on those positives instead of the negatives.

Piping, topstitching


I even matched the stripes so well at the sides that you can't see the seams.

Inseam. Can you find the seam?

One negative that I can easily ignore, because it's behind me, is the patch pockets. I added them so that the stripes would match up, however that's not exactly level with the ground. Consequently, they look tilted. I was VERY frustrated when I realized what I'd done, but the only solution to correct the tilt was to misalign the stripes. A rock and a hard place, I tell ya what. However, now I know what to avoid if I ever make another pair of striped shorts. I should have cut them on the bias or just stuck with welt pockets as the pattern directs. I wanted these to be more casual which is why I went with patch pockets.

The outside row of topstitching is done with a triple stitch.

And since I have too many photos and too much to say, how about a photo dump with captions?

Center-back seam. Chevrons on my butt!

I added a jeans button instead of a bar hook and eye.
Here you can also see the waistband is two
different sizes where it overlaps.

This only required a hammer to install. Tutorial video here.
Jean tack from Wawak.

I had to hand-sew the buttonhole for the jeans button.
It looks terrible. This is WITH Fray Check.

Back of the terrible buttonhole.

This is a heavy-duty zipper and the pull tab is way too big
for how these pants are designed. Use a regular zipper!

Belt loops are easy with a coverstitch machine!

Inside view, front

Inside view, back

Please note, the inside of the shorts is not supposed to look like my photos. The waistband facing should fold down all the way around. I have no idea why, but I could NOT get these to fit right unless I sewed them "incorrectly". Check Lauren's sewalong if you want to see what I'm talking about.

Speaking of Lauren's sewalong, I could not have sewn these shorts without it. Not last year, OR this year. Time to be blunt. I hate the Sewaholic directions with this pattern. Last year, I thought it was just me, my inexperience with pants, and that if I knew what I was doing the instructions would be sufficient. At this point, I have to say that it can't JUST be me. I've already made these once, yet I was still often confused unless I consulted the sewalong. Is the pattern nicely drafted, does it produce a great result? Yes. But you're going to need to know what you're doing, or consult some other resources.

I broke about 3 needles sewing these shorts, so I seriously need to re-evaluate my machine's ability to sew jeans/denim/twills. I had to hand-crank almost all of the topstitching. I've only had my machine for 2 years, and I like it a lot, so it bums me out to think about getting another one just for heavier fabrics. And because I haven't mentioned it yet, this fabric is a cotton twill from Mood, and the lining fabric is a quilting cotton from Blue Hill featuring elephants playing croquet (available in multiple colorways, here). It's left over from this dress for AB and it's so stinking adorable. The twill felt like cardboard when it arrived, but with a wash it softened considerably.

Despite their flaws, I like these shorts better than my coral ones from last year, and it feels awesome to have made pants that fit into my capsule wardrobe. I thought I was DONE with this pattern, but today I found myself daydreaming about making it again. Better the devil you know than the one you don't, especially with pants. Although I wouldn't mind getting my mitts on the new Jennifer City Shorts pattern by Style Arc...


  1. I've made Thurlows once. I had such a hell of a time with fit that I probably won't be making them again. (I'm still not happy with the overall fit). I just finished Grainline's Maritime shorts and that pattern is the shizz. I did incorporate the cb extension into the Maritimes. I like that I can let out (or preferrably in) if needed. You reminded me that I have two twills in my stash that I was just wondering what to do with. Shorts it is!

    1. I've considered the Maritime shorts but I'd like something with a lower rise. I'm totally out of fashion, I guess, but I can't stand pants that come near my belly button, much less over it like a high-waisted pant!

  2. They look great. The pockets = designer detail :-D


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