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Stepping up to the Dungaree Challenge!

Hi there! The make I want to share with you today is probably the longest running project I’ve ever had. It’s a really good example of letting one aspect of a project phase you out to the point where you become completely paralysed; have you ever felt like that?

The pattern in question is McCalls M7547, which is a pair of jeans, shortalls or dungarees with either a wide or tapered leg. I actually started work on these last year and have only just finished them.

So what was it about the pattern that caused me to have such a total flap? Trouser fitting.

For me, getting trousers that fit has been my biggest sewing challenge. It’s fair to say I’m not quite there yet either, but I am feeling quite a sense of achievement as this is the closest I’ve come and I put in a lot of work (and toiles) to get here.

I chose to make the flared leg dungarees, mostly because I fell in love with the pattern photo. That’s something that really doesn’t happen to me too often with the big pattern companies: more often I’m trying to see past the photo to the line drawings. But this time around, I loved it.

Minerva sent me the most gorgeous Black Denim Fabric to work with. I would say this is absolutely spot on for the pattern. It has zero stretch but it’s a nice, mid weight fabric; not so stiff a denim as to be uncomfortable to wear, but with enough weight to hang nicely and not cling to every lump and bump!

So, why are trousers so tricky? It seems to be my general shape which just isn’t what is drafted for. I have 12” between my waist and my hip measurement, and that is basically in my backside rather than my hips. What can you do?

Well, what I did was to start from the size 14 pattern and then carefully measure my waist and hips and compare those measurements to the pattern (taking seam allowances and darts into account). This resulted in me adding some width to the trouser back piece, grading from very little at the waist to an inch or so at the hips and then smoothing that curve back down into the leg measurement. I also added 2cm to the back rise, which I did by continuing the straight line of the centre back up by 2cm and then smoothing that down to meet the waist at the point of the dart. That gave me a little more space for my bum!

If you find you need to change the measurements around either the waist or the hips, take some time to really consider your front pocket placement. I found I had to move mine quite a bit as following the original notches made them look rather odd. I preferred moving them so that the innermost edge was parallel with the centre front.

Once I’d toiled to the point where I was happy, I got on with actually making the final pair. They actually came together quite well, although I will say I found some of the pattern instructions really hard to follow. This could partly be that I’ve become used to indie pattern designers who, in general, spend a lot of time on making really clear instructions. I find when I use the big commercial companies, I spend a fair amount of time scratching my head and holding the paper pattern pieces against each other to see how they fit.

The main area where this shows is in my waistband. I lined it up beautifully and got all the notches matching; however, I managed to sew it on upside down! The dungarees fasten with a zip down the side seam topped with a jeans button; my error means that the end of the waistband overlaps onto the front of the trousers rather than the back. It’s not a massive problem, I think it’s just the perfectionist in me that would prefer it to be RIGHT.

I also had a few issues getting the area where the straps join to the back right. In the end, when I compared paper pieces, I couldn’t see how it could ever line up as described in the instructions. In all honesty, this could just be because I’d reached exhaustion point with the project by then, but I just did the best job I could to get everything lined up nicely and then moved on.

One thing indie patterns are good at reminding you to do is to finish off your seams. This isn’t the case with McCalls so I would recommend having a read through and working out at what point you personally want to finish the seams. I found it easiest most of the time to mark the notches with tailor’s chalk and then overlock the edges of the pattern pieces before joining them together. I used a contrast red thread since no one but me will see it and I really liked the effect.

The top of the bib has a facing piece; because this denim is pretty sturdy and I didn’t think it needed any extra support, I decided to cut this from a scrap of polycotton left over from making a pirate costume for my daughter. I enjoy this little peek of fun fabric as I put the dungarees on.

I really enjoyed doing the topstitching this project called for. I didn’t have topstitching thread to hand but instead used the triple stitch setting on my machine so it literally sews each stitch three times. I took my time and found it really therapeutic.

So, all in all, this project was hard work but I feel like I’ve really achieved a milestone in my sewing journey. And I’m surprised by how comfy and wearable I find these to be. They’re a big departure style wise from my usual slimmer cut trousers but I’m really enjoying them!

Thanks Minerva!

Becca x

Comment (1)

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Toni Leggate said:

Becca! Well done for sticking with it. I am currently in the same place - trying(!) to fit a trouser pattern to my clearly not 'normal' shape. Very hard at 68 when twisting around to 'see' the back is practically impossible. Oh for a fitting buddy... I think you have done an excellent job - no smiles, pulls or tucks and the straps join looks great. Very glad mine will be in a darkish grey when (if) I ever get to cutting out, your umpteen toiles. MInd you these are intended for my Mother of the Bride outfit - so I really need to get them done! · 4th Aug 2018 09:02am