New trousers: Robinson Pants from Ensemble Patterns

The first of my projects for The Great Module Sewalong, this was an interesting sew. I’ve had the Robinson trousers on my list for ages as another comfortable pair of trousers with some fun details, that I thought might work both for running around after a pre-schooler and also out for drinks with the girls or similar. I really loved making the Perkins shirt by Ensemble Patterns and was hoping for a similar result here, but it was a little less straightforward than hoped, although I still ended up with a pair of perfectly wearable trousers.

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The Pattern

The Robinson trousers are described as “a pull on, elasticized waistband with a peg ankle length pant. They come with 6 different hem option: [1] regular cropped hem, [2] a side zipper and regular or elasticized back (only) hem, [3] elasticized crop hem, [4] a faux cuff or [5] regular added cuff and also [6] and exposed zipper ( 30cm or 18cm) and snap cuff closure. The pattern comes with flattering slanted pockets and optional back patch pockets too.”

Robinson

I wasn’t totally sold on the general shape as they’re quite straight-legged and I think I suit more of a taper or a proper wide leg. Looking at some examples I had a feeling that the proportions shortened the leg a little, which is not something my already-shorter legs need (and I haven’t changed my mind). But… I love the fact there are lots of hem options. It really attracted me to the pattern and I decided in the end to go the whole hog with the exposed zipper and snap cuff. It was only after I finished that I realised I’d reproduced almost exactly one of the sample pattern pairs in colour and hardware! It was totally subconscious, but I must have locked it away mentally somewhere, I guess.

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An Elvis shot seemed mandatory

Sizing, adjustments and fabric

Pants or trousers fitting is tricky. I’ve spent quite a bit of time fitting my top half and not quite so much on the bottom, but I have isolated a few things I have issues with. I always need more height in the crotch and rise, particularly the front crotch. I usually have to shorten trouser legs. I sometimes need a full tummy adjustment and I should do a big old round flat bum adjustment (official name) too, but I haven’t experimented with that one too much yet. One of my main issues is that my tummy is really prone to fluctuating in size and it really bugs me. Whether it’s because of hormones or drinking wine (both, I suspect), I am a bloaty kind of person and it’s the one aspect of my figure that does frustrate me a little more than most.

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What I should have done is compare the shape of a pair of trousers I know fit me pretty well, such as the Alexandria peg leg pants, and I fully intended to. Somehow I just didn’t get around to it though. Sigh. So, the front crotch on these trousers tragically came up rather short. It will probably be fine for most people, but I definitely need to add a fair bit next time. You can see below what happens after I’ve been wearing them for, oohhh, 10 seconds. The front dips down in a lovely belly smile (they are happy trousers) and I end up tugging them up, so I will probably not be exposing the waistband too much.

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For picking an actual size, I was between the 16 and 18 in measurements and the instructions suggested sizing up rather than down. Butttt… I also made Version A for wovens even though I have a bit of stretch in my twill and chose the 18 just “in case”, which was pretty much a double dose of caution. The last time I did this, which was with the Papercut Palisade pants, they ended up a little big. And this time… they were… wait for it… too big. Doh. I used a similar fabric – a midweight twill with some stretch, so I should have remembered the issue from the Palisades. I think in a different fabric the result would be different.

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You might be thinking, “they don’t look that big, Claire”. Well, I took the side seams in after I finished the trousers by a significant amount – at least 1/2-3/4 inch on each seam, so several inches overall. This is partly just because of my own preferred taste and they’re still a little baggy in places. I couldn’t take in the side seam all the way down either, because of the pockets and zips, so there are a couple of awkward joins, but I did the best I could – and so you can imagine they were really quite baggy before that. In fact, here are some fit pics for your delectation – before on the left, after on the right:

Fitcollage

Yardage-wise, I managed to squeeze the pattern out of 1.5 yards of my fabric (a lovely wine stretch twill from La Mercerie), but only because I have the aforementioned short legs, heh. I took 2 inches out of the length according to inseam measurements and they are still longer than the pattern pic. I’d say they’re at low ankle, rather than true ankle, but I don’t mid them at this length at all, so it doesn’t really matter too much. I am 5’6″, for reference.

Construction and Instructions

Moving onto construction – the first thing to say is that I really love the Ensemble Patterns aesthetic when looking at the pattern itself. The graphics and style of the instructions are right up my street – it’s slightly chaotic and pretty funky.

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However, for the purposes of actually sewing, I do find them quite busy sometimes. As I say, I really like the layout stylistically, but I do find myself hunting around for info and going back to double-check things more often than normal. I’m not sure if the problem is that there is too much info crammed in there – six different leg finishes – but I had a couple of small issues.

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It could easily be that one of the other styles was perfectly fine, but for View 6 I found that the pictures didn’t quite match up with what I was looking at. They are quite small, so it’s hard to see what’s being illustrated. If you don’t get it right away, enlarging the picture makes it unclear and didn’t help me much.

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For example, the pics of the side pocket facings didn’t match my own pieces (Step 5). The pic shows the facing extended right across the top, but mine only came 3/4 across. I took a while figuring out if I’d miscut or turned them the wrong way round.

Here are some other notes I made:

  • The instructions sometimes say “stitch right at the edge” which made me wonder –  did they mean edgestitch or stitch on this edge at the seam allowance of 3/8″? They mean edgestitch.
  • I got to the part about sewing on the zipper tab (Step 15) and was like – what zipper tab? They are on the pattern (with no reference to any particular view), but not the cutting diagram or the pieces diagram. There’s a reference to interfacing them when you look back at the text, but no diagrammatic inclusion. So make sure to cut out two zipper tabs if you’re making Version 6 and interface them.
  • I also found the instructions a bit unclear for sewing on the zipper and facing. It took me some time, but you are supposed to sew the facing on only one side. The idea is that you can still open the zipper after you add the facing. This may seem obvious if you’ve done this before, but I hadn’t.
  • Finally, Step 17 should say “sew right sides together” for the cuff pieces, not wrong sides together.

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Lest this all seems too negative (I hope not – they are small niggles) let me say that there were things I really liked too. I mean, there’s the obvious factor of the finishing of the lower leg. I LOVE it. Great studs (I put in two to cinch the ankle further) and zipper combo.

I also love how you finish the inside of the waistband with bias binding. I’ve never done this before and I loved the finish both for the contrast and also that it made folding and sewing the waistband precisely much more accurate for me. Waistbands are a bit of a nemesis for me and this was a satisfying method.

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The pockets are a very nice shape and depth – and the construction method is sound, resulting in lovely discreet pockets. I also liked the faux fly – again it’s straightforward and easy to construct. And finally – I ADORE that pintuck down the centre front of the legs. Just love it. It was so satisfying to sew. Great details all round!

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Future Fitting

I just re-read this and feel it sounds a little as if I might throw the pattern in the discard pile. Actually, that is not true not at all. I like the detail and I would like to try them again, but with a straight woven next time. I’m thinking I might try making the cuff-with-elasticated-back version in a midweight linen or similar. I think I’ll use a 16 as my starting point and go from there. Clearly, I’ll fit the front crotch and I’ll also try out a flat bum adjustment on the back, but I think the drape factor of the linen, compared to the structure of my twill will give quite a different effect. Let’s see how it goes!

Overall, I’m going to call this a (very) wearable muslin and try to refine the fit next time. Onto the second garment from my wardrobe now – the Recital Shirt by Liesl + Co.

3 thoughts on “New trousers: Robinson Pants from Ensemble Patterns

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