The Papao pants - guest blogger

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My intention has always been to design patterns for a variety of bodies, with different fabrics, but it’s difficult for me as a one-person company to coordinate and pay more than two models, and sew multiple prototypes for each pattern launch. I know how important it is to see different versions of a pattern for my customers so I've decided to welcome paid guest bloggers for each pattern launch !

Today we welcome Lilli (@frocksandfroufrou) for the Papao pants.


My name’s Lilli and I’m delighted to share my experience with Ready to Sew’s instantly recognisable Papao Wrap Pants. 

I started my blog Frocks and Frou Frou, in 2008 as a way to document my wardrobe and hopefully help other young plus sized women in Australia find clothes that they loved. Increasingly over the past few years I’ve turned to sewing as a way to find fashion that fits, feels good, and is made in an ethical and sustainable way. I’m more or less self-taught, though both my mother and grandmother her were accomplished dressmakers who attempted to impart some rudimentary skills on me when I was younger. 

I’m not a particularly confident sewist - I call myself an enthusiastic amateur - which is why I love patterns from indie design companies like Ready to Sew. They usually come with clear, well illustrated instructions, and sometimes even sewalongs, which are absolutely invaluable for people like me who are still learning. 


I’ve loved the Papao pants for a while. The innovative style and interesting draping are like nothing you can really find in plus sizes, and the inclusive sizing (up to a 60” hip) was just the cherry on the cake. The pattern is rated intermediate and I was a bit worried whether my skills would be up to it, but the instructions are clear and easy to follow, so I just took it slow and made sure I read everything through very carefully before I got started. 

I decided to make version two, with the big front pocket - partly because pockets, and partly because I just really loved the look of them. Since the wrap closure meant there was a little flexibility in how they’d fit my waist, I decided to chose my size according to my hip measurement of 53” and cut the size 52.  


The pattern calls for a light to medium weight fabric without too much fluidity, but I loved the elegance of the draped wrap front so was looking for something with a bit of weight and body, but still that ability to create soft folds. I found my perfect fabric in a deep green cotton-linen that I knew would take me from the weekend to the office to a fancy restaurant easily. 


I’m too impatient to laboriously tape pages together, so I had the pattern printed A0 style at my local print shop. Just a heads-up that the third page of the pdf (with the trouser legs and pocket pieces for version 2) has up to three overlapping pattern pieces, so you’ll have to either trace pieces out separately or print three copies of the third page. 

After laying the pattern out with the fabric I was somewhat daunted to discover that the pants I had chosen required 15 different pattern pieces - four alone for the waistband - but I followed the instructions in the booklet and marked each piece with its corresponding letter, which ended up being a huge help down the track! 


Once all my pieces were cut out and marked the Papao wrap pants proved to be a speedy sew. The lack of interfacing, fiddly zippers or buttons meant that I was able to churn through the construction in one sitting. Discovering where each oddly shaped piece fit into the project was fascinating, and I loved seeing it all come together. The inclusion of a link to a YouTube musical playlist to enjoy during the process was a cute little add-on, and helped get me in the mood. The incredibly comprehensive photographic sewalong on the Ready to Sew blog was such a helpful resource, but to be honest the included instructions were so straightforward that I only had to refer to the sewalong once. 


I made very few alterations to the original pattern. I skipped the back pocket and lifted the crotch by an inch to eliminate the drop. I wasn’t sure how that would affect the wrapped front, and was delighted to see it didn’t dramatically change how the trousers looked. I also cuffed the legs instead of hemming them because I love a cuffed leg. 

I wanted to really lean into the tailored look of the trousers, so probably the biggest aesthetic change I made was to shorten the waist ties and install D-ring buckles at both hips instead. I thought swapping out the wrapped sash for buckles might make fastening and unfastening the trousers faster (the original has a belt loop in the back that you feed the ties through to keep them secure, but they’re a bit fiddly and could pose an accessibility issue for those with limited mobility). The D-rings help the fiddly-ness not even a little bit, but I do prefer the more streamlined effect for professional wear. 

For my next pair I think I’ll experiment with keeping the straps just long enough that they can tie in the back, and see how I go with that. 


I’m thrilled with the result! The pattern might have been inspired by the traditional Thai fisherman pants, but that’s really where the similarity ends. These are elegant, grown-up trousers with incredible shape and style. The six (six!) darts at the waist emphasise the curves of the body, and the slim cropped leg is both contemporary and classic. 

I’ve made two pairs so far, and I can tell there’s more to come.


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