Nel Nan and Nora’s Classic Culottes

admin Pattern Review, Rainbow Fabrics, Tips & Tricks, Tricky Fabrics 0 Comments

I remember wearing culottes as a child in the mid 80s and loving them! If I remember correctly, they were white with a red and navy trim. Maybe there’s a photo somewhere… After a gap of about 35 years, I sewed a pair using a Butterick pattern from Love Sewing magazine last summer in a navy linen/cotton mix but they haven’t lasted well as the fabric has torn at the base of the zip and isn’t easy to repair. Very frustrating!

I was happy to have the option of trying out this pattern – partly in an attempt to make fewer dresses that I rarely wear – and had some fabric in my stash that almost exactly matched the colour on the pattern envelope, which seemed perfect for the task. It’s a mid blue Cupro from Rainbow Fabrics Kilburn and has a lovely soft handle –like a heavy sandwashed silk – that makes it feel very luxurious without being too slippery for sewing.

Like Vicki, I omitted the pocket facings as the fabric was stable and did not need any added structure. I trimmed the curved seam allowances with my Grandma’s pinking shears, which reduced the bulk and made it easier to turn and press a smooth curve.

In order to add a little structure, I applied fusible interfacing to the waistband and – once the zip was in place – turned under and hand stitched the lower edge rather than edge finishing and stitching through from the outside. I prefer this finish as it minimises the visible stitching.

Instead of a centre back zip, I inserted an invisible zip in the right hand side seam, after basting the pocket in place at the edge and attaching the waistband.

Something that makes me very happy at the moment is constructing a garment with minimal visible stitching on the outside. I enjoy hand stitching and seem to settle into quite a regular pattern when I take my time, so have chosen to finish the hems with a blind hem stitch. Using a blind hem foot on a sewing machine, would have been a good alternative but I like to have some portable sewing projects for train journeys and waiting during after-school activities, so this suits me well.


The resulting culottes feel grown up and elegant, but also a little playful. They will be perfect for the spring and summer, when the weather finally warms up a little. Here I’m wearing them with a Shannon t-shirt, a quick and useful make that takes very little fabric.

I’d love to see what you do with this pattern!




Eleanor blogs at

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