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A Miracle of Ancient Engineering: Thai Fishermen’s Pants

You know those awesome (often romantic) days when you go have lunch with someone and wind up leaving 3 days later? Those are good. Very good. However, they can leave you with a serious wardrobe problem. So what’s a (relatively tiny) girl to do when she just needs a change of clothes? I very sheepishly asked if he thought he might have ANYTHING that would fit me, and was totally willing to rock a pair of boxer briefs as a fashion statement if need be. Instead, he pulled out these insane origami pants that easily could have fit Santa Claus.

“Here, these will fit you.” I wondered, for a moment, if he even noticed my body. I mean…..

Thai Fisherman's Pants

In no time, he had done some knot-tying wizardy and the Santa pants were now a vaguely sexy diaper, skirt kinda thing. And the most comfortable pants I had ever worn.

They were a pair of Thai Fisherman’s pants that he had picked up in Thailand many moons ago. They are a miracle of ancient engineering, and I needed a pair, pronto.

His are a mustardy color, made of very sturdy fabric.  I wanted something with a bit more cling and flow, in order to accentuate the few curves that I do have. But, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how these things were constructed. They were not simple, at all, and defied the laws of fashion geometry and construction that I have known for years. But I was determined…..

Fortunately, Burda offers a pattern online. For $2.50, I was able to print it out, complete with instructions. If you want a pair of these magic pants, this is a great starting point, HOWEVER, the pattern is tricky and the instructions are confusing, and leave out some very important information. So, If you want to make these, here’s some stuff you need to know.

1. Printing the pattern out on a home printer means that you have something like 27 pages that are tiled and need to be taped together in order to make the pattern pieces. Of course, they do not all line up properly, and some of them are mislabeled, so you have to fudge the borders some, and go with your gut.

2. Once you have the pages tiled together, use pattern paper to trace a cohesive pattern over the pieces you printed. Otherwise it’s just a nightmare.

3. The pattern does not appear to have any seam allowance built-in. The first pair that I made was cool, but small, not at all what I was after. Use a gauge to add 1/4″ all the way around when you make your pattern.

4. DO NOT CUT RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER. We were all taught that when you have to cut two pieces, cut with the pieces right side together, (or wrong) so that you have two opposite pieces. These are not made that way, and if you do it, you’ll screw yourself up unless your fabric is the same on both sides. Anything that says “cut 2” needs to be cut so that the pieces are the same, not opposites of each other. These pants are essentially a giant tube – there is no right / left or front / back until you put the belt on. YOU NEED TO CONSTRUCT IDENTICAL HALVES, which then get sewn together to make the pants. (It’s weird, but it will make sense once you do them.)

Knotted in the traditional fashion

Skirted waistband

Voila! Once you figure them out, they take no time at all to make. I did mine with serged seams on the outside because I LOVE the bizarre asymmetrical lines of these pants. You can deal with the waist in a variety of ways. The knot at the top, with the belt underneath it is how I was taught, and I love it. But I also like to just flounce the waist over the belt and make a skirty thing. I am in love with these pants…..

I now think that every dating adult should have a pair of these on hand. I’ve always thought you should keep a toothbrush, just in case someone comes home with you. But if you’re out trolling and land a big one, that you don’t want to let go of, you should have a pair of Thai Fisherman’s Pants on hand, just to keep them fresh.


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