Wednesday, November 19, 2014

On making pants

I was away from home last week for work, so I had a lot of time on my hands to research sewing techniques. Namely, making pants.

Making great pants is one of my sewing goals. That, and slowing down. Honestly, I probably stand a better chance of making kick-ass pants than I do slowing down.

I guess I can understand why drafting pants patterns is so difficult. All human bodies are shaped differently, and with pants you're trying to engineer something to cover the most moving-est part of your body. And cover it well, so that you can move freely and look kick-ass at the same time. That's a lot of pressure.

For this past trip, I packed three of my favorite professional pants, plus some fun leggings.
  • Theory ankle-length slim-leg stretch wool trousers
  • J Crew grey wool straight leg trousers 
  • Anthropologie seamed cropped stretch wool trousers 
  • Vince stretch suede cropped pants, cut much like a legging 
I had some time in my hotel room to take them all, turn them inside out, and look at what was similar or different about them all. Lucky for me I carry a tiny tape measure in my purse at all times. You never know when you'll find yourself in Home Goods and need to measure the height of a super cute chair!

One thing I noticed right off the bat is the crotch curve is very different in my ready to wear pants than in some of my sewing patterns. I'm used to seeing a full back curve but also a fairly deep front curve, similar to two Js.

In my ready-to-wear pants, however, the front curve is almost nonexistent, and the back crotch curve is very deep. I need to repeat that, it is very deep. Instead of a J, it more resembles a fishhook that sticks out at the end in a point.

I'm now obsessed with perfecting the perfect pants pattern based on my ready-to-wear pants. I came home and made what I had hoped to be a wearable muslin from Simplicity 1696.

I made a classic mistake of choosing the wrong fabric, a stretch cotton that behaved and wore a lot like velveteen. It was just too heavy and bulky for this pattern, but it would make a lovely blazer or skinny jeans. When I finally tried them on, they were quite unwieldy like they fought back a little? Weird.

I do believe with some adjustments this pattern could be a keeper for me. The rise was good, I love the 1" seam allowances, and the legs weren't super voluminous. I even blindly followed their ridiculous instructions for a fly zipper and it turned out ok. I kind of forgot while I was cutting out the fabric to change the pattern piece to reflect a cut-on fly, so I stayed the course and followed the instructions as closely as I could.
The only thing I really didn't love was the fake welt pockets. I know a lot of people don't like extra fabric volume on their backside, but I do appreciate a real pocket. I always try to stick my hands in fake pockets, I don't know why. Like a pocket bag will magically appear somehow.

While I was gone my new Peter and the Wolf pants pattern from Papercut Patterns arrived in the mail {I do support indie pattern designers, I just like to spend my money on original designs I haven't seen before}! I did a little happy dance.  For all of you in the US considering Papercut, keep in mind the dollars they reference on their website are New Zealand dollars. For me, the price including shipping from New Zealand to the States was $25, so not as bad as it could have been.

I spent my last hour of the night last night cutting the instruction booklet  out and putting it together, then tracing off the pattern pieces. If you haven't purchased a Papercut pattern before, they come in this adorable cardboard box and they're printed on large natural paper sheets. You know I must be motivated to find great pants patterns when I'm tracing patterns. It is NOT my favorite thing to do in the sewing room.
This pattern calls for stretch wovens, but I hope to be able to make a pair in a non-stretch wool for work. It also only includes 1 cm seam allowances, so I'm definitely going to have to increase that just a tad to account for my crazy behavior behind the machine!

Honestly, I know I need to slow down with my sewing. I will never enjoy the process or the finished products if I slam through them and fail to make wearable garments. A couple days ago, in order to find an 'early make' for #bpSewvember, I went all the way back to my first sewing posts from my personal blog. You know what? Not much has changed. I made easy mistakes back then and I still make them now. While the walk down memory lane was fun, it was also painful.

Why do I do that? 
Why does my brain malfunction and let me cut through a piece of fabric that needs to stay intact? 

I don't know. I really don't. I just know I don't want to do it anymore. So from here on out, I hope to report that I'm taking my time. That I'm creating quality over quantity. That I'm drafting responsibly and sewing methodically.

Oh, and that I'm making kick-ass pants.


  1. Slowing down and making kick-ass pants are two admirable goals. Perfectly fitted pants are at the top of my sewing bucket list as well. I seem to be able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory every time I attempt a pair--a situation that could be avoided if I tried them on BEFORE before serging off all my remaining seam allowances.

    1. Yeah what's that about?! I do that too! I think I'm being super efficient but really I'm ruining a perfectly great project. I still have to post about the shirt I made that ended up with a HOLE smack dab in the middle of the bust and I have no idea how it got there.