All right, sewing friends. The time has come. I MADE PANTS. And now I’m going to talk about them… a lot. Sewing pants is something I’ve been wanting to try for a long time now, and I took the opportunity to dive in during my long holiday break from work. I desperately need a new pair (or three) of pants in my wardrobe, and stubborn girl that I am, I absolutely refuse to buy them. Why buy when you can sew it yourself, right? Cue maniacal music…
Before I dive into the details of my ill-fated pant sewing adventure, let me start off my sharing a few lessons learned:
- Sewing pants is easy.
- Sewing pants that fit is NOT easy.
- Sewing pants involves a lot of staring at your own ass and poking at your crotch. Be warned.
Sounds delightful, doesn’t it? 🙂 You may have figured out by this point that I don’t yet have handmade pants that fit, but I’ll share with you my journey thus far. Please keep in mind that I have no idea what I’m talking about and am total pants noob. Advice very welcome!
I chose to start with the Named Alpi Chinos (or as I keep calling them, Al Pacino‘s), a low-rise, straight-leg pants pattern made for inelastic fabrics. Named drafts for tall (5’8″) figures without a lot of curves, which is a good fit for my body type, so I figured I’d be starting with a pattern that wouldn’t require drastic modifications. The pattern had all the key features I was looking for (low-rise, slash pockets, fly zipper, no stretch). Sold!
I purchased the PDF, which in this case had some pros and cons. On the good side, the PDF was available for download immediately, there were only 15 pattern pages to tape together, and I found the instructions to be clear and comprehensive.
On the bad side, there are several files in the download, and each file only contains 2 sizes. (You do receive all sizes in the download though.) Even worse, the 2 sizes printed together are not nested. For me, this made it difficult to grade between sizes, especially because I wanted to grade between 2 sizes that were in 2 separate files. I made an educated guess about where to line things up, but who knows if I did it right!
A final thing to note is that you have to trace the pattern because the pieces overlap (presumably to save paper). This is totally fine with me, as I trace all my patterns anyway.
I started with a size 38 in the hips and legs, graded to a size 40 at the waist. (Spoiler: this didn’t work out very well!) I made a muslin, stared at myself in the mirror for a bit, and then decided on the following modifications. In the sketch below, the gray pencil lines are the original pattern, and the pink dashed lines are my modifications (not to scale).
Here’s what I did:
- Straightened front and back legs from knee line to hem, purely because I prefer wider legs below the knee.
- Added 2 inches to hem for deep hem allowances, again purely for preference.
- Narrowed thighs at side seams from mid-pocket to knee line. Maximum of 1/2 inch pinched out, tapering to nothing at pocket and knee.
- Trimmed 1/4 inch off side of outer and inner pocket bags to match thigh adjustment above.
- Scooped out crotch curve on back to fix “wedgie” situation (sorry, no one needs to see photos of that!). Total of about 3/8 inch removed.
- Lengthened crotch seam by 1/4 inch at bottom, tapering to nothing along inseam, to help fix wedgie.
- Added 1 inch to back rise at center back, tapering to nothing at side seams. They weren’t kidding when they labeled this pattern as low-rise.
- Darted out about 1.5 inches along back waistline to ensure a snug fit with higher back rise. Pinched out extra width evenly between CB seam and each of 2 back darts.
I didn’t take photos of the original muslin before I started altering it, but suffice it to say that there was a major wedgie going on (which I now see in the model photos above!), and the back rise was too low for my taste. I can’t be exposing my butt crack when I sit down at work.
I was fairly happy with my altered muslin and purchased some inexpensive ($6/yard) black bottom weight cotton to make a wearable muslin. Sewing up the pants went smoothly, but the fit was not at all what I was expecting! The black pants seem much bigger than the original muslin, even though neither fabric has any stretch (at least, no lycra). WTF.
The Fit Comparison
I took a bunch of photos to compare the muslins side by side, including a comparison to some RTW chinos. Muslin 1 (the cream version) incorporates all the modifications except the last two (raising the back rise), and muslin 2 (the black version) has all the modifications incorporated. The blue RTW chinos are essentially what I’m trying to emulate, except that they’re a bit too tight. Hence the need for new pants! I really cranked up the exposure so you can (hopefully) see the details of the dark pants. Apologies for poor photo quality.
Click on the photos for larger versions, and feel free to increase the brightness on your screen to see the details better.
Front views. I don’t think muslin 1 is too bad, except for some excess fabric at the lower crotch. I’m assuming I’ll have to pinch out a horizontal dart here. However, muslin 2 is HUGE! This baffles me because they are cut from the exact same altered pattern pieces. I included 2 poses: one with the pants pulled up (which is how I assume they should fit), and one with the pants pulled down (which is how they end up after a few minutes of walking around). Just the fact that I can pull them this far up or down is a problem. If you compare the two right photos, there is a bunch of excess fabric around the thighs. I’m thinking about starting over and going down an entire size.
Back views. UGH. In muslin 1, I have a sad, flat butt, although the fit is not awful. Muslin 2 gives me a huge, saggy, frumpy butt. In the too-tight RTW chinos, it looks like I stuffed a 10-pound butt into an 8-pound sack. At least I can laugh at myself! I suspect there are 2 main issues here: the black pants are just too big, and the pockets need to be larger and better placed. There is a ton of excess fabric around the thighs of the black pants, especially when they fall down.
Note to self: Don’t ask your partner how your ass looks in a frumpy pair of handmade pants. There is no right answer. It’s not fair.
Side views. I think muslin 1 looks pretty good, except for the pulling below the knee, which seems to be solved by the wider legs in muslin 2. However, when you compare muslin 2 to muslin 1 and the RTW chinos, the excess fabric in the back of the thighs is really apparent. The RTW pants feel secure, while I feel like muslin 2 might fall right off me in a stiff breeze. I suspect this is due to my thick waist and narrow hips, combined with the low-rise cut of the pants. Oh, and the fact that they’re WAY TOO BIG.
I’m currently in the stage of pant-sewing where you read every blog post and every book on pants fitting and try to identify (a) what your fit issues are, and (b) how to fix them. If you have any advice, ideas, or resources, please chime in. I am determined to conquer this!
The Sewing Experience
Lest you think this post is all doom and gloom, let me remind you that I SEWED MY FIRST PAIR OF PANTS! This, in and of itself, is reason for celebration. 🙂 I found the actual sewing to be fairly straightforward, especially after sewing the fly zippers and slash pockets on my Moss skirts. The Moss was actually a perfect introduction to pant sewing – it has everything except the dreaded crotch curve.
Let us now admire my heinous creation:
The front came out beautifully! If these pants had actually fit, I’d probably be wearing them right now. 🙂 Granted, this black fabric attracts Maggie’s white fur like a magnet. Oh, and I hate wearing and sewing with black. You can’t see anything! Remind me never to buy black fabric again.
Do you recognize the polka dot waistband facing from my Archer of Many Details? I thought it would add a fun touch to an otherwise boring black pair of pants. I did a bit of hand stitching to secure the facing for about 2 inches on either side of the fly opening, just to make sure all the raw edges got tucked in. The rest of the facing was topstitched by machine from the outside.
I used my serger to finish the other raw edges on the inside. Quick and easy!
The back view is atrocious. The pockets are too small, and I did a crappy job of sewing them on. The waistband looks funky at the center back because I didn’t pinch out the excess fabric until after I sewed up the pants with the higher back rise. I figured this was going to be a wearable muslin at best, so I wasn’t concerned with perfection here.
From this side view with a well stitched pocket, you could almost mistake these for nice pants! LOL.
And a final view of the innards with all my glorious serging. For the legs, you can see that I finished the raw edges on the serger first, then sewed the seam and pressed it open. This seemed to work well.
P.S. – Quick photography tip that I just learned: If you’re trying to photograph something black, use a black background. A light background will eat up all the light, and your black garment will look like a big blob of nothing.
This was a fun adventure, albeit without a happy ending (yet). Lots of research on pants fitting awaits, and I even purchased some more non-stretch fabric for another muslin. I suspect that part of my problem is that every fabric behaves so differently, which is unavoidable. Hopefully I’ll get better at predicting behavior with more sewing experience, not to mention getting better at fitting my body.
So, what do you think? Are there any glaring errors that I made, or obvious areas for adjustment? Do you agree that I should go down a size? Do you have a favorite pants fitting resource? I’m determined to sew pants that fit… eventually!