My first attempt at sewing pants: Named Alpi Chinos

Named Alpi Chinos - cover photoAll 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!

The Pattern

Named Alpi Chinos line drawing and model photos

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!

Named Alpi Chinos - getting started

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.

The Modifications

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).

Named Alpi Chinos - sketch of modifications

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.

Named Alpi Chinos mulsin 1 and 2 - collage front

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.

Named Alpi Chinos mulsin 1 and 2 - collage back

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.

Named Alpi Chinos mulsin 1 and 2 - collage side

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:

Named Alpi Chinos muslin 2 - front

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.

Named Alpi Chinos muslin 2 - front with fly open

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!

Named Alpi Chinos muslin 2 - back

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.

Named Alpi Chinos muslin 2 - pocket detail

From this side view with a well stitched pocket, you could almost mistake these for nice pants!  LOL.

Named Alpi Chinos muslin 2 - interiorAnd 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.

Final Thoughts

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!

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45 thoughts on “My first attempt at sewing pants: Named Alpi Chinos

  1. I think for a first pair, they look okay-ish, but I agree about the pockets, however I do really like your workmanship, very nice 🙂 My two tnt pants patterns are a self-drafted, wide-legged pair (taken from a favourite pair that were beyond repair) and Style Arc’s Wendy pants. The only thing I had to adjust on the latter was the length of the back rise (too low for my comfort). Have yet to hear a bad review of the Style Arc range as they are drafted to your size.
    Good luck in your efforts to get a pair of pants with which you are happy!!

    • Thanks Jenny! Sadly the black pants aren’t wearable (as I had hoped they would be), and I’ll have to try something different for my next attempt. I’m considering drafting a pair from scratch – is that crazy?? I’ve never tried Style Arc’s patterns, but thanks for the tip! I’ll check them out.

  2. No advice from me as I’m at a similar stage in my trouser adventure as you. I’m clearly not such a perfectionist as I continue to wear the trousers I’m not that keen on. Needs must!

    • Haha, I hear that! Honestly, I think I would be ok wearing these pants despite their ugliness, but they really do fall down a lot, so much that I’d be hiking up my pants all day long. No thanks. Good luck with your pant-sewing adventures!

    • Lesley, I’m the same as you and Carolyn — and probably so many others. I am still trying to get it right, but I wear the trousers that I make even though they’re far from a perfect fit. Just this summer alone I made 7 attempts and failed at all of them. I was trying out a new technique that I saw on the Internet. It didn’t work for me. But I’m not giving up.

      • Oh man, that is awesome! Seven attempts at pants? I imagine you must have been improving with each attempt, even if you still haven’t reached your original vision for them. And yes, go ahead and wear them, who cares! I actually wound up wearing these black pants a lot over the winter. The fit wasn’t perfect, but I was so proud of myself for sewing pants. After all that work, you might as well get some use out of them! 🙂

  3. Congratulations on your first pair of pants! Unfortunately I’m still too scared to make any (non-stretch) pants myself so I can’t offer any fitting help…I have Fit for Real People book and I highly recommend it. It seems to me the hardest part is building up the momentum to make the pants – and since you’ve already started I have high hopes these will turn out great!

    • Thanks Carrie! I purposely waited until I had some time off work to begin this pant-sewing adventure because I knew it would take forever, and it totally did. I actually just checked that book out of the library and am finding it super useful! Thanks for the tip. I want to pick up the Pants for Real People book too.

  4. There were a few things in this post that really cracked me up– my favorite was when you said the RTW chinos looked like you stuffed a 10 lb butt into an 8 lb sack. I have only attempted one pair of pants (shorts, actually, so I’m sure when I move to full length pants I’ll have a whole new adventure!) I discovered a great sewalong over at A Fashionable Stitch that had lots of info on pants fitting. When I went to find the link just now I stumbled on this post from Sewaholic that links to that sewalong and some pants fitting info from Colette. You may have seen this already, but here it is just in case. Good luck with your next muslin!

    http://sewaholic.net/pants-trousers-and-shorts-fitting-resources/

    • Thanks Teri! I remember seeing that link a while ago, but thanks for the reminder. There is so much to learn about this topic. Honestly, if you managed to get shorts to fit you well, I think you’re 95% of the way there! The hardest part of sewing pants is getting the waist and hips to fit – the legs are easy. I bet you’d be in great shape to start a pair of pants… maybe after the baby. 🙂

    • Yes! I just saw that post recently, and there is a lot of good info in there. I guess the key is to have large pockets, and the Alpi Chinos pockets are woefully too small. Lesson learned!

  5. 10lb butt in an 8lb sack!! (Speaking of, tiny back pockets will do terrible things to any butt.) Pants are such a strange beast, and I think you’ve gotten really far with the fit for 2 muslins and a first attempt! After a lot of attempts, I don’t think I’ve really nailed it on a pair of pants yet – I’ve made 4 pairs of the same highly modified trouser pattern and 2 pairs of jeans and only one pair is truly wearable.

    • Haha, I tell it like it is. 🙂 I’ve been following along with your pants posts, and I definitely think you’re well on your way to perfect pants. It seems to be such a long journey for everyone, and I’m sure the road ahead of me is a long one. I’m seriously considering drafting a pair from scratch, just to see how the fit compares to my modified Alpi pattern. Who knows!

  6. You’re getting some great tips here! Definitely going to bookmark this post for when I attempt pants. Also, thanks for the tip on photographing black fabric. Good stuff here!

    • Thanks Ebi! The sewing community is so great in terms of knowledge-sharing, isn’t it? I love that I can ask for help, and people just chime in with gems of wisdom. I’ll look forward to reading about your adventures in pant sewing one day. 🙂

  7. I think your pants look beautifully made and I hope you don’t give up. The different weights of your muslin fabrics could be the cause for the black ones seeming so much bigger. I am also on a quest to make well-fitting pants (it’s not easy). I’ve read lots of different books and blogs on the topic – one of the best resources I’ve found is the Craftsy course One Pattern, Many Looks: Pants.

    • Ah, thanks for the tip! I’ll have to check out that class. I certainly don’t intend on giving up here, since I wear pants almost everyday and really need to replace some old RTW pairs. I agree that the heavier bottom weight cotton must be playing a role in the fit of the black pants vs. the muslin, but it’s frustrating that it’s hard (at least for me) to predict this behavior. Oh well, I’ll just have to plow ahead!

    • Yes! That was the other option I was seriously considering, and part of me thinks I should have taken that route instead. Then again, I really do want a pair of non-stretch chinos because I love wearing them, so hopefully I’ll figure out the fit. Ginger Jeans are on my radar though. I hope you try them!

  8. Instead of putting patch pockets in the back, you might try doing a welt pocket. Welt pockets are more tailored but don’t bring so much attention to the butt as patch pockets do. They also look more like a part of the garment rather than something just being stuck on. I think you did a wonderful job and love reading your blog. I agree with Accacia that making well fitting pants isn’t easy.

    • Thanks Donna! I was thinking the same thing – perhaps welt pockets would be a cleaner look, especially since these pants will be chinos, not jeans. As luck would have it, I’ve been practicing sewing welt pockets lately, so your comment is timed perfectly! I suspect there will be several more muslins here, so plenty of time to play with pockets.

  9. It might be worthwhile to check out the Male Pattern Boldness blog. He has a lot of posts on pants and it’s even possible he’s made up some women’s pants. You never know. Good luck on this. I want to dive in, but I haven’t fully psyched myself up for it yet. Maybe take out Cal Patch’s Design-It-Yourself book and try to draft your own if it gets too crazy. I don’t know….but I’m glad you are trying it before I do!!! 😉

    • Haha, thanks Lisa! Happy to be the guinea pig. 🙂 Thanks for the tips – I didn’t know Peter has written so much on pants, so I’ll definitely check that out. I love his blog anyway – he’s hilarious! I’m also thinking about drafting my own pants. It couldn’t hurt, right? I have an old pattern-making book that I used for my sloper, and there is a whole chapter on pants. Lots more work to do on this. 🙂

    • Wow!! It’s funny how such a basic, workhorse garment can be so tricky to perfect. I’m glad to hear you’ve had some success though, no doubt due to many trials and lots of persistence!

  10. Looks like you’re off to a great start! Twill does have (varying degrees of) natural give to it, so that probably accounts for how differently they fit from the muslin. It does look like you could size down at the waist since they’re a tad loose there. One thing that really improves the fit on the back thigh is to shorten the back inseam from seat to knee by 1/2″. That will reduce a lot of the wrinkling. You can also add some length at the calf to ease into the front to allow for more room there. Good luck on your pants venture. I plan to make up a couple pairs of jeans soon… just need to make a few tweaks to the pattern I’ve been using and get on it!

    • Thanks for the tips, Lisa! These pants fitting adjustments are not very intuitive at all. Hopefully I’ll get the hang of it after a few more muslins. I’m definitely planning to size down in the waist area, and I’ll try the length adjustment along the back thigh. Fingers crossed! I’ll be looking forward to reading about your jeans and gleaning more sage advice from you. 🙂

    • Thanks! It took a large chunk of vacation time for me to finally dive into pants. I’d say that I probably got 2 months worth of sewing done in a 1-week time frame! It was amazing. Hopefully you can find a good chunk of time as well. 🙂

  11. Hi there, just found your blog by searching “lining a moss skirt” a week ago, and I think I read most of your (great) posts by now 🙂 (My moss is doing great, just need to add the waistband and… add the lining 🙂 )

    Today I started with the ultimate trousers pattern (snow day!) and I think we have similar fit issues.
    Looking at muslin 1 (back) I think I see two things:
    1. Not enough ease around the fullest part of the hip
    2. Diagonal wrinkles in the shape of a V

    I have the same problems which today I tried to solve by adding length at the back crotch, at the fullest part. I cut a horizontal cut at the level of the fullest point of my butt, and spread the pieces 1 cm apart (don’t know how much you need). This adds length at the side seams as well, hopefully getting rid of the diagonal wrinkles (which indicate that you need more length at back side seams compared with the front). That means you have to ease the back side while sewing the side seams. This is different from just adding more length at the back crotch and tapering to nothing at the side seams, as it will give you more room at the butt but will not help with the diagonal wrinkles.
    I hope it makes sense…
    BTW if this were jeans and not chinos, then I would have recommended you to take in a wedge from the inseam at the back, but this will create a different silhouette, probably not what you were looking for.

    Also, I would totally wear this as they are ! I think despite the minor fit issues they look great!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Roni, and for your helpful suggestions! Looking forward to seeing your finished Moss and Ultimates! 🙂

      I 100% agree about the fit issues you mentioned, and I’ve been struggling to figure out how to get rid of those diagonal lines in the back. In her comment above, Lisa mentioned trying to remove some length in the back inseam, and here you mention trying to add length in the back seat and side seams. Perhaps I’ll try both and see what happens! These fitting adjustments are not intuitive to me (yet?), so I think I’ll have to just play around with it. Thank you for such a thoughtful and helpful comment!

      And BTW, I’m actually wearing the black pants to work today, just to give them a test run. I want to see which areas stand out as uncomfortable after a full day of wear, even if I look a little “homemade” at work for a day, LOL.

      • Taking length off the inseam will get rid of the “bags” under the butt, but will create a different sillhouette, like in jeans. In chinos/ slacks, the leg is supposed to go from the apex of the butt to the flor with only a slight curve around the seat area, so the alternation depends also on your preferred silhouette. BTW in my experience it will not get rid of all the diagonal line anyway, because you will still miss lentgh at the side seams. The lines are going from the side seams, to the bottom of the seat. For me it worked well btw…

        • Wonderful, thank you for the additional explanation! That makes sense, and I’ll have to give it a try. I’m definitely aiming for the chinos silhouette that you describe – essentially a straight leg from hip to hem. So much to learn. Thanks again for your expertise. 🙂

  12. I just found your blog on the firehose and your pants look good and I’m sure you’ll get it! I started sewing my own jeans and it’s a lot of fun but I agree that it’s a lot of work. I feel like every pair gets better ha ha. I love to use craftsy.com classes for fitting stuff. I have learned a lot.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Bryanna! I’m glad you’ve started the pants-sewing adventure as well! I agree – it will probably take many, many pairs before we achieve the fit we’re looking for, but I’m hoping that I can at least create a wearable version on the next 1-2 tries. Lots to learn about fitting my bum, LOL!

  13. Carolyn,
    You’re my hero for even making a muslin for a pair of pants. Let alone making up a pair in fashion fabric!
    You should totally draft a pants pattern! You;ve got the skills and the book why not!
    I’m hoping to very slowly ease myself into pants by drafting some culottes (read: I’m trying to avoid actually fitting my pants) 🙂

    • Haha, culottes seem like a great way to start! You’ll learn all the basic components of pant sewing but can avoid the tricky fitting bits. Drafting pants is still on my radar… just need to find the time now that I’m back to work. Sigh, I miss vacation!

  14. Sorry I have absolutely nothing helpful to say apart from well done for making pants! I made a pair of Thurlows ages ago and it was a huge nightmare and although I ended up with something wearable (with help) I then gained weight and can’t wear them so the pain of endless muslins was for nothing. I found posts from A Fashionable Stitch and Maria Denmark useful, and I found it amazing how I could make what seemed like an enormous change to the pattern and yet produce another muslin that looked no different – it drove me crazy! I haven’t yet summoned up the energy to do it again but I imagine I will go there again at some point – good luck with trying again!

    Louise

    • Oh man, that sounds like such an epic saga! I really love the Thurlow pattern, but I decided that trying to alter a pear-shaped pattern for my very non-pear-shaped bottom half was too much to deal with. I haven’t gotten back to fitting my chinos yet, but hopefully I can muster up the energy sometime soon. Isn’t it amazing how difficult and confusing pants fitting can be? I think I’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg!

  15. Recently I made my first proper pair of pants (not counting shorts and pants without front fly) and I hear your frustrations. Whilst mine are not perfect they became wearable with a few minor adjustments… it makes me think that maybe part of the whole pants saga is luck on choosing patterns – if a particular pattern happens to match your measurements/figure quite well and there’s not too much to adjust I guess there’s less to go wrong? Anyway… your figure type looks similar to mine so you might like to try it – the Emma Pant by Spit up and Stilettos (and it’s very generously free!). I haven’t blogged them yet but hope to soon 🙂

    • Ah, thanks for the tip! I definitely think choosing a pattern that’s more or less drafted for your body type is key with pants. I think Named is a good fit for me, as opposed to the Sewaholic Thurlows which are gorgeous, but would be a nightmare to try to reverse engineer to my body type. I’m really glad to hear your pants are wearable – that gives me hope!

    • Thanks Amy! I’ll be curious to see your version if you decide to try it out. I still haven’t mustered up the energy to come back to fitting these pants, but I really like the style and want these in my closet eventually. 🙂

  16. I’m in the process of making these at the moment and have seen so few online that I’m really curious! I’m fitting as I go – using the techniques in Pants for Real People which I recommend. We shall see how I get on! But damn, I do hope they work!

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