Okay, so I couldn’t manage perfecting the fit on a simple shift dress. I knew what kind of low-maintenance, soothing, easy win sewing project to take up next: pants. The first pair I’ve ever made. What could possibly go wrong?
Actually, not that much. I knew this was going to be a challenge and take a little while. I planned to set myself up for success by selecting a loose cut with an elastic waist. I wanted to be able to wear these fuckers out of the house if I was going to spend a ton of time on them, so I made sure the pattern had a faux fly. I don’t know why a fly is my standard for “these are acceptable outdoor pants,” but it is.
I was especially inspired by Tasha’s god damn adorable chambray version. I pretty much wanted a Seamwork Moji but better drafted and with a higher rise. To fit my style, I played with adding some ~edgy~ details, like using denim or adding faux leather piping and/or an exposed zip on the legs. I didn’t know “joggers” were “a thing” that are now on the way out. I just wanted something comfortable and wearable.
I probably spent 12 hours total on tissue fittings. I got the idea to do a tissue fitting from this great McCall’s video, where Melissa Watson is all chipper while she sews a perfectly fitting pair of wide leg pants with two minor adjustments.
Melissa and Melanie, bless their hearts, were less than useless when it came to figuring out how to alter this pattern for my body. But the general method of using elastic at the desired waistline and pinning the tissue to figure out fit alterations was fabulous. I forced myself to really obsess over the tissue fitting phase so that when I moved on to fabric, I could have a fairly wearable muslin.
I cut my pattern at a size XL, using my hip measurement to determine size. I then traced it (why didn’t I just trace in the first place instead of cutting at all? who knows) onto very high quality and prestigious drug store tissue paper from the gift wrap section. I made 5 total tissue copies of my pants: 2 front and 3 back. It took me 4 copies to figure out I should use a felt-tip pen instead of sharpies. This process used up an entire 10-sheet pack of tissue and a 3-pack of generic brand tape.
It took me a long-ass time to figure out what adjustments to make and how to make them. That isn’t to say there aren’t many excellent resources out there on pants fitting. It’s to say that I was too cheap to buy Pants for Real People, and that even when I think I’m being meticulous, I cut any corner that I think I might get away with. It was hard for me to figure out what I was doing wrong by googling descriptions of what I was seeing, possibly because I was doing some really stupid stuff. So I’m going to describe my stupid methods and what worked in the hopes that someone else can benefit from my mistakes.
My first tissue fitting showed me the two major problems I’d be trying to solve: the back of my pattern came nowhere near my desired waistline, and the front came up too high.
Back/Front Draft 1
Vaguely recalling the McCall’s video above, I tried lengthening the back piece at the lengthen/shorten rise line (just above the crotch), and shortening the front piece at the same line. I added/subtracted length to get everything to even out at the leg lengthen/shorten line. This sort of almost worked, but I could never get the front low enough and the back high enough. The inseams also started to twist forward, and no matter how much I scooped out the crotch, I still had underbutt wrinkles. I tried using this method for a full butt adjustment on top of the lengthening/shortening. The inseams twisted so far forward I had to admit something had gone wrong & scrapped it.
Back/Front Draft 2
I started over with a fresh trace of the original pattern. I started by removing 1.5″ from the lengthen/shorten line on both front and back to move the waistline lower, and adding 1.5″ to the legs because I like my pants long.
I did a 1/2″ full belly adjustment that seemed to work well on tissue, but now I regret it because I don’t think I actually needed it in fabric. Live and learn.
I did the FButtA again, but realized I’d read the tutorial wrong and had been cutting my dart the wrong way. Oops. I followed the Closet Case Files picture again, but took this Patterns for Pirates version’s tip to move the hinge to just below my hip line instead of well below it. I hoped this combination of methods would help address the butt wrinkles. It did! I ended up progressively adding 3 whopping inches to get the back waistline of the pants up anywhere near in line with the waistline.
But! Every time I added more butt space to the FButtA, I tried the tissue on and found I had slight butt wrinkles. In a manic attempt to be perfect, I’d then scoop out the back crotch. Every dang time, while the butt wrinkles disappeared, the back center waistline dipped by 1-2″ again. I did this over and over until I realized I’d moved the entire waistline back up to its original front position 3″ above where I wanted it. This was around hour…8? Maybe? I wailed, “Motherfucker I’m going to have to start all over,” in a way that even I recognized as deranged, and pulled out my last two pieces of tissue paper.
Back Draft 3
The front was fine, so I kept it. I traced a third clean copy of the back. Again, I shortened the rise by 1.5″, lengthened the leg by 1.5″, and did a 3″ FButtA. I’d noticed previously that the pants were baggier than I wanted, so I made the size L cut lines into my seamlines.
When I tried the tissue on, I still had underbutt wrinkles. I was worried about getting into another endless cycle of crotch scoop and rise problems, so I scooped out the back crotch about 1/2″ only once. I didn’t want to distribute my FButtA between yoke and back pants pieces because a) I couldn’t find guidance on whether I should, and b) I was worried about the sew/fold lines of the waistband getting too curved/warped. I told myself it’d probably look different in fabric, and my husband thought I was picking insane nits where there were no problems, so I told him I was done. I lied, though. I kept searching after I put my materials away. The next morning I did one last-minute alteration; I cut 3/4″ out of the back inseam following these instructions.
So how did this shit turn out in the end?
Assembling the pattern was super simple. I inadvertently made two versions. I started with a drapey & slightly shiny black polyester knit of some kind that we bought to cover the back of David’s Halloween costume last year.
I basted it all together and was super happy with the fit! All the wrinkles I’d feared were smoothed out by the weight and stretch of the fabric. Fabulous. I unpicked my basting and resewed my seams, including putting faux leather piping into the left side-font seam. Unfortunately, I’d bought the wrong length of piping at JoAnn and when I went back for more, it was gone without a trace. I also can’t find any 1/4″ premade faux leather piping online. I folded them up and they’re sitting on my sewing shelf half finished, waiting for me to cut off the binding. I’m going to narrow the hips and legs further and add exposed zips at the bottom of the side front seams.
I did find a nice 7oz stretch gray denim at JoAnn on sale for 40% off, so I bought that and sewed a second pair. I used scraps of black and white ankara from my failed Laurel to make pockets and bias binding for finishing the waist and cuff seams. I did this poorly and I should learn how to make real facings with bias tape. But the contrast pockets are cute and make me super happy! I also used the contrast ribbed cuff pattern piece to cut a denim cuff that I could fold up, as I didn’t want to have a really sweatpantsy look. I got one anyway, but who cares.
I love the denim, but it was sort of a mistake. It has enough body to make everything poofier than the black knit version. I noticed this while fitting, so I took a full inch off the side front seams, tapered to nothing at the hip. I needed to take another full inch out of the rise on the pattern to get them to hit at the natural waist. I wear them there anyway. That combined with the body of the denim makes the gathering really poofy in the front, or it looks that way to me because I’m insecure about it. On the black pair I’ll narrow the inseams too. I’ll also taper the side front seams from an inch at the waist to 1/2″ at the hip to another full 1″ down the rest of the leg.
I don’t know what I can do about the rise now that the pants are assembled. I’m playing with the idea of cutting the waistband off and drafting a new one to sew back on, taking out about 1″ of the rise in the process. But that will probably force me to redo the pockets and it’ll mess up the faux fly and back yoke, so I don’t know.
The other approach is to just get used to wearing baggy pants again. I haven’t worn anything not skin-tight in probably about 5 years. It would be another good self-esteem building project to tell my Catholic middle school uniform insecurities about slacks to eat shit and fuck off.
Aside from the usual sewing nitpicking, I love these pants. They fit well, even though I don’t wear them right. I’ve been wearing them every day since I finished them. I don’t really have other pants that fit right now, they’re comfortable as hell, and I’ve been trying to figure out how I feel about them.
Today I walked to the bougie grocery store with my husband to pick up ingredients for my next preserving projects. I liked this styling best, so we took pictures at a park & at a library on the way. It was warm and a great day for a walk, we had a lot of fun. Afterward I did my preserving, made myself a cocktail with leftover ingredients, and wrote this blog post while eating pizza rolls and wiping the grease on my new denim joggers that I sewed my god damn self. #dirtbaglifestyle
If you are curious, in these pictures I’m wearing an ancient tank top and sweatshirt from Target, even more ancient checkered vans, similarly ancient Zenni sunglasses, a Bookhou purse with some cool Cat Coven pins on it, sweet Czech glass fly earrings, and a geode necklace I made out of stuff from a rock shop.
WHAT I LEARNED
- Tissue fitting. But I’m buying those little clips for next time, pins suck.
- How to trace a pattern & make alterations on that instead of ruining my original pattern
- How to diagnose my common pants fit problems
- Basic pants alterations I’ll probably use over and over again: full butt, full belly, lengthen/shorten rise and leg
- Patience? lol not
- Top stitching that doesn’t look awful
- Sewing with stretch denim. I just got a denim needle at the store and had no problems.
- Pants pockets! It was neat to catch them in the waistband, for some reason I hadn’t noticed that about pants before.
- Piping installation, also totally new to me
- How to use the button hole setting on my Pfaff
- Not new, but got more comfortable with making my own bias binding
- How to use the tailoring supplies I finally bought. I tried carbon paper and a tracing wheel for the first time ever. I like it except I have to almost rip my pattern paper to get the carbon paper to transfer the markings. Probably I just bought cheap shit, again
WOULD I MAKE THIS AGAIN?
Oh, for sure. These pants are ridiculously comfortable, and I think I’ll like the look once I’m confident with how to style them and/or I fix the minor fitting issues. I have the black version to finish. I would like to make a dark wash blue denim version with a lower rise and narrower legs to see if I can do it.