Let me just say this has been a long journey. I’ve never had ready-to-wear pants that fit me, if they fit Ok through the thighs and seat, they’ll be ridiculously baggy around the waist, etc.
I also haven’t had a huge amount of luck making my own pants, until now that is! I’ve definitely made pants, lots of trial ones and some real ones, but there are just so many variables that sometimes it’s been hard to tell exactly what to change for my next pair. This pair, however, is really close, and I learned a lot along the way, mostly thanks to my internet friends. I just feel so self-sufficient wearing these pants, it’s fantastic! On their very first day I wore them to hang a show of Bryan’s work at a restaurant here, climbing up and down ladders and carrying things around. Then the next day I wore them with a nicer sweater and looked totally presentable (ok, after wiping off some grime from the day before . . . )
I’ve definitely learned some sewing lessons along the road to pants that fit. Among them:
- It’s possible to draft a pattern from scratch from your measurements and still not like the fit.
- If you copy a pair of pants made in a stretch fabric, do not try to convert them to a non-stretch fabric, the “fit” you like will probably disappear.
- Using top stitching, and thick top stitching thread, really makes your pants look more professional.
For this pair, I worked from a copy of some corduroys I thrifted last fall. I liked the fit of them pretty well through the hard-to-fit booty area, and I knew I could taper the waist to fit into a contoured waistband. I had made one previous test version out of thin nylon for hiking, which were wearable but a bit tight. So, my first idea, which I should have thought of a million years ago, for these was to use 1″ seam allowances all around to give me a little room to work with. I’m totally doing this on every pair of pants I make from now on, and it turns out it’s also recommended in this genius book (more about that in a minute).
The second thing I learned on this pair is that it’s amazingly helpful to take pictures while you’re fitting. I NEVER would have thought to do this before I had this blog, but I can’t recommend it highly enough. You don’t have to show the pictures to anyone, but you can go back and see exactly what you’re working on, long after you’ve taken them off.
The third thing I learned was that there’s great info about fitting pants on the web! Even though I scoured every single mention I could find in Threads magazine, again, the most useful stuff I found was on other blogs. Thanks especially to Tasia’s post of fitting resources (her pattern would be a good place to start on pants if you’re pear shaped like me), where I linked to Sunni’s enormously helpful trouser sew-along (my pants looked remarkably like hers in the back picture here).
She also recommended the book Pants for Real People. I had passed this book by at the library before, since none of the models are shaped like me. But, don’t let that deter you, the illustrated fitting problems and solutions in this book are total GENIUS! I have probably never been more happy that a book was at the library just when I needed it, and I ordered my own copy as soon as I read it. And I quote, for full derriere,
Generally, you need to add only to the back inseam, but rarely you need to also add to the top. Deeper, or additional, back darts may also be needed.
The back inseam?! It would have taken me at least another decade to figure that out on my own. Check out my pants on the left above, then I let out the back inseam for the middle picture. On the right, I used another tip from Pants for Real People, taking out my dart and making it deeper, and taking out part of the waistband so that I could pull up the back to get rid of those wrinkles at the hip.
Maybe I could let out the inseam a little more in the back, but I ran out of fabric to try it, even with my extra seam allowance. Next time!
These pants are supremely comfortable in any position except sitting straight in a chair, when it feels just slightly like I’m being cut in half. I have a couple of tweaks in mind for the next pair, but let me be clear: I am 100% OK with these pants not being 100% perfect. In fact I’m thrilled that both:
- I MADE the best fitting pants I’ve ever had, and
- The next pair will be even better!
I have been frustrated along the way by making lots of test pants in muslin which I don’t wear around much, so it’s hard to figure out how they really fit, and I knew I was close enough this time with my copy that I’d end up with something wearable, so I went for “real” fabric. I also like this approach because it lets me see how a more substantial fabric will behave, and because as I wear the finished pants in real life, I get a much better idea of how they work and what I’d like to improve.
Just a couple of construction notes: I used a rayon ribbon to bind the bottom of the waistband, which I quite like, although next time I’ll try to get it closer to the bottom waistband seam so that it doesn’t flip up. I debated whether this was too much top stitching, but on the pants when worn it doesn’t stand out much at all. This is my third try at a vintage button, the first two did not survive a trip through the washer, by which I learned that if a button looks crumbly, it probably is, and if it snaps in half like a fortune cookie in your fingers, well, it wasn’t going to stand up to much.
Ready to tackle DIY pants? I’d say there’s a lot of great resources out there, go for it! I’ll mention one more pattern which could be a good starting place, Juniper from Collette, which just came out, with a similar shape to these.
Whatever you’re making, I hope it’s giving you that “I could conquer the world with this” feeling!