Where to begin? I think I could talk about these pants and all their glories and implications well past what you would read. Well – I think I’ll begin with why they are purple, which will lead right into why they are fitted, which will lead right into why they are the best pants I’ve ever had.
So, a few years ago now, my aunt got this pair of purple corduroy pants, and for some strange reason I fell in love with them at first sight. I’m not usually into purple, or brightly colored trousers, nevertheless I’ve wanted my own pair ever since. I found 1 1/2 yards of, get this, lavender hemp and organic cotton corduroy on the NearSea Naturals clearance page! (It had a “stain” on it, which washed right out.) Update: although I love love love the idea of this fabric, the color of this fabric, and the resulting pants, the fabric is just not sturdy enough. I got about a year of good-looking wear out of these before the corduroy pile started coming out, even with washing them inside out and not once putting them through the dryer, and that is just not enough for something I made. If anyone knows of a source for sustainable, long-lasting fabric, please let me know! The good news: all the work I did on fitting (keep reading) is already transferred to the pattern and waiting for me to find the next fabric!
I thought this was the perfect amount of fabric. I planned to make another pair just like my grey pants, even though I wasn’t sure that wide leg would be the best look for purple corduroys, I would figure out that fit first, and save more close-fitting pants for another day/next fall maybe. Well – it turned out that all the wide leg pattern pieces would not fit on this much fabric. To fit them in I had to narrow the legs quite a bit. Well. I just tapered the tops of the pattern pieces from the grey pants into the narrower legs, cut them out, and this is what I got.
Clearly those fabric saddle bag areas on the sides had to go straight away, that was the easy part. Getting a better fit through the seat/inner thigh area took a lot more work. Every day for weeks, my sewing time consisted of: ripping out and re-basting in a slightly different position some part of the crotch seam and/or inseam and/or side seam, trying the pants on, deciding what to rip out next (often the same part). Although I worked on these only a little bit each day (partly to keep myself from getting frustrated and doing something hasty/stupid), I thought a lot about how life is like fitting pants. The baking equivalent might be yeast bread, or even macarons. There are a lot of variables, and each one seems to affect all the others, so that a small tweak in one area can change all kinds of things I would not expect. But, if I just keep plugging away, trying things, seeing what happens, I will eventually reach a place where I am very happy with the results.
Well – I really could not be happier with this result! Although I have tweaks to make in the next version (pants are clearly a journey, not a destination) they are the first pair I’ve ever had that really fit and flattered my figure, they’re incredibly comfortable, and I’m ridiculously satisfied with myself when I wear them.
If it wasn’t for the fact that things need washing, (Ok, and I do love skirts, and some days are for grubby clothes, etc.) I might conceivably wear these straight through until they wore out.
Some sewing and fitting things I figured out while making them:
I took out all that extra I added to the back inseam of the grey ones, and then some. Clearly a different fit requires a different shape.
See that diagonal wrinkle across the back hip in the first fitting? I tried all kinds of things to get rid of that; letting out the side seam, unpicking the waistband and pulling the pants up, but nothing worked, until I saw something in Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph-Armstrong (which is one of my all-time favorite sewing books, expensive but worth it, I asked for it for Christmas one year). It was one of my cousin’s textbooks at FIT in San Fransisco, and it shows you how to draft a pattern for just about anything you could ever want to make, plus all kinds of construction techniques. It’s designed more for the fashion industry that for home sewers, and there’s not a lot about fitting, so I guess it says something that there is a section on pants fitting, where I found an illustration of a similar wrinkle with this note, “insufficient dart intake for dominant buttocks.” That’s not how I’d like to think about my derriere, but the part about the dart totally worked! I had been leaving that dart alone since I fit it in the last pants, but clearly it’s not a good idea to start think of any part of the fit as “finished” when I am changing the rest.
I used my edge stitching foot for the first line of top stitching (with a size 100 topstitching needle, moving the needle slightly to the left), and it worked great! It was much easier to get an even stitching line with that little guide riding right on the edge. I am now trying to figure out how I can use a similar guide for for the second line of topstitching, further to the inside.. Anyone know of a foot like that? I used two colors topstitching and I really like it, one pair of Bryan’s jeans has that look and I decided to try it out.
I trimmed a bit of the waistband lining before applying the rayon ribbon to the bottom edge, next time I’ll trim a bit more, but I like this finish.
If the legs look a bit long, I left them that way on purpose. I keep noticing that the hems of cotton pants tend to creep up just a bit over time with washing, usually after I fix them just how I want them. I’m not sure what the shrinkage of hemp is, but if these don’t get any shorter after a while I can always hem them up a bit more.
By the way, the above shot of the inside waist is probably the closest I got to the actual color, for some reason this purple seems to be hard to capture.
That’s about it, I guess, unless of course you want to talk some more about sewing, body image, and the power of DIY, etc. . . . if you see me around, I’ll be wearing these pants, and feeling happy!