Monday, March 7, 2011

Pondering Pants: Working up the Nerve to Attempt Trousers

I was on a mission to buy pants this weekend.  I own only 3 pair of trousers, and they are years old.  Despite going in about a dozen stores, I could not find a pair that fit.  They were either too big, too small, too tight in the back, whiskering at the front... backed into a corner, I finally faced that perhaps I should try to make my own.

I've been sewing for 2 years - and I feel that I've sewn a lot - but I'm still terribly intimidated by trousers.  The thought of sewing a fly front gives me heart palpitations, but even worse, how are they altered?  What if they don't fit in the rise?  Or pull and whisker at the crotch?  How is that fixed?!  I have 2 fit books: Fit For Real People and Fitting & Pattern Aleration.  I find the latter to be too technical to be helpful, and FFRP doesn't address pants.  Isn't that a bad sign?

I spoke to my Mom and Mr. Lappin over the weekend, who both tried to assure me that pants are, in fact, easy.  My stash contains a very simple pant pattern, Vogue 8679, and.... I might give it a go.  I love a bold, wide leg pant, but it can be a hard style to find.  What if I could sew my own?


Vogue 8679 is essentially 2 pieces of fabric with side zip.  Really, how hard could it be??  Right?  Right??

My dream would be to one day sew these:

Alice + Olivia, Vogue 1051

Do you remember your first pair of trousers?  How did it go?  Do you avoid them like the plague?  Or are sewn pants the only ones that fit you?  New sewers, do you have the same (hopefully irrational and unfounded) fear that I do? 

57 comments:

Sarah said...

They really are easy!

I use this method from Sandra Betzina to do a fly front, and it works really well: http://www.threadsmagazine.com/item/3831/video-an-easy-flat-fly-front-zipper

There is a FFRP Pants, which I'm coveting but haven't bought, and The Perfect Fit has lots of pictures of "Your muslin looks like THIS so do THIS" which I find really helpful.

Finally, if you DO have three pairs of old trousers that you like, why not make a pattern out of one? Either by ripping or tracing, you're sure to get a good place to start from, especially with the crotch curve.

JoanneM said...

From the waist down, I is SCARY.
Sewing pants would give me nightmares, let alone attempt a pair of jeans.
S0- I pay the money, then I pay to have them altered.

I am all eyes. Take on the challenge, and I may follow. And yes those pants are lovely.

Well maybe not. :)

Angie Green said...

I used to find trousers intimidating, too, but the 2 pairs I have made have both been unexpectedly wonderful.

There's something amazing about turning this weird puzzle of fabric into a finished pair of pants - they come together all at once at the end.

You should definitely try it. What's the worst that could happen? (But do a muslin first, if you're worried about ruining expensive fabric).

Faye Lewis said...

The way you fitted that lovely sheath dress, I have no doubt about you making pants.

Cat said...

I have Vogue 8537 - and I even have muslin fabric the same as my final fabric that I could use (but it would need to be lined, who wants to do a lining straight off??) - I'm just not very brave. Plus I buy most of my fabric online and it's hard to gauge what would work well for which style without touching it and seeing it drape. All of that combined, as well as my horror of muslins means that I tend to buy off the clearance rack and put up with a multitude of sins ;)

Rebecca said...

Probably my third actual garment (other than pj pants) was the Built by Wendy shorts. I was braver than I probably should have been at that point in my sewing. They were easy to construct, and I did a decent job at fitting without knowing much about it at all. They were still too big in the crotch, but I was proud. I think with 2 years under your belt, you can do it! Make muslins and flat pattern measure first.

K.Line said...

Def do peter's next sew along! Pants are no harder than anything else. Which means, of course, they can be really hard sometimes :-)

fda546fe-3d07-11e0-9089-000bcdcb8a73 said...

I tried to make pants. I started with the Simplicity "Amazing Fit" pants, which were not so amazing. I am about thinking about making another attempt (feeling slightly brave at the moment).

The construction itself is not really a problem. Fitting is the real issue (and what is driving you to want to make your own)! You might want to try one of the Palmer/Pletsch pants patterns (like M5941), which walk you through tissue fitting and some of the common alterations for pants (alteration lines are drawn on the tissue). Good Luck! Can't wait to see your results!

Olga said...

I used to be afraid of sewing pants too, primarily because of the fly front zipper, until I tried this tutorial, which made it fun and easy:
http://sigridsewingprojects.blogspot.com/2007/09/fly-front-zipper-how-to-make-it.html
Another helpful tutorial I looked at is this one:
http://www.threadsmagazine.com/item/3831/video-an-easy-flat-fly-front-zipper
As for fit, I made one pattern from Vogue and three from Burda magazine. The Vogue ones were a pretty loose in style and they fit ok (I made those about 6 years ago, when I was a beginner, so I didn't have high demands on pants fitting). I really like the fit of Burda's pants patterns. I usually have to adjust them on the side seams only, no problems with crotch shape. So I would recommend that you try a simple Burda pants pattern for your first attempt (muslin first, of course).

The Cupcake Goddess said...

Having come out of a trouser sewalong recently, I find that pants are not so much hard to sew as hard to fit. It's an adventure for sure. Seriously though, once you understand the crotch depth and the crotch length and how they interact you will feel the clouds part and the heavens open. Not hard.

I will say that some bodies are harder to fit than others. Especially for pants. However, I'll also say that compared to pants, I think fitting a fitted blouse is WAY harder. Oh my goodness. I'm working on a blouse right now and um I made oh let's see 5 alterations to the flat pattern after the muslin. With the pants I've recently stitched up, I made 2. There is something to be said for that. Grab a copy of Pants for Real People and pop out a muslin. It's fun, you'll see. And then you'll never buy RTW pants again, I mean unless they are thrifted and you're only out $5. They just don't fit the same. Go for it! They'll be a cinch!

xoxo,
Sunni

Anonymous said...

Try the webcasts linked from silhouette patterns.

AllisonC said...

The actual sewing involved is very easy, but fitting can be a nightmare. I've always had the best results with Burda magazine and I think in future I will stick with those. If you are worried about fly fronts then just find a pattern that has a side invisible zipper first, you don't see it often in RTW but it is a clean look and will enable you to focus on fit for now. If you want to do a fly front then Sandra Betzina's method is the way to go in my opinion.

Debi said...

You should give it a go! I found it surprisingly easy (with the right pattern).

Kjersti said...

Go for it. The fitting is the challenge, and there are several resources online and in books to help you. The fit pants for real people is excellent. The cupcake godess sewalong has lots of info, and so has patty the snug bug on her latest pants trials. I actually did knee length shorts as my third or fourth clothing item, and they turned out ok. What's to loose? :-) Kjersti

Karin said...

Pants do seem difficult to fit, but on the other hand it is difficult to buy RTW pants that fit! I wear a lot of pants, so I keep trying to sew them. My attempts have always gone better than I expected. Three out of four pants attempts have been wearable. The fourth pair were unwearable because of my lousy fabric choice, not sewing errors. My first pants were some baggy drawstring, linen trousers for summer from an old Onion pattern. I think it is worth giving a try.

Bridget said...

I recently made my first pair of trousers, I was so worried about it that I went on a two day fitting course, since then most of what was covered has come up on the Cupcake Goddess Sewalong. It's well worth trying, even if the first pair was not perfect they are still better than anything I can buy and I am looking forward to trying again.

Bea W. said...

I used to be afraid of sewing trousers and thought they are the most difficult thing to make. Well with an easy pattern to start with, they are not. Even fitting them isn't too bad. My first attempt ever to make a pair was a total disaster but that was my fault for cutting the wrong size and using cheap material that was so not right for making trousers. That experience put me off for a while. I have made 4 pairs of trousers since plus a couple of pairs of shorts. I recommend Burda 8488 as a good first trouser pattern. They are VERY wide legged too.

Susan said...

It seems hard at first, but really is pretty simple. Sandra Betzina's fly front link is a great resource. She shows you how to do it with ease. The only tip I have is to "scoop" the back crotch area by deepening it 1/4" if excess material is in the back. That takes care of the wrinkles.

SewHappyGeek said...

I admit to being a total chicken when it comes to trousers, tho if I ever did need to make some, those amazing fit simplicity patterns seem to be really good... I hope your trousers turn out really well! Keep us posted!

toy said...

OMGoshhh, the horror, I hear you girl, I am not into sewing pants, the fitting part is the worst for me but I do have one on my list. I say GO FOR IT! you know if nothing else you will learn so much!

Marie-Christine said...

I totally understand how it can be intimidating, but really you can do it..
I second Sarah's suggestion of the Sandra Betzina fly method. It's fine really, or better than instructions you'll find in patterns.

The one place where I think you may be going wrong is starting with Vogue. They have that low-slung, square crotch that makes people the world over notice the American tourists :-). You can go with Sandra Betzina's pants in Vogue, which are not like that and have a decent human-like crotch, or go directly to Burda, which is the model. There very few people need actual fitting.

You could start with something simple like Burda yoga pants, to convince yourself that you don't need to do anything besides make them up. Or better yet some simple elastic-waist things in woven fabric, for better fit view and potential tweaks. Without a dreaded fly front. And then finally you can make proper trousers. Just remember at all times that anything you make will be better than what you tried to buy last weekend :-)

In my experience, if you're intimidated by anything, no matter what the domain, it pays to break down the problem into manageable steps..

meli88a said...

Oh pants! They aren't that hard although the learning curve (if you want them to fit right from the waist to thighs) is pretty steep. Make a muslin, or a few so that you get familiar with how the fit works. I like using Sandra Betzina's method of fly front zipper, and mostly consult the internet for ideas on how to do flat pattern alteration for fitting. Sometimes theres too much fabric in the back, sometimes there's too little... Starting with a good pattern helps too, and I really like Burda pants as well as Vogue 1051. I'm actually thinking to make another pair of Vogue 1051 soon...

Stefani Sarah said...

I love making pants. I had the same questions as you have posted here. Out of desperation to find answers, I made a muslin to find out the anatomy of a pair of pants and my own body measurement. It took several pairs to eventually understand what Burda patterns mean by "upper edge sits on the waist" and only from there I could start playing with different rises.

I recommend Burda pants patterns, although I always have to alter the waistline. (Burda loves anything that sits on the natural waistline.) For me, the hardest part of sewing pants is the seam finishes. I really like my pants to have finishes like the ones in my husband's RTW pants. For that, I think you can't rely on Burda instruction only.

Vintage Girl said...

I hear you, may I suggest two things, the rise needs to be right. Measure the crotch very carefully. Also, I am new to sewing and had a sewing buddy for this one. Take a class or get some help with fitting, you won't regret spending the time now to have a lifetime of great fitting pants. They are more difficult but not impossible. I am a low pear shape so I need to adjust the circumference of the pant. These are the little things that can make the day more comfortable or a day of a garment pulling at you.

Lisette said...

I haven't made pants, but I did make shorts (BurdaStyle's Ruby shorts) and just from my own experiences with RTW pants, I highly suggest doing a side zip. On women, front zips tend to bubble if you're not flat as a board and then the zipper digs into your stomach on top of it! Side zips are much more flattering and much easier to put in.

K2 said...

http://www.amazon.com/Pants-Real-People-Body-Sewing/dp/0935278575/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1299590835&sr=1-2

I don't know if that link will work, but there is a Pants for Real People book out from the Fit for Real People book line. I have heard good things about it, but haven't had the nerve to try it myself.

Sandy said...

I attempted pants my first time over a decade ago. Needless to say they weren't pretty, and after that I avoided plants like the plague; unless they were sweats or something similar. My fitting problem is my waist and hips/rear; not to mention the length problem; I need a 36" inseam. So I gave up on wearing pants. Most of my wardrobe are dresses, skirts, etc.d

Last year I tried it again (below 0 weather will motivate you to make pants!); but this time I had guidance. I took a pants fitting class at my sewing shop. That was the best money I ever invested. She help me with the fit issues I had. It took me about 6 pair to get the fit right. I now have a template for my pants that doesn't require major altering.

I still don't have a lot of pants; but I make all of my jeans. I'll never attempt to buy another pair of RTW jeans again. With my custom jeans I don't have to worry about the "gaposis" problem (aka plumber's crack :))

You may be one of those who has a relatively easy time fitting pants doesn't run into major fit issues like I did. But if you do, hang in there with the fitting; you definitely won't regret it.

Even my husband prefers the fit of my custom jeans to those of the RTW.

Reethi said...

I'm going to echo all the comments that tell you to use a Burda pattern - the fit is so much better. (Also, if you are intimidated by Burda's cryptic instructions, you can just use the instructions of a Big 4 pattern instead (and Sandra Betzina's fly front instructions - pants have pretty standard pieces, so, it should all work.) Good luck! I might be joining you - I desperately need new pants.

Rose said...

I'm late to the party, but I do recommend Real Pants for Real People (it's got lots of illustrations) and the Sandra Betzina/Threads internet video that shows how to install a fly zipper. Plan on making 2 - 3 (or 4 or 5) muslins to check fit, make alterations and practice sewing techniques. It can be a lot of work, but it's worth it.

Rose in SV

Crystal said...

I'm terrified of sewing pants as well - I mean pjs are easy - they don't have to fit, but real pants, jeans or trousers frighten me. I will eventually take the plunge because I keep hearing they are easy. But at the moment I will stick with dresses and pj pants :) Good luck - please post when you do decide to make a pair. I like the pattern that you do have - I'll have to see if I have that one.

amber said...

Haven't tried them for the same reasons you mention. I think your fitting skills, though, have gotten very good in the past year and I'm willing to be you could totally tackle them and make them great! That A+O pair is particulary lovely.

Myrna said...

The correct title of the book is Pants For Real People and it's FABULOUS. You'll find it quite helpful, especially the diagrams of what the wrinkles point to.

bobindsayboutique said...

Whenever I feel intimidated by a project I just remind myself: "It's not like these people designing and sewing pants are rocket scientists, I'm sure I can figure it out" and then I just try it! Granted, sometimes after that I crumple them up and throw them in the trash crying, but eventually I do figure it out.

patsijean said...

Sewing pants is not difficult.

I have Pants for Real People and have just tweaked the Wild Ginger one-seam pattern I have been using for years, even making them roomier for PJ's for myself and my husband! My only problem with pants, and skirts, is cutting the waistband too short (lately I've been using Nancy Zieman's waistband method and I love it) but have given up trying to force my waist to be smaller (I am losing weight and have to be patient). I've done all kinds of zippers in pants, and just tried the fly zipper method described in Pants for Real People. Exceedingly easy and I did not use the sticky tape recommended. For the under lap I used Elmer's School Glue but I've since decided that it is not necessary for this method.

Not a tissue fitting person as I have no sewing buddy help, I recommend a muslin for fitting help; don't be afraid to slash the first muslin where you need to spread the pattern. After fitting 90% of your projects can be sewn with no further alterations.

Angela said...

I've only made one pair of pants with a side zip... I'm rather intimidated by a fly front as well. The side zip wasn't too bad and it was also wide leg which I think makes it a little easier to fit. The Cupcake Goddess held a sew-a-long for pants and had some fitting tutorials.

http://www.thecupcakegoddess.com/the-cupcake-goddess/trouser-sewalong/

Rosy said...

Pants can be intimidating at first, but you'd be surprised how easy it fit on you, go ahead ..

Very Crafty Mama said...

How timely!!!!!!

I too am doing my first pair of pants! I have made everything but pants.

Im using this pattern.
http://www.silhouettepatterns.com/html/patterns/p_3719.htm

its a very easy pattern. She also has a video on how to measure yourself for pants. The owner, Peggy also has Free webcasts on pants and other things..
http://www.silhouettepatterns.com/html/media/livestreamchannel/index_replays.htm

good luck!

Clio said...

Just to echo a few others: fit is the real challenge, not the actual sewing; Pants for Real People is a great resource, especially if you like Fit for Real People; and you have already shown that you have the sewing chops for pants - all your work meticulously fitting your dresses is the proof. I can't wait to see how you do!

The Slapdash Sewist said...

All my RTW pants are now 7-8 years old and look it. I only wear non-jeans pants 1 or 2 times per year, but if next winter is like this winter (unusually, freezingly cold) I'm going to want a new pair of pants. I am scared. I feel you.

Adrienne said...

Sewing spoils it for us, doesn't it? We get used to clothes that fit! I'm never satisfied by the fit nor the quality of anything in stores anymore.

You know, if your measurements tend to be on the non-standard side like mine, I would recommend drafting your own pattern from scratch. It only takes two hours! eSewingWorkshop have a really good, fool-proof tutorial, albeit not free.

I made pants for my partner and his dad for Christmas using this method and they turned out pretty perfect. I really want to make myself a pair next!

I just discovered your blog, by the way, and I am a fan! Keep up the good work!

Andrea said...

Pants can be challenging, but I think half the battle is in our minds. Go for it, once you do and you figure out your fit issues, it's actually not as bad as everyone thinks. If you are afraid of the fly front, start off with a side zip pair first. You already know how to install an invisible zipper so that's half the battle. I've have both of those Vogue patterns that you blogged about, but have never made them. My first pair of fly fronts were a Vogue pattern that I made about 3 years ago. They weren't bad, but I did learn a bit. The fly front turned out fine, but my waistband was a little short. From that I learned to cut my waistband a little longer and wider and then cut off the excess. I also usually have to lengthen the pants by 4 inches because of my height.

Of late I've been working with Burda patterns when it comes to pants. I've had to do minimal alterations and the fit has been great. I've also only had to lengthen the pants by about an inch.

Just go for it. I think you'll do fine.

SewinDiva said...

I love to make pants. they are a challenge for but yet so easy. I am very sure that they will be perfect

Anonymous said...

Ironically, the Vogue Alice+Olive 1051 WERE the first pants I made (just finished them!). I left off the fussy bits (no pockets the first time around) but I did add the cuff to the bottom. I was using cheap polyester from the Jo-ann sale bin (what can I say, pants intimidated me too) but I did line them even though that wasn't included in the directions. I used the size based on my hips (using waist size was too big everywhere) and I had to change the waistband because of my swayback, but other than that I will say Vogue 1051 is like the sisterhood of the magical traveling pants pattern! I even followed the pattern directions for the fly front and it didn't have any major wrinkle issues. Actually, all of the directions were super great and pretty easy to follow. My advice is to get the pattern you really want to use, make a muslin, then make a "wearable" muslin out of some cheaper but acceptable material, and once you like the fit, go to town with the nice stuff. Don't be afraid and just go for it!

AfricaLiving said...

I learned the basics from Sew U in the Built by Wendy Series and made a perfect custom pattern using instructions in Cal Patch's DIY pattern book. Good luck! Once you get a pattern working in the hips and thighs you can adjust the legs how you want.

Sandy said...

I'm in the same intimidation boat (and funnily enough quantity and age of current trousers boat too!). I can't wait to see what your first pair looks like! Lead on!

Anonymous said...

I have sewn pants and I have given those pants away, but first I have worn them. They are not terribly difficult, but I didn't have too many fitting issues, except that I wanted a low rise pant, and pretty much every pants pattern out there is not.
I encourage you to try pants, because, you never know until you try, and as far as putting in a fly front?? All sewing is, is following a set of instructions. When you break it down, it's all just a bunch of seams. You can totally do it.

Gail said...

I've just bought one of the amazing fit trouser patterns from Simplicity. They are adjustable for a range of shapes - the results will be interesting.

Lindsay T said...

There is excellent industry feedback on Simplicity's Amazing Fit line. You may want to use one of these patterns for training wheels, then try your Vogue pattern.

Leslie V said...

I know you will do great! You mastered the dress fitting so I know once you start with the pants you probably will never buy another pair of pants off the rack again!! Go for it!!!

Katie said...

I love the pattern that you chose to start with! I am nervous about sewing pants, but I know that they would probably not be too hard if the pattern was simple enough. I also have that Alice+Olivia pattern for someday :)

lorrwill said...

Oh my gosh are we on the same page about pants.

If any of you are in northern California and saw a shortish, thinish woman of a certain age wandering a department store that shall remain unnamed, looking a little teary and a little bleary, mumbling, "I am not freakishly thin", that was me. After trying on the 6th pair of pants.

As to my first pair of trousers, I don't remember. But since age has changed my body, trying to sew them has been a nightmare and a half. But I have too keep trying until I succeed, I can't find any RTW to fit me and my years old pants that do are falling apart.

Corinne said...

Hi, Ive been at the sewing game for eons. There was a time when I made all my own pants. The trick is to stick to it. Make any pattern adjustments you think you need. Tinker with the fit in muslin
until you like the fit. Then mark any changes and transfer them to the pattern. once you have what you want make a gazillion pants. Figure out how to add or change pockets etc. Just follow a logical path.

CecilB said...

pants was actually the first real clothing item i sewed, altough it was back in junior high. They were as the first ones you show here, wide and with a sidezip. What i can remember, though i had help from the techer, it wasnt that hard.

You can do it!

Dizzy Days said...

I recently made my first pair of pants, I used the Built by Wendy Sew U pattern. They have come up very nicely (although too big). I did do a muslin first, but not in exactly the same fabric (mistake). The fabric I made the pants in has quite a bit of stretch, hence being too big. Putting this aside - I am very happy with the way they turned out, and they weren't that difficult, a little bit of adjusting and they will be fine. I think if you get the crotch right, then all will be ok. Give then a whirl - you've got nothing to loose

TracyKM said...

I've only sewn pajama pants! I have an old issue of Threads and they have an article on how to copy your favourite pants, but I think it's still a little scary!

Anonymous said...

I have made this pattern - great fit for my figure type (slim, small waist but a bit pear shaped!). No gaping at the back waist and the only alteration I made was to add some ease over the thigh. Instructions were good and construction simple except for the welt pockets which just take time and a little extra care. I didn't bother with a muslin but used cheaper fabric and omitted the back welt pockets on the first run. Made them a second time with a quality fabric and all pockets - they look better than my $250 Morrison pants! Looking at the quality of your sewing, I am sure you will be fine to make these.

Kisa said...

I know this is an old post, but I hope someone still reads this. I'm attempting this and am a total newbie to sewing.

I don't understand the waistband. I'm on the part where I've already attached both the right/left front waistband and the back waistband. So now I have two more right/left front waistband pieces and two more back waistband pieces. The pictures makes it look like you're joining all four pieces together, but how do you attach to the pants itself?