I started with this pattern from 1968.
I ended up with these red pants:
I busted my butt on these, but the problems, they are a-plenty:
- I chose the wrong pattern. I wanted cigarette pants and the Colette Patterns Clover didn't exist yet. I kept slimming down the leg, it was torture. An 1/8 inch here, an 1/8 there.
- I chose the wrong fabric for cigarette pants. Fabric was a thick old tablecloth, crease-friendly
- I was clueless about the stretch I was accustomed to wearing and didn't provide enough ease in the hips and upper thigh. The upper thigh seems like a magical area to me -- too tight, too bad. The elastic waist shimmied down when I walked. I had to pull them up when I was sitting.
Then, I tackled some Burda Ruby shorts. Luckily, the hip and rise on the Ruby shorts were nearly perfect. On the second denim pair, I lowered the crotch, making them infinitely more wearable. They are my de facto shorts pattern. 3-inch inseam.
The problem? Like my first pair, I chose the wrong pattern, Built By Wendy s3850. It's a great pattern, but it's for straight leg shorts, 3/4 or full length. I wanted tight, below-the-knee capris. I kept messing with the side and inseams. Better, in my opinion, to begin with something that approximates what you're after.
In hindsight, I learned:
- How to install a front fly zipper and side pockets. I used this pattern to guide me through making my jeans knockoff.
- How to use a TNT pattern (in this case, the Ruby shorts) to judge fit, especially if not making a muslin. I needed to take in the side seams at the hip and rear seams at the waist considerably.
- Though all my messing with it has left the inside a mess (and I'm therefore less likely to wear it), in the few times I do wear it now, I find that I'm not bothered by the issues that made me obsessive before. Distance has lead to forgiveness but also the realization that fitted pants may wrinkle and stretch as we move around. Just go with it.
Armed with Cal Patch's Design-it-Yourself Clothes: Patternmaking Simplified, I began drafting my own pants pattern, inspired by this lovely pair from the Sewing Princess.
I first took apart a pair of thrifted pants and put them back together. Whew! I had no space for my butt to breathe and the leg was all wrong. On a short frame, I just looked frumpy. This is when I began to learn the importance of the difference in shape between the rear (lots of room!) and front piece, and the shape of the leg. So bad it wasn't even picture worthy.
I tried again, using a polyester stretch, also thrifted, pictured at left.
Not a very flattering photo, but these are one of the few me-made items I'm so glad I made. They fit like leggings (stretchy, elastic waist) but can also be work worthy since they're black and slim, not skinny. Perfect for traveling. Problem? I couldn't replicate this. I spent so much time taking in the seams and not keeping track.
Last Spring, I took a third whack at the self-drafted pants pattern using thrifted khakis, pictured at right. They don't look terrible, but again, I spent so much time trying to get the leg just right and in the end, it was all shoddy construction and the wrong fabric. RIP, khakis.
Which brings us to the present, with the knockoff of my favorite GAP 1969 Real Straight Jeans. Many of you said you wished you could do a similar project, but consider my history of trying to get it right. :0 Success (I love 'em-I wear 'em)-Failure ratio: 2:6. That's six pairs made but never or rarely worn.
What I learned, though all of this:
- Quality begins with the quality of the pattern or the garment you're copying. Otherwise, it's patience, patience, patience (or: frustration, frustration, frustration).
- Simple pants are actually quite easy to make (side seams, inseams and crotch seam) but fit is everything -- good to keep a pair that's similar nearby to check measurements, i.e. rise, inseam length, etc. Wide-leg pants may be a good place to start -- much, much easier to fit.
- I became acutely aware of my slim hips and sway back and where I like my pants to fall on both my waist and my leg. You'd think I'd realized this after a lifetime of wearing pants, but alas, no.
- Most of us are accustomed to wearing pants with at least 2% stretch.
- Having one pattern that tells you how to do everything you want is priceless. For me, it's S3850 -- as much as I dig the vintage look of the streamlined no-pockets + side zip, on a casual day, I still long for belt loops and front flys and pockets I can sink my hands into.
But all of this has got me thinking. If you told me in Spring 2010 that it would take me six failed attempts to get a pair of pants I could be really proud of, I might have given up sewing all together.
Of course, now I'm thrilled that I can make pants and I know that failures are unavoidable, even for experienced seamstresses, and I've learned an incredible amount about my favorite garment along the way. But, really, this post can either be disheartening (as a new seamstress) or validating ('cause you've been there, too).
What about you? How many unwearable garments have you left in you wake? And has it been worth your time?
Happy sewing, all! I've got some finished objects to share with you soon :)