Tag Archives: pants


Pocket, that is. Although, a raised, stinging mark on the flesh might not be too far off, either.

Yesterday, I took the plunge and cut another set of Ellen pants from my grey pinstripe wool. There’s actually quite a bit of this fabric—the pants only used about half—so doubtless there’s a blazer in my future.

The pattern comes with instructions to line the front piece to the knee (underline, actually, if you read the instructions). I did want to line, as I’m a bit hesitant about having wool trousers to begin with, never mind against my legs. So I cut out lining pieces front and back out of some of the leftover lining from my coat. Yes, these are going to be winter trousers. (Somehow the term “trousers” seems much more natural when I’m not talking about casual attire.) If any of you have any advice for how to line trousers with a fly, I’d love to hear it. My usual tutorial for installing a fly is Debbie Cook’s, but that, of course, doesn’t involve any kind of lining, and the only advice I could find in my Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing (my one and only sewing tome) was to construct separately and slipstitch around the zipper; nor did a quick google yield anything more specific. Maybe I’m over-thinking it, but I have this sinking feeling that I’m going to end up with a bulky mess right at the front of my otherwise-sleek trousers.

Someday I should really invest in a good book on tailoring. And in pinking shears.

Welt pockets---testing, testing, 1...2...

Anyway, I decided I wanted welt pockets on the rear. Now, I have always thoroughly avoided welt-anything to date (including the related technique, bound buttonholes). Not out of dislike, but out of pure chicken-shit-edness. There are any number of excellent tutorials on making welt pockets out there, which I have read over at various times. My tome has a description as well. Most recently, Gigi went over the process briefly, so that was the one I turned to, though it’s not particularly in-depth. Two admonitions stuck out in my mind: practice and precision.

Neither are my forte. Especially when it comes to sewing.

Nevertheless, I dutifully sorted through my scraps and started ironing and interfacing etc. After the first test welt, I decided to interface future welts. It looks fine, but it feels more sturdy with the interfacing, a little less likely to sag and expose the pocket lining.

Note: this is not intended to be a tutorial. I pretty much still suck at this. This is mostly intended to remind me of what I did (and maybe what not to do next time).

Drawing the future-welt box on the interfacing on the wrong side of the fabric was easy. Figuring out the relationship between the box-size and the welt (especially depth) took a little more mental gymnastics. I eventually settled on a welt that was 2cm wide (including a .5 cm seam allowance) and a box that was 7mm on either side of the line (the line being about 1mm wide, it all added up to 1.5 cm, the same width as my welt. Oh, good!

Welt pinned in place on right side of fabric, pointing down.

Next, how do you orient this? The whole thing gets flipped through and around, which is quite dizzying to my little, spatially-challenged brain. So, to start, your folded welt goes on the outside, pointing DOWN away from where the pocket will be. Its seam line goes along the bottom edge of the box, the raw bottom edge of the welt (currently pointing up) goes roughly along the middle of the welt. Well, technically 2mm off, in my example, but what’s a mm or 2 between friends?

(And dear lord, imperial people, I can understand inches in the macro range—I use them myself, to my shame—but how on earth do you wrap your minds around measurements like “5/32” of an inch? Mind-boggling! Give me my millimetres any day.)

I pushed pins through the fabric to locate the corners of my box on the right side, pinned the welt in place, and then basted it in for my sanity’s sake. Next the pocket lining goes on TOP of this (yes, on the right side of the fabric!) I used a single piece for my samples but two pieces sewn together for my actual pants. The single piece was a better idea. Probably there’s a different way to do it if you’re going to use two pieces, but what ever. Position the pocket lining over the welt on the right side of the fabric, facing down. I got this right the first time (unlike the welt…I had to rip off my first one)

Stitch around your box from the wrong side, so you can see your lines. Be achingly, brutally, precise.

Did I mention that I am lacking in precision?

People suggest counting your stitches along the short sides. I tried. Usually it took 7, sometimes 6, once only 5. This had less to do with my boxes being uneven than me not letting the fabric feed through evenly.

Blurry pictures of cutting through the welt.

Then… you cut. I love my little dissection scissors as they’re sharp, pointed, and tiny, but I think I need a new pair to keep dedicated for sewing. My husband has been using these to trim his hair and they’re not as sharp as they used to be :P.

The trick is to clip right into the corners, without clipping through your stitches. I did pretty well on the practice welts, actually, but not quite as well on the real thing; I blame it partly on my heavier lining fabric, and partly on being nervous about clipping my stitches.

Tucking everything through.

Once your box is snipped open (cut on an angle into the corners, making little triangles at each short end), you flip the whole shebang—that prolapse of pocketing and weltishness blighting the right side of your fabric—through to the inside, where it properly belongs. The edges of the welt itself show, which flummoxed me a bit when I first did it. For the next one I trimmed the edges on an angle (as you can see in the image above of the welt pinned in place), which seemed to make for less bulk at the bottom corners when flipping through. I have not seen this in other tutorials, and it may very well be a bad idea in the long run).

Sewing the "little triangles" down to the pocketing after pushing everything through.

Once you have it tucked through, you iron everything in place; Tug on those little side triangles and then stitch them down. This is supposed to make sure the welt lies flat and the hole’s edges are nice and rectangular. Sewing it down wasn’t actually as tricky as I had feared (I’m still scared of the button-hole-sized equivalent, though)

Stitch around the edges of your pocket bag, and voila! You have a welt pocket!

The real thing. Not... so perfect.

Well, in theory. I still have some issues getting the welt perfectly flat at the corners, not having it gaping, and other niceties. Precision, precision. I actually did slightly better on my second practice welt than on the pants themselves. /sigh. That being said, I think I’m more irritated with my inability to match the stripes properly (I tried! I REALLY DID!) than with the welts themselves. I may end up putting a small button in to keep them from sagging, as the shiny silver lining REALLY shows.

Also, it’s snowing again. Although seeing as it’s the end of October, I need to stop whining about that. At least it’s not sticking yet. 🙂


Filed under Sewing

Home (and speaking of pants…)

My back yard, Friday. There was actually quite a bit more snow an hour later, but I didn't take a second picture.

Well, I made it back, just in time for two inches of snow Friday.  /joy.

I did not, sadly, get to do any fabulous fabric (or button) shopping in Pittsburgh. We did walk up the Strip district once, and I

Pittsburgh. Note the complete and total absence of snow.

spotted at least one neat-looking fabric store along with several other interesting looking shops, but it was ten o’clock on a Tuesday night, so there was no awesome fabric-shopping for me. I did score a few books I really wanted, but I suspect “Major Transitions in Tetrapod Evolution” really isn’t your cup of tea, so I’ll spare you the review ;).

Ellen, v. 1

Yesterday, rather spontaneously and with my typical lack of forethought, I decided to tackle pants. Pants which are neither jeans nor stretch.

I started with the Burdastyle Ellen pattern. Compared to, say, the JJ, there are remarkably few versions of this on Burdastyle, but it seemed to fit the general bill of “pants that are not jeans and not stretch”: no yoke,  rear darts, a slightly higher (though still lowish) rise, and a close-fitting but straight, rather than skinny, leg. And Burda usually has a good reputation when it comes to pants drafts. I actually use a modified version of the Ellen waistband for my jeans, so that wasn’t a complete guess, either.

The main charm of these pants are the cute little patch-pockets with the unusually shaped flaps, which I conspicuously failed to include in my pair, mostly because it’s hard to spend that much time on details of a pair of pants you’re not even sure will fit.

For the sake of full disclosure I’ll reveal that this is another attempt to pretend that I am, all measurements to the contrary, a

Ellen pants, front

Burda size 34. This time because several people on Burdastyle had mentioned that the pattern seemed much roomier in real life than it looked on the model. This seemed a little too snug through the hips when I tried it on, so I let it out a bit at the side seams (below the waistband), but then it was too loose, so I took it in again. The waistband is snug, but that extra overlap you see beyond the fly shouldn’t actually be there, so if it weren’t I think the sizing would be basically perfect. (I’m not quite sure how it worked out that way, either, since the waistband is in four pieces that match to the side and back seams, and I only had the overlap on one side of the front. Probably something to do with my sewing of the fly). I also added an inch to the length (it seemed ok, but better safe than sorry, right?), which probably wasn’t strictly necessary but did allow me to put a nice, wide hem on the bottom. I did a small swayback adjustment to the waistband, which is deliciously easy when you have a centre-back seam.

Ellen pants, back

Overall I’m passably happy with the attempt.  The fabric I used (an ex-curtain) is, on second thought, a little thin for bottoms, and it seems to bag out a bit; these pictures were taken after a few hours of wear and the knees are distinctly pouchy. In my haste I neglected to interface the fly region (actually, I neglected to read the instructions completely…), so the gaping there is entirely my own fault. The fly installation is not my best, but certainly not my worst yet; once again I followed Debbie Cook’s tutorial. I really like hers for some reason (though I use pins instead of the wonder-tape), though I wish it covered the fly shield. I always forget that part and then it ends up being a bit fiddly and weird.

So that was my weekend’s sewing. I have a feeling my days of daily sewing posts are going to be on the wane for a bit… I don’t even want to think about the amount of work I have to do this month (how did it get to be almost Halowe’en?!?), and November is NaNoWriMo and then it’ll be Christmas… Hopefully once or twice a week will be enough? (Y’know, when I actually have something to talk about? 😉 )

Now, to decide whether to bother putting the patch pockets on the pants…


Filed under Sewing

Les pantalons


The Ultimate Jeans?



Or trousers, for those of you for whom the word “pants” conjures up visions of underthings. “Trousers” just seems like something my grandmother wears—probably polyester with  an elastic waist and permanent-press creases. Ah, the delights of our diverging language. (Side question—d’you think all this internet business will help bring the vernacular slang of the far-flung contingents of English speakers a little closer into alignment? For example, if it weren’t for the internet I might not know that a vest is also a waistcoat or a gilet, OR that it is also a tank-top or a camisole. Likewise the pants as trousers or pants as panties.)

Anyway… some of you have been around to witness the supposed triumphs of my great Jeans Quest. It hasn’t been completely easy, but it hasn’t been as brutally hard as many of the  pants-fitting struggles I’ve read about. I’ve followed the basic mantra, “when in doubt, take it in,” and mostly done alright. You have no idea the feeling of freedom and lightness this brings to me. It means that I can now, for the first time, have the perfect pair of jeans (barring my own technical limitations) on demand. All I need is some good, sturdy stretch denim. Buffalo Jeans, Silver, Pepe, Guess—all you expensive jeans companies that discontinue my favorite styles, or don’t make your inseams quite long enough, or just decide that this year EVERYTHING is going to come with holes in—can go jump in a lake. I’ll make my own jeans, thank you very much.

This is awesome.

But, it has awakened a thought in me. You see, in this world, having conquered the Denim, it occurs to me that there is something else out there. Yes, something that is…

Pants that aren’t jeans.


Pants that aren't jeans...


I know, I have a hard time wrapping my head around this as well. I have owned a few pairs over the years—the leather ones from the vintage store I bought in high school that never really fit (being high-waisted and made for someone with a 24″ waist… not something I had even when I was 17). The army surplus cargo pants, of course, which were my uniform for a while (they went with the shaved head and red plaid jacket…). The mens’ vinyl pants with the lacing all the way up the side… they are fun, but obviously for a very specific usage. Then there was that plain black pair of trousers I bought for that job interview back when I was finishing my Master’s. I didn’t like them, but I didn’t want to wear jeans to the interview, and felt a skirt (my usual go-to when denim is not quite stylish enough) would be too fussy and girly for a preperator’s position interview. This is a job that involves banging up rocks, not answering phones and typing up reports. I should note that the five or so people in the panel interviewing me were all wearing jeans ;). Anyway, I didn’t like them when I bought them, and never wore them again. But there is still that non-jean pants-shaped hole in my wardrobe. And now that I am sewing, perhaps I should be moving to address it.

But I’m still confused. What should pants that aren’t jeans look like? What colours are good? What fabrics? What kind of pockets? I’m a big fan of the patch pockets on jeans because my rather under-sized bottom needs all the ornament it can get. But I have a feeling these wouldn’t look right on… trousers. So what, then? Flap pockets? Welt pockets?

Then there’s the leg. I’m a big fan of tight and skinny in jeans—or at least, not flared. But this is also a very young look, and presumably not what I’m looking for in Grown-Up Pants. So what, then? Straight from thigh down? A subtle boot cut? These things run round and round in my head. And once I start moving away from the skinnies, I start to contemplate…

Pants that aren’t stretch.

I know, it boggles my mind, too. Discovering stretch denim, like low-rise jeans, was a major revolution in my life.


Pants that aren't stretch


My first pair of really awesome, low-rise, stretch-denim jeans (which I think I didn’t get until after Tyo was born, actually) was the moment when I went “Aha! This is my pant. THIS is the item of clothing I have been looking for since I was fourteen!”

But there are a few pairs of pants that aren’t stretch that have crept into my wardrobe over the years. The army cargos, of course, though I now only wear those for fieldwork. Most particularly, there’s a pair of “pseudo army pants,”—ultra-girlified low-rise camo pants with asymmetrical mini cargo-pockets, lots of studs, and a huge embroidery of snakes, skulls, and an eagle on one leg. The’re awesome, in a totally-casual, not-at-all-grown-up way… but the point is that they fit perfectly (and snugly!) in the hip/butt, and then extend seamlessly into a nice wide-leg pant. And they’re still comfy. If I had a fit like that in a less, ah, statement piece, it could really be versatile. As it is, I wear them about four times a year.

All this is without stepping into the slippery territory of “rise”. I abandoned high-rise jeans as soon as I could, partly because they never fit my figure (I have a big waist relative to my tiny bottom/no hips), and partly because at that point in my life it was pretty much my mission to show off as much abdomen as the weather would allow. Fashion and age have pushed me away from the crop-top, bare-belly look, but I’ve clung to the low-rise. They look right. They feel right. I just can’t let go of that long-ago “aha” moment. Sewing may let me fit high-rise pants to my own (lack of) shape, but it can’t remove my obsession with waist-rolls or the fact that I don’t have that teeny-tiny cinched-in waist. I know plenty of people have their own hate-on for the low rise, with plenty of good reason. I’ll just say that for me, with my body, it works. Will I explore beyond it? maybe I will. We’ll see. I gotta tell you it scares the pants of me.

Also, I need to find some red stretch twill. I saw some awesome red pants on TV the other night—red jeans with white lacing on the inside thighs. SO fun. I’ve been thinking I need red pants… (not in that practical ‘this would be a really useful addition to my wardrobe’ kind of way. More in the OMG that’s so awesome and fun kind of way.)

So what do you think? What are you looking for in the perfect pair of pants? How do you step it up a notch beyond jeans? What on earth should pants that aren’t jeans look like?


Filed under Sewing