It’s February and as a kick off to our Season of Separates we’re tackling pants! We know that many sewers are terrified of tackling trousers because, probably more than any other type of garment, they demand a great fit. Although this can put many sewers off, it may surprise you to know that they are relatively easy to construct once you get your head around the basics of fit for YOUR body. Understanding how crotch depth, crotch length, full thighs, swayback and the like can help perfect your fit is worth the time investment – then you can apply these same changes to every pair of pants you make.
TROUSER TIP: Always choose your size based on your hip measurement rather than your waist measurement.”
Choosing a pattern based on hip measurement means it’s much easier to adapt and refit the waist than it is to start messing around with your pattern at hip level, especially for those of us who are curvy. If you are between sizes pick the smaller size and adjust from there. Note, however, that while almost all books and tutorials agree and suggest starting with a pattern for your hip size, The Vogue Sewing Book disagrees. They advise choosing a size based on waist measurement. I would only advise choosing based on waist measurement if you have fairly standardised measurements where there is not a big difference between your measurements for hip and waist and those of your pattern. Otherwise stick with the tried and tested hip measurement.
TROUSER TIP: Regardless of where your pattern is from, choose something that suits your current skill level so that your first pants making experience is as enjoyable as possible.”
Here are some suggestions based on sewing skill:
For Absolute Beginners: You can’t go wrong with a pair of pyjama bottoms as your first foray into the trouser world. These have the simplest construction and if the fit is slightly less than perfect it really isn’t going to make much difference to their wearability. You can also choose an easy fabric to work with, again minimising potential issues – they work wonderfully in a cotton lawn for summer or a brushed bottom flannel for the colder weather.
For Beginners: Pick a basic style with an elasticated or drawstring waist, or simple darts with a side or back fastening zip. This keeps the construction simple so you can get to grips with fitting the waist and hips properly without worrying about the additional fit problems created by fly fronts or pockets. It’s really about confidence at this stage and getting a good result with a basic construction before you tackle more complicated designs.
For Intermediate Sewists: There are hundreds of patterns out there in this range. You could tackle trousers with a front fly fastening and inset pockets. Or how about a pair of midi culottes? Whether you opt for a low-waisted casual pair or smart tailored design try a pattern with some interesting details. If you are looking for something that works well with your curves, Simplicity have a range of Amazing Fit trouser patterns which are designs that come with a “curvy” fit option. This means they already have more ease and room in the hip, bottom and thigh area. Also worth a look are the McCalls Palmer & Pletsch pants patterns. These patterns have really detailed fitting advice as you sew, and larger seam allowances which mean you can tailor fit as you construct your garment.
For Advanced Sewists: Welt pockets and other tailored accents may be what you need to satisfy your skill level. Why not try making a pair of perfectly fitted jeans complete with pocket stays, perfect topstitching and rivets?
Specifically Plus Size Patterns: Although most pairs of pants from the Big 4 typically cover a range of misses sizes up to a 20 or 22, they extend this sizing in their plus size ranges and you can find patterns up to a 55″ inch hip and beyond. Many indie pattern companies are also increasing their plus size ranges and are worth exploring. Fiona at Diary of a Chain Stitcher has compiled a great list of indie pattern companies here.
TROUSER TIP: Look in your wardrobe and see what kind of trousers you wear the most. Rather than trying a palazzo pant when you spend most days in a tailored capri style, pick a pattern that matches your aesthetic.”
The internet has many great videos and tutorials on fitting trousers. Here’s a mini guide to some of the best:
The team at Colette Patterns have two brilliant articles for sewing pants.
The basics of fit when tackling trousers. And the very helpful Fitting Cheat Sheet which highlights major fitting issues and their solutions. (You’ll see a lot of mentions of “frowns” and “smiles” when you are investigating pants fitting. These refer to the shape of the wrinkles encountered from fit issues at the front and back of your trousers.
Threads magazine have some great videos that tackle common fit issues with trousers. While the two listed below are available for free, others in the series can be explored on a 3 month free trial if you register as a Threads “Insider”.
A Fashionable Stitch
Sunni has written at length about pants fitting issues over the course of her brilliant trousers sew-a-long. These are great posts with really clear photos and explanations. They cover:
TROUSER TIP: ALWAYS make a muslin/toile of your chosen pattern to iron out fit issues. Because there are so many variables in a pair of trousers they will fit very differently from one person to another, even if they are exactly the same size. This is why a muslin (even if it becomes a wearable muslin) is essential. Depending on how complex your fitting issues it may be necessary to make several muslins to get the perfect fit.”
BOOKS ON PANTS FITTING:
My favourite book on fitting trousers is Pants for Real People. If you are serious about getting to grips with sewing pants and want to make more of them then this is the most thorough guide to getting a great fit. It covers every aspect of trouser sewing and shows you how to solve a myriad of fitting problems. It also has comprehensive sections on alternative waistband styles, pockets (including the much dreaded welts), and it even covers jeans and jumpsuits. While the photos and styling are a little dated the information covered here is timeless.
Another book I hear great things about is the Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting. This covers all kinds of garments rather than just trousers but it is a quick and easy visual reference to common fitting woes.
TROUSER TIP: Match your fabric and your pattern carefully. Always read the back of the pattern envelope for the fabric suggestions and make sure whatever you choose has the same feel and handle.”
Let’s not forget the awesomeness of Craftsy for some classes on pants sewing. Sandra Betzina’s are some of the best.
So there we are. Hopefully lots of help and advice to help you start on your trouser sewing journey. We’ll be posting more hints and tips throughout the month and look forward to seeing all your makes at the end of February.
Please note these are all personal recommendations and not affiliate links.