Sewing pants can seem quite intimidating, especially for the curvy amongst us. Here are some suggestions to get you started!
1. Photograph yourself wearing store-bought pants. Pants-fitting is all about reading the wrinkles, but it’s easy to fall down the rabbit whole of wanting perfect pants with no wrinkles at all. Taking photos in RTW is a good reminder that even your favourite pants have pull-lines and wrinkles – AND THAT IS OK! Look back at these pics if you find yourself going crazy aiming for perfection. (While you are at it, the wrinkles might also give you a clue what kind of fit adjustments you’ll need on a sewing pattern.)
2. Choose a simple pattern. I started with leggings, and then pull-on stretch Elle pants from Style Arc. Sewing a simple pattern meant that I could try out adjustments without spending a whole weekend sewing up one pair of pants, which may or may not fit. Alternately, choose a loose flowy pant that will need less fitting than something skin-tight!
During Me-Made May in 2014, I wore Style Arc Elle pants for a week straight! I tried out different adjustments on my first ten pairs… then decided my first ones were actually the best and went back to the pattern as drafted with just two changes: more room in the inner thigh, and a scooped out back curve.
3. Buy a LOT of your muslin fabric. Ideally, enough to make 3 pairs of pants. (Hopefully they turn out as wearable muslins by the end!) Your muslin fabric MUST be appropriate for the pattern and very similar in stretch/weight/drape to your “good” fabric (aka. not actual muslin). There is NO POINT muslining anything in the wrong fabric – you’ll end up with all new fit issues when you sew it up for real. Basically, look for cheap denim/twill/crepe/whatever, and buy lots. If you change your fabric for each muslin, then each pair will appear to need contradictory alterations.
4. Make adjustments slowly. Tempting as it is to try everything at once, you’ll never be able to tell which adjustment worked or made things worse. My suggestion is to make the first muslin straight from the pattern; the second with one or two adjustments; and a third taking those adjustments further or trying something additional. Dance in front of the mirror, sit down, bend to pick something up… because you will not always be standing straight in front of a mirror! By now, sew a wearable muslin, because you need to wear them around and see how they work out in real life.
A few of my many pairs of Closet Case Files Ginger jeans! This is a good base pattern for me because it’s drafted for curvy hips. Note that they all have wrinkles – some I’d like to keep trying to fix (hello, knock-knees) but some are needed so I can bend and move!
5. Consider following one fitting resource. Meg already did a round up of great pants-making resources online, which you can find here. I’d suggest choosing one fitting resource, and sticking with it for this first project. This will prevent you from doing overlapping adjustments, and streamline the process of figuring out which adjustment to do.
6. Almost everyone needs adjustments. There’s a chance that you are going to pull on your new pants at some point and feel your self-confidence crash. (Unless that’s only me?) Muslins are never particularly flattering, and during the fitting process your brain is focusing on flaws. Be kind to yourself though, and remember that particularly in tight-fitting pants, people of all shapes and sizes need to do adjustments. The pattern is just a starting place! Go back and look at those RTW pictures, and remind yourself not to aim for impossible perfection. Imagine your pants styled with a cute top and accessories, and see the potential!
A few other pant patterns and styles I’ve experimented with! From left to right: Closet Case Files Sallie JumpsuitCloset Case Files Sallie Jumpsuit, Cake Espresso leggings turned into stretchy jeans, Made with Moxie Prefontaine shorts, Closet Case Files Carolyn pyjamas, and True Bias Hudson pants.
Here’s my summary: Be realistic, start simple, go slow, and make wearable plants ASAP! I swear that every pair of me-made pants has fit better than what I can buy in stores, and trust that you will find the same!
Experienced sewists, what advice do you have for beginners? Beginners, what questions or concerns do you have?