The most momentous thing for me this year, as a person trying to make most of her own clothes, was deciding to make pants as a part of my Summer of Basics. I think it’s at least as life-changing as having decided to make sweaters a few years ago. (Note that I’m saying “deciding” and not “learning” — making pants is sewing, and making sweaters is knitting. They are just different applications of those skills from what I had previously done, and it’s genuinely more about simply deciding to do it than anything else.) Up until a few months ago, the one giant piece of the wardrobe puzzle that I felt I couldn’t exert control over was pants. And that’s a big one for me since, A) I wear pants about 98% of the time, not being much of a skirts/dresses girl, B) I have fit issues with pants (most women’s pants don’t fit me) and C) I am incredibly picky about the shape of my pants. So to have such a key and complicated aspect of my wardrobe be at the mercy of others has been a lifelong challenge. And to have cracked that nut is enormous.
Certainly sewing jeans was a big effing deal, but these “toddler pants” (as I really need to stop calling them) have had a way more dramatic impact on my closet. And they’re so simple to make! Hence why I’ve now made 4 pairs of them. My lifelong preference is for wide-leg — I watched a lot of Katherine Hepburn movies when I was in high school — and that’s obviously a thing that comes and goes from stores. So I’ve always had to stock up when I find a pair I like. Which might also explain why I immediately cut out 3 more after making the first pair.
These are all essentially the same as my olive-green modified Robbie pants. To recap: I use the leg pieces from that pattern, with a few fit tweaks (noted below and previously), but with my own pockets and a 2″ waistband. Barring any dumb mistakes, I can cut and sew a pair in about 3 hours, so I’m tempted to cut up a lot more of my stash into these exact same pants. The exaggerated shape and utility pockets are both really current and really always-me, and the elastic waist suits my life. Not only do I do a lot of bending, lifting and hauling things, squatting or sitting crossed-legged on the studio floor shooting photos, etc., but comfort is just really critical to me. If I’m not comfortable in my clothes, I’m distracted by that, and with my daily to-do load I can’t afford to be distracted. So for all of those reasons and more, these pants have been a godsend.
FO 14: DENIM
These came right after the olive ones and are identical. After marking a change to the pattern to lower the waistline in the back, I forgot to actually do that when I cut them out. Whoops! I also bought stretch denim by accident (at Fancy Tiger while I was there) but just went with it. These are currently my favorite pants, but they are rather heavy in this heavy-weight stretch denim. Next pair will be lighter and non-stretch.
FO 15: NATURAL
When Kristine Vejar was in town to teach in September, she brought me the most thoughtful gift: a length of Huston Textile’s Union Cloth — climate-beneficial California wool and West Texas cotton, woven in California — that happened to be exactly enough for a pair of pants. It’s incredible fabric, unlike anything I’ve ever owned. And as you may have seen, I was sewing with it on the day of the Climate Beneficial Fashion Gala to console myself for not being able to be there — cruising along, feeling pretty pleased with myself … when I absentmindedly attached my waistband to the wrong side of the pants. And serged the seam allowance. If you’ve ever worked with fabric off a smaller loom like this — where there are fewer, larger strands per inch — you know how shreddy it is. And of course I had used a nice tight stitch. So ripping out the construction seam was a painstaking operation, done a little at a time, and then I had to actually cut off the serged edge to separate the waistband from the pants. So these wound up with a 1.5″ waistband instead of 2″, and they’re slightly lower waisted. But they’re kind of perfect, for all that. As special as they are, I’m going to try not to treat them as precious. Although you probably won’t find me cross-legged on the studio floor in them …
FO 16: CAMO
These were the third to be cut, and their whole reason for existence is so I can wear my beloved old camo pants much more sparingly for however much longer they manage to last. These don’t begin to hold a candle to those spectacular old dears, but they’re pretty great. For this pair, I did lower the back waistline about an inch and I also trimmed away some of the “excess” fabric in the butt and legs (due to my flat ass). So the fit of them is a little more traditional, but I really prefer the baggier ones. This fabric is the dead opposite of the natural pair as far as origins — it’s made in China, purchased from JoAnn online. It’s also on the thin side for pants, despite the product reviews on the website. If anyone knows of a more earth-friendly, heavier duty camo source, please let me know!
To see copious pics of the denim and camo pairs on me, in combination with my other garments, see my 20×30 outfit recap. The natural ones up top are pictured with my Channel cardigan.
PREVIOUSLY in FOs: The purple lopi pullover
Karen, this journey of yours really inspires me. I, too, face problems with RTW pants for although for different reasons (shorter legs, a sizeable arse, trim waist) and have been circling and circling the making of my own pants! What you’re doing and how you’re doing is really fantastic. On a side note, a knitting friend and I are having our own “Improv” KAL in January! I’m so excited. Having the empowerment of making ones own clothes is super cool and super fun!
That’s awesome — have fun with it! And let me know if you have questions.
I attended a seminar this past summer by Kenneth D. King where we all made a custom fitted, basic pants pattern. It is a game changer for me! I can make up any pants style I want with it, or use it to fit pants patterns I already own. And since we made our own, step by step, I can adjust it as I continue on my weight loss project.
We obviously have similar tastes in pants. I have umpteen pairs of Sonya Philip’s Pants #1. In particular, I love the wide legs and slightly short legs. In winter, I wear leggings under the pants for an extra layer of warmth (this is Canada, after all). I add wool socks and boots and top it all with an almost ankle-length down coat. It’s so difficult to look great when it’s minus 20C!
I’d love to see photos of how you style the pants #1 in really cold weather…
I’ll probably get around to doing this soon–it snowed this morning, although it’s melted now. I’m bad at taking photos of myself, but I’ll do my best with Instagram when the time comes.
I love those pants!
Thank you,Karen, for your inspiration. Because of you, I have now made myself a pair of these pants – at 66 something I never imagined I’d do, and I only started sewing 2 years ago. When I saw your Robbie pants, I was in love – they are my favorite style and I changed the pockets to be like yours. Wow! Thank you for all you’ve brought to my knitting and sewing life!
They’re so easy, right? Pants seem so daunting, but a pair like Robbie (just following the original pattern) or Sonya’s Pants No.1 is one of the simplest things to make.
These are great, Karen. The advantage of making several pairs of the same basic cut, is that you can really perfect the fit. For me, I have accomplished that with a (heavily) modified Moji that is the basis of my everyday wardrobe. I like a narrow, short leg….a sort of capri style for everyday wear. I’ve made four pairs and I live in them. For dressier, I have a pair of wider-leg silk pull-ons, more the shape of yours. I’m thinking of repeating that wider shape in a fairly light-weight gray wool, which I will wash a couple of times before sewing them up. If they have a smidgen of synthetic, and you don’t dry the heck out of the fabric, it will soften without felting. Gotta get on that soon….
These are a wool-cotton blend but I’m eyeing the wools in my stash for the next pair. Or sweatshirt knit …
Karen, I would love to know how you plan on wearing these in the winter. I love a slightly cropped pant, but I live/work in Chicago and cannot figure out how to pull these off!
Likewise, but Connecticut not Chicago…
I don’t live in Chicago or Connecticut and don’t know how anyone survives that kind of winter! But see emmcarten’s comment above — she’s in Canada and knows what’s what.
I always love to see how you choose a pattern, make it your own and then sew it multiple times. It is always so very inspiring !
May I ask how much ease do you have around the hips ? I always end up with either too much and too baggy or too few and slightly uncomfortable.
Oh, by the way, you know the side pockets pants you were dreaming about in a previous post this summer ? I made one, and those pockets are wonder ! You definitely should try to sew one…
Have you seen Colette patterns? These are easy and can be cropped. Many elastic pants are too poofy for me unless they have flat fronts
Oh and re: dresses. I wear most of mine with lightweight leggings. They feel more like a long tunic rather than a dressy then.
I am curious about the waistband and pockets. Is the waistband a separate pattern piece? Do the pockets stop at the waistband? The Tessuti pattern seems to be the standard casing waistband. Sorry to be pest but I love the look of your pants, the waist construction doesn’t appear too bulky.
Potential camo fabric source: The Fabric Store LA – when I was there in August they had a nice bottom-weight camo print in two color ways – green and pink. They will send you swatches, so you could email the store and ask if they still have the fabric and ask for a sample!
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love the pants. wonder how they would look with cowboy boots? i am having the hardest time finding pants lately and probably just need to bite the bullet and make my own. when i go jean shopping all i can find around her are the skin tight ones that are like leggings (not goo with cowboy boots) or high or midrise jeans. i am very low waisted and those styles create a “joey” not a look i like. but those pants look amazingly cozy and with elastic waist i wouldn’t need a belt.
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