23 September, 2010

Thoughts on Trousers

It's a seasonal thing, isn't it?  In spring many of us are eager to make dresses, but as soon as Labour Day is behind us and the temps begin to drop - perchance  precipitously - we like to reach for something to protect our gams from the elements.

Let's face it, making trousers - pants for us North Americans - can be intimidating.  You're forced to put together something that smoothly covers a short wide cylinder set atop two long and narrow ones.  As if that wasn't bad enough, the wide cylinder is ridiculously misshapen:  narrow at top but wide at bottom (your butt) in the back, and, relatively speaking, fairly narrow at bottom but wider at the top (your belly) in the front. 

When I jumped on the "sewing for me" bandwagon, it was in a very large measure to increase my work wardrobe (jackets, yea!).  In my previous endeavours as a lab scientist and then a prof, jeans were all very well as the daily uniform for all, but became unacceptable when I swapped hats to be a senior egghead at a large non-academic institution, where jeans are outright verboten except for Fridays (more on that later).  A pair of work-worthy trousers was high up on my initial sewing agenda. My mother, who has sewed (extremely well) all her life, advised me to stay away from Vogue, and try Burda :  thanks, Mom! So my trouser-making odyssey started with Burda 8283:  a classic semi-fitted trouser with diagonal pockets, bottom cuffs, and front pleats.  

Why did I pick this pattern?  probably because it was a fairly relaxed style, and that seemed a good thing for a job demanding a protractedly seated position.  But, in retrospect, the pockets, cuffs, etcetera, were too much of a challenge for me the trouser newbie. I've been tweaking this pattern ever since - shifting the pleats, changing them to darts, changing the shape of the crotch curve (to a flatter one), lowering the waistline, ditching the cuffs.... I even use it to make one-seam casual at-home pull-on slacks, by overlapping the side seam and adding an inch to the top for the elastic. That's the easy part. 

Over time, the pattern has evolved to a straight-leg front-dart trouser with no cuff and no pockets, a straight, narrow (3/4") waistband that hangs lightly a little below my waist,  a concealed inner button plus hook & eye, and a zipper shield.  I've made 3 versions of it in the last month:  at-home one-seams out of a black ponte-de-roma from Fabricland;  a flowy wide-leg trouser from some greyish-black RPL freebie in my stash; and a somewhat narrower, straight-leg pair out of a tropical plain-weave stretch wool, also black.  I have this pattern pretty much under control, but I still err occasionally in the order of construction & serging of the zipper area:  you want to do things in the correct order so as not to end up serging & re-serging the same area, or fighting with tight spots that were accessible at some earlier stage. 

This year, I've become a little bolder.  In the spring, I made 3 pairs of the Jalie stretch jean (the first, knee-length).  I'm all psyched to produce another, maybe even this weekend, in a heavyish black denim with red topstitching, as part of my casual - and not so casual, since it includes my red boucle Chanel suit ;) - "wear red on Fridays" wardrobe.  

This week I upped my derring-do ;) another notch, and began this month's fourth slacks pair, then cut it out from a very nice microfibre fine wale black corduroy from Candlelight Valley Fabrics - also for my casual Fridays wardrobe.  It's Jalie 2909, a flat-front no-pockets pattern with a slight flare in the lower leg, size U (39" hip).  The pattern calls for 4% lycra, but since the corduroy is non-stretchy, I added 1/2" to each side seam, and 1/4" to each inseam.  I also chalked the pattern onto each piece, to be able to follow, at least in the basting stages, the original 3/8" (1 cm) seam allowance.  After sewing "per design" and trying them on (they fit!) I decided to widen the upper legs a smidgeon: a teeny 1/8", just because the fabric's not stretchy, and I'm no longer 21, and don't want to be thought forgetful of that fact.  At the moment, though the waistband pieces are still cooling their interfacing on the ironing board, yes I'm already wearing them.... and hubby, not even realizing the pants I'm currently wearing aren't even finished, and supportive as always, says they fit better than any other I've ever made.  How can a gal NOT sew when she has this much of a fan club?

I'm not going to show you all these black slacks - whatever for?! you'd never see past the two-legged black hole in the photo anyway.  Suffice to say, there's a reason for this pants-making push, and it's that I have a bunch of beautiful, super-120 and better wools on hand, and am really really truly ready to start wearing them*.  And practice makes perfect, and making four, or five, or more, sets of slacks in a (very!) short time, really but really gives you a sense of the all important "I really DO know what I'm doing here".  Hah!

* (last year hubby took some of these lovely wools overseas on a business trip, and had a bunch of slacks made to measure! I'm just plain jealous of my guy's too-well-clad nether regions! )

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