Tuesday, August 14, 2012

All About Pants

Julia in McCall's 6361Around a decade ago I started on The Quest for Perfect Fit in Pants, a pursuit which seems to occupy many if not most women who sew.  The non-gaping waistband, the smooth front, the side seam perfectly perpendicular to the floor, and most especially, no wrinkles or excess fabric under the derriere.  On this quest, I collected every scrap of information about pants I could find.  Long before Threads produced their oh-so-useful archive on DVD, I hunted through every copy I owned for pants articles, including in the Fit section, then scanned, printed and put them in a notebook.  I added some Sandra Betzina articles from Vogue Pattern Magazine.  And notes from sessions, especially those of Peggy Sagers, that I attended at Martha's Sewing Market.  I found a great out-of-print book, Pants fit for your figure by Louise Bame.  I bought David Coffin's CD on Making Pants.  I tried out the Vogue 1003 pants fitting shell.  And I copied  useful tips and tutorials from the Web.  What I have learned is that there is a lot of information – sometimes confusing, sometimes conflicting  – out there.  And, also, husbands are no help when it comes to pinning out wrinkles or other fitting niceties.

McCall's 4007 top & 6361 pantsEventually, I developed some pants patterns that, while not perfect, were satisfactory to me. I've made Loes Hines European Pant, Claire Shaeffer's V7881contoured waist pant, Sandra Betzina's V7608 jeans among others.  But by now most are frankenpatterns: the pocket from this, the leg from that, the crotch curve worked and reworked.  So after coming across the Palmer/Pletsch website, I decided to start from scratch with  McCall's 6361 contoured-waist, slant-pocket pants, just to see if maybe I had tweaked and amended a bit too much.  I was so pleased with the result that it is now my go-to basic pants pattern. You can read a more complete assessment on Pattern Review which mentions the few alternations I made in the pattern. I followed up these full length pants with a cropped summertime version. 

One refinement I add to all my pocketed pants you can see here.  I took this from Cecelia Podolak's Fearless Pants #105.  Both pocket pieces are made from pocketing.  (Usually I would use Silesia or a tightly woven muslin, but I had this leftover lining fabric, so I used it instead.)  Then the fashion fabric is sewn to the pocketing pieces. You can't see that on these photos as the fashion fabric is naturally on the right side of the pants.  The two pocketing pieces can be sewn together normally up to the point where the part that extends into the fly begins.  Then I turn the raw edge of the bottom pocket piece under one-fourth inch and stitch it to the top pocket piece, closing the pocket.  Normally I would just overcast the raw edges, but I chose to encase them in a self bias-binding here.  There are two advantages to this pocket technique.  One is that with the pocketing extending into the fly, the pocket cannot bag and droop, plus the entire front is stabilized.  And secondly, using pocketing will make both a stronger and a less bulky pocket.

I also always make a separate fly.  This I adapted from a very old Vogue pattern and really adds no trouble to inserting the zipper. Cut one of fashion fabric and one of lining or pocketing, sew together, turn and baste raw edges together. Next, after basting the zipper to the left side of the front opening, you put the fly underneath and stitch it all together.  Then you just have to be careful to keep it out of the way when stitching the other side of the zipper. 

On casual pants, I also make flat-felled seams on the crotch and inseams to add sturdiness. 

If anyone would like a copy of my fly and pocket pattern pieces, I'll be happy to send a PDF file that could be scaled and adapted, with more complete instructions.


  1. I would say that all of your research definitely paid off! The fit is perfect. I like both versions!

  2. wow, those look marvelous. Julia, I'd love a PDF of the pattern pieces. Could you send to carroll61354 at charter dot net ? Thank you VERY much! off to work on my handbag for an hour before bed....

  3. Julia - fantastic fit. The pockets is something I'd love to do well. Would love a copy of your pattern pieces. My email is - send2eve at bigpond dot net dot au - Thank you so much for your generosity and help.

  4. Your pants look great! I'd love a copy of your pattern pieces, please.
    Here's my email Maryg425@aol.com. Thank you so much for offering to do this.

  5. I would also like pattern pieces and more instructions. thx remson5 at yahoo.com

  6. Thanks so much for posting this. I see we have similar figures, so I have to ask, is is too late to get the PDF of the fly and pocket pattern pieces?