Tailored Pants

Pattern: Vogue's Misses' Pants #V1051, based on the Alice + Olivia Melissa Pants
Materials: Gabardine, wool, etc.
Cost: TBD

After failing to find a suitable work pant, I have worked up the courage to make a tailored pair myself. Armed with the knowledge from my recent sewing class (see Techniques to check out what I learned), I hope to make myself a pair or two that will be comfortable, stylish, and to my specifications.

Part I: The Muslin

The beginnings of my muslin pieces.
To get the right fit, I decided to venture into the world of muslin--making up a mock pair in a cheap fabric to adjust the fit before putting the time and effort into my actual pants. So this afternoon, I sat down on the floor and cut out the twelve or so pattern pieces I would need in a fabric that would never see the light of day. Taking the extra time to make up a muslin is something that is firmly against my nature, but since my sewing class I am learning to take pleasure in the craft and slow down my sewing to get things right. And that includes working through the large amount of pattern pieces that Vogue usually provides to its ever-patient sewers.

Making a muslin is the second level of my new-found sewing patience. Before this, I had to master the habit of finishing my seams. As it turned out, I have been loving my garments with finished seams (they just feel so solid and professional!), and so making up a muslin is my next step to sewing perfection.

(To see more bad habits that can ruin your sewing projects, check out Colette's article.)

After figuring out my size, I laid out the pattern pieces on my white muslin fabric. As many helpful bloggers have pointed out, you don't have to make your mock-up on a store-bought muslin, but can use old fabric or anything on sale. But wanting so desperately to be perfect (and take some good pics of the process) I decided to pick up some muslin at the store to work on. After cutting the pieces, I marked each and every mark on the fabric with pen. Whew! It took all of an afternoon!

The next step was to start sewing. Traditionally, muslins are sewn with the seams on the outside, which allows for easier alterations. I ended up sewing the usual way (right sides together) in order to practice the complicated pocket construction.

As I started to work on the pants, I was soo grateful for my muslin. In the first day, I already messed up a pocket, and I was able to just shrug my shoulder and try it on the other side. I have worked out details like: don't catch the welt in your seams, make the pocket 1" longer, and make sure to sew the french seams on the pocket the right way. When I mess up, I can just rip the seam and try it again, even if the muslin gets a little abused in the process--the point is that I get the technique and steps down, and not abuse my actual fabric later on.

In getting started, I was unsure about whether or not to just baste all the seams together or to actually tack the ends down. I found after basting a few that my seams were just coming apart, and so I tacked down the ends. But this became a problem when I needed to rip a seam, as removal was harder. In the end I think it's better to just abuse the fabric and rip out the tacked seams. After all, a muslin should be as much like your final garment, strong seams included, so that you can actually try them on, walk around, wear 'em out, and figure out if the fit is right.

On my second night working on the muslin, I redid the first pocket (the one I cast aside because I had screwed it up) and made the fly + zipper. Because I am incapable of reading directions, I had to rip out all of the fly and zipper details and try again, the second time with more success. The first pocket still turned out a little off, but good enough for a muslin. I made plenty of notes in pencil on my instruction sheet to clarify all of the complicated Vogue steps!
As I'm sewing, I'm looking up some finished versions of these guys. While the store-bought Melissa Pants from Alice + Olivia look well-fitted and seam to hit at a good spot on the torso, the pieces that various sewers have made up seem baggy and too high (I won't link to any here, but I'm sure you can find some if you like). I am determined to make mine hit more like the advertised ones--more fitted in the thigh and a little lower cut. The 7" zipper might need to be taken down a notch. One change, however, is that mine will not be so long as on the model--she looks ridiculous!

Part II: The Pants

Making my muslin helped a lot to a) reassure me that, yes, the pants would fit, and b) practice the pockets and complicated construction. I also cut the seat a little bigger, but I'm not sure I'll need it because my pants have a little stretch.

Even after practicing the pockets, however, I had a little trouble. I probably shouldn't have put down the project for over a month, but I got distracted making curtains, a banded dress, polka dot underwear, my second striped dress (I wear it all the time!), a dress for my cousin's fall wedding, my fabulous Halloween costume, and a shirt that needs some alterations before I can post it.

So, in order that I don't forget again, and to help anyone out there who might attempt these pants, below are my pocket-making techniques. What I noticed was the biggest problem was that Vogue doesn't have directions for finishing some of the seams on the pocket, so I have added my own steps for that, too.

First, I disregarded the suggestion to clip the pockets to the circle. I found the fit was best if I waited to clip the corners until after I'd sewn the pocket to the pant.

For the front pockets, the welt is sewn to the same side of the pants as the pocket facing. On the front and back, the pocket facing can be sewn without worrying about the raw edges, but I sewed the facing on right sides together and then flipped it over and sewed it to the pocket to create a nice clean edge.

When sewing the pocket to the pant, the side with the pocket facing should be facing down, with the right side of the pants facing up. 
At this point, I clipped diagonally to the small circles, as the pattern tells you to do in step 1. 

This pocket now leaves a raw edge where the pocket connects to the pants. To finish this edge, I made a variation of the flat-felled finish, rolling the raw edges under (without clipping them) and stitching them down to the pocket (but don't stitch it all the way through to the pants).

This part is tricky because there are lots of layers that start and end at different places, so I didn't clip any of the seam allowances but rather rolled all of them back on themselves.

For the back pocket, I then attached the button loop. I only gave mine a 3/8" seam allowance, and I think that left it too wide. The full 5/8" might be better. 
(As a note, I like to use a safety pin to turn drawstrings and belt loops and the like right-side out. While the pattern suggests using a needle and thread, I pierce one end with a safety pin and then inch it through the tube until the piece is right side out. This is less labor-intensive than stringing a needle, making stitches, and then removing said stitches).

To attach the back pocket welt to the pants, place the pants in front of you with the right side up. Fold the side flaps (the pattern calls them the side seam allowances) underneath the pants piece and in front of the welt, so the pants look nice and neat and how you will want them to look when the garment is done (right side of picture). Matching circles, pin just the flap part to the welt, and sew only those two layers together (as shown in left side of picture). 

For the front and back, the next step is to sew the pocket together at the sides. For this, the pattern actually has you do a french seam, but it took me a little practice to get the order right. First, with the pocket facing facing out, sew the sides of the pocket together with a 1/4" seam allowance, matching notches. (To get the alignment right, when the pocket is folded the other way the pocket and the facing should match up with the top of the pants.) Trim the notches off and turn the pocket inside out.

Once you have the pocket inside-out (which is to say, right side out, as this is how they'll lay in the final garment), you will notice that the pocket does not completely double over on itself, leaving some raw edges towards the top of the pocket. I folded that raw edge against the pocket and sewed it in place with a zig-zag seam as a way of finishing the edges. I then switched to a straight stitch and continued down the side of the pocket, sewing with a 3/8" seam allowance. Keep the welt free as you sew the sides of the pocket together.

For the front pocket, sew the pocket to the side flaps as for the back pocket. 

Finally, for the back pocket, sew the side flaps and welt to the pocket (sewing through all thicknesses). I then sewed the remaining diagonal raw edge of the side flap to the welt, using a zig-zag stitch. I wish they gave you some good way to finish those raw edges, but alas...

OK, this is probably all very convoluted, but hopefully this, plus a muslin, plus the Vogue directions will keep me on course next time.

1 comment:

  1. Just been looking at your blog, you've got some nice ideas. Love some of your clothes you've made

    Handmade Jewellery


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