Summer Trousers Part1 and 2: Starting to put it all together

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Tuesday, 15 July, 2014

This week I have a new challenge: trousers! I've actually never attempted to make trousers from scratch (dreaded it to be honest). But when a friend of mine saw me wearing these light summer trousers she loved them. One thing led to another and now this is officially my first commissioned piece! Very cool :D It's an extra challenge because I've never made pants before. I'm taking advantage of the opportunity to learn making the pattern as well. This time I'm using an existing pair of pants to create the pattern. 
 
Part 1: The Pattern

This was the inspiration for the project. It's a light summer trou with wide legs and pockets. My friend basically wants a stripped down version of this (without any embellishment like the buttons) and the important things are the shape and fit and the lightness for hot summer days.

I found this nice, thin fabric (at the fabulous Utrecht fabric market ;)) that will be perfect for the job. I was looking for a bit darker grey, but for some reason it was really difficult to find grey in this type of fabric (does this mean that grey is either really popular or extremely unpopular..?). Luckily my friend liked it, both color and feel. So on we go!

I started by copying the existing pants onto a pattern. Our measurements are very similar, so I probably won't have to make any big alterations. Pfew! 
 
Initially I underestimated the complexity of the front panel and made this simplified pattern. But if you look carefully, you can see that the front panel actually comes in two parts that are sewn together (a seem that I originally thought was purely decorative). And there is this extra small piece above the pocket. What could that possibly be for? Maybe to give some extra strength or structure at the top? Or maybe it's just decorative. Who knows.

Anyway, I copied all the pieces all the same. We'll figure out how to fit them together later :)

The full front panel consists of a side panel with two darts and pocket, a narrow middle panel around the crotch, and a band of about 6 cm wide at the top. 

For each pocket we need a front and a back. I copied to pocket curve (the part where your hand goes in) from the front panel onto the pocket. The back of the pocket is just a rectangular piece of about 15 x 18 cm (without seems). 

Now the back panel. This one is much simpler than the front panel. Here I made another mistake though. This trou has a wide piece of elastic around the back. I figured the back would have to be about 50 cm wide in order to fit over the hips. (You wrinkle up the excess and use the elastic to make it tight around the waist, but we'll do this later). 

50 cm was right, but that's for the total width. You always cut the panels double, so for the pattern you need half, so 25 cm. Luckily I noticed this before I started cutting into my fabric. But in any case it is easily fixed by cutting the pattern in half. Just take care to use the correct waist and hip measurement! You'll get this slight curve at the top. 

That's it for the pattern. Cut all pieces twice (except for the top band at the front). In the picture you can see all the pieces for the front panel, the back panel and the pockets (plus that weird little piece above the pocket). Instead of making the full paper patterns, I made only the tops of each panel, because that's where all the details are. Then I measured the rest out on the fabric directly (the full length of the legs) and cut it out. 
 
Cool! Next week I'll start putting it all together. Hope it all goes smoothly :)
 
 
Part 2: Starting to put it together
 
Okay! So far so good :) The pattern is ready, now comes the second challenge. Hoping it will all fit together..

DIY seemstresses will know that the order in which you do things can be quite important sometimes. I had no idea where to start with the pants, so I referred back to my trusty Burdas and looked up a few (random) patterns of pants. I was lucky to find a whole section on how to put together and alter pants in one of them. But the short descriptions near the patterns were also pretty good (once you're done googling all the jargon...) 

(Sorry for the bad quality pic here btw, still haven't figured out why that is).
The first thing mentioned in my how-to-pants section was: always cut the legs with the flow of the fabric. The fabric around the leg will then drape nicely and this makes for a much nicer fit. A slight panic gripped me. I already cut my fabric and I didn't know I had to pay attention to this! But I quickly checked my patterns and it was all good. See as you hold the fabric in both directions that it drapes down and cut the length of the legs in that direction. (Pfew!)

To assemble the pants follow this order:
 
1. Front panels first. Basically sew everything that needs to be sewn on the individual panels before you sew the two together.
 
1A. Start with the darts. Copy them and iron them in, then sew. 

Then do the other panel. Here comes the first tip: make sure to mirror the panels! I brilliantly did the darts on the same side on both panels. Of course this will not do.. It may seem really stupid to a lot of people to call this a tip (and it is) but I discovered (and rediscovered!) that checking if things are mirrored correctly is essential when making pants :)

Still on 1. sewing the front panel. These pants have 2 front panels (most pants don't). So here we have and extra step 1B. of actually completing the front panel. I did this after sewing the darts. Normally I would advise to do this after, since you can adjust the darts if necessary to get a better fit around the waist. In these pants the darts are not so much for the fit around the waist (later we're going to put the wide strip of fabric here that we cut earlier) but more for the 'way the fabric falls' at the thighs. So here it doesn't really matter :)

After I sewed on the second part of the front panel, I thought it flared out a bit too much. I wanted the seem to go straight down the leg to maximize the drama! So I took it in a bit. Make sure that the width of the leg will allow this. 
 
Then repeat everything on the other side.

2. Sewing on the pockets.
At first it sounded a bit weird to me to do the pockets now, but just follow the rule that EVERYTHING on the front panel has to go on first. It's actually really neat, because putting the pockets on now will allow you to sew them into the sides giving extra strength and a much neater finish. 
 
Here's the order for the pockets. Pay special attention to the inside-outside fabric thing!
 
2A. Sew around the curve (the part where your hand goes in). Make sure you put the good sides of the fabric towards the inside and on top of each other!
 
2B. Fold over the pocket flap and iron around the curve
 
2C. Turn the whole thing over. Sew the back of the pocket (the rectangular piece) onto the pocket flap along the inside and bottom. 
 
No need to sew the other sides, they'll get taken along when we sew the front and back panels of the pants togehter. Make sure you fasten everything with pins or a running stitch to prevent it from moving around. 
 
Now all I have to do is repeat on the other side and...

..NOOO!
 
(Note to self: must check to make sure I mirrored everything correctly!)
 
(Second note to self: don't do complicated pant sewing after 9 p.m. after a full day of lab...)
 
 
See the next part and the final product here 

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