Although I made these pants months and months ago, I feel like they’re a particularly poignant make for the season: It’s slow fashion october! If you don’t know what that is, get thyself to the Fringe Association Blog and find out.
I get a couple of standard reactions from non-sewing people when they find out I make my own clothes. If a member of their family (a mother or a grandmother) sews, they'll usually lead with that. If not, I get "Even that?", "What about that?" and "What about this?" as the person systematically points to every item I'm wearing, which sometimes involves me giving them too much information about bramaking. Then, "You should make stuff to sell!", to which the inevitable response is that it would most likely be too expensive by the time all the making was finished. Once the topic of cost is on the table, the next statement is usually something along the lines of "But it must be so much cheaper to make your own!"
This is such a lovely concept, isn't it? I think it's very much the product of a generation of people whose mothers sewed (or at least mended clothes) as as way to save money for the family, and at one point in the history of People Wearing Clothes it was less expensive to buy fabric than to buy ready-made garments - but the honest truth, as any person who makes even a small percentage of their clothes will tell you - is that this is one expensive hobby. I mean, at least I don't collect and restore vintage cars or have an affinity for skydiving trips on the weekends, but let's just say if I were in it for the savings I wouldn't have stayed long.
Part of this is a sustainability concern - the reason RTW can be so inexpensive is that someone, somewhere is being underpaid and undervalued. Part of it is a supply concern. If I buy small quantities for one-off garments (as we all mostly do for home sewing) I don't get wholesale pricing like I would if I were buying in bulk and producing. The last bit, as I see it, is the human element. I spent a lot of years making a lot of terrible looking things that never saw the light of day (and some that did anyways!) before I figured out how to make good clothes that I enjoyed wearing. I can do that with a pretty high success rate, but of course that hasn't always been the case. I have sewing machines, and specialized tools, and a dedicated space in my house, and I spend a lot of hours every week sewing, reading about sewing, and thinking about sewing.
I promise I'm making a point, here. These linen pants - the ones I promise I'm about to tell you all about - I dug the fabric out of the remnant bin at The Fabric Store and paid a whopping $16 for it. This is their heavyweight milled linen (the color is 'Gravel' and I - a person who is very particular about her greys - love it) which normally retails for $32/m. My remnant was 1.2m, so $38.4 at full price. I made myself a pair of self drafted, tailored linen pants with that $16 remnant, using interfacing and buttons from the stash, a zipper that was a freebie in an online order from a fabric shop, and pocket fabric scraps leftover from some pillowcases I made last year. The point I'm trying to make (bless you for holding on this long) is that when I say "Whoo! I made myself a pair of beautifully tailored linen pants for $16!!!" - that's not a repeatable occurrence, and it’s not really true. If I were paying myself for my time, I'd say it took me 1.5 hours to draft the pattern, 1 to make the muslin, assess fit adjustments and make changes to the pattern (and I was lucky, they usually take longer than that), 2 to cut out my pieces (pattern tetris, just a bit), and, say, 4 (I may have lost track of time, but HELLO flat felled everything) to actually sew up the pants - let's say I pay myself minimum wage (In NZ dollars because that's how I bought my fabric) which is $16.50 per hour, my pants now cost ~20 for materials (remember, I didn’t buy the zipper and the pocketing was leftover scraps) - and $140.25 for labor.
(you may argue that now I have that draft and can make all the pants I want with that pattern, and you'd be right, and I will, but every pair is probably going to be a little bit different. I don't need an army of exactly the same pair of pants in my wardrobe, that's no fun. The hypothetical here is bespoke, one-off clothing. Also there’s still sewing time in there.)
I'm not in a position in my life to pay $160 for a pair of pants. Are you? Instead, my 'payment' for these pants is my own time spent. I guess what I'm trying to say is - yeah - you can save money by making your own clothes. But it's not less expensive. I sure as heck wouldn't do it if I didn't like to sew, either.
Okay. Now that you understand the context of the situation - LOOK at these pants I made! I'm particularly pleased with them, not only because of the whole $16 thing, but also because my draft fit 98% perfectly on the first try - just a few frown lines at the front crotch, which I eliminated by shortening the front crotch curve by 1/2" and grading to nothing along the inseam of the front leg piece. I felt a bit like a magician, things almost never work that well.
I cut everything in a single layer to preserve fabric, and ended up fitting all my pieces with a few scraps leftover for the welt pockets I thought I was going to add, and then didn’t. I did realize I hadn't allowed for the fly front with my waistband drafting, so I ended up cutting waistband extensions to fit into the side seams. Things worked out in the end because I made the waistband extensions align with the pocket openings so at least it looks semi-intentional. It was a near thing, getting everything to fit - I'm not saying I wish I was shorter, but getting those big long pieces to fit would have been less of a squeeze if I didn't have a 36" inseam to contend with.
My pocketing fabric - boring grey Kona cotton - is leftover from the set of pillowcases I made last summer, and there was just enough there to eke out a pair of pocket stays! I reinforced the front slash pocket openings with twill tape because linen is prone to bagging out, and I also reinforced the top of the waistband and the center back (read: Butt) seam for the same reason. I originally pulled the stay tape taut as I was sewing, but this ended up making the top of the waistband too tight so I removed it. I really enjoyed slowing down and taking my time with the details of these pants- even though they were made as a way of test-driving this new draft. I won't call them a wearable muslin since I did make a rough muslin and wasn't too worried about whether they'd be successful, but this is still my first unguided self drafted fly front opening, and my first attempt in a very long time at 'dress trousers'. There are a few small things I'll change before the next version. I’d prefer a more stable waistband (I’m sure you’ve spotted the pulling near the buttons), the grainline of the back leg pieces needs a small adjustment, and I’d love a pair with butt welt pockets too. I've got some beautiful vintage wool suiting earmarked for pants in a similar style, but - well. Let's just say that fabric cost me a little bit more than $16.
After Me Made May, my two takeaway words were 'intentional' and 'unique' - and I've been trying to reflect that in my sewing projects. I think this project satisfies the 'intentional' bill - both as a wearable muslin for my fancy trousers, but also as a semi-dressy and non-jeans trouser that works with a variety of clothes in my wardrobe. As far as 'unique' is concerned - well - they're pants that aren't jeans so I guess I'm moving in the right direction. Baby steps. I like that the grey makes them a little more seasonally appropriate year-round, even though the linen will definitely shine strongest in the summer months. I've already gotten some wear out of them this winter - I've got a pair of (yet unblogged) leggings that have been wonderful with them.
This is yet another project from the ‘finished/unblogged’ stack I’ve had waiting for you. I’m still plugging along on the wedding dress, so these pants were finished several months ago. That’s given the linen time to soften, which, let me tell you - I know this stuff is expensive but it really is SO NICE. After only a few washes they’ve really softened, and the sharp wrinkles yielded soft rumples which I love. Cute and casual. Now that it’s summer I’m definitely feeling the need for a lighter colored pair, but that might have to wait until after the wedding.