Pants fitting with slim pants, two ways

Having now successfully made several pairs of wide-leg and palazzo pants, I decided to give slim pants a try. I made two pairs of grey slim pants this week, with two different types of fabric and patterns. Neither came out quite as I had hoped they would, but they are wearable and I learned a lot about pants fitting in the process, and also why I should probably just stick with wide-leg pants.

Take 1: Pattern Emporium Urban Pants Collection

I was so happy with my Pattern Emporium Walk Boldly pants, that I wanted to check out other Pattern Emporium pants. I saw the Urban Pants Collection for knit fabrics, which includes in a high rise with back darts, similar to Walk Boldly, and decided to give the pattern a try. The collection includes wide leg, tapered, and flared pants patterns, all with yoga waist bands and a jeans pocket option.

I selected the tapered style for my first pair. I was originally going to use a grey ponte fabric, but read the warning about the pattern not working well with some pontes, and I decided not to take the chance. Also, the pattern designer highly recommended doing a fit test. So I used some grey cotton lycra from my stash that is soft and comfy but doesn’t have great recovery, so I’ve been reluctant to use it for anything I really care about. I figured it would at least make a comfy pair of PJ pants.

I cut out the pants in size 10 with a size 8 waist band. Since I’m 5’2 I shortened the pants by 2 inches, and because I love big pockets, I added 2 inches to the length of the pocket bags. I also zigzag stitched a circle of half-inch elastic inside the waistband fold because I often have trouble with yoga waistbands staying in place when I put things in my pockets and I prefer the feel of a snug waistband to feeling like my pants are falling down all the time.

The pants went together pretty quickly and easily, and the pattern was easy to follow. The bad-recovery fabric made the pocket construction a little finicky, and cause the top of the pockets to stretch out a bit. My 2-inch pocket extension was probably over kill on these pants and 1 inch would be sufficient. The length ended up maybe a tad short, but they look ok with a 5/8-inch hem (held in place with fusible hem tape and then finished with a narrow zigzag stitch). I could probably have shortened by 1 inch instead of 2.

I struggled a bit with stretching the waistband as I sewed it to the pants with my serger. I ended up with a couple of unwanted puckers, so I unpicked part of the waistband and sewed it again. It worked better the second time, but it wasn’t quite as smooth as I would like. I had pinned it in 8 places, and clearly next time I should add more pins (as the pattern designer recommended). Another option I might consider next time is to split the waistband into two pieces and angle the sides so the bottom is a size 10 and the top is a size 8, which means there is less stretching of the bottom needed. Adding a contour to the waistband could also work.

After finishing the pants, I scrutinized the fit to see if any of the extensive modification described in the pattern tutorial were needed. I thought it looked pretty good as-is, and my husband (who is not afraid to tell me the dress I just sewed looks like a sack) agreed. They don’t cling too much to my bottom or hips. They do cling to my calves a bit, which causes some wrinkling at the knees, so perhaps I should adjust a bit for wider calves.

These are pants I will wear with t-shirts on weekends (or as pajamas). The grey CL fabric gives them an athletic vibe, and they look like joggers without bottom cuffs. I like the back darts and the yoga waistband (except for the unwanted puckers. I think they fit pretty well, although I think they look better when my shirt is not tucked in, so that’s how I will likely wear them most of the time.

I would like to try another pair in a dressier looking fabric that has better recovery. I’m still not sure whether these would work well in ponte. I will probably try the wide-leg version in ponte first. The wide-leg style is not as wide or high waisted as the Walk Boldly pants (and it has the same yoga waist band as the tapered style, while the Walk Boldly pants use an elastic waist band), and the Urban pants use a lot less fabric. Unlike the Walk Boldly pants, the Urban pants do not have back pockets, but I think I could borrow the pocket design from the Walk Boldly pants and add pockets to these.

(I modeled the pants above with one of the first Sinclair Bondi shirts I made, and never blogged about, in a yellow cotton lycra print and wide scoop neck.)

Take 2: Love Notions Patterns Sabrina Slims

I still wanted to make a pair of slim pants with my grey ponte fabric, a stretchy 320 gsm viscose/nylon ponte in the wrought iron color from Surge Fabrics. I looked for other slim pull-on pants with high-waist options and pockets that listed ponte among their recommended fabrics. I decided to try the Sabrina Slims pants from Love Notions Sewing Patterns. This pattern is intended for stretch woven fabrics and stable knits. It has jeans pockets and patch pockets, and a 2-inch elastic contoured waist band.

This pattern instructions are a bit terse and the pattern does not come with as many explicit instructions and suggestions or diagrams as some of the other patterns I’ve been using. I have enough experience that this wasn’t a problem for me, but I think it makes this less of a beginner-friendly pattern when there’s actually not much particularly difficult about it. I followed the measurement instructions and selected a size 6 based on my hip measurement, as recommended. I noted that my thighs were size 8 and my waist and calf were size 10 (although based on the finished measurements there is a lot of extra room in the waist so a size 6 waist should be quite ample in a stretchy fabric). I graded the inseam on the front and back pieces to a size 10 but left the rest a size 6. I also extended the pocket bags to have room for my phone. I cut out a 28-inch inseam, which is longer than I expected to need but would give me room for error.

The pattern comes with a fit handbook, which was very helpful. They recommended sewing a muslin for a fit test and offered suggestions for a quick a dirty approach to basting the muslin together. I decided to take a chance and cut my muslin from my grey ponte fabric in the hope that it would be wearable by the time I got done with it. I basted it all together (using the recommended 3/8-inch seam allowance) and tried it on, and was not too happy with it. The front looked ok, but the back was too tight against my bottom, and the sides puckered where my hip crease is, and the fabric had folds around my knees. I read the fit guide but wasn’t entirely sure what to do, so I posted some photos to the Love Notions Pattern Support Facebook group and asked for help. I received a large number of responses, which was great. People pointed out that these pants were fitting me more like leggings. People suggested sizing up and sewing with a smaller seam allowance, offered tips on scooping the crotch or lengthening the crotch seam, noted that the fabric was pulling on my calves, pointed out that I have hip dips, suggested better underwear choices, and wondered whether my troubles were caused by the heavy ponte fabric. They also sent me pointers to a number of pants fitting videos. The “Lifting Pins and Needles” pants fitting video series was very informative.

From all this I learned a number of things. First, I had been oblivious to the fact that the shape of my hips has a name (hip dips). Now that I know the name I have learned that my inadvertent discoveries about selecting flattering clothes align pretty well with what people recommend: wear wide-leg pants and fit-and-flare dresses. Next I learned that I have largish calf muscles, something that had never occurred to me before – I don’t think they are enormous, but they are indeed larger than the pattern measurements for my size. Now I understand why none of the slim pants I own are smooth over the knees: they are all getting pulled by my calves. Going forward, I guess I will widen the calves of any slim pants I sew. From the videos, I learned how to measure myself for pants and adjust patterns based on this, something I will do before attempting another pair of slim pants.

I decided to try to salvage the muslin, so I removed all the basting and sewed the pants together with my serger using a 3/16-inch seam allowance everywhere except on the waistband, which makes it closer to a size 8 instead of a size 6. I also did some scooping of the back crotch and I recut the extended pocket bag in purple ITY to reduce the bulk since the ponte is pretty thick.

After I got it all sewed together and added the back patch pockets, I tried it on and found that my changes had helped improve the fit somewhat. The back and hips looked better, but my hip dip was still prominent. There was a bit more room in the legs, but still not enough for my calves. I think I may have inadvertently added too much to the front crotch, which you can kind of see in the side view. The patch pockets also served as a camouflage, although I’m not entirely happy with the pocket placement, and would move them closer together, lower the outer corners, and also consider slightly smaller pockets next time (the pattern offers the same size patch pockets regardless of pants size). The waistband did not sit smoothly and was a big disappointment. While I was focussing on making my butt look better I hadn’t noticed the waistband problem, and just assumed the gaps were due to the fact that I hadn’t attached it completely. But now I see that the waistband is actually too big for me and I should have either sized down or added more of a contour. With the elastic it fits and isn’t going to gap or fall down, but it isn’t as smooth as I would like. I decided that the muslin was about as good as it was going to be, so I went ahead and finished the pants, cutting 1 inch off the bottom of each leg and sewing a 1-inch hem (effectively a 27″ inseam).

The muslin is wearable and I expect I will wear it, despite the flaws. It looks much better if I wear a longer shirt and don’t tuck it in. I expect I will likely wear these pants with a longer sweater or jacket and they will look fine. The ponte is actually super comfortable to wear and it has a somewhat dressy look.

My sense from reading the Facebook group is that other people did not have as much trouble with this pattern. The pattern states “as sizes get larger, the less negative ease there is.” With less negative ease in larger sizes, I think the pattern would be more forgiving. My choice of fabric may have played a role in my difficulties, but I’m not sure. And in the end, although these pants do not have my ideal fit, they fit similarly to most of the slim fit pants I have bought in a store. So maybe Ill make more adjustments and try again, but probably I’ll go back to wide-leg pants for a while.

Conclusions

This wasn’t a controlled experiment because I used very different fabric for the two pants. Nonetheless, I can make some comparisons. The Sabrina Slims are a slimmer style: the Urban tapered pants include a lot more ease. I expect to make the Sabrina slims look better on me would require a number of adjustments to the crotch, waistband, and calves, while the Urban tapered pants would likely need only a more minor calf and waistband adjustment and optionally the addition of back pockets. The back darts and fit with more ease are likely going to make it easer to get a good fit on the Urban pants for me and I am curious to see how they will look in ponte. However, I do like the slim look and it may be worth making more adjustments to the Sabrina Slims to get a slim pants pattern I can use for both dressier pants and pull-on jeans. Or maybe I’ll just stick with wide-leg pants for a while.

Update, 1 week later

So I wore the Sabrina Slims to work with a long jacket, and loved how comfortable they were. They feel like secret pajama pants (and after my daughter suggested it, I discovered that I could fit a water bottle in one of the back pockets). Most of the flaws I wrote about above didn’t really bother me, but I was still unhappy with the waist band. So after running through the wash, I took a pair of scissors and cut off the entire waist band. Then I cut off the bottom stitches, removed the elastic, and reduced the circumference of the waist band by about 2 inches. I carefully basted and then sewed the whole thing together. Now the waist band was smaller than the pants, so I had to stretch it as I sewed, similar to sewing a yoga waistband. Because I cut the waistband off instead of unpickiing it, I lost about 3/4-inch of rise in both the front and back. However, I realized from wearing the pants that I had more rise than I needed. Then I threaded the elastic back in and tried on the pants. I think they look a lot better now, despite a wee bit of puckering in the back. There are still some issues that I will try to address when I make this pattern again (more tweaking of the crotch and seat, more room through the thighs and calves, slightly smaller and better placed pockets), but I’m now pretty happy with these pants and I expect I will wear them frequently.

Walking Boldly

I’m loving the wide leg pant trend, so when I found the Walk Boldly Wide Leg Pants Pattern from Pattern Emporium, and saw that it was designed for knits, had no zipper, and a high-waist option with darts, I knew I had to give it a try. This is my first time using a PE pattern, and it was a great experience. The pattern was well illustrated and included a number of useful tips, including a good tip on sewing darts.

I used a premium black 12 oz rayon/nylon ponte fabric from KnitFabric.com. The ponte has about 30% stretch across the width. Although the website said it only had 2-way stretch, I think it has about 20% stretch in the length as well. It is a hefty fabric with a nicer drape than the other ponte fabrics in my stash. It is sold out in most colors now, but I may grab more in whatever color they have left (mustard perhaps?).

The pattern comes with two waist heights and multiple pocket options. I made the high-waist version, which hits right above my navel. I made the jeans-style front pockets and added an extra two inches to their length to make sure my phone would fit comfortably when I’m seated. I also made the back patch pockets, because I can always use more pockets and I think they’re cute. The pattern uses AU sizing, I normally would select a 4P or 6P for pants, but the size chart said I should go with a 10. The pattern doesn’t come in petite or tall sizes, but it does offer short, regular, and tall pants lengths (which means the only thing that adjusts is the length of the leg, but I often prefer the fit of short pants rather than petite pants so this works for me). I cut out the size 10 in the short length, which is meant for those who are 5’3″ tall. I’m closer to 5’2″ and the pants would have been about 1 inch too long (which makes sense) if I used the recommended 3/4-inch hem. So I did a chunky 1 3/4-inch hem instead. The size 10 fit perfectly, as you can see in the photos below (modeled with a bishop-sleeved Bondi from Sinclair Patterns).

I’m very happy with these pants. I’ve seen similar pants from major retailers this season, only most of them don’t have the back darts or the back pockets, which take these pants up a level. These are stylish, practical, and so comfortable to wear! I did have to add seams to the sides of the waistband to prevent the elastic from rolling.

My young adult daughter told me she loved the high waist and said I should tuck my shirt in to make my (short) legs look longer. She also recommended I try the Walk Boldly pants in a bolder fabric. So I selected a polyester/spandex “haute pink and umber plaid yarn dyed jacquard knit” from my stash (purchased from Surge) for bolder Walk Boldly pants. These are indeed a much bolder statement (although the haute pink is tastefully muted). Even one of my male co-workers yelled out “nice plaid pants” as I walked by his office.

Every time I use plaid fabric I get a frustrated because I want my plaid to match perfectly and it never quite does. Knit plaid fabric is particularly difficult to match because if it stretches just a little bit when you cut it or sew it, the plaid won’t match. There are some spots on these pants with fabulous matching that I am very proud of. The back pockets cannot geometrically have a perfect match due to the darts, and yet they match about as well as they could. The outside seam of the right leg is magnificent! The other seams are not as closely matched, and the matching in the front crotch area is particularly disappointing. But I’m not going to let that stop me from walking boldly and without worry (More on plaid coming soon!) Now I’m looking forward to making more of these pants (but probably not in plaid) in a lighter weight fabric for spring and summer.

The pink plaid pants look great with a black top, but I happen to have some cuddly versailles brushed hacci sweater knit (also from Surge) in my stash in something that seems pretty close to me to umber (officially the color is “sienna”), so I decided to make a trendy cropped sweater to match. This hacci is brushed on the inside so it is super soft against your skin. I decided to try the Sweet Cheeks Sweater pattern from Pattern Emporium, which has dropped, full sleeves that are gathered and cuffed at the bottom. It comes with several neckline and length options (including an ultra crop), and a super cute split banded bottom. The size chart suggested I should cut a size 8, but also suggested sizing down for less of a closer fit. So I sized down two sizes and cut a size 4 in the cropped length with the mid neck. This was another great PE pattern. I especially like the tips for gathering the sleeve and attaching the cuff. I will probably make more of these sweaters too in other fabrics with exactly this configuration, but may also try a longer length and the V-neck.

Pietra pants

Back in August I tried out the Pietra Pants and Shorts pattern from Closet Core Patterns. A friend made a couple of pairs of these pants and the pocket design immediately caught my eye.

Closet Core does not seem to offer projector files, so I used their copyshop pattern, designed to be printed on two A0 pages. I used Affinity Designer to select the layer for the size I wanted, thicken the lines, copy and paste the pieces onto one large page, and rotate them all in the correct direction for cutting. This was pretty easy to do.

The pattern did not come in a petite size, but as I like high-rise pants, the only modification I thought would be needed for my short stature was to shorten the pants. I cut out size 6, but shortened the bottom hem of all the pieces by 4.5 inches. I made view A, the wide leg pants. There are also instructions for tapered leg pants and shorts.

Although the pattern was designed for lightweight woven fabrics, I used Pylos Liknit fabric, which is actually a knit fabric. But having used Liknit for two other pairs of pants, I knew it doesn’t stretch a lot and is fairly stable, so I decided to treat it as if it was woven. I used the linen colorway. The main part of the Pietra pants that you don’t want to stretch is the front waist band, and since that is interfaced, there wasn’t any issue with unwanted stretching. I think this fabric worked out well for this pattern. But I had a lot of trouble with the back of the waist band and it is possible the fact that it wasn’t actually a woven contributed to the difficulties I had, but I’m not sure.

The instructions were clear and easy to follow for the most part and the pattern is nicely drafted. The pocket and waistband are a bit tricky, and some of the construction is not completely intuitive. However, I found if I carefully followed the instructions, used the diagrams, basted all the seams where the instructions recommended basting, and matched all the notches (I marked the notches on my fabric with my trusty Crayola washable fine-point markers), it all came together the way it was supposed to. The result is a very clean and professional look in the front. I topstitched the front leg seams, which was optional, but I thought it gave a nice finished look.

I sewed all the seams with my regular sewing machine at 5/8 inch as instructed, and trimmed to 3/8 inch and serged in one step with my serger. This is only my second serger project and the first one with any major amount of trimming, so I’m still fascinated by watching the trimmings slide into the bucket. The pattern didn’t specify trimming on the inner our outer leg seams but I went ahead with that as I had for the other seams.

Everything went really well until I got to installing the waist elastic. For a size 6, the instructions said to use 12 inches of 2-inch wide elastic. I attached one side and pinned the other and tried on the pants. The waist was way too big. I pinned the elastic shorter, but the front of the pants pulled to the back. I decided some grading was in order. I unpicked part of the inner waistband seam so I could grade both sides of the waist by .75 inches, bringing the new line of stitching down about 6 inches to right above the pockets. I probably could have graded it even more. Then I shortened the elastic to 10.5 inches and sewed it into the waistband. The instructions direct you to sew two parallel rows of stitching in the back waistband, through the elastic, while stretching the elastic. This was easier said than done. I could have used some more hints about how to achieve this. In the end I got it done, but my back waistband looks messy. That said, even if I had sewn it well, I think this style of gathered waistband would look messy, and it pulls the front more than I would like, which is not very flattering. With an untucked shirt it looks much better.

The instructions call for a 2-inch hem, but I ended up doing a 2.5-inch hem to get it to the right length. Of course, I could have trimmed .5 inches off before I hemmed it.

The pants didn’t take that long to make and they are very comfortable to wear. I love the fit of the high waist, but I really don’t like the look of the back waistband, and the way the elastic pulls the front in, it ends up not being all that flattering against my tummy. As long as I keep my shirt tucked in, I think the pants look pretty good.

I’m apparently not the only one who has had some trouble with the elastic waist. Closet Core offers instructions for adding a zipper, and other bloggers have reported having to redo the waist with darts. I think the elastic works better on some figures than others, and may also work better with some types of fabric. I considered adding a zipper, as suggested for those with smaller waists in proportion to hips, but figured it would make these otherwise comfy pants less comfortable. So Instead I decided to unpick the back waistband and chop off the top 2 inches of the pants so I could add a yoga waistband. It was a shame to cut into the beautiful finished front panel, but this seemed like the best way to turn these into pants I would actually wear.

I constructed a 3-inch yoga waistband using the Sinclair Cleo pattern I have used successfully for other Liknit pants. Since the Liknit has some stretch to it I was able to make the outside of the yoga waistband in the same fabric as the rest of the pants. I used beige QUAD Performance Jersey Knit for the inside of the waistband for a nice snug fit and didn’t add any elastic. I basted the waistband in place, tried it on, unbasted, made some adjustments, rebasted, tried it on again, and then surged the waistband to the pants. I topstitched the seam in place.

I think the pants look a lot better now. I still love the Pietra pockets and the front leg seam, but now the waistband looks good too. I might make another pair in another fabric (maybe a ponte) with the yoga waistband modification, perhaps only 2 inches next time. By the time I got around to doing this modification the Fall weather had kicked in so it is getting a bit chilly here for such light weight pants, but I expect I will wear them a lot next summer.

Pocket parity

I feel strongly about pockets. When I sew my own clothes I make sure they have pockets large enough to hold my stuff. It is very frustrating when I buy ready-to-wear clothes with inadequate pockets. I’ve seen blazers advertised as having “adorable faux pockets” that make me want to scream. There is nothing adorable about faux pockets. But even worse, perhaps, is buying a pair of pants with pockets, only to find out that my phone does not fit in them, or that it fits but slides out every time I sit down. My husband can fit his phone, his wallet, his keys, a tube of chapstick, some change, and other odds and ends in the front pockets of every pair of pants he owns. I should be able to do that too!

What about the back pockets? Pocketing a phone in a back pocket may be ok while standing, but on me, back pockets are usually placed such that I end up sitting on my phone, which can be uncomfortable or cause the phone to fall out of my pocket. Plus, putting valuables in back pockets makes you more of a target for pick-pockets.

With pleated pants, a phone can often be completely concealed in a front pocket if the pocket bag is deep enough. However, with tight fighting pants made of stretch fabric, it is hard to avoid a phone bulge. I can sometimes fit my phone in the pocket horizontally, but it produces a bulge across my stomach that isn’t very flattering. I personally prefer to see that bulge further down the leg or more on the hip, but that requires deeper pocket bags.

I have started seeing some women’s pants advertised as having “utility” pockets. The best I can tell these are special pockets that are actually large enough to be used. Shouldn’t all pockets have utility?

I have started retrofitting the pockets of my pants that otherwise fit well, adding pocket bag extensions. It’s actually not that hard to do. Here’s how I augmented the pockets bags of a pair of black dress pants recently.

Here’s the pants turned inside out. You can see that the original pocket bag is big enough to hold a credit card and not much else. My cell phone fits, but as soon as I sit down it slides out.

To improve this situation, the first step is to figure out how much you need to add to the pocket. I like my pockets to be long enough so that my phone will sit entirely below my hip crease when I’m sitting down. If my phone sits above the crease, it will fall out. If it sits in the middle of the bend, it will be uncomfortable to sit down. For this pair of pants, the pocket bag needed to be about 3.5 inches longer. So I cut 4 pieces of fabric 6 inches wide by 4 inches tall. You can use any sort of lightweight fabric for this. Generally people use woven fabrics for pocket bags. But I used some ITY with a little bit of stretch for these pants, which can be a little more forgiving as you sew.

The next step is to turn your pants inside out, slit open the bottom of the existing pocket bag, and pin one piece of the new pocket bag material to the inside of the old pocket bag. If the bottom of the pocket bag is rounded, you may want to square it off. I think it works best when the seam is on the outside of the pocket so nothing catches on it when you put stuff in the pocket. Once the pocket piece is pinned, carefully sew it on. This requires some tight maneuvering with the sewing machine. Alternatively, you can use a fusible tape to fuse the old and new pocket pieces together, and then zigzag to secure.

Then pin an sew the other new pocket piece on.

You will then have a pocket bag with two flaps on the bottom. It is not a very useful pocket at this point because it is completely open at the bottom. The next step is to sew around the three open sides. If the original pocket is anchored in the side seam of the pants, you can attache the pocket bag extension to the side seam too.

And that’s it. Now you have and extended pocket big enough to actually hold your stuff. Once you have sewn a couple of pockets this way, you will probably be able to do it without any pinning. It is important to realize that without a lot of unpicking, it is nearly impossible to make all the seams line up perfectly due to the limited space you have to maneuver, but it doesn’t really matter. As long as your pants are not see-through and any gaps you have are not so big that anything is in danger of falling out of your pocket, nobody is going to see the gaps in the pocket bag inside your pants and it will not impact the functionality of the pocket.

Here are two other pants with extended pocket bags: a pair of pleated flannel dress pants and a pair of wide-leg stretch cords. I used scraps of quilters cotton for these. The grey pants only needed a small extension, but it made a huge difference in having my phone sit comfortably and not fall out. When I wear this pants with a phone in my pocket, you can’t really tell. The cords needed a longer extension, Although these are wide-leg pants, they are fairly tight at the waist. With the original pockets, my phone produced that ugly waist bulge. Now the phone sits just below my hip crease — it is still visible, but I think it looks better there.

Bad pockets before modification

Closing the gap

My college-student brought home a pile of jeans that mostly fit her but gap at the waist. She asked if I could fix them. I asked the Internet and found a number of complicated solutions. Then I found a really easy solution involving elastic. My daughter was skeptical but agreed I could give it a try on one pair. I mostly followed the instructions and It worked so well she brought me several more pairs to de-gap. I have a few pairs of my own jeans that will likely get this treatment too.

The technique takes advantage of the fact that most pants waist bands are basically a tube that goes around the entire waist. There is an inside and an outside and empty space in between. I have previously improved the fit of several pairs of yoga pants by opening up the side seam on the the inside of the waistband and threading elastic all the way around, and sewing the two ends of the elastic together. For jeans, you just need a piece of elastic across the back. So the problem is what to attach it to. The solution is to sew the elastic to the waistband under a belt loop so it is hidden. (Even if you don’t sew it under a belt loop, if you use thread that matches the jeans it is not going to really show. And of course, if you wear a belt, it is not an issue at all. But one of the reasons to add the elastic is so that you do not need a belt to hold your jeans up.)

Most jeans do not have a convenient side seam as the inner waistband is a continuous piece (although one of the pairs of pants my daughter brought me were actually pants, not jeans, and they had a convenient seam that I popped right open with my seam ripper). So for the jeans, I just used a small sewing scissors to cut a little vertical slit through the inner waistband, positioned right under a belt loop on each side of the back.

Then I used a safety pin to thread elastic inside the waistband between the two slits.

I trimmed the elastic, leaving the waist bunched up a bit (it will smooth out when you wear the pants). I pinned the elastic a bit inside each slit so it wouldn’t pull out while I sewed. (Yes I know the photo below is from a different pair of jeans than the one above, but trust me, I did the same thing on all of them.)

Then I used my sewing machine to sew a wide zigzag over the slit, holding the belt loop out of the way so it didn’t get caught in the stitches. I did this for both slits and removed the pins.

Now her pants fit and the stitches holding the elastic in place are hidden under the belt loops.

More Pylos LiKnit Palazzos

My resident teen daughter liked my Cleo PyLos LiKnit Palazzos so much she requested her own pair. They meet all her criteria for pants: feel like yoga pants, pockets, flowy, and black (she hates wearing jeans). She tried mine on and said she just needed them longer with a higher rise and they would be perfect. So that’s what I did. She put them on so I could take a photo and decided to wear them to her band gig.

And here we are wearing all our me-made clothes. I’m wearing my self-drafted cups dress and my daughter is wearing the muslin top for her vintage sundress with her new palazzo pants.

Cleo pants in Pylos LiKnit

I’ve always liked the idea of linen pants, but have never actually liked wearing and maintaining linen pants. They are cool and breathable, until they become a wrinkly mess and you have to iron them. Some have a texture that isn’t that soft against your skin. This spring I ordered several pairs of linen pants online from a popular retailer and ended up returning all of them because I wasn’t crazy about the fit and I could see they were going to need a lot of ironing. So when I saw a new fabric from Surge Fabrics described as a “faux linen knit,” I was intrigued. The fabric is called Pylos LiKnit, which is kind of a weird name that I struggled to pronounce until I realized the K is silent. I’m not sure if other fabric stores offer it under a different name; this one seems to be unique to Surge. It is 55% rayon and 45% nylon, with 50% 2-way stretch (it stretches side-to-side but not up and down). It comes in lots of colors, although some seem to be selling out. This fabric does not contain any linen. It is not a linen knit; it is a rayon/nylon (viscose) knit that looks and feels somewhat similar to a woven linen, but with stretch.

I decided to use black Pylos LiKnit for my second pair of Cleo palazzo pants. I used the same approach as last time to hack the Sinclair Cleo shorts and culottes pattern into palazzo pants with self-drafted slash pockets, with a couple of modifications. First, I wanted to reduce the fullness at the bottom of the legs a bit, so instead of extending the outside seam straight to the bottom of the leg, I curved it in starting at the notch below the hips and the sent it straight down parallel to the inseam. This reduced the circumference of the pants legs from 40 inches to 32 inches. Second, because this fabric is a lot less stretchy than double-brushed polyester, I did not narrow the waistband. I used a stretchy athletic knit (Surge’s black quad performance jersey knit) for the waistband lining. This 300 gsm fabric is 88% polyester and 12% spandex, with 75% 4-way stretch. This gives the pants a waistband that feels just like a pair of leggings or yoga pants, and that doesn’t slip down when I put my phone in my pocket.

The pants were a pretty fast sew. The PyLos is cool and comfortable to wear and the quad performance jersey knit keeps the waistband in place. I love the results of putting performance knit in the waistband lining, and will try that with other patterns too. The reduced leg fullness makes them look more like normal pants. But I wasn’t entirely happy with the drape of the leg.

After finishing the pants one evening, I decided to work on the drape again the next day. I basted a new outside seam, starting the curve on the front pant leg about even with the bottom of the crotch, but ending up at the same place at the bottom. This seemed better so I sewed it in place. You can see on the image below part of the original front piece of the shorts/culottes pattern outlined in red. The green line is the full palazzo extension that I used for my first pair of Cleo pants. The blue line is the final narrower palazzo extension that I ended up with this time after a bit of trial and error (I started with a line that curved in from the notch, but ultimately ended up with the blue line you see here).

Even after getting the side seam the way I wanted it, I still wasn’t completely happy with the drape and realized that it looked a lot better when I hitched the sides of the pants up a bit. It seems in my effort to raise the rise to be more of a high-rise fit, I added too much fabric to the outside of the waist. The adjustment to the center of the rise was good, but the outside of the waist did not need that much adjustment. The right thing to do at this point would probably have been to remove the waistband, cut off the extra fabric, and sew it back together. However, the idea of picking out all those zigzag stitches was not appealing. So I basted a new seam connecting the pants to the waistband, taking the sides up about three-quarters of an inch and grading towards the center. That seemed to do the trick, so I sewed a zigzag along the basting line and pressed it in place. While the inside is not beautiful, the outside of these pants looks much better with this adjustment. I’ve marked my pattern so I can just cut it this way to begin with next time I make this pattern. I’m learning a lot about fitting pants and clearly I have more to learn.

After wearing the pants with the phone in my pocket I realized that the phone tends to tilt outward and cause a bulge to the side. I added a zigzag seam to the pocket bag from the bottom up about 4 inches, placed about an inch in from the outer edge of each pocket. This is completely invisible on the outside of the pants but it keeps my phone more vertical. I went back and added this to my palazo pants too. Here’s the self-drafted pattern I used for the front part of my slash pocket bag with the extra vertical seam (the back part of the pocket bag is cut straight across the top without the slash).

In any case, the final product looks and feels great. I took these pants on a business trip and they were very comfortable and did not wrinkle in my suitcase. I wore them for three days and the waistband did not stretch out. They were comfortable in the outdoor heat and kept my legs warm in the over air-conditioned meeting rooms. Here are the photos, modeled with a Bondi top I made last Fall. At the bottom I have a close up of the waistband, including the slash pockets.

Cleo palazzo pants (and shorts)

In June I decided to try my first knit shorts pattern, Sinclair pattern’s Cleo knit shorts and culottes. These shorts have a comfy yoga-style waistband, optional side-seam pockets, and a full drape. I was intrigued by the comfy lounge shorts people were posting on the Sinclair Facebook group, and even more intrigued by the dressier looking long shorts and culottes. But what convinced me to purchase the pattern was the palazzo pants. This is not actually a pattern for palazzo pants, but I saw multiple sewists (especially Holly Stout and Kristi Käär) who simply took the Cleo culotte pattern, extended the side seams to pants length, and voila, lovely flowy palazzo pants. These sewists also executed and interesting pocket hack to get the pockets off the side seam.

Before cutting into 2 yards of fancy fabric for the pants, I decided to make a basic pair of soft knit shorts first so I could try out the pattern. Eighty percent of the work in making pants is in the top 20% of the pants — once you get past the waist band, pockets and crotch seam, the rest of the pants are a piece of cake.

I cut my size 4 petite shorts from one yard of plain black double brushed polyester (DBP) fabric. The DBP is super soft, so soft that I was concerned about keeping the waist band in place if I put my phone in my pocket. As the pattern advised, I sandwiched a piece of stretch mesh between the two DBP layers of the waistband. The waistband also has 1/4 inch elastic at the top, but that doesn’t provide a lot of support. Shorts construction was fairly straightforward, although as predicted most of the effort was in the pockets and waistband. The results look nice and are super comfy (will be great for PJs), but do sag when I load up my pockets. I also personally prefer shorts and pants with more of a high rise.

Here are my comfy black Cleo shorts. You can see how the side-seam pockets gap open a bit. The waist sits about an inch below my navel, and lower when I put my phone in my pocket.

I decided to alter the pattern a bit before attempting pants from a two yards of a lavender DBP floral print. I thought I might be able to get a higher rise by using the regular size pattern rather than the petite, but I checked and the rise was the same. I checked the tall pattern and saw the rise was about 3/4 inch taller. So I used the size 4 tall as my base and then added about half an inch to the top of the front and back leg pieces (drafting the alterations in Affinity Designer).

After debating a variety of solutions to the waistband sag problem, I narrowed the waistband by half an inch on the left and right side of both the front and back (subtracting 2 inches total from the diameter) in order to tighten it up. Instead of sandwiching stretch mesh in the waistband, I used a medium-weight cotton lycra for the waistband lining, providing more support than you get from DBP. I considered using wider elastic but stuck with the recommended 1/4 inch braided elastic. The result is a much more supportive and less saggy waist band than on the shorts. They still sag a little when my pockets are loaded, but not as much. I’m going to look for a more supportive athletic knit or possibly try wider elastic to see if I can make future pants even better.

While Holly and Kristi borrowed their pocket design from other Sinclair patterns that I don’t have (yet), I found an online tutorial on making slash pockets and just drafted my own, with a very slightly sloping slash. I found the slash pockets actually easier to construct than the side-seam pockets because you don’t have to deal with the awkward part where you sew the side seam just up to the pocket opening and stop.

Finally, I extended the inseam and outside seam on the legs to full pants length, keeping the same angles. The width at the bottom hem is about 26″. (I used HeatNBond Soft Stretch on the hem and zigzagged over the edge.) At 5’2″, I can just barely get full length wide-leg pants out of two yards of fabric.

The finished results (see pants modeled blow with my Cachet top and Laura cardigan) are fantastic light-weight swishy pants for summer. They are quite comfortable with pockets that easily accommodate a cell phone and small wallet. I’m eager to make more in other knit fabrics, and also try curving the outside seam at the hips so that the legs are straight and not quite so wide for another look.