Thursday, March 13, 2008

On the Other Side of the Closet

I did it! My first welt(ish) pocket! Wahoo!

As background, I started a new project last night. I'm far enough along on the wardrobe contest entry (2 tops, 2 pants, 1 skirt and the leather jacket) that I can take a break and try something new and different. Last summer we went to NYC to see the Poiret exhibit at the Met - and to do a little fabric shopping. While we were at Metro Textiles, I bought some beautiful brown pinstriped bottom weight fabric and rashly promised the man I'd make him a pair of pants. Actually, I think my vanity was appealed to thus: "You make such great shirts; I'll bet you'd do really well with a pair of pants." Ummm, okay. Flattery will probably get you anywhere. It will at least get you a new pair of pants.

I like making men's shirts. I have the pattern down well enough that except for the care I have to pay to the topstitching and the collar and cuffs, it's a fairly uncomplicated process. Compared to our clothes, menswear can seem really limited in style and color, but the details matter tremendously. Topstitching is an important part of the shirt. Getting the stripes lined up perfectly for the pocket is a big deal. Immaculate buttonholes aren't optional. Whenever I start feeling lazy, I make him a shirt. It makes me pay attention.

Since I haven't made men's pants before, I'm actually not going to cut into the 'good' fabric yet – more for reasons of fit than of technical ability. I can follow a pattern almost anywhere, but I can't get him to strip down to his BVDs every time I want to work on his pants. Most of my best sewing happens when he's either not there, already asleep or firmly lodged in front of the TV, so that wouldn't work. I had a few yards of navy pinstriped wool-blend gabardine aging on the shelf, so I'm using that for the test garment. I made pants for myself from this fabric a few years ago and wasn't thrilled with the result (the fabric or the pants). He's less finicky than I am, so he won't notice that the quality of the fabric isn't fabulous, and it's more than good enough for a trial run of this pattern. If I can get the fit right, they'll be more than wearable.

Menswear is different. I just never noticed how different before. One thing with men's pants that I don't get: they almost always have metal zippers. Not just jeans and khakis, but even most dress pants. Are they that much harder on their clothes, or do manufacturers just assume they don't care? I took a survey at the office (mostly from my boss's dry cleaning hanging in the closet, and out of 8 pairs of pants, only one zipper wasn't metal). Of course he caught me looking and wondered why, and after I explained he checked his own pants and asked the lawyer in the next office and came back and said, "Both metal." His reasoning is that men are clumsy and after catching themselves once in a metal zipper they'll be careful for the rest of their lives.

Of course, my local fabric store doesn't sell metal zippers, except for jeans zippers, so at least this pair is going to get a matching navy zipper. I'll just tell him that high end clothes (the kind he can't afford) have real zippers and he's just been upgraded. That should work.

The pattern is Burda 8272, an older pattern that I picked up for $1.99 at a sale. It's a nice basic dress/casual pant pattern. I already altered the pattern to eliminate the small pleat in the front (pleated pants aren't good on anyone, male or female). No more pleated pants! I'm like Joan Crawford with the wire hangers when it comes to pleated pants. He still thinks he likes them, but this is one area where I definitely know better. So sayeth the seamstress.

I cut out the fabric over the weekend but didn't have anything around to use for the pockets. I couldn't see buying plain cotton specifically for that purpose, and my patterned cotton scraps didn't pass muster (what's so wrong with paisley?), so I dug deep into the scrap bag and came up with a chunk of white batiste left over from underlining a summer dress. Good enough!

No wonder men carry so much junk around with them - their pockets are HUGE! I do like the way they're put together, though - a separate pocket facing piece stitched to the yoke side of the pocket (which is cotton), then the inside pocket done in good fabric. The yoke piece is sufficiently wide that it catches in the front seam by the zipper, securing the huge pocket.

The pattern instructions said to sew the inside pocket right sides together with the front, turn, trim the seam, press and baste. I was with them until they said baste. There was no mention of topstitching, but I decided to topstitch the pocket opening and add a bar tack at either end to secure it. That's how the RTW pants I've looked at are done and to me it looks better and feels more secure. I sewed the pocket bags with a straight stitch and then did a combo straight/zigzag stitch around the raw edges to reinforce the seam.

It was a little late to start on the back pocket; I didn't think my first welt pocket should occur after 11:00 p.m. I've suffered from fear-of-welt-pocket for about as long as I realized it was technically possible for me to install one of them. Fear-of-welt-pocket even surpasses fear-of-invisible-zipper, which only took the addition of an invisible zipper foot to my life to make that go away. I've read instruction after tutorial after diagram and it still seemed impossible. The Reader’s Digest Guide to Sewing came the closest for me – I actually got the welt part, but I was still in the dark about attaching the pocket. About a week ago I was trying to get to sleep when I started thinking about welt pockets and all of a sudden it came together in my head. I wanted to get up right then and try it, but I didn't. Late night sewing is almost never a good idea.

Tonight I tackled the pocket. Thankfully, it's only a half-welt with a button. I thought about doing a full welt instead but decided just to follow the pattern for this first pair. I can always rework the pocket for the next version. If a half welt took me almost 90 minutes to get right, I don't want to think what state I'd be in from a full one! I probably should have practiced this a few times first, rather than starting in on the pants, but sometimes if I do that, I get obsessed with getting it perfect, and never actually get it done. I'm not thrilled with the pocket - it's a little bit lumpy on one corner - but for a first try, it's not bad, and the button and buttonhole make it look better.

I still don't like the fabric very much, so I want to finish up this trial pair as quickly as possible and make the good pants.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Oooo....I am so going to do this! I love repurposing items and have been doing it for years. Way before it was trendy. Thank you so much for bringing it to my attention.