Sewing your own pants is one of the greatest joys in this life. Whether you're a seasoned sewing enthusiast or a beginner, creating custom pants allows you to express your style and achieve the perfect fit. More importantly, you no longer have to wander around a mall (or worse, shop online) trying to find a style you like that fits how you want. To help you tackle your next pair with confidence, we've pulled out some gems from our latest online class, Learn to Sew Trousers to help make sewing pants a little less scary. We promise it's not that hard and that you'll feel like a superhero when you're done – is there anything better?
1. Choose the Right Fabric
Selecting the appropriate fabric is crucial when sewing pants. While a bottomweight fabric is often necessary, not all bottom-weight fabrics are suitable for ALL pants patterns because of differences in structure, weight, and drape. Looser fitting pants are the most flexible in terms of fabric – something like our wide leg Pietra pants works in everything from drapey rayon to cotton or linen. For more structured or tailored pants (like Mitchell and Jenny) look for more stable fabrics like midweight cottons, twill, wool suitings, or denim. We suggest working with heavier or trickier fabrics like canvas and corduroy once you're feeling more confident. Stretch wovens like stretch twill or cotton sateen are also a good option for pants, especially since they have a bit of give. With that said, only use very stretchy wovens (anything with more than 2% spandex) for tight or really close-fitting pants like Sasha, otherwise they may feel too big.
2. Take Accurate Measurements
Before you even think about cutting your fabric, take precise measurements of your waist, hips, inseam, and desired pant length. Accurate measurements are the foundation of well-fitting pants. We have a blog post here on how to take correct measurements even if you are by yourself and don't have another set of hands. We recommend doing this every time you start a project. Things change, and the more you are used to taking your measurements, the better you'll get at it!
3. Sew a Muslin. I know... just do it.
Sewing a muslin anytime you make a pattern for the first time can help you fine-tune the fit and make necessary adjustments before cutting into your chosen fabric. This extra step is tremendously beneficial no matter your sewing experience. It is important to choose a muslin that is similar in weight to whatever fabric you decide to go with for sewing your trousers, be it lightweight, mediumweight or heavyweight. While you can certainly purchase muslin fabric made specifically for this, you can also use inexpensive stand-ins like old sheets, curtains etc. Just try to find something that is a similar weight to your final fabric.
4. Diagnose Fit Issues
Now that you have your muslin made and tried on it's time to figure out how you could improve the fit. Maybe, it's perfect?! In which case, my dear, you are ready to sew those pants. But if you are not a magical fit-out-of-the-envelope unicorn, join the club. And get ready to diagnose some wrinkles! Try on your muslin and take photos of yourself from front, back and side. Things to look for are bunching, pulling, gaping and excess fabric. We also suggest sitting in your muslin and moving around in it - anything feel too tight or uncomfortable? Use our handy pants fitting guide to help determine some of the common adjustments to correct these issues. It's also helpful to write down any adjustments you make for future reference (everyone should have a sewing journal for things like this!) While drafting differs wildly from one pattern company to another, if you run into an issue with one pants pattern, it will likely apply to others. As you continue to make pants and learn these adjustments for yourself you can start to apply them automatically. Me, I'm a narrow the hip, shorten the rise, widen the calf kinda gal. Nice to meet you!
5. Think of Future You
A 5/8″ (1.5cm) seam allowance is standard for home sewing patterns which will allow you to make small adjustments if needed. With that said, our bodies change all the time, and you can build in the capability to adjust your pants with ease by increasing the width of the seam allowances (along the side seam, back crotch seam and inseam) or by building outlets, just as tailors do for men’s pants. A 1" (25 mm) seam allowance gives you more room to let pants out in the future. If you want to increase the width of the seam allowances, mark the stitch line on the wrong side of your fabric pieces before you start sewing. This will help you sew straight, consistent seams and ensure that your pants come together properly.
6. Use the Right Interfacing
Choosing the right kind of interfacing is a crucial decision in a sewing project because it directly impacts the final look, feel, and durability of the garment or item you are making. Your choice of interfacing will depend on your type of fabric and the area where it will be applied. Try to choose an appropriate weight for your fabric (ie. don't use a lightweight interfacing for canvas!) For added flexibility in your waistband, try a light to medium weight stretch fusible interfacing. This is Heather’s personal favourite option for waistbands because it supplies structure while also providing a bit of stretch and give for waistbands that move with the body. More structured details like welts and pocket edges should be sewn with more stable interfacings. This midweight interfacing is a good all-purpose choice for many trouser fabrics.
7. Cut Your Fabric with Care
Before you cut, pay attention to the grainlines indicated on your pattern. These lines ensure that your pants hang correctly and are comfortable to wear. Make sure to align your fabric pieces with the grainlines as indicated on the pattern. We recommend cutting tight-fitting pants with stretch (especially jeans) on a single layer. This ensures each piece is on grain and will help reduce "leg twist". Make sure to transfer all construction marks like notches onto your pattern pieces. Knee and hip notches are used to ensure you are easing in the correct amount of fabric when attaching front and back legs and are not to be ignored!
8. Choose the Right Seam Finish
As you are getting ready to sew, remember that the right seam finish not only ensures your garment will stand the test of time but also adds a touch of professionalism to your project that says "made with care". Choose an appropriate seam finish based on your fabric choice. For lightweight fabrics, consider French seams. Heavier fabrics may require serging or flat felling for durability. To take the guesswork out of the process, we've created this helpful blog post for choosing the right technique for your project. Remember to test your stitching prior to sewing, especially if you are having issues sewing very thick layers. Ensure your sewing machine is set up correctly, and experiment with stitch length and tension to get the desired finish.
9. Press as you go!
Proper pressing is the secret to professional-looking pants, and really the secret to ALL beautiful sewing. Iron your seams according to the instructions, and take your time to achieve crisp, polished lines. A tailor's ham can be helpful for shaping curved seams and a clapper is an amazing tool that helps create very crisp and "locked" seams, especially with wool and heavy fabrics like canvas. Always keep in mind that "pressing" as a construction step is rarely just about ironing. This is also when you will grade seams, clip corners and tidy things up. Don't rush these steps. Much like a chef cleaning as they go, you will have a nicer finished project as well as a more pleasant experience if you keep things neat. Take the extra time to "wipe the counter" (aka snip those threads!)
10. Hem with Precision
The final touch to your pants is the hem. Ensure it is even and well-pressed. You can create a double-fold hem for most fabrics, but you might want to consider a hand-sewn blind hem using a slip stitch for dressier styles. Try on your pants with various shoes you might want to pair them with to get a sense of where you want that hem to break. Leave a little extra fabric and turn it under as a blind hem and you can always change it down the line if you want it longer or shorter.
Most importantly, have fun! Your first fly front might be a disaster but don't give up. If you add these skills one at a time and focus on the successes you will be a pants-making master in no time!