Pleated Pants in Pink

I have always been quite fearful of sewing pants for myself, which makes very little sense considering I have successfully made nearly a dozen different versions of jeans over the past couple of years. Somehow Closet Case’s Miracle Jeans patterns (here and here) have seemed like a walk in the park compared to starting from scratch with a brand new pattern that has no sew-alongs or hand-holding to accompany it. I’m not scared of the actual construction so much as getting the fit right, and I am sure this fear comes from a lifetime of experience trying to buy RTW pants in commercial stores. I have never, I repeat, NEVER bought RTW pants that fit me perfectly. They have run the spectrum of I can’t believe you’re wearing those out of the house to I guess they look okay if you pull your shirt down over your butt, but never wow, those pants look amazing on you! Either the pockets gape at the sides or they are too tight in the thighs or, most often, the waist is huge while the hips fit snugly, leaving me with a big gap of space between my waistband and my actual body. Doesn’t matter the style- jeans, pleated, flat-front, darted- if they didn’t have an elastic waistband on them then they weren’t going to fit my body very well.

With her patterns, Heather helped me (and hundreds of other people around the world) craft a pair of jeans that fit our bodies beautifully and made us feel and look amazing, but for some reason in my head these successes seemed to only apply to jeans making- I couldn’t imagine those concepts translating to the world of trousers at large. Intellectually I knew this didn’t make sense, so I gave myself a bit of time to work through my fear without adding too much pressure to jump into pants making. I started reading blog posts about people’s journeys making their own pants. I pinned pants patterns that interested me and seemed suitable for my style and shape. And I bought myself a copy of the much heralded Palmer and Pletsch’s Pants for Real People. Some of the material in it is pretty dated, but on the whole the information is reliable and very helpful.

There are a few standout lessons I learned in reading this book which I was able to apply to these pink pleated pants. Number one (and perhaps most important) is tissue fitting. I always side-eyed the tissue fitting concept because I couldn’t comprehend how substituting pattern paper for fabric would translate to anything useful; pattern paper seems too thin, stiff and delicate to temporarily mold to your body. But with tips from the book I was able to get a better understanding of why you tissue fit- it is but one step in the process of creating a pattern that works for your body, and it is super helpful. First of all you are instructed to tape the crotch seams of both the front and back pants pieces to keep the paper strong during the fitting process, which addressed my initial concern about the paper not holding up well to fitting on the body. It is also recommended that you use a length of thin elastic tied around your waistline to keep the paper pattern pieces from falling off and to give you a visual reminder of where your actual waist is in relation to the pattern pieces. You pin the seams of the pattern wrong sides together and then (very very carefully) try them on and make your way to a mirror so you can assess the fit and look. The paper doesn’t necessarily give you a great idea of what your final pants will look like, but it does show you most if not all of the fit issues that the pattern will have, particularly if the waist/thighs/calves/crotch are too big/little, loose/tight, high/low. Once you see where the pattern needs to be adjusted, you make marks on the pattern paper and then add in or take out “fabric” as needed.

Many of these adjustments were familiar to me because I would make them when muslin-ing (or just working directly from my fashion fabric), but making changes on the paper pattern streamlines the process, takes less time than muslin-ing, and keeps you from potentially ruining your fabric. The two most awesome adjustments that I learned about from the book are 1. changing the crotch curve and 2. adjusting the waist height of the pants. Deepening the back crotch curve creates more room in the seat for fuller butts like mine (you can do the opposite if you have a flatter derriere) and WOW what a huge difference it made! I deepened mine by 1/2 inch from the seam allowance and it made for a pant that fit my curves in the back while still giving me plenty of room to walk and sit and bend- they look super fitted but they don’t feel tight at all. Amaaaaazing! Raising the waist of the pants was another impressive fix- it’s a quick and dirty way to keep the pants from sagging or gaping and seems to be a good solution to fixing a swayback as well. Since you have a band of elastic around your waist, it’s easy to see where the paper pattern should be adjusted in relationship to where you want the waistband to be. When I was tissue fitting these pants, the back came up super high on me, several inches past my natural waist, so I was able to cut that chunk out to make them sit better, giving plenty of room for ease and wearability.

After my initial tissue fit, I added more room to the hips, adjusted the width of the legs and calves and adjusted the length of the pieces between the waist and the hip (this created a shorter depth of crotch since mine hung down a little lower than what felt comfortable or looked good) on my paper pattern, then I cut out the new pattern pieces using a black textured fabric that I hoped would be a wearable muslin. Unfortunately, halfway through the process I realized that my fabric was of pretty poor quality and that I would probably never wear them once they were finished, but I didn’t mind- I got some great practice with that first pair and once I saw that the fit was getting closer to what I wanted, I was excited to move on to my pink fabric anyways. I installed my zipper using the Closet Case method she shares in her Jeans Making e-Book, then I basted the pant legs together, tried them on, and made a few more tiny tweaks in the hip and thigh area. After that it was smooth sailing- I just needed to create and attach my waistband and hem the bottoms.

Now the real exciting thing for me here is not that I used the Palmer Pletsch method of making pants, but that I used a BURDA PATTERN TO MAKE THEM. Yep, you read right! (I blame Renee). I have mentioned a dozen times on this blog how much I hate Burda patterns. I love the styles but MY GOD the instructions and construction techniques are just awful- too sparse, sometimes written incorrectly, no line drawings or photos (at least with the online patterns I have purchased) and no additional details on construction techniques whatsoever. When I first started getting into sewing a lot a few years ago, Burda enticed me with all their pretty photos, fashion forward designs, and inexpensive patterns, and I accumulated quite a few of them, even making a couple of dresses that turned out sort of okay, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that I was NOT the intended demographic for their patterns. With the exception of a few simple designs, their patterns are generally not for beginners who are unfamiliar with how to construct a variety of garments. I remember buying a cargo shorts pattern of theirs a few years ago which essentially began with the words “insert your front fly zipper” and no actual instructions that followed. I was like *#^!)#&%$%?!?!?!?!- aren’t you supposed to tell me how to insert a front fly zipper, Burda??? I looked up instructions online but I was too out of my depth, having never made a zip fly before and getting incredibly confused when the details of my pattern pieces didn’t match up with the tutorials I was finding. Needless to say, I threw that project in the Butthole Bin and hadn’t tried another Burda pattern since.

But when I realized that I wanted to make a pair of trousers for myself using the Palmer Pletsch technique, I had a lot of trouble finding a pattern that matched what I wanted. I was looking for a peg-leg trouser, something high waisted with a loose-ish (but not wide) leg that could be rolled up at the ankle, dressed up or down. I wanted pleats, too, a detail that ladies with curves are not “supposed” to wear since pleats can accentuate areas that you “should” want to hide. But of course, as mentioned in an earlier post, I am moving away from all those “rules” and experimenting with clothing that has aesthetics I am attracted to as opposed to details that I think will “work” for my body (/excessive use of quotations). The Big 4 companies didn’t have what I was looking for and neither did any of my fav indie pattern designers, but I found several pattern contenders when I reluctantly started sorting through the online Burda catalogue. I could vaguely hear Renee’s voice in the back of my head rattling off all the amazing Burda patterns she had successfully made over the years, and I started to gain a little more confidence. It had been years since I had last attempted a Burda pattern and I knew my skills as a sewist had grown a lot since then, but I had also noticed that as a I got more comfortable with the craft, I liked to challenge myself more. So. Maybe it was time to give Burda another chance. I chose the Pleated High Waist Pants 02/2012 #103A, (why do they choose the most confusing way to name/categorize their patterns??) added the damn seam allowance (I shouldn’t hate this as much as I do because I already trace all my pattern pieces- adding seam allowance is really not that big a deal for me…and yet!) and went to work.

This is me demonstrating how comfortable and easy it is for me to do a squat in these pants! I do squats in heels all the time, by the way!

Guys. It wasn’t that bad! I used my trusty Closet Case construction method for inserting my zip fly, adding and subtracting certain details to my liking, then I proceeded as usual for any other pair of jeans using the fitting adjustments described earlier in this post. With a solid foundation on how to construct a pair of pants, I didn’t even need Burda’s measly 7 sentence “instructions”, and maybe that’s how most Burda patterns are intended to be used- you use them with your own basic understanding of how to make the garment and they just supply the drafted pattern pieces. I guess there is reason these patterns are so cheap! I would still prefer to have a regular set of instructions included with my patterns, but I know now that I am capable of working from my own knowledge, and I love that the world of beautiful Burda patterns is now open to me again.

As for the pants, I LOVE them! I realize that I have been saying I love my makes way more consistently now which feels so exciting to me. And it’s true! These pants fit great, they are super comfortable, and I freaking love the gorgeous pink color of the fabric. On my last trip to The Fabric Store, the lovely Sara immediately led me in the direction of this hot pink raw silk when I told her I was looking for a bottom-weight fabric for some trousers. This fabric was a little more lightweight than what I was initially looking for but once I saw it, I obviously couldn’t say no (pink is my favorite color, next to yellow, and next to gray. I have three favorite colors, sue me). It ended up working perfectly with this pattern, and raw silk is probably a smarter fabric to wear in a Los Angeles summer than what I was looking for anyways. This is one of the (many) things about The Fabric Store that I love- everyone in the store is knowledgeable about the fabric and they also have really good taste, so whether you are looking for something specific or needing help narrowing down your options, they can steer you in the right direction. The color of this fabric is as brilliant in person as it is in the photos, it has a spectacular hand (soft with just the right amount of nub) and drape (a lot of body without being stiff) which works really well for this pair of pattern.

I didn’t use the waistband pieces of the Burda pattern, mostly because they made absolutely no sense to me- I couldn’t tell where they connected to each other and which piece was supposed to be cut on the fold. Instead I decided to use my waistband from the Ginger Jeans pattern, which was already curved and adjusted to fit my waist perfectly; I shaved off a little of the width and it worked like a dream on these pants. I played around with the idea of adding belt loops but eventually nixed that idea because I wasn’t sure if I would actually wear a belt with them. After wearing them once I can say that a belt is totally unnecessary and I am so glad I didn’t do the extra work of adding them, cause sometimes I am just lazy.

brushing my shoulders off, obvs.

Now that I have successfully made a pair of pants using a fitting technique I had never tried before and a pattern company that I historically hate, I am feeling kind of unstoppable, like I need to make ALL the pants! I already have a project in mind for my next pair- I want them to be a high waisted wide leg pant in another fun color, like yellow or robin’s egg blue. I wish I had some of this raw silk in every color because it would work for SO many projects, and I can only imagine how beautifully it would sew up into a dress. But let me slow down and take it one cut of fabric at a time…I already have two #recarpetDIY projects on the horizon in addition to one of the Pattern Review winners for best dress of 2016 lined up in my queue. And I have like three pairs of shoes that I am ready to try my hand at, too, now that spring sandals are in all the shops and I am feeling newly inspired.

Sigh. Sew little time, sew many projects 😉

edit: OMG I forgot to say: The top is a Grainline Studios Lark Tee in a knit fabric from Michael Levine’s which was just too pretty not to buy when I went shopping there a couple months ago- didn’t blog about it because these tees are super easy and there isn’t much to say about them, but it’s a great pattern with lots of options and I love how this one turned out!


24 responses to “Pleated Pants in Pink”

  1. Renee Avatar

    Bwahahaha! Welcome to the World of Burda! These are so ridiculously fly! I love the color. The fit is ah-mazing. I have tissue fit only a few times. Did you do it by yourself of did Claire help? I can’t even fathom doing it with pants. And, this speaks to how much better you’ve gotten at sewing and your confidence level. Success!!

    1. Jasika Nicole Avatar

      HA! Look what you’ve done to me! Thanks so much, Renee- there’s a part of me that still feels like these are a fluke, but I could probably make four more pairs of them and STILL feel that way so…:) Claire did NOT help me with the fitting process- since I do the majority of my sewing while she is at work during the day I try and power through everything myself if possible. It wasn’t too difficult though! Maybe because the majority of my fit issues are within arm’s length? And I am also fairly flexible with twisting my body behind me thanks to yoga? HA! I used a chalk marker to mark any sections that needed tending to if I wasn’t able to move the pins from standing up straight but thankfully it wasn’t too tricky at all!

  2. Cestjeannieici Avatar

    Gorgeous pants—and one of the best sewing/fashion/inspiration/life posts ever!

    1. Jasika Nicole Avatar

      Gosh, thank you so much!

  3. Laura Avatar

    Wow, wow, wow!!! I’ve been mulling over giving pants a try after heathers jeans, and you may just have pushed me over! Have you seen the Lazo pattern. I’m so tempted…

  4. Lori Avatar

    Gorgeous! Congratulations on the amazing fit. You rock that colour!

  5. Charlotte Avatar

    Well done you! I too have a big butt (and I cannot lie) and a small(ish) waist so I know your woes in finding pants that fit waist and bum. Stretch denim (or similar material) has always been my friend in this respect. I’m yet to make pants or shorts because of my body shape (despite collecting a few patterns for these) but I am temped by Sewaholic’s Thurlow (yes that old one) because it is designed for pear shapes. I bought my first Burda patterns yesterday (including the newest cullote/shorts one) and I am dismayed by the lack of detailed instructions and the need to add a seam allowance. Wish me luck…

  6. Jane Avatar

    You’re right, they are indeed amaaaaaazing! I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a perfectly fitted pair of trousers, honestly. They’re absolutely gorgeous and the pleats work perfectly, go you for breaking the rules! x

    1. Jasika Nicole Avatar

      Thank you so so much, Jane! That’s a HUGE compliment! I might print your comment out and stick it on my fridge…

  7. Sarah Avatar

    So jealous! Pants fitting is my big sewing goal this year (preeeeeetty much what I say every year actually) – these are tres inspiring!

  8. Tamsin W-P Avatar

    These trousers are exactly what I am trying to draft in my pattern cutting class! They look fantastic on you! I might just have a look for the pattern instead of reinventing the wheel/trouser. I have also just bought the Palmer pletch book and it was interesting to read what you did. Did you have any help with the fitting or was it easy enough on your own?

    1. Jasika Nicole Avatar

      Thanks so much! I didn’t have any trouble fitting the pattern onto my body by myself- since you only have to paper fit one leg I had decent mobility with half of my body and was able to move around any pins within arm’s reach on my own and then carefully bend over at the waist (so as not to move my legs around too much) and fix pins further down my legs. But mostly I just kept a chalk pin nearby and marked any sections that needed to be let out or taken back in, then slid the paper off my body, moved the pins around and tried them on again. I had to do that several times which got a little tedious, but paper fitting still shaved off more time overall and was more efficient than working with a fabric muslin, only because some of the fit issues required more than shaving off the sides- one of the bigger adjustments was to take out length from the crotch depth, and that required shortening the pattern piece between the waist and the hip. WIth a muslin I would have had to cut out all new pieces with the new depth measurement to see if it worked but with paper I could just fold the length out and tape it down to see if the adjustment did what I wanted to. Good luck!

  9. Shauni S Avatar

    Wow Jasika! These look amazing 🙂 I’ve just made my first pair of ‘proper’ trousers (with a fitted waist and fly fastening) and they’ve not turned out too badly, but the fit you’ve achieved with yours is incredible! I’m inspired to keep trouser making and persevere to get a closer fit! Thanks!

  10. Anneke Caramin Avatar

    Burda is amazing once you know what you’re doing! I started out with a few Burda patterns because I tend to dive into things headfirst without thinking ‘can I do this?’ and there was a lot of confusion and some unwearable stuff… I can now say that I have (twice) successfully inserted a fly front zip with only their instructions!

    Your pants look amazing, and like a great fit!

    1. Jasika Nicole Avatar

      I’ve made about 6 Burda patterns over the years and I definitely wouldn’t say they are amazing- in my experience their drafting is wonky, their instructions are of very poor quality, and they tend to recycle a lot of the same styles with slightly different details and call them “new”- however I’m a good enough sewist now (with a good enough sense of humor) to trudge through the muck and turn some of their stones into diamonds.

  11. Lisa Avatar

    I have and have had all those feelings and fears about pants! Maybe I need to check out that book… Your pants turned out great. Bright colors are the best!

  12. Sue Avatar

    Cool!!!! I love hearing your process with trying the tissue fit method. Maybe I’ll finally stop cowering in the corner and start working on my first pair of pants!

  13. mokosha Avatar

    i’m glad you gave burda another chance 🙂 amazing pants! and thanks for reminding me of this pattern, i’ve made pants from this pattern once, they were beautiful but i chose the wrong size and they ended up being too small.. maybe it’s time to try making them in right size 🙂

  14. kalimak Avatar

    These are awesome! Excellent fit and that color is stunning on you! And… I just had to buy the pattern after going back to your blog post several times to admire 🙂

  15. katie Avatar

    These are dreamy!! As a fellow pear I absolutely love the fit of Burda pants patterns – I never have to work that hard to get them to fit. I really want these exact pants in baby pink now.

  16. Wynn Lare Avatar
    Wynn Lare

    You are very detail-oriented and the results REFLECT.

    If you do MUSLIN you can do a shortening/lengthening by either stitching up the excess [what a fold would do]….
    Or slashing straight across on the lengthening line and adding a section of fabric that you can initially do with a temporary method of your choice such as fabric glue [or even pins if you are careful trying them on]

    Once you get that muslin you ARE GOOD and the muslin becomes a permanent pattern

    No need for the tissue

    I have been luckier than you ….
    I do find RTW pants and jeans that fit almost perfect but it is usually the leg shape I want to change [I like a stovepipe or cigarette]

    You are a great fashion sewer !!

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