Just before the big move, I was on a hunt for pants. Different cuts and how they best fit me. The only true test of how well a pattern works (and for that matter, how well a pattern and fabric are married) is time. Wearing them, cleaning them, chasing kids, going to work, anything you do in your daily life to see how they actually fit and function. I have definitely learned what I prefer about trousers and slacks in both cut and construction since putting these two pairs through their paces. But I’ve also realized my life is just a bit more casual these days and I need well fitting, easy to wash pants that I don’t mind getting smeared with peanut butter hands. Which leads me to jeans.
I had bought one pair of JCrew Lookout High-Rise jeans in the fall, and they are so close to Holy Grail jeans, I would have been fine to give up the hunt and call it a day. But they’re not exactly cheap. I’ve also noticed them getting very soft and losing structure over time, and I worry about their lifespan. A lighter weight denim, particularly one with a decent amount of stretch, is just going to break down and wear through more quickly than a heavy duty, high teen ounce weight 100% cotton. Which, in pairing with the fit specifics I’m searching out, leads me once again down the path of making my own.
I did go to the fabric store and buy a fistful of patterns, different rises and leg shapes to compare the cuts, namely how the crotch curve and extension affects how the backside fits. But I cursed myself when I got home that only one was cut as a true jean, with a back yoke and the pockets I was looking for. Yes, I really could have drafted my own from scratch. But sometimes I’d rather start with something where all 11 pattern pieces are already drafted for me and tweak them to what I want instead of spending the time and paper. Especially on $.99 pattern day.
I started out cross referencing my favorite JCrew jeans measurements with those of Butterick 5682 in view A (slim ankle length), and then took my own body measurements in several areas to compare. The JCrew fit relies on the stretch of the fabric to make certain areas hug nicely, and I’m a bit shapelier than its originally cut for. So I wanted certain measurements larger where I know I’d like to have a bit more room, namely hips, thighs, and calves. Some notes when lining up all three:
- I was shocked at how the crotch extension was a full inch smaller in my pants versus the Butterick pattern; thigh and hip measurements being the same. I wondered if this is why they sometimes pull and try to scoot down my leg to get to a smaller area, and decided to keep the longer extension of the Butterick pattern.
- The waistband and yoke were also cut straight on my pants versus the curved pieces of the pattern. Knowing I have a full high hip and a defined inward curve at the small of my back that contributes to lots of ready to wear pants gapping, I opted to stick with the curved pieces as a starting shape.
- The Butterick pattern isn’t nearly as slim cut in the legs as the JCrew. It’s meant to skim the leg but not follow the curves. I narrowed the entire leg pattern a bit, and then fitted them further when I mocked up my first pair. The JCrew pants are actually cut to taper from calf to ankle, and I did this as well as adding a curvature at the knees so they don’t bag out.
The JCrew pants are certainly a higher rise than most, but they still don’t sit truly at the waist for me. The Butterick pattern lists them as “at waist” on the pattern jacket, but on the tissue for the waistband piece it clearly states them to fall 2″ below. (Actually, it states 2″ below base of neck, which is certainly an error that should have been caught before going to print, but I knew what they meant.) Grrrrrr. Commence a ton of rise measurements on my JCrews, measurements of me wearing them with an elastic demarcating my true waist, and redrafting the top of the pant front and back leg patterns so they will sit where I want them. (For those sewing along at home, I raised the pant legs 1.5″ at center back, 1.25″ at the side seam, and 1″ at center front.) I did notice a slight slant forward on the JCrew waistline, which my body does naturally, and I appreciate the cut. Also a slightly lower center front, which creates an attractive curved line instead of a straight across waistline, so I kept that aspect of the cut.
Redrafting the height and curve of the waistline also led to redrafting all fly and yoke pieces to extend and fit together, reshaping the top of the front pockets, and drafting a coin pocket not included. I also took out a ton of other pants and have a lovely series of “butt selfies” to determine my preferred size and location of back pockets. Which I will never be showing anyone.
I went ahead and mocked up my first pair in a rose colored denim twill with a slight stretch, less than JCrew but enough to not feel like I was back in 1995. As per usual for me, I ditched most of the instructions and just followed my own jeans to see order of operations, where to serge, and where to double topstitch (I’m ignoring felling the seams for fitting sake, but will put them in future pairs). I even have a keyhole buttonhole on my Janome Memory Craft 3000, which is excellent for allowing a large shank jeans button (which Jo-Ann actually stocked!). I did a few tweaks as mentioned above to the legs, but basically they fit pretty well! I should order rivets for the pocket corners, but for now a bar tack will do. They wear well, albeit a bit stiffer and less forgiving than my original Lookout High-Rise jeans.
I cut a second pair out of a teal denim twill that I thought was the same fabric, and intended to use these for speed practice since the pattern was vetted. I didn’t pay close enough attention at the cutting counter, as I realized the fabric was a full 6″ narrower and I had to redo my layout. It was also quite a bit stretchier, and I could have easily slimmed the legs down a bit if I wanted to. I was a bit angry with myself for not just sucking it up and buying two spools of thread, as I ran out of my lone small spool exactly two belt loops shy of finishing, and I own nothing even close to the same color. So until I can get back to the store, I probably won’t be tucking anything into these.
I am absolutely in love with the rise and the fit. They’re working well for tucking in blouses as well as leaving shirts untucked. Due to the higher rise, I don’t get a weird cut in muffin top look that a lower rise jean always gives. I don’t have to constantly grab the waistband and keep hiking them up as I do with low rise pants. They just fit, I can wash them with my normal clothes, and go about my day. Which is really all anyone wants in a pair of pants, right? I’m so sold on these, I started researching higher quality denim for my next pair instead of whatever is at the whim of the buyers at Jo-Ann, which led me straight down the rabbit hole of selvedge and raw denim. Which would really require some more pattern tweaks. I can never just leave well enough alone, can I?
Now go forth and make your own jeans. I dare you.
For other reading on my pants escapades, see: