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Revised on 22 July 2009

Designing & Assembling Broadfall Pants

Adding broadfall pockets to generic pants

This is the ladies' version; you can see how to adapt these instructions for males by the description of broadfalls in pants, or you can buy a man's broadfall-pants pattern ready made.

Drafting the pocket pattern

You draft your pockets by copying part of the pattern for the front of the pants.

There is probably a notch just where you want the bottom of the pocket opening. If so, mark another notch an inch or two lower, and mark a corresponding notch on the back pattern, because the pocket construction will make it hard to see where the first notch is when assembling the pants.

If the existing notch is already out of the way, add a notch to mark the bottom of the pocket opening. This notch need not be copied onto the back pattern.

If the existing notch is above the new notch, it will be destroyed when you hem the pocket opening, and is, therefore, useless for lining up the pocket with the pants front. Add another notch below the pocket opening, but above the bottom of the pocket. You may copy this notch onto the back pattern, or rely entirely on the original notch, which will survive in one seam allowance of the pocket.

Now decide how long and wide the pocket is to be. You may measure a side-seam pocket that fits, or measure how far below your waist your fingertips are. You should be able to reach the bottom of the pocket without straining, but you should also be able to rest your hands in your pockets without bending your elbows. The pockets will hang down inside the legs of the pants.

Copy the upper corner of the pants onto a sheet of paper longer than the planned pocket, and more than twice as wide as the planned pocket.

Measure down from the seamline at the waist and draw a line at right angles to the straight- of-grain line to be the bottom of the pocket. Allow for a seam at the bottom of the pocket.

Now measure over from the side seam and draw a line parallel to the straight of grain to be the fold line of the pocket. This width is optional, as long as it's wider than your hand, but if you come too near the middle, you'll have to round off the inner corners at the bottom. My pockets are seven inches wide, and don't encounter this difficulty. In skirts, pockets can be any width that doesn't overlap in the middle, but extra-wide pockets require more attention to the darts.

You'll probably take part of the dart into the pocket. Note how much the dart would reduce the width of the pocket, and mark the fold-of-pocket notch on the back waistband closer to the side- seam notch by this much. Ease or gather the pocket to fit the space between notches. (I'll mention this again when telling how to create the waistband pattern.)

If you take an entire dart into a pocket, put notches at the ends of the legs of the dart, and make a pleat by bringing these notches together. This pleat will be duplicated in the next step of pattern drafting. When you sew the two pleats, form one on the outside of the pocket, and turn it toward the side seam, so that the part inside the pocket is turned toward the center and doesn't catch on your fingers when you reach into the pocket. Form the other one on the inside of the pocket and turn it toward the center, so that it doesn't fall on top of the first pleat, and still doesn't catch on your fingers.

These pleats are easier to handle if you baste an inch or two of their tops soon after you hem the pocket openings, stitching on what were the stitching lines of the darts. There is no reason to take this basting out, so use your regular length of stitch. Leave the stitching raw at the ends, so that it can take itself out if subjected to stress. Resuming the pocket-drafting instructions:

Fold on the fold line and copy all notches, seam lines, and cutting lines onto the other half of the pattern. Typist's carbon paper is convenient for this. The traditional pocket pattern is finished at this point, and one side of the pocket is hemmed above the notch exactly like the pants front. I find that I can eliminate a point of strain by cutting away one corner of the pocket as follows:

On one side only -- the side that will be nearest the outer fabric when the pants are assembled -- draw a line at right angles to the seam line exactly at the bottom-of-the-opening notch. Putting the cutting line right at the bottom of the pocket opening will cause the hemmed edge on the pocket to be slightly below the hemmed edge on the pants front, and thereby avoid a piling-up of lumps. Draw another line at right angles to the waistline seam. The position of this line is optional. Placing it farther from the seam will make the curve gentler and easier to hem or face, but it will make it harder to find the pocket when you put your hand in through the slit. I like this line halfway between the side- seam and the fold line on pants, somewhat closer to the seamline on voluminously-pleated skirts.

Place a french curve tangent to both lines and round off the corner. (A saucer or a free-hand swoop will do; anything that creates a smooth, easy-to-hem curve.)

Cut out the pattern.

Fancy Pocket Openings

One problem with broadfall pants is that when you adjust them smaller than the pattern size, you have to reach past the side seam to close the outer hook. This isn't much of a problem if you aren't eight months pregnant or a bit stiff in the spine, but it is easily dealt with by cutting away the corner of the pants front in the same way suggested for the pocket itself.

Let the hem line of the new curve cross the side seam just at the bottom-of-the-opening notch and add a hem allowance above it. Since the cutting line on the pocket is where the hem line on the front is, the hem on the pocket will begin just where the hem on the front stops, and lumps will be minimized.

Either make the pocket cut much deeper than the front cut, or let the pocket hem cross the waist much closer to the side seam than the front hem does, and make the hem on it ornamental. Since there is very little stress on the top of the pocket hem, you can make it cross the waist at an angle, perhaps swooping all the way back to the side seam. (But don't let the hem on the pocket pile up on top of the seam allowances.)

A "slant pocket" for dressier pants is even easier, since you don't have to cut the pattern and therefore don't need to make an extra copy. (I like the appearance of the slant pocket best, and find that a slanted opening is much easier to use than a straight up-and-down opening.)

Draw a hem line on the pants front from the notch to the waist at the desired angle. Draw a cutting line at the desired depth for a hem, or add seam allowance if you intend to face the opening. Fold on the cutting line.

Make sure that the cut-away corner of the pocket is deep enough to stay out of sight even when the waistband is adjusted to maximum size. This, too, can be folded out of the pattern: let the crease begin twice your hem allowance from the fold line, and end tangent to the original cutting line.

Both these treatments eliminate the snip at the bottom of the pocket opening, but the slant opening could do with a bit of twill tape inside the hem where it crosses the side seam.

Shorten the front waistband to match the narrowed front, and mark the back waistband pattern where the corner of the front will fall, so that you will know where to sew the eyes.

There will not be room for two sets of eyes, so begin one inch toward the side seam from the corner-of-the-front mark, and mark eyes every half inch all the way to the end of the waistband. The eyes in the middle will pull double duty as inner eyes for fat settings, and outer eyes for skinny settings.

Drafting the waistband pattern

You may use the waistband from your original pattern, and mark up two copies of the pattern, one for the front and one for the back, or make the band in any style you please.

If the original band is the men's-pants waistband that is sewn on by one edge, stiffened, and lined, I suggest not using it; the narrower band traditional on skirts is more suited to a woman's anatomy -- and it's much easier to sew. If your pattern has a split at middle back to allow for alteration, I suggest chucking that too. When there is so much adjustment at the sides, it seems pointless to adjust at center back. (Since the men's version does not adjust at the sides, retain the split band and wide center-seam allowance.)

To simplify the discussion, I'll assume that you haven't got a waistband pattern, and that you want a band made of lightweight fabric used four layers thick to be its own interlining.

Each band will be a strip of cloth cut four times the desired finished width.

Draw two parallel lines on paper, separated by the width of the strip you need to cut. You can mark both ways from the center to make a full- length pattern, or mark "fold" at one end and measure from there to make a half-length pattern.

Wearing everything you will wear under your pants, put a tape measure around your waist at the desired tightness. Note the total circumference, the distance from side-seam to side-seam in front, and the distance from side-seam to side seam in back. (Add front and back together to make sure they equal the total.)

Warning: if you are accustomed to an elastic waistband, you will almost certainly pull the tape too tight. A waistband should not redden your skin. I can put my closed fist inside my waistband with no difficulty or discomfort, and I can get the other fist in beside it with hardly any.

To make the front-band pattern, divide the front width in half and mark the seam line that far from the center. Add seam allowance and draw the cutting line.

Compare the front waistband to the front. Chances are, the front is wider than the waistband. If the difference looks like more than you can ease in, make the dart wider, add a dart, add a pleat, or plan to gather the excess.

If there are notches or dart marks on the front waist, copy them to the front waistband.

Begin the back band by marking the center and the side seams as for the front -- but using the back measurement, of course. Then add the width of the pocket top from fold line to seam line. The pocket needs dart control, but darts in pant- weight fabric are a pain and this isn't going to show. Simply narrow the space allowed for the pocket by the width of the dart, and if you can't ease the pocket into the allotted space, gather it. If the dart is near the fold line, half the dart width is enough.

If the pocket has a pleat, mark the distance from the seam line to one leg of the pleat, then match the other leg to this mark and copy the fold line of the pocket onto the waistband.

Mark the cutting line a seam allowance beyond the fold-of-pocket mark. You may want a wider seam allowance at the ends of the back band than at the ends of the front band -- see assembly instructions for the reason.

Copy any marks on the back pieces onto the waistband so that they can be matched during assembly.

Hip pockets

If there are no hip pockets in your original pattern, design patch pockets and position them by measuring an existing pair of pants -- or pin the pockets to whatever you have on, check the reach and the appearance in the mirror, then take off your clothes and measure the pocket placement.

Mark the position on your back pattern with light pencil marks, then, when the first pair of pants is finished and you are quite pleased with the pockets, fold the pattern and nip off a corner to cut a small diamond-shaped hole at each upper corner of the pocket.

When you make your next pair of pants, use the holes to stencil marks with chalk, or work tailor's tacks through them.

Optional extra pockets

Watch Pocket

My original broadfall pattern came with a watch pocket, finished size three inches high and three and a half inches wide. Since I don't have a pocket watch, I left it out. Later I decided that I might want to carry a loose key, or exact change, and put it back. The second time I made a watch pocket I sewed it into the wrong pocket, so now I put watch pockets into both pockets. After all, I might want to carry a loose key and exact change.

The watch pocket is a simple patch pocket. To make a pattern, draw the finished shape, add a hem allowance at top, and a quarter inch on all other edges.

If you habitually carry a loose key in this little pocket, add a flap fastened with Velcro or snaps. (See the chapter on pockets.) If key- carrying is a special event, close the pocket with a safety pin, or tie the key to a string which is tied to a safety pin at the other end.

Since the watch pocket is easier to use when it is closer to the side seam, nowadays I leave one side of the pocket raw and catch that side in the side seam.

Passport Pockets

I call the pockets sewn to the outside of my broadfall pockets "passport pockets" because I got the original size by measuring my passport. They are never used for my passport -- though I still have hope! -- but when I want to go out without dragging my purse around, I can pin credit cards and ID into one passport pocket, put my folding money into the other, carry my change in one broadfall pocket, and still have a pocket left for my keychain, shopping list, and pencil stub.

To draft a passport pocket, measure your broadfall pocket pattern from bottom cutting line to the hemline of the pocket opening. Subtract a quarter inch, then add hem allowance. (This is the maximum height of the pocket.)

Make the pattern not less than four and a half inches wide, if you really want to get a passport in -- and to be able to reach in to get your dollar bills out. (This allows half an inch for two quarter-inch turn-unders.) Five inches will do; five and a half is pushing it.

It's a good idea to make the pocket wide enough that you can put a credit card in it crosswise, which will put it deep enough into the pocket that you won't have to pin it closed. A passport also rides better with the long axis horizontal, as it is less likely to get bent.

Unlike the watch pocket, which is stiffened by its wide-in-proportion-to-height hem, a passport pocket must be significantly narrower than its height -- unless you close it with snaps or something equally emphatic.

To avoid a lump on the outside, cut the passport pocket from strong, thin fabric such as stout muslin or pocketing twill.

If the pants are particularly heavy, the broadfall pockets should also be made of lining material. If you object to the lining showing at the pocket opening, you can cut the pocket pattern into two pieces, add seam allowances, and cut the piece that shows from the pants material and the rest from thinner fabric. Or sew a scrap of pants material to the edge of your lining material, and place the pattern so that the seam falls where you want it.

About halfway between the fold line and the seam line is a good place to put a piecing seam; make sure it doesn't line up with the hem of the corner cutaway. Right through the dart is another good location, as it enables you to hide one of the darts in the seam: the stitching line on one piece follows one leg of the dart, and the stitching line of the other piece follows the other leg.

Another plan is to cut the entire pocket from lining, and appliqué a patch of pants material to its corner. This patch should be somewhat larger than the corner cutaway, to avoid a pile-up of edges. (Piecing or appliqué should be done before the steps given in the assembly instructions.)

When making heavy winter pants, I make the inside pockets and the waistband of a thinner harmonizing fabric -- black polywool twill on black wool flannel, for example, or red silk twill on gray wool. I'm thinking of making the patch pockets on the back of my next pair of winter pants of wool "piped" (see Hong Kong Finish in Edge Finishes) with the inner-pocket fabric, instead of hemming it and turning edges under. Then again, I might make a welt pocket.

Assembling the pants

In practice, one works on all the parts until one has to press, heats up the iron and presses all the parts, then works on everything again. But this would be very confusing to describe, so I'll follow each part until it's ready to be sewn to some other part.

I will assume that you want the optional extra pockets, that the hip pockets are patch pockets, and that you are using the light-fabric waistband. I trust you to be intelligent enough to leave out what doesn't apply.

Cut Out and Mark

The least-stretchy grain on everything but the waistbands runs up and down.

The least-stretchy grain on the bands runs around your waist. Don't cut around your waistband patterns, but use them to mark a strip or strips you have torn off or cut along threads.

Take advantage of any woven-in cutting guides the fabric may have.

If the fabric is pants weight, cut pockets that don't show from a lighter fabric. Cut the watch pockets from the same fabric as the broadfall pockets, whether this is outer fabric or lining. If the broadfall pockets are pieced, use your own good judgement.

Mark all notches, pocket-placement dots, etc. Since this is presumed to be your first time through, and things might take a lot of woolling around, use thread markings for everything, and don't pull out any thread until it gets in your way. You might need that mark to correct a mistake.

(Gloomy news: you never will get to the place where it's wise to remove a mark before you need to.)

You may mark the notch at the bottom of the pocket opening on the fronts of the pants with a quarter-inch snip, because you are going to make a quarter-inch snip in this place anyway. (Applies to standard opening only. Do not snip slant or blue-jeans pocket openings, or a seam that is to be pressed open.)

Don't forget to mark the upper end of the fold line on the broadfall pockets, as this end of the line cannot be found by folding the fabric in half.

Put chalk arrows on the wrong sides of the pieces if there might be any doubt.

Prepare the Pockets

Hem the watch pockets and hip pockets and press under all the edges as described in "Patch Pockets" in the section on pockets.

Hem the passport pockets in the same manner as patch pockets, but turn under only at the sides; leave the bottom raw.

If you plan to catch the watch pocket in the side seam, leave one side raw. Make sure the raw side is on the left on one pocket and on the right on the other.

If the broadfall pockets are made of thin pocketing, hem the curve where you cut away the corner. Turn the hem to the right side of the fabric. Since it is the inside of the pocket that can be seen when the pants are worn, the right side of the fabric becomes the inside of the pocket.

If the broadfall pockets are made of pants-weight material, turn a quarter inch to the wrong side -- the side that will be on the outside of the pocket.

If the pants are plant fiber, use cotton quarter-inch twill tape to cover the raw edge. If you can't get quarter-inch cotton tape, use single-fold bias tape. Polycotton bias tape isn't as durable as all-cotton twill tape, but this isn't a high-wear area.

If the fabric is synthetic or animal fiber, you have a problem. Polyester twill tape, even when quite narrow, simply won't ease around the curve, and all-polyester bias tape isn't to be found in the local fabric shop. You can make your own tape, cover the raw edge with zig-zag or decorative machine stitches, or decide that such a small amount of cotton can't chill you much, and use commercial bias tape. (You probably won't get rained on anyway.) Narrow lace is also an option, and various ribbons and braids.

If you choose to bind the edge, trim off at least the quarter inch that you would have turned under, and you may trim off the half inch that a hem would have consumed.

Having edge-finished the cutaway curve one way or another, sew the watch pocket to the inside of the pocket-to-be: on the right side of the fabric, an inch and a half from the waist-seam and side-seam stitching lines. Part of it will show through the cutaway corner when the pocket is folded, unless your cutaway is unusually narrow. (You may prefer to put the pocket in another place -- stand up and feel around your waist to see where you'd expect to find a watch pocket. If you want it really close to the side seam, leave one edge raw and catch it in the side seam.)

Sew the passport pocket to the outside of the pocket-to-be, on the wrong side of the fabric, about halfway between the seam line and the fold line, with the raw edge at the bottom of the passport pocket matching the raw edge at the bottom of the main pocket. Leave the bottom of the pocket open; it will be closed in the next step.

Now fold the pocket on the fold line, with the watch pocket on the inside and the passport pocket on the outside. Close the bottom of the pocket: straight-stitch on the seam line, then zig-zag just outside this line of stitching. You may make more lines of stitching if the fabric is heavy. Brush the raw bottom edge with a whisk broom to make it thinner, and pull or trim off any ravellings.

Prepare the Backs

Sew and press the darts, then install the hip pockets.

Prepare the Fronts

Sew and press the darts.

Assuming that you have half-inch seam allowances, make a quarter-inch snip at the notch that marks the bottom of the pocket opening. Turn back a quarter inch of the raw edge above the snip and press it. Turn again, and press a crease along the stitching line. At the snip, force this crease to turn sharply and cross the raw edge at a right angle. You may have to baste this curve in. Stitch the hem.

Cut one inch of quarter-inch twill tape, cotton if the pants are of plant fiber, polyester otherwise. (Silk tape for wool would be nice, but I don't think silk tape exists. And if it did, I certainly wouldn't buy a 144-yard reel of it! But if you happen to have some silk scraps around, look at the selvages.) Wider tape will do if you haven't got quarter-inch tape.

Turn under one end of the tape and appliqué the tape over the snipped spot at the bottom of the pocket opening, allowing a corner of the raw end to extend beyond the seam allowance.

If the fabric is heavy, make the quarter-inch snip, but crease on the stitching line without turning the edge under first. Force the crease to turn and end at the raw edge as before. Cover the raw edge of the hem with bias tape, seam tape, hem tape, or whatever. If the pockets are made of a different fabric, use that fabric to make tape to cover the hem of the pocket opening. If you can't make matching bias tape, cut a strip of the pocketing selvage, turn under the raw edge, and treat it like twill tape.

Appliqué twill tape over the weak spot as before. You may need a wider tape in order to cover the raw bottom of the hem tape. The hem tape should not be turned under at the ends, as that would make lumps that would grind through the fabric.

Sew Side Seams

First pin the broadfall pockets under the fronts, matching all notches. The uncutaway corner of the pocket fills out the raw edge that's missing where you hemmed the pocket opening.

Sew the pocket to the front by stitching outside the stitching line. If you have allowed half an inch for the seam, sew three eighths of an inch from the raw edge. That allows a comfortable eighth of an inch between this line of stitching and the final stitching, so you can be sure that this "permanent basting" will not show on the finished garment. (Use the same stitch length that you will use for the seams; this is an area of stress, and an extra line of stitching is all to the good.)

Fold the hemmed corner of the pants-front out of the way, and pin it to keep it from getting caught in the seam. (If the pocket opening is slanted or blue-jean style, pin it into the final position, keeping all pins well away from the side seam.)

Pin each front to the corresponding back. Sew the side seams.

Because of the multiple layers of the pockets, pressing the side seams open isn't an option. The seam allowances must both be pressed toward the back, and then they must be sewn into this position.

In other words, you are making a mock-fell seam. The top stitching can look tailored if the color of the thread matches perfectly and you use the same fine thread that you are using for the seams. For a blue-jeans look, use a coarse thread of contrasting color.

If machine topstitching is totally unacceptable to you, sew the allowances in place by hand, using a spaced backstitch. This is called "hand picking" in couture circles.

Trim out excess seam allowance at the hem and waistband before you do any topstitching.

Another plan, suitable for skirts, is to let the hem of the pocket opening continue without interruption into the pressed-open side seam; one might even turn under the edge of the seam allowance and hem it down for the full length of the seam.

To do this, sew the pocket to the back, using a mock-fell seam pressed to the back. (Flat fell if the fabric is fine.) Sew the side seam as close to the bottom of the pocket as you can. Press it open, melding the crease of pressing open with the crease of the mock-fell on the back. Press in the hem on the front, melding with the pressed-open seam.

Stitch the hem, then hand-slipstitch from the end of the machine stitching to the bottom of the pocket opening. Finish with a bar tack at the bottom of the pocket opening. Since there is no snip, you don't need to tape over the weak place, but if the garment is to see hard service, a bit of twill tape inside the hem-and-seam allowance where the front end of the bar tack will go won't hurt anything. Stitch the tape to the allowance before hemming.

Yet another plan, which I just now thought of and probably won't ever try out in practice:

When preparing the fronts, instead of hemming the pocket opening, appliqué a piece of quarter- inch twill tape to the wrong side of the seam allowance, barely missing the seam line, and extending half an inch to each side of the notch marking the bottom of the pocket opening. Do not turn the ends of the tape under; it is not necessary and would make lumps. Tape may extend the full length of the opening if you think the hem needs interfacing.

Sew the side seams from the hem to the notch, barely missing the tape. Break the thread, fold the front down out of the way, and complete the seam on pocket and back only. Again, stitch toward the notch.

Press the seam open, then hem the pocket opening, enclosing the tape. In the process of hemming, finish the seam allowance by turning the edge under and stitching it.

Slip stitch the small gap, and work a bar tack at the bottom of the pocket opening.

If this is done on heavy wool, hong-kong finish the seam allowance and hem instead of turning the edge under. If the wool is fully fulled, don't finish the edges at all.

Sew the Inseams

If you mock-fell these seams, turn the allowances on one leg to the front, and the allowances on the other leg to the back, so that they won't pile up when you sew the center seam. Since the parts are mirror images, turning both seams the same way as they lie on the ironing board will leave them facing opposite directions when they are turned to face each other.

Trim out excess seam allowance at the hem and where the seams will cross before you do any topstitching.

Turning the allowances opposite ways does no good on pre-graded flat fell seams: the seamlines that you match together run down the middle of the fell.

Sew the Center-Back Center-Front Seam

As it happens, the sharpest curve on this seam is on the true bias of the fabric, so you don't need to snip the curves as you have been taught to do. But do make sure the seam allowances are well stretched so that they lie flat. If you press the seam open, consider hand-stitching the allowances down through the sharpest part of the curve.

If the fabric is knit, it has no bias, and the allowances must be snipped or narrow. You can cut them narrow in the first place, serge them off after sewing, or make a flat-fell seam with one allowance trimmed narrow and the other allowance folded narrow.

Attach the Waistbands

When preparing the fronts and backs, I told you to stitch and press the darts -- but for this section, I'm going to assume that you didn't.

Thick wool is bad at making darts and good at easing, so you should ease in the dart control on wool, if there isn't a lot of it. Heavy denim is at least as bad at darting, but punk at easing; for everyday pants, you may have to settle for gathers. Pleats are always an option, particularly on the front.

Digression: getting rid of darts
You may notice that jeans often have a yoke in the back instead of darts. You can do this yourself; just cut the pattern along any line or curve that passes through the points of the darts, fold out the darts on the yoke piece, and add seam allowances to both pieces. Or you can cut the yoke line above the points of the darts and let a small amount of the dart be transformed into easing at the yoke seam.

If you can't get rid of the darts, or don't want to, and the fabric just won't dart, you can cut along one leg of the dart seam, lap it to meet the other, top-stitch, and cover the raw edge with embroidery, tape, ribbon, or braid. The cover-up will also bridge the no-seam-allowance bit at the point of the dart.

For a less-desperate situation, cut the dart a little to one side of the fold after sewing it, so that the seam allowances are graded. Leave the narrow end of the dart uncut.

End digression.
In addition to assuming that you are easing the dart control, I'm assuming that you are using the fold-over, four-layer waistband. I am further assuming that you will fold the band to the right side and top-stitch it.

Make sure that all landmarks are marked on both the waist and the waistbands. If a dart is marked on the pattern and you are ignoring it, mark the fold line of the dart on the front or back, and match it to the dart-seam mark on the waistband.

If you can't eyeball an eighth of an inch, draw a line one-eighth inch from the marked edge of the right side of each waistband. (I'm assuming a half-inch seam allowance; use a distance which, when added to your seam allowance, makes a standard allowance already marked on your stitching guide. Or make a temporary guide with removable correction tape or a removable label. Or draw stitching lines on the wrong sides of the waistbands.)

Put a strong or double thread in the bobbin and set the machine for the longest stitch. It may or may not be necessary to loosen the top tension. With the wrong side up, so that the bobbin thread appears on the right side, stitch an eighth of an inch to each side of the stitching line on both back and front.

Place the wrong side of the front on the right side of the front waistband, placing the raw edge of the front an eighth of an inch from the raw edge of the waistband. Match the finished edges of the front to the seam lines on the waistband with pins set at right angles to the stitching line. Match the center fronts and any notches or other marks the same way. Pull both bobbin threads at one end and push gathers to the center; repeat on the other side. Stretch the gathered front until it matches the waistband, then wind the ends of the threads around the end pins in a figure eight to maintain this length. Stroke the gathers back and forth until they disappear or are evenly distributed, depending on how much excess fabric you have, and how reluctant the fabric is to squish. (See "Easing and Gathering".) Hold the seam in the desired position with more pins placed at right angles to the seam line.

When all is arranged to your liking, turn the work over and place pins in the seam line, pointed toward the beginning of the stitching. Remove each right-angle pin as soon as its section is secured by seamline pins. If the easing thread still seems to be working hard, leave the end pins -- the ones holding the figure eights -- until the stitching is almost upon them, and pull the figure eights out straight and out of the way when you remove the pin. If you think you can get away with it, remove the end pins with the others, and cut the ends of the gathering threads close to the fabric.

Stitch five eighths of an inch from the edge, which puts a five-eighths allowance on the waistband and a half-inch allowance on the front.

Press the allowances toward the waistband and remove the gathering threads. Fold the waistband so that the free edge meets the edge of its seam allowance, and press the crease.

Fold the waistband so that the pressed-in crease just barely conceals the line of stitching. Pin it in place, but don't press the new fold.

On the front, unpin one end of the waistband, snip the corners off the allowances, curve the creases a bit to make the seam allowance a shade narrower than the waistband proper, fold the end on the seam line, refold so that the crease covers the stitching again. Finger press, re-pin, baste if necessary. If you baste, use matching thread, and plan to leave the basting thread in. One way: overhand the end folds together, barely skimming the fabric so that the stitches show very little, and work from the inside, making sure you can see both folds, so that only one fold will show from the outside.

Finish the other end the same way, then top- stitch to hold all layers together. If using contrasting thread, run an extra line of topstitching near the fold to complete the rectangle.

If the fabric is elegant and you don't want any stitches to show, begin by sewing right sides together, so that the waistband ends up turned to the inside, and topstitch by hand, using a spaced backstitch that doesn't quite go through all layers.

Attach the back waistband in the same way, matching pocket-folds, seam lines, and any other marks to marks on the waistband.

When you fold in the ends of the back waistband, don't trim the seam allowances. Instead, fold the allowance in half so that the raw edge just meets the seam line. This avoids having the seam allowances pile on top of the pocket fold, which makes it easier to make the band smooth and flat, and the tab thus created doesn't show, while the extra-thick edge produced by making the waistband end right at the end of the pocket fold might show through the front waistband.

Nowadays, I don't fold the ends of the back waistband at all, but use rows of stitching to keep the fabric from ravelling, and leave the fringe of the torn edge beyond the stitching. This makes the ends very thin and flat.

Sew on Hooks and Eyes

If you prefer buttons, snaps, Velcro, or other fastenings, I'm leaving you on your own -- except to comment that if you choose buttons, you will need one dozen shirt buttons for each pair of pants, and will have only three increments of adjustment instead of five.

I find #3 eyes plenty big enough, and much less obtrusive than the special hooks made for waistbands.

First sew on the eyes. Since bar-type eyes are no longer available, that means working bar tacks and buttonholing over them. (See the section on hand-sewing stitches.)

Use nylon thread if you can find it. #8 thread works up faster than #50. If you use silk, make it buttonhole (aka size D) silk. Recently, I've been using polyester "upholstery thread" made of continuous filaments.

At each end of the back waistband, on the right side, work two sets of five eyes spaced half an inch apart. The center eye of one set should be at the side seam -- or just at the edge of the pants front, if that edge is not at the side seam. The end eye of the other set should be near the end of the waistband.

If you have cut away part of the front, the chances are that these two sets will overlap. In this case, mark one eye at the spot where the edge of the front will come when the pants are closed normally, mark two eyes between this eye and the side seam (to use when you are hungry or aren't tucking in your shirt tail), then mark eyes at half-inch intervals all the way to the end of the waistband. Chances are there will be fewer than ten of them, but those in the middle can be counted twice: as the outer eyes for the inner hook, and as the inner eyes for the outer hook.

You can work more than one eye on a needle of thread; use spaced back stitch to carry the thread from one eye to the next, slipping the needle between the layers of the waistband.

For many years, I drew my guide lines directly on the fabric with erasable markers, and the over-broad lines not only led to eyes that weren't all the same size, didn't line up, and sometimes slanted, the marks were more likely than not to get rubbed off while I was working.

Eventually, I hit upon the idea of using removable labels. I happened to have on hand some sheets of six 1"x3" labels that were meant for the temporary marking of file folders. Three inches is just right for making five marks half an inch apart. One inch is much too wide, but a cutting line down the middle of each label took care of that.

I marked the whole sheet at once, since that is much easier than marking one label -- let alone six labels, one at a time. First I marked the middle of the label at each end of each row of labels, and drew the cutting lines. Then I marked an eighth of an inch and three eighths of an inch to each side of each cutting line, making guide lines spaced one quarter inch apart, which I consider the proper length for an eye intended for a #3 hook. Finally, I drew lines at right angles to these lines, spaced half an inch apart, with one of the lines at the center of each label.

I cut off half a label, stuck it to the waistband, and worked eyes right through it. Voila! Uniform, perfectly aligned eyes, for much less trouble than the irregular eyes I had been working, and the label was easy to tear off without leaving any residue.

But do be careful that the sticky labels you use are removable.

Hem the Legs

Pin the hems, try the pants on to make sure they are the correct length, adjust if necessary, and stitch the hems. I nearly always secure pants hems with machine top-stitching, as people who grovel at your feet seldom criticize your hems.

Make sure the stitching is reasonably easy to remove, as you can keep the hem from wearing through at the edge by shortening the pants a quarter inch each time they are downgraded to humbler occasions. It is also a good idea to zig- zag over the raw edge of the turn-under, so that the pants can be washed after removing the old hem and before stitching the new one.

If the fabric is thick, use hem tape instead of turning the edge under.

The simplest way is to turn up the hem, pin the tape over the raw edge, and stitch along both edges.

If two rows of topstitching are objectionable, sew the tape to the edge before turning up the hem. (See "lap seams".) This also makes the pants easier to shorten.

Depending on fabric, taste, and intended use, your hem tape can be twill tape, seam binding, bias tape, ribbon, braid, lace -- almost anything narrow that's finished on both edges.

You can also cut or tear a strip from the selvage of your lining fabric. The obvious way to use it is to sew the raw edges together, leaving the selvage as the new edge of the fabric. A neater way is to turn under one edge of the strip of fabric, and sew the selvage to the pants with a lap seam, with the raw edge of the "tape" meeting the raw edge of the pants.

And, of course, you can face the edge with a lighter fabric instead of turning up a hem. A very wide facing makes work pants look better when you roll them up.

If your work calls for clothes that are plain, dull, and boring, choose a bright fabric with a lively pattern for any facings that only you will see. It will improve your attitude, and make it easier to maintain your dignified bearing.

 

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