I sewed pants, guys! Nagoya pants!!
I fell in love with pretty much the entire Sakura collection from Papercut Patterns the moment I laid eyes on it. The Sapporo coat, the Aomori twist top, even the Himeji bag (and it had never even crossed my mind to sew a bag before …)
And, of course, these wide-legged Nagoya pants!
I’ve written elsewhere about how my trip to Japan earlier this year sparked a personal wardrobe transformation. I had never imagined it was possible to look good without explosions of print or colour. Not to mention the possibility of seamlessly blending comfort and style.
So when I first saw the Sakura collection, I thought that it was speaking directly to me (because, of course, it’s all about me…).
And of all the beautiful blossoms on offer, the one I decided to make first is these Nagoya pants.
A sad tale of ill-fitting pants (not these ones…)
I don’t think I stand alone when I say that sewing pants terrifies me.
These Nagoya pants were only my second ever attempt.
The first attempt was just a few months after I had started sewing. I had made a skirt, a top, a couple of dresses. It seemed logical to beginner-sewist me that pants were the next territory to conquer.
I launched into that sewing project with no conception that pants-sewing is actually a realm inhabited by evil sewing demons…
My first attempt was the Colette juniper trousers. I hadn’t thought about those pants for years until I just went to find a link to them. They are also wide-legged – a bit of theme emerging here!
With my junipers, I simply didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I didn’t realise that a pair of pants wouldn’t slip on perfectly at the end like a dress. I didn’t realise I would need to fit and diagnose problems as I sewed. So I ended up with a pair of pants with so much butt and crotch weirdness going on that I never wore them.
And so I never sewed pants again.
Until the gorgeous and dramatic silhouette of the Nagoya pants drew me in, leaving me no choice but to enter uncharted territory.
When I was planning these Nagoya pants, I was hoping to end up with something like a Kamm Sailor pant. In the end, I think the Nagoya pants do a pretty good job, for only a fraction of the $US395 price tag!!
While the fit is far from perfect, I am happy. These Nagoya pants are definitely wearable. I love their overall shape. In fact, this is one of those makes that I am so pleasantly surprised by that I kind of like them a little more than perhaps they objectively deserve.
And, most importantly, I feel that I have actually learned something about making pants and will be able to improve the next time.
Sewing on the edge
These are not part of my sewing repertoires.
And it’s not (just) because I’m lazy. Honestly, I’ve thought this through (kind of).
I usually end up pretty satisfied with my sewing projects. Mostly cuz I have low standards, but low standards = high satisfaction, so I’ll take that!
Anyway, I would say that I am very happy with about 8.5/10 of items I sew.
So that gives me a “failure/problem” rate of about 15%. Of the items I am not happy with, the vast majority fail because of poor pattern-fabric combinations. This accounts for about 60% of my failures.
So only 40% of my failures relate to issues which could actually be addressed by making muslins: fitting issues or a realisation that a pattern just doesn’t suit my body type. So that means that only 6% of my total sewing output could be “saved” if I made muslins.
Since sewing time is precious, I prefer to accept that failure rate, rather than to significantly increase my sewing time by making a muslin for every project.
Sometimes I am too impatient to even change the colour of thread on my overlocker to match because I am desperate to just start sewing. If I had to sew a muslin before I could get to real sewing, I simply wouldn’t start any sewing projects!
But respect to everyone out there with the patience and dedication to muslin. You are a far stronger breed of sewist than I!
Sizing and stuff
The fabric I used is a bit of a heavyweight mystery fabric which has been in my stash for years. I think it is a twill but, in all honesty, I don’t sew very much with heavier weight fabrics, so I could be wrong. I bought it a few months after I started sewing on my first trip to Amsterdam to attack the fabric stores – which are far superior to those in my town! Even at the time, I thought it would become pants one day. Only took 4 years or so…
My size measurements had me between a S and a M. My one beef with this pattern is that the finished measurements of the pants around the hip are not included in the size chart.
This is an absolutely key measurement, especially for those of us with wide hips or saddles. Deciding which size to make based on finished waist measurements alone is not at all useful for my body. Due to this hip-ambiguity, and since the seam allowances are only 1cm, I went with M for extra flexibility.
S would have been fine. Before I started following the instructions, I basted everything together for an initial look. At this point, I took 1 cm off of the side seams and inseam, more or less bringing me back to the small. Then, later, once the pockets and fly were installed, I still took more off of the side seams (about an inch at the waist tapering to a cm from mid thigh level, all the way down).
So just keep calm and baste
Turning to construction, my technique was to do plenty of basting while putting these Nagoya pants together.
(Yes, yes, pro-muslin folk, I know that maybe the basting and unpicking took me just as long as a muslin! It was cheaper though…).
I found basting invaluable given the construction order of the Nagoya pants. The first things you construct are the pockets and the fly. Once these are in place, you have less freedom in terms of being able to make adjustments. Sewing pants made me long for dress construction. Ahhh, just taking things in when adding the zipper at the end…
In terms of fitting, I found this tutorial from Closet Case Patterns on fitting issues in non-stretch pants extremely useful. Although, in all honesty, I’m still not entirely sure what diagnosis to give to my crotch problems! I’ve got lines in all directions!! And I’m not even sure if they are really crotch problems. I suspect that they may stem from other problems. For example, I think that the jacked up waistband (more on that below!) may be pulling and causing the horizontal lines.
If any pants fitting experts can identify the precise problems(s), feel free to let me know!
Sewing Pants = Brain Dysfunction
Sewing out of my comfort zone causes me to lose all semblance of sewing logic. When I can’t predict what happens next, I reduce myself to following each instruction to the letter, in the hope that in blind obedience I shall find salvation.
I would be far better off maintaining a bit of common sense.
I made a few mistakes in my Nagoya pants that were entirely avoidable.
First, since my fabric is actually pretty heavyweight, I had wanted to do the non-visible “inside” pieces in a lightweight fabric. I love using scraps of beloved fabric to make pretty insides in another project. But, I wasn’t actually able to understand in advance what pattern pieces would be entirely invisible once constructed. So this idea didn’t work out.
Just in case there are any other pants novices out there, the pieces you could cut in an alternative fabric if desired are: pocket bag A, the fly shield and the fly facing.
Death by waistband…
But my big mistake, was the waistband.
The instructions were perfectly clear. Make sure your waistband continues at least 1cm beyond your fly opening. No problems.
Except that I’m a moron.
For some reason, I decided that this meant that you had to extend the waistband 1cm beyond the zipper teeth on the fly. Not beyond the actual entire fly.
Don’t ask me why I thought it was in any way reasonable that the waistband would end at the zipper teeth and leave the rest of the fly just hanging.
This is what happens when I sew in uncharted territory. All common sense. Totally gone…
So, I cut the waist band of my Nagoya pants too short.
In the end, I stretched the waistband I had cut so that it just covered the entire top of the pants, including the whole fly.
I crossed my fingers and sewed.
Unsurprisingly, the waistband is really a few centimetres too short, which means my Nagoya pants suffer from a pull-up, wedgie effect.
It’s especially frustrating because I didn’t actually need to cut the waistband to size at all. I could have just pinned it on and then, once all pinned (and I understood what was happening), I could have just cut the excess fabric at that point!
Cue forehead slap.
I didn’t have enough fabric to cut a new waistband, except on the cross-grain. In desperation, I turned to instagram for advice. Thanks for your help, guys! Most advice was that a new waistband on the cross-grain, in this thick, stable, non-stretch woven, fully-fused, would probably work.
I decided to sleep on it (always the best response to sewing problems!)
The next morning, I tried on my Nagoya pants again. I thought that maybe they were OK after all.
So I went with the old “let’s wear them a few times and see how they feel before deciding if we need a new waistband”. So far, the faults aren’t bothering me too much, but it’s still possible that this waistband may be revisited …
Anyway, when I do end up re-doing part of a sewing project, I find I generally work better if I take a bit of breathing space from it first!
And I actually enjoyed the challenge…
Despite these entirely me-made problems, I was surprised that I really enjoyed sewing these Nagoya pants (cuz of the evil pants demons and all …)
Pants brought me back to my initial days of sewing. When following the instructions felt like magic. That moment of “damn, I just made a fly, how did that happen?”.
It felt nice to recapture that awe.
This was also the first time I had installed metal studs. Hardware and hammers make for a fun way to finish a project. I totally detest buttonholes. But damn was there something satisfying about finding myself a brick and hammer and finishing things off with a bit of pounding…
Hmmm, maybe I have some issues to explore…
This experience has given me not only a wearable pair of pants, but I feel more confident about the idea of tackling a more ambitious pants project. Here I come, Ginger Jeans. Plus, Ginger Jeans will give me even more time with the hammer…
And some crotch weirdness to finish…
Of course, it is a bit of a pity to still have some crotch weirdness. But at least I feel like I can improve next time.
On my next pair of pants, I think I will automatically add a lengthen crotch adjustment to my pattern pieces. Then I will baste and work my way through from lengthen crotch to shorten crotch and see what sits best on me.
I have also seen entirely sensible suggestions to compare the shape of the crotch line on a pattern piece to that in a pair of RTW pants that fit you well. Makes sense! Only problem is I don’t have a pair of RTW pants that fit me… I wear skirts and dresses 90% of the time for precisely this reason!
I also take solace in the fact that when, for the purpose of writing this post, I went to find a link to the Kamm sailor pants look, I noticed that even the model has a bit of crotch weirdness going on. If $US395 buys you crotch weirdness – even on the model used to actually convince people to part with that much cash for a pair of cropped pants! After that, I felt far less self conscious of my own fitting issues!
Who knows, maybe crotch weirdness will actually be the next big thing?