Last week when I started out on my pant-stitching adventure, I figured I’d apply the Home Depot refrain, to Fabricland: “You can do it. We can help!”
Eager yet ignorant, this adventurer had great plans to sew fluid linen drawstring pants, though she’d never sewn more than a pillow before. Besides the people at the fabric store, my friend Gwen could help, if I was really stuck. How difficult could it be to stitch two legs together and loop a string through the waistband anyway?
“Well you’ve gotta start out with a pattern. Where’s your pattern?” Gwen asked.
“Oh! I don’t have one,” I replied, “but let’s get the fabric and then the pattern, since we’re already at the store.” I avoided telling her that although patterns had been mentioned in those sewing books I’d borrowed from the library, I figured I’d skip it and make my own if necessary. I’d convinced her to come shopping with me on a warm and sunny May day, without telling her what I planned to buy, and make; I suppose I didn’t want to be dissuaded, but I needed her upfront because my research had convinced me that choosing fabric was a delicate affair.
Unfortunately, as I stewed on her advice overnight, I lost some of my boldness, and went to Fabricland on my own the next day to buy a pattern. With it, I also bought a red cotton fabric printed with pink hearts, for my experimenting. I’d become too afraid to ruin my lovely chestnut brown linen.
Opening the pattern envelope expecting help, I felt more overwhelmed than saved. The cut-outs could wrap around me twice, but I hadn’t found a design that I liked with the Miss Petite size the books mentioned.
Yet, feeling springy like a Slinky, I was ready to start. I laid out the pattern and prepared to make the adjustments to hip and crotch; the length looked fine. Then zap! All my energy disappeared. I couldn’t roll out a clear thought, never mind a length of fabric. I was afraid to cut, afraid to redraw any lines. What if it didn’t turn out the way I imagined? The pattern would be ruined and I’d have no guide from which to restart.
I was tempted to trace the whole thing at that point but realized there were too many details and it would take me a while to trace it anyway, when I wanted to save time.
Incidentally, this is where I learned that patience is pivotal for a seamstress. Attention to detail, geometry, and computing fractions, also deserve honorable mentions. Frankly, I’m now convinced that math and sewing should be joined in the school curriculum. If I’d proven the usefulness of fractions with my own hands, like I have by sewing my own pants, I might’ve enjoyed the subject more in school; Hindsight they say!
Slicing through anxiety with determination, I clipped and taped paper here and redrew lines there, figuring, hey, this is my test fabric, so if I err, it’s only a matter of ten bucks and a few hours of my life lost.
Cutting the fabric seemed easy enough in those online video sewing tips I’d watched; but once cut, a new fear surfaced as I looked at the odd shaped back piece of fabric and sensed the measurements were incorrect (measuring that crotch depth and length was hell) despite frequent references to the library books on the matter.
This pant sewing stuff was complicated, even with a pattern, but I didn’t want to call Gwen. Trying this on my own would at least build character if I didn’t earn bragging rights, right? Besides, I didn’t want to slow this adventure.
I decided to avert failure by first, quickly stitching it by hand to see if it worked. The extra seam allowance I’d added would hopefully help if I needed to correct any mistakes.
This plan was comforting enough to keep me going, and as I poked the fabric and pulled through the thread with each stitch, I became more focused; it was almost liberating to get intimate with cloth, needle and thread.
Thankfully, the pants assembled well enough given my slapdash freehand. Still, I feared I didn’t know how to attach the crotch on the machine. The pattern instructions, though confusing at first, eventually made sense and made that part easier than I’d expected.
Sewing on the machine was like accelerating in a Ferrari. Whee! It must be that presser-foot! Unfortunately, however, I had to slow down when it came to pockets and drawstring. Sewing straight lines and mild curves is easy enough, especially when hidden, but topstitching threatened to show my weaknesses.
Clearly, those who sew perfect seams in ready-made clothing deserve more thought than I’d ever given them, and some respect for their skill. It was hard enough to sew a drawstring casing to look perfectly straight; After that, I didn’t want to even attempt sewing the one centimeter string, but I persevered.
In all, what was labelled as an “easy” pattern took me many hours, over three days, to complete. The finished product isn’t perfect, but my hands fit in the pockets; and the waist, hip, and legs fit fine, which returned me to my Slinky best.
One little stitching adventure has taught me what those who meditate seek to know — peace and contentment, and maybe a little more about themselves, albeit peppered with frustration. Add the realization that patience is one virtue I harbour in small amounts and spend sporadically.
A few questions also arose: Why do manufacturers create their consumer patterns on tissue that makes you feel like an amateur surgeon when you modify it? Why not provide a CD that allows the person to adjust the measurements interactively on computer, and print from there? Have all the technological advancements skipped the sewing world?
Nevertheless, drawstring pants all sewn now — imperfect but comfy — I neither regret the audacity with which I started the project, nor the frustrations that stalled me along the way, I’ve learned that excitement helps elicit action, and with the frustrations you get to demonstrate follow-through, so that in the end, fear doesn’t prevent learning.