I just finished a sewing project that had nothing to do with GPs (other than my new little buddy hung out with me on the couch while I did the hand finishing.) The project was a pair of men’s pants that are meant to be worn on stage– I was to add an embroidered pattern to the bottom to make them look slick and rock and roll.
The initial conceptualization of a project like this is usually difficult for me. The challenge is to make a design that stands out without looking costume-y or cheesey, that looks unusual but not silly. The pants would have to stand out on a stage but not look ridiculous walking around afterwards. I also try to consider how hard something will be to make as I’m thinking it up, so that I can try to keep the amount of time it takes to a minimum. (I always fail at this part.)
I started with the idea that the design should be geometric, some kind of dynamic stripe pattern, in 1 color plus black. Blue seemed right in this case- green and red need to be done very carefully, or I feel like they can look trite. I always want to use purple, but sometimes that’s a hard sell for a guy. Blue is easy to make look pleasing and stand out the right amount. He wanted knee pads for going down on the ground while playing, so that had to be considered. I narrowed all of my ideas down to 3, here are the initial sketches I came up with:
He liked the one in the middle, so I made a more detailed sketch. The design was approved and looked like it would work, so I made a full size paper pattern of the design and bought shiny black and 2 different shades of blue polyester. I like to use silk when possible, but for small details on pants that will be washed a fair amount, poly charmeuse seemed a better (and cheaper) option. I bought the fabric at Elegant Fabrics on 39th street, which is kind of pricey, but has a great selection. There were tons of blue shades with different levels of shine to select from. I ended up getting a shiny bright blue, and a dark blue that was also somewhat shiny, but I used it upside down (the back was a nice matte). The black I bought was even shinier than the blue- this seemed a good way to make sure the black in the design didn’t get lost.
Actual construction, as it always does, took a really long time, much longer than I had thought it would. I used the paper design I made as a pattern, and sewed all of the decorative fabrics to a piece of pocketing (pocketing because it’s stiff and not stretchy at all, and I have a lot of it left over from suit-making projects. In fact, it is stiff enough that I didn’t need a stabilizer.) Each leg was in 2 pieces so that I could get the V shape design. I first used double face interfacing to stick the shiny black fabric to the pocketing. I then ironed 1” strips of the blue fabrics folded in half. The strips were then basted to the black/pocketing ground, and sewn. I was very careful to measure the stripes because it wouldn’t look good if they didn’t line up exactly (this is difficult sometimes because fabric tends to move so much.)
One thing I’ve realized from all of the sewing projects I’ve ever done, is that ironing, pinning, and basting, then ironing again, is never a waste of time. Especially basting. I always used to try to speed things up by not doing this, and it just made my work sloppier, and often, I’d have to then spend additional time ripping out something I’d just sewed that wasn’t quite right. So, here, I spent kind of a lot of time basting, but everything also lined up perfectly.
After I had these pieces with the stripes, I made the appliqued outline that goes around them. I also cut this from pocketing, and glued it to the poly charmeuse with double face interfacing. I left a half inch on all sides, then flipped it in, ironed, and basted. I then basted it to the striped piece, using the paper pattern as a guide. (Lots of basting on there at this point.) I sewed the striped piece to the outline by sewing machine, then basted the whole thing to the pants. I sewed it carefully to the pants by hand.
At this point, I felt like I wanted to do something to the design that made it seem more integrated to the pants and less like a patch on top of them. I think it didn’t feel quite integrated to me yet because the fabric on the design looked shiny and synthetic, and the pants, being denim, looked matte and natural. It wasn’t too bad because the blue fabric on the outline was the one I used upside down, so it was pretty matte, but I still felt like it needed something. I bought a piece of braided black leather cord and outlined the design with that. This helped because it had the right amount of dull shine to look good with both the jeans and the design. I then outlined that with a line of single stitch in a bright blue embroidery thread.
And here it is, finished:
And here they being worn at Bowery Electric (photos by Dana (distortion) Yavin on Brooklyn Vegan)
And HERE is my little buddy, who sat patiently next to me while I embroidered the pants.