Thursday, August 2, 2012

Making martial arts pants - trial, error, and alterations

So I started a martial arts class and I needed a new pair of pants as mentioned here because I only had a pair of black knit and the white pants that go with my full gi from college.  A gi is that uniform you often see martial artists wearing - wrap jacket over pants, often white though they come in many colors.

Fabric was a 55%  cotton/45% polyester blend navy blue tablecloth I had picked up somewhere and kept in my stash.  The fabric has a subtle tonal stripey thing going from the weave so I made sure that was vertical since I liked that look better.  I used McCall's M5813 as a starting point.  The sleep pants seemed like a good base because it is designed to be loose rather than closer to the body like many pants patterns.  For martial arts you don't want the pants to constrict your movements.  Actually I lucked out on this pattern.  View A is a cropped version of the pants, and as such doesn't have a yoke piece at the waist.  However, because I am so short the cropped pant is the perfect length of full pants for me.  One of those times that being so petite works in my favor.  Save time and fabric.

Or at least saving time was the plan.  Probably would have gone quickly if I could have managed to stop messing it up.  Seriously, this pattern has two pattern pieces and four pieces to assemble.  How hard could this possibly be you ask?

Mistake one - Managed to sew one leg with right sides of the fabric together (correctly) and one with the wrong sides of the fabric together (incorrectly) and didn't discover it until I was trying to get the notches to line up for the next step.  So that line of stitching had to be seamripped.

Mistake two - Fixed the leg and then moved on to sewing the front to the back on each side.  Except I manage to sew the front to the front and the back to the back.  Somehow didn't click that it didn't look right until I was trying to figure how much to adjust the waistband foldover since I was using 1" elastic instead of 3/4" elastic.  That was two lines of stitching that had to be seamripped.

Then of course came the alterations.  I tried it on before putting in the waistband and the legs were enormously wide.  Total clown pants.  Trial and error got me the proper amount to take in from each side so my hips still fit and could move comfortably through kicks and such.  I used my existing gi pants as an example for how wide I wanted the ankle opening to be.  Then just tapered between the hip measurement and the ankle measurement.  Somehow summing it up makes it sound easier, but trust me, it was a lot of pinning and trying on, moving pins, and trying on again.  Then measuring and pinning.  Only once I was satisfied did I sew the new side seam and cut away the excess.  I made sure to note how much I took in so I could add the notes to the pattern envelope and hopefully down the road make new pattern pieces for this purpose.

From there on the construction went smoother until it was time to feed the elastic.  Got to within 6-8" of done and suddenly had a horrible time getting the safety pin to pull through.  Took forever as the safety pin kept opening and threatening to get stuck inside the channel.  I wanted to scream I swear.  Cooler head prevailed and finally got it in and adjusted.  Only thing left was hemming the ankles and that went quickly.  I used my pinking shears to trim the seam allowance a little to prevent fraying and tossed the pants in the wash to get all the fuzzies off.

Did I mention pinking the edges to prevent fraying?  Yeah that didn't work.  I lost at least 1/4" off all the exposed seams from fraying.  I'm going to have to use hem tape and cover all the exposed seams.  I am way to lazy to deconstruct the garment to do anything with the seam allowance.  Luckily the fraying wasn't so bad that it threatened the integrity of the seams.  I had totally spaced and didn't zigzag the seams so I was a bit worried.

Wore them last thursday to class and they worked out fine.  No seams failed and I had full range of movement during class.  Unfortunately my sewing machine was doing something wrong and the thread on the underside while sewing (outside when sewing outer seams) was loopy.  Difficult for anyone to see navy thread on navy fabric so I don't think anyone noticed but me.  Gotta figure out the problem there because I want to try this again with some red cotton sailcloth curtains I also had picked up somewhere.  Red pants will certainly stand out in class.

Unfortunately I was so frustrated with my time consuming mistakes that I didn't stop to take pictures of the alteration process.  I have to go back and cover the seams though so I'll take pictures of the finished project.  I'll try to remember to take more pictures when making the red pair.

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