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StyleArc Katherine pants v. 2.0: alpaca flannel

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Sorry about the super boring pictures right now. We’ve entered cold-and-dark season in these parts and my brain is just not cooperating with me on finding exciting photo opportunities.

At the 2013 fall Creativ(e!) Festival, I circled round the alpaca at the Sultan’s Fine Fabrics booth like a dieter around the desert table at a holiday party.

I really shouldn’t … but it was so nice … but so expensive! and unnecessary! … but soft and warm and lovely … oh, but too much, and I’d regret it later … but how often does an opportunity to buy alpaca fabric come along? and how much would I regret it if I didn’t take the opportunity?

And so on, and on, all day, as I wandered into the booth, felt up the alpaca, wandered away again to look at other less expensive things, wandered back, ad (near) infinitum.

I took the plunge. They offered me a “special deal” of about $115/yard, if memory serves. I bought 1 1/2 yards, enough to make a skirt.

And then I didn’t make the skirt.

I never wear skirts in the fall and winter, I reasoned. To use the alpaca for a skirt would be to waste it. Wouldn’t it be better to make pants? But then did I buy enough for pants? And should I use the stripes on the right side, or the reverse? Or should it be a skirt? But I’d never wear a skirt. Pants, then. But what kind of pants?

Two years, it took me. Two years.

To be decided largely by impulse after making up the wool Katherine pants and deciding that I loved them.

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I do, too. They’re comfortable, stylish, work-appropriate, have great pockets, and go together well. The basic modifications I used in the wool version worked very well and made for warm, comfortable pants that can be worn to work all winter and look like I bought them in a nice store.

(O/T: I went shopping for an afternoon during my impromptu vacation. I looked in all the stores, Dear Readers. The cheap stores, the mid-range stores, the young-professional stores, the middle-aged stores, the old-lady stores, the one-percenter stores. Everything was fucking polyester.

Let me rephrase, as that is giving me some unfortunate mental images: No x-rated behaviours involving oil-based synthetic fibres were going on in any stores. Everything was made out of fucking polyester. It felt cheap and plasticy and yet somehow it cost a fortune. Apparently not buying myself clothing for a few years threw me right out of the mindset of being able to appreciate what’s on offer at your standard suburban shopping mall. $100 for an acrylic cardigan. $95 for a poly t-shirt. I was outraged. In a very western, first-world kind of way.)

Anyway, on to the pattern review and construction notes:

In this version I fixed a few of the issues from the wool ones, and made some aesthetic changes:

1. Fixed the lining around the front fly.

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I had no instructions for this in any of my books and it’s not included in the otherwise-excellent Craftsy pants-class by David Coffin, but I was able to find a good how-to in a Threads article from 2011. Highly recommended. It works like a charm, but only if the underlap is narrower than the overlap top-stitched to the pants front. This is not the case in the Katherine pattern, so I left the underlap on the inside instead of tucking it in to the lining, and catch-stitched it down on the bottom. (If this is something you want to address in your own Katherine pants, I would suggest widening the overlap piece. I found it pretty narrow.)

I also changed the underlap pattern piece. Instead of one piece of self-fabric folded in half, stitched and flipped, and then attached to the zipper (as one does), I cut it in half lengthwise and added a seam allowance, made the top piece from the self fabric and the bottom piece from the lining. The side that was sewn over the zipper tape was lined up with the selvedge on both pieces so there’s no risk of fraying.

By the way, if you too are attempting to line the Katherine pants and want to know how I made the front lining piece, I just traced all three of the front pattern pieces onto tracing paper, lining them up along the stitching lines, and turning the resulting front princess seam into a tuck (the back dart was also tuck-ified). This version I lined all the way down; the wool ones I lined to the knee.

In order to help hold the lining in place, the bartacks on the pockets and at the bottom of the front fly went through all layers.

This version is much neater than the wool one.

2. The waistband on this version was lined with muslin.

The original wool pants used wool on both the outside and inside of the waistband, but I wanted to do something a little different here. The flannel, as thick as it was, was soft and I feared a bit malleable for a waistband, even interfaced. I wasn’t sure it would hold up over time. But the bemberg would be too slippery to hold still when worn with a shirt tucked in. Also I polled my lovely friends on IG and FB and they told me that stable cotton would be what they would do, so:

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It’s a good, solid muslin, never washed so still very stiff and starchy. I’ve got no plans on introducing these pants to water in any form at any point ever, so I think the lack of pre-shrinking will be ok. I added interfacing scraps at the centre front overlap so it would hold up even better with closures. And then I used a long 1″ strip cut from the selvedge of the rayon to wrap around the bottom edge so I would have to worry about flipping it under to sew it down; just stitch on the ditch on the right side and catch the inner waistband, finishing already complete.

When everything else was done, I did a bit of catch-stitching to hold the bottom edge of the inner waistband down, but just along the seams so it wouldn’t restrict the ability of the tucks to expand.

And then I added an overly-precious cross-stitched sewing machine motif at the centre back of the inner waistband as kind of an “I made this” label. Not for any reason really, but if you’re going all out to make a pair of literal fancy-pants from a piece of alpaca you’ve been hoarding for years, why not spend the extra hour on a bit of unnecessary cross-stitch?

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3. And we’re still on the subject of the waistband…

It’s got a double-closure: hook-and-eye on the outside, and a button on the inside, to keep everything extra flat and tidy. My buttonhole foot resolutely refused to stitch a buttonhole on the inside waistband with all of that bulk in the seams, so I did a bound buttonhole. Yes, I did. Mostly by hand, too. It was so small that it was mostly easier to just do it by hand than it would have been to use the machine.

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And the button and hook were sewn on just to the inner waistband, before it was stitched down, so that there would be no stitches visible on the outside.

4. The pants were serged for construction. I know, I know. But I wanted a seam that would hold up for the long haul under the lining (which was also serged).

5. I used the pockets instructions from David Coffin’s Craftsy class and used Liberty lawn scraps. Good and sturdy, very light, hopefully won’t wear out, and with the lining I wasn’t worried about the sticky factor. It makes for very big pockets, but they work well for my insulin pump and I like them.

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In case you can’t tell, I love these pants. Now my only problem is going to be working up the courage to wear them in the winter when the sidewalks have been salted. I am already shuddering.

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11 thoughts on “StyleArc Katherine pants v. 2.0: alpaca flannel”

  1. Those are gorgeous fancy pants. Is the alpaca super soft? I feel like I need to seek out alpaca fabric just to touch it right now. I can only imagine how wonderful that fabric is! You definitely chose right making these pants with it. Beautiful!

    1. Thank you!

      It really is soft. And there’s no scratchiness for me at all. I’m one of those people who can’t wear things with wool in it, even small amounts, but I don’t have the same reaction to alpaca.

      1. Oh wow! That sounds fabulous. I wear wool, but find even the tiniest fiber content to be scratchy and I need a layer between it and my skin.

        If I ever come across alpaca fabric, I might have to splurge and buy it, too. 😉 Hope I have a “deal” at the time. Sounds amazing.

      2. Tell you what. If we meet up again sometime soon, I’ll bring one of the larger scrap pieces so you can feel it up and see if it manages not to be itchy for you too, before you get a “deal” on a bunch of alpaca. 😉

  2. They are gorgeous!!! My suggestion for wearing them when the streets have been salted is to…not. Wear LLBean Flannel Lined Jeans (or Chinos) and carry the nice pants in a garment bag. Change at work.

  3. Oh. My. Lord. Luxury pants! I am in heaven just looking at photos of them.

    I think being outraged at $100 polyester pants/sweaters is very reasonable and not particularly first worldy. Because 1) they’re not at all practical – do not keep one either warm nor cool as is appropriate seasonally and also do not wear at all well, so in order to appear well dressed one has to buy multiple pairs per year and 2) THEY ARE MADE OUT OF OIL. That is just nutso. Honestly. ‘We are running out of fossil fuels what shall we do?’ ‘Let’s make clothes out of them’ ‘Great idea!’

  4. Beautiful. I love alpaca. So soft and yet sturdy. I buy a lot of clothes from the UK (on sale only, because spendy) to get wool with silk lining. Then I keep them forever. I hate the synthetics. They give me a rash.

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