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Dec 4, 2011

Making the Suit Pants - Day 1

And we're off! (our rockers, mainly)

It appears I am indeed making a suit; ETA December 30.  Thanks for all your encouragement yesterday.

I decided to use the pinstripe wool.  For one thing, it's lighter weight, so I think I'll get more use out of it.  For another, the stripe makes cutting much easier and, I'm hoping, everything else, from welt pocket to waistband.  Yesterday I used Pam Erny's machine pre-shrink method (you can read about it here) to prep my wool.  I've used it before and it seems to work fine.  Although, since you're not going to wash your wool garment in the machine, but rather take it to the dry cleaners, why do you have to pre-shrink wool in the first place?  I thought the whole point of dry cleaning is that it's for garments made of shrinkable fabric you can't wash yourself.  Anyway...

I pre-shrank both fabrics, just in case, but like I said, I've opted for the pinstripe.  I also have much more of the pinstripe, so if I need to cut anything out twice...

I'm making the pants out of McCall's 4359, version E -- no pleats but with the little watch pocket flap (but no actual watch pocket) on the front right side.   It's the guy in the brown pants and mustard sweater.

I could have used a suit pattern, but with pants, there's very little difference and I just couldn't deal with the 6,000 pieces of an entire suit pattern all at once.  Notice how the line of the pleated pants looks identical to that of McCall's 3995, the pattern I used to make Michael's shirt last week.  I didn't measure one against the other but my hunch is that they're the same, despite one being thirty years older.  I'll have to check that out some day.  Men's fashion changes very slowly, if at all.

Anyway, the pattern was uncut, so first I had to cut it out.

Even with just the pants, it's a lot of pieces.

Then I had to adjust the pant length and the rise.  I've done this before and I'm safe with 1 1/2" off the rise and 2" off the length; I really don't want hip huggers.  Of course, since I'm shortening the rise, I also have to shorten the fly and fly facing as well as the pockets and pocket facings.

This morning I started cutting.  I used rulers to make sure my grainlines were straight.   It took a lot of time to cut and I cut solely single layers at a time, never double.

I labeled front and backs with a chalky yellow pencil (see top pic) -- there is a subtle difference between right and wrongs sides on this fabric.

And that's it so far.  I may do a little sewing today or not.  Frankly, I'm already pretty wiped out just with all the cutting and I don't really feel like rushing through these.  BTW, I am referring to the Cabrera book, Classic Tailoring Techniques after all.  It has a ton of useful information.  I may even include the recommended "crotch reinforcement!" 

OK, time for lunch.  Happy Sunday, everybody!


  1. So you decided to dive into it. Good luck!

    Hope Cathy won't mind you missing out on the christmas dinner..... ;-)

    I must try getting this book that's buzzing here.

  2. Surely pre-shrinking is to stabilize the fabric so that it does not shrink when it is dry cleaned or when you go out in the rain!!!

  3. WHo couldn't use a little reinforcement for their crotch? Don't sew today! Get outside. It looks beautiful out (I'm stuck inside trying to meet deadlines as my family braves Rockefeller without me!)

  4. I'll be avidly watching in free moments. Me, well, I finally got all the marking done, and I'm starting on the hand stuff. Good luck, Peter!

  5. It's a wise move to take a break. Frustrating mistakes often occur when over worked.
    Looking forward to how this goes. It might even give me the courage to make some pants one day. I'm also intrigued by the floral unlined jacket in your previous post. I think the fit looks very good and unlined jackets are great for warm weather. Would love to try that one day too.

  6. I've been thinking about trying out a pair of pants for my husband. Eagerly looking forward to the journey. Do you know of any big man trouser patterns (waist 48 or so)? Sewgranny

  7. I think you're OK using either side...technically they used to say that if you look closely at the selvedge and notice the loom pin holes that if they went in - that was the right side, and where they went out, that was the wrong side, but anymore it's so hard to tell. As long as you do it on the same side for the whole garment.

    Preshrinking - the reason you do it is because you may not wash the suit, but it will definintely be steamed, and unless you want to go to all the trouble to do it make it all up to have it shrink about 2 sizes after it's first steaming, then pre-shrinking is the best. Actually what would happen is that you would sew a seam and press it open and watch the fabric shrivel up...and your heart sink all at the same time. This way you will know that you can steam the living daylights out of that seam and have it flat as sheet metal without shrinking. Believe me, I've done the "heart-sinking" method - it ain't fun!

  8. So..... no muslin? I am so not that lucky that a pattern would fit from the actual pattern- I always have soooo much tweaking to do...
    The fabric is brilliant and so is the pre-shrinking of the wool tip!
    thanks- I look forward to seeing your progression of your suit- you will be so dapper!

  9. This is not something that I could even fathom tackling. I am just a beginner sewer. I love your fabric, and I am very excited to see the progression of the pants. Your blog is always so educational.


  10. I'll mention (but you might already know actually since I think you've made jeans?) that Sandra Betzina's fly facing method is pretty much foolproof. She has an easy to follow video on her web site.

  11. What others said about steaming. I've had things (RTW) come back from the drycleaners shrunk. I think drycleaning is for avoiding water and agitation (great for feltmaking, not so great for wool suits), not avoiding shrinking.

  12. Mmmmmm, the mustard sweater.
    That's the man I'd have chosen.

  13. I'm so impressed, you've actually begun! I think this will be a really good looking and useful suit.
    Great tip on pre-shrinking. I've lost my little old lady in Oakland who used to preshrink my wool yardage for 60 cents a yard!
    I will caution you, Peter, against marking your fabric in the middle of the piece. Sometimes that mark can shine through when pressed, and never come out. Seen it happen. I'd mark within the seam allowance, or just with a pin to determine the right and wrong side of each piece as you remove the pattern.


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