pants… and the ensuing book review

I’ve finally done what I set out to do when I enrolled in Wardrobe Refashion; I’ve made a pair of pants using the pattern in Wendy Mullin’s book Sew U.

This project had it’s trials, and some spur of the moment fitting solutions – such as narrowing the legs by restitching the side seams, and ripping out the topstitching in the rear in order to counteract some unattractive pooching – but I’m delighted with the finished, imperfect pants, with their slight jodhpur look. A friend said, “They look store-bought” and made my day.

I approach sewing in much the same way as I do cooking, with the attitude that every recipe is a sequence of simple tasks, and can’t possibly be too difficult. This may be inherited from my mother who can tailor a suit without blinking and shrugs off her skills as unimpressive, since despite my ambitious attitude I have never made more than the simplest of sewn garments.

For the most part I found Sew U to be a good guide. The book has a practical spiral binding, and the design is hip, with simple, informative illustrations. Wendy Mullin’s writing style is friendly and encouraging. She generously shares stories of her past sewing flops so that readers can avoid making the same mistakes. There are excellent descriptions of the steps involved in prepping and sewing a garment, and suggestions for how to personalize the three patterns included (for skirt, shirt and pants.)

However there were some real problems when it came to following the directions for sewing the pants. Several important steps are missing from the instructions, and I had to guess what the correct approach might be. Also I had to flip back and forth to earlier sections of the book, tracking down information on which areas to stay stitch, or figuring out the seam allowance, which is not printed on the pattern as promised.

I felt confused when prep that was heavily emphasized at the beginning of the book was skipped entirely in the directions. I had to guess whether this pattern was the exception, or whether the book assumed that I knew to do this. I resorted to writing in the steps as I figured them out, and sticking post-its on all relevant pages. Not ideal, but a working solution.

It’s possible that if I were a less experienced sewer, or a trifle less stubborn, I might have given up the project when figuring out the missing links became a challenge. That said, without this book I would not have had the courage to make any pants, and I am now a pant-sewing fiend.

I have the bug, and at the risk of turning into Celie from the Color Purple, I can’t wait to start my next pair. The only delay is which pair (dancing in my head) to make first. So, while Sew U may not be the best absolute beginner sewing book, it’s extremely encouraging, and contains enough general sewing advice to make it a worthwhile addition to any non-expert library.

12 Responses to “pants… and the ensuing book review”

  1. Ruth Black Says:

    I have the same book, am trying to make the pants and thought it was just me who was having problems with the instructions. Could you please send me the missing steps. I think I’ve got it figured out, and know I could finish them on my own, but any additional information would be hugely appreciated. I just need to finish the waistband and do the hem, but will need to tweak the fit a bit before attaching the waistband. I think I’m going to like these and would love to have your notes for future versions. You did a beautiful job, by the way. (My topstitching would not stand up to such close scrutiny.) Thanks so much for the review.

  2. Julia Says:

    I’m so impressed with your trousers,especially those pockets…. and you’ve got the fit perfect too.You must have so much patience.I’m thinking of signing up for the next round of wardrobe refashion and this has really encouraged me.

  3. jude Says:

    great job. i find most things i do to be like cooking actually… in that there is a basic recipe and then the fun comes with the substitutions. as long as you have the basic idea, you can go from there…. pants. i used to make my bluejeans in college, i haven’t sewed a garment in a long time. inspired. the refashion idea is taking hold of me…

  4. lori z Says:

    your pants look fab! i have failed at making some BBW pants and am not intimidated by pants again. but i will try — and your efforts make me realize that will be rewarding to try again! thank you.

  5. jennie Says:

    Wolfie loves them and he doesn’t even wear pants! Seriously, these are fantastic. The top stitching is magnificent and the fit is beautiful. All around gorgeousness.

  6. jude Says:

    very nice indeed… shouldnt be so hard on yourself….you did just great….i think the first garment i made back in school had to be taken apart several times…the seams were ripped out more than sewn by the time i finished….good going…bravo…hip, hip, hooray!

  7. jude Says:

    and by the way…I’ve tagged you for a “seven facts/habits about me” meme, sorry…..

  8. boodely Says:

    Wow, what support!
    I must get myself to the fabric store…

    Ruth – I’m happy to share my notes, I’ll email you.

  9. chat Says:

    I totally agree with you and Ruth Black regarding the instructions. I really wish they at least put some reminders regarding the staystitching (which I never remember to do… !!)

  10. boodely » Blog Archive » pants II Says:

    […] made a second pair of pants with the pattern in Sew U. Green again; the softest corduroy this […]

  11. Ali Says:

    i had the same experience with this book and am glad to hear i am not the only one. i thought i was losing my mind. the shirt was even more confusing! but some of the most important, and more complicated things were downplayed (like facing) and so many directions were left out, or the pics did not depict what the words were telling you to do. i went and asked an experienced seamstress, and even she was confused. i got more frustrated than anything, and thought maybe sewing was not my forte, based all on this book. i do better with no pattern and just winging it with my creativity and using measurements! when i finished my pants, the waist was way off because i didn’t know how to make that fit with my waist being a large but my hip being an extra small… and she didn’t explain what to do in this case very well, besides go with the larger size. if i would’ve made a large pant, they’d be bagging like crazy, look stupid and i’d never wear them. your pants look great, wish i had been so lucky!

  12. boodely » Blog Archive » jacket from scratch Says:

    […] Thankfully my friend Chris was with me, and by repeatedly stopping and staring at each other and saying over and over “this is amayyyyzing” and “I’m overwhelmed” we made it through the experience. I walked out with this upholstery fabric (for a bag? for a jacket? we didn’t know) and the fabric for my first pair of pants. […]

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