If someone had tried to tell me this time last year that I would not only be making shorts that fit perfectly, and from a vintage pattern; but that I would also be pattern hacking to make pants and overalls! Well, I don’t think I would have believed them. But despite that I have now completed some of my most successful makes to date, and it all begins with my purchase of the circa 1960s pattern, Butterick 9779. It was a somewhat risky purchase for me, being a little bit pricer and coming from an overseas seller – my last experience of which had been truly terrible. However, I worried over nothing! The seller was lovely, the pattern arrived in a brilliant condition – albeit with a slightly wonky waistband from people accidentally trimming bits off. Over the course of one virtual craft evening with a friend I very gently ironed out the pattern pieces for the medium size and got to tracing and copying the markings into more modern versions.
I kept my hopes quite low as I whizzed through my first muslin. Pants have always been so very difficult for me to fit, and I was hoping that a lot of the issues would be solved by moving back to a time when crotch depth was much lower, and patterns seemed more designed for a greater waist to hip ratio. And since I was only doing a muslin I basted absolutely everything and didn’t bother with starting or finishing my seams. I also basted down the seams where the zip would have been to give me an idea of fit with a zip installed. I pulled them on and could not believe my eyes. They fit. And Not only that they fit perfectly. There was no stifling crotch, no gaping waist band, no constriction around the thighs! These shorts fit me absolutely perfectly.
I was so excited that I almost immediately went online to scout for fabric. While all my usual second-hand sources are shut down, I have been tentatively looking into sourcing fabric brand new. I’m also trying to challenge myself to try new fabrics other than plain cotton, and so this time settled on some corduroy that was on sale. I reasoned that if I made View B, it wouldn’t be that much fabric to buy and it would give me a very good idea as to whether I even liked corduroy. But my sewing momentum stalled greatly when the fabric arrived and I discovered it wasn’t at all the colour I was expecting, and also wasn’t a colour that would fit easily into my wardrobe. I even almost considered putting the whole lot aside, especially after disaster struck while cutting the pattern out and I cut some of the waist notches too deep and couldn’t easily make repairs. The fabric had no intentions of sticking to interfacing! But after chatting with a friend I pushed through and assembled the shorts, being careful to keep the interfacing as attached to the waistband as possible, and finishing the bottom edges of the shorts with my overlocker so I could do a single turn up hem.
I can understand why people adore corduroy. It has incredible visual appeal. But I can’t say that I am a huge fan of it when it comes to bottoms so will likely be sticking with it for future attempts at making outerwear. Although I do love, love, love the look of these shorts! And while I was wearing them it occurred to me I could combine Butterick 9779 with another pattern and maybe make some wide leg pants! I looked into my stash and came up with Simplicity 5922. It’s another vintage pattern I bought second-hand, but had yet to be able to fit to me properly. There were plenty of problems with the waist, crotch rise, etc. I also had on hand some rather dubious stretch fabric, another let-down in terms of an online fabric purchase not being as described! But it was thick, and decently comfortable against my skin, so I thought – why not? Might as well make use of what I have and get as much enjoyment out of it as I can. And maybe not buy fabric from Spotlight anymore!
I laid down the Butterick pattern, placed the Simplicity pattern on top and aligned their waists and their crotch lines. I then cut out the pattern, following the crotch curve of the Butterick pattern and blending back into the leg of the Simplicity pattern. I also followed the hip curve of the Simplicity Pattern. Attempts to interface the waistband were disastrous, so I abandoned that, and focused instead on machine set up. I used a stretch needle, but was quite happy with some stitch tests on scrap fabric and so stuck with a straight stich for assembly. I then hand-stitched the waistband down rather than top-stitching, as I did with the shorts. I have become a complete convert when it comes to hand-stitching waistbands, it simply looks so clean and professional! But unlike the corduroy, where I doubled the thread over, I stuck with a single thread thickness for these pants. I also then overlocked the bottom edges of the pants legs, and after several tests, ended up using my overlocker to cut off a further 5/8 inches of fabric from both legs and then turned them up again by 1 ¼ inches, the original hem suggested by the pattern. This let the legs sit exactly where I wanted them.
I then considered the leftover fabric, which was hardly insubstantial, and wondered what to do with it. I didn’t think it was worth donating, as there wasn’t enough to make something entirely new out of. But there also wasn’t a lot I could think of to do with it. Until, of course, I was reminded that quite a lot of other home sewists had made themselves detachable bibs for trousers to make them convertible between regular pants and overalls! And as I am something of a fiend for Jumpsuits and Overalls, I absolutely wanted to try this myself. A while ago I had purchased the Jenny Overalls pattern by Closest Case Patterns, and it had been rather painful. I think that’s the pattern that holds the record for most number of muslins I tried, and yet I still couldn’t get it to fit. However, it did provide me with a bib and two straps, and the instructions for making those sections of overalls. I also happened to have some overall buckles and buttons on hand from earlier second-hand shopping and now seemed like the perfect time!
I cobbled the bib together, and drafted a bottom piece which would house the buttonholes. I put it all together by sandwiching the bib between the two bottom facing pieces I had designed and stitching down the short and long sides with a ¼ inch seam allowance, then folding it down and stitching the open ends shut. Although next time I think I’ll draft a new bib piece to remove the centre front seam, and which has a longer bottom section that can be folded up to create a more seamless section for buttons or buttonholes. To add the buttons for the overall clasps I poked holes using my unpicker and then slid the pointed half of the buttons through, face down into the buttons. With padding underneath to protect the bench, I then hammered the pieces together using the butt of a screwdriver. As I could not for the life of me find my hammer. I hooked the straps on, and hand-stitches some buttons to the inside of the waistband of the trousers. And with the bib buttoned in, I crossed the straps over and tested where I wanted them to sit on the waistband.
As I expected I was able to place my buttonholes several inches higher up the strap than the original spot for them to attach would be. But I am so pleased to have it all done. The buttonholes were a bit of a nightmare, as I realised far too late the fabric was too thick for my buttonhole foot. So I managed to awkwardly make my own using a zigzag stitch, fray stop and a whole lot of prayer! Next time I think I will be building the buttonholes into the waistband so that I don’t have to mess with anything so fiddly again. And so I can then machine stitch the buttons to the bib and straps for neatness! However, having assembled everything and buttoned it all together, I couldn’t believe how it transformed the trousers! And how much more I liked the ensemble as overalls than I did as pants! A lot of dancing occurred in every variation of this pattern, I can assure you.
So my goal will ultimately be to trace out the pants pattern properly as a “master” wide leg pants pattern, but also to add details to it to allow it to be made as straight up overalls by the addition of a detachable bib. And then I might look at how to draft a waistband that would allow it to be made as overalls with a fully attached bib. Who knew winter sewing would be the way I really got to flex my creative muscles?!
Pattern: Butterick 9779 (and later mashed with Simplicity 5922 and the Closet Case Jenny Overalls
Views Made: View B, Medium Size – and my own mashup
Pros: Very size friendly if you are like me and have a much smaller waist to larger hip ratio, construction is very quick, pattern is very high waisted.
Cons: Butterick instructions are a bit vague in this pattern, but that is very true of most vintage patterns when public knowledge about sewing was much greater.
Would I recommend it for beginners: I probably wouldn’t recommend a pants pattern for beginners, generally speaking, because they do come with a lot of fit challenges. But if you’re more confident with pants I can’t recommend this pattern enough!
Would I make it again: Absolutely, and I am planning on making a master trousers pattern out of it!