The Denim Pedal Pushers

Pedal Pushers - Gertie Sews Vintage Casual 2

This year I was determined to get myself a pair of trousers that fit me properly. Now, I don’t know if my experience of buying trousers is typical, but I’ve never had much luck finding anything that was comfortable, let alone that fit well. It made me decide I was a die-hard skirt wearer, as they were so much more comfortable. Not as great for going on zip wires and climbing trees, admittedly, but hey, I liked skirts and didn’t want to wear that typical mum uniform of jeans and a tee.

But I love zip wires and the lure of making my own jeans began to grow. I was all set to leap in and make a pair of Ginger jeans, and then late last year I managed to find myself a pair of RTW skinny jeans that were reasonably comfortable and a pretty good fit. You’ll find me wearing them in heaps of blog pics here, but most recently the ones for my Baby Leopard Kimono  (they’re the high waisted Red Herring Carly jeans, should you be interested).

So, the idea of making my own jeans took a bit of a back seat after that. Okay, so there were things about the Carly jeans that weren’t ideal (like the quality of the fabric and stitching), but they were still way better than anything I could imagine making myself at the time.

But I still wanted to tackle trouser fitting. I had a go at it years ago when I was a good few dress sizes larger, and I managed to make myself a pair of needlecord trousers that were really comfy, but that I never wore out of the house due to an unfortunate lapse in attention when cutting the corduroy. There’s a reason they tell you to cut it with the nap all in one direction, and this became blindingly apparent when I looked down at my trousers–the front was about five shades lighter than the back! I never did make another pair of trousers with that block.

I definitely have Tasha from By Gum By Golly to thank for inspiring me to get going with my trouser fitting mission. Her Cigarette Pants are things of beauty, perfectly fitted to her body and she has detailed her many pattern adjustments at length in a series of blog posts. I began to see that it wasn’t necessary to get things perfect first time, and that it was possible to make a pattern time and again, gradually refining the fit.

This summer I decided to try again, using the Cigarette Pants pattern from my latest sewing bible: Gertie Sews Vintage Casual. Read on for more of my fitting escapades…

In a Nutshell:

Andy hates them and I kind of understand why, but these are by far and away the most comfortable trousers I’ve ever owned!

Pattern:

It’s the Pedal Pushers variation of the Cigarette Pants pattern in Gertie Sews Vintage Casual. I’ve already sewn up the Flared Shorts variation so had done some of the crotch and bum fitting then, but I still hadn’t nailed it. The size I started with was an 8 at the waist, grading to a 6 at the hips.

Fabric:

I used a fairly cheap indigo stretch denim from Rose Crafts in Midsomer Norton. I was really after a black stretch twill and probably should have bought something online, but I do like to be able to feel fabric before I buy it. Anyway, I figured this pair of trousers would only be at best a wearable toile so I didn’t want to splash out or go to too much trouble fabric hunting. The pockets and waistband were lined with some of the scraps of cotton poplin from my disastrous Aster Blouse.

Changes I made:

  • Drafted a 1.5″ waistband following the instructions in Gertie’s book, then lined it with a softer fabric as I didn’t like the idea of the denim on my waist.
  • Put in a lapped rather than an invisible zipper. I don’t have an invisible zip foot, and I don’t really trust invisible zips, anyway. Too easy to burst out of! #askmehowiknow
  • Numerous fitting changes, detailed below.

Construction:

Putting these together was really easy as it was the third time I’ve stitched them, if you count the original toile and the flared shorts. I’ve discovered that trousers are actually among the quickest and simplest things to sew once you’ve got the fit right. That’s where all the work comes in, and most of my time taken to make these was me basting, unpicking and restitching to try and refine the fit. Particularly over my ample (ahem) rear end!

For reference, here was the first toile, in an ugly (supposedly slightly stretchy) polyester:

They were incredibly uncomfortable and way too tight. So many changes needing to be made! Admittedly, they don’t look too awful in the toile but I think that’s because the poly is stretched so tightly over my bum and thighs that you can’t see any wrinkles.

The Flared Shorts version followed next:

The changes I made to this version were as follows (read the original post for full details):

  • Added width to back “seat” (AKA Big Bum Adjustment) – 1/4″ each side seam at seat grading to nothing by waist and crotch, back only.
  • Added width to side seams (AKA Wide Hip Adjustment) – 1/4″ each side seam back and front, grading to nothing by waist and mid thigh.

I made those adjustments to the regular cigarette pants master pattern, then used that as a base to make the additional changes to convert them to shorts.

I really like these shorts and have worn them a few times (not as much as I wanted to as the summer here in the UK has been utterly ABYSMAL! However, they aren’t without their fit issues and I made a list of things to change for the next time.

The Pedal Pusher trial runs

Here’s the first try with my Pedal Pushers:

Better, but not perfect. I’d made the following adjustments to the pattern:

  • Redrew the crotch seam to the size 8 all the way to give a little extra length there.
  • Knock-kneed adjustment, which involved slashing through at the centre thigh and lengthening the inseam by about 2mm (doesn’t sound like much, but this moved the bottom of the leg over by about a centimetre!). See this incredibly helpful blog post for more details.
  • Pinned rather than sewed the darts at the back so I could change them easily.

However, I could see that they still weren’t fitting right, and they didn’t feel all that comfortable, particularly at the thigh. I sought help at the Gertie’s Sew and Tell Facebook Group, and the ladies there gave me some great advice! I realised that part of my fitting issues were caused by having large front thighs–or quads, as they’re otherwise known. This is not a fitting issue I had when I made trousers all those years ago, but I’m guessing my intermittent running and weights regime has paid off to some degree.

I made the following adjustments:

  • Added width to front inseam to help give room to my mighty quads. Calling them that sounds so much better than “large thighs” 😛 For details of the method I used, see this excellent PDF guide.
  • Lowered back crotch point and waistline each by 1/2″ to help get rid of some of the excess fabric under my bum. The back inseam then needed to be eased into the front above the knee. I can’t remember where I found this helpful tip but it was somewhere online!
  • Let out darts by 1cm each side.

And here’s the next try after unpicking the seams and making those changes:

Looking so much better at the front this time! I was much happier with the general fit at the crotch, although they were still looking too tight at the darts, and as someone on the FB group pointed out, the darts didn’t seem vertical anymore.

I did have one major disaster at this point, though. The discovery that my ripped out stitches left white needle marks in the denim. This was nowhere more obvious than where I’d let out the front crotch seam, and now had two lines of white marks in possibly the most obvious and embarrassing place possible. ARRGH!!!

Luckily the interwebs saved my arse in the form of this tutorial, which worked a treat. I mean, there are still slight marks there if you squint, but anyone looking that closely at my crotch is probably the kind of perv whose opinion I don’t care about. Or Andy. And I was going to make a remark about him being the kind of perv whose opinion I do care about but I’m worried that might further inflate his ego if he ever reads this over my shoulder 😉

For the final version I made this last set of adjustments:

  • Took side seams in by 7mm each side from the bottom, tapering up to nothing 10cm above the knee. The pattern variation instructions say to only narrow it by 3mm, but I wanted a skinnier fit.
  • Took hem up by the 10cm Gertie recommends, but then went back and trimmed another 5cm off as they really weren’t as short as I wanted them.
  • Let out an additional 0.5cm from each back dart and straightened them up by making all the width come out of the side closest to CB.
  • Trimmed waist down by 1″ at the CB, tapering to nothing by the CF.

Time taken: 3 hours 59 minutes. So let’s say 4 hours 🙂

(time taken is the time to sew, which will include pinning, stitching, pressing, etc, but doesn’t include time spent planning, tracing patterns, cutting out fabric, setting up the sewing machine, puzzling out instructions, trying things on, etc. So in other words, it’s not actually the total time I’ve spent making something, but it’s a rough guide at any rate. Just don’t come complaining if it takes you longer to make something!)

Overall verdict:

I was a little worried that I wouldn’t like these when finished, but I’m so glad I stuck with them and worked through all the fitting issues. Now, they’re not a perfectly fitting pair of trousers and I don’t think my cheap stretch denim was the best choice (too stiff), but these are still by far and away the most comfortable trousers I have ever worn! It’s so lovely to have a pair of trousers that don’t ride up too much at the crotch and pull at the thighs in odd ways.

It’s made me realise just what a versatile wardrobe item a pair of trousers in a plain colour is, and that I really must concentrate more on plain basics if I actually want to get plenty of wear out of my me-mades in the future. Clue: I do.

I’m also realising that high-waisted bottoms are perfect for teaming up with close fitting retro style tops. Tucking things in is a little outside my comfort zone–I’ve always tended to leave tops untucked–but I’m getting used to doing it. Or wearing crop tops, which seem way less scary to wear with high-waisted bottoms.

Pedal Pushers - Gertie Sews Vintage Casual 3
Yay sunshine! Come back, all is forgiven.

So, I’ve been wearing them at least twice a week since completing them, although I have to admit they might not be the most flattering thing I’ve ever made. Andy is not a fan and thinks they make my bum look big, but I don’t really care about that–sorry, Andy! The thing I’m not completely satisfied with is the wrinkling at the back of the legs. It’s not as bad as it was before making adjustments, but it’s still very much there. Here’s the evidence:

Pedal Pushers - Gertie Sews Vintage Casual 5
Probably should have brushed my hair before the photoshoot. Then again, I could just claim I was going for the cavegirl look. Although maybe that’s a little too retro…

I suspect I might need some kind of full calf adjustment too, or perhaps I simply narrowed the legs a bit too much. They sometimes get caught on my calf muscle when I’m sitting, and stick there when I stand up. Yeah, not a good look. It could be solved by side splits at the hem which would probably suit this kind of casual style.

One thing that only recently occurred to me, in a kind of head-slapping-lightbulb moment, was that the reason I had to make so many width adjustments at the waist and bum might simply be because they are hitting me a couple of inches below the natural waist, and the pattern is designed to sit at the natural waist. I mean, I knew I have a longer than average crotch depth, yet for some reason I didn’t think to slash and spread the pattern to add length first. Doh!

Here’s a few more views so you can see the fit all the way round:

 

Pedal Pushers - Gertie Sews Vintage Casual 7

Pedal Pushers - Gertie Sews Vintage Casual 6

Pedal Pushers - Gertie Sews Vintage Casual 1

 

Changes for next time:

I am definitely having another go at this pattern, although with winter fast approaching I reckon it will be the full-length version next time. I want to find a softer, stretchier fabric for my next version and I will definitely be adding more height at the crotch so they hit at the natural waist. I’m now wondering if I should do that using this draft, or go back to the original traced pattern from the book and start again, as that simple adjustment might mean some of my other adjustments have been unnecessary. Hmm….

I’d like to try putting a fly front zip in the next version as I reckon they’ll be easier to take on and off.

There’s probably some more fitting work to be done on the legs (all that wrinkling at the back!) but I feel like I’ve broken the back of the fitting now, and future adjustments will be smaller tweaks rather than big changes.

I can see this making a great base block for all kinds of shorts and trousers, just like Gertie shows you in the book. Once you’ve gone to the trouble of getting a great fit, you don’t want to have to start from scratch with a new pattern, after all.

Costing:

Pattern: £0.88

Based on the book of ten patterns being £17.49 when I bought it, so £1.75 per pattern, and I’ve now used this one twice.

Fabric: £6.60

£5.50 per metre. Used 1.2m.

Notions: £0.54

1x narrow hook and bar closure, bought in a pack of three for £1.60. Zip and thread from stash.

Total cost: £8.02

Cheapy-cheap-cheap! You’d struggle to find a terribly made pair of trousers in the shops for that price. Who says making your own clothes can’t save you money?!

And finally, here’s what happens when you try too hard to pose in your pics:

 

Pedal Pushers - Gertie Sews Vintage Casual 4
Duckface and a Showgirl pose. Don’t let the garden setting fool you: it doesn’t get much less natural than this!

Right, I’ll be back on Saturday with another retro-inspired make: my Rockabilly Pirate Top for the Minerva Craft Blog. Here’s a sneak peek:

Would you give this style of trousers a go? And have you ever taken on the trouser fitting challenge? If so, what did you learn from the experience?

Disclaimer: some of the products linked above use affiliate links, meaning if you follow the link and make a purchase I will receive a small referral fee (at no added cost to you). Any extra income to help fund my sewing habit is greatly appreciated, but rest assured I only recommend products I love and think you might find useful too 🙂</e

2 thoughts on “The Denim Pedal Pushers”

  1. Cigarette pants are probably the hardest pant to fit, and it is brilliant of you to keep pushing forward. I actually drafted my first and only pattern-cigarette pants-just before Gertie’s book came out. I wear different versions of them all the time. I do agree that the waist on yours is a little low for a traditional cigarette pant, but like how it gives them a more modern vibe. You will find that different fabrics will change the fit, even one stretch denim to another, so always baste them together first and fit before sewing. Once you have a pattern you love it is so worth it. And yours are already looking so cute! By the way if you are looking for a pants pattern that is secretly a skirt, try 40s wide leg pants. I can also recommend the Seamwork Moji as a comfortable and easy to fit pants pattern. I’m really looking forward to more of your adventures with pants!

    1. Ooh, it’s good to hear you’re wearing your self-drafted pants all the time! I’m really looking forward to trying out different fabrics, and will definitely take your advice on basting first 🙂

      I’ve been considering some wide leg trousers. Gertie gives the instructions on how to draft them using these as a base, so once I’ve got that waistline sorted I’m going to give them a go. My other half will probably hate them, but hey, who cares?!

      I think I have the Seamwork Moji pattern… I’ll have to dig it out!

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