January 22, 2014

When pants turn to cannibalism

I am now entering year 3 of the No Buying Clothes Adventure. I started this endeavor two plus years ago with 5 pairs of pants in various states of wear. By this summer, they were pretty much all unwearable despite numerous repairs. It had gotten to the point that the fabric around a rip was not in sound enough condition to anchor thread for a fix; it would quickly tear loose and take more fabric with it. I had to hope that the holes in the bum of the pants wouldn't line up with the holes in the bum of my underwear.

One of the goals of this project was to motivate me to make more clothes, and indeed I've had a pair of pants in the works for some time now. But when I got them finished last winter, I found that they fit poorly so I took them apart for some adjustments. They are still in a drawer in the dining room waiting for me to put in the time to get them done.

In the meantime, I've had to dig deep to excavate some clothing to cover my lower self. I pulled out all the worksuits I used to wear when I was younger and selected the ones that I could still squeeze my fat middle aged corpus into. This took care of 4 days a week with no doubling up. Below is a picture Millie took of me in a classic worksuit which was originally bought at a used clothing store when I came to the Boston area to attend university in 1994. It is extremely durable and pretty comfortable. I didn't know it at the time, but later was told by an employee of Green Mountain Power in VT that it is a worker coverall from Hydro Quebec.

I may be the biggest fan of worksuits this side of Asian factories, but it is nice to wear something besides one piece outfits sometimes, so I decided to butcher up the worst of my pants to make repairs on the best of them.

This is one advantage of having more than one copy of something; as things wear out you can use one as a donor corpse to keep the other running.

The khaki colored ones were not only both in horrible shape, but dirty and stained as well. It wasn't clear either pair would be worth wearing, even after fixing the enormous rips in the seat and crotch area.

These pants all came from Express and I've been happy with their performance over the years. Each pair has surely been worn and washed over 200 times. One failure mode is that the seat and crotch fabric becomes thin and fragile. I blame this on all the rubbing the area endures. From my bike seat, OK!!? Geez.

Last year I put about 6000km on my bike commuting to work, which really takes a toll on one's pants. The seat is worn, also dirt splatters up and once in a while a pant hem gets caught in the chain. This can be an exciting event when riding fixed gear.

So the khaki pants were hopeless, but I had two pairs of dark gray that were good candidates for combining.

Big patches of good fabric from the legs of the donor pants were fashioned into repair pieces and affixed to the seat. Unfortunately this makes the back pockets non-functional. With more work I could have maintained the back pockets of course, but I don't use them much so I felt expediency was the better choice.

The front pockets were also worn through and separated at the edges. These got a strip of good fabric folded over and under on both sides. Before on the left below, after on the right.

The fly was worn through in the area over the zipper on all pairs, and was reinforced on the recipient pair with a strip of butchered fabric. Before to the left, after to the right in the pic below.

The fifth pair is light gray, which I made into frankenpants with pieces cut from the donor pair of dark gray.

The hems are ragged and worn through on all pairs.

These get trimmed and pressed under by about 5mm. I used a piece of 19mm bias cut silk ribbon to help me on the hem, so I only needed a single short turn in and thus preserved almost all the length of the pants. Could have added a lengthening strip around the bottom to make up the lost length, but this was much faster and almost as good. As you can see, I also didn't bother blind stitching the hem up.

The light gray pair also had the big biking induced rip out in the lower bum area, and smaller rips at the inside edges of the back pockets, like the other pairs.

 After putting in the upper bum patch, I crudely basted the big rip together before applying some shaped patches over the problem zone.


Here are the pocket and fly repairs on the light gray pair. These areas get a few hand stitches to finish the ends, where the machine is not happy to go.

So out of five pairs of thoroughly worn out pants, I now have two pairs that I can wear in public! Wonderful. They are not going to last terribly long before wearing out in other weak spots, but I'm hoping it will increase my runway for making myself new pants.


Anonymous said...

Please don't give up on making pants or jeans. Once you get the fit right, you'll never find a store bought pair that will fit better. OK - putting in a zipper will warp most mortal minds the first time, but it isn't too hard. Maybe try the Kwik Sew line of patterns. They fit me pretty well and their instructions are better then the big 4 (at least in my opinion). Their link is . . . http://www.sewdirect.com/acatalog/Men-s.html

Happy sewing from Ron in Germany.

Caroline said...

I love your philosophies about clothes - I've stopped buying clothing too - for various reasons, but mostly because I find I can make better stuff for myself than I can buy.
Your repairs are great.

mssewcrazy said...

I second the instructions in kwik sew patterns. If you can do all those other things you do, making a pair of pants will be easy. Use a pair of the ones you have and like to flat measure or use as a pattern. You can cannibalize zippers from thrifted jeans or pants. I think your pants have died and must be replaced really soon. Even though you have repaired them, the fabric surrounding the patches looks weak from the looks of the rips. Your commitment to not buying clothing for a few years is admirable. However before the big rip emergency happens,sew or get some recycled pants.

Alyson said...

I admire your dedication to the No Buying Clothes Adventure... but things are looking desperate. Are you excluding thrift store clothing from your adventure? If you are looking for patterns that fit well, check out Jalie, Ottobre, and Burda. Jalie, a Canadian website, is my #1 go-to source for patterns that fit and are modern. Ottobre is a Finnish pattern magazine that's known for a broad range of sizes and that fits well. Burda is also known to fit well and their patterns can be purchased at stores like Joann. To learn how to make pants, take a Craftsy.com class, or watch a free webcast at Sihouette Patterns. http://www.silhouettepatterns.com/html/media/livestreamchannel/index_replays.htm

Good luck.

Holly Gates said...

Well, this was nearly two years ago, and these pants are long gone. Of course the repairs did extend the life of the pants significantly, and there were a couple more rounds of repairs. But finally I had to retire them. One thing that makes generating new clothes more difficult is that I feel the need to make the pattern myself. As my wife says, I do seem to like doing things the hard way when I have a choice about it.

I have sewn two pairs of new pants for myself in the intervening time, and I'm about to enter year 5 of the No Buying Clothes Adventure. I'm concerned my 5 jumpsuits I wear every weak are going to become unrepairable in the seat area soon, but right now my biggest problem is underwear... all I can say is that it is a good thing it is hidden under my clothes! Except where holes in my outer layer expose them :)

Trying to sew some undies in a stretchy jersey knit this weekend using a mechanical zig zag attachment on my kid's handcranked singer 99. Sadly not going that smoothly. I can just hand sew them if it comes to that - not that much stitching in a minimal pair of drawers.