Sunday, January 15, 2017

Closing the gap...in my pants waist

I don't know if it's just me, but I can never, ever find pants that fit me properly. Invariably, if they're big enough to fit over my hips and butt, they're way too big in the waist. The last pair of pants I bought was a heavily marked-down pair of Lee Comfort Fit pants from Burlington Coat Factory, which proudly touted its "no-gap waistband." Ha ha, that's all I can say. Does this look "no-gap" to you? (And before you ask, no, a smaller size wasn't an option—they were all way too tight in the thighs and backside.)


For a while, I tried to wear these and just put up with the huge gap at the rear. It wasn't too bad when the pants were fresh out of the dryer, but after they'd been worn once or twice, it started to get truly annoying...and since they're the only really warm pants I have, throwing the pants in the wash after every wearing would have left me shivering until the next laundry day. So I started looking into ways to alter them that wouldn't tax my extremely rudimentary sewing skills too heavily.

Now, in the past, I've been able to take in the waistband of a pair of pants using a method outlined on the Colorful Canary blog: just fold over a pinch of fabric along each side seam and stitch it down. But I quickly determined that wouldn't work with these, because the fabric was too thick and the seams were quite heavy already. Adding an extra fold of fabric on each side would have left me with huge, knobbly seams that wouldn't fit neatly at all.

So I started searching for other methods. The simplest way I found was to insert a piece of elastic into the waistband, as shown here on It's Always Autumn. This is kind of similar to the improvised fix I did with my thrift-shop walking shorts, but it uses a thicker piece of elastic that can handle the heavier fabric of the pants. A more complicated method involved sewing darts into the rear of the pants, as shown at Cotton and Curls. This looked like it might possibly produce a smoother fit, but it might also be beyond my very limited abilities.

So over Christmas vacation, I consulted with my mother-in-law, who's a much abler seamstress than I am. She agreed that with these pants, the elastic method would probably be more practical, since the placement of the pockets would probably interfere with the darts. She even kindly provided me with a piece of heavy elastic for the purpose. Armed with this, I was ready to tackle the pants as soon as I had the time, which turned out to be this weekend.


My mother-in-law advised against trying to rip out and sew up part of the pants seam the way Autumn did. With these thick seams, she thought it would be easier to just cut a small slit in the fabric on each side, the way I did with my shorts, then feed the elastic through and stitch it down. So, somewhat nervously, I did this—carefully positioning the slits behind the belt loops, so they wouldn't be too visible when the repair was complete.


Then I pinned a safety pin to one end of the elastic to give me something to grab onto, fed it into one of the slits, and maneuvered it through to the other.


Next came the hard part: adjusting the elastic to the right snugness. First, I pulled on both ends of the elastic until the pants felt fairly well-seated on my waist. Then I pinned them in place and tried sitting down and standing up several times to make sure the fit was smooth. I knew I'd only have one chance to get this right, so I took my time with it.


Once I was satisfied with the fit, I began the process of stitching down the elastic. I ran my needle repeatedly through the elastic and both layers of fabric, in and out, all the way along the width of the slit...and then back down again, and up and down one more time, until I was sure it was securely stitched down. Once I had it secured, I snipped off the extra elastic...


tucked the end into the slit in the waistband...


...and stitched the slit closed.


Then I did the same thing on the other side and put on the finished pants to try out the result. Look, Ma, no more gap!


Okay, it's not perfect—you can see a hint of puckering in the waistband from all the extra fabric—but it's a vast improvement from the way the pants fit before. The waist is still loose-fitting enough to be comfortable and to allow me to tuck in a shirt, even a fairly heavy one. In fact, I suspect I could have pulled the elastic even snugger, but I was afraid of overdoing it. Maybe next time I try to take in a pair of pants this way, I'll be a little bolder.

For now, though, I have a pair of pants that fits acceptably well in both the waist and the hips—which is something I literally couldn't buy in any store.
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