Tag Archives: Simplicity 3688

Update: Welt pockets for my denim pants

I couldn’t stop thinking about welt pockets, so after consulting about three sewing books from my library, I finally broke down and added them to the back of my already completed wide-leg 1940s denim pants from Simplicity 3688.

Welt pockets were so much easier than I thought! I plan to put them in every pair of pants I ever make.

The outside:

My first single-welt pockets!

My first single-welt pockets! I used vintage buttons and white top-stitching to match details elsewhere on the pants.

You can’t tell from this picture, but the pockets are really low. Not stupid low, but pretty low. My books said they shouldn’t cross a dart, and the darts were long. But after my pockets were complete, I examined a few suit jackets in my closet and found that the welt pockets cross right through seams and/or darts! Next time I make these pants, I’ll put the welt at least an inch higher up.

And the inside:


I had to use scraps to sew the pocket bags, so they are smaller than they should be.

Although I was able to add the pockets after the fact, they would have been more successful had I done them during construction. I examined the single-welt pockets on my husband and son’s khaki pants and found that the top of the pocket bag extends into the waistband seam. I think anchoring them at the top would keep them from sagging, so I’ll try that next time.

Also, in some of the pants, the sides of the pocket bag were sewn BEFORE it was pulled to the wrong side, then they were sewn again to make French seams. They were very tidy inside.

Since I made these, I’ve been noticing all sorts of interesting variations in welt pockets. (Which means I’ve been staring pretty intently at a lot of butts. “Pardon me, I’m not a perv, just a seamstress.”) I’ve seen pocket flaps of various shapes, button loops, and different top-stitching details. Some of these variations will make it into a future pair of pants.

But I have several other projects to complete before I can even think about another pair of pants.

Vintage-style denim pants from Simplicity 3688

My second attempt at Simplicity 3688 is a success.

This is a distinct improvement over my first go at the pattern. Nearly two years ago, I tried (with a few tragically cut corners) a fitting technique that didn’t work out for me. I decided to go back to my favorite way to fit a pattern: Make a muslin and figure out what I need to change from there.

For those who aren’t familiar, here is the rather famous Simplicity 3688.

Simplicity 3688

Simplicity 3688.

It’s a reproduction of a 1940s pattern that is well-known among people who like to sew vintage styles. I’ve made the skirt twice.

For the pants, I cut the pattern a size smaller in the hips than in the waist, but that’s the only change I made before the muslin.

From the muslin, I determined that it was an inch too long in the crotch and that if I took that inch out through all the darts, they would end in much better spots. I also needed to add two inches to the length. That’s it.

I made the pants from a dark denim (that turned out to be stretch) with white top-stitching thread and a white vintage button at the waist. Here are some closeups of the details.


Simplicity 3688. Photo by Jeanne Marie Tokunaga.

Top-stitching on the waistband.

Simplicity 3688. Photo by Jeanne Marie Tokunaga.

Adorable vintage button closure.

Note that the buttonhole isn’t stitched with the usual satin stitch. The buttonhole was a new-to-me technique on my sewing machine. The Fancy Damn Sewing Machine has an automatic buttonhole function and fancy foot. You tell the machine how big your button is, set the wheel on the foot so it starts at the beginning of a buttonhole-sewing cycle, and press the foot pedal until your buttonhole is complete. Works like a charm (except on silk).

But I had told the machine I was sewing on heavy denim, so it changed the buttonhole stitch style from a satin stitch to Xs, and it wouldn’t let me go full automatic. I used a regular buttonhole foot. I had to hit the reverse button when the first side was long enough, then the machine made a bar tack and started sewing the other side of the buttonhole. When I pressed the reverse button again, it finished with a bar tack. Amazing.

The pants are very comfortable, and the fit is close, but there are some things I already know I want to tweak for the next time around:

  • I thought at first that the crotch was still too low, but then I realized that my waist is lower in the front than in the back, and if I fixed the pants to match, the crotch would fall where it should and the pants would hang better. I have already adjusted the pattern at the waistline to accommodate this.
  • The waist may need to be taken in. Since my hips have always been a size smaller than my waist, I am used to wearing pants very tight in the waist so they aren’t crazy loose in the butt. These pants have zero ease in the waist, but I may want a half-inch to an inch of negative ease. I’m going to wait on that decision until I’ve worn them a few times.
  • Somehow I made the pattern too long. I don’t think I’ll bother to change that, better to err on the side of too much length than too little.
  • I’d like to add single-welt pockets to the back. I’ve never made them before and am dying to try the technique. I actually could still add them to these pants.
  • The top-stitching length gets shorter the more layers I went over. I think I’ll need to lengthen the stitch in thicker areas so it all looks the same. I also think I should use a longer top-stitch length overall.

And here are the pants on me, with the blouse I most recently finished (and a new pair of shoes).

Simplicity 3688. Photo by Jeanne Marie Tokunaga.

The finished pants.

I don’t normally wear blouses tucked in, so here’s how I wore the pants on my recent visit to the Legion of Honor Museum.

Simplicity 3688 and Butterick 5846. Photo by Robert the Husband.

Simplicity 3688 and Butterick 5846.

The blouse is in a quilting cotton whose print I couldn’t resist, so it doesn’t drape well, but next up is the same blouse in an adorable bicycle-print blouse-weight fabric.

And here are the pants on me a few days later, with a knit top, cardigan, and loafers. So comfortable! I’ll probably wear them like this most of the time.

Simplicity 3688. Photo by Mark the Brother.

A different way to wear the pants.

I really like the silhouette and comfort of these pants. I’m definitely going to make at least two more pairs in denim and dial in the fit before I eventually make a lined pair from the really nice navy wool crepe in my stash.

Sneak preview

My current project has reached the point that I think it’s going to come out well. So, it’s time to share a sneak preview of the crazy technique I am trying for the first time.

I am making an adjustment to Simplicity 3688.

I am making an adjustment to Simplicity 3688.

Can you tell what’s happening here? Hint: It’s an unusual zipper closure. The technique is in Sandra Betzina’s book Power Sewing Step by Step.

The full reveal is maybe a week away.

~ Jmt

Sewing a vintage wardrobe: Separates

In my last post, I bemoaned the state of my wardrobe. There are some very obvious holes that, when filled, would make everything work together — and enable me to wear the blouse I just finished. Which got me thinking: It’s time to put a wardrobe plan together.

The delightful Sarah took the time to comment on my post and said her wardrobe plan consists of dresses because they don’t have to go with anything. Right she is, which made me wonder: Why do I favor separates? I realized that it’s ready to wear’s fault.

I am different sizes on top and bottom, which by default sends me to separates. I’m also larger than the B-cup for which ready to wear is designed. Thus, I have a lot of sweaters and knits. What was I thinking, then, when I decided I ought to buy a new dress for my daughter’s upcoming eighth-grade promotion? The dresses I bought online HAD to be returned (shudder), and the search for one in the store was fruitless. Off to the sweaters, where I found a nice linen-colored number with a slightly 1920s feel that looks good with the two skirts I most recently made. Immediate problem solved.

But what about the rest of my wardrobe?

I decided that I need to sew some separates in 2012. And not just randomly. I need a plan!

I’ve posted before on the following book:

Better Homes and Gardens Sewing Book, 1970 edition

I LOVE this sewing book! This is the 1970 edition. It’s in three-ring binder form.

The pages on wardrobe planning have always fascinated me. I showed some pages on accessorizing in an earlier post.

But I’m going to use the page on overall wardrobe planning to drive my sewing plan for 2012.

Better Homes and Garden Sewing Book, page from 1970 edition

It all seems so simple doesn’t it?

I’m not going to follow these suggestions slavishly because I’m a girl who likes pants. And here is my main pattern:

Simplicity 3688

Simplicity 3688. I’ve already made this skirt successfully.

So here’s the plan:

  • Perfect an A-line skirt pattern and make it in navy. I’ve made the Simplicity 3688 skirt twice: once as is and once with a contour waistband that I drafted. Contour waistbands aren’t vintage, but they work better on me. The version I did is 1 inch too big in the waist, and I may want it a little longer. I’ll be doing a wearable muslin of McCall’s 6438 next:
McCall's 6438

I like the longer length on this one and the four-gore structure, which will make it easy to change from a side to a back zipper because I want side pockets.

  • Perfect a wide-leg pants pattern and make it in navy. Wide-leg pants are flattering on me, and I like them cuffed. I also want a contour waistband and pockets, so there will probably be some drafting going on.
  • Perfect one basic blouse pattern and make it in cream. For this, I have no clue what I’ll do, but it won’t be Simplicity 3688. Jewel necklines are heinous on those with a full bust. One of Simplicity’s Amazing Fit blouse patterns (which have different pattern pieces for different cup sizes) may be involved.
  • Perfect one jacket pattern and make it in a navy pattern. The jacket pattern for Simplicity 3688 is a perfect 1940s platform for all sorts of embellishments. I’ve been saving pictures of 1940s jackets to one of my boards on Pinterest for inspiration. This will be the last project because it scares me silly! The pattern doesn’t call for tailoring techniques, but I want to try some. It will be the first time.

This will no doubt be a fairly lengthy process of wearable muslins, trial-and-error alterations, and new-to-me techniques. Now that I think of it, it’s mid-May. The remainder of 2012 may not be enough time!

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