Elephant Pants (Status/Post Death Plague)

Now that I am officially standing upright again (you can commence missing link jokes now), which is a lot harder than you think after two separate bouts with H1N1/tuberculosis/food poisoning/Bora Bora jumping virus (all at once..I am all that is woman in the face of bacteria apparently), I have decided to throw myself on the alter of dignity and expose to the world my first foray into homemade clothing.

I hit upon this idea in my sustainability frenzy while I was folding my hundreds of extremely similar Old Navy v-neck T-shirts. I realized that not only were they made by the frightened hands of sweatshop laborers in some far away country and then the cause of thousands of gallons of fossil fuels being burned to ship to my local Old Navy, but they seemed exceptionally easy to make. (As a side note, I do have some prior sewing knowledge, thanks to my extensive and extremely useful advanced degrees in the theatre arts.)

But this is where life gets a little hazy for awhile. Because I became inspired, and things always get a little crazy when I get inspired. I decided that the T-shirts were SO easy to make they were beneath me (for now) and that I was going to make myself a pair of FABULOUS palazzo pants just like Katharine Hepburn used to wear:

ImageOr even better, like Stanley from Project Runway made (I admit it, I watch a lot of Project Runway…that show is my jam):

ImageOh yes.
These I wanted.

So I went out to JoAnns (Mistake #1, see below) and I purchased my pattern and five and a half yards of a lovely grey artificial polyester crepe de chine (Mistake #2).

And I cut and sewed and patterned and seam ripped and swore like a sailor for two days straight. And at the end of those two sweaty, long, back-breaking days, I ended up with this really professional looking waistband:

ImageEven the picture doesn’t do it justice. It’s really nice, I promise! I might keep it as a belt! Such a fetching bow!
And these…



The picture doesn’t do them justice. They are massive, static cling-y, elephant pants where the pockets don’t line up with the rest of the waistband and the pleats are absolutely unmanageable. They are three and a half yards of pure sewing failure.

I was devastated.

But as is my nature, I am not accustomed to just giving something up when I fail, but at least trying to harvest a lesson before moving on. I compiled a list of the top five mistakes that I made in my first sewing project, and also decided that I was still interested in learning how to sew garments, so I scaled it way back, bought some excellent books about learning to sew and enrolled in a sewing class.


  1. I was way too ambitious. Make no mistake, palazzo pants, I am not done with you. But I will hone my craft with easier projects first and then I’m comin’ for you, Katharine Hepburn pants!
    THE FIX: Mood Fabrics in Los Angeles, Sew LA, and many others offer sewing classes. Mood’s are free, as long as you buy your supplies at Mood, and why wouldn’t you, because its a fabric wonderland!
    THE FIX, PART 2: Invest in some good resources. I love the classes on Craftsy! They range from free to reasonably priced and often include fabric or a pattern that they will send to you. Also, I have a wonderful book called S.E.W. (Sew Everything Workshop) that includes patterns and very understandable directions on sewing things.
  2. I bought my fabric under fluorescent lights at JoAnns. In my fevered imagination, it was a flowy and fabulous somewhat sheer shimmery grey that would be the envy of fashionistas everywhere. In my reality, it was a mess.
    THE FIX: Educate yourself on fabric types, and what is easy/hard to work with! Turns out, my lovely silks and crepe to chine are some of the most finicky fabrics to work with. The lovely and helpful salespeople at Mood really care about fabric and helping you choose your fabrics. I spent half an hour with a woman at Mood dithering over various shades of swiss dot cotton.
  3. I rushed everything in my desire to get to my pants.
    THE FIX: Follow the 8-steps to success on garment creation. Don’t rush it. Don’t work when you’re tired or you have H1N1.
  4. Measure thyself! I assumed patterned size 10 would be store bought size 10. However, thanks to the lovely and charming merchants of corporate America, they have indulged in vanity sizing. Which means that your store bought size “10” is actually more like a 14 or 16. This is not a big deal. It does not mean you are some enormous whale of a human being, but rather, that you should keep plugging on the quest for garments that you can make yourself that are sustainable, adorable, and fit YOU like a glove (and probably have a little of your own blood woven in from a needle accident).
  5. I was WORKING for these pants, but I wasn’t enjoying the process.
    THE FIX: HAVE FUN! You aren’t a sweatshop worker, so no need to transform your living room into a mini-sweatshop to replicate the experience. Be comfortable, have fun, and work on projects that make you happy.

And at the end of all of that, you might end up with something really lovely, like the cardigan I’ve been working on. I made it out of a lightweight, soft wool I found at Mood, off of the wise direction and guidance of S.E.W., and its about a half-day away from completion!

ImagePlease ignore the giant pile of compostable boxes in the background. 🙂

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